In a Handbasket

I thought I'd take a little time today to talk about one of the biggest parts of my life here in Ecuador, volunteering at a local orphanage. At least, I thought it was an orphanage, and then I found out they spend holidays with their mothers. But, until someone gives me a better name for it, it's gonna be "The Orphanage next to the San Francisco church."

It's a pretty nice building, actually. It's square, and has a large open courtyard in the center. There are a couple of places for having masses and that on either side, but I don't have many occasions to go into them. There are two floors, with most of the bedrooms being on the top floor along the east and north walls. The place where I usually hang out is the study. There are three studies in a row on the top floor facing the street, the south wall. I'm in the last one on the right. There's also another courtyard where we eat snacks, and a playground with really old swings and slides, and an open pool that scared the crap out of me the first time I saw it since it's deep, empty and right next to where the kids play.

But you guys don't really care about that. You want to know about what I actually do! What? You don't care? Well, I don't care about you guys either! Okay, yes I do. I'm sorry. But anyways, I work with the girls on their English homework. Oh yeah, it's an all-girls orphanage, kind of a sister institution to the all-boys orphanage a couple blocks away. I work with girls aged seven to about twelve. Because everyone here is really short the average height here is less than I'm used to, I have a problem with telling people's age during the teen years, since I usually go by height as the determining factor. So twelve is just a guess. Some of the high school girls from other studies try hitting on me, but I just ignore them, because the best way to make a girl interested in you is to totally ignore her.

One of the nice things about being in Ecuador is that for what seems like the first time, I'm living further away than my mom can reach.

I love you, Mom.

Yes, I know I'm not going to be living in Ecuador forever, and that I have to come home sometime.

Yes, I know that you control how much money I have.

I love you soooooo much.

Anyways, I help the girls with their English homework. The quality of the education in English here is terrible. Usually, I try not to make judgments on that, but it really is. For several reasons, most outside of the control of the teachers and the students. The kids aren't taught on a daily basis (in my school, it's three periods a week), the teachers aren't native speakers, and so fail pretty hard on nuanced (and sometimes not-so-nuanced) grammar and pronunciation. But sometimes I wonder, because these kids take English from first grade, and half of them don't know pronouns or even what "the" is. Now, I'm not there enough time to do some serious teaching that would be useful, and they're not old enough that it would stick anyway, and this German woman who's staying there is doing a good job of that as it is, so I just try and make sure they get their assignments done right. Which can be difficult, since half the time the textbooks mess something up, or the teacher himself puts something down wrong on the test (This actually happens frequently. And the girls tell me that he gets mad when I correct him, and makes vague suggestions that I should talk to him so he can show me up. Or maybe it's just the febrile minds of ten-year-olds.). It's funny seeing the exact same assignments I had to do (there is, there are) in Spanish class four years ago crop up again, but in English.

The group I work with is ten girls, Anita, Amelia, Joanna, Katerine, Dominik, Erika, Anahí, Nicole, Silvia and one little girl whose face I can picture in my mind but whose name is just not there. I've almost got them all, though. There's also a nun who stays in the room most of the time. I think her name's Soycatalina. Or it may be Soylinda. Or maybe Soylentgreen.

All the nuns, it seems, are named Soy-something. I don't understand it yet. They're all really old, except one. I take Bible stories more seriously from them, because I figure they were around to see most of them happen. Now, my friend's mother Heidi has long told me horror stories about the nuns at the Catholic school she attended, so I was somewhat prepared for the way the nuns would be, but I wasn't really prepared. A couple of months ago, Soylinda, or whatever her name is, took ten minutes out of her busy schedule to yell at one of the girls for eating an apple, because she wasn't sharing with the rest of the group. Now, it's an apple. And the girl's all of eleven years old. There's no need for that kind of reaction. See, this nun, she was a prayer. And one day, she goes off cra-a-a-zier than usual. So Erika gets the sharp wit to defend herself. And Soylinda doesn't like that. Not. One. Bit. So she calls Erika an "empty-headed clown" and starts yelling about how she don't get no respect (I only wish I were kidding), and how she hates hypocrisy. Erika tells Soylinda to shut up and leaves. One of the funny things about Spanish is that you can say things inherently insulting, like "shut up," but using the formal form of the verb. I don't even know what it was about. At least she didn't start hitting the girl. I dunno what I would have done then.

That's about all I can think of with respect to the orphanage. I'm gonna get some pictures of it, probably next week, for your viewing pleasure. Stay tuned.

Thanks for commenting, Mom. I don't know why people are scared of cats and not dogs. Probably the same reason why Camille and I walk around ladders when everyone else here goes right under them. And it's true that nobody is afraid of the dogs. Kids'll go up and pet them. Thanks Jesse, for commenting as well. Carlos mentioned off-hand that Jesus wasn't a Jew, he was a "Galileo." Assuming he wasn't referring to the famous astronomer, I have no idea what that could mean. Thank you also to Diana, for commenting and following my blog. I was intrigued by your comment about being in Chile, so I looked at your blog "A Temporary Santiaguina," but there's only the one post...

That's pretty much all for now! Oh, also, I'm sick of car alarms and politics. But that's another story, and shall be told, another time.



that black girl artist said...

Hello Jacob. This is your father. I am commenting only because people who read your blog should know that you are not an only child being raised by your mother. Some comment like,"I thought of my father when I looked at my beautiful painting because it reminded me how inspiringly awesome he is." U seem to keep forgetting that everything is about me and not you. You mentioned your mother 5 times in your blog so far in April. So that means you are going to have to mention me 15 times no 20 times. You should also know that I went to church at 7 AM on Easter in Houston after having been there for two hours on Good Friday evening. I also got the best complement from one of my failure, failure students. He said his 7th grade sister who always gets A's was stuck on multi-step equations and that he had helped her. It made him feel smart! Yes, that's right! I have successfully taught my 9th grade student to do 7th grade math! Well, enough from me. Your blog is wonderful! I really enjoy reading it though I was sickened and shocked by the panda picture (what about the panda's other paws?) Love you. yerdad

Tom said...

I like your dad.

Anonymous said...

That school is not an orphanage. I believe it is like a boarding school... Do some research.

mrjlab said...

I would hazard a guess that there is no school at the place where you volunteer. Hence it not being a boarding school. The place I worked with in Amparaes in Cusco was similar. The church runs a house for children that live too far away from the school to commute everyday. They live at this house, which is run and organized like an orphanage, during the school year even though they have parents and homes. That said, I also work with places here in Lima where the children have parents, but the parents are too poor to take care of them and therefore leave them at the home. The word in spanish is albergue and I think perhaps the best way to describe the place is as a "home" for children. By the way, is your blog now popular enough to pick up trolls?

that black girl artist said...

trolls? Bluebell? Blabberwort? Nicey nice!

Ben said...

Jacob! I havent been on here in massive amounts of time on account of i deleted my blog and didn't get automatic updates from yours any more. But now I am back on blogger and it reminded me to read yours.

It's so cool that you are volunteering there! that sounds like a lot of fun and really fulfilling.

Anyway, your year must be starting to wind down. When are you coming back to the USA? We should hang out some time over the summer if possible. When do you come up North?

Hope all is well there, Ben