It’s been a long time coming but my second blog has arrived.
I have started teaching, yes los niños en Cuenca have encountered the best teacher ever, hopefully. From math to Spanish to colouring and of course to English, I am teaching the lot. With my volunteering set up I teach at two completely different schools, but they are both amazing in their own way.
I am going to start with my morning school, instituto de San Jose Calasanz. I work with disabled children ranging from 5 or 6 years old to the odd adult, one who is 64!!!! Due to the type of school I am working in I am not required to teach English, Joel is also here with me, the activities that we help with are based around therapy and achievement. These activities include baking in a fully functional bakery, sploshing some paint on wooden canvases’ made in the carpentry or the more therapeutic sewing or ceramic painting. Yes, I know I am volunteering in one of the best schools in town, however I had a tough choice at the start. Which place do I go to first???
I opted for the bakery, where I would be working with a very friendly pupil named Jonathan, he tried as much as he could to speak English, which shocked me, but it helped a little as my Spanish vocab was not the best. For first few days, I was baking bread in the bakery and then helped the kids paint their wooden canvases’, this got a little messy at points but Pancho, one of the nicest Ecuadorians I have met, provided me with an overall so that my bright orange trousers would stay orange and not a mish mash of colours. Then I was moved to my current location, a classroom of 8 children, working with Clarita first and then Cathy. The ages of my class ranged from 9 to 14 and their ability was also a wide range. When I first started working with the kids I thought, eight children in one class with two teachers, well a teacher plus me, the class surely they don’t need both of us. Have ever been so wrong!!!!!!
Working with the kids offers a variety of challenges, firstly, I am speaking and teaching in Spanish the whole time, secondly, I can teach one child the numbers one to ten and then test another on the numbers to a thousand, and finally, Cathy and myself have to keep them happy and healthy, whether that is playing with them during their recreation, helping them eat their food or clean their teeth. This is the most rewarding experience that I have had, just seeing a little boy or a little girl smiling and laughing because I have helped them down a slide or put them on a swing a given them a push. Getting them happy when they are sad, it makes my day every day.
As you can probably tell I love my morning school, but you need to; as there are some very difficult challenges that you need to tackle.
As I mentioned earlier the kids have varied abilities, this is putting it mildly. If I ask a twelve year old to recite the numbers from one to ten I would get a snarky retort or a look that meant I was born yesterday. Unfortunately, due to the blocks that have been put in their way and the challenges that they have to face every day, they don’t give me a snarky retort or look at me as if you I was speaking another language, well hopefully not the latter as my Spanish isn’t too bad, they struggle to tell me the first five. This really hit me as this not only means they do not know the numbers but they cannot tell me the date, they can’t tell me the time or even tell me how old they are. One can only imagine how difficult their day to day life must be. From my point of view, it is very difficult to see why they don’t know the numbers, or why it takes so long for them to learn then, but it does and I take my time teaching the numbers, the days of the week or the colours. This can be very frustrating at times because you feel that you have taught them the numbers from one to ten and then the next day they have no clue at all. So I go in to school with an open mind, one that is prepared to help them in whatever way they need, I will always be patient with them and, when I can, make them happy.
I feel it is time to talk about the school I am volunteering at in the afternoons, but before I do I have to talk about the amazing food that I am eating in Cuenca.
Food. Food is one of the best unexpected surprises that I have had whilst in Ecuador, well apart from getting my head firmly planted in a cake on my birthday. When I was getting ready to go, one of the worries I had was about the food; will I like the food, will it agree with my stomach, will I eat enough???? My mind was not put to rest when I was in Quito either, as I was not eating very much as there was not much or us to eat. I had fruit for breakie, soup for lunch and rice with the random bit of meat from that day. So by the time I left for Cuenca, my trousers were a lot looser than when I arrived. Then, I got to Cuenca and I haven´t looked back since. I have eaten rice, rice, rice and yes more rice, but that is not a problem for me because as we have some amazing meals. One such meal, the specialty of the family, a rice, cheese, marrow and prawns dish baked in the oven. It comes out with a crisp layer of golden cheese across the top. Lovely. It´s making me feel hungry just writing this!!!!!
From, food I must move reluctantly on. I work at a high school in the afternoons, this is great fun, the kids are aged from 12 or 13 right up to 20. I teach 5 classes a day, yes I do teach, they are all great fun to teach and at times they do talk a lot, which is annoying because I don’t really know what they say, but Marta, the actual teacher, always whips them into line. The classes are not all the same age, as there are the odd one or two students who are older than the rest of their class mates. As well varying ages there are also varying abilities, as you would expect, there are some students who can speak English pretty well, but there are others who I must use my expanding knowledge of Spanish to get the aim of the lesson across. Not all school life is in the classroom though, at the recreation times the teachers head of to the staff room and tuck into the treats that they provide that day, it could be cheesy bread, sugary bread or the traditional corn filled leaves with Durazno jam. Once I have grabbed myself one of these treats and a mug of hot water, yes I don’t drink tea or coffee the teachers cannot believe it either, and I watch the football matches that accompany most recreation times. These matches are accompanied by the girls screaming their heads off, be it teachers or students, and they are often cheering for it to go on for as long as possible as the headmaster waits till the end of the football till he finishes break, which is great and would never happen in England.
As well as football, there is a teachers day in Cuenca, and it is a few days before Cuenca Day (April 12th), where all the lessons are cancelled and all the students honour their teachers with cards and a fun game of Piñata, where teachers names were picked out at random from a bag and they then proceeded to be blindfolded and put in the middle of the playground near to the little terracotta pots and told to whack ´em. Why do I know this?? My name was one of the unfortunate thirteen to be picked out of the hat. I was promptly embarrassed in front of the whole school as they put a broken pot out for me and then put a new pot as far away as they could. So all in all I was not great at it, but I did get my sweeties in the end.
What about my time outside of Cuenca? Well, I shall begin with Montanita, often called the Ibiza of the Latin American world. From the beaches to the bars to the clubs, Montanita was amazing, and the weather was perfect for the beach I loved every second that I was I there. The beaches were long and sandy and stretched on for miles and had little beach bars along them at fairly regular intervals. I must say, the cocktails that we got from these little bars were some of the best cocktails I have had. The piña coladas that me and Richie were all too eager to drink were superb, and at only $3 we were even keener to drink them, and they were a decent size as well!!!!!
After enjoying cocktails as the sun set on the pacific, we headed to the bars and clubs in town. This was where the term ‘Ibiza of Latin America’ can be seen. Lots of booze, lots of chicas and plenty of salsa!! By the end we all knew how to dance salsa decently whilst being rather drunk. This did not stop us though and we had a great time.
Due to it being carnival when we went, the town’s population quadrupled and the streets were packed so we kept each other close and our cash closer. Everyone had little spray cans of foam or water balloons, so they coated is in foam and water which made us look like walking talking snow men, but we just went with the flow.
After loving the flow of life in Montanita I am very much looking forward to heading to Mancora, PERU!!!!
Until Next Time!!