Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Ecuador: a long update, pace yourself.

I have now been in Cuenca for one week. And whereas, things seemed to be going slow at first (I wanted to jump in and know everything the first day, me and my dreamer’s ways), things seem to be flying now. I can’t believe I already have one less week here. I won’t let myself think about that though. And if I have to come home, work, save money, and come back so be it. :)
Again thanks to all you who made this a little easier on the dent this is making in my savings, but what else are savings for than to live life the way one has always intended? :)

So a recap of the week. I have visited two orphanages, one run by OSSO (you can donate to them at, which takes care of a lot of the special needs kids. More than one of which I’m told was found in trash cans. Many were dumped at police stations. I hear there are worse places that they have been found but my sister-in-law, Kelsey (who should be known as “The most patient-wonderful-nicest-helpful-loving-lovable-person-queen-goddess”) prefers not to mention. And let me tell you something: I am no expert on special needs kids, but I do have my fair share of interaction with them at work. (I’m a pediatric caner nurse and see a lot of special needs kids there as often time it comes with more complications-like cancers. I hope I’m not offending anyone by calling “special needs”, I’m not sure what the preferred term is to many of you, but we all do the best we can to be respectful, and that is the term used here.) But let me say this, this kids receive more love and opportunity to function than many that I see in the states with all of our therapies and special care. There is even an equestrian center that allows them to come and interact with them there. I accredit this to the amazing love and permissiveness for these children to interact and do whatever they can try to do, even if it makes a mess. The place is run by a few regular staff and many volunteers. The supplies are meager and the house is humble, but clean and organized. I can’t stress how much LOVE, and patience, is given to these kids.

I was blown away by one girl, that at first glance to me, appeared to be lost so far inside her own word, and so very limited on her ability to interact with the outside world, that I thought she do little more than sit in her make-shift wheelchair and vaguely notice the changes in her surroundings. I was sitting near her with another little boy who was also delayed (sorry if that offends, it’s the term used in the medical world for people who are developmentally delayed for one reason or another) and was recovering from any ear infection. He would occasionally smile at the bubbles being blown, but for the most part he just wasn’t feeling well and was pretty lethargic. Poor little guy. Back to my story-we were sitting near this sweet girl, probably about 7 years old, who was showing no signs of interest or interaction with the outside world when one of the loving workers hurried by. This little girl’s leg shot straight out. Not knowing this girl and seeing that no other part of her body or face had changed, I would have taken this as a reflex of some sort perhaps. The worker, although hurried, stopped and tickled the underside of this little one’s leg, calling her by name. The light in that little girl’s eyes said it all and the leg shot out again. This game went on for a little while with the slightest change of expression on her face but with the biggest smile in her eyes. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people with that much limited expression ignored or dismissed. Perhaps, even by me. But not here.

I was able to join right in and learned that even though many of these kids can’t necessarily speak very well, they know and understand both English and Spanish. Like I said, although they may be limited in some ways their intelligence is not down-played here.

I was able to stay into dinner time and even help with the feedings. There were a few children so limited in their abilities to move that I was surprised when they were given utensils and allowed to feed themselves, happily, I might add, even if they only got about half of their simple dinner of noodle soup with popcorn and few chunks of mystery meat in it, made it to their mouths. One of the girls was having a giggle fit over the new visitors and had the most difficult time concentrating on dinner and kept putting noodles on her nose and calling me “loca” by spinning her finger around her ear and then pointing at me. (Remember doing that in grade school?)

The boy I was feeding did most of the work even if his hands didn’t work well enough for him to use the utensils himself. He had his subtle ways of communicating showing that he had no fear of interaction with adults or others.

I have to interject my own thoughts here. Kids are smart, way smarter than us. And you can tell a lot about the how a child is treated by how they interact with adults. Forgive the comparison, but they way you might trust some one if your dog trusts them is very much they way I feel about children. I trust the adults that they trust and un-self-consciously interact with. And from what I can tell and the ease in which these children love, trust and interact makes me want to give all I can to the people who take care of them day in and day out. And quite frankly, makes me want to learn to love they way both these children and those who care for them do. They do an amazing amount with the little bit of resources they have. A little love goes a long way. And you can see it reflected in these children’s faces. I’m so glad to know that someone(s) who care so much are the ones caring for these kids.

You may notice I’m talking a lot about the special needs kids. Well, I didn’t get to interact with the other children at this particular orphanage all that much because, well, they were all sick. :(

I fear many of you may get bored by this long post. Sorry about that :). I just am already so in love with these kids and these orphanages.

I stopped by another orphanage that is very short-handed in the baby-care department. I will be headed there regularly on Mondays and Thursdays and will be on bath duty. :) Shout out to Clarke, and his co-worker, who purchased two cases of baby soap for me to bring down in my bags. It IS crazy expensive here! (Cheap, no-name shampoo is like $4!) And shout out to the desk lady at the airport I mentioned earlier (maybe only on facebook?) who let 7 extra pounds slip past the scale without charging me the extra $100, to make sure all of the donations made it here safely. Go awesome lady at the airport with a big heart!
I will start baby duty this Thursday. The time I spent there this week however was spent with four adorable little three year old girls. One of which greeted us with a gruff, “HOLA!” with her arms defiantly crossed when we entered the room. All sass. I knew instantly she and I were going to be friends. :)

She ignored us for a while and played defiantly on her own, making sure we knew she was ignoring us. Shortly thereafter, she made her way over to me and stood in front of me, leaning her back against my legs. She took my right hand and pulled it close to her cheek. Her height was such that my finger tips, hanging casually, grazed the top of her shoulder. She pressed her cheek into my hand and I tickled her shoulder a little bit with the few fingers she wasn’t holding. We stood like that for a good 5 minutes. Not talking. Her just snuggling her cheek into my hand and playing with my fingers, with her back pressed up against the front my legs. I’ll never forget that quiet moment and her love of the affection. She gave more to me in that moment that I could have given to her.
After our silent bond of friendship was made we played a bit on the swings until she felt the need to show us who was boss again and stomped off on her own, making sure to look make and make sure we noticed.

(Now this I understand. I prefer someone choose my company rather then giving me attention because they feel they are supposed to or if I have to try to get it. I figure someone will offer friendship or attention without me begging for it or going out of my way to force them then it means more. I smiled at this similarity she and I share.)

I walked up to her and smiled, she turned and grunted. So I walked a few paces off and found myself a seat on a brick planter. I patted beside me, smiled, then looked away and waited. That was enough. The invitation was sent. A moment later someone, you guessed it my little friend, had sidled up against me and was ready to play. She sat on my lap and we made funny faces at each other for a bit. Giggling, which was all the communication we needed (good thing too, because my Spanish is no bueno). After about fifteen minutes of play I was surprised to find my face immobilized in her two little hands. She looked me straight in the eyes and gave me a big ol’ smooch. I laughed uncontrollably for a moment because of the sweetness and the surprise of it all. Another little piece of my heart got left in Ecuador right then and there. I’m sure I’ll see this little girl again, even if I am on baby duty on this orphanage. I’m sure I could stay a few extra hours occasionally to have my day brightened by this sweet girl, all full of sass.

I hope you’re enjoying my little stories because I’m certainly enjoying remembering them, even if I’m not such a fan of writing.

I met with the director of a third orphanage today. I found out that it’s more like a foster care. They have only two orphaned, orphans there, whereas the others have been through some pretty difficult things in their short, little lives, at home and have had to be removed things got so bad. Another kind of special need, I guess one could say. Kids are resilliant but that doesn’t mean they go unaffected by the ugliness they face. I have turned in all of my information to be cleared to work there as well and most likely be there on Saturdays with more of like a lesson plan I come up with, working with a few of them at a time and rotating to make sure they get some more one-on-one attention. At least this is the hope of the director. I’m pretty comfortable with this as I’ve worked in my fair share of “child development” centers and even studied a bit of early childhood development and hope to come up with some good ideas for activities to do with small groups (probably three at a time).  They do, understandably so, have some behavior issues, the director tells me. Live and learn, I guess...and love. Love probably being the best thing I can do with these guys. I’ll have to remember it’s not about the project or activity we’re doing. So I’ll put that sentence here as a reminder to myself. It’s not about what I’ve planned for the day, it’s that they walk away uplifted and encouraged and loved. There Amy, don’t forget.

This particular orphanage/foster home will also have a medical/surgical clinic some time in June I hope to be useful at.

It’s been pouring rain pretty much all day. Sprinkles in the morning, to heavy, lovely-sounding drops all afternoon. It’s late evening now and I’m getting ready to turn in, the night before my 32nd birthday. And I’m going to bed with a smile. I’m so glad I get to be here. I’m so glad for this pause in my life and the opportunity to give freely of myself, or at least try to. Funny thing is when it’s not about you, you tend to get a lot out of it. And I’ve got a lot it not needing to be about me in my life. Who doesn’t :) ?

Tomorrow for my birthday I hope to get a few things done that I didn’t get done today. Silly Ecuador thought today was the holiday and not tomorrow (my birthday). So everything was closed today and I didn’t get some of the things done I was hoping to. And maybe I’ll even see if there’s time to get my niece and nephew to go to the flower market with me and help me pick out a birthday bouquet. I do love pretty flowers and don’t mind getting them for myself. I also really want to go by the fruit market. I have no fruit in my house and I live in Ecuador. That’s got to be some kind of crime, I’m sure. Don’t turn me in, I’m on it.

I have also signed up for a spanish class with my brother, Aaron. We’ve gone twice so far. We have a very eager teacher, Nancy. Both days we’ve had to cut her off, as our lesson is only an hour and she is happy to keep on going well after the time, which normally I wouldn’t mind but Aaron has work and both days we’ve had things needing to get done immediately following the lesson. Her son, Sebastian, is a quiet, helpful and swing young (probably about 10) man who kisses me hello and then retreats into the background (as I’m sure the “school” is also their home). We occasionally hear him sweetly shout out helps to his mom, who doesn’t speak much English but needs help getting her point across. His English is pretty good and he’s so calm and kind. Aaron obviously speaks a lot more Spanish than I do, as I speak NONE. And he’s been here six months, plus he’s lived here before. But he says he doesn’t mind me being so far behind because it makes him feel smart, which is good I guess. I did get a bit frustrated today at the lesson as after and hour I was done and we were there for another half hour learning non-sensical stuff. Well, I guess it’s sensical, or will be eventually, but my brain was full and we were wandering around the house just pointing out and saying different things when I already have a whole stack of new phrases to learn I feel like learning the phrase for “sugar dish” was just pushing them out. I’ll get there though. I make up a lot of my Spanish, and at least 30% of the time it seems to come across just fine. Either many people speak more English than I realize or my guess as to what something might be in Spanish is close enough that they understand. I really do make up a bunch of words. I’m such a gringa.

That is a very long update, and I hope you get something out of it. I should go to bed now, after reviewing my Spanish phrases. I have a big day tomorrow....

....Oh and tomorrow I’m going back by the Red Cross to sort out times to volunteer there. They gave me a website and some questions to answer before being able to volunteer but it all came up a bit funky and so I’m taking my super helpful sister-in-law with me tomorrow to help translate and set things up clearly. She’s been a HUGE help despite having two crazy, cute kids (3yrs and 2yrs old) who are rambunciously full of energy as well as being at the beginning ills of her third pregnancy. HUGE help. I hope carma comes back her way. I don’t think Sammy and Harmon (my niece and nephew) will mind too much as they might get to see some ambulances there. :)

Good night all. Hope I remember to post this tomorrow when I mooch internet off my brother tomorrow. ;)


Heladitos said...

Happy Birthday! Love your posts! Glad you're having a great time! Lots of love coming your way from us to share around there.

Tara said...

This is such a great record of your adventures. The kids sound amazing! I have a feeling I'm going to be jealous of your spanish skill by the time you come back. I'm always calling myself a Gringa...yet another manifestation of us being twin souls.