Monday, February 20, 2006

let me explain a little about my program here in Salvador. cross cultural solutions is an international volunteer program that has placements all over the world. i participated in their china program in xi'an two years ago. i stayed for two weeks and taught english classes at a primary school- grades 1-5. the children were amazing and i had a great time. their english skills were so advanced that i had to learn very little mandarin to communicate. the ccs program is set up so that you volunteer part of your time working within the community, and the other part of the time is spent in cultural exchange- visiting a museum, taking a history class, going to a wedding ceremony, taking a language class, eating typical regional foods. then yo uhave your free time, where you can travel on the weekends or go out at night and check out the night life.
here in brazil, the program is the same. my placement is with the sisters of mother teresa and i am primarily working with toddlers in daycare. the kids are all from the local neighborhood, which is very poor. their parents pay little or nothing for this care and the kids receive attention, food, and interaction with other children. the schedule is very strict and the sisters and the local women who work there do a wonderful job with the kids. i feel like these kids are very lucky because their parents send them here, and they are able to have a "normal" day. i don't want to generalize, but i feel like there can be a lot of neglect when it comes to how some children are raised day to day. this is not true in all cases, of course, and there are many wonderful parents out there who do everything they can for their kids, but there is just so little education, money and opportunity in these neighborhoods that it is the little ones who tend to suffer the most.
so, at the daycare, we take care of about 15 children, it varies from day to day. and can i tell you how CUTE they all are? it is really a fun day- a lot of work, but their little smiles and big boisterous laughter does just wonders for your spirit. there are four of us volunteers and usually georgina and tamisera who are full time employees. tamisera is a young teenager and i want to ask her why she isn't in school, but my portuguese isn't very good (and i know the answer anyway- you can't go to school if you have to go out and make a living).
when we arrive in the morning we are greeted by 15 toddlers who are just finishing their milk. then they go to the chapel to say a prayer for the virgin mary (well, they sit there while georgina tries to lead them in prayer). then it is playtime! they have little bikes, and plastic rocking horses and a big crate full of legos and plastic dolls and blocks and rattles and squeaks. we spread out a blanket outside and the kids run all over the garden playing without a care in the world. today i worked with rafael, who is staying with the sisters for three months with his baby sister. they are both severely malnourished. rafael is the oldest of all the kids, at three years old, but he cannot walk and looks to be about one year old. he is so malnourished that his little body stopped growing, and his father held him all the time, so he never learned to walk. today the sister mary clare gave me the job of making sure he never sat down. he was to walk everywhere. i gave him a little pushcart and off we went. he did really well- i could tell that he really wanted to walk and interact with the other kids. at one point we abandoned the pushcart and i held a ball out in front of him, like a carrot, and had him follow me all over the courtyard. it was so rewarding to see him toddling around by himself! the sisters do such good work for these kids- rafael's mother was smart to bring him there (she's expecting another baby any second now).
after play time, we bring the kids inside and have them wash their hands and get ready for lunch. we tie their little bibs around their necks and sit them down to eat. georgina leads them in songs and prayers and then we dish out the food. every day it is rice and beans, with a different protein filler. today it was hard boiled eggs- but some days it can be ground beef, sausage or scrambled eggs. the kids eat a lot (for some of them this may be the only good meal they have all day).
after they eat- we strip off all their clothes and it's potty time! all fifteen sit on the toilet at once- and you can~t believe the crying! they hate pottytime, but all sit there like they are told. after they have each done thier 'business'- we give them a bath and put them in fresh diapers, then it is off to bed for a nap. we try to give each kid an extra bit of attention as they are going off to sleep.
this all sounds so easy and carefree- but usually, everyday, there is a wrench thrown into the plan. i have learned how to deal with fifteen little voices crying out to be held- how to hold a child while giving another some water and wiping up the table, all at the same time. i have learned what many mothers have learned before me- how to mulitask!
gotta go- more later!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

aló from brazil!

well, i made it safe and sound to salvadore.

it is amazingly beautiful here, and Im looking forward to going to the beach this afternoon. I start my work placement tomorrow and I will be volunteering at The Sisters of Mother Teresa (Madre Terese), helping the nuns take care of orphans and abandoned elderly women. i have been told that this is a great place to work. brazil is a country of such stark contrasts and i feel fortunate to be able to experience both worlds.

carnavale is coming up on 2/23, and the whole city is preparing. the celebration in Salvadore is said to be bigger (and better), and more authenically brazillian than that in rio. i will be here for just two days of the fiesta, and do not worry, i will be safe while i am having a good time.

my portuguese language skills do not exist, but i am getting along fine. im thankful that english is my native language, no matter where you travel, you are bound to run into someone that speaks english. thank goodness other countries focus more attention to foreign languages than we do here in the states!

for more information on the program that i am taking part of, visit Cross Cultural Solutions.

you can also visit my journal from my trip to China through the same organization.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

off to the southern hemisphere!

i'm off to brazil on friday and i am very excited! i'm starting to pack today and go out and pick up last minute things. i have a bunch of books on brazil that i have to pick up from barnes&noble today. i have to go to mac to pick up an adaptor for my ipod nano (which should just be included in the original purchase imo), go to macy's to return some things and look for some cute summer clothes (it's summer in brazil right now) and pick up some brazilian money too. tonight i'm going to dinner with my friend mariana- hopefully to our favorite russian food place.

our kitchen cabinets have been installed, the new appliances too. we're waiting for the countertops to come in. hopefully when i return, everything will be set, except for the backsplash, which we're not deciding on until we see the countertops. the floor that kpr installed is awesome. we still have to get the ceiling light in and kpr has to do some wall repair and painting, but it is so much better than our old kitchen! i'll do a photo entry when i get back so you can see the difference.

speaking of when i return, i've got a lot of shit to do. we have to reserve blocks of rooms for the wedding. confirm the florist, find a dj and finalize plans for the honeymoon. we have to do the invitations, get my sister into town to look for bridesmaid dresses, figure out what kpr and his brother are going to be wearing and do the tasting with the caterer (yum!). so far i'm having two different showers planned for me, and possibly an engagement party for our ny friends. so much to do.

and i'm planning on doing a mailing to different agents and managers, audition more, oh and that reminds me i have to order more headshots... taking a scene study class, and an on camera class. so much to do!

this is probably my last post till i leave and i don't know if i will have an opportunity to post while i'm away, so see ya later!