Our scheduled plan to paint a classroom today had to be postponed as the pain had not yet arrived. (It is an oil-based paint they use and the machine to make it required repair.) So we will plan to paint later in the week. In preparation for the afternoon classroom (ecotourism), we went up to the Santa Elena Reserve (altitude 5, 000 feet) in the morning. Maggie worked hard to make the logistics work and the effort was more than worth it! To make it happen, we met at 6:00 a.m. for breakfast to take a 6:30 van to the reserve. We had a great guide, Johnny, who led us around with a telescope! He showed us indigenous and endemic birds, owls, beetles, butterflies, and tarantulas. We climbed to the top of the observatory tower for a magnificent view (too many clouds to see the five volcanoes one can occasionally view from these, but that’s why they call it the cloud forest)!
We had lunch at the school and then helped Sergio teach English to one of his ninth grade classes. The theme was modes of transportation. We broke up into small groups. Some kids spoke some English, some not at all. Like any school in existence, the students displayed varying levels of interest, engagement, and excellence. Almost all seemed to feel nervous in our presence (but it’s only our second day in the school and I think we feel nervous, too).
Justin had a great icebreaker after class with a hackey sack – over half the class spent recess playing with us. Justin seems to have already developed a great sense of commitment, involvement, and approachability. I predict his second week here without us will be quite different and even more rewarding as I almost guarantee students will find his big brother approach and charm irresistible and inspirational.
We ended our day at the Colegio with Karen and her ninth grade rural tourism classroom where the students were giving PowerPoint presentations on First Aid. First we had introductions (which lasted over 30 minutes). Then we heard two presentations. The kids presented information they had gathered on the internet (some of which they understood more or less). Their teacher explained to them in gentle, supportive, and incredibly informative ways the proper techniques in dealing with various injuries and accidents, infections, and illnesses. The emphasis in the teachings was everything a tour guide would need to get a tourist to proper medical attention in a timely fashion (i.e. basic EMT for a tourist guide). I was impressed with the fund of knowledge of the teacher and her ability to convey information to her students in a way they seemed able to accept and absorb. She is one of the most superb teachers I have had the pleasure to witness.
We met for dinner at 5:30 p.m. so we would have time to go to the snake tour and shops in town (but half the team needed to go to sleep instead). At this point in the trip I am feeling comfortable with the hotel, with the daily routine, with the food, and with my Spanish (albeit NOT fluent).
I am feeling spirited by our team leader, Maggie, as she takes care of everything for us with a smile and makes everything fun with her laughter and giggles, and inspired by our teammate, Justin. He clearly feels the commitment and devotion of serving others and I feel the world is a better place for having him in it. I know he will continue to make a difference in the world and I suspect will inspire many in his lifetime.
I must confess I am feeling homesick. We finally figured out how to use Skype to call home without phone service (thanks, Justin!). I miss my younger daughter and husband very much having never traveled without them both. But I cannot regret one moment of precious time I have with my first born, exploring the world and its vastness and strangeness and beauty together. I remain committed to our mission of serving those who have not been as fortunate as we. And when I am not sure exactly how much I am impacting, I remind myself it is not what I am doing to help others, it is that I am helping others.
Entry submitted by: Jen
Message of the Day – Justin: “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: The ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.” –Albert Schweitzer