I am sorry its been awhile, but its become a lot harder to write posts in the last few months for 2 main reasons: 1) I am a lot busier now, and it seems like “write blog post” always gets pushed to the bottom of my to-do list. 2) I have been there long enough that everything starts seeming normal, and so I don´t know what to write about!
While I can´t possibly detail everything thats happened in the past few months, and can give a brief summary: I am happy, I finally feel like I am really working, and I love it here.
So… I have been to Quito twice since my last blog: once for PSN training, which was wonderful. Since I was elected as training coordinator for PSN at that meeting, I went back to Quito in March to talk to the trainees about the first few months in site, stress, and coping strategies. Hanging out with the trainees was fun, plus I stayed and helped out for their cookout, sponsered by the volunteer advisory council. After I finished up in Tumbaco, I hung out in Ibarra with 2 girls from my training group, Jen and Abbey. We had a blast and it makes me sad that they live so far away.
I also went back to the States for 2 weeks in February. Although it was a little strange being back, I did have a lot of fun-I got to see ALMOST everyone that I wanted to. When I first got back I still felt a little lost, like I still wasn´t really doing anything… but then all of a sudden a few weeks ago its like everything fell into place. With the doctora in the health clinic, I am doing medical brigades a few times a month. We also have a “club de Adulto Mayor” (senior citizens) and a “Club de Hipertensos y Diabeticos” (People with high blood pressure and diabetes). I am really enjoying these to clubs. They each meet once a month, but a lot of the members overlap. The abuelitos are ADORABLE.About 2 weeeks ago we had a meeting. We started out playing a memory game, then we did dance therapy, another memory game, a nutrition charla, and FREEZE DANCE which was the cutest thing ever. For the finale, they elected a King and Queen of the club. The queen got a sash and the king got a crown. It was the cutest. I almost cried at one point because the queen started crying in her speech and saying how its so nice to have somewhere to go and people who are actually interested and paying attention instead of just being put off to the side. It made me really happy that we are continuing this group for them.
I am also doing an anemia project with the doctor, although its mostly just me and then she helps out with the medical parts. The last volunteer got 20 cast iron pots donated and sent to Ecuador and they finally arrived. Cooking with cast iron pots is supposed to help treat anemia. We did exams on all the families, and right now they are using the pots. I am doing surprise home visits and they also have to come to a meeting once a week where I give a charla about anemia, nutrition, parasite prevention, etc. In about a month we are going to retest to see if the pots are working. If it works, we want to ask for more money from the government to replicate the project in other communities.
I am now teaching at the school across the river every Wednesday. The school has about 22 kids in all different grades, but because they only have 2 teachers, they divide them into “upper grades” and “lower grades”. I teach the upper grades for 1.5 hours, then recess, then the other group. I am teaching mostly health stuff and self esteem too.
I am supposed to be teaching at both of the high schools in the county. The name of the project is “Educacion Integral para Vidas Saludables”. Its an all inclusive life skills/health class. Every month is a different theme, and at the end of the month they have to replicate what they learned and teach it to the younger students.I have started at one high school and it has gone really well so far. The other colegio still hasnt gotten organized enough for me to start classes there. I will be teaching for the duration of the school year, April to December.
I also still have my kids group and recently the women´s group finally started. I had 14 women attend last week and this week we are baking cookies so I am sure that more will show up.
Two weeks ago at a community meeting I was asked to give a charla specifically on parenting/child abuse. There is a current trend of parents buying leather whips to discipline their kids. It started with one or two families, and then other people thought it was a good idea.I didn´t want to just do something on child abuse, because it goes deeper than that. There is no consistency with parenting here. The kids cry and cry and the parent gives them whatever they want so they stop crying, except for random instances when the parent decides to hit/slap/yell at them instead. So I presented 5 definitions: Physical abuse, emotional abuse, and 3 styles of parenting: Authority-Repressive Based, Authority-Reciprocal, and Indulgent-Permissive. We talked a lot about consistency, forming rules and sticking to them, discussing and setting up punishments according to the actions of kids, etc. It went really well and we had a lot of good discussion. At one point a woman asked what she should do if her husband is the one beating up the kids. Myself and the ecuadorian I was facilitating with explained a series of actions: first discussing it with him BEFORE it takes place, when he is not angry, if that doesn´t work, intervening when it is actually taking place, and finally if that fails, filing a report with child services or the police. We also explained that there are laws that protect her and her kids. I hope that Step One works for her, but I guess we´ll see. It felt really good to discuss such an important and sensitive issue and know that the women felt comfortable enough to ask questions, and to think that maybe I helped to empower someone to change their situation, whether it be the woman with the husband, or someone else in the audience who previously was using physical violence to discipline their kids. The session went so well that I was asked to repeat it this past Saturday with the parents of kids who are in CCD class. Some of the CCD teachers were in the session and thought it would be great for more parents to hear it.
This past weekend I had a few volunteers visit, and everyone had an amazing time. I love having people visit my site and my host family loves it too! I am not going to describe it in detail because I won´t be able to do it justice, but all you need to know was that it was a wonderful relaxing weekend.
Thats it for now… I really am going to try to blog at least once a month, but no promises!