As I am heading toward my 2 month mark here on Rancho Santa Fe and also entering into 2 weeks which are completely an exception to my daily routine (camping with my hogar this week, Holy Week, next week), I am thinking about my routine, the patterns of my life here.
My day begins at 6 am. I get up, dressed (no shower--too cold in the mornings), make coffee (instant), eat yogurt and granola, read a little, and by 7:10 begin my walk to the school.
It takes me 20 minutes to walk to school. It should only take 15 minutes or less, but all the kids are walking to school at the same time. They are in no hurry to start classes and walk really slow. If I happen to run into some of my little kids from Casa Suyapa it pretty much gaurantees me that I will be late as they all want to hold my hand, peek into my bag (hoping for storybooks), and walk with me. My walk takes me past the main kitchen, past Casa Suyapa, past Talleres (workshops), through an open savanna-type plain, and over a little bridge.
The school is a collection of open-air brick buildings. There is no glass or screens in the windows, only bars. I have one curtain in my classroom which I have tied to the bars, trying to keep the dusty wind out. Sometimes I could scream at the wind (sometimes I do scream) because it constantly is tearing things off the walls, dirtying my room, and making it hard to work. The comedor (cafeteria) is a wall-less pavilion in the middle of the buildings with some metal tables and chairs. Most of the school buildings are centered around a courtyard which has several brightly blooming trees and a flag-less flagpole.
The school day starts at 7:30. There are 8 periods, a recreo (recess) and time for aseo (chores). Classes end at 1:15. The class periods are usually 40 minutes and bells ring to announce the periods. However, some days there are randomly no bells and most days the bells ring 5 minutes early of 5 minutes late. I am always changing my watch, trying to align it with the bells, but to no avail. Therefore, I am always early or late for everything.
During the day, I meet with approximately 5 of my students individually. I set a schedule based on the students´s classes and pull them out of certain "less-important" subjects during the day. The hard part is finding the kids. I work with kids from 3 different classes with 3 different schedules. My schedule changes every week as well, so that the same kids don´t keep missing the same classes. I don´t have the schedules for the kids´ classes (it wouldn´t really help if I did since the schedules always change, too) and so I have to run around the school trying to look for my students.
There is no time in the school schedule between classes. For intstance, 1st period ends at 8:10 and 2nd period begins at 8:10 as well. Obviously, it takes a few minutes for the kids to pack up and walk to their next class, so classes always start late. By the time I find the kid, class has already started and I have to interrupt the teacher to ask permission to pull out my student. This is annoying to both me and the teacher. Annoying, but accepted and unavoidable.
The best thing about the school is the caseta. The caseta is a little snack bar. If I have an hour off, I sometimes go sit in the caseta and get a Pepsi and a baleada (flour tortilla with beans, cheese and cream) or whatever´s cooking. If I am lucky, my friend Jen, an English teacher, happens to have an hour off and joins me and we sit there listening to cheesy American music on the boombox. My belly usually starts to rumble mid-morning--we don´t get lunch until 1:30 and 7 hours without a snack is a long time!
On Monday and Tuesdays, I stay at school until 4:00 meeting with 2 students in the afternoon. After class, I walk my students back to their hogares and make it home by 4:30. I then have time to jump in the shower and change into kid-friendly clothes (jeans, t-shirt, no jewelry, hair in a ponytail).
From 5:30-7:30 every night I am in my hogar. Oftentimes, after hogar we have some sort of meeting. If there´s no meeting, sometimes I´ll walk down to Casa Personal and hang out with some of the other volunteers. If dinner was bad--sopa de menudo or boiled plátanos, for example--we might make some pasta. Socializing doesn´t last long. I am usually in bed by 10:30 aiming for my 8 hours.
Every other weekend is a work weekend. On a work weekend, I spend Friday night with my hogar, from dinner until bedtime (usually 9 or 9:30) and all day Saturday (9 a.m. until 9:30 p.m.). Saturday mornings, the kids do chores. Lunch is at 1. Mass is at 4. Dinner at 6 and then some kind of activity, watching a movie or having a bonfire in the night.
2 weekends a month, we have our salida. From 1 p.m. on Friday until Monday morning at 7:30, we are free to do whatever we like. My last salida, two weeks ago, I went to Tela, a beach town on the Carribean coast. This weekend, I hung out a bit in Teguc and now am back on the Ranch taking it easy.
Last night, some of the volunteers and I walked to La Venta. La Venta is a small town about a 30 minute walk through the woods from the ranch. There is a pulperia (little snack shop/bar) there and we sat around and had some beers, and enjoyed the breeze. The pulperia is a little shack of a place, with turquiose blue walls and plants growing out of old pots and coffee cans. There are a few benches and beer crates to sit on and a makeshift checkerboard and bottle caps if you feel like a game of checkers. Outside the yard is full of rusting car parts and tires. A huge coconut tree looms over the garden of junk. The beers are cheap--about 75 cents--and you take what you get. Different kinds of beer, cans, bottles, whatever they feel like serving. You keep all the cans and bottles on the table until the end of the night as a way of keeping track of what you owe.
Today, I am still enjoying the luxury of my salida, catching up with emails, packing to go camping, reading and relaxing. Tomorrow, I leave for a 5 day adventure to Amapala with my Hogar. Anapala is a town on a volcanic island on the South (Pacific) coast. I am not sure what to expect camping with 50 little kids for 5 days, but be sure I´ll let you all know how it goes. If you would like to see Amapala, click on the following link to see a photo of the beach there.
Happy Easter, everyone. Be sure to check back here in a week or two to learn about my adventure in Amapala and to hear about our Semana Santa on the Ranch.