Saturday, October 24, 2009

I'm still here...really

Two and a half months now and things are going really well. I'm sorry I haven't kept you all up to date lately, it seems the more settled we are the busier we are.
I don't have anything particularly profound to share today, I just thought I'd let you all know what we've been up to.

Johanna and I have finally made a friend outside of Itocta. Chris, who is part of our Salesian program, has been studying at the language school and living with a widowed woman who is happy to have us visit even after Chris moves to his site near Santa Cruz. Dona Celia is excited to take us to some of the other cities in the departamento (similar to American states. Cochabamba, while a city, is actually the name of the entire departamento in the valley of the Andes). We're also hoping she'll share a bit of her fabulous cooking skills with us. Finally the orthodontist I take girls to every week can stop scolding me for not having seen anything outside of Itocta and the city of Cochabamba.

On Thursday we introduced the sisters to burritos for the first time. South American food is actually very very different from say, Mexcian food. They had never eaten tortillas before and were really excited. They also think it's really funny that they're called burritos (meaning "little burro" or "donkey" in Spanish).

This week the school is giving the students an opportunity to show off a bit. Friday morning they had a few hours of short plays put on by each class. It was great to see a few of our girls up there in front of their peers or showing off the beautiful scenery pieces they have been working on all week. Next week we'll get to see a few of them presenting all the music and traditional dances they've been working on this year. I think there's even a PE demonstration some of our little ones will be part of.

I'm still amazed by how much my relationships with the girls have changed over these weeks. My first month here I was convinced that there would always be quite a distance between myself and some of the older girls. I'm so surprised to find how close we've grown. As we adjusted here it was easier to divide our time between "working hours" (meaning the time we were actually scheduled to be in the computer lab and library and studies) and our off hours. Now it seems everything just flows together. Tutoring and playing and resting and everything in between all flows together in a very family-like way. "working hours" are sometimes packed full of algebra and quizing little girls about Christopher Colombus ("and then he killed their king and enslaved them all" um...correct) and teaching Elohina, a young woman in her mid twenties with traumatic brain injury, how to write the number five. Some days, however, they're spent teaching guitar (I started learning from the sisters when I got here and I love it!) or laying in the sun being quized on Spanish vocabularly by the older girls. Similarly, our "off hours" are sometimes completely free- we wash clothes, Johanna gives me a singing lesson, I play ridiculous amounts of sudoku, etc. Sometimes, however, they're completely naturally spent with our new family. I meet girls outside at 5:30 am and we wait for the sun to come up so I can take them running, we read Stelaluna in Spanish after lunch, I run downstairs at ten pm because I know one of the girls needs a few last minute run throughs before her speach tomorrow, etc. The day is beginning to run together in a way that is at once full (from running at dawn to night prayers with the girls at 8:30...and maybe some last minute studying after that) and relaxed. I craved more structure at first, but there's always so much to do that it doesn't seem to matter. I can see more clearly now how it is more important for us to create a family and home structure here than it is for us to act as good "employees."

I've got much more to say about what I'm learning here about myself, life, poverty, God, children, etc. but this will have to do for now because we're heading out to do some travelling in a neighboring city this afternoon. I'll do my best to share some more reflections with you soon and in the meantime I'd love to hear from each of you.

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