Day 9: Half and Half
Colegio 20 De Abril only has afternoon physical education classes today, so we have the morning off to either stay at the hostel or go to other agencies. My plan was to head to Damien’s House for the morning and spend time my time there getting to better know everyone better and possibly learn how to make one of their bracelets. The routine for our volunteers at Damien’s House is quite different from the schedule at the school, because there is not one. At Colegio 20 De Abril, the physical education teacher, Nexar, has given us free reign over his classes and we know what time the classes are, what age groups we will be getting and can base our activities and games accordingly. Whereas at Damien’s House, we are coming into these people’s homes and have to accommodate our activities to how they are feeling that particular day. We headed to the men’s wing first, they were already out and about while the women were still waking up and getting ready for the day; does not matter what country, women just seem to take a bit longer to get ready. Once we greeted and chatted a bit to everyone up, they took notice of the rubber balls we brought with us (hoping that if anyone was willing, we could play a mini game of catch). Kaylin, Darielle, Eryn, and myself played catch with Carlos and Juan for about twenty minutes before they wanted a break. Throughout the entire time we played, happiness radiated from both of the men. Juan even got cheeky and incorporated fakes into the game, which only brought the biggest smile to his face when he was able to catch us by surprise. After a bit of chatting I ventured over to the women’s side, first to greet us was sweet and quiet Sonia, followed by charismatic Esther, two of the few women we met on our first visit to Damien’s. The women at Damien’s house make (and sell) beautiful jewelry, key chains and other little knick knacks; so when they took out their material and started to weave string, I sat down and got ready to learn. Unlike Shellie, who mastered the art of string bracelets, the rest of us struggled immensely. I had to admire Esther’s perseverance though, she took the time to undo our failed attempts and re-explain (several times) the weaving sequence until we were on the right track. “Ohhh! Mal, mal, mal!” (Ohhh! Bad, bad, bad!) was all any of us heard for a solid amount of time but when we finally heard those precious words “Si! Soi mui ilelegente!” (Yes! You’re very intelligent!) an internal peace and satisfaction settled in. Unfortunately a couple of us never found that place, which was only emphasised by Esther’s comment “No es su talento dado por Dios” (It is not your God given talent). Although I never finished the bracelet, I did manage to get a few phrases of praise from Esther before our we had to depart. Leaving was bitter sweet sorrow knowing that this would be my last visit to Damien’s house.
Colegio 20 De Abril was a delight, as usual. We have had most of the students, which allows us to get to know them (and vise versa) on a more personal basis. They are starting to understand our personalities; the extent of our Spanish (what words we do and do not know), the structure of our classes and activities, and who is more competitive than others. Overall, our communication with the teens has improved immensely since our first interaction with them on Day 5. I learned what ‘right’ and ‘left’ are in Spanish but kept getting them confused or would forget one of the words. All the students were very understanding, and would correct me if I mixed them up or would give me hints if it was clear I had forgotten again. A few students from each group would ask me what a sentence or word was in English, and to my surprise no one asked the same question. Once they grasped the English words, generally they would teach me some Spanish in return: “Buen trabajo” (good job), “Correr más rápido” (run faster), “Intento” (try, attempt) and the proper pronunciation of “Sí se puede” (yes you can). Some of the most rewarding moments were at the end of their class when we would say goodbye and I would repeat the words they had taught me, and they would repeat a word or two in English. A series of brief moments that triggered a deep personal satisfaction.
Something that is wonderful to see is that a good portion of the teens are pushing themselves mentally and physically. Exploring the boundaries of their physical body and pushing out of the restrictions they had put on themselves. They have tried all the skills we have showed them with little or no complaint, and are higher than average in terms of performance. The students are predominantly visual learners which helps breakdown the language barrier a bit because we are able to demonstrate the skills we would like them to learn. My concern with the demonstrations was that the teens would not try to learn other ways and methods of performing the skill, and although this was true for some, for others their creativity was a spark that turned into an untouchable flame. For instance how to throw a Frisbee; the task seems tame and tedious but not to the students. They throw it between their legs, behind their backs, backhand tossed it with their eyes closed, tossed it upside down, and even threw it vertically. The teens have an incredible sense of self; they know where their body is in space and are able to create very fluid movements, and ALL in dress shoes that are probably a size or two too big!! I hope that after we are gone, they continue to challenge themselves and their imaginations, that they expand and utilize the skills and concepts we taught them, and really make it their own.
End of day 9