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Published: November 1st 2007
Thought I´d write a wee bit more about what I´m actually doing over here since nobody really seems to know much; I obviously haven´t explained it very clearly!! Can´t believe that I´ve only got just over 4 weeks left of it though, time really has sped past so much faster than I thought it would.
First things first, no I´m not in an orpanage and no I´m not teaching english!! Technically I´ve got 2 placements, however that´s only cos the school I go to in the mornings closes at 12, and even though that´s my actual placement, I go to another placement in the afternoons so I get the most out of my days, rather than just working half days.
In the mornings, I work in Centro Educativo Alegria (which means School of Happiness, how cute?!) which is a school for mentally disabled children. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I work with the pre-school class, the youngest/most severely disabled kids in the school, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays I help with the class above that, the First Grade. Even though they´re right next to each other on the grand scale of things, the day-to-day routine and thus my role is completely different in both.
The pre-school class has two teachers, Sylvia and Fatima, but even so the class can get pretty hectic! Although the kids aren´t very mentally advanced, they´re still so lovely! None of them talk properly, although Juan Jose, Jorge and Jose Carlos are learning to speak and can utter the odd word. Oh and Jose Emilio (who´s my lil star and now apparently thinks of me as his girlfriend haha!!) does on occasion run up and whisper nonsense in my ear, which can get quite funny when you see the look of total earnest on his face and attempt to respond to what he´s saying completely seriously!! He´s the youngest, only 5, but is really quite clever for his age and I´ve managed to teach him the colours which I´m really proud of, lol. He pretends to be the big hard man of the school even though he´s absolutely tiny, it´s a different story when we´re curled up for nap time though haha! Agustina is such a sweet kid, even though she can´t talk and can only walk with somebody taking her weight, you always somehow feel like you're getting a response from her, and she always claps or gargles along if you sing to her 😊. Juan Jose is the oldest, must be about 11/12, and in general doesn´t seem to register much, but once you get him smiling you´ve got a friend for the rest of the day!! He seems to find the word ´caracol´ (which means snail) absolutely hilarious... no I don´t understand either but it makes me laugh too haha! It´s hard to describe Paola, but personally I think she´s a lot clever than you´d think to look at her, she can always answer questions by some sort of action and always manages to convey what she wants/needs someway or another, it just takes time that´s all. I´d probably say Mara takes the most amount of work, cos I´ve spent so many hours teaching her various ways of grasping objects, moving them and letting them go, but it is soo rewarding to see it eventually paying off. So their day is spent not being taught academic things like numbers or letters, but general actions which will eventually be required if they are to be able to look after themselves in the future. I know the jobs not for everyone, cos since they can´t speak nothing you do is immediately rewarding, and it does take a loooong time to get any kind of result, but if you can look at things in a different way, which I guess I´ve learned to do, it´s just great!! Although I feel sorry for one of the ex-volunteers, they were in the middle of toilet-training Juan Jose when she arrived, and by the sounds of it she spent most days sitting in the toilet with him singing Ring-a-ring of roses!! Oh the joys...
In the First Grade, there´s quite a varied level of ability, from Luis who can write proper sentences and is learning numbers in the thousands at the moment (in fact I dunno why he´s not in the next class up to be honest!!) to those who are struggling learning 1-5. I spend most of my time helping the kids one-to-one, although to be honest most of them almost need constant one-to-one attention, but unfortunately that´s impossible with the lack of teachers. Apparently almost every other volunteer in the past has formed more of a bond with a kid called Axel, and so work with him most of the time, but I´ve found the same happening with a different kid called Belén so I´m really glad that I´m not just the same that happens every time!! The teacher seems really pleased too that he´s not getting all the attention as usual lol, so that´s good. Don´t know what it is about Axel though, we had some school kids in to help the other day on a sort of work experience day, aged around 12ish, and 5 of them were flocking round his desk all at the same time! Anyways, I really feel like I´m getting somewhere with Belén thankfully, for example have now taught her the difference between the letter S and the numbers 2 and 5, which is sooo mega confusing for them!! She´s getting on so well with her reading as well, the only thing is, I´m finding it soo ironic, or even stupid, me teaching them spanish when I know next to nothing myself!! But you don´t realise how much you learn from what the kids are getting taught themselves, lol. Also spend some of my time doing some class prep for the teacher so she can get on with actually teaching the class, like making worksheets and things.
Being with the First Grade class has been harder cos they speak to you all the time (how bad does that sound!!) and it´s hard to understand some of their spanish, it´s getting easier though. Spanish is still really hard, I think my understanding is so much better now, but I just can´t show it cos I still have confidence problems whenever I have to speak! It´s right in my head though, lol.
Unfortunately Alegria can´t afford to stay open in the afternoons, so I go across town to Casa Cuna, which is a nursery for children whose single mums have to work selling goods on the streets or buses and thus can´t look after their kids. Some of them are there from 6am to 6pm though, feel so sorry for them at such a young age too. I´m with the Osos (bears) who are all aged around 2, coming on 3. They´re so wee and sooo cute!! These kids don´t need so much basic help, so spend most of my time there just playing with them and making them smile, not forgetting endless trips to the toilet and a hug-per-minute lol!! Recently seem to have spent most of our time singing, I´m gonna be such a nightmare once I come back always singing these annoying spanish nursery songs hehe!! Also, can´t remember the last time i didn´t have a layer of sand covering me from head to toe...
Yesterday we had a school trip woohoo!! And it was on Halloween too, so it was doubly great :D, and the entire school came (although that´s only about 40). We went to Ytú, which is about 1.5/2 hours drive away from Asuncion, and I think the place we went to could have been somebodys holiday home or something. Basically spent the day first playing in the river (which obviously resulted in being drenched head to toe in black infested gunky "water"!!!) then in the pool (which thankfully was a lil bit cleaner) then playing at least a million halloween games, twas great!! Plus my team of 4 won woohooo!! teehee, nah it really was a super duper day, but completely knackering! Helen and I did go out that night just cos everyone at home was going out for Halloween and we didn´t want to feel left out, even though over here they´re celebrating Halloween on friday so am looking forward to that! Met someone last night who apparently is gonna take us to a club called Oreisha´s and show us some proper salsa moves so hmmm hopefully that´ll be good!
Today I went to the Asuncion Special Olympics (like the paralympics) for adults and children alike, but hopefully I´ll be going for the finals tomorrow too, so I´ll write about it another time.
This week we booked our hostels for over christmas and new year, everything seems so close now especially as it´s November, mega excited!! Also got my first parcel this week which was such a thrill (felt like christmas coming early!) and honestly, Cadbury´s chocolate really does taste like heaven now! Think I´m gonna take some Paraguayan chocolate home with me just so you guys can taste how horrible it really is!! But unfortunately the parcel did take a month to arrive (meaning Mum - now´s the last chance to send my xmas pressie!! hehe only josking :P).
Still got quite a few photos to put on here, nothing´s working properly though which is annoying. Might try and edit this later if it´ll let me and get some more recent photos up!
Even though I´m having such a good time over here, I really am still missing everyone like crazy, so don´t forget to stay in touch even though u don´t think anything exciting´s happened! I still love to read them honest!! :P
All my love,
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