Before coming to Ecuador nearly everyone from Global Citizen Year warned us that we might struggle with the seemingly slow passage of time. In the beginning this was true—the spare time in the afternoons seemed endless and the first few weeks in my community were incredibly lengthy. Now, however it feels as if time has just gulped down a triple espresso. Between my three jobs, time spent with the friends I have made here, time spent with my host family, adventures with other fellows, my commitment to continue reading, and everything else life here throws at me here I feel very well occupied. Since my last blog I have left my work with Panitas and have taken on three new jobs to replace it. I loved working with the kids there (despite their mockery of my Spanish) and introduced all sorts of new activities to them such as pumpkin carving and duck-duck-goose. However when my supervisor decided to run for local office she had to quit her job there and thus so did I.
On Mondays I now teach English at the elementary school in a nearby village. My first day there I was amazed by how loving the kids were. They all ran up to me, gave me hugs and gleefully shouted, “now we have an English teacher!” Yet despite this enthusiasm, teaching still is my hardest job. I find myself torn between my desire to be a loving role model and the need to impose discipline. In the beginning I was nervous to enforce strict rules for fear the love the kids show would stop if I did. After several frustrating classes where nearly no one did homework and I spent more time trying to get them to sit in their seats rather than actually teaching I realized I would have to change my approach. I began holding my students more accountable by doing things like making those who did not do their homework stay in from recess to do it. Tightening the rules was the best decision I have made as a teacher because now the kids remain just as loving but also demonstrate more respect. I also realize that by raising my expectations for my students, I am teaching more than just English. I am also teaching lessons of respect, thoroughness, and discipline.
On Tuesdays and Wednesdays I work with a program to help with the development of kids under the age of five. My boss and I ride a motorcycle out to very rural houses and teach mothers (often but not always of children with disabilities) interactive games to help with child development.
I finish the week on Thursday and Friday working at a chocolate farm/eco-lodge about 25 minutes outside of town via bicycle. There, I do an array of work from harvesting cacao, to making chocolate from the dried beans, to planting flowers, to helping translate for the tourists who know little Spanish. Sometimes when big groups of tourists come my boss and I take them on hiking excursions where I help translate and guide. Right now my boss and I are in the middle of a construction project. We’re building a two-story bamboo cabin for visitors to stay in. Having never worked with construction before, it’s really interesting for me to learn all the steps that go into building a house and I’m even putting some of the geometry I learned in high school into practice.
In between these jobs I’ve still found time to make friends in my community. A few of them have agreed to teach me how to dance (something I still find very difficult) in exchange for me teaching them how to bake. I therefore often find my Friday afternoons spent laughing with my friends as I attempt to move to the rhythm of bachata or merengue music followed by sitting down with them to a slice of freshly made chocolate cake.