Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The 133rd Calderon Brigade

The 133rd Calderon Brigade

(“Personal relations are the important thing for ever and for ever, and not this outer life of texting and twittering (sic). E. M. Forster, Howards End).
[Notwithstanding, here is the twittering.]

Well here we are in Quito
With goals and expectations
So we can serve the children
We gave up our vacations.

We’re tended well by Edith
She keeps us well apprised
Of where to be and when and how
She fears being too surprised.

Michelle’s a GV veteran
She keeps us all enthralled
She brought along two friends
She’s the mentor to them all.

Maggie tagged along
To give volunteering a try
She’s the trio’s photographer
For a shot she has a fine eye.

Emily appears quite stalwart
And claims to be a bit shy
But behind the formal manner
A soul of warmth will catch your eye.

Kara served in Tanzania
She has a pleasing manner
She approaches work quite carefully
To her problems do not matter.

Ashley can be hard to please
She’s bound up blue and firm
With children she’s not easy
So she picked a shorter term.

Lori is bold and wide open
She liked to hang out with the boys
She’s a hit with all who meet her
But was embarrassed by the birthday noise.

The first week went by quickly
And we learned the ropes quite well
To those departing early
We bade a fond farewell.

Kathy ventured the farthest
To join our merry team
She liked the shops in Otavalo
Of Ecuadorian sopa she is not keen.

Sarah smiles oh so coyly
She retired at twenty-eight
She has a fear of running water
And trusting South America with her fate.

Laura slipped in late on Sunday
With her a suitcase of gifts
With Andre she toured the Old Town
And from her we all get a lift.

Sonali’s a gracious young woman
And time with her really flies
When her father gets his hands going
She tries her best not roll her eyes.

Arun is Sonali’s father
A most gregarious fellow
He has a keen eye for a bargain
A Bond fan he’s the fellow to follow.

Margaret is quite particular
Not a thing out of place in her house
Her son throws his socks helter skelter
And her waffles come out like Mickey Mouse.

The writer of this little ditty
Seems at times to just go along
But if you dare put a mike in his hand
He’ll break out into some kind of song.

Martin talked us off to Otovalo
And advised us all to look about
The Indians are mighty shrewd merchants
And the goblins will get you if you don’t watch out!

We made a stop at the equator
And we were told the reason why
This is the best place for viewing
But have you seen a star in the sky?

Sunday was our day of rest
And a chance to go it alone
Some shipped off to Mindo
A trip from “Romancing the Stone.”

And who can forget Mosaico
With its constellation of light
We harked back to La Mitad del Mondo
And thought the guide may be partially right.

I trust that all’s been accounted for
I know our work is finally done
We all gave the best that we had
And will leave with the rising sun.

(June 26, 2009)

Written and dedicated to the team by Guillermo

"I am happy"

Quote of the Day: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain

We all have many reasons for coming on this trip: for choosing Ecuador over China, for choosing Global Volunteers over some travel agency for a tourist-like vacation; for wanting to work with small children rather than adults.

I chose to come to Ecuador through Global Volunteers for many reasons, but probably primarily because I felt I needed to step out of my life for a while, and see things from a different perspective. It’s easy to get stuck only seeing yourself and your own experiences.

I thought that coming to Ecuador would feel like I was being transported into another world, but really, Quito and the people I have seen and heard about aren’t very different than me as individuals. It seems that the politics and the economic state of our world divide us more than anything else.

Little Abel in Rincon Construcciones is just as mischievous as many boys that age in the preschool class my son Cainen was in. Naomi is just as quiet and shy as my daughter. Melanie, Aidan, Kerly, Wendy, and Jonathan all want love and attention like any child does.

And as Sarah told Andres in the car the other day on our way to the show: when asked how Ecuador is so different than the United States, I paused and couldn’t think of what to say. She said (maybe somewhat jokingly) “everyone here speaks Spanish.” Maybe that really is the biggest difference (at least for a white, English-only-speaking American)

I have felt the stress that sat in my chest from my problems with my job and family loosen over the past week, and I have been reminded that I need to count my blessings. I am reminded by hearing the stories of so many people and working with the children the past four days, that we have more in common than we sometimes think.

Edith told us this morning to recognize the times which we are happy, instead of always feeling that our happiness is in the future or incomplete. And to name those moments by simply saying “I am happy.” Two weeks ago I would not have been able to say that, but right now, I think I can honestly say- “I am happy.”

Written by Cara

"Go with the flow"

The day started off with a hearty breakfast, as usual. With the arrival of Laura from Lexington, MA, our motley 13-member volunteer team was complete!

Edith, our ebullient host, briefed us on the protocols to follow on our first day at the children’s center: no photos until later in the week, willingness to be deployed to any chore at any time, and splitting the donations between the two centers.

After breakfast, we boarded our bus. With the bus’s sliding windows, rattling window panes, its jerky movements during gear shifts, and its thick diesel fumes, I was reminded so much of India. Actually there are so many facets of this lovely country that remind me so much of India that in spite of having been here only for 2 days, I feel right at home here!

We arrived at a fruit market right in the heart of Calderon. After a few steps through the market, we got into guardería #1, with that childish excitement of meeting the children at the center. As soon as we walked in, we were greeted by a loud chorus of ¡Hola! It is really amazing how universal some things are, when it comes to children’s behavior! After a quick “lottery”, Edith split the team into two, one for each center. All of us walked to the second center, and on the way, we got a glimpse of the neighborhood. It is a poor neighborhood, but all the people we met were so warm and welcoming. Gosh, I already love this country! We toured center #2, and inspected the ongoing construction work. Michelle, a returning volunteer, commented on how much progress had been made since she had last been here, a year ago.

The people assigned to center #1 walked back to their center and we assumed our respectively assigned duties. I was in Rincon Ciencia, with Tiá Elisabeth. The initial half hour was a little challenging, as I was trying to recall some of the Spanish words I had learned from the guidebook. One of the kids quickly picked up “OK” – I assume I had used it so much without thinking about it, that she caught on to its meaning! I helped Elisabeth with some tracing work, and then helped the kids with some drawings. Thank God I knew the words for cloud, sun, sky and rain!

We helped the tiá’s serve the kids’ lunch, and after the kids were all settled in, we walked down the street to a neighborhood restaurant for lunch. In the afternoon, we helped cut out some patterns that were going to be used to make hats for a park outing later in the week.

At the end of the day, I was exhausted (the 9300 ft. elevation didn’t help.) But the fact that the tiá’s worked so hard day in and day out gave me the strength to continue. Come to think of it, I will be back in Palo Alto in 2 weeks’ time, and these women will still be working in this challenging environment. In a lot of ways, all the women in this center really inspire me to work hard every day of my life; in a funny way, they are helping me, rather than the other way around.
Written by Arun