Friday, 31 July 2009

CEP - Garen

I just turned to Liz, a volunteer from Australia, and commented that sometimes when I’m at school I feel like I’m herding cats. She gave me a look and said, “You feel like what?” Apparently “herding cats” isn’t an expression in Australia, but after confirming the phrase, she agreed it was an appropriate description of the scenario at hand.

Lunch is late and there are about 45 children between the ages of 3 and 5 who are waiting to eat. The teachers and other volunteers are in the classrooms with other kids and I seem to be one of the few monitoring those waiting for lunch. I hope I’m not doing something culturally inappropriate by trying to keep them from climbing all over the desks they use for lunch. My Spanish seems to be improving as I’m able to get the point across that I’d like them to stay in their chairs. This doesn’t mean they’re staying put, but they know what I’m asking…

Each child has brought a container to school that the women in the kitchen will use to serve their lunch. I know this is called a tapel. Each child also has his or her cuchara (spoon) and taza (cup). When the food is ready, we’ll try to make out the names written on the tapels and then match those w/ the kids. It’s an imperfect system, but most days we get through it without incidence and everyone gets fed.

It strikes me that language is only half of what you use to communicate. My Spanish is limited at best and I’m convinced that half of what I say doesn’t mean anything, or at least it doesn’t mean what I hope it means. But we manage to communicate through gestures and context and tone. A question still sounds like a question, a cry like a cry, a plea like a plea. I can get a little girl to take a few more bites of her lunch by saying, “por favor” and pouting a little, like it makes me sad that she’s not eating, which it does. And a smile helps when neither of us understands the other.

-Garen May 7, 2009

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Leymebamba Project: Toussaint Mears-Clarke

    Leymebamba is a quiet, peaceful community. The food is all natural, the air is pure, and really and truly there could not be a more welcoming, friendly place in all of Amazonas. I am midway through my two months in Leymebamba, and every day that I wake up here, I rejoice.

     The town is small (approximately 2200 people) and so it´s downright impossible not to get to know most everyone. It’s the type of place where you find yourself being greeted by your first name, or if you are sick, your next door neighbor makes you tea. I´ve quite enjoyed getting to know the people in this community. In fact the best part of my volunteer experience has been the relationships and connections that I´ve made here. Whether I am playing basketball with one of the English teachers, or conversing over yogurt with a local tienda owner, I feel at home- a community member of Leymebamba.

     In Leymebamba, I serve primarily as an English teacher. During the day I teach children of ages 8 to 11, basic English, in the Casa de Cultura. It is two hours every day of the week of Simon Says (Diego dice), parts of the body, simple present tense, stickers, and songs. In addition, I teach English in the night school to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd form. The night school classes are also a lot of fun although we can´t quite get away with playing tag instead of having class. On weekends, I teach guitar lessons, tutor students in English, participate in volleyball games, and cross-country run with the high-schoolers that live in the hogar. The hogar is essentially a family of adolescents, approximately thirty in total, whom have no means of formal education in their respective towns. They board in Leymebamba, live, study, work, wash and eat together. I´m grateful to have had the opportunity to work within the hogar.

     Leymebamba is a wonderful place to work if you really wish to integrate yourself into a community. You can give back and at the same time know that you are making an impact. For instance, I see my students daily outside of class. They strike up conversation, oftentimes in shaky English. It´s easy to feel that you are working with the people. In short, Leymebamba is a safe and special place where a volunteer can find herself or himself a niche. It’s a place to relax, and recuperate. I am proud to say that a piece of me is now from Leyme.