It’s been busy, busy, busy here at the hogar this past week, and, although each day ends with a plethora of stories to tell, I haven’t had time to sit down and write. I was hoping that the weekend would avail me with more time to blog and journal, but that was just not the case. There’s always something going on here: whether it’s a pick-up soccer game, homework help, school, teaching, lesson planning, formatting documents, translating and updating medical files, organizing the medical supply closet, helping cook, pulling weeds, feeding chickens, getting fresh water for the animals, or just playing with the kids (all things that I’ve done in the past week!). There’s never a dull moment, and it definitely ensures that you sleep well at night!
My day usually starts around 6 am, with breakfast in the volunteer house: I usually make myself oatmeal with raisins and a cup of caffeinated tea. That tea (aka the caffeine!) is very important, because not long after breakfast (around 7 am) the kinder class starts to arrive at the school. First order of business is ensuring that EVERYONE has used the bathroom (which ALWAYS takes so much longer than I feel like it should) followed by the wet, messy, soapy job of washing all 28 little hands. The two hours before recess are taught in English (with yours truly), and the two hours after are in Spanish. It’s incredible how well these kinder kiddos speak English…they’ve only been learning the language since September! We usually start class by talking about the weather, then sing songs to remember the days of the week and the months of the year. Then it’s time for the Moose Song and Old McDonald, followed by the Hokie Pokie and If You’re Happy and You Know It. It will never get old watching them get so excited to shout “Hooray!” at the end of that song. No matter how exhausted I was waking up in the morning, it brings a smile to my face (and wakes me up!). We usually read a book, do some kind of math activity (counting, recognizing numbers, etc.), and a craft and coloring page based off of the letter of the week. Today, for example, we decorated the letter “L” to look like a lion, and then made lions out of the geometric blocks, in addition to matching dot cards to the number they represent! There seems to always be a minor crisis to handle, but they’re the same crises that any kindergarten teacher handles: she hit me, he has my coloring page, my shoe is untied, I have to go to the bathroom, he colored on my paper, I threw my shoes across the room, I’m not listening, I lost my crayons, he’s not sharing, he stole my blocks, I went to the bathroom without any TP, the list goes on and on. But for the most part the kids are well-behaved and I really do enjoy teaching.
I’m finally starting to get a grasp of the kids’ names, and kids are starting to recognize me too, so that’s been exciting! There’s nothing quite like hearing someone yell “MEGA” across the comedor. (For some reason, everyone has trouble pronouncing the “N” in my name, so I’ve become Meg, Mega, and Megs…or gringa. I’ve learned to respond to them all! 😛 )
I spent the afternoons last week translating medical records…for 120-something kids that’s a pretty big job! I finished all the translations this afternoon, and will now be going through the hard copies of the medical records and updating the electronic copies to match them. I’m working with some of the other volunteers here to create a medical system, by creating protocol, creating a better system to maintain and update records, catalog all the supplies and medications they have on hand, and ensure that the system will be effective long-term. Being on the ground, seeing the difficulties and available resources firsthand, is really the best way to create a system like this. There are so many moving pieces, and it’s definitely a huge undertaking, but hopefully we’ll be able to successfully implement effective protocol.
I’d have to say that my favorite part of the day is the time after dinner — the kids have the time before prayer circle to either work on their homework or just run around and play. There’s a group of probably 7 or 8 kids who always run up to me in the dining hall as I’m finishing my dinner, tap me on the shoulder (or back or leg or head or whatever they can reach) and scream “TOCADO,” thus initiating the nightly game of tag. I’ve honestly forgotten how much fun it is to just run around outside and it’s impossible to put into words the kind of joy that these kids bring me. They’ve been through so much hardship, things that I can’t even imagine, yet they just shine with this radiant joy! When I do have a spare second to think (usually when taking a break from tag and laying in the grass looking at the sky), I ponder how much I’ve already been able to learn from being here. Not just the pequeño amount of Spanish I’ve learned, but the dedication, gratefulness, discipline, teamwork, compassion, joy, and love that these kids embody. I know that I’m here to volunteer, and it’s very clear that everyone, from the chiquitos to the madrinas and padrinas to the directors of the hogar, appreciate our help. But in all honesty, I’ve received as much as I’ve given. It seems like I’ve been here longer than I actually have – but not in a way that makes me miss home. I’ve been adopted into the family!
As I head out to nightly prayer circle (and then to bed!), I just want to finish with a Bible verse. It has been a statement that I try to live by, and one that I’ve found even more meaningful in my time here: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you should also love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Beautiful sunsets here, each and every night!
But first…lemme take a selfie! 😛
The bilingual school 🙂
The view of the school from the entrance 🙂
P.S. Still haven’t taken that many photos…If you couldn’t tell, I’ve been quite busy! Hopefully I’ll have more as the weeks go on!