Tuesday, July 24, 2012

New Profes

The past week has been crazy with the arrival of the new PDs (our replacements…), the ending of our last quarter of classes, and lots and lots of transition work. The new PDs spent their first week living in Quito with host families, getting to know the city and taking intensive one-on-one Spanish classes. On Friday we moved them into the valley, where they will spend one more week living with families and studying Spanish at the library. This is the first time we have done home-stays in the valley, and we are thrilled with how things are going. We had several really great families volunteer to host and the new group is one step ahead by already making bonds and connections with community members. A few of them got to attend a wedding this weekend, and they are already making their presence known in Rumiloma.

Another great thing about having them here in the valley is that they are already seeing programs first-hand and taking part in our end of the quarter events. We held our last Adult English party at the Manna house on Saturday after the final exams. This was awesome because the new PDs were able to meet our students and friends, which will make the start to next quarter much less awkward. It will also hopefully ensure that more students come back, since they have already met their new profes. We made each of the new PDs stand up and introduce themselves, an uncomfortable experience for those who still aren’t confident with their Spanish. It was funny because I remember being forced to do the same thing last year, and it is amazing how far we all have come. Our students were appreciative and welcoming, several standing up to give speeches themselves to thank us for everything, and to make the new profes feel at home.

Meeting the new group has brought up a lot of new emotions for me. It makes our leaving a reality, reminds me how fast time goes by, and makes me a little jealous that they still have this whole experience ahead of them. I’m really glad we have these few weeks together to get to know them, share our experiences, introduce them to our community, and impart our wisdom. Their enthusiasm and eagerness is encouraging, we are all excited to see where they’ll take Manna this year. 

Our neighbor Cesar welcoming Jenni 

Hanging out with English students 

Pete introducing himself to our students

Finally learning how to use our Sambos

Some of the new girls, enjoying dulce de sambo 

Pete and Cesar- fast friends

Friday, July 13, 2012

Au revoir Guillermo!

Here is a guest blog from Emily about one of her favorite English students:

This past weekend, I had to say my first goodbye. One of my English students, Guillermo, informed me that it would be his last class. He is a UN peacekeeper and is relocating to Haiti for the next 6 months. I was caught off guard by his unexpected goodbye and it has left me nervous for the month ahead, which will be full of goodbyes.
Guillermo is one of the funniest individuals I have had the pleasure of meeting here in Ecuador. I remember the first day he came to class – extremely quiet and standoffish; but over the last six months, boy have things changed….
Every time he enters the library he now greets us with a warm ”Bonjour!” or “ça va?”, because knowing two languages just isn’t enough for Guillermo J. He loved to tease me by randomly throwing in French vocabulary to see if I would notice. He also had his 2 favorite English phrases: “of course!” and “cooome on.” It’s hard to explain how funny these two phrases became, but just imagine them in a thick New York accent. At first, I thought I was the only one to notice his overuse of these two phrases, but the rest of the class soon chimed in and began using them as well.
A great example of Guillermo’s wonderful personality was displayed at one of our adult English parties. This particular party transformed into a yard-work party and Guillermo was the first guy to pick up a machete and get to work. He spent several hours clearing heavy brush from our backyard. And as if that wasn’t enough, he offered to come bright and early the next day to finish the job.  “We were thinking about starting around 6am” we joked. “I’ll be here at 5:30,” he responded in complete seriousness. But that’s just the kind of guy Guillermo is:  always willing to lend a hand and keep everyone laughing with his wonderful sense of humor.
I wish Guillermo the best of luck in his future endeavors. He will be greatly missed not only in the Super Advanced class, but also in the Manna community as a whole.

Guillermo helping cook for our Adult English party 

Emily's super advanced students at the Manna house 

Guillermo taking down our jungle

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Field Trip

This past week culminated with a teen center “paseo,” or field trip, for our regulars and some new faces.  By popular demand, our destination was La Gran Cascada de Rio Pita, a 50-meter waterfall on the river Pita.  The hour car ride and hour hike gave the kids, aged 12 to 15, time to relax and hang out with eachother.  Now that most students’ summer vacation has started, stay posted for more updates about paseos and movie nights. 

 La Gran Cascada, located about an hour and a half away from the Centro de Manna

The group + PD Heather

Soaking in the cold spray from the waterfall

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Que Asco!

Yesterday we held an Agriculture project in the library to pick up trash in the community and learn about why we shouldn’t litter. I have been amazed since coming here at the amount of garbage you see lying around, and the amount of people who will throw trash in the street without a second thought. Ecuador is a beautiful country with a wealth of natural resources, but a lot of people don’t seem to realize or care about the damage they are doing by not recycling and by throwing trash everywhere. Our hopes with projects like these are that some of our library kids will grow up with an environmental consciousness, that they themselves won’t contribute to the contamination, and that little by little the mentality will start to change.

The project turned out great, the kids in the library were actually counting down the minutes until we went to pick up trash! This was obviously helped out by the incentive of dessert for everyone after the cleanup (the Summer Vols made dirt cake), but the kids were genuinely into it. Issac came running down the stairs, trash bag in hand and gloves on yelling “vamos a ayudar el medio ambiente!” (we are going to help the environment!) The kids teamed up and ran around the street in front of the library and the cancha picking up all the trash they could find. We set up a table in front of the centro with a lovely poster made by one of the kids, William, and caught the attention of some people walking by. Multiple people stopped Nicole and I on the street to say it was a beautiful thing we were doing.

After we had been out there for about an hour picking up trash we called all the kids back to the table. Two kids who had strayed to the other side of the cancha had to be called multiple times before they finally stopped picking up trash. “But Profe, there’s more trash over there,” they told us… we actually had to make them stop so we could have our discussion. We asked the kids why there was trash everywhere, and why we were cleaning it up. They had great answers for us, and they all promised never to litter. We asked them what they could do if they saw other people littering, and the youngest kid, 5 years old, insisted that he would shout “que asco!” (gross!). Satisfied with the outcome, we handed out dirt cake, convinced the kids that it wasn’t actually dirt, and watched them fight over the gummy worms that were buried inside. 

I know that we aren’t changing the world here, but I feel good knowing that these kids at least have an awareness of the environment and how important it is to take care of it. We can only hope that in generations to come the rest of the world starts to catch on.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Organic Farming

When the first group of Summer Vols came back from visiting an organic farm in Santa Isabel in May, they raved about their experience and about the hospitality of Señora Lema, the woman who owns the land. The Señora is one of the organic producers that sell products with De la Mata a la Olla, our friends Christian and Laura’s organic farmers’ cooperative. She is an older woman with a lot of land that she has been taking care of on her own, with occasional help from her grown children and generous neighbors. After her experience there, Emily suggested that the agriculture program visit the farm to see if we could establish more of a lasting relationship there. Armed with vague directions and a phone number, one of the Summer Vols, Omega, and I wandered our way onto her beautiful farm a few weeks ago. We offered her our manual labor, and spent two hours hoeing, preparing the land for the next planting season, which will start in September. Señora Lema served us fresh juice while we worked, and sat down with us afterwards with a snack of lima beans (from her garden), cheese and aji. We got to know each other a lot better as she asked us questions about our work here, and shared with us her personal struggle and fears for the future. Omega and I were so touched by the experience that we promised to come back ASAP.

Last week we were able to return with Laura, and brought along another Summer Vol, Amanda. We offered to help with whatever she needed, and ended up removing corn kernels and sorting them into baskets based on their various uses. We were completely lost at first as she started explaining the difference between the kernels and which ones are good for flour verses tostada, which ones make chicha (a traditional drink) and which ones are chicken food. All of the kernels looked the same to me… but I think by the end we got the hang of it. We spent over two hours sitting in a circle separating corn kernels and listening to Laura and the Señora discuss various festivals in the valley, and which traditions still hold strong while others have faded away. It was fascinating to have this insight into rural farm life in the valley, and to hear stories from a different generation of Ecuador.

Although we were in a bit of a hurry to get back in time for the library, she insisted we stay for lunch, and prepared us a soup served with tostada (toasted corn kernels), cheese and her famous aji, which she has promised to teach us how to make next time. On the way out the door she wouldn’t let us leave empty handed. She made us each a bag of tostada to take home and gave us each a lucky corncob, which are supposed to be hung in the house for good luck and prosperity. According to Laura these are hard to come by, and aren’t usually given to people outside of the family. I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to meet this generous warm-hearted woman, and look forward to the next time we can visit her. 

Omega, Amanda and I sorting kernels 

Kernels sorted by use 

Mamá and Guaguas (babies) my lucky corncob