Saludo! I hope you are all doing well! Thank you to everyone for your prayers! I remember all of you and your intentions daily here in the Shrine.
A strange thing is happening to me- when I am speaking Spanish, I first think of English and translate, but now when I write in English, I think in Spanish. My mind doesn´t know what language to use anymore!
I am not sure which details here would interest you most, but it´s likely that with three months to give you updates, I will cover most topics anyway.
Well, the weather here is hot, as was expected. If I do my middle school calculations correctly,(it has been awhile) 40 degrees Celsius is about 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Could be wrong, but I do know that is pretty warm here! Besides being warm, it is super humid. Having damp clothing is not out of the ordinary.
Today (Saturday) was a relatively easy day because I didn´t know what to do! The children only come to the Nutrition Center Monday through Friday, and Sr. Frances has not met with me to talk about my schedule yet. So for the most part, I followed Eliud around, speaking Spanish, and learning more about living here. I met several kids who gave me impromptu learning and speaking experiences. End result was laughter, confusion, and lots of drawing in my notebook. It was a great day for me, but not of much interest for you in the United States. Friday is more interesting to talk about.
My day began at 6. Well, it was supposed to begin at 6am, but I slept an extra 5 minutes. Here I have mosquito netting over my bed, and a fan because there is no air conditioning. It is very nice to have both those things, but sometimes it is hard to remember how to escape my tent-like bed early in the morning, which at first induced panic.
Holy Mass was at 6:30 in the Shrine, which is here on the Sisters´property. The Schoenstatt Shrine in Waukesha is different from the Shrine here. This one is definitely a bit bigger, which is a good thing, because there are always people in there. I haven´t found it empty yet. Also, the roof is not brown, but white, and the floor is tile. The door is always wide open, except late at night. Because so many people frequent the Shrine, there are about 7 permanent rows of pews outside the Shrine looking in.
Yesterday was hotter than the other days have been. Let me explain. Everyday is hot, at least since I have been here, but even the adults and children that live here and are used to the climate (they call it crazy) were acting differently. There was more sleeping!
My mornings at the Center have started with eating breakfast with the staff, sandwiches for them and cereal for me, and then feeding the children who arrive afterwards. They have a porridge with cinnamon that looks delicious. One would think that feeding children would be pretty easy, but that is not the case. The boys seem to do alright, aside from normal boy things like punching each other and pounding fists into the table. The girls take a bit more effort. There are at least three who just don´t want to eat, and it is part of my job to make them eat anyway. I spoon feed them, and even the ones who are perfectly fine on their own make me help them too.
In fact, my first day they insisted that I not only help them eat, but that I make the food on the spoon an “avion”, an airplane! I guess some things are the same.
After breakfast, we go into our little classroom and begin the day with prayer. These kids pray very enthusiastically. They shout.
Then, the teachers begin the learning portion. This week the kids learned about the five senses and what parts of the body one uses for each, as well as counting, letters, and days of the week. Also, apparently today is the International Day of Peace, so the teacher explained to the class what peace was, using me as an example.
This all sounds very tame on paper, but the actual experience is waaay different than an American classroom, even one of preschoolers. There are times of silence, it is true, but not many. Mostly the 26 children are talking, and the teachers constantly have to correct or talk over them, but it is more accepted. The ladies are extremely patient, even when frustrated. It is not uncommon to have to yell to be heard, or for the teachers to literally yell at a partichular child. The reprimand is loud, but not severe, and the kids and teachers alike are smiling the moment afterwards. Maybe this is coming out confused, but suffice it to say that things are very loud, and to me somewhat chaotic, but it is part of a normal happy day here.
After learning, the children go to brush their teeth, which I will describe in more detail at a later time.
Then we have more relaxed classroom time and the teachers take turns eating so that during the kids´meal, they are all present to help. Despite the heat, we had soup with rice. It had all kinds of vegetables and some kind of meat in it. No one wanted to eat soup unfortunately, so I had my work cut out for me. Several spills and many messes later, the meal was finished. After they eat, the kids get some kind of sweet, usually a juice, but yesterday they had cake. It´s not like U.S. where they would get a large piece. This was a slice about an inch thick , and palm length. It was such a treat for them!
After they went home, I napped for an hour. I know, I know, lucky me. But really, it was so hot that I had a headache, so it was necessary. Then I studied Spanish for about two hours and my second job began.
There is a retreat of ladies here, some sixty, and they make A LOT of dishes. I, along with five other ladies in the kitchen, was washing dishes and cleaning up until 9:30 at night. All the dishes had to be washed and dried by hand, and then the tables set for the next morning. The pots are understandably huge, and some spoons are two and a half feet long. Also, I have not seen a can opener used, rather, a large knife.
If I thought my day was long, it was nothing compared to theirs, because those same ladies also work in the nutrition Center. After I leave, they work at the Retreat House, so they had been working for longer than I had, plus they all had to walk home through the town! We were all so tired, but I made a lot of new friends. All the ladies know me now as the American girl who washes the dishes because they told me that I could leave early. I didn´t. At the end of the night they said that I was a Dominicana! Eliud and I had both originally intended to study, but we gave up. Instead, we had her homemade juice and called it a night.
I have so much to write about, but I can´t stay on this computer all night, so I will leave off with a few interesting things. In my Spanish class, we sang Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes. I thought it was just a learning thing, but it turns out that they do it here too! Oh, and Thursday, we watched, you will never guess, Dennis the Menace in Spanish! The teachers interrupted it to explain that the kids were NOT supposed to act that way! Lastly, I almost laughed when I heard the teachers calm the niños with “Simon dice”. It is fun to see the same games here! It makes me laugh, and be a little homesick too.
God bless you all!