Friday, November 29, 2013

South America: Volunteering in Ecuador

Here is a little glimpse of the natural beauty I am getting to take in these days in Ecuador:

While in Ecuador, I am studying Spanish in the exchange program at Universidad de Especialidades Espiritu Santo in Samborondon, a small city just outside of Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city.

UEES has a really beautiful, open-air campus, complete with palm trees and wandering iguanas:

When not in Spanish classes, I am volunteering at this also-beautiful, equally open-air campus:

Unidad Educativa Jose Domingo Santistevan is a part of the Junta de Beneficencia (Board of Charities) in Guayaquil. This non-profit school educates students from preschool through high-school graduation. I am working with classes of students aged 14 and 15.

While volunteering at this school, I am shadowing a wonderful, talented English teacher, Ms. Diana. Diana is a young and energetic teacher who cares so much for her students that it is truly palpable. She began each class by thanking her students for being there, sometimes reminding them that they were a family, together every day in their shared home, the classroom. While I was there, she also sometimes reminded them that I was their guest, and so to show me the hospitality required when you host a guest in your home. She conducted class with a real passion for her material, then closed each session with
"Thank you for your hard work, have a wonderful day,
and remember to always be kind, and to be good people."

It was such a pleasure and inspiration to get to work with her every day. I learned so much from Ms. Diana. I know she will be successful in her future as an educator, and I hope that in my time with her I have learned enough to be successful in a similar way.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Next Step: South America

Tomorrow I leave for a year in South America, but I will always be a Rembrandts teacher 7-3 in my heart.

During my send-off, I received these touching words of encouragement from my boss:  
Frances, I speak for so many when I say we cannot thank you enough for your time at [redacted for privacy]. You have really touched so many lives here and only 1/3 of them are under 5 years old! You will do great things in your life and I am so proud our paths crossed (for 3 years)! Come back to say hi and keep J. and me updated on you!"
Since updating this blog, I have finished my Child Development Associates, completed my contract with my preschool, wrapped up my life in the States, (literally wrapping up the contents of my apartment for storage), and made arrangements to study and teach in South America for a year. 

I have neglected this blog again, I'm afraid.  It is the paradox of this internet age of documenting our lives that the times when there is the most to document, those are the times when we are least free to take time to document. But here are my plans: first I will spend four months in Guayaquil, Ecuador, learning and practicing Spanish in immersion. Then, armed with my improved Spanish proficiency, I head to Trujillo, Peru, to teach English at Universidad Cesar Vallejo. 

It would be a lie by omission if I didn't say I'm nervous about this big change. Moving to another hemisphere when I have found so much to be grateful for at home can be a terrifying prospect. But I am confident that where I choose to apply myself I will succeed, and I see no reason for this adventure in South America to be any different.