A night of pizza and dance

Message of the Day: “In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.” – Mother Theresa

It helps to be a heavy sleeper in this hotel, which never sleeps. As we gather around the breakfast table, you hear snippets of conversation about the late night repairs (was it banging on a pipe? Hammering?), the trash truck with its loud beeps and workers calling to and fro at 2 a.m., the rowdy guests who return at midnight, or the hotel staff children who run and laugh in the lobby and hallways until way past our bedtimes. These hotel walls are like rice paper, allowing the activities of the hotel to permeate your slumber. Of course, it doesn’t help that we all fall into our beds at 8:30/9 p.m. and what appears to be the middle of the night disruption is only 9:45!

Our days at centers 1 and 2 were much like any other day with complete mayhem, laughter, and tears. When I asked Linda on the bus ride home what she had done for the day, she wearily commented, “I herded cats.” Several tías at Center #1 worked alongside volunteers to complete the art project of classroom supplies pockets, learning enormous amounts of children divided among the already large classes to be supervised by the remaining tías and workers. Classroom sizes swelled to above 20 in those tiny rooms, making access to your neighbor even easier to pinch, push, hit, and take things. Sarah’s highlight was to take the class outside in the covered area to play with the ball. One child managed to kick the ball over the railing and into the street below. Sarah’s very accurate reporting of the story stated that a police officer found the ball and tossed it back over the railing, then she said “gracias” and he said “de nada.” Her four years of Spanish really paid off.

At Center #2, the crying was magnified by the addition of several new students who sobbed uncontrollably after their moms left. By lunchtime they had settled into their new routines, except for the new one in my toddler class. He cried steadily all day yesterday on his first day, so much so he couldn’t eat or drink at any meals. The same woeful sobbing continues today, adding to the wails of the other toddlers as they were brutalized by the two gangster baby boys. Yesterday, the new boy broke my heart with his cries. Today I was over it; he needed to get with the program. With eleven babies in that classroom, there is no time to hold him. Fortunately, Kristina came up for awhile and, as she said, pushed his mute button when she picked him up.

Kristina’s main goal in our classroom was to purchase a vacuum cleaner for the carpet John and Tía Paty worked hard at installing. With much deliberation and rearranging, the room was eventually divided into two separate areas – a conglomeration of cribs tightly fitted together on one side, and on open area with carpeting on the other side I’d call this a play area since that’s where all the toys are located, but the children are rarely allowed to touch the toys, so we’ll just call it the run around and fall and get a bloody nose area (we had two bloody noses yesterday). The carpet is filthy, no matter how many times Tía Paty sweeps and sweeps, which brings us back to Kristina arriving with a brand new vacuum cleaner in the afternoon. Since I haven’t seen a Target or Sears, I’m not sure where she located one in Calderón, but it arrived in our classroom and we spent until the end of the day chastising the children not to touch it, over and over and over again. Why the box couldn’t be moved to the hallway to eliminate the temptation was beyond me, but then again, I didn’t see any harm in letting them touch the box either. I’m anxious to see if the dust clouds will be gone.

The construction at Center #2 is nearly complete. Peggy and Karen finished up loose ends in the courtyard while John installed shelving in the toddler classroom. The new soccer goals have arrived and are so small and cute. There continue to be plenty of community volunteers helping, which isn’t all that helpful when a child inside spots their mom in the backyard through a window. But what’s one more child crying? There were a lot of giggles and wiggles as Mary, Bobbie, and Breanna’s classes rehearsed their dance recitals for Friday’s goodbye celebration. At the end of the day the kids got their last snack – a concoction of brown and white beans with sliced onions, that they eagerly devoured. We tried to imagine presenting that to American children instead of Oreo cookies.

I guess as adults we are not much different from our children with our addiction to junk food. Instead of another healthy home cooked meal of soup and potatoes, we opted for pizza, and oh, have we all looked forward to it! And even better yet, it tasted like American pizza with lots of cheese, veggies, and meats. We devoured the pizzas greedily, only to have us so full and carb overloaded that some people napped through our nighttime entertainment. Martín reserved tickets for an Ecuadorian folk dance at a local theater. The musicians were fabulous; the costumes were elaborate and colorful. However, the theater was hot, the show was long, and some of the dances were a bit slow, and there were no refreshments at intermission, all leading to perfect conditions to yawn or snooze a bit. The one dance number which stood out for me was the maypole dance. I enjoyed it because of the festive music and the intricate weaving and unweaving of the ribbons around the pole, but mostly it captured my attention with the dancing clowns, the largest of which danced in front of Breanna, who is terrified of clowns. Fortunately, she kept her composure and was able to participate in the finale when dancers drew up audience members from their seats and danced for everyone.

Hump day is over now, and I’m certain we will all be asleep within moments of our return. It’s 10 p.m. and now we are the loud and late night guests returning home.

Entry and message submitted by Colleen

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