Natasha in Ecuador – Blog 8
HAPPY ONE MONTH ANNIVERSARY TO ME! This time a month ago I was embarking on a crazy adventure, with limited knowledge and an open mind. I can’t believe that day was only a month ago – it feels like I’ve been here forever. Yet, on the other hand getting on that first flight in Auckland Airport seems like yesterday. Time is such a weird and complicated concept.
Already a month into my visit – that’s almost a fifth of my whole trip!! – and I have only had 3 days of work. I have been in my new home city, Cuenca, with my new family, the Serrano’s, for 5 days. I am already in love; not that I didn’t like Quito; I simply love Cuenca even more. If you are ever heading over to this part of the world then you must definitely put this city on your list of To Do’s. There is one place especially that I see whilst walking from one job to the other than looks picture perfect. I feel as though I’ve stepped into a painting. It is while I am walking across a bridge towards the Historic Centre. I look to my left and there is this beautiful river with classic European houses along its banks and stunning mountains in the background – perfection.
Most of you are probably wondering how the volunteering is going, and if you aren’t then I’d advise you to get off my blog now! Both of my placements are incredible. The people are welcoming, and the children are the lights of my life – I can’t even bare to think about how hard it’s going to be to leave them, and I’ve only known them for three days.
My first placement is at Jan Jose de Calasanz, a school for disabled adults and children. People who haven’t had much experience with people with disabilities often jump to the conclusion that they must all be terribly sad due to the perceived difficulties they have to live with, however, they couldn’t be more wrong. These children have smiles on their faces 24/7, they are the friendliest people I know, and they are always ready with a hug, hello and a kiss on the cheek. On my first day I worked in the computer lab taking students, varying in age, to play academic games and watch clips. One young girl was doing a crossword style game, in which a picture of an animal etc came up under each number and she had to write the name of said object. The poor thing looked to me to help, yet with my limited knowledge of Spanish I wasn’t much help at all, in fact she probably could have done better without me. Despite this I had the most wonderful time getting to know the kids. On Tuesday I worked in the painting workshop – Mum I have found my passion and I am going to pursue a career as an artist – and today I was lucky enough to have a turn in the Bakery (yes, the school has its own bakery!!). Despite my complaints about the carb, carb, carb diet and the immense amounts of bread, my mouth still watered and my tummy rumbled the whole time. Hungry and cover in flour I loved every minute. It is now my permanent spot on Wednesday mornings, and I can’t wait!
My second placement is Centro Aurora, right in the middle of the Historic Centre of Cuenca. It is an after school care programme for kids from mostly troubled homes. Troubled homes or not these children are absolute gems. Ranging in age from 5 to around 11 our duties are to help them with their homework, serve them afternoon tea, play with them, serve them dinner, and most importantly (although it’s not in the guide book) love on them unconditionally. While they are super crazy, and hyper active each and everyone makes my day that much better. One crazy little boy (only 5 years old) named David cut a hole in my top on the first day…. yet he is just so adorable I couldn’t not forgive him. He is so cute in fact, that Lucy and I are planning to pack him in our suitcases at the end of the five months. Today we took them all to the park, and it was absolute blissful mayhem – I realise that that is a bit of an oxymoron but that’s what it was. .The gentleman who runs the centre is also genuinely amazing. He reminds me of a kind yet firm Grandpa, surround by his doting grandkids.
I love both of my placements, but don’t get me wrong it is definitely exhausting! I leave the house to take the bus at 7am, I then work at San Jose from 8am-1pm, I have a 1 and a half hour lunch break in which I eat at my host mums cafe in the University, I then work from 2:30pm-6pm at Centro Aurora, and catch the bus home, arriving at around 7pm (unless you count today when I waited 45 minutes watching 6 full buses go by). Sleep never takes long to overcome me in the evenings. On top of the hours my Spanish is being severely tested. I understand 1% of what the children say to me – most because they speak so quickly – and I guess 99% of the time. I am definitely improving, however, I desperately want to become fluent therefore I think extra Spanish lessons may have to be sought. My host family are a bunch of fun-loving, down to earth, loving, jokers and they are extremely patient with me and my semi passable Spanish. While my mum and sister speak a bit of English I have asked them to try to refrain from using it – unless it’s super important and they actually need me to understand. I will continue to tackle the language head on!!