Sunday, June 3, 2012

Ecuador: the simplest toys are the best

I arrived at the orphanage with my paranoid-nurse supplies. (I may not matter in the long wrong, but perhaps I can prevent a few colds now both for them and myself, and I can keep thing like play-doh, which I brought today clean enough for another go around. Gotta remember even if I can’t see how it will matter in the long wrong, I’m going act like it all matters now.) Such supplies include: hand sanitizer and kleenex. I also brought cornstarch to mix with water and play dough. It’s going to be a textile day.

I accepted the first 10 kids that swarmed my table. Trying to explain to them that I could only have 10 at a time for this particular game. I doubt I got anything across in words, but they eventually go the picture, except the 12th kids to show up: my amigo, the charmer who immediately started in, “Tia, aaah Tia. Uno mas, Tia.”. I eventually had to just ignore him once I was sure my point got across and he was just trying to force his way in.

The cornstarch didn’t go so well for the first group. (If you’ve never played with cornstarch and water you ought to give it a shot. HOURS of endless fun, even for an adult. Works for kids of all ages, too. It’s totally benign so even young kids can mess around in it for a long time and be safe while remaining totally occupied.) With all the initial excitement and confusion and grabbing I wasn’t able to explain or control the amount of water and corn starch kids were getting. And I wasn’t able to clearly demonstrate what it was supposed to be. So nix the cornstarch.

I pull out the play-doh (Thank Alena Malloy) and the kids go crazy, except they don’t really know what to do. I think mostly cause they are so ready to grab and make sure they get some that they aren’t even concerned about what to do with it yet.

I should mention here that every kid had to wash their hands with water first, then use the sanitizer. There were a few younger kids in the first group that had super booger-y noses. Boogers I did not want mixing with my cloths, face, hair, or play-doh. So I pulled out my kleenex and started wiping noses repeating constantly, pointing at the kleenex: No piso, necessita basura ___________.  I controlled the first few pretty well, and they were young so just let me wipe their noses and threw their tissues away. We’ll come back to the kleenex later as it wasn’t quite the issue at this point.

My group of 10 finally calmed down enough to enjoy the play. The lids had molds imprinted into them which was the first discovery. I showed them how to make balls and cubes, and roses. Slowly the got a little more creative. The first group is always a test group. I got some kinks worked out but ended up taking so much time to get things calmed and organized that we hit lunch time and had to clean up. Of course others were disappointed and didn’t want to use the table I was at for lunch so I asked the director if we could continue using the table after lunch was finished. She was, of course, okay with this if we waited until after lunch was cleaned up--a common chore for the older girls.

I grabbed a few index cards and all by myself wrote out, “Groupo Dos” and “Group Tres”, numbering them from 1-10. I also had one of the teenage girls write out the names of everyone who had already participated. This ended up working quite well as when one group was finishing up I’d have an older child wanting to be more included and more grown up, go find the children in the next group. I would also have them monitor who showed up, since I don’t know everyone’s name, to make sure I didn’t have kids sneaking in before their turn. Also, a very good thing as I always ended up with at least 15 kids at the table...5 of which obviously didn’t belong.

My friend, the charmer, sat around moping all through the first group. I told him he had to leave or have no turn at all several times. He eventually hung back enough to be out of the way, lessening the chaos, but never all the way gone. I told him he could sign up in the 3rd group and it was like I refused him food. He through a huge fit to which I had no response and ended letting groupo tres fill up, and fourth group and a fifth group. Each time we changed groups he through a fit and pouted. Each time I reminded him to stay back or he would have no turn. And each time I also reminded him that all he had to was sign up with one of the groups. Finally, right before the 5th group was to start he relented and signed his name. I welcomed him to the table and showed a few fun tricks with the play-doh, even though he’d been watching from not far off for a while. We had a good little moment though there at the end. I think the little bit of extra attention allayed all the ignoring of his fits I’d done through out the day and we were friends again.

Now let me tell you about the kleenex. It was a bigger hit than the play-doh. Humorously so. The obsession with the kleenex was incredible. The older kids, the ones I let help me out--and even had sanitize a few hands and wipe a few noses for me--quickly learned that tissues were scented. I guess that’s pretty common here, more than unscented tissues. And started sniffing them. I didn’t get what was going on at first. Just holding kleenex to your nose isn’t especially effective. (I don’t know if it was because they expected it to be scented or whether it was just the idea of having something that set it off, but many kids were more interested in getting a tissue to put in their pockets than they were in the play-doh, not that they didn’t like the play-doh I had just explained that this was mine and needed to be returned at the end of their allotted time.) I eventually had to bribe kids to blow their nose with the tissue with the promise of a new one they could keep. But the HAD to blow their noses with their first one. I couldn’t stop smiling. Every time I handed one out though I insisted: “No piso, necessita basura”. I think they started making fun of me a bit about it, repeating it with me and rolling their eyes as I handed them out :).

I only lost one red play-doh and one bottle of sanitizer that day. Not as bad as I was prepared for but for sure worse than I had hoped for. I’m pretty sure I know who took the sanitizer and have a few guesses as about to the time the red play-doh disappeared. I guess all I can do is hope the sanitizer is used appropriately and prevents infection. As for the play-doh, it will probably be stolen from the person who took it and end up dried up and ruined in no time. It is a little disappointing but I can’t get too upset about it. It would drive me crazy and probably be very ineffective trying to fight that battle.

I debated on how much I should try to explain to the children that if my things were taken or treated badly I wouldn’t be able to bring them but have decided that at this point I’m just going to let it slide, especially since several of the kids, after they found what I had lost started going through other people’s bags and looking in their beds where I’m sure they keep a few private possessions. I certainly don’t want them to think it’s okay to steal, but I also don’t want to teach them that going through other people’s things are okay.

I did the best I could to tell the children who were looking--a little too hard--to help me find my missing items, “thank you but I’d rather not have you go through others' things”. Knowing they will most likely do it anyway, I don’t want it to be done on my account. And even if found, the person who stole it (if not knowing it was found and returned to me, and maybe even if it was) would feel like it had been stolen from them. So unless it becomes a much bigger problem I’m just not going to worry about it for now.

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