Yes, I now can claim that title! Here in Ecuador, godparents are not a one-time choice. Kids get godparents for baptism, 1st communion, elementary school graduation, confirmation, high school graduation, and even marriage. Being a godparent may entail paying for a fiesta, buying presents for their godchild on holidays and birthdays, being a support. But when Mónica asked me to be her son, Mauricio’s, godmother for his graduation into high school, it wasn’t for any monetary reason. One of our Rostro rules is “No gift-giving”. For me, this made it even more of an honor. To know that they chose me as a role-model and someone who will stay involved (even from afar) in Mau’s life means the world to me. And when I said yes, I did so with the knowledge that this is a life-long commitment. I’m incredibly proud of Mau already (he received a special “diploma de oro” for being one of the top students in his class), and I look forward to seeing where life takes him. :)
Thursday, January 19, 2012
This week is final exam week at San Felipe. On the 4th grade Values exam, the students responded to the following question: “What kind of person are you? The three biggest trouble-makers answered like this:
Alejandro*: I have brown hair. I’m very good-looking and well-behaved.
Javier*: I misbehave a lot. I don’t listen to the teacher. I hit the other kids. When my mom sends me to the store, I go play soccer instead.
Daniel*: I’m a bad kid. I’m a failure in life.
Now, Alejandro clearly didn’t put much depth (or truth) into his answer. Javier, on the other hand, wrote things straight and real. But Daniel… His answer broke my heart. Can you imagine being only nine years old and feeling like a failure? This is the same student who came with lash-marks on his back. It’s moments like these when I realize that my greatest purpose here (and in life, really) is to love, love, love. These kids need more love, more care, more encouragement. Believe me, it’s a struggle. It’s all too easy to forget that the kids who challenge me the most are the ones who most need my patience and my understanding. When Javier has been out of his seat all class, running around the room and hitting the other kids, my first reaction is typically not to say, “Javier, I know you can do better. I believe in you. Please, help me with…”. My first reaction is to make some frustrated grunt noise (attractive, I know) and shout, “Javier, my goodness, would you sit down?!”. When my kids are shouting and fighting and acting nuts, it’s easy to lose my head and forget that really, it’s not their fault. Many of my students come from neglectful or violent homes. How can you blame a child for how he or she was raised? So blame the parents? Nope, that won’t work either. The parents were probably raised the same way, if not worse. It’s the culture that needs to change. And though that might seem an impossible task, there is hope.
*Names changed for privacy
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Imagine walking out your front door at midnight and seeing little fires burning all up and down the street and hearing firecracker explosions fill the night air *pop! pop! pop BOOM!* Here in Ecuador, New Year’s is a day of special and unique traditions. The most notable? Burning paper-maché figures or scarecrow like dolls stuffed with newspaper and firecrackers. Some people make them themselves. Others buy them from vendors downtown (prices range from $5-100 depending on size and quality). These “monigotes” or “viejos” go up in flames when the clock turns midnight. If the gasoline doesn’t make them burn quick enough, poppers are thrown in… POW! Fireworks boom in the sky. Kids and adults alike spin sparklers. Music blares from houses where guests will soon dance the whole night away. Other traditions? Wearing new red or yellow underwear for luck. Eating 12 grapes as the clock chimes twelve, also for luck. Eating lentils and/or filling a container with rice and keeping it in a special place to ensure you won’t go without food that year. Quite the list!
My New Year’s experience? We visited two different families. With the first, we danced out in the front yard and played with sparklers. With the second, we burned a “viejo” out in the street, threw firecrackers at the fire, ate our 12 grapes, sat down to a midnight meal of lentils, rice, and chicken, and conversed until 2am. It was a beautiful night and a blessing to share it with two wonderful families!
Pictures to come soon! :)