Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Day 3: Santa Clara Daycare (06/21/11)

¡Hola todos!

Pues, as you know after reading my previous blog entries today was my first day volunteering! My morning began at 6:30 when I woke up, got ready, and ate (the strawberries we had were wonderful...apparently strawberries are a special treat here.) Some of the volunteers are able to walk to their placements but I was driven to mine with 10 others who we dropped off at their destinations on the way. The daycare that I volunteer at is the farthest placement they have; it is actually in a different province than San Carlos. It is really interesting to go out to the more rural areas because there is SUCH a drastic difference in the atmosphere...as expected. On one side of the window you could see beautiful, well kept homes while on the other side of the car almost immediately you could have picked up the homes from the slums and put them there. 

The placement that Alex (co-volunteer) and I have at the daycare is a lot different than the other placements which primarily consist of schools of formal education. They have fields to play soccer, profesoras to teach English, etc. However as prepared as I thought I was my first day volunteering was very overwhelming to say the least. Santa Clara is a very small daycare that consists of a dining hall for the children to eat lunch, a small kitchen, an office, a classroom, and a very tiny patio to play outside. This is for approximately 15-30 children and there is only one cocinera (cook) and one Niña. I was very surprised to find out that in Costa Rica younger children call their teachers Niñas. Also, the usted form (the formal version of or you) is much more commonly used here even when an adult addresses a child. Anyhow no one knew English and Alex does not know any Spanish at all so that was challenging at times ,but by the end of the day I was really enjoying myself. After we introduced ourselves to Graciela, the teacher, the first thing I did was walk up to one child who was playing by himself with some plastic animals.  I tried talking to him by asking him his name and how old he was but he was really shy and didn't answer. So instead I asked him if he wanted to be my teacher and tell me how to say some of the names of the animals in Spanish. Within the next five minutes there were about seven kids huddled around me shoving animals in my face telling me with their animated voices what everything was. For the most part I have never spoken to children in Spanish before and it is extremely different. Just like any kid they talk SUPER fast, like to mumble, and have higher voices that make it harder to hear the annunciation. Thus in the beginning there was a lot of that head nodding you do when someone tries to tell you a story in a different language and you have NO idea what they are saying. You know what I am talking about, that awkward smile that no matter how hard you try to mask your confusion it is still extremely visible on your face. 

Continuando! While we were playing with the animal toys by grouping each kind into families, Graciela started singing the clean up song but of course in Spanish. Pretty much immediately everyone started to limpiar and then automatically sat in a circle in front of Graciela who had pulled out one those teacher boards that stand up on its own. It turns out that this daycare is extremely organized since it is paid for by the government and they want to teach the children specific values. In the beginning of the day it is closer to an American daycare since the classroom has stations in each corner and on each wall; they include categories such as drawing, play-do, reading, cooking, games, etc. However once the children were in that circle, Graciela began to place stickers on a giant tree picture that was on the board. Before she continued she asked Alex and me to present ourselves to the class. I told them that my name was Emily and that I was from Texas in the United States etc etc and then I look at Alex who just seemed completely lost the poor girl. I helped her introduce herself and then Graciela introduced all 23 students in the class. The only two names that really stuck to me the whole day was Steven and David...because they were the same in English. There were SO many names I had never heard before. 

Then began the lesson plan for the day. It was about the valores (values) of being in a Costa Rican family. And let me stress Costa Rican because a value that was highly important was respecting both your parents AND YOUR CULTURE AND CUSTOMS. Listening to Graciela explain the importance of their culture was just really eye opening to me. I have seen Mexican students from my school perform their latin dances before and discuss the wonderful foods their abuela (grandmother) teaches them to make but it never really hit me that it isn't just a hobby they like to do or what there parents let them do for fun... valuing and protecting their culture is ESSENTIAL for living for them just like breathing and eating. So for the Costa Ricans without it essentially the characteristics that make them Costa Ricans would be gone. I always valued world cultures because I found them so intriguing and so beautiful but now its like I am under cover and I get to experience it from a whole different surface.  I realize that there are a plethora of cultures that treat their way of life with the same appreciation and respect. I really  wish I had the same thing!

Graciela discussed the other main values such as tolerancia, el amor y ayuda (help-as in chores for your parents). After her lecture she led the children in a song about family while using their dedos (fingers). All i know is that the first finger was papa, the second mama, the third older sibling, and then fourth younger sibling, and finally the fifth was the child their self. I understood the end though (todo es en la familia- basically that they all made up the family) The beautiful and adorable music that was being projected abruptly stopped as Graciela continued with the day and said that they were going to go to el patio. I could tell from all of the screaming and chaos that commenced after that  that this would definitely be the hardest part of my day.

My first observation was that there was definitely not enough space for the children to run around. Plus the ground was concrete and there was absolutely no grass which resulted in injuries and strict rules with playing. The patio has a very small slide that is directly connected to a small set of monkey bars which was pretty dangerous in itself...since it seemed as though half the class wanted to play there. They also had one of those plastic play houses without a roof and two soccer balls. So there really was not much to work with. Graciela played games that were pretty similar to each other while I joined the children so that I could get a feel for how play time worked. One game consisted of the children being in a line which was la tierra (the land) and another line for el mar (the sea). It was very similar to Simon says where you try to trick the children into accidently performing the wrong action such as a child stepping towards the sea when they were told to step in the land. The other game she showed me was el gigante (the giant) and el enano (the dwarf). This was basically the same thing except you didn't step forward but instead you either tried to be super tall and stand up or be super short and bend your knees. I tried to spice it up a bit by following the same theme-since they were obviously completely enthralled by the concept-by playing Simón dice (Simon says). As hard as Graciela and I tried this game was not as successful. Lesson 1: Simple is always better, especially with children who don't speak the same language as you. 

After that it was mostly just running around with the soccer ball and maintaining the chaos. I really just needed to get used to my surroundings on the first day. The daycare then feeds the children after recess and Alex and I do dishes. Next the children wait for their parents to pick them up and we continue to play with them. The language barrier really difficult but I know I am up for the challenge!

We had our first field trip today as well! We drove an hour away to a high school to see an arts festival. The buildings may not have been constructed completely well, but the set up of the school was really neat. They were built on hills so they were far away from each other but were connected by a covered pathway. This meant that there was plenty of room for vegetation to take control of the area. It seems as though they go to school in the jungle! The festival was held in the gymnasium and we could definitely tell when all 20 of us were walking up that it was well underway and that it was a full house. As soon as we walked in we saw bleachers and bleachers of teenagers cheering and dancing while the dance group in the center of the stage was preparing to begin their presentation. A bunch of foreigners walking in definitely stole the attention from the stage though. :p

I really enjoyed watching all of the groups perform. There was a wide range of ages from around 5 to 18 performing. We were also lucky enough to be in the presence of a well know Costa Rican singer who was a finalist on Latin American Idol! Despite the fact that I did not talk to any of the high schoolers nor really understood what was being said in the microphone I really enjoyed the whole experience. I was still reminded of what it was like to be in high school again. Everyone grouped off into their clicks but if they saw someone walking by they knew they would run up and hug each other or do the man-hug-shake-thing guys do that I don't really understand. There was also a significant amount of people not paying attention. The only thing that surprised me was their plaid uniforms and the fact that students came and went as they chose. Many students were wandering the pathways (instead of halls since there weren't any) or grouped on benches. They definitely had less restrictions but I believe that is because there weren't many teachers from what I could tell. After about an hour I needed a break from all of the noise and the crowd so another volunteer named Katie and I hung out outside and watched some boys lasso. About twenty minutes later the rest of the volunteers come out and get all mad at us because apparently they were forced to the stage and had to introduce themselves to the entire audience. I was definitely secretly glad that I miss that. I get stage fright ;)

Once we got back from there we ate, had some ice cream, and then it was good night. I definitely heard the cats fighting that time though! I can't wait for what tomorrow will bring!

¡Pura Vida! 


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