Friday, July 29, 2011

End of week one!

Thought for the Day: If the roots are not removed during weeding, the weeds will grow again when the winds of spring blow . -Chinese proverb

Today is a special day for several reasons:

It marks the end of the program for Dean and Sherri. For the rest of us it marks the halfway point of the program. It is also to be a day of celebration at Site #2. It is also the day of our mazapan demonstration.

Breakfast is the usual fare but is lacking fruit other than bananas. The group seems healthy and in good spirits on this Friday. We arrive at Site #1 and Sherri, Susan, and Kristina go off to attend to the children while Jessica, Dean and I head to Site #2. While Jessica and Dean work with the children, I resume work on the painting shelves project.

At 11 am everyone assembles in the great room at Site #2. The children are all seated in their chairs on one side of the room while the volunteers and some of the FUNDAC ladies sat on the opposite side. The 4-5 year olds first performed a song and accompanying dance followed by the 3-4 year olds. Lastly the younger children. All were very cute although many of the children did not quite get it. Sherri and Dean were presented cards and mazapan figures along with appreciations by the FUNDAC woment. Then the dancing and real fun began with first some individual traditional dances followed by a flamboyant lady who danced with Dean and I. It was exuberant, great fun. At the end of it I was exhausted but had so much fun. A woman appears with a mask and then all the volunteers join the two dancers in a square dance like dance as we circle and swing round. Everyone is having such a great time. It ends with the volunteers doing a rousing version of Old MacDonald to the amusement of the kids.

We then got to the mazapan shop for a demonstration of mazapan making by the owner. She makes the intricate creations almost like magic. Seems like everyone makes some purchases as this is a local craft, the lady is associated with FUNDAC and they make inexpensive gifts to take home. Kristina, Susan, and Sherri return to Site #1 while Dean, Jessica, and I return to our work at Site #2. The day ends quickly. Dean and Sherri are now sadly gone and our group shrinks in size from 6 to 4. At supper it seems sad that we only have 4 place settings. For dinner we are served delicious fish with French fries, salad, and rice. For dessert the unusual tree tomato which is served in a syrup. Looking these up on the Internet they seem unrelated to anything and are served in a variety of ways.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Another great day...

Thought for the Day: "Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it."

- Michael Jordon

Day 5 Thursday July 28 Dean Sheftel

Our day started off as usual coming to breakfast around 7 am. We had our usual breakfast of various rolls, coffee, tea, fruits and yogurt drinks. At breakfast we heard the usual journal entry and very long quote I just read again by Thomas Jefferson.

As usual we got ready to leave for the sites around 8-815. As usual, first we dropped my Mom and Susan off at Site # 1. Fabian then brought me, Steve, and Jessica to Site #2. As usual, we were greeted by a smiling friendly woman accompanied by a few crying little children who wanted their Mommies. We went in and the kids were just finishing their breakfast. Sandra told me that for the first part of the day her friend Josenia needed help in her room. At first Josenia had me sweep the outside room but then she had me do some drawings for the kids to color, which reminded me that they can’t make copies here.

After that I went back to Sandra’s room where we noticed people starting the sanding and painting on the shelves outside. The kids were fascinated by this. Sandra and I both found itfunny when we looked outside and saw Kristina dancing with one of the women there. After lunch a few people went shopping and as usual my Mom was disgusted by the raw meat in one of the stores. When we got back to the site Jessica and I taught English (Jessica teaching Josenia and me teaching Sandra). Steve went out to do more outside work as well. After that I was dropped along with my Mom at the basketball courts at Carolina Park where I got involved in a game.

When we got back we immediately left again to see amazing sights and go shopping a little. We went to a restaurant called Pim’s. It was an amazingly elegant place with an amazing view. We all enjoyed the food during our romantic candlelit dinner. Our pictures didn’t come out very well of the sites there so Susan told us that we should try to always cherish the pictures in our minds which I decided to do as well. I hope I can remember it as it is already escaping my brain. It was a great, exciting day.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal right of another, and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him." - Thomas Jefferson

Journal by: Sherri Sheftel

We began our day as usual relieved that Kristina felt much better after her illness the previous evening. Dean, Steve, and Jessica returned to Site #2 to continue painting and taking care of the children. Jessica experienced a particularly wild day with the children, at least one child took off her diaper and decided to decorate the room with its contents. We are still in awe of how the tias must skillfully manage the classroom when we’re not there. Sherri continued helping Tia Norma with the babies, as that class seems to be in constant need of assistance. Sherri is still in shock that the children remain safe from potentially serious hazards. The 11 month old continues to present an additional challenge to the tranquility of the setting. Susan seems to have a good handle on her kids and has rapidly discerned many of their individual personalities and idiosyncracies. In addition she prepared a very helpful English lesson to engage the tias. Sherri worked with Ruby who is having great difficulty but is most determined. Kristina even added Stalin to her group of learners. Jessica purchased some souvenirs from the masapan store already. The rest of us are looking forward to doing so.

After work Steve and Dean went to the park, where Dean joined in a basketball game. He seemed to be easily accepted by the other kids. Sherri and Jessica walked to the Supermaxi to enjoy coffee and see the shops.

After another tasty dinner most of us attended the Folklorico ballet with a dapper Martin. Apparently, these amazing performers travel the world and have won awards. Their dances depicted their beliefs, values, feelings, and the story of their typical ways and life cycle. The costumes and dance were very elaborate.

We all returned feeling exhausted from our day. This time everybody planned to go to bed promptly.

As I’m confused that the guide books claim Ecuador is rated as one of the least peaceful countries in the world, I’ll end with this quote:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A full day, but a great day!

Journal by: Jessica Nysenbaum

I’ve been a bit of a derelict team member as it’s now Wednesday morning. I wrote in my own journal yesterday evening and then fell asleep before doing this one. Susan and I fell asleep at 9:30 for the second night in a row. Our full days wear us out!

Susan and Sherri went back to Center 1 and Dean, Steve, and I went to Center 2. Steve and Dean got started on a labor project. They were priming a new outdoor bathroom and shower room. I went back to the same room as the day before. Ruben came and shook my hand and it was quite charming. We spent the morning coloring, drawing, and reading stories. It was a lot sietate te! as the kids were expected to stay in their chairs. It’s hard for a three year old to sit still of course and there was no free play time as there aren’t any toys in the art room. I also quickly learned who the group trouble makers were and there’s always one in a class! We had some morning excitement as a a mouse appeared. Anita discovered it and loudly screamed and all the boys wanted to go and see. It got chased into the kitchen where Steve watched the kitchen ladies chase it around until he was killed. At snack and lunch I was that the children weren’t allowed to leave the table until they ate all their food. I can’t imagine getting an entire group of American children to all eat the same thing.

After our lunch we stopped at the masapan store of one of the FUNDAC ladies. She sweetly gave each of us a masapan pin. We also arranged to go back Friday for a demonstration of how she makes the masapan figures. The afternoon English lesson didn’t happen as the tias needed to go supply shopping. Instead I joined Steve and Dean outside. Steve very patiently played foreman training us novices. Dean and I got in a fun conversation wondering if Americans have different accents when speaking Spanish. For example is there a NY Spanish accent and a Boston one? I quite enjoyed working on the painting. You can immediately see the results of your work. Before we knew it the bus was there and it was time to go to Mitad del Mundo.

The museum has a rather odd assortment of displays on indigenous people, including a pretty cool shrunken head. We also saw a shrunken sloth head. Most interesting of course were the displays on the effects of the equator. We saw an egg stand on it’s end, water effects, and took some fun group photos. Unfortunately, Kristina got sick. Luckily she feels better this morning and is ready for another day.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Let the service begin!

Thought for the Day: Although I long to accomplish great and noble tasks, it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as if they were great and noble. The world is moved along not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes but also by the tiny pushes of each honest worker.

Journal by: Susan Weida

Our group met for breakfast before the exciting start of our service program. I felt some anxiety, it was hard to judge whether others felt the same. We celebrated the arrival of Sherri and Dean’s baggage—the tip off was Dean arriving at breakfast in a new T shirt. Unfortunately, their night didn’t end after the airport, they were victims of an oddly blinking light in their room.

The ride to Calderon is beautiful and most of us got the true perspective of Quito as a city nestled in the mountains for the first time. We arrived at Center #1 and entered through a colorful and lively vegetable market-opened a door and there were the children. The ‘holas’ and waves began almost immediately and didn’t stop. Its wonderful how open children are to forming relationships. The one exception was the infant room where some fear of strangers was evident. Lilly, the director of Center #1, toured and introduced us to the tias. I was struck by the cleanliness of everything and by the organization in the classrooms and public areas. The planning to make this program work was evident.

We then walked through more of the market, town, to the outskirts where Center #2 continues to be a work in progress. Pilar (FUNDAC member) took the place of the director, absent today, and spoke about how the partnership with Global Volunteers has allowed them to continue to expand from 1 floor to 2 floors, and next to a third floor for the center. Steve and Dean are to be working on shelving this week, but the materials were not ready. They both showed a positive team quality-flexibility- by agreeing to work in the kitchen/cleaning (Steve) and with children (Dean).

The rest of the day seemed to fly by. Sherri and I worked with infants/toddlers and the 3-4 year olds in the construction room respectively and spent the rest of the morning taking cues from our tias and then assisting. I was struck again with how well the tias have structured activities for the children to make bathroom, lunch, toothbrushing all run smoothly. A nutritious lunch was served and all the children were urged to eat everything. Independence is expected of the three year olds. Then off to line up on the beds, eight children to a single bed, six beds to the room and full sunlight shining in the window. With supervision from the tias all the children were sleeping in 15 minutes.

Lunch break for us-some good sharing-and back to our jobs-for Sherri, me Jessica, and Dean working with the tias on English skills. Dean was especially successful doing conversation practice with some of the teen assistants. Tias had training so those of us at Center #1 helped keep order while parents arrived. It was evident that without the structure from the tias that these children can hit, push, and act silly like their peers everywhere.

Good sharing at dinner about the day’s work-especially enjoyed hearing about Steve making pineapple smoothies from scratch-his smile conveyed his enjoyment working in the kitchen. Though tired we are all ready for another day tomorrow.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Team #143 Arrive in Ecuador!

Journal by: Steve Bennett

Up at 7:15 after a night interrupted by car alarms three times. I am slow to get more sleep and have strange dreams for another night. Altitude adjustment or so they say.

Breakfast is typico with fruit, scrambled eggs, braided rolls, blackberry juice and other goodies. The orientation begins in the commons area on the second floor as our small but enthusiastic team all share a bit of information. I am struck by how everyone seems to be involved either with participation in administering or being a participant in the educational or social services system. When I think about it this should be obvious to me why the FUNDAC at Calderon would have appeal. The introductions are followed by an explanation of our daily schedule and project preferences. Dean and I are the only ones oriented to the construction and this is no surprise. Looks like I will be hanging out at site #2 where most of the maintenance, cleaning, and construction opportunities seem to exist. Flexibility is the order of the day.

Skills of all present are evaluated to see what skill sets people have and how they can be applied. Next is an interesting exercise, everyone makes cards of their goals for the program. Many goals seem to have commonality. Next a break for lunch of potato/ avocado soup with chicken, fried potatoes, and rice. It is tasty carbo-loaded lunch topped with a blackberry whip that some liked and some didn’t. Anxiety continues over Sherri and Dean’s missing luggage with no clear resolution to be seen. Prior to lunch the two ladies from Calderon had made an appearance. You could see in their eyes that their concern was most genuine. I was impressed by the fact that they had made a special appearance just to welcome us.

After lunch everyone complained of wanting to take a nap and seem tired. We persist and go through an extended Spanish session to practice and learn common terms that may be needed. I struggle and feel that I am far and away the most challenged. I am muy bien happy when this is over. Martin, a tour operator next appears to explain spare time options. He elaborates to a great deal on some points but then seems to leave out important points. He does offer a fairly wide arrangement of different options to do. I am concerned with my energy level for some of these things after working a full day in the sun. We shall see. I follow Kristina, Jessica, and Sherry down to the mall and split up and go over to the park. It is around 5:30 pm and the park is packed with families enjoying their Sunday interspersed with young beaus enjoying each other. The park seems alive and from another time and era. I felt that this strong bond and joy of doing simple things like playing soccer, riding paddleboats, horses, or just strolling as a family was lost in America. The park rather than just occupying space was fulfilling a valuable social need. I was also charmed to find monkey puzzle trees of good height. I return to the mall and withdraw some money from the ATM with success. I am pleased.

Back at the hotel Sherri and Dean have still no word on their luggage. Dinner is roast chicken with a vegetable soup starter and a filo dough creation for dessert. Everyone is stuffed. Sherri persists in trying to line up activities for every day but I am worried until I see how this goes and flows. Tomorrow the adventure begins.