Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Travel Journal: Two Weeks In - Work, Play, and the Damp

First off, apologies for the dead silence to those of you tuning in here. We only have 30 minutes of (bad) wifi per day AND you can only use it standing or sitting on benches outside in front of the cafeteria. Also I've had to leave my iPad 20 minutes down river in the oficina. They recently had a break-in at the volunteer house and things were stolen while people were sleeping. Pretty much not worth the risk.

So, for those of you interested...
a day in my life at the moment:
5:15 Wake Up
Get ready, walk down through the muddy jungle to Casa de Ninas
Help 3-6 yr olds shower
Boss all age girls around until they complete their chores
Get them downstairs for breakfast...

Line them up
Watch them wash their hands
Hand out plates
Eat breakfast
Check their plates, cups, and silverware once they finish washing them
Put them all away
Back to the house
Get them to brush their teeth
Let them play until 8:00

8:00 - 9:45 Free
Do my constant laundry washing or shifting to get sun
Prepare for classes

9:45 - 3:45 School Schedule
The class schedule each day is a little different, but the lunch between 11:45 - 1:00 is about the same protocol as breakfast except there are many more kids and the teachers do most of the work.

3:45 - 8:00 PM Activities and Orientation
Each day is different - some days I work from 3:45 to 6:00 and some days from 6:00 - 8:00. And, some days I sleep over at the girl's house.

The weekends are also different. We get one morning off to go to town for Internet and supplies - so far it's been Saturday. We also plan activities for the kids on both days. Many kids that live here go home on weekends but it seems like the village kids come to school sometimes on weekends. There are a few orphans who stay all the time. Alas, all those details are difficult to sort out for English speakers. It seems like I could sit down with a translator and ask questions for hours. But, not sure I'd want to. We have a two meetings every week - one with all the staff and volunteers and one with just volunteers. Both are boring for me as I can't understand 80% and the translation is always 1/7th or so of the conversation (approximated based on time taken to repeat). I just show up and do my best as a volunteer and let the pros sort out such things. Well, most of the time.

It's a long day usually and a stressful schedule with all the odd breaks. The craziest schedule I've had to keep since college (when I was the busiest person I knew). It's also damp all the time. You're dry clothes feel wet and your bedding feels wet and your skin and shoes never dry. The available surfaces to sit on feel wet and make your butt wet and everything pretty much smells like some level of poop. It's impossible to clean things when you basically live outside. It's just part of jungle life. Other volunteers here have adapted so well - it's impressive. Angelo and I are still working on it. We already have a reputation as the cleanest cleany cleaner volunteers anyone's seen. We bother to disinfect our wooden floor a few times a week on average when our house has no walls from midway up. Most people might say that's ridiculous. It feels cleaner to us though. 

I've had a few nice moments with the girls where I feel like my work here has made a difference. Mostly when I've helped them with a medical problem or a bad dream. I haven't had any real fun with them though. I just don't enjoy playing with children. I don't hate it or anything so we play and that part is an easy job. At the end of the day, I'd still way rather have been doing all kinds of other things. Still, I'm not in an office. I'm not listening to bosses and other people making really big deals about things that don't matter. I haven't made copies or organized files since September. That's three months of bliss. I do miss wasting time on the internet thought. Letting Wikipedia guide me through 14 topics in 30 minutes is a favorite pastime. Yet, I'm experiencing something completely (and I mean completely) different than the life I normally lead. I already know I'm gaining insane amounts of perspective and appreciation. I also feel like this is kinda what life is about. Seeing what's out there and deciding where you belong.

The older I get, the more I realize that living in a bubble and pretending the rest of the world doesn't exist (or worse, doesn't matter) is an act of cowardice. Not everyone can take this leap into the unknown and see for themselves how another bit of the world lives. I can, so here I am.

On to the next day.
Xo Ellie