I have finished my first week at Sinamune, and overall I have to say it was very confusing. There were a lot of great moments, but I never knew what was going to happen next. Technically, they are in their summer vacation program, so I think that might have something to do with the confusion/disorganization. Also, of course there is the cultural difference which contributes to confusion. However, this was (sometimes) mitigated by the fact that Cosette, one of the other volunteers is bilingual in Spanish because she grew up speaking it. Anyway, here is what the day-to-day was like this past week.
Monday, July 9th
Diana picked me up from the volunteer house and took me to Sinamune. We arrived and I reconnected with the other volunteers there, Paige, Cosette, Megan, and Zach. The strange thing was that none of the actual students were there… I think they either had the day off or were on an excursion, I’m not sure which. So the teachers and volunteers were planning and getting organized. They told me that I was going to do a piano proficiency evaluation so that I could teach piano, but that never happened. Next thing I knew, they had given Cosette and I smocks and a can of paint and two brushed and instructed us to please paint an entire room. It was nice because I got to talk to Cosette and get to know her better. She said the past week (her first week at Sinamune) had been just as sporadic, with a lot of doing random things. Thus, we painted the room. It took us a few hours, but it looked much better after!
By that time, it was 1:00. Our usual hours at Sinamune are 8:00-1:00 M-F, unless there is an excursion or special performance (which apparently there often is). On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday we all go to Spanish lessons from 3:00-5:00. But since today was Monday and we were finished painting, it was time to go. The others took the bus home, and my host family picked me up to show me how to take the bus. I thought they were actually going to take me on the bus to show me the way, but they just pointed and told me which bus to take. Hopefully that will be sufficient. (Spoiler Alert: It won’t.)
We got home and they showed me my room. There house is very nice and the best part is they have a piano! It is a beautiful old player piano, that is over 100 years old! I can’t wait to play it. However, I was so tired that I took a nap before dinner. I fell asleep for 3 hours! Then I came down for dinner and got to know my host family a little bit. They are an older couple with four children and eight grandchildren. The wife is named Pilar and the husband is named Vicente. They are very friendly. Pilar’s father Bolivar also lives with them (he is 91).They also speak a good bit of English, and it turns out that in high school they both studied abroad in the US for a year, and Pilar in Atlanta! What a small world!
Despite my 3-hour nap I was still very tired and went to bed at 8:30. (Blame it on the altitude!) Oh, I forgot to mention when I woke up from my name, the entire house was in a panic because Bolivar had wandered out of the house, forgotten where he was, and was missing for three hours; Pilar and all the children were searching and finally some police officers found him. Everybody was very upset and I felt so sad for them. Pilar said that she has taken Bolivar to the doctor about his memory, and they say it’s just normal old age. I’m not sure though, because even in the house he doesn’t remember where he is and he thinks Pilar is his wife not his daughter.
Tuesday, July 10th
Today I successfully took the bus to Sinamune and got off at the right spot all by myself! I felt very successful. When I arrived at Sinaume, there were students! Hurray! Apparently every morning the orchestra rehearses and does a performance for tourists. While this happened, Zach and I went outside to the field in the back with the other students and teachers (about 30 students probably). We played soccer and did relay races. Contrary to what I expected, most of the students at Sinamune are adults. They range from 13 years to 48 years old. Because in the name of the foundation it says “for children” I assumed they would be younger, but most of them are grown adults. Their disabilities are varied; many have Down’s Syndrome or Autism, a few are blind, several have physical disabilities.
After playing in the field for two and a half hours, they said we were going on an excursion! They loaded up two buses with all of the students, teachers, and volunteers, and we went to a park in the north of the city. Upon arriving at the park, we had a picnic of sandwiches for lunch. After lunch, we wandered around the park a bit before settling into a soccer field for more games and more soccer. (Public Service Announcement: I am terrible at soccer, don’t ask me to play on your team unless you want to lose.)
After a couple hours at the park, we went back to Sinamune and the students went home. I went with Cosette, Meghan, and Paige to Spanish lessons. They showed me which bus to take and we rode the bus about an hour from the north of Quito where Sinamune is to the city center where Spanish lessons are.
Our Spanish school is called Banana Spanish School. We have one-on-one Spanish lessons Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 3:00-5:00. I thought this was just for the first two weeks, but turns out it will be for the entire three months I’m here! At least I am going to get very good at Spanish… My teacher, Jimena, is very nice. I took an evaluation exam and then we talked pretty much the whole time – in Spanish. I learned two things. 1: I can successfully have a two-hour conversation in Spanish. 2: Two hours is way to long for a one-on-one Spanish lesson.
After Spanish, I walked to the bus stop with the other girls. Cosette and Paige live together with a couple and Meghan lives across the street with Diana and her family. They are not in my area of town though, so they take a different bus. I somehow got myself on the right bus and used the Maps.Me app that Diana showed us to get off in the right place. A miracle! (Another spoiler alert: my bus luck will soon run out.)
When I got home, Bolivar was outside between the front door and the gate, and there was a man I hadn’t met standing at the door and a car running in the driveway! Turns out it was Hugo, the son-in-law of Pilar and Vicente, who had been watching Bolivar. Hugo had to leave, but Bolivar was also trying to escape. Hugo was trying to coax Bolivar back inside with the promise of coffee. I tried to help, saying I was going to eat dinner and wouldn’t Bolivar please sit down and have a cup of coffee with me. We finally got him inside and I heated up dinner while Hugo made coffee. Then Hugo left. All was well until he finished the coffee. He asked me if I was going upstairs. Suspicious, I answered no, that I was going to make coffee. He stood there watching me, asking when I was going to make my coffee. So I said maybe later and went to practice piano because the piano is right by the door so I could keep an eye on him. Once I was out of his sight, he headed for the door again. I asked him where he was going and he said that he deserved to be free and asked for keys and asked me to open the gate. For his safety, I had to lie and say that I didn’t have keys and I didn’t know how to open the gate. I also said it was getting dark and it wasn’t good for anyone to go out, but he wouldn’t listen. He was so pitiful, but I knew he wasn’t allowed to go out. I watched him/played piano while for almost 30 minutes, he went back and forth from the kitchen to the gate, trying to open it. The button for the gate is in the kitchen, but he doesn’t remember where it is. Whenever I stopped playing, he would come and tell me to keep practicing (so I wouldn’t know he was trying to leave.) I knew he wasn’t going to be able to get out, and he wouldn’t listen to me, so I didn’t know what else to do but to let him keep trying. Fortunately, Pilar and Vicente arrived home after 30 minutes, and Pilar was able to reason with him. I told her how he kept trying to trick me and she thought it was amusing and thanked me for keeping him from going. Never a dull moment here!