Friday, July 4, 2008

Small but Mighty

First impressions.

Without consulting Mr. Webster I would describe them as the observations we make based on what we already know from our past experiences. I speak for all of my teammates what I say that we came to Lima and the PPA with our own personal experiences and histories that enabled us to make initial impressions of our time here with Global Volunteers. Fortunately the concept of a first impression implies that they don't last long. With time we gain more knowledge, perspective and ultimately, new understanding.

Lima: My first impressions of this bustling city were that it was a polluted urban setting with insane drivers that had no respect for pedestrians. I've lost count of the time Mili, Katie, or Robi had to put their hand out to stop me from crossing in the middle of oncoming traffic. And the pollution. I wondered if I might have to hold my breath for 2 weeks in order to filter out the octane infused air I was not accustomed to. I quickly learned through observation and Mili's vast knowledge that, quite simply, this is how they drive in Lima. If you didn't keep up with the insanity, you would surely cause an accident. In my 2 weeks there, I experienced many knee-grabbers, but not one single accident.

Another first impression I had that last for at least the first week is how gray and cold Lima seemed. Did the sun ever come out or was it always like this? As I am sitting here in the main hall of the PPA I am gazing out at the sun and blue sky. We knew Lima wouldn't let us down!

My Teammates: Initially I came into the Global program thinking that I would make many new friends. And with a team of 3 we were going to be surrounded by each other more than other groups normally are. We basically were set up to be great friends or worst enemies. Boy, did I luck out! As the days unfolded I realized that I had been grouped with 2 of the most energetic, kind and carefree people I have come across in my travels. It wasn't the quantity of people in the group byt rather the quality of the time we spent together. Team 59 may have been small, but we were mighty! Between the 3 of us we were able to do several jobs: Siblings group, Ricardo and Franklin, ToƱito Silva, Teaching English to 3rd graders and also to the High School girls. We also were very active in the movie department from setting up to popping the "canchita" to breaking it down. I feel so lucky to have been part of such an inspirational team. Of course we wouldn't have been able to stay together without our amazing team leader, MILI!

Finally, the PPA. My first tour around the campus left me feeling sad and sorry for the children there. I couldn't figure out with 460 children why the campus seemed so deserted.

Most of my first impressions of PPA were changed within the first few days. Observing the children go about their daily activities, some getting bussed off campus, some at school at PPA, I realized that just because I didn't see them didn't mean they weren't doing anything Dance classes, cooking classes, workshops, sewing; the PPA was constantly bustling with activity.

Most importantly though was how the PPA transformed from a sad place to a home of opportunity for so many. Seeing the interaction between the staff and children and observing teir vibrant smiles and feeling their joyful hugs reminded me that these children regardless of age were fortunate to be there. The PPA provided them with care, food, safety and most importantly, LOVE!

I feel so honored to have been a part of Team 59, serving at the PPA. I will take with me many wonderful memories of making the most out of what might seem like a little. Thank you Global for an amazing experience.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

An Endless Amount of Energy

Thought of the Day: "Nothing great was ever accomplished without enthusiasm."--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today I realized just how much energy is necessary to keep up with life at PPA. Although I was feeling sub-par I was able to make it though with the help of my fabulous teammate and group leader. Thank goodness Robi is back to 100%! Despite my energy deficiency, it was another action packed day at PPA. Ricardo and Franklin were unusually occupied with the playdough today. Tey prepared an extensive menu of helado, hamburguesas, and pizza. I felt sad when I thought of my last day with them approaching and wondered who would be there after me. This makes me feel compelled to leave copious nopes for the next volunteer in line. I have learned so much about them in such a short time: from Ricardo's signature hand-clap-above-the-head to Franklin's aversion to putting the letters in his name in order. I know I will remember them, but I wonder how long they will remember me since they are so used to seeing volunteers come and go. Siblings group was another challenge to attempt to tame Maria del Carmen and Alexandra. They dabbled in painting for a short while and then moved on to puzzles before they tried to stir up so trouble. They are wise beyond their few years and cannot be reasoned with like other children their age. Today was certainly easier to separate them at the end as Robi and I both noticed. I thin the important thing is that they're getting used to the structure of the siblings group and what we expect from them. It's not that they are bad children, they are just testing their limits with 2 new strangers. Working with Robi during this sibling time has been so helpful--not only does she have the ability to connect with young people regardless of age, she has an endless amount of energy. Whether she believes it or not, it's contagious and it certainly helped me through today. And just like the quote said, I was able to lean on my friend today in order to find the enthusiasm to finish the day. Heres to a happy and healthy final two days!!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Common Emotional Journey

Thought of the Day: "By learning you will teach, by teaching you will understand." -- Latin Proverb

Writing last in team 59's journal is not as daunting as I had originally imagined. I've truly enjoyed listening to the thoughts and interpretations of my teammates not only because I appreciate a different perspective, but also I realize that we are going through a common emotional journey. According to Mili's computer, Team 59's project is 79% complete. Thinking back to orientation 10 days ago seems like its been weeks, however, I cant help but feel like we've just gotten started. Week one really was devoted to becoming aquainted with our new setting and understanding the goals and expectations of the program: on top of this there was the attempt to memorize the numerous faces that we have come to know on a daily basis. I cant help but feel a little famous when I hear my name chanted by a group of children even it its my new alias..Erica! Now that Robi and I have had a chance to plant our feet, we can now focus on building relationships. Ricardo and Franklin have become a lively part of my morning routine. We might now have extensive verbal communication on our side, but we have managed to build a relationship on trust and consistency. Each day I am fascinated by the amout of activities that we are able to accomplish in our short time together. Their energy can be contagious and their smile, along with Franklin's "thumbs-up" make my mornings so rewarding. And each day when I drop them off they hug me goodbye. Just like that, no words needed. The high school girls have been so much fun to work with. I chose my quote because it reminded me of them and how I feel like I may be learning more from them than they are fro me. Their innocence and desire to learn English is beautiful and reminds me that as a teach it is so important to learn who your students are befroe you can teach. Truly learning and understanding these girls in just 2 weeks time is impossible byt we can make a difference

Each day at PPA is a new challenge, story, and new-found understanding of something bigger. Team 59 may be 79% compelete, but I have a feeling that our time invested may continue to grow even after we have moved on.