Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Making Connections

            If sharing toys is a hallmark of promising children, communication and the sharing of ideas is the mark of inspired adults.  In the spirit of sharing and cooperation, yours truly spent this past Monday afternoon with La Casa Victoria, a nonprofit dedicated to working with children in the old town neighborhood San Roque, in Quito.  The experience of volunteering with an Ecuadorian nonprofit that does similar work to what we do was worthwhile, and I learned new approaches and several interesting things about the organization Casa Victoria.
            Casa Victoria is an Ecuadorian organization with one location, a poor neighborhood in the south of Quito, dedicated to helping children and families grow through several programs that help kids in school, allow them to socialize in a safe environment, and provide religious instruction.  Their location is a beautiful, 120-year-old, recently-renovated house that functions as the living quarters of some of their volunteers and staff, the organization’s office, and the space where Casa Victoria’s programs take place.  On the day I worked with Casa Victoria, during their afternoon homework help program, they also received visitors from a team of high school students who came with prepared activities for the kids, as well as a youth leadership group from a church who came prepared with fun activities as well as a Bible study lesson plan.  In addition to several new linguistic tips for talking to elementary school-aged kids, I got new ideas for the timing of programs at our Centro, and for how to occasionally incorporate new programmatic activities. 
            We’re hopeful that with continued partnership (Manna PD Rachel is planning to volunteer at Casa Victoria soon, and someone from Casa Victoria will soon visit our library and work with us), both of our organizations will benefit by the spread of ideas and be inspired by what is happening at each place.

More information about Casa Victoria at http://www.casav.org/

Carnaval Weekend

Sorry for the slight delay, here is an update on our Carnaval long weekend:

In the spirit of Carnaval we let our Adult English students out a little early last Saturday so they could catch some of the parades that were happening around the valley. We are lucky enough to live right next to the Sangolqui parade route, which means that on holidays (which happen pretty often here) our bus route is interrupted and we have to walk part of the way home from the centro. I had no idea what I was in for when I got off the bus alone and started walking the last 10 or so blocks to the Manna house. There were people everywhere, spraying foam, throwing water and eggs, and covering each other with colored powder. I was defenseless, and my blonde hair doesn’t exactly allow me to blend in with the crowd. By the time I reached the monument near our house and saw the friendly face of our neighbor Caesar, I was drenched.

Rachel had arrived home about a half hour before me, and under similar circumstances. We decided to change our clothes, buy some foam off the street, and take revenge! We found Caesar, who was more than happy to walk around with us and show us how to play Carnaval. After an hour I was exhausted, rainbow colored, and soaking wet. I retired to take a shower and Nicole joined in the fun. The two of them went on to experience other Carnival parades (or as they described them, wars) in the Valley while the rest of us headed to the coast for the long weekend.

Carnaval on the beach was much more tranquilo than it had been in Sangolqui, though that isn’t to say that we didn’t get hit with plenty of dirty water. The majority of taxis on the coast are these small carts pulled by motorcycles, which are open on all sides. While riding from the bus station to our hostal we passed a group of kids armed with buckets of water. They were thrilled when our cab slowed down to make a turn, and took advantage of the opportunity to drench us and our backpacks… it was a lovely welcome to Atacames. Luckily we were sweating from the steamy coastal climate and didn’t mind too much. Even though we made easy targets, we managed to make it through the holiday, running, screaming, and occasionally fighting back.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Te Gusta Jugar Carnaval?

It started off slow, confiscating empty balloons and water guns from kids in the library. We returned them at the end of the night, understanding it is all in good fun, but water and library books don’t mix. Having never experienced Carnaval in Latin America, we didn’t really know what to expect. The games seemed harmless enough… and then I got hit in the face with shaving cream. Although the holiday doesn’t officially start until this weekend, the high school kids are already out in full force and I cower in fear as I walk home from the bus. The common tradition during Carnaval in Ecuador is to throw water, powder, eggs, shaving cream, silly-string and hair dye at friends and unsuspecting strangers.

While walking to the bus yesterday I ran into two of my former English students, high-schoolers in uniform just getting out of school. They approached me with hands behind their back and asked me if I like to play Carnaval. The answer was a firm no, and they laughed at the desperate look on my face as I begged them not to hit me with anything. I watched from the bus window as they launched eggs at another group of high school kids across the street. So far we have been spared (for the most part) from any real damage, but the games are just beginning. The majority of the group is headed to the coast for the long weekend and we will surely come back with gruesome stories and photos to share. Until then, wish us luck!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

New Couch!

This week we received a new (and much needed) addition to our rincon de leer... a couch! The old beanbag chairs we had were way more of a hassle than they were worth. After only a few months of niños jumping and playing on them they already needed replacing. We tried multiple times to repair them but still ended up with pieces of little white stuffing all over the library. The teens, who need to sweep part of the library before playing video games, should be especially pleased to see the beanbags go.

The library kids seem thrilled with the change as well, and having a comfy place to sit has seemed to encourage more reading! We are very appreciative of our new couch, which was a generous donation from a fellow American who lives in Rumiloma. The PDs are still searching for more comfy furniture to warm up the adult section of the library.

These primas look sweet and innocent when they are reading...

Eduardo photo bombing

Reading together before English class

Matias, my favorite reading partner

Friday, February 3, 2012


Here is a photo tribute to our favorite neighbor Caesar:

Caesar is always watching out for us when we come home from the library at night, and enthusiastically greets us with a "veciiiiinos!" every time we see him.

He is always willing to lend us a hand transporting things to and from the centro in his pick up truck.

He was especially helpful during our Community Celebration (FDR) driving Charlie and Taylor around with a loudspeaker to do advertising. He also made several trips back and forth from the library to the plaza to help us bring supplies.

Although sometimes we take it for granted, it really is nice to have someone around who is looking out for us. Gracias Caesar!