Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Last Farm

Merry Christmas! What a good day this has been, full of family, love, and Wii.

I watched a short film the other day called The Last Farm. Over the past year or so, I have come to passionately adore short films. I love the variations that they come in whether it be adorable, profound, dark, inspiring, comical, or just weird. The Last Farm is about an aging man who has lost his wife and is coming to terms with the fact that life as he has always known it is coming to an end. The film is sad, but usually the things that are the most profound to me in any artistic setting are the things that are painful. I think it is because it's in moments of pain when we become more aware of what is important and who we are. These moments also bring opportunities for empathy, something I think the world could use a little more of.

It's seventeen minutes long and I know that anyone reading this probably doesn't have the time to watch. But, if you are going to watch anything, skip to 11:08. It is such a beautiful scene. I wish more people loved each other the way this man loved his wife. I don't think I could ask for anything more than to someday love and be loved in such a way.
- Erin

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

These Small Hours

I haven't written in a very long time. I realize that I never really wrote a concluding entry about Ecuador, which was my main motivation to starting this in the first place. I figured I had better do so before I move on to other things. I guess my goal when I posted this blog last December was to fill it with things that I love. I feel as though, up to this point, I have succeeded to do so. In the end, even if no one ever reads this, I will hopefully have compiled a site full of sincerity and loveliness and that will be enough for me. Ecuador seems like a very long time ago. The complicated and tiring days I have from time to time make me miss it so much and wish I could go back. Enough time has passed that I have been able to see the impact that the experience has had on my life and every time I think about it, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the brief opportunity I had to live there.

When I finally landed in the United States after my experience in Ecuador, the Rob Thomas song "Little Wonders" was playing throughout the plane as everyone filed out. I think that the song beautifully summarizes everything Ecuador was for me.

Our lives are made in these small hours
These little wonders, these twists and turns of fate.
Time falls away, but these small hours,
These small hours still remain.
-Rob Thomas


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

10 Reasons Why I Should Not Start Blogging Again:

1. I have no time. I already go to bed way too late and get up way too early.

2. I rarely do anything consistently.

3. I have certain reservations about exploiting my thoughts via internet.

4. I would have to be able to articulate my cognitive processes with a little more clarity if I were to take them out of my head and put them in words. It's exhausting just to think about.

5. I would have to have enough cognitive processes to have something significant to write about in the first place.

6. I already spend hours on my computer every, single day. It's getting tired of me.

7. A blog will take away from other important things I should be sleeping over a text book in the library or skyping with my sister who lives down the street.

8. I will become meticulously involved with it for a period of time and it will stress me out.

9. I will start my writing aiming for profundity and end up with something rather putrescent and then be sorely disappointed.

10. I can't think of another one right now. But I'm sure it will soon be uncovered.

Here I go, regardless...


Friday, March 5, 2010

One man's trash

What a great couple of weeks it has been. I have been so busy and loving every moment. I ate a guinea pig. They are considered a delicacy here and our Spanish teacher took us out to experience it. I am going to feel so guilty the next time I encounter a furry, rodent-sized house pet. It was served with its head and claws and was very salty and chewy. Poor little suckers.

Yesterday, I went zip-lining through the canopy! It was probably the coolest thing I've ever done. It was a beautiful, foggy day and we were up so high. I loved it.

Today, during my shift at the orphanage I was holding a 13-year-old handicapped girl named Maria Jose. She is blind and mostly deaf. She can't walk or communicate and she is the size of a small child. She has a feeding tube and is very fragile. I've never been able to spend much time with her because the workers are very protective of her. I decided to take her over to the playground and swing with her. The moment my feet propelled us forward, her eyes widened and suddenly she was laughing. She laughed and laughed and blinked her eyes. I did not even know she could laugh until that moment. The next thing I knew, I was in tears. I guess it was just such a relief to know that she could experience such joy and does not have to go through life without recognizing it. I realized that everything is relative. Many of us see that happiness is acquired through progression. We want to get a degree, we want to get married, we work our way up the career ladder, we have kids. But the kids I work with here will never have that. But they still get up and they still smile. For the rest of us, it takes an expensive gift, a wedding, a new baby, a pay raise for us to experience the amount of jubilee that I saw on Maria's face today. All it took was the wind on her face. Even if I tried, that swing could not make me as happy as it made her and in that sense, I am the one who is handicapped. I am desensitized to the simple beauties of the world around me whereas she can truly appreciate it. She loved swinging and I loved watching her love it. Some moments just change your life.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

A little bit scared.

I find it ironic that people commented on my last post and said that I am brave because I am currently too scared to sleep. A girl came into my room and told me that her bed is infested with fleas and she can see them jumping. She laid in bed for twenty minutes before she realized they were biting her. My first instinct was to tell her "get out of here right now before you infest my room." But I realized that was not the best thing to say to a flea-bitten friend and I tried to be as sympathetic as I could in the least amount of time. Soon I was itchy all over and I was just imagining the little fleas feasting on me and now, sleep is not an option. On top of that, I made a dumb mistake and let my roommate take some of my melatonin. Melatonin gives a lot of people, myself included, very vivid, violent dreams. This roommate talks and walks in her sleep EVERY, SINGLE night. Now I'm afraid I'm going to be the victim of some unconscious act of violence. It sounds dumb, I know. But I really did consider tying her to her bed before my attempt to sleep.

I want to write about a four-year-old named Junior. Junior is the most interesting little guy I've ever met. One minute he bites and hits and spits and the next minute he wants to be on my lap singing "sunshine." He loves that song. Junior has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and its painful for me to imagine how he is going to struggle in the years to come. I love him so much, even when he hits me in the face and throws the soap bars in the toilet. I have been reading up about FAS and I've learned that those who suffer from it struggle with cause and effect awareness...which is Junior exactly. He does things that he knows he shouldn't do and he realizes how bad they are AFTER he does them. Many times he will break something or hit someone and then begin to cry hysterically because he knows he will be punished. In accordance with Freud, his Superego and his Id are not in balance. His conscience, keeping him from impulsive behavior, is not as strong as it should be at his age. It will probably be something with which he always struggle. Junior has a lot of meltdowns but on the other side, he can be the most hilarious kid. He loves to show off which leads to fast babbling and odd facial expressions that always make me laugh.

Funny story: To get Junior and Santi to eat, we always pretend there are caballos (horses) in their bowls. They love caballos and apparently they love to eat them. The other day Santi came running up to me and told me he had eaten ALL of his caballos. I praised him thoroughly. Santi then pointed at his stomach and, with a huge smile of his face said, "estan llorando." (They're crying)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Swingsets and Stitches

The other day I was working in a very poor daycare center called Trini. The kids come from extremely poor families and have parents who work all day. I was helping some kids brush their teeth outside when I saw Justin crawling on the ground. He was not paying attention and didn't realize that he had just crawled directly into the path of an oncoming metal swing. It was one of those moments where one realizes what is going to happen and has absolutely no power to do anything before disaster strikes. The corner of the swing hit him in the middle of the forehead and left a hole in his head. It was awful. Blood, blood, blood. One of the workers grabbed a towel off the ground and tried to wipe it off but I told her no. The towel was absolutely filthy. We used a few napkins to put pressure on it. It was a scary moment, being on the side of a mountain in the middle of no where with blood pooring out of a kid's head. No one knew what they were doing. Luckily, our bus driver was waiting for us. I picked Justin up and got on the bus and told the driver we needed a doctor. One of the workers came and drove to a little clinic. I was so glad that I had gotten my vaccinations. While in the waiting room, I was sitting next to a woman that looked like she had something growing on her face. Justin was very brave. He had to get stitches but is doing fine now. Never a dull day.

Monday, February 8, 2010

"Crema para sus camas"

Two days ago, I was taking a much needed nap and I had a dream about Ramon. Ramon is one of the kids that lives in Los Pequenitos. He has been in a wheelchair his entire life and has they best laugh I have ever heard. I cannot help but crack up with him because when he laughs, he does a thorough job of it. I dreamed that a bunch of the volunteers and I were taking him somewhere when our car broke down. We began to walk down the interstate and I was supporting Ramon who had begun to walk but was very unsteady. We got to a rickety bridge that we had to cross but our weight made it sway back and forth. I could barely stand on it and I had to lean onto Ramon to keep my balance. Suddenly, I was just as in need as he was and we were supporting each other as we crossed the bridge. He was looking at me and laughing the entire way. I have never really been one to look for a significant interpretation of my dreams. But this one really meant something to me. Whether it was sent as a sign of some kind, or just my brain sorting out my thoughts, it made clear to me the process that is taking place here. I need these kids just as much as they need me. They don't have their own agendas, they don't pressure or push, and they don't even know what it means to be selfish. What they have offered me is love in its purest form and that is so rare to find.

Funny story: Yesterday I gave some of the kids lotion for their hands. Sometimes they try to eat it so I told them "Solo para tus manos y tus caras." (only for your hands and your faces.) Except I accidentally said "cama" which is beds. I realized I had said something wrong because the kids' faces lit up with joy at the idea of such a ridiculous notion. They started to squeal, "Crema para nuestras camas?!?!?" (Lotion for our beds!?!?) They started to run for their rooms and I quickly corrected myself.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

"All things through thee take nobler form..."

I have been so, so sick. There is a really nasty virus going through the house and am glad to finally be through the worst of it. It was the first time that I wished I was home. It's hard to be that sick and be in a foreign place.

Tonight, I think I will write about Dilan. Dilan is a boy that I work with in Casas and he is absolutely darling. He is a very independent little guy and his favorite words are "ciao" and "gato." He is much smaller than most of the other kids he lives with and somedays he just has a tough time. The other day he was just standing in his room, crying endlessly. It was bedtime, so the situation was already stressful and I was on the verge of freaking out. Without explanation, I stopped what I was doing and watched the big tears roll down his cheeks. Suddenly could not keep myself from picking him up and hugging him as tight as I could. Dilan's mother recently passed away after losing a battle with cancer and his father is in prison. He laid his head on my shoulder and I sang him a song. He calmed down and was unusually still. It was just for a moment, but for that moment, he was secure and comforted. It was a moment when he didn't need to cry or fight for what he needed. I wished so badly that I had the time and the resources to always be there, every single moment, for all of the kids. I want to give them the consistency and companionship that they deserve. But I am just one person and for now, I can only give them small moments. It's bittersweet.

Something else I wanted to write about. I have watched two kiddos in the past few weeks meet their new parents for the first time. These people come to the orphanage offering their love and their lives to these kids that so desperately need it. When I watch these adoptive mothers with their sons, I can't help but wish it was me taking one of these children home with me. It's a feeling I have never experienced before and I know that I want it to be me someday, to take a child out of a horrible situation and give them stability. Its not a juvenile or fleeting feeling that will fade with the passing of time. I know I want to do this. It is a goal I have set for myself and I cannot wait for the day I can make it happen.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Arroz con leche, me quirro casar...

Interesting things that happened today:

1. Bought carbonated water...interesting.

2. My roommate just walked in with the biggest carrot I've ever seen.

3. I successfully made my first breakfast casserole and ate it for lunch and dinner.

4. I taught Santi the "spiderman song." He has a spiderman hat and shirt. Spiderman, spiderman does whatever a spider can...

5. Had dinner with eight two-year-olds, put them in pjs, brushed their teeth, sang them songs, put them to bed. Whew.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

People are actually reading this!?

It makes me so happy to find out that there are a few out there following this! Many thanks for your support!

Today was my assigned picture day at Cunas (the baby orphanage). It was fun. The kids are fascinated by the camera and like to see pictures of themselves. They are all so darling, even though they bite each other. There is one girl named Anna Cristina who bites more than any child I've ever been around. She is known for it. We can usually catch her before she actually bites because all the other kids know what she is going to do and they start screaming in terror. Time out for the kids is going to their cuna (crib) but she loves her cuna. All of her little deeds are done with an irresistible smile.

Something else about Cunas: all of the kids here wear cloth diapers. Joy. It saves money but they are very troublesome. I'm getting pretty good at tying them though. I really hope this is a skill that I will only need for the next two months.

Also, I wanted to write tonight about Diana. Diana is a twenty seven year old woman who lives in the special needs home called Esperanza (hope). She has a degenerative disease (of which I cannot remember the name) but basically her mind is deteriorating more and more as time goes on and it breaks my heart. Her mother passed away a few years ago from the same condition. Before her disease, she was in a perfectly normal state and now she cannot walk or communicate much. But she can smile. I love her smile. She has become very childlike. She loves it when I do her hair and loves to give me kisses. I often find myself thinking about her throughout the day. I think about what little control we actually have over our lives. Diana makes me want to be better. She helps me realize that I need to learn to be happy and not to worry so much. I found a photo album in her closet and after she was ready for bed, I looked through it with her. She grinned and pointed and laughed. There were pictures of her as a child with her twin sister (who does not have this disease). It made me happy and sad.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bad food :(

There are about seven girls in our group that have been throwing up for the past two days.:( I was very sympathetic but very glad it wasn't me until last night when I, too was throwing up. Ah. We still aren't quite sure what it was. But I'm feeling a bit better now. Other than that, things are going great. We get our assignments next week which means that I will be assigned to one group of kids that I will take care of everyday instead of rotating around the different orphanages. It will be nice to have consistency with the kids.

I just have to write about my roommate, Kristina because I love her so much. She is from Denmark so she has been having to make an even bigger adjustment than the rest of us. But she is always very positive and is probably the sweetest person I've ever met. Also, she laughs really hard at my jokes, which is nice. :) She doesn't speak any Spanish so she has been trying really hard to learn. The other day, she was trying to get three boys to use the bathroom before bed. She took them into the bathroom, pointed at the toilet and said "beso." The boys just started laughing at her and she became a little frustrated that they weren't listening. She continued to point at the toilet and say beso, beso, beso. The boys just laughed and laughed. She soon realized that the word she should have been using was bano and that she had been telling them to kiss the toilet. It's a good thing they aren't always obedient.

Interesting things that have happened:
1. I've realized that I love fried bananas.
2. The kids at Los Pequeñitos love to listen to Michael Jackson and one of the workers there asked me to explain what "beat it" means.
3. I was very startled by a man in a mask while eating in a restaurant.
4. My toothbrush fell in the toilet :(
5. The kids love it when I rock them while singing "You are my Sunshine." It makes them happy when skies are grey. When they want me to sing it, they run up to me and say "soy tu bebe" which means, "I'm you're baby."

- Erin

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Te Amo

What a good day. Seriously. I am completely exhausted. We have been working in the orphanages for nine hours every day. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I put the kids in their pajamas at the end of the day and I return the next morning to help them get dressed. There is one little boy that I am madly in love with. His name is Santi. He is three years old and has the sweetest little smile. He loves to sing a song called “te amo” (I love you). He has had a hard time remembering my name until today. I was helping some other kids into their pjs when I heard a little voice yelling “ERIN! ERIN!” He was looking through the gate on the porch calling for me. My heart has never melted faster. When I was leaving, he sat up in his bed and asked if I was coming back tomorrow. Best feeling ever.
Interesting things that happened today:

1.I also worked in a home for handicapped teenagers today. I’ve been there several times now and I really like it. There is one boy named Louis who is autistic and he always pushes me. Today I pushed him back to see what would happen and he laughed. Later, he grabbed me and kissed my cheek. Also, I had to stop him from throwing away the remote control. He does that a lot.

2.I found out that although Ecuador uses the US dollar, they use 50 cent pieces. Huh.

3.Every night there are star wars-like shooting noises outside my window. Still haven’t figured out what it is.

4.I was considering brushing my teeth with the tap water. We aren’t supposed to drink it but I didn’t know if it was safe to brush with. I asked a fellow volunteer and she said it should be ok because the parasites on your toothbrush will die after eight hours. I don’t think I need to say what my decision was.

5.At the handicapped home, I noticed a big painting on the wall of Christ with some children. I looked closer and realized the kids in the painting were the kids in the home with whom I was working.

6.There are bed bugs here. I am tempted to wear my footie pajamas every night.

7.My roommate is from Denmark and she taught me how to say hello in Danish…hi.

8.I ate monkey brains for breakfast. It’s a yummy fruit.

9.Taxi drivers get mad when you don’t pay them what they want.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A New Year!

Happy New Year! What a crazy year it is so far! It has not been anything like last year, or any year of my life, actually. But I am so glad. I have to say that 2009 was, by far, the worst year of my life and I am happy to step aside and let 2010 sweep in.

Today was the first day in the orphanages and it was quite an experience. The kiddos were great, but I’m not going to lie and say that the day was sugar and spice and everything nice. The orphanages are short staffed which means that they rely on the volunteers just to function. We are not just playing games and braiding hair. We are brushing teeth, changing diapers, potty training, bathing, dressing, breaking up fights…the list goes on and on. I am exhausted. I have been kicked and spit on and told “no” more than I can count. But over the course of the day there were quiet moments with the kids that made it worth it, like when one little girl “Veronica” could not believe that my eyes were real. She stared and stared and when I spoke to her she couldn’t believe I had blue eyes AND could speak Spanish.

A list of things that happened today which stand out to me:

1.I rode in a taxi to get to one of orphanages and quite nearly peed myself out of fear. (The drivers son locos aqui.)

2.The looks on the kids faces when they realized I could understand what they were saying.

3.A four year old named Junior who kicked and screamed when anyone came near but finally warmed up and wanted to sit on my lap and be “mi bebe” for the rest of the day.

4.I told a five year old girl “Andréa” que su pelo es bonito (she has pretty hair). She responded with “tu pelo es feo porque tu pelo es morado” (you have ugly hair because your hair is purple). ;) I told her my little sister’s name is Andrea as well. She liked that.

5.Looking down and seeing my “love life, be brave” ring from Kristen. Love it.

- Erin