Today was my first day at school in Bahia de Caraquez, and I already love it here. Jordan and I walked to Genesis School this morning, and we were picked up in the shuttle bus along with a bunch of the students. We headed to Corazon Solidario, which is the foundation school for disabilities. I must admit the school is far from what I expected. It is housed on the church grounds, and the two classrooms consist of two small bungalows surrounded by palm trees and other beautiful plants. We were introduced to a young man from Michigan named Brian, who is volunteering at the foundation with the Peace Corps. Knowing that someone else there could speak English really calmed our nerves!
We were introduced to the students, who range in age from 7 to 40 years old. We came to learn that here in Ecuador there is not much of a system for diagnosis as there is in the United States. Therefore, all of these students differed greatly in abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. We spent the morning doing “morning work,” focusing on tracing certain shapes and words. After a snack (which happened to be madness,) we went to the cancha, which was a concrete field with an overhang. Outside, we lined the able students up to do relay games—boys against girls. They absolutely enjoyed every minute. After just one day, I can see the genuine passion that these students have, and the volunteers at the foundation as well. Children and adults with disabilities have such a unique brightness about them. I was saddened to realize that many of them truly have the potential to be mainstreamed, but they do not have the resources here to do so.
After an interesting and enlightening first morning at school, Jordan and I went back to our house for lunch with the rest of the volunteers. BamBam, a sweet man who brings us lunch and dinner during the week, brought us Espinaca soup (which was delicious) and a second entrée of rice, chicken, fried plantains, and salad. I was beyond full; it’s amazing what people eat for lunch here! Our group went to Spanish class afterwards—much needed Spanish may I add. The rest of the day consisted of exploring the beautiful city of Bahia, and then dinner around 6:00 p.m., which was small balls of bread filled with cheese. The small dinner certainly explained the giant lunch!
So far, I have enjoyed every minute of this experience. I can already tell that I am not going to want to leave in a month. There is so much I want to do, and so much I desire to learn about the culture, the city, etc. The people here are so affectionate, and slow moving. Time is not an issue for them it seems—ever. What a way to live! Bring on the next four weeks!