Sunday, May 13, 2012

Ecuador weeks 2 & 3

I found out something really special the other day. While I was at the orphanage with babies and toddlers, which I am at twice a week. I was admiring the floor in the playroom as I sat with two on my lap and one child fussing in front of me on the floor. It’s a very nice laminate wood floor. This evidently was put in for the orphanage as the rest of the building is a beautiful old building with beautiful stone floors. Beautiful, and painful. Painful for little babies who bump and bobble around. I was especially appreciative of this floor in this particular moment as I was able to safely slide the fussing number 3 baby smoothly and safely back and forth, kind of like rocking it while we were all sitting on the floor, consequently changing the fussy baby into all smiles and giggles. The babies bump and bobble their way across this floor with the usual baby fumbles and spills, but with far less devastation than the stone floors elsewhere in the building.

I had mentioned my love of the floors, both that they were pretty, and very conducive to both baby play and pacifying-as with baby giggles I mentioned earlier. I was later informed, I think by Kelsey (my sister-in-law), that when my parents visited here several years ago they, and a few others, got together to see what was most needed and would be most helpful at the orphanage. The idea of a safer floor for the children to play on came up. Apparently my parents helped fund the purchase and installation of the very floor I was now playing on, and admiring. Very cool.

This is especially sweet to me because I lost my father last year. I had no idea that he had done this or that I would be here helping out. I certainly wasn’t expecting the wonderful reminder of how good of a man my dad was and wanted to be. Here I am now, using the very floor he helped purchase for these little ones, for the express purpose I’m sure he’d hoped it would serve. He must’ve giggled like crazy as I sat there commenting on how great that floor was, having no idea that he had been a part of getting there. And I’m sure years ago he had no idea that one day I would be sitting on the very floor he helped purchase. I’m hoping that I am doing a good job and that he is proud of his floor, and of me, and the fun I’m having with those kids on it.

I want to quickly share another sweet little story that took place on my father’s floor. (I’m sorry the last few weeks are jumbled together. I’m not the best at writing and I tend to take notes and then the chronology gets all mixed up, but I hope you enjoy the story anyway.)

I was playing in the playroom with I think 6 or 7 babies (by babies I mean less than 2 years old) and one other volunteer. I forget what we were playing, blocks I think, but there a few kids getting a little restless-and I think not feeling the best...lots of little colds going around-mine included. One of them came up to me for some down time and some loves. Now usually, I am not a fan of kids hands in my hair. They pull, and hurts. And I’m a wimp. But my ponytail fell forward and was brushing the kids cheek as I was also playing with another child at the time. I went to get it out of this kids face and just to let him know it was okay and not too fuss with the mess in his face, I took a section of hair in my fingers and tickled his cheek with it. Bit hit. He grinned. I tossed my hair back behind my face and went back to snuggling and playing. He reached for my hair. Uh oh. I went ahead and tickled him with my hair again. If I do it, he can’t pull and my delicate brains won’t get frazzled. He wrapped his fingers kind of around mine sort of, “helping me” tickle his face. He was actually very careful...probably saw the warning to be cautious in my eyes and panic :). He tickled his cheek, then my cheek, then the cheek of another child. It was all very quiet and calm and very, very sweet. Turned out to be his favorite game of the day. Of course, nearly anything could beat the rest of the day. It was immunization day. :(

This in and of itself is a great story. It simply involves 3 volunteers, 6 babies, a nun, an old truck, and dirt roads full of deep tracks and potholes going straight up a mountain.
Okay, so maybe not so simply, but it did happen.

There was once an orphanage who was good about making sure all of the children had their immunizations up to date, including our adorable 10 day old baby that came to us after being abandoned at the hospital. When the day came for 6 of these babies to go the doctor, at the top of the mountain to ensure they all had their shots, the 3 volunteers that happened to be at the orphanage that day were all enlisted to help rearrange and move all the cribs, as it was also apparently floor cleaning day. Easy enough. The communication gets a little fuzzy here. Something about shots. A doctor-one volunteer notes, that the doctors who see the children regularly come to the orphanage itself to check on them. I don’t know. What I do know is that the 3 of us ended up in the back seat of truck (it was a small 4 door truck). One volunteer holding 2 babies, another volunteer-crunched in the middle, holding another child-and myself completing the sandwich whilst holding the 10 day old darling. Wait, that’s only 4 babies you say? Where could the other two be? The other two, being the oldest of the group, were strapped in via seat belt into the front seat, by themselves. While a seemingly cheerful but unconcerned nun hopped in the driver’s seat. Okay. Off we go. At first it just seems a bit crazy. Then it gets down right hysterical. We start to go back and forth, switch-backing, if that’s a word, up the road to a go a little higher up the mountain (all of Cuenca is mountains, so you're always either headed up or down a mountain here-this one just seemed a bit steeper than most). The pavement gives way to dirt, which gives way to what looks like was very muddy at one point and has now dried in a big ruddy mess, with random, GIANT holes all over. At one point the volunteer in the middle just loses it and starts laughing uncontrollably. I just don’t think she knew what else to do, and so she laughed, a lot. We all did. I’m pleased to say that nun did the best she could and didn’t drive as madly as one might have expected. I will also say that crossing paths with a few buses on this barely one-lane carved up “road” for lack of a better word, was nuts. The buses here take on roads that four-wheelers shy away from! Needless to say, all the immunizations were administered and we returned safely to the orphanage.
I’m sure this is very appalling to many of you, as it should be. But we have to keep in mind that not everywhere is overly-regulated, and not everywhere has the luxuries of car seats for every child. Or, in this case, even the luxury of a family. So before we get too heated about the ratio of seat belts to nuns and babies think of where these children would be without that old truck, the volunteers, and the wonderful nun driving them faithfully and carefully as possible, on those crazy roads to ensure they get proper medical care. Sure it’s a bit “different” here. But they do a lot with what little they’ve got and I’ll do all I can while I’m here to help out where I can. Thanks again for you support.

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