Thursday, June 16, 2011

can't stop the beat

Hello again from Quito!

Although I managed to FINALLY find Wifi, I'm unable to actually upload very many pictures because of the incredibly slow connection. 

I'm no longer working full time with UBECI. Instead, I work in the markets with the kids in the morning and I commute to an orphanage in the north of Quito in the afternoon. The contrast between these two places could not be more interesting. I suppose I had initially assumed that the demeanors of the children in the orphanage would be similar to the children that we work with in the markets, but I honestly could not have been more mistaken. 

The orphanage (For His Children- look it up!) is home to only 28 children- as opposed to other Ecuadorian orphanages that house over 200 children. The children in this orphanage are some of the most open and playful children that I've encountered in Quito, which I found incredibly surprising. I talked to one of the directors of the orphanage, and she explicated that these children actually have better living conditions than many children in Quito. 

These children are also much more responsive to the volunteers’ attempts to play with them. I know that the children’s level of responsiveness is imputable to not only their backgrounds, but where they are now. The kids at the market are completely detached from their feelings. They yearn for closeness but will never smile. While the children at the orphanage do come from terrible backgrounds, their present living conditions are better than what the majority of children have in Quito and their prospects are considerably more hopeful. 

The children in the market, however, really have no hope for a better future. They will, in all likelihood, be sucked into the cyclical nature of the market life and have no choice but to work in a market like their parents. UBECI works to combat this, yet what we are actually doing with the children on a day to day basis doesn’t seem to make any difference. We play with puzzles, read stories, and make crafts with them, but how much good is this really doing the kids? 

I struggled with this thought for a few weeks, but I then encountered one set of siblings that at least in some respects answered this question for me. I was given the task of caring for one little girl who couldn’t have been more than a year old. She was crying incessantly, and while I could calm her down for a couple minutes, I was unable to keep her happy for more than three minutes at a time. As I was standing away from the rest of the group, a little girl around three years old walked over to me, her hands outstretched. The baby girl reached out for the three year old. I learned that this three year old was in fact the baby girl's sister. Then, their five-year-old sister came over as well. The three of us sat down in a circle and took turns holding the incessantly crying baby. At one point, the five year old sat in my lap as she was holding the baby. It was as if she recognized the responsibilities she had as an older sister, but simply yearned to have the closeness of an adult. She wanted to simply be a child while simultaneously recognizing her role in her baby sister's well being. I realized that UBECI must provide the only real breaks these sisters must have had in taking care of their sister. It really was a very touching scene. UBECI provides these working children small breaks in their responsibilities and two fleeting hours to simply be loved by adults. 

Of course I recognize the importance of this, but it still leaves me feeling a bit empty as I leave, knowing that after the program has finished these children have no choice but to simply return to their parents (and most likely, impoverished, abusive homes) where they have no hope for an education or future. While UBECI is a fantastic organization, I wish something else could be done rather than simply giving these kids two hours of relief. This partly explains my frustration with the organization; wishing we could do more for these children with the bleakest of futures. 

In other news...
LOOK WHO I FOUND IN QUITO!! The beautiful Elene Clemens- we hit up Gringolandia, Rusk style. 

The view from my shower! no big deal. 

See y'all later! Until next time :)

Friday, June 3, 2011

you have to take the journey

...well, I guess I technically ¨took the journey¨ 13 days ago... I´m aware of just how late I am updating this. Unfortunately, I still can´t find a wifi spot for my own computer...which means no pictures for a while. Super sad.. I guess I´ll just be saving those for another. Hopefully it won´t be another two weeks before I get back on! Also, please be patient with mah spelling and punctuation and all.. this computadora doesn´t have spell check, and I can´t really figure out this keyboard..

I feel like I´ve been here much longer than 13 days! I really have no idea where to start! Hm... well, I´m living with this fantastic host family comprised of a grandmother, Rosa (the most wonderful cook, besides Momma P!) and her nine year old granddaugher, Aisha, who coincidentally, is sitting in my lap right now playing Angry Birds on my iPod and beating all of my high scores. Awesome... but really, she´s fantastic. and super intelligent. We´ve had some very interesting conversations about discrimination and racism here in Quito.. she´s quite insightful.  more on that luego.
Of course, that whole volunteering thing where I get to play with kids all day is pretty fantastic as well. I´m working with this awesome organization called UBECI. Google it. It´s legit. Basically, what we do is go to a market, set up a tent or play area, round up some of the children of the street vendors and play games and sing songs with them. I really wish I could go into more detail, but I have to save it for another day. I promise it won´t take me two weeks to update next time! I have much more insightful stuff on mah computer that I´d love to share with yáll... as soon as I find some flippin wifi.

I´ll leave you with a couple random facts and things I´ve seen since I´ve been here!

1. I know that mah stepdad is quite curious about what exactly I´m eating, so this is for him.... for breakfast, we have bread and some kind of tea, with the occasional fruit or hard boiled egg. Lunch is soup, rice, and meat. Dinner is soup, rice, meat, and vegetables. Not exactly a wide variety. Mah momma would be proud though, I´m quite the healthie eater here.

2. There´s a church here called the Basilica that is for reals basically just the Notre Dame. EXACTLY the same. quite ridiculous.

3. The market children are unlike any children I´ve ever worked with before. They´re super clingy and are quick to sit in your lap and hold your hand, but it´s SO difficult to get them to smile.

4. Just like in Beijing, many trees here are painted white on the bottom. 

5. Children are not allowed to leave the country without their fathers permission. There aren´t exactly a myriad of great fathers here, so many children are stuck until they turn 18. 

6. There are SO many stray dogs here. I´ve never seen anything like it.. along the same lines, I also saw some dogs, like Rottweilers and Pit Bulls, in the park with their owners training for dogfighting. It was terrifying.

7. This place is super beautiful. We´re over 9,000 ft above sea level here, making Quito the second highest capital of the world. I´ve never seen mountains like this before. 

Like I said earlier, I have a LOT more detailed information (and pictures!) on mah own computer and I´ll share it with yáll the first chance I get. ¡hasta luego!