Our deepest fear isn't that we're inadequate.Our deepest fear is that we're powerful beyond measure

Saturday, August 11, 2012

August: Last Month of Work with The Aldea

I know I should be giving minute by minute updates but there has just been so much going on. When am I going to post the pictures of all of the special events we’ve had, swimming parties, me teaching recycled art class and “field trips” to the mall? I have no idea. The sad truth is they just may not get posted.

That’s what I’ve been dealing with lately. When I came here 3 years ago I had a monton (think: mountain) of things I wanted to do, but as my time is winding down I have been working on acceptance. Acceptance that I have done all that I could do and now it’s time for the next chapter of my life. I keep coming up with new ideas, projects or just things I wanted to do but never got to, or never got to complete.

I was making myself (and the kiddos) craaaazy by pushing them extra hard just because “I only had a few months left”. I thought I was getting a replacement volunteer that but that fell through.

Since June I have been filled with a profound sadness that I wasn’t expected. I would well up with tears on my way to the Aldea thinking of how there are some kids I will never see again. The thing that gets me is that I just so much want them to be happy, safe and successful (in however they define that for themselves). I worry about them and  care for them and that is why it tugs at my heart strings.

I also feel guity because my peeps back home are like “You’re SAD!? cause you’re long overdue to be back on U.S. soil”. Believe me, not  a day goes by that I don’t miss my family, I mean my family and friends in the U.S is really the only reason why I’m coming home, otherwise I could probably get a job at the bar across the street and live on the beach forever. I just know how to get in touch with my family but some of the kids and I will lose touch forever and we’re talking over 100 kids so that’s a lot of little individual connections lost.

Of course just like with everything and everyone in our lives. We cross paths for a reason and for a season. They have impacted me in a huge way and I can only hope I’ve done the same for them, even if on a smaller scale.

After having cried it out earlier this week, I’m feeling strong again to be able to sad bye and wish everyone well. I want to write letters to each of the teens in my youth group so that they can remember all the things I tell them over and over again. It’s going to be hard digging deep emotionally AND writing it in Spanish, but I think it’ll be worth it.

I am not sure what I’m going to get everyone else, or how to say thank you to all the madres, tias and office staff that work there. Hopefully a big hug and a smile will be sufficient J

This month I will try to blog at least each week to make this a finale of sorts.

August 24th is my last day working at the Aldea so it’s coming up Super soon.

Wish me luck!!! 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

All Play Aldea Football Tournament

The office staff and I organized a football game at the Aldea and it was so much fun.

It wasn’t just for the kids, it was office staff, the tias, the moms and volunteers (i.e. me!) Since I wanted to play but was also in charge of pics, I let some of the girls who were too cute to run around, take pics for me.

As a result the majority of the pictures were the tops of their heads as the modeled for the camera and inadvertently cut each other out of the shot , but they did get some far away action shots.

I got a chance to play, but a lot of the time I was caring for the little ones who wanted to be on the field in the middle of the action but not really play. One little girl wanted to hold my hand the whole time and not run. That got complicated but we worked it out. Every time the “captain” of our team i.e. the maintenance man of the Aldea, saw me, he’d be like “are we babysitting or playin!?”. So sometimes I had to just leave my little girl and come back to hear after I was done playing defense.

Some of the moms scored goals which was so much fun to see and my legs were literally sore for at least 3 days. There was great team work too. The teen boys that usually take over and dominate the game where giving the younger kids a chance to kick the ball and score goals as well. It is so much fun to just let loose and have good times with the Aldea community. I look forward to planning another tournament like this one.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Putting on my Rose-Colored Newcomer Glasses

As I mentioned in the last post, I was losing focus on the Present and was only worried about working hard on the Future. Sure, it’s cool to plan, but when you’re stressed out about outcomes that haven’t even come to pass yet, then you’re missing out on the gift that we call the Present. So I’ve gotten my act together and I am enjoying life as it comes.

I mean I leave on the beach, I have love my job, I have wonderful friends and people that are like family surrounding me and there is SO much here that I have yet to experience.

So I vowed to myself to get back to that mental space of being a newcomer, when you everything is neat, awe inspiring and full of novelty. One thing I have realized about myself is the minute I get comfortable in a place, I feel entitled and let little things annoy me. That’s not easy to admit, but I am finding it to be true.

Like back in the Guayaquil days, when I took the crowded Metrovia to the post office. At first, I thought it was soooo cool and convenient to have a trolley car that zipped up and down the main streets I needed were people could load on and off  from little waiting stations. As soon as I got the knack I found that, that crowded Metro could ruin my mood as I stood there like a sardine in the blistering heat with elbows pressed in my back and armpits in my face. The first week, that was a fun “cultural” experience I could write home about, the next month it’s the bane of my existence. It’s the same with how I can muddle the paradise I live in with complaints of the loud fisherman outside my window, or the incessant music blaring into my house as early as 7:30 in the morning.

 Sure, you may read this and say, “no for real that sounds annoying”, and trust is can be. However, as a newbie, a person that applied to live in another country and experience new things, those are the kinds of things that make a place exotic, the stories you write home about. The things that you have either a good or bad opinion about but you feel truly grateful for both because you have the opportunity to experience it. I know the day is going to come when I am going to long to hear the drunk songs of the fisherman lulling me to sleep, or serving as my wake up call. In the United States our respect for personal space will have me longing for the no holds barred space efficiency model that is the cultural norm here in Ecuador.

You can take every incident and either look at it through a positive light or a negative one. Should I be “happy” about everything that happens to me and around me? No, not everything is agreeable, however, my reaction to everything around me can absolutely change. I have started giving thanks for the bar across the street and the rowdy voices outside my door that serve as my daily alarm clock. Whether I love it or not, it’s these little incidents that shape my experience. An experience I once only dreamed about and one that I am so grateful has come into fruition as an unforgettable chapter in the story of my life. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Brigada Verde Meeting Take 1...

As I mentioned before, I am passing on projects  to my youth group as a way to make the work I have done with the kids sustainable. One of the projects I am working on is forming an EcoClub of interested teenagers. What my hope is that those who have an interest in learning about the environment can learn all there is to know and then pass it on to the younger kids of the Aldea. When those younger kids get older they will also have a base of knowledge and they will be the new participants in the EcoClub and they will teach the younger kids and so on and so forth the cycle of education continues.

I have 5 months to execute and hope that the idea catches on. We had our first meeting and it didn’t go as well as I had hoped.

First of all, since I want this group to be youth run, I had two of the jovenes practice speaking at the first meeting. While we had fun practicing, would you know the day of those girls completely left me high and dry. They were waaaaaaaay to scared and when I let them off the hook (as if I had a choice they were NOT going to talk….) they started being bad and running around and not realizing they were supposed to be in the leadership position.

Then came the general population. A few things. First of all this meeting was to see who out of the kids 12 and older are genuinely interested in participating in what we are calling “Brigada Verde” or Green Brigade. The kids thinking its obligatory to participate, all answer “si!” when I ask is this something they would be interested in. Now I know, talking about recycling, not littering and making art of out trash is NOT something that interests the majority of the teens I work with, however they all wanted to stay (so they said), but when it came time to get down to business it was evident who was cared and who didn’t.

a punch getting landed...smh
We had fun, and got some things done. A few kids helped set up which I didn’t expect at all. We had each youth bring a piece of fruit and for a ice breaker we made a fruit salad which was fun. After that, people came in late and I feel that’s when our dynamic got out of wack. For that reason some people will NOT be invited back due to behavior and I see some strict rules are going to be set in place. We have 11 interested people so far. So we will just have to see. My main qualms are talking at once, hitting (my co facilitator tells me it’s a “cultural” thing but I don’t think it should be permitted), and weeding out those who are only there to play.
I will continue to work with the two teens I dubbed the leaders of the group (one being the youth that I took to the Brigada Verde seminar in Quito) and hope for the best for future meetings.

I know this is a natural cycle for new groups being formed and it will be so worth it when the kids have enough confidence to take over the group and run it themselves. The beginning stages are all ways the most challenging so with that in mind we will keep on keeping on.

Monday, May 28, 2012

In the Final Strech: Thoughts of going home

            It’s the time again and it feels like yesterday I was facing the decision of COS or Extend. I am so happy I extended as I have learned and experienced so much in this third year of my service.  While I have 5 months left of being in Ecuador, I found this month had me very preoccupied with thinking of my return to the States.

            To all of you who have repeatedly inquired, yes,  I will be coming home, no I am not extending another year. While I would love too, the truth is I feel my time here is coming to a conclusion. I could cling and hang on but I don’t think that would be fruitful for my organization or myself. The Aldea will be getting a replacement volunteer so I am happy about that and my project can easily be passed on to the lucky newbie. Not to mention, before I knew if I was getting a replacement or not, I was and am currently working on passing on projects to my teens. I am pushing them into the leadership positions so that they don’t have to rely on a volunteer or an outsider of any kind to continue enjoying educational and enriching programs. So as far as sustainability goes, I feel satisfied.

            As for personal growth I feel I need to continue on my journey. Yes, my current assignment does serve up challenges daily (read the post on my first Brigada Verde meeting coming up!) but I also know how to maneuver in this situation and I am pretty comfortable. If you’re not growing your dying as they say, so in my efforts to continue to grow, I need to step out of my comfort zone once again….

            Which brings me to the subject of returning to the States. Which is proving to represent an opportunity to stretch out of my comfort zone even more than moving to a foreign country! This month I was almost obsessed with the issue of “what am I going to do when I go back?”.  Here’s the thing. The answer could be easy. Find a job you like and work it for the next 15 years.  However that is SOOO not what I am trying to do. I have learned 1 million lessons here in Ecuador, but one of the main things I am learning is that there are so many ways to live life and that following your passion and using your talents is so important to the enrichment of the soul. Not just important, essential. So while I could go back and work for awhile, it would only be a job to make money to fund a bigger dream.

            I have so many ideas and project I want to work on I don’t even know where to begin. Plus, I kinda have no clue about what any of my dream projets would look like from beginning to end. At the beginning of May and even in April I had convinced myself I need to start working on my “Back to the States” mission NOW so that I can be Super prepared for my transition in September. Well, it’s great to be prepped, but what ended up happening is I was getting WAY too focused on the future and forgetting to enjoy what is right in front of me, great friends, great kids, great work experience, beautiful surrounds and a tranquilo way of life. I was going into full speed high gear that is typical American on the grind workaholism. Have I learned nothing?

            So, while I know I need to get my resume spruced up and I can continue to explore and research all of my options, I still have a little less than a whole half of a year to enjoy one of the best countries in the world. So I’m on it, living life to the fullest everyday and preparing for an even bigger and better future J

Monday, May 7, 2012

What´s Really Valuable...

Today I met a little old lady that’s been living in Sua for the past 63 years that I’ve never seen before. I was with a group of kids when we saw her and since she was having trouble walking, we decided to help walk her home. She invited us in and it turns out she owns a huge hotel. I’ve walked passed it many times and would never have imagined a little old lady lives there by herself. She has a ton of rooms with at space for at least 6 people in each. For every room me and the little girls were squealing “This would be perfect for a slumber party!” The lady was saying that she would love that. She kept going on and on how she has EVERYTHING she could ever want, a huge house to live in, a car, potable water, money, but she’s super lonely. She has all that space and no one to fill it. She has things to give and no one to give it to. It just made me think about what people say all the time about materials & money “you can’t take it with you”. That’s usually said when you’re on your deathbed, but even when you’re alive and well, materials and money alone don’t really serve you. It’s the relationships you have with your fellow humans, the love you can build between people and it’s time spent together that really matters. These experiences fill you up and add true Richness to your life. It was great meeting her and I will certainly going to visit to keep her company, if for nothing else to pay her back for reinforcing a lesson, I already knew, but cannot afford to forget.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Impromptu Swim Party

As life happens, you are best served not scheduling your day to a T...or really not at all. Case in point. I was washing some under garments before I jetted off to work. As I´m walking outside to hang my clothes on the line I hear two little voices yelling my name. I turn around to see two sets of eyes looking at me. Oh it´s my host sister and her cousin! They hadn´t been over in over a year I feel. It´s always me who goes to visit them! So I run to open the gate and we are talking about our lives and what´s going on. Life is interesting and full of mystery when you´re 7 & 9, let me tell ya.

It was a SUPER sunny day (and it was only nine in the morning). As the follow me around hanging my clothes up on my line by my pool they couldn´t help but think, it´s sunny, you have a pool we should make something happen. After reading their squinty, sweaty expressions, I did the inevitable... I offered to let them come over "sometime" and swim. Well in Spanish, "sometime" actually means today at around 2:00 (well at least if you´re 7 or 9 and on your summer vacation). I knew I had A TON to do that day, but I thought, cool, I´ll try to leave work early and stop by your house to officially ask permission from their moms to come over. Well as always, the day goes on longer than one expects and I was still occupied later than I thought.

That didn´t even matter they were at my house when I got home ready to go. The only thing we folks were waiting on was for me to get into MY swimsuit! Now, I thought two girls were coming over, well I guess they thought it was a +1 party, because they had brought +1s and their +1s had invited +1s. Well if "the more the merrier" was the theme, I called up my neighbors, loves and friends to come over and we had a straight up Impromptu Swim Party on a random Tuesday afternoon. It was so much fun. I made popcorn, we had soda and the day was a huge unplanned success. Although I was Exhausted at the end of the day, it´s moments like those that I love where it doesn´t take planning or forethought, just being Present, open and willing to have a great time.
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