A Normal Weekday for me during the past 4 Months...
I get up between 6 and 6.30am and get myself showered and dressed before going to the kitchen to get some breakfast. This usually consists of cut up fresh fruit (strawberries, kiwifruit, banana, papaya etc.) and yoghurt followed by cereal or a bread roll (or both) and sometimes a hot chocolate. I then make my bed, open my curtains, brush my teeth and head out the door - making sure to grab my umbrella as the weather is very unpredictable here in Cuenca and it often rains at unexpected moments! I usually eat breakfast alone as my host parents do exercise and go for a walk during the hour that I get ready and leave.
Every morning I walk to my morning placement which takes about 25 minutes and involves crossing a lot of busy roads - difficult when even zebra stripes on the road doesn't mean cars will stop for you.
My morning placement is at CIBV Perpetuo Socorro, a daycare for children between the ages of 1 and 3. The centre is run by a religious organisation; the Sisters of Perpetuo Socorro and was setup in 1988. Many of the children come from very poor families and their mothers are often single parents who have suffered from domestic violence. I have been in Sala 5 (Room 5) for the past four months and work alongside the two teachers Yessenia and Sonia to care for 21 three year-olds.
I usually arrive at work just before 8am and at 8am the kids all start arriving and we collect them at the gate with one teacher watching the kids in the classroom, another receiving the children at the gate and the other doing other bits and pieces. At 8.30am the gate is shut, I put on my hairnet and we ask all the kids to "haga el tren" (make the train - each child grabs the back of the shirt of the child in front) and we walk to the Dining Area (El Comedor), often singing as we go.
Once the kids are all seated, we usually sing a song and say a prayer before giving them their food. For breakfast the kids have varying things from day to day. This could be things such as egg, fruit salad, a biscuit, bread or even a piece of cake. At breakfast time they will also have a milkshake type thing, juice or warm milk which we give them once they've finished eating. Once all the kids have eaten (or been forced to eat) we begin the process of sending them one by one to the toilet. This is a lengthy process with 21 three year-olds and involves a lot of toilet paper and patient waiting whilst we get through them all.
Once we've completed the toilet stop it's generally between 9.15 and 9.30am and we usually head back to our classroom. Typically, we take the register and sing some songs. What we do next will often vary on a day to day basis but it may include doing an activity such as painting or learning about shapes and colours or dancing to music and playing games, sometimes we also go to "Los Rincones" (the corners) where there are different areas that the kids can play in, including soft play and instruments.
At 10am we stop for a fruit snack. Following the fruit snack it is time again for us all to go to the bathroom. After the necessary things have been done the kids usually play until lunchtime. If it is sunny we will take them outside to the park to play or to the Patio and if it is not nice weather the kids are free to go crazy in the classroom or sometimes will dance to music or play with soft toys or puzzles.
Depending on the week, we either have lunch at 11.30am or 12pm and we head to the dining room and get seated for the meal. Everyday, the starter is a soup of some kind followed by what is usually a plate of rice, meat and salad which is then followed up by half a glass of juice. It has become my responsibility to pour all the juices out and once a few of the kids start finishing lunch, they are sent to me to go to the toilet. After lunch, instead of having to wait for the other kids to finish eating and going to the bathroom, I send them to the classroom to go to sleep. By this time it is between 12 and 12.30pm (depending what time we started lunch/how fast the kids eat!). Once the majority of the kids are in bed, I say "Chao" and the kids all say "Chao" back and I tell them to sleep before slipping out of the room done with my part for the day.
I walk the 25 minutes back home and chill out until lunch time which is around 2pm. In Cuenca it is tradition to go home for lunch and families almost always eat together. Once my host parents are home we eat lunch together and sometimes Abuela (grandma) joins us. Lunch is usually meat of some kind, rice and salad which is prepared by the employee who comes each day to prepare the lunchtime meal and clean. (This is normal for Ecuadorean households and more often than not there will be an employee/maid of some kind who helps with cleaning and cooking.)
Once lunch is finished I excuse myself from the table and gather my things to head to my afternoon placement. This, like my morning placement is another 25 minute walk each way. My afternoon placement is at a High School called 'Remigio Romero' and I work with the head English teacher. I usually arrive around 2.50pm in time for the next class. I spend most of my afternoon helping mark student's work and when we have classes I help with pronunciation of words (although not always accurate with my NZ accent and always ends up with the teacher giving an explanation of why I say words like 'seven' a bit funny...) I also help students when they ask questions etc.
All of the students and staff are super lovely and welcoming and all of the students give me a wave and an "Hola Georgia" when I walk past them, obsessed with the white-blonde girl in their school. Most days I leave around 6pm to walk back home just before it gets dark (due to being on the equator the sun sets at 6.30pm all year round in Ecuador) although classes actually go until 6.40pm!
In the evening, once I get home I usually get myself something to eat. Dinner isn't a big thing here in Ecuador as lunch is the big meal of the day so I often just have a cheese toasted sandwich and a hot chocolate. After that I spend the evening just relaxing after my busy day and use the time to Skype the family back home or (occasionally) write a blog post. Then around 9pm I head to bed exhausted but fulfilled with each day's work.
Already it has come to an end...
I can't believe my time volunteering in Ecuador has already come to an end. I was extremely sad to leave as these were certainly some of the best days of my life so far. I finished up at both of my placements on Friday 7th July with a full heart and tears in my eyes.
I will forever be grateful to the teachers I worked with for welcoming me to Ecuador, Cuenca, their workplaces and homes and also to the students at the High School and my little 3 year-olds for making my time in Ecuador so wonderful and memorable. On my last day at Perpetuo Socorro the teachers gifted me a poster covered in photos that says "Te Queremos Mucho" (we love you so much) as well as a cushion and mug with even more photos of my time at the daycare and I was swamped with cuddles by the kids which only made leaving that much harder.
At my afternoon placement I became really close with the teacher I worked with and many of the other teachers and staff would call her my "Mami" and we shared cake and coffee as our last wee goodbye.
Overall, it was bittersweet to leave but I am so thankful for the experience and wouldn't change it for a thing.