Work, and then a night out on the town

Today is our second day. We met in the hotel dining room for breakfast at 7:15 a.m. Every day they offer bread, fruit, juice, milk, yogurt (which you drink), a warm bread item – today it was a mashed plantain ball that is fried, kind of like a hush puppy, then an egg dish. I absolutely love their coffee con leche. They bring you warm milk then you pour in a very strong coffee concentrate. I, of course, add a little sugar as well.

It is nice to be in a small group. Our morning personalities are able to be themselves and I think we all like the calm and quiet that is sometimes hard to with a large group.

This morning our conversation on the way to the center focused on sights we want to see and things we hope to buy. Maggie offered to take us to see a local lady that crafts small figurines and trinkets out of multicolored bread dough, which is then dried. We will hopefully go after work one day.

The soon-to-be sandbox area (before we began work on it)

The soon-to-be sandbox area (before we began work on it)

When we arrived at the center, there were a handful of mothers ready to work. Our task was to remove an avocado tree and sift through the existing dirt to remove any large rocks or chunks of cinder block. All this was done by sheer manpower and a few hand tools. May I add I cut down the tree myself with a rusty ol’ handsaw. All the moms lured up and yanked out the whole tree with a rope. In the U.S. we would’ve tied a tow strap to a truck. Here they use the might of five young mothers and a few crazy gringos. This work went on until noon.

Pulling out the fruitless avocado tree

Pulling out the fruitless avocado tree

While waiting for lunch, I went upstairs to help feed the babies. I think there were 22 kids in high chairs lining the perimeter of the room. Here is where the tías’ super powers kick in. Many of these babies feed themselves, but the tías seem to have a “feeding super power”. They get these tiny kids to eat every last bit of fruit and soup – something I struggle to get them to do, to put it mildly. In addition to fresh fruit snacks and meals, every child gets colada in the afternoon. This is a nutritional supplement drink that is subsidized by the government. Let’s just say it is less than tasty – but it’s good for them.

Jenn and Darrell have been working downstairs with the tías who have two or three-year-olds and these tías have lesson plans which we have been helping them prep for each day, along with singing songs, coloring, and taking potty breaks.

At lunch Maggie brought us tilapia from a local café and Fiora Vanti Fresa (strawberry pop!). The food has been amazing and plentiful. There is no concern that any of us is going hungry.

After lunch there were no parents to partner with to continue our work on the sandbox so we assisted Katy with some of her class prep and organized an unused classroom to get it ready for use.

Our day wraps up around 4:00 to 4:30 when the parents come to pick up their kids. They parents stand at the locked date and ring the bell. Tía Lorena yells down from the second floor window, “¿Quién?” (Who?) and the parent responds. The tías call out to each other throughout the building. Then they bring the child out front to the parent. Those tías, even the new ones, run like a well-oiled machine. Oh and I should mention, they change, clean, and primp each child to look as pristine as possible for pick up. No snotty, dirty faces. What a great idea.

On our way home we were planning requests and questions for our night ahead. Richard is a local tour guide whom we met and hired to take myself, Jenn, and Darrell on a night tour of Quito Old Town. Jennifer, of course, had the most questions planned.

Richard picked us up at 6 p.m. We headed straight to Panecillo, a large hill overlooking Old Town where there is the statue of a winged virgin facing north. It is absolutely amazing. I really wish I would have been there during the day. “Breathtaking” does not even describe it. Richard is like a walking encyclopedia. Jenn loved every bit of his stories. I preferred just seeing the architecture and people of Old Town. We continued to the area called La Ronda where there are narrow cobblestone streets full of shops and restaurants. We picked a little café and tried the traditional beverage canelazo and a few types of empanadas. Both were fabulous. But Sally-Pants beware, canelazo is not for the timid nor anyone under 21, nor with a heart condition.

San Francisco Convent in Old Town

San Francisco Convent in Old Town

We wandered the streets for a bit and saw many churches, convents, and governmental and political buildings. Richard knew every single one. The main square of Quito’s Old Town is a beautiful place surrounded by the presidential palace, the Cathedral, the archbishop’s palace, and city hall. You definitely can tell you are not in the States anymore. Although it was night and there are many others around, you could tell it was a very busy place during the day – full of energy. Oh and they have free Wi-Fi.

Drinking canelazo with Richard - yum!

Drinking canelazo with Richard – yum!

We were out and about for a good three hours. I think we all learned a little and I can confirm we laughed a lot! All in all, it was a great night and pretty darn cultural as well. Richard is and will be a great part of this trip (thanks, Maggie) and my Global Volunteers teammates aren’t too shabby, either.

Entry submitted by: Missy

Message for the Day – Missy: “To give pleasure to a single heart by a single act is better than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.” – Mahatma Gandhi

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