This past weekend, Hogar de Cristo (a big foundation here in Ecuador that works with community organizing, health, housing, education, etc), put on a concert to raise awareness and fight child labor. A big Ecuadorian reggaeton singer, Au-D, was the headliner. Kind of a big deal! What was a bigger deal (for us gringos) was that Belén and Mateo performed with one of the openning acts, a band called Grupo Eclipse from our neighborhood! Mateo played the drums, and Belén sang "Zombie" by the Cranberries. They were AWESOME! How funny that after less than a month in Ecuador, two of us volunteers were rocking out in downtown Guayaquil at the Malecón (a popular tourist spot). The rest of us cheered from the audience and even had a dance party with some mimes :)
Working at San Felipe Neri is truely a gift. This week, a beautiful little 5 year old girl came bounding over and attached herself to my side (this is a major trend haha). She looked up at me with big, brown eyes and a wide grin and declared, "Te amo" :) Such loving hearts these children have! I don´t even teach in this particular niña´s classroom (and I´m pretty sure she always called me Melissa), but she greets me every day with open arms and a huge smile. This kind of uninhibited love is something we can all learn from, I think. A love that forms instantly and is given without reservation. How beautiful.
There are also moments that break my heart. After I finish teaching my one or two English classes in the morning, I meander over to one of the 1st grade classrooms where an extra set of hands is always more than welcome. This week, one of the sweetest and most adorable boys started sobbing, sobbing. Esequiel was inconsolable, his face soaked with tears. So upset he couldn´t speak. Some of his classmates explained to me that someone had told him, "tu casa es mala" (your house is bad). It´s amazing and so incredibly sad that in a neighborhood where ALL of the children live in cane or block houses, where ALL live in poverty, there still exists the biting perception that "yours is worse" and "mine is better". And that this distinction cuts deep.
As I could only have hoped and prayed for, my days are filled with the smiles and hugs (and tears) of children. In their eyes I see God. I see hope. I see love. What a beautiful life I have been gifted here in Ecuador!
The former volunteers left last week, so we are officially on our own! We ARE the volunteers :) Here are some little updates on life here in Mt. Sinai, Ecuador so far:
-Work: Tomorrow I start my job as an English teacher at San Felipe Neri elementary school! Wish me luck! This private school is run by Columbian sisters who are absolutely fantastic and serves grades K-4 (Like our preschool-3rd). Here in Ecuador, private schools tend to have a much better reputation for providing a good education than public schools. San Felipe charges $10 a month per student (in addition to buying supplies and materials). They do offer some scholarships in exchange for the mothers coming to help clean the school. My schedule right now includes 6 classes (2nd, 3rd, 4th grades twice a week). To fill the rest of my time (the school day runs from 7:30am-12:30pm), I will be helping out in other classrooms, running errands for the sisters, and playing with the adorable children during recreo (recess). I'm excited to think up songs and fun activites for my students and receive many millions of hugs each day. Side note: On the street the other day, two little girls appeared out of nowhere and attached themselves to my side! They asked when English classes were going to begin again, and despite the fact that they called me "Marita" (the former volunteer's name haha), it was a beautiful moment to be recognized and loved!
-Neighbors: The people here have the most beautiful hearts. We have been welcomed into homes, treated as family, encouraged to visit often, and fed cookies and cola. One of my favorite moments so far was dancing to Spanish music videos in the home of two girls: Lida and Mercedes. They have some serious moves! :) Because I only work in the mornings, my afternoons will be spend visiting with neighbors and establishing relationships within the community. What a wonderful gift it is to spend time talking with and getting to know the families of Monte Sinai.
-Parish: In our neighborhod, there is a life-filled parish called Bautismo de Jesus. There are three churches that have a wide range of activities: Mass, religious education classes, youth groups, womens groups that pray the Rosary together each week, and children's choirs. I'm very much looking forward to getting involved in the parish, especially as a way to form faith-based relationships with neighbors and children in the community. Something I love: everyone claps during the songs at Mass!
-Food: We live on less than $2/day per person, buying from little shops right down the street. We eat bread, rice, lentils, beans, eggs, veggies (onion, tomato, green pepper are staples), and fruit (the pineapple is delicious!). To give you an idea of prices, bananas (guineos in Ecaudor Spanish) are 3/$.10 and peppers-onions are $.10 each. Last night we made spiced lentils and rice for dinner, and we splurged on some choco-bananas that our neighbor Aura makes for dessert...mmmm :)
-Health: Haven't been ill yet! Say some prayers that it stays that way!!! :)
If there is anything else you'd like to know more about, please comment on the post and give me your suggestions! Soon I'll write more stories :)
Just a quick hello to let everyone know that I made it to Ecuador safe and sound. I am LOVING it!!! The people are incredibly welcoming, and I am of course soaking up the Spanish like a sponge! :) I cannot wait to write more details, so hopefully soon!