Tuesday was my very first day not-in-training but working-with-all-the-responsiblities tía. I’m not going to lie, this first day was rough. I got there at 6am but the kids were already up and getting ready so I had that feeling of “oh no I’m late.” And then I found out that I wasn’t actually supposed to come until 8 and that the next day I was to come at 5:30 and I was all sorts of confused. I spent the day trying to keep up with the tíos with all the cleaning and laundry and whatnot. I struggled with not feeling useful and doing things wrong. It was my first time washing clothes by hand. There were good moments, like going for a walk with the kids or reading a book. However if I’m to be honest here for a moment, I had to choke back some tears at the end of the day. What had I got myself into?
And then I got back to the volunteer house, took some deep breaths, and remembered that this wasn’t supposed to be easy. I’m not here to feel a certain way or to be a hero or to be comfortable. And I thought more about my simple and wonderful purpose – I’m here to love these kids in whatever capacity that means. Wednesday, dark and earlier around 4:45am, I got up, had some coffee, and prayed over the day. My attitude was so much better and instead of letting myself get stuck on the little things, I noticed the moments when we laughed or hugged or connected. I got to chatting more with the tíos. They told me that everyone on their birthday gets doused in water. I told them I wouldn’t tell them my birthday. However there’s an info sheet about me in the house, so we raced over there and I scurried to find my sharpie to scratch out my birthday. (He got to it first, but since it’s in September I’m hoping he’ll forget…). So, it was still a long day, but a very good day. I enjoyed being with the kids and starting to break the ice with the tíos. It was amazing how both days were so similar in structure and the people I was working with, but how prayers and attitude change made a world of difference.
Me, Emerson, Francisca, and Izabel
Thursday and Friday I was able to rest. It was really nice to read and write and work on some projects. Lucky for me Shawn had a shortened day on Thursday because he started at 5am. That afternoon we headed out to Antigua and had a lot of fun. We went to this museum about jade in Guatemala. Guatemala is known for jade and we learned about how for thousands of years the indigenous populations have used jade to signify wealth and royalty. It was really cool. I also got really excited because there’s this chocolate shop/museum! We stopped by because it smelled so good. Here you can find out about the history of chocolate in the Americas and find out how it’s made. Then you can make your own chocolate, grinding the beans and everything. One day we’ll definitely have to go back. There’s also a coffee and Mayan music museum I want to go to. Needless to say, it was a good afternoon and a nice break from being at NPH.
Friday felt like Christmas for many reasons. For one, I got to move into my permanent room! I love the volunteer house I’m in (there’s three). I’m in the seemingly quieter, cleaner house and I really enjoy the people who are here. And it felt so great to finally unpack all of my stuff and put up pictures. I feel all moved in and ready to make this my home for the year.
Then all the volunteers who left gave their clothes and miscellaneous items to the new volunteers. I tried on a bunch of clothes and shoes and got some good quality lotion. Magically four or five pairs of pants fit perfectly. The big event of the day however was when I had a quick informal meeting with the Erika volunteer coordinator. She had an update for me about the change in my position. She showed me a job proposal that she had already discussed with the house director and asked me what I thought. The integrated special education class needs an extra hand because right now there’s just one teacher and 8 kids who are across the board in ability levels and a few that might simply leave the room. The idea of helping out at the school just sounded perfect. In these last few weeks I’ve been learning about myself that I really enjoy having goals of learning or developing skills. The setting of a classroom and having lessons everyday seemed to really fit my interests and is also a real need. I got so excited when the volunteer coordinator shared this idea with me. There’re a few different proposals for the afternoons. One is the recreation workshop that I mentioned a blog or two ago. Another would be an occupational workshop for the kids with special needs in their home. This workshop is still being organized, so I wouldn’t be starting it for a while, but the basic idea is that I would work with the tíos and tías to teach and develop basic manual skills with the kids such as sewing, cooking, and everyday tasks. Erika told me she was going to arrange a meeting with all parties involved and that I might start on Wednesday. Wow, talk about things changing fast!
So the rest of the afternoon I enjoyed sharing my excitement with my new housemates and getting settled in. Then we all headed over to Erika’s house in Parramos where she invited us to have dinner. Oh my gosh, the food was riquisisisisimo. She made lasagna and her husband made this salad with fantastic dressing. There was guacamole and pico de gallo and a delicious cake to celebrate a volunteer’s birthday. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful to have free food from NPH every day, but after you’ve had several of those meals and then get treated with some good home cooking… – wow, there’s no other way to react other than to eat and eat and eat. After we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, we ended the day with a piñata and chewing caramelos on our walk back home. In conclusion – Friday felt like Christmas.
Saturday and Sunday I had another shift as a tía. It seems like the more time I spend there the better it gets. Saturday was cute, because every section came up with a performance to do in front of everyone. It could be a dance or some kind of gymnastics business. In the morning my section practiced a dance, coming up with the moves and outfits and everything. We even made some pom poms. Then in the afternoon everyone went out to the fútbol field and watched the performances. Here’s a section showing their moves.
Sunday was a very relaxed day. The kids got to sleep in and some of the tíos and I went for about a 3 mile run before waking them up. It was such a refreshing way to start the day, though I’m definitely a bit out of shape and need to go more often. In the morning we went to the playground by the school and then watched a movie as a treat. Nobody here usually watches t.v. or movies and so once a week over the weekend is special. Later in the afternoon we went to mass together with all the sections. That pretty much sums up the weekend. Although it was a little sad because I couldn’t go out with the other volunteers to Antigua or Chimaltenango, I enjoyed being with the kids and it was good.
After getting the kids up and ready in the morning on Monday, I started my two day break at 8am. One of the años de servicio and I decided to go for another run and that was really good. We only ran 1/2-3/4 of the run, but it was really good chatting as we took a walking break. She is a very friendly and ambitious 22 year old. She really likes working with kids with disabilities and wants to go to school to become a speech therapist. We talked about family and life and what snow is like in Chicago. I’m going to start hanging out with her to chat in English too. She really wants to learn and it’ll be fun.
After doing some grocery shopping and laundry Monday morning, I got a call from Erika telling me about the meeting that we’re all going to have in an hour. I was excited and relieved that this meeting so easily came together. I was a bit intimidated as the director of the school, director of all the sections, special education coordinator, special ed teacher, and director of the home for kids with special needs all came together to specifically talk about me and this new position. I was like “come Spanish, don’t fail me now!” But the meeting went really smoothly. Everyone was in agreement that the teacher needed an extra hand and that I would be a good fit. In addition it was decided that I will start Wednesday of this week, which is tomorrow. I am so excited! I know the next year will bring its challenges with whatever I do here at NPH, but I feel so much peace and confidence that this is the right position for me, that the kids will benefit, and the teacher too. Everybody wins. With this position I will also have a more normal schedule Monday through Friday 7-5. I’ll be able to participate in some other volunteer responsibilities that tías usually don’t do. I will have another section to hang out with and have dinner with a few times a week. I’ll be doing family projects which is when brothers and sisters from different sections get to hang out and do something fun for a few hours. I’ll get to be a part of these events called Kermes where the volunteers organize activities for all the kids once every two months over the weekend. I’m excited that I’ll be able to participate more as a team with the volunteers. All around, it’s very good.
Last night my house did a welcome dinner. We had a tasty German-ish dinner with potatoes and cheese and something like spinach. Here’s a picture of all of us together
From the top to the right me, Edith from Germany, Sam from the U.S., Nicole from Germany
Bottom left to right Karla from Guatemala, Bianca from Germany, Veronica from Austria, and Charlotte from the U.S.
And we are missing one Elena from Italy who took the picture.
And next week I'll let you know how this new position is panning out :)