Sunday, August 23, 2009

Ahora, mientras mi mente no está funcionando...

Pensaba que escribiría aquí.

Botched as my Spanish is, I find myself having trouble constructing English sentences and thoughts, too. I guess that's part of the process: I have to become unable to communicate in order to better comprehend the language. No, seriously.

It's been a good almost-week here: The first day or two were purely getting into a pattern of things. I have a cell phone to communicate with people here, I have the internet, I have drawers to store my clothes, I begin language school's awesome.

I'm working with the 14/15/16 year olds (mostly 14/15) here at Ciudad. This is a huge operation, so let me explain what all goes into it. Ciudad de los Niños de la Inmaculada is an orphanage/thing that the Capuchin Franciscan friars run. They have 350-ish boys here. I include the "thing" specification (specific as it is) because it's an effective boarding school for many boys who have parents but come from destitute circumstances, have suffered abuse, etc. in addition to those who live here because they don't have parents who take care of them. It's hard to describe in full. They house kids from ages 3-18, i.e., the whole span of pre-primary through secondary education. There is a portion of the property that is a private school, in which both CdlN and non-CdlN can enroll (girls can enroll, too). The boys are split into various houses depending on grade level and age. I'm working with the awkward adolescents, which is an adventure and a challenge. The older kids also get some education in various trades through the various shops they have around Ciudad: they have a cobbler, a sewing shop, a farm with hens and pigs, an auto shop, a vineyard, a bakery...they're called "Talleres" in Spanish. Anyway, it functions as being sort of "shop" classes so that kids get an idea of how to do basic life skills, but it also helps maintain CdlN, and it gives the kids the ability to have a "trade" or sorts when they leave to tackle a career or the university.

The basic day for the older guys is as follows: Wake up, clean the household, get dressed and ready for school, eat, get backpacks and stuff for school, attend classes, come back for lunch, study/hang out a little bit, go to the various "talleres" until 5, study, go to communal prayer, dinner, study, bed.

I'm ready for sleep every night by the time dinner's over. Sheesh, it's a full-time job. Also, we wake up very early. Try
5:10 AM on school days. I thought I was a morning person, but my urge to hibernate when it's a cold, gray, usually somewhat wet morning (it's winter here) comes into conflict with being chipper.

Regarding Spanish-speaking, I'll admit it's tough. My Spanish is broken and barely proficient, and because I'm in overdrive by having to listen to it and decipher and interpret, etc., I feel like I'm regressing a bit. It's very difficult to not have the capacity to express anything more than the most basic needs (e.g., I'm hungry, thirsty, tired, not able to understand, confused, cold, warm, etc.), and so the feelings of being powerless and useless (ugh, especially useless) are hard to surmount, because I can't express frustration well, nor can I do much of anything that I imagine my role should be here. Yet.

The reminder that I've been here less than a week brings comfort. It's still very tough at moments throughout the day, and I'm thankful that there is ample free time on weekends to talk with Alyssa and Tania at night and rest a little bit during the day. Like now, for example. I do know that as comforting as it is to have some fellow expatriates here in solidarity, and as much as I need that connection and ability to communicate, a difficulty lies in having the internet around: The temptation is to shut down and/or do something inane like wikipedia for hours (it's become a luxury to do *anything* in English), so I have to be careful when trying to strike a balance.

I'm very grateful to be here, after it's all said and done. Even if the teenagers mumble and don't pronounce the words or think that my requesting, "Un poco más despacio, por favor," means "Communicate to me as if I am a Neanderthal incapable of expressing thoughts outside the realm of hand gestures and Spanglish" (which is actually more funny than anything else). It's a real exercise in trust and in being able to live with myself. I'm glad to have that opportunity. Hopefully I'll eventually be able to do something like service, but as language school doesn't even start till tomorrow, I think I can muster some patience. Also, I have 18 months left.

In retrospect, let me say this: I absolutely LOVED orientation, both international and CapCorps-specific. The people are absolutely wonderful, I look forward to seeing the two Nicaragua groups in a few months (5 is a few), and I certainly hope to keep in touch with the domestic groups, even if they'll be done with their time in CapCorps before we set foot on US soil again.

That all being said, it's time to do something else. I'm horrible about remembering concrete things I've done, but Alyssa and Tania have photographic evidence that will manifest itself on Facebook at sometime, I'm sure. Until next time, peace and all the good will I can muster to you all. God bless!

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