Beyond the Superficiality of Fast-Paced Travel

Team Journal Entry for Wednesday, January 28

The Cathedral of Quito, located next to the Presidential Palace

The Cathedral of Quito, located next to the Presidential Palace

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At the famous La Ronda in Quito’s Old Town

It’s Wednesday and our third day at the childcare centre. Before I tell you about today, allow me to recount last night’s adventure.

After a hard day’s work, there’s nothing like a little fun to recharge the batteries and so we set off to see Old Quito by night. I was awestruck by its brilliant and majestic architecture. Quito is filled with beautiful cathedrals and public buildings, some dating back to the 16th century, and it was the first city ever to be declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Quito has a very Parisian feel with replicas of the Notre Dame Basilica and the Arc de Triomphe gracing downtown squares, but its narrow cobblestone streets and wrought iron balconies also give Quito a distinctly Spanish feel. The cloudiness of the night added to the ambiance by shrouding the top of El Panecillo and the statue of the Virgen de Quito. Still the twinkling of the lights on the mountainside completed the scene of graceful beauty that is Quito at night.

Volunteering offers an opportunity to go beyond the superficiality of fast-paced travel. It provides the chance to delve further and begin to appreciate the richness of cultures, histories, and peoples of other lands … as does working in a childcare centre. Most of us have now worked in two or three classrooms. On the first day, I was with one of the classes of two-year-olds. On the second, I was with eight babies of 12 – 24 months. Today I think I worked with a class of 12 children. It was hard to keep track of the numbers for the blur of movement that characterizes healthy three-year-olds.

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Brushing teeth!

The children of this daycare live in a poorer neighbourhood, but this is not apparent from their appearance. The staff, all lovingly called by the Spanish title of tía or auntie, clearly love the children and are very knowledgeable. I am impressed by the good food served throughout the day as I am with the staff’s dedication to practices of hygiene. Through providing good nutrition and by teaching hand washing and oral hygiene, these children will grow into healthy adults.

I could go on to describe the many small pleasures that filled today. There are moments with small hands reaching out for comfort, big eyes and wide smiles gazing upward, and there is a demonstration of the craft of masapán (bread dough) sculpting, but I will take just a moment to describe the English class instead. As the day ends, some of the tías sit down with us to learn English. We have broken up into three groups with a more formal lesson for the first 30 minutes followed by half an hour to learn a song. The tías now know “The Hokey Pokey” and we hope to move on to “Old Macdonald” next week.

Robert helping with handwashing

Robert helping with handwashing

I am working with a lovely young woman on the English words for members of the family and on how to introduce people. We started out by using worksheets but today I pulled out my cell phone and showed her pictures of my family. My new friend reciprocated and we had a great time talking about our children, siblings, mothers, and about where they live and what they do. I find myself looking forward to our classes and in the back of my mind, I toy with the idea of teaching English as a second language.

While you may think that volunteering is about giving, it is often much more about receiving. I am learning a lot in this beautiful land of Ecuador and for this I am truly grateful.

Entry submitted by: Pam

Message of the Day – Roberto: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Mahatma Gandhi

 

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