So, Camp Courageous of Iowa will be starting their winter season with campers really soon. I can’t help but really miss it (ahem, and of course you friends and family…) and I remember those good days of being a counselor for 2 short seasons. I know, I know, I’m in Guatemala! On a crazy adventure! But to be honest I usually think ten times a week “I wish I could take my kids to camp.” Everyone of them. I learned so much there about working with people with disabilities, the importance of humor and flexibility, and I think more than anything about empowerment. I think to myself “what is it that made me fall in love with camp and this work?” And in the midst of many things, it’s the empowerment that comes with accomplishing something hard, it’s the overcoming of obstacles when most people think you can’t, and it’s surprising yourself with what you’re capable of. Although here we don’t have caves to army crawl through to overcome our fears of bats and small spaces, and we don’t have zip lines to overcome our fear of heights, and we don’t have a karaoke machine to get over our fears of public speaking/singing, empowerment is still possible. My new bell at the top of the tree climb is learning to spell your name. And If you can learn to tie your shoes we’re going to celebrate. So thank you Camp Courageous for teaching me so much and best of luck to everyone there 2012.This week/week.5 is similar to last week in that it had a lot of ups and downs. I started the position at the school with the integrated class. The teacher I’m working with is a really sweet young grandma who is very gentle and has goals for the kids to learn. There’re eight kids in the class and they range from 7-8 to 16ish years old. Their ability levels range quite a bit as well. I’m hoping with the two of us we’ll be able to give each kid enough individual attention to improve and learn at their own level. In our class we have some kids who are pretty diligent and precise with their work, some kids who are mischievous and curious but have a great capacity to learn, and some kids who just love being at school and want to show you everything they’ve done. To be honest, it has been a rough start. For one we’ve only just received the supplies we need for the year Thursday and Friday. This means that the lessons and worksheets have been a bit limited so far. Second there’re a couple students who are really not into the going-to-school-thing, especially one older student who influences the rest of the group. However we’re hoping things will get better. We now have more supplies and the particular older student might be starting a class for carpentry instead of all of his time in the classroom.
Wednesday was a particularly hard day, because the teacher had to go to a meeting that lasted close to 3 hours and the students really tried to take advantage of the fact that I’m new and that I’m not fluent in Spanish. This day had me guarding the door, the teacher’s desk, and all the classroom supplies. Everyone was trying to get into everything and it was very hard. Various therapists and passerbyers would stay in the classroom with me for a bit to help me manage the chaos. It was rough.
I prayed a lot this week. I had discussions with the teacher about discipline and rewards and our system. Thursday was a much much much better day. The teacher had to go to another meeting for about 1.5 hours. This time the aforementioned older student wasn’t at class. Wow. We did our work, I taught them about numbers, we sang “head, shoulders, knees, and toes”, and we had a problem free recess. It was amazing. And when there was the occasional behavior issue, I was able to explain what we needed to do and what the consequences were, and ta-da, it was magic. Overall After this week, I know that this is going to be a hard position, but it will be good. I know the kids have so much potential, I know I will need a lot of patience and inner strength, and I know that persevering and sticking it through to hit that bell at the top will be all the more worth it.
By the way, if there’re any special education teachers out there who want to give me any pointers – I’m all ears!
In the afternoons we have started the occupational workshop. Now that I know what it looks like, I think I will enjoy it a lot and I’m excited at the chance to be a bit creative and do something fun and educational with the kids with special needs. Because of our limited resources etc. many of the kids with special needs don’t go to school and spend their time at home while the tíos are doing all the chores and what have you. The special education coordinator, who’s really great and enthusiastic, created this workshop so the kids could be engaged and learning something, and also have fun (I think). So far we’ve made necklaces and bracelets with beads (fine motor skills), finger painted, and made creations with pipe cleaners. Next week we’re going to plant seeds and I’d like to do an afternoon preparing food and another day learning how to tie shoes/buttons etc. My job is to organized and facilitate the activities with the tíos, tías and kids. (If you’re a camp person, it’d be like a rec specialist almost). Every Wednesday we also have horseback riding therapy. This is really great and everyone looks forward to it. The horse place is about a 30 minute walk. With the trip there and back and a few hours of riding, it’s a fantastic afternoon. Here’re some photos of the horse therapy and our fun with pipe cleaners.
Me and Francisca
La bonita Delmi
I have also decided on which section I’m going to accompany. This means that I’ll have dinner and hang out with this section a couple nights a week. I chose to hang out with the section called Santiago which is boys between the ages of 12-14. This group is very different from the section with special needs and I think I’ll enjoy the variety. I enjoyed my time with them so far. We just talked and played cards and tried to see who could eat the most straight up lime without making a sour face. I’m excited to get to know them.
I’ve also started to teach an English class on Wednesday nights with the años de servicio and tíos. Although at the end of the day I feel so tired, I always have a great time with this class. I don’t prepare anything, we just talk. We go to the library which is empty and has couches. Last time I brought the coffee maker and Charlotte from the states came too. This past week we told ghost stories and just to let you know, telling stories and listening to stories is a great way to improve whatever language you’re learning. This class is a bit challenging because everyone is on a different level. I hope we get into a good groove. I feel like this is such a great way to get to know more people and have a good time. Some of them also know an indigenous Mayan language and it’s so interesting learning about that too. I like it J
Apart from NPH I’ve been enjoying my free time with the other volunteers. Last weekend a group of us went to Chichicastenango (Chichi for short) which is a town that has a large indigenous population and a huge market with lots of cool stuff. We stayed in a hotel/hostel sort of place on Saturday night. It was so nice just to get away for a bit. There’s a well known cemetery there where all the tombs are bright colors. We learned the Mayan perception of death is more along the lines of a person completing their mission on earth. It’s a time to be grateful.
Also there was this building by the market with history painted on the walls. It told the story of the Mayans and Chichicastenango.
Popul Vuh is the Mayan creation story. The story has a lot of similarities to the creation story in the Bible. I remember reading parts of it in one of my classes. It was really interesting.
And of course, I’ve enjoyed escaping into the world of Harry Potter whenever I get a chance. I’m about a 3rd of the way through El prisionero de Azkaban. I’m so excited to have nerdy conversations with people and learn some new vocab.
Life has continued to be full here. It’s been full of lots of challenges, and lots of good things. And on this beautiful Saturday, lots of rest.