Hola familia y amigos!
I am wrapping up my week in Pedro Vicente Maldonado after leaving Quito and saying goodbye to the other fellows two weeks ago. It was difficult to say goodbye after spending such quality time together and having the privilege of seeing each other every day of the week. With that being said, I am very happy to be living in my host site at last. There was much extrapolation amongst the Fellows about what the next 6 months of our lives would be like, and it is nice to finally experience it firsthand. I miss my family in Quito very much and I cannot thank them enough for opening their doors to a complete stranger. My family in Quito was very caring for me and they tried to show me a great time in the city, whether it be taking me to street performances or simply studying Spanish with me at night. They plan on visiting me and I plan to visit them too when I have the opportunity. It was amazing how quickly the feeling of a stranger dissolved and the feeling of belonging developed.
So what is life like for Nathan Edwards in Pedro Vicente Maldonado? Pictured above is a picture of my Madre (Farita) and me. I also have a 25 year old brother (Joffre). Thank you, Lord, for giving me a Madre that can cook! It really is great to have three juicy meals a day, where in Quito it was often times just bread and cheese for breakfast and dinner. Fresh chicken has taken on a new meaning for me after my Madre cut the throat of a chicken on the kitchen floor last week. The chicken was delicious! My Madre has a tailor shop on the first floor of the building and our house is the second floor of the building. My brother works in Puerto Quito (about 30 minutes away from Pedro Vicente) and studies in Quito on the weekends (Quito is about 2 1/2 hours from Pedro Vicente). We have a small but quaint house that has all the amenities one could ask for; running water, shower, kitchen, bathroom, television, internet, and bedrooms.
Mondays and Tuesdays, I begin the day with classes at the elementary school at 7:30 and I finish teaching there at about 1:00. I usually have classes of about 7 to 8 students, ranging from ages 5 to 13. They are an advanced student if they are able to respond to “How are you?” I’m trying to develop patience but, honestly, teaching can be very frustrating at times. Some students simply have no interest in learning English, and there are limited resources with which to help them (a marker and a whiteboard). I’m trying to make learning more fun for the students by incorporating games, songs, and bringing a positive attitude, but it can be tiring at times. In the afternoon, I have an hour of English with teenagers and young adults, and after class we play sports for about an hour. It is much easier to teach to this group who has some interest in learning English and has more respect for me. On Wednesday I have an hour on English at the high school with a class of three girls. One of the girls in my class is pregnant and the father of the baby is 21. The girl is 14 years old. This hit me very hard; the girl is very bright and talented, but will probably never be able to realize this potential because of the baby. Thinking of girls the age of Jenna (my dearly missed sister) having babies is unsettling for me.
Wednesday through Friday, I have classes in Guyabillas in the elementary school and with the youth group in the afternoon. Posted is a picture of the computer room where I had to sleep on the floor one night. I sleep in the school while I am there and I have a nice family that gives me all my meals. I am currently having a difficult time with the students there. General apathy towards English and bigger classes are contributing towards my difficulties. I am getting the attention and respect of a student teacher right now. I hope this will fade as they become more accustomed to me. Guyabillas is a much smaller community than Pedro Vicente and much more rural. I do not have access to running water in the school, but I usually do have a bed to sleep in. I catch the 5 a.m. bus to return to Pedro Vicente on Saturday mornings and chill out in Pedro Vicente on the weekends. It is very nice to have down time on the weekends to recharge the batteries and spend time with my family.
I’m trying to approach my time here as a student. We had a very inspirational speaker in Quito that taught me a lot about the proper mindset for this year. Some things I took away from it were: I am not here to help, I am here to learn and share; it’s the connections I make this year that will matter, there is nothing to fear. It is easy to say that I am going to help the students and people of my community, but in reality, this is putting me on a pedestal above them. The people were happy and content before I came, and they will be happy and content after I leave. They have just as much, if not more, to teach me this year then I have to teach them. I am not here to help where help is not needed, I am here to share. The fact of the matter is that much of my work this year will be in vain. Many of the students will forget or not practice English, and very few will have the opportunity to travel or work in an English setting. So while I do want my students to learn English, what really matters is that we form meaningful connections on both sides in order to make the most of our time together.