Monday, March 11, 2013

My First Day Was a Struggle

I know, I know. It's been a REALLY long time since my last post. I'm sorry to have kept you waiting but things have been a little crazy around here lately. First of all, we are no longer living with our host families but as of March 2nd have been livng together in our own house. The house is absolutely beautiful and HUGE! We have 4 bedrooms (one of which we just use for storage as there are only 3 of us), 2 bathrooms, a kitchen, a living room, dining room, patio, a big backyard, and a ton of frogs. It's certainly a huge change from what I had grown accustomed to.  We're just starting to clean around her and make the space our own, but it's really a darling little house!

The entire first week that we lived in the house a painter/carpinter/everything guy worked on the house. This was crucial as mother nature has finally decided that she's going to try out this whole "rainy season" thing, and we had some serious leaks. I'd heard before that when it rains, everyone in Chulucanas stays at home and nothing is open. I had thought that this was particularly strange- it's just rain! - until I actually experienced the rain. Whoo! There was an actual river flowing through our street that was at least three feet deep. Needless to say, I now understand the concern about the rain.

In addition to having house work done, we also had the pleasure of hosting a group of Villanova students on Spring Break. Sixteen of them were nursing students who went around the community to educate people on prominent issues such as diabetes and high blood pressure and to do medical home visits. The other half were campus ministry students and we were in charge of organizing all of the events and activities for them. Some of these events included visits to the orphanage to play with the children there, a visit to the nursing home, and a painting project at Santisima Cruz (the school where Britt works). It was fun to get to know the students a little and to watch them experience Chulucanas for the first time. Also, we were allowed to eat meals with them which really helped out our food budget and gave us one less thing to worry about!

On top of all of this, Britt and I began our jobs (as one of Chantelle's jobs is at Centro Pastoral-where the students stayed- she worked with them all week instead of doing her normal work). Britt is working at Santisima Cruz as an assistant English teacher. From what she tells us, the way that teachers work here is very different. Sometimes her co-teacher simply leaves the room and Britt is left in charge of 30+ kids! Chantelle started work this week and will work at two different health offices: at Centro Pastoral and San Jose Obrero. It is her job to act as a pharmacist and to offer medical advice. I teach basic computers at CEO Betania, a community center and techical institute. I work every Monday through Friday from 9am to 12pm. At first, I was completely overwhelmed by such a long class period. How was I supposed to fill all of that time? My first day was a struggle as I attempted to stuff my students with information and would get embarrassed whenever I had to stop to focus on a particular student or to fix a problem with a computer. I felt like I wasn't capable to do this job. I felt like my students didn't like me. I felt all of these things in a matter of 2 hours (heavy freakout session!).  After my class I told the director of the center Hermana Carmen (a sister of Mercy) that the class had been very difficult for me. She assured me that the first day is always hard and encouraged me to sit in on one of the other teacher's classes. Excellent advice. Watching the other teacher teach really helped me realize that I need to get out of my hurried, East Coast mindset. It is now my goal to teach each class calmly, taking time to make sure that each person is up to speed with what I'm saying. I'm learning that small talk is important too. In a weird way, it's important to stop occasionally to ask my students, "How are you?" or "How was your weekend?" The best teachers here are both friendly yet able to keep the class under control. Last year's volunteer who taught the same class that I am teaching also gave me this excellent website that teaches computer basics in Spanish and it has essentially been my bible!

Today I began my other job as an English pronunciation teacher at the University. This was particularly fun and a lot easier for me to teach than computers. As I essentially share the class with another English teacher, all I have to do is work with the students on their pronunciation (and it's only for an hour and a half!). A LOT LESS PRESSURE! Like those in my computer class, the students are all eager and excited to learn- hanging on your every word.

Last Sunday Britt and I were required through our jobs to attend a march for peace through the city. Despite being really early in the morning for a Sunday, the march was a lot of fun and even inspirational. There has been a significant increase in violence and petty crime in the past few years (don't freak out guys, I'm fine) and the march was an opportunity for everyone to stand up together and demand peace and tranquility. As we marched we chanted things like, "Vida sí, violencia no." or "Life yes, violence no." In addition to street violence, the focus was also against gender violence: particularly violence against women. Obviously this made me very happy and gives me hope for a safer and healthier future.

The kitties that have taken up residence in our  backyard. They're so little!

Chantelle holding a frog she found in our bathroom. We have A LOT  of frogs!
Us with a llama as a local public pool.


Pat with the llama!

More later! LOVE YOU!

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