Thursday, November 13, 2008

My Heart Will Go On

So, reviewing and reflecting on the last few weeks...

At Santiago
Who knew that my mild obsession with Celine Dion would come in handy in Ecuador, of all places? My class of 9 girls has music class usually once a week, and they´ve been working on the beginning do-re-mi steps (ah yes, The Sound of Music obsession comes in handy as well...) of playing the piano (keyboard, really). Not that exciting, right? Of course not, thats why most of them would spend the class listening to the pre-set song ¨My Heart Will Go On¨ (Titanic is popular here). So in a sudden burst of inspiration, I realized I could easily learn how to play the song and teach them.* All of a sudden I´m the coolest teacher everrrrr and in high demand during music class. The girls love it and its really great to get them excited to learn something. I´m even taking this to the next level and will be showing the Las Vegas concert performance of the song on dvd in the next class, and doing a little English lesson with it too.** ¡Qué chévere!

A few weeks ago I had a nice meeting with our boss Alexandra about the girls in my class--I asked what their home lives are like, where they come from. Turns out most live with domestic abuse from either their mother, father, or sisters; theres a aunt-neice pair in my class (2yrs apart i think) that live with an alcoholic mother-grandmother; one of the 16yr olds spent a few years living with a boyfriend and ¨has seen more life than anyone at her age should¨. Some only live with one parent, some with stepparents, its all over the place. Anything but stable home lives, really. Living in cane houses in the swampy barrios of Guayaquil, 47 out of the 50-something students in the school live in extreme poverty, and a good chunk are malnourished. Lately I like to talk to them about what they want to be when the grow up--a doctor, an engineer (followed by the question ´whats an engineer?´´), a teacher, a model, a singer. Today while waiting for their teacher to come Wendy was drawing me whatever I asked her to draw. She drew herself as a plain stick figure. She drew Jesus with really big ears (´for listening´, she said), and with a stick in his hand (´for teaching´).

Starting next week, Kasia and I will be full-blown English teachers. We´ll be taking the Module 2 and Module 3 girls English classes to reduce the workload of the current teacher, teaching 4 times a week. Hmm. Good thing we´re flexible and quick learners. I´m excited and intimidated. Vamos a ver.

At Manos Abiertas
Just absolutely beautiful every day, and sometimes heartbreaking. Jordy has won my heart. He just turned 5--he told us his birthday was yesterday, but his older brother Bryan just shrugged and said he didn´t know if its his birthday or not because their mom didn´t say anything to him. Too cute. He loves paper airplanes and his favorite color is yellow, but still has a hard time distinguishing colors. In the last month he´s definitly made progress in counting to 10, but doesn´t always recognize the numbers. I´ve basically never worked with kids before coming here, so can someone tell me at what age in the States kids normally can count to 10 and know colors? He has the tiniest hands, small enough to reach into the prison of the human heart and unlock it.***

We had our first paseo (field trip) three weeks ago. We took 22 of our kids to a park in the center of Durán. This day held one of my favorite ecua-moments so far. Taking the bus out to 28 de Agosto to pick the kids up, we saw the kids waiting for us on the side of the road where we usually get off. When they saw the bus they started jumping up and down and waving, and they ran up to us once we got off, shouting ¨paseo! paseo¨ They were dressed up in their nicest clothes and freshly bathed; the boys had their hair wet and slicked to the side and the girls were just adorable in color-coordinated outfits. Seeing the excitement on their faces as the bus pulled up was just incredible, and I felt so so so blessed to be a part of something so much greater than myself that allows these kids the opportunity to learn, live, and love in new ways. It was an amazing afternoon, hot as hell, but great. We brought a disposable camera with us, and I took pictures of the prints, so I´ll post them on my flickr account ya mismo.

I´m starting to figure out what loving discipline is. I witnessed domestic abuse last night while visiting a neighbor. Yep, a mom whipped her son for not eating dinner. Today at Manos, I was with the homework kids, and Joice (12 maybe) shut down and began to cry because she didn´t want to do her homework. Her cousin Julisa (7) told me that she was crying because if she didn´t do her homework, her dad would beat her. So if nothing else, if I do nothing this year other than be someone that does not beat these kids when they misbehave, I´ll be alright with that. Of course, the goal is to bring a little bit of justice to their lives by loving them in the fullest sense of the word. There´s no more that I could do than that.

In faith
God speaks Spanish. Duh, right? Well i don´t. Actually, i´m getting there... Anyway. I´m starting to find a lot of spiritual nourishment in certain prayers, songs, conversations with priests and nuns....all in Spanish, this funny language that i started learning only 6 months ago. But come on, eeeeveryone here speaks Spanish aaaaaaall the time and sometimes it just exhausts me, and now God is speaking to me in Spanish too? Can´t I get a break? But really, the language is capable of expressing certain sentiments and provoking certain thoughts or imagery that i´ve just never encountered in English before. It´s awesome.

Regarding the nuns...
Kasia and i met some seriously awesome nuns through Santiago. Their order, Servants of the Plan of God, is part of the Christian Life Movement (also seriously awesome). 4 of them showed up at Santiago one day to give a small concert. Yea, they´re musically talented and in their 20s and 30s and really, I´ve never met more gracious, generous, loving people in my life. Hermana Claudia is now something of my Spiritual Director, and what an adventure it is to try to express the depths of your soul to a Colombian lady you´ve known for 2 weeks in a foreign language. Yet she really, really gets it.

I´m late for dinner. Coming soon...

-more on faith
-a few words on community
-a reflection on motherhood in Ecuador
-the joy of being unnecessary
-why you should read Pedagogy of the Oppressed (don´t wait for the blog, start reading it now.)


*Thanks mom for forcing me to take piano lessons as a kid.
**Thanks Carolyn!
***All credit to Jean Vanier, author of Community and Growth for this imagery. Speaking of the book, READ IT, especially if you are currently living in community. Soooooo good. Hey, since when did I start using contextual footnotes in a blog?


Auntie said...

Dear Elyse,
You are the best. Reading your blogs do something for me. What a great opportunity you have to be able to help those people.(As for the piano lessons - you had the ear for it well before the lessons)
Continue the good work. We pray for all of you daily.
Love ya, Auntie

Emily Martucci said...

1) I loved your updates - so useful to let me know what's going on with you. As always, I feel like I'm there! I wish more than anything that I could visit...
2) Kids in the US usually can count by age 3 I'd say and colors around then or 4 (preschool age b/c that's what you learn in preschool). I think that's actually common everywhere b/c we had a 3 yr old Bhutanese refugee who could count and write letters. Sounds like that kid either has a learning disability or he just hasn't been exposed to learning at home/preschool like kids in the US.
3) I finally got a library card but I forgot to look for those books so I will next time but Jean Varnier is the founder of L'Arche which is where 2 of my housemates work!

Sorry for the long comment. Love and miss you!

Jen said...

YAY loved your update and that I had a chance to read it. Emily already answered the age question, so I guess I won't get into that, but I remember working with a lot of the head start children and not all of them knowing numbers and colors by the time that mia had so it varies, as does everything else with kids. Two other very good books that I love and have read/am reading are Three Cups of Tea and Mountains Beyond Mountains -- both very inspirational stories about two people who made huge differences in countries outside of the U.S.

love and miss you!! xoxo