Friday, July 5, 2013

A day that was over the top

It's Friday! The team gathered for breakfast and discussed the highly anticipated events of the day along with the realization that we were all looking forward to a couple of days off on the weekend. Everyone is grateful for the opportunity to serve the community of Calderón, especially after seeing one of the typical family's homes and quality of life yesterday evening, but working at the center demands much energy, and time off is necessary to recharge our batteries for another productive week.  

At this morning's team meeting Seija shared her compassionate, heart-warming journal entry, and Tom shared a quote from Albert Einstein that stressed the value of imagination over knowledge. The team agreed that at the center, with our limited ability to communicate with the children and tías, imagination and body gestures are two of the most valuable tools at our disposal, and based on the positive reactions of our hosts, are probably all we need to convey our love for them. Maggie then had our team review the objectives we had established for ourselves at the orientation meeting the previous Sunday. We all agreed that we had succeeded in working to meet the objectives, but needed to put more effort into learning Spanish through practicing with the center staff.

At the center, each of us made our way to our respective jobs. The kids were having breakfast, so Katie, Seija, and Suzanne resumed assisting their kids and tías, Neal went to help wash and dry the breakfast dishes in the kitchen, and Tom played utility infielder, helping out whomever needed assistance while waiting for Carlos to arrive so they could finish building the shelving units. Once Carlos arrived, he and Tom completed the freestanding magazine/book rack. All in all, they built two 6-foot bookshelves and a book rack out of maple laminate, with bracket supports on each shelf, and about one-million hand-set screws, or at least it seemed like a million once Tom set the last screw with his screwdriver. "The last quarter inch is really tough," said Tom, as the last screws squeaked audibly as Tom turned the screwdriver.  

Óscar and Tom putting the final touches on 
the 6-foot shelving units they built 

Even though the day started off like every other day, all of the focus of the staff and volunteers quickly shifted to the day's big event: the graduation of Gaby's and Ruby's five-year-olds; all on our team were caught up in the excitement. Team members were helping the tías make certificates and portfolios, and making decorations and putting them up in the open space at the front of the center. Tom tested his high-altitude tolerance while blowing up (by mouth) over 60 large balloons.  

Blowing up balloons for the graduation celebration

At lunch, Katie shared that she had started making an effort to talk to the kids in her class using Spanish. She was really excited that the kids were doing what she asked of them when she used their native language. Katie was making good on our re-commitment to our objectives. When we returned from lunch, all of us noticed the tías making themselves "bonitas" in red and white prior to the parents and their children arriving at the center. Even the tías in the kitchen were dressed for the celebration.

Isabel and Katie

Five-year-olds dressed in formal attire were arriving at the center with their parents, extended family, and friends while center staff rushed around to make final preparations. All of our team was put to work arranging and wiping down chairs for the adults. At the beginning of the graduation ceremony, Elvita delivered a long speech which included praise for the efforts of volunteers and financial assistance from Global Volunteers. There were so many adults at the ceremony that we stood in the kitchen and watched through the windows as each student stepped up with their parent to receive a diploma and have their photo taken.  

The graduates!

The graduates singing for their parents

Moments after the last diploma was awarded, a singer started singing to lively music and Elvita pulled us out of the kitchen to join in the dancing. Tías were dancing with the kids while Elvita put us through a series of steps that we'll call dancing for lack of a better word to describe our gyrations. Then cake was served to the kids and soda to the adults while a frenzy of photo taking started and continued well past when the last child and her family left the center. Each of us was honored by being included in one, then another photo while other staff cleaned up following the celebration. We were showered with thanks and cheers of "Hasta el lunes" as Pilar and her daughter Viviana led our team to the van for our return trip home.

Elvia and Seija dancin' it up

Maggie invited us to dinner at a restaurant in the Historical District of Quito called Vista Hermosa, an appropriate name for this amazing venue on the top of a building overlooking Quito's Old Town. We were seated on the edge of the top of the building with a glass-enclosed chrome railing between us and Old Town Quito below. While gas heaters around us provided a bit of heat to fight the chill in the air, a man played a harp accompanied by another on a guitar. This dinner, seemingly on top of the world, with friends sharing memories of an amazing week of volunteering, capped a day that was quite literally "over the top."

Our team at our rooftop dinner

Tom and Katie with a view of Quito's Old Town from the restaurant

View of the hill with the Madonna, who is said to watch over Quito

Entry submitted by: Neal Pierce

Message of the day – Tom Horne: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”  – Albert Einstein 

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