Visiting a home in Calderón, Ecuador

So it was kind of a sleepless night for some of us. The hotel had painters working till the wee hours of the morning. In general the city of Quito is fully of city noises, but the painters were an addition. We were told this was a rarity and they would not be working late again. I consider this a small reminder that we are not in the U.S. and things that we see as a problem can be seen in a different way. The hotel thought it would be less bothersome to have them paint throughout the night than to have them there more days. Unlike us Americans, they are used to more noises at night. Anyways, everything was resolved.

Breakfast was great as usual. We basically are offered the same things each day, but the type of things vary (apple versus strawberry/croissant versus roll). After breakfast we always read the message of the day and the previous day’s journal. It’s interesting to hear the things that stand out in other people’s minds. Then we are off to the center.

Today the maestro, Darrell (the apprentice), and a few parent volunteers finished the top portion of the cinder block wall in the morning. Jenn and I found some menial tasks to do outside then come in to spend some time with the kids. I believe dancing and singing were part of morning kid events. It is not uncommon for children to break free of their classrooms and go running outside to the play area. The perimeter of the center is walled with locked gates so they can’t get very far, but it is quite comical to be working outside on the sandbox and see a little face peeking at you around the corner or one sole child swinging on the swing set. Those little mischievous faces can be recognized in any country.


Almost done with the walls!


Happy faces at recess

With the walls now complete it was time to install the pavers. Half of the area will be a sandbox, the other will house a plastic playhouse that was donated to the center. Other details of the project like a roof, painting, the actual sand that is needed are still being working out (yes, we are on day 7 of a 10-day project). This is when we all try very to execute patience. Things do not work the same as in the United States. Resources are scarce, labor is questionable, and we are all building something we have never done before. We as Global Volunteers need to remind ourselves that we are here to help them get things done on ‘their terms’, not to do things our way for them. This may be seen as less efficient, but this is the way of the program. Maggie does a great job in translating to us what is going on, what we are waiting for, and explaining the everchanging timeline. At least for me, this helps calms my anxiousness. Anyway, back to work. The area was leveled and we (the maestro, the volunteers, and the parents) began to lay the pavers. We worked on this until about 4 p.m.


Moving pavers

With each Global Volunteers group Germania and Maggie arrange a home visit for the volunteers. This is where we go to the home of one of the children to see their living situation and have a chance to chat with the parent/parents. Today we went to Mitchell’s house. His mother, Jenny, came to pick him up at 4 p.m. and the four of us (Missy, Jenn, Darrell, and Maggie) walked with her to her home. This walk took 20 – 25 minutes. She carried two-year-old Mitchell almost the whole way. The walk revealed many run down old buildings, over grown lots, and minimal local businesses. We came to Jenny’s development, which had a large metal gate at the front, simulating an entrance to a neighborhood. Behind this gate was an area that was spare and cluttered all at the same time. Jenny told us there were seven homes in her area and that she liked her neighbors. There isn’t grass or walkways, just dirt. The homes are roughed in concrete structures, sometimes with interior bathrooms, sometimes with exterior ones. There was a community volleyball court (they play three on three here). The father of Jenny’s children told us there was an upcoming tournament that they all bet on the games for entertainment. Dogs and chickens/roosters roam free and the roosters are used for cock fighting. President Correa has outlawed such activities, but, like many other laws, it goes unenforced. We chatted with Jenni, significant other, and her older son, Joel, for quite some time. Michel was there, too, but he is only two years old. They shared their story on how they came to be living in Calderón and the struggles they face to get Joel to school (school and public transportation is not close to their home and the closest school denied Joel’s application). Jenny works full time and an extra 15 hours every other week in a factory. It’s a 35-minute walk one way and sometimes she sneaks baby Michel in with her. Their home was dark, damp, and dirty. BUT they seem to be living “ok” of their rough and minimal surroundings. What really struck me was how gracious, kind, and sincere these people are. When we left, they thanked us for coming and welcomed us back at anytime. Maggie gave us the heads up that they may say “Please excuse my poverty” and they did. How unbelievably humble. It really makes you think about the lifestyle you live and the things you worry and complain about.

Basilica from Café Mosaico

The Basilica in Old Town as seen from the restaurant

Our ride home gave me (us?) some time to decompress – yes, I cried a little. But we did have a nice group dinner to look forward to. Tonight Maggie is taking us to another fabulous restaurant with a view of the city. They serve Greek/Ecuadorian/American food – this should be interesting.

Entry submitted by: Missy

Message for the Day – Jenn: “I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy.”  – Kahlil Gibran

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