I was quite surprised when I found out my apprenticeship would be at a local daycare or creche. I thought, what I did I know about working with kids, given the little to no experience I had with them. But as I always tend to do here in Brasil, I accepted and embraced the adventure before it began, going with the flow, yet determined to make the best out of the experience.
It was a little disappointing at first, to say honestly. I came to my apprenticeship full of energy and excitement to do lots of things and make any impact I could. However, it was a challenge for me at first to understand and accept that the purpose of the creche and of my apprenticeship was to simply help and play with kids. I was not there to complete meaningful projects or tasks, yet my role there was to help make the kids’ lives full of joy while they were at the creche, in any microscopic way I could.
Although I was bummed at first that I wouldn’t be doing as many things as I hoped there, I still fell in love with my apprenticeship and the people there. The women I work with are incredibly lively and quite talkative. One of the things I look forward to most at work is our many little coffee breaks to drink coffee, snack and chat while the kids are napping or playing. I can happily say I have expanded my vocabulary in Portuguese a great deal through our many little chats.
My supervisor, Luciani, is one of the most special people I have met there. Again and again, I feel so fortunate that our paths have crossed. She treats me like a daughter, sending me goodnight texts and often bringing me my favorite food in the morning, pão de queijo. When I was gone for a week for our regional reconnect in Morretes, she sent me several messages, telling me how the kids kept asking about their profi de inglês.
The kids are just as amusing and wonderful to be around. They have come to refer to me as profi just as the other professores or teachers are called and love to ask me questions like do I really speak a different language and are the stones of my necklaces magical? Their energy and vibrancy is one the main highlights, as well as the abundance of their hugs and kisses. We have six classrooms and one of my favorites to help in is the bebezinhos, the youngest group of kids. One little girl named, Yasmin, has left a special impression on me. Whenever she sees me, she always runs towards me and lifts her arms up tall in her efforts to get me to hold her. She often starts crying until I give her a hug and play with her. My relationship with Yasmin has made me question the impact of my presence. For the most part, I know that I have a positive and valuable impact in my creche, but it is when I have to leave the kids and Yasmin and she cries and calls me mãe or mom that makes me doubt whether I will have any lasting impact. Afterall, at the end of the day, I return to my normal life full of love and people who care about me, but it breaks my heart to know not all my kids have this same privilege.
In order to understand my apprenticeship, it’s important to know a little about the education system in Brasil. All public schools including my creche are funded by the government which means all the kids go for free. While this is very beneficial for poor families who can’t afford child care, it also means that some children as young as four months spend around ten hours of their day, five days a week in daycare. As hard as I and the other teachers try to give the kids plenty of attention, there are 117 kids at my creche and it’s impossible to give each child as much personal attention they would likely receive from their parents at home. Another saddening fact I have come to realize, is that there is not enough space in creches for all the kids in the neighborhood, so as I heard from those at work, some small children in desperate, unfortunate situations are left at home with no one to attend to them.
Working at my daycare has taught me a great deal about life in my community. Although it may not be the apprenticeship I wanted at first, it is likely the apprenticeship that I needed. It reminds me everyday how fortunate I am to have landed when I am and reinforces my awareness of all the privileges I have been blessed with. I will never forget the connections I have made and continue to make with the incredible people at my work as well as the lessons I have learned.
One of my favorite parts of my apprenticeship is our passeios or field trips, from which I have lots of photos to share.
The photos below are from one of our passeios to the park at Lagoa de Peri, a lake in my neighborhood. The photos below feature some of my best buds, Pedro, Felipe and Fernando and Gabi. Notice the cake crumbs around Pedro’s mouth. Cake is still a constant in my life here.
These photos are from our trip to Projecto Tamar, an organization in Florianopolis that aims to protect sea turtles from extinction.
Cheesin’ with the other professores.
Preparing a special lunch for the parents with my wonderful supervisor, Luciani.
And lastly, Yasmin, the adorable little girl I mentioned earlier.
It is also exciting for me to share that last week I started a second apprenticeship. Before this, I found a temporary second apprenticeship at the community center where I take taekwondo, capoeira and yoga classes. There, I painted and designed benches with other volunteers to place around the community to make it even more vibrant.
I’m definitely not an artist, so this was a challenge for me, but one I certainly enjoyed. This is the first banco or bench I painted.
The other apprenticeship I recently started is at an organization in my community, called Projecto Lontra, aimed at the recovery and conservation of the neotropical otter. I am beyond excited to be working here and hang around otters all day. My main tasks are feeding the otters and the two iraras we have (they are like the cousins of otters, but they don’t like water) and cleaning their enclosures. I have come to learn how incredibly playful otters are, as well as mischievous. For example, one otter named Iara, keeps escaping her enclosure to visit another otter, her presumed “boyfriend.”
Yesterday was quite the interesting day at the project. I was cleaning the laboratory with another volunteer when all of a sudden, I looked up to see Iara chilling in the doorway. Then she ran away and through the kitchen we had just scrubbed clean. Finally, she made her way into the enclosure of Peri and promptly started to bicker and fight with him.
I look forward to sharing more soon about my adventures at this new apprenticeship and in daily life in general.
Needless to say, my life here in Brasil is far from boring.
Love and Peace,