Here are the thoughts of Joanna nee Lake as she spends time in Ecuador, and beyond... Disciple, Fairtrade Freak, Psychologist in the making. Now part of the Blundell Jones clan.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

and now I'm back (in Remar)

so yes, i'm back in Remar... Mon I went in but left at 12, tuesday i went in and left at 3... the troubles tend only to be in the afternoon now - when i left on thursday just after 3, i literally had to walk right through a load of students branishing sticks and stones (they looked soooo young!!!), they managed to stop a bus, i'm not sure what their intention was, just being generally disorderly i think!! needless to say when i came across them, my heart skipped a beat, but they weren't interested in me and i just walked right on by - one guy actually had let his stone slip and was scrablling around near my feet trying to pick it up in the chaos as i passed!! Lost souls really, it all seemed abit pointless what they were doing! Told Bev about it yesterday and she was very upset to have missed it!!! She's left Remar, through no fault of her own and is looking for a placement elsewhere with a new mentor... which is a real shame, i was really looking forward to working with her!! but we'll still see each other and will have a laugh when we do!

so this week in Remar... to be honest Mon was rubbish!!! I felt rubbish!!! Communicating felt so hard, i didn't seem to understand much - i was in helping in the kitchen... the work itself was fine - washing up, sweeping, cleaning, throwing out rotten veg (they get it all donated, so the good comes with the bad - some of it was really mingin!!! furry! and squishy!! urghhh!! hee hee...), got to know the names of some of the slighter older girls but communicating was hard!!... then from tues to fri i've pretty much been singlehandedly overseeing the card-making.... Maria came on tuesday and started it off with me and Bev - the girls really took to it, they picked it up really quickly and were really enthusiastic about it...I've taken some photos and when i've worked out how to get them on a disc (and getting the gutts to speak it all in spanish in a photo store), and then onto this blog, you'll be able to see the first morning!! 6 girls were with us on tues, though yesterday i just had 4. We finally managed to complete the order that people made at the 'church lunch' i went to last saturday, so hopefully the customers will be pleased with their purchases on sunday... they're not perfect but they're really good!

It's really good working with the older girls (adolesents... they actually live in La casa de Madres - Mums house), though i miss working with the littler ones! Find it quite frustrating though with my language, i can tell them what to do (just!) but having conversations, and trying to understand theirs is alot harder!!! And keeping them motivated and upbeat, encouraging them, is hard too, though by far the worst thing is telling them they've done it wrong! I probably sound really harsh with my limited spanish!!

Thursday afternoon was completely mental!!! I had the older girls just about to start on a new card, and Titiana wanted me to teach some of the younger girls to make cards too - it started off just about ok.. until more of the older kids came and wanted to learn, and i needed to go and get my id card (for which i ended up having to wait for and hour and a quarter!!!) - since i have only one mouth, 2 eyes and 2 hands - it was impossible to give the attention needed to all (the younger girls specially needed more encouragement and supervision!) - needless to say i felt fair exhausted when i left!!!

I think my main role here in a sense is pastoral, for example, the other day one of the older girls i'm workin with was looking really upset, so i just sat down beside her on the grass and asked what was up - although i couldn't understand all that she said, i could give her a hug, and could just be there, which she appreciated. This is where the language is so frustrating!!! Do you remember i hoped that i would be able to work alongside a psychologist? well there is one here.... but i've realised that i couldn't actually do anything because i don't understand what the kids are saying - this week there was a girl from the university who is a psych student, Esteban (the headmaster of the school) introduced her to the girls whilst we were making cards, and one said i need to talk to a psychologist... so the girl said she could talk with her - to be honest i was jealous!!! - i want to be able to do that - but i lack in language, and in training! but i know i'm here for a reason, so i'll just do what i can!!

other stuff - spent mon afternoon making christmas cookies with Paquita, which was good fun! they're having a family cantata (christmas singsong) and the cookies are presents for everyone there (yesterday paquita and armando were packaging them up in little baskets with sweeties with coloured tissue paper and cellophane, 30 in all) - unfortunately i can't go coz i've got one of my concerts!! sniff sniff! but there's another one a little later with their friends that i can go to! thinking of the pastry theme, Bev, Dave (another strider, he's been here a year already and is now based in ambato- 3hrs south of quito.. i think) and i went for a coffee after our team meeting, i had the most delicious chocolate cookie, it just melted in my mouth...umm, umm, umm, um, um!!! and a delic hot choc, slightly fudgy!!! yummy!!! had some terrific thunderstorms this week, got woken up at 4,30am the other day with a realy bad one! but generally they're in the afternoons! the other day i got caught out, we'd had several days of really great weather, no rain, so i didn't take my brolly!! luckily i don't live too far from the trole stop (like 2mins) but i got soaked!!! when it rains, it REALLY rains!!! well it's about time i get to replying to some emails!! hope you find my news interesting, don't forgot to let me know yours!!! oo this week think i'm singing a song in the school christmas 'show'... hmmm... gonna try and sing 'come and go with me' in spanish acapella!!! hmmm.... :)
oodles of love until next time! xxx

Saturday, November 20, 2004

a bit of culture

hello everyone!!

first let me just say thanx so much for all your emails... i'm doing my best to reply to you all coz i value you all a lot!! i'm sorry that when i do reply my emails are soo short, it's impossible to write loads to each of you!! hope you understand!!

so this week... hmmm... not been to Remar once! not been in for over a week now and really don't know if i'll be able to go in on monday! although i've not found Remar easy (knowing what am i actually meant to be doing) i'd prefer to be there than not, as that's what i'm here for!!!! The problem is that the students in the university are demonstrating against the goverment, there are people vehemently for the president and people vehemently against... when students demonstrate it involves rock throwing at police and the police retaliating with tear gas, so it's not very safe to be there at the mo! it's disappointing but there's nowt Bev and i can do except pray! for abit more info on the political situ, check out these links from the dear old Beeb:

so as i haven't much news from Remar, i thought i'd tell you lots of little random bits about life here...

Seeing TV being made - mon to thursday bev and i spent with Maria working on more designs for the card making business (hopefully we start 'teaching' the girls on tues) in her office at Asomavision. Asomavision is a Christian TV station, and Maria and her hubby are the head techincal engineering people. So whilst we were there this week we got to listen in on some programmes being recorded - one seemed abit like an Ecuadorian version of Richard and Judy!! They have alsorts of programmes, not all made by them - some are taken from other countries - whilst watching the other day they had an advice session with some counsellors, they also do cooking programmes, make-up, fashion, kids stuff, womens programmes, alsorts! though i've not actually seen any of it on the TV yet... i tend to watch 'trashy' novelas (soaps)...

Food - food has been fine so far... for those of you that know what my stomach's like (nuff said!!) it's been a relief to find out they don't do spicy food here like the mexicans!!! Well they do do it, but you can chose to put the chilli sauce on!! My Ecua-mum is a very good cook... generally in the evening we have homemade soup of various kinds (last night, bit o meat with chocra - bit like our sweetcorn only less sweet, and other veg) which sometimes is eaten with canguil (popcorn - obviously the un-toffeed variety). this is followed by meat of some sort with rice (mostly) or potatoes with menestra (lentil stew) or other veg. what is really great here is the FRESHLY made fruit juices (with many fruits you've never seen before in your life!) which have no artifical additives, it's just the fruit pulp, water and some sugar (so prob not that good for your teeth - oo thinking of teeth, they drink alot of fizzy drinks here!!) Paquita makes them not daily but very often - today we've had strawberry (m m mmmm). I think my favourite so far was Badea, which to me tastes abit like passionfruit/guava. I really wish fruit was as cheap here as in england, i'd love to make my own juices!!

generally we eat out for lunch - this week whilst at Asoma, we've eaten at the nearest place which is a chinese! different taste to english chinese or to what i cool but it's really good value for money, though i can NEVER eat all they give me... yesterday i had deliciously fried chicken, rice, chips, wee salad and fruit juice for $3, about 1.50!!!! the other day we had a bit of orientation in the old part of town and got lunch for $1.25!!! about 70p!! crazy!! fried chicken places are very popular here, as i remember they were in Guatemala, and joey there are Camperos here (remember my 'green' incident!)... lots of places too that sell the traditional soup, then meat, menestra and rice, as well as McDs (which i've steered clear of, and shan't eat!! though i have to eat nestle!!! arghh, so hard!!), pizza hut and KFC, and almost everything whenever you are comes with 'cola' (fizz).

Weather - the highest it's been is 27 oC and the lowest (that i've noticed) 9 oC - i can't believe there's been snow in sheffield and elsewhere in england this week!! i can't imagine it!! It's generally in the early 20's, though there's usually a thunder storm in the afternoon and then it can get really quite cold! But on the whole this temp suits me just fine! It's generally sunny but also prone to being overcast so i have to put on my sun-tan lotion, don't want to get burnt - i'd stand out even more then!!!

Church - only been to one church, that's the one my ecua-parents go to, and also my mentor... Bev's family are catholic so she doesn't go to church with them, but has found a pentecostal stylee like she's used to... so i've been going to Siloe, its evangelical erring more to the baptist side - it's very different to what i'm used to - stopping between each of the songs for a little word or expounding of the lyrics, very different style too, not like our old gareth or paul at stthom's... before the service, there's a bible study class, one for each of the different groups in the church - i went to the jovenes one for the first time last sunday ('youth' - ages ranging from 16 up to 30+ i think) which was good, i managed to follow it better than the talk in the service - because people can butt in a say what they think, say what they understand, which means it's easier to maintain concerntration than when it's one guy!! I think i'm gonna stick with it and get to know the people there...

Family culture- one thing i've learnt is the importance of family here - generally families live close together, and are big (Paquita one of 8, though my generation the families are smaller). Maria said she didn't know how an ecuadorian would cope if they didn't have a family. Families are the key, ecuadorians tend to have fewer friends than we have in england because they are so much closer to their families - infact each sat or sun, most 'children' will return to visit their parents for the afternoon/evening.

so i think that's about it for now, no other news, the choir is going well, starting to make 'friends' with some of my fellow choir members, the songs are going well i think but the pronunication of words can be a prob sometimes!! haven't got the hang of the national anthem yet though (it's very hard when we just sing it through once in a week, coz obviously 'everyone' esle knows it!!!)... hope you're all well, keep in touch with news from old blighty or the part of the world you're in! love jo xxx

p.s. ooo bro, i've done what you said and bought myself a less gringo bag (2 squid- traditional sort of bag, think Toybox stuff)!!! i also bought a very exciting rainbowry jumpery thing for 5 squid. xx

Saturday, November 13, 2004

oops! I hadn't finished!

Oops, published it by accident, still have more to say!!!
So this week with the kids... it's been good but have got frustrated with not being able to understand what they say and not being able to say what i want. they're great kids, really affectionate but also really aggressive (fighting a lot),i hope that when my spanish is better i'll be able to help them treat each other better! Spent my mornings with the second graders (about 8years old), helping them with their work. We've been doing the syllables ma, me, mi, mo, mu, and abit of numeracy. I think they need a lot of encouragment, and they find it really hard to concerntrate, and it seems to me (though i can't realy remember what i did at their age) that what they do is rather simple. but then i remember that these kids haven't had the opportunities like you or i, they've come from awful situations, so it's not surprizing they find studying difficult! little Israel, bless him, was nearly falling asleep!

my afternoons are unstructured, i'm meant to help with homework but as it usually rains in the afternoons, the kids can't be outside, so everyone is in the dining room which means it's very hard for those with homework to concerntrate on it!! Then i usually end up sitting there, kids being mental all around me! playing with them (which usually involves them draping themselves off you, playing with your hair) and sorting out arguments! (well with my limited spanish i can't really sort them out but just tell them to stop it!) Because it involves a lot of initiative taking and as i'm not very confident with speaking, i find the afternoons more difficult!!

as of this week we're having bible club twice, tuesdays for 4th/5th graders, thursdays for 2nd/3rd graders... maria hopes that Bev and I will run the tuesday one...she actually asked if i could do it next week but i declined!! though i think she'll have me doing it the week after!! aaahhhh!!! my spanish isn't that good, i'm so slow at speaking, but as she said, sometimes we need something like that to force us to take the next step! scary!!
one cool moment was when after bible class on thursday, Maribel (in my 2nd grader class) asked me to tell her stories about Jesus, the only problem was, a) i'm not that good at telling stories,and b) and couldn't think of anything in spanish, so ended up just singing a song we'd sung that day!

oo yeah the card'making business... it's an idea of Maria's... to give the older girls a skill and help them to earn some money... we spent wednesday trying to come up with design ideas but ended up thoroughly dejected and frustrated and downhearted! but yesterday as i couldn't go to Remar, i met up with Maria and we had another go... and this time it was really good, i really enjoyed it.. we think we've come up with some sellable designs using various techniques which we're going to teach the girls... i hope that one day they'll be able to come up with the designs themselves! so its really exciting!!

other randomn stuff to tell you.... Bev and i have come up with a great game that we play as we walk around, it's called 'Spot the Gringo' (Gringo being the name for americans, english etc), it provides us with quite abit of amusement!!! hee hee... one thing i hate it that "everyone" stares at me, with my whiter than white skin, and some make lude comments - sometimes i wish i could change my skin/hair colour and fit in. Bev's ok coz she's black and there are plenty of black ecuadorians - she says it's only when she opens her mouth that people realise she's gringo!!! n'vr mind, most people are lovely!!

oo big news, i've joined a choir!!! Quito celebrates it's independence at the beginning of december, and as part of the celebrations there's a concert, and i've mangaged to get myself in the choir!! very exciting!! it can be hard trying to sing in spanish, and i'm learning the songs after everyone else, i've had two rehearsals so far, but i've really enjoyed them! best be off, keep well one and all, hope you enjoy my garbled writings! xxx

Tarjetas, tear gas and tamales!

well, what a week!! only spent 2 and half days at remar! let me explain....
I didn't go in on wednesday coz with Maria (my mentor) Beverley and I are trying to develop a card-making business for the older girls... to give them a skill...more about that later... Thursday i went in but had to leave at lunchtime.... you see whenever there is political unrest, the students get out and demonstrate, throwing rocks and the like, the police use tear gas to subdue them - don't worry i wasn't involved in any demonstrating!! - Remar is right next door to the University, therefore the wind blows the gas our way! There have just elections here and the students don't like the results hence the demonstrating... somewhere between 12 and 12.30pm, i was with the ickle kids (5/6years - can't understand a word they say!!) and there were just going outside to play, i was standing by the door and suddenly my eyes and throat started hurting and ,my eyes watering - the teacher hurriedly called the kids in doors, and we recovered! But we had to keep all the kids indoors.. Maria rung alittle later and said that Bev and I had to leave after lunch and for me not to come back that day or friday!!! Bev was really funny as we walked down to catch a trolle, we looked down the street and could see lots of students hurling rocks, there was no traffic (VERY UNUSUALL!!!!), Bev wanted to go for a closer look, crazy woman!! We walked with our jumpers over our noses out of the area, eyes streaming!! This would never happen in England!! Mental! Quite exciting though.

Friday, November 05, 2004

I've arrived!!

well i've arrived! I've been here for 5 days now, haven't done much so as to allow my body to acclaimatise to the altitude, i've only had a wee bit of dizziness. Since i've had to rest and not do too much, I only managed to get to the internet yesterday but that access was very slow and i couldn't get onto this but i've found somewhere today at a centro comercial (big american style shopping mall). ooo enough waffling about the boring stuff!

so far ecuador has been fab (today been up to 27oC, lowest 9oC) but to be honest i've felt quite timid and shy and lacking in confidence, but i'm gradually gaining that as i have a go! yesterday i went to my project for the first time and met up with Beverley (the other Strider). I went to help Maria Augusta (my mentor) with a bible class for the second/third graders (there's a school on site) and generally to see what goes on...

Remar is actually a set of houses around Quito, and there is also one is Guayaguil and some place else. There are five houses in Quito: the one i'm at for young girls, one for boys, one for rehab of alcoholics and drug addicts, one for young mums, and another for older girls. The bible class was great fun, they learnt about Joseph, we sung some songs (including a spanish version of Allelu allelu allelu allelujah praise ye the lord!! with the ups and downs! comedy!) The children are very friendly, and very affectionate, i'd hardly been there 20 mins and girls were hugging me and leaning on me! I´m now known as 'tia joanna' (auntie).

The home is run by Titiana and Diego a Colombian couple, i've only met Titiana, she's just amazing and i really look forward to working with her! Remar is a bustling hive of activity, the young mums are there working in 2 rooms making stuff to sell, theres a kindergarten, and a school, which means kids are everywhere! (about 80 in the school, which is mixture of children from the homes and the local area. The younger children go to school in the morning, and the older kids go out to school in the afternoon). So, i was shown around the complex (there's a nice sized area for the kids to play in! with trees and things, i'll try to get some photos at some point!), was introduced to lots of people whose names i can't remember, then i ended up in the second grader class helping them sew round the outline of a dinosaur on a piece of paper! Very comedy considering i didn't know the exact spanish but i got by and even managed to tell off some kids for being naughty! I think i'm going to be teaching that class some english, though i'm not quite sure of the details!!

So how is my communication, I bet your wondering! well, it's going ok. I can understand alot (though i think i give off an aura of understanding more than i do coz i follow body language etc!) but can't remember or reproduce it easily - it takes me ages (slight exaggeration) to put together what i want to say, but i know this will come with time. my mentor thinks i probably don't need lessons, so i'm going see how my first week goes at Remar and then reassess the situation which is quite exciting... my major problem is just having the confidence to speak, and to get it wrong!! (which i frequently do!!!) I will begin properly at Remar on Monday, working 9-5 mon-thurs, with half day fridays. I don't know exactly yet what I'll be doing but something and probably a little of everything!!!

so things are feeling good now. It's been soooo good to be able to go out and do stuff today with Beverly coz i have been abit anxious to go on my own.... 'everyone' stares at me which is abit unnerving but i guess i'll get used to it (?)... oo i forgot to tell you where i'm staying... i'm staying with the sister of my mentor and her husband, Paquita and Armando, and they're really really lovely!!! I live on the third floor in a building very near a 'trolle' stop (it's about a 15 minute trolle, a.k.a tram, ride from Remar)
oo there's soo much more i could say but this is quite long enough for now!! hope this all makes sense!!, i'm sure you'll get used to my writing style!!! :)