Saturday, December 13, 2008


I´m not sure where I´ve left off in terms of my roles at my worksites. lo and behold, i´m now and English teacher to the módulo 3 girls at Santiago. It´s been quite an adventure trying to gain some sort of authority and command their attention, nevermind planning lessons and trying actually teach things. I gave my first quiz on Wednesday morning (parts of the body, parts of the face, and clothing) and I believe they all failed. One girl was very clearly copying off her neighbor´s quiz so I told her I was taking off one point (out of 20) for cheating and she looked at me with a face that said ¨how dare you even threaten such a thing!¨ and she in turn ripped up her quiz and tossed it in the garbage. Oops, too bad, now you have a zero. It turns out I´m not a softie when it comes to giving grades. Still can´t believe I´m a teacher. I´m learning that teaching calls for such intentionality and love and thought and man, its just a tricky role. I´m also seeing my own educational past in a new light and appreciating in a new way the teachers and professors in my life that are living a vocation that is so powerful. Thanks folks.

*While I´m talking about education, I have to add that ¨Pedagogy of the Oppressed¨ is an absolutely essential read for anyone even remotely involved in the field of education, and also for all of those that give a damn about the shape of the world we live in and the one human family of which we are a part. Lately people have been asking me what they can do to support me, or help the kids I work with. Answer: read this book and think about all the ways in which you are both an oppressor and are oppressed by others. And then strive to bring about justice, that is, right relationships, in your life. You´re not giving things to financially poor kids in some far off place, but rather engaging in the liberation of humanity, which is what Rostro de Cristo is really about anyway.*

Thursday at Santiago was lovely though. The girls greeted me with hugs (funny, because 24 hrs earlier they hated me for giving a quiz that they knew about well in advance) and I was in their Ciencias Naturales class while their teacher Elizabeth taught about water, why it´s vital to living beings, a global water crisis, etc. When the girls heard that there may be wars fought over water they were appalled, in a 12-yr-old sort of way, that anyone would take from someone that which is necessary for life. I found this interesting given that their own water situation is less than ideal. drinkable water is bought in large blue jugs for around $1.25 whenever the truck passes by your house. Water for other use is bought from large tanks that fill the metal barrel outside your house for 70 cents. Running water? Nah.

Manos is a joy as always. Except for this Wednesday (overall a rough day). Right after the program ended, after giving out bread and banana and water to all the kids, a fight broke out right outside the school. The conflict started on the soccer field during recess when one girl blamed another for their team´s loss, and she responded with an insult of some kind. They decided to settle it outside and there was a lot of insulting and kicking of the girl´s bike and almost all the kids at Manos that day were antagonizing and encouraging the fight. Ohh, children. Aide (our ecuadorian manos/rostro employee, 19 yrs old) gave them a good talking to on Thursday about what we strive to teach them at Manos, how their behavior after Manos completely burns that, and that we are there to help them resolve conflicts in nonviolent ways. As a consequence, we cancelled Manos on friday (after much thought about the pros and cons of this) and told them to take the afternoon to think about their behavior. That was neither easy nor fun to do, but we think it was the best choice.

This year is about way more than worksites. I don´t like that that is what i tend to write about. Boo to me. Community life has had its ups and downs. Kasia, the community mate that I live and worked with at both sites, went back home to the States last friday due to a variety of health problems that had escalated above what we as a community could minister to and beyond attempts to get her healthy here. So now I´m the only volunteer at Santiago, which is certainly an opportunity for new growth and flourishing, we are down a volunteer at Manos which is challenging but still very do-able, and our community is transforming. Such is the rhythm of international service.

My first retreat group arrives tonight!! Recall that I came to Ecuador in January with Fairfield U as a winter break service-immersion trip (a very inappropriate title for it, if you ask me). A big chunk of Rostro de Cristo´s mission here is providing educational opportunities to U.S. youth by hosting groups of students from high schools and universities as they engage in the reality of life in Duran for around 10 days. They visit our afterschool programs, worksites, and partner programs in hopes of continuing a process of personal and spiritual transformation that will lead to a greater commitment to service and justice. Anyway, Cabrini College lands at 10:30pm tonight and I will be their volunteer leader for the next 10 days. I´m giddily excited and really hoping that this week flips their world upside down and moves them spiritually.

Because of this upcoming week, I should get back home to squeeze in a nap before the late-night airport run.

Ohh but before I post this, final news: I´m now raising chickens with my community as well! I´ve been spearheading this adventure for about 5 weeks now. The original plan was to raise 3 chickens to slaughter and turn into a delicious meal (with the help of some neighbors) when my parents are here visiting in february, but apparently it takes 3 months for chickens to grow, and due to the community situations that have been going on, the process was delayed and now they may just be a delicious meal in march. (dear mom and dad: sorry i hadn´t mentioned that delay yet. thanks for supporting me in all my stupid ideas, but i dont think you´ll get to kill and eat the chickens with us.) I bought the little chicks today and we build a coop for them mounted against the wall in the most ridiculous fashion, coordinated by Abrahan, our head of security, and Maximo, one of our guards. I think it will be a memorable and smelly experience.



Kristie said...

Elyse is basically the best retreat group leader ever!

nrad said...

That plane came in a little later than you expected. Thanks for everything Elsye. You did an amazing job with the Cabrini College crew, especially as your first time!

Brittany said...

Elyseeeee!!!! I'm sorry I haven't read your blog in a long time..this semester has been beyond crazy..but I'm glad it is all over. I'm kicking butt in Spanish class...trying to be just as good as you are when you come home (but I doubt it). When are your parents going to visit you in February? I would really love to come with them if that is okay. You should be getting your birthday/Christmas/I love you package sometime after the New Year (sorry that it is so late!). The work that you are doing down there inspires me and I really wish that I could do what you are doing (but my parents would kill me!). Keep up the amazing service and the love that you give to these children. For many of them you may be the only stable thing in their lives. I love you so much and am so so proud of you! xoxo