You know when you were a little kid and mom would be gone for the weekend, leaving dad in charge...resulting in hot dogs and baked beans for dinner...and a little more freedom (along with slight choas)...and eating while watching wheel of fortune???
Madre Miguel and Madre Cindy both abandoned their flock this week for bigger and better things (the US and Ireland)....haha, just kidding. But the Madres are indeed gone for the next 2 weeks, leaving Padre Juan, also fondly known in our house as "The Dude," to call the shots! And by call the shots, I mean he will not be doing a darn thing, since he usually just does what the Madres tell him to do, and well, since they're not around......for example, at reflection last Tuesday, when the Madres reminded us that they would be leaving, Padre said "So that means I will be, uh, collecting, you know, what are they called....those lesson plan thingys ya'll are supposed to do." When we all laughed, he pretended to be surprised and said "What's so damn funny?" Anyway, I wish I could capture the Padre/Madre complex in words and paint a better picture for you, but I could never do them justice. Nonetheless, the Padre is in charge, and it's pretty sweet. (Don't get me wrong, I love the Madres, but...you know what I mean...).
We had last Friday off, so Thursday night, 6 of us got on a bus around 11pm for the 8 hour drive to the coast! We had a spectacularly relaxing weekend of playing in the ocean, napping in hammocks, napping on the beach, reading books, walking barefoot in the sand, drinking pina coladas (the real kind with pineapples and coconuts picked from the backyard), eating cheap seafood for every meal (the real kind...fished out of the ocean moments before it appears on your plate), and playing beach volleyball/soccer. Since it was a national holiday, we chose the tiny coastal "off the beaten path" town of Muisne to avoid crazy crowds and obnoxious gringos. and avoid we did. We spent 2 days literally "on the beach" - the actual town was a couple miles down the road. The beach was lined with about a dozen hostels and little family-run seafood restaurants. Although it was a little more cloudy than we would have liked, it was much warmer than Quito, and the perfect place to chill out and re-energize.
Even though I teach for 12 hours everyday, I have spent a lot more time actually with the kids in the past 2 weeks. I am at a point now where I can converse well enough to get to know them and connect with them outside the classroom. I have some free time in the evenings and, even though I am usually exhausted and cranky by then, I am surprised to find that dancing, playing, singing, coloring, cuddling, and laughing with the kids is the best way to end my day. Last week, I spent my break from 6-6:30 (usually reserved for a catnap in the break room) sitting on the front steps of the Center. The steps are a pretty important gathering place, always packed with families coming and going. The second I sat down, I had kids on my lap, kids grabbing my hands, kids yelling my name, kids crawling on my back, kids pushing other kids out of the way so they could give me a hug or kiss, kids wanting to introduce me to their moms and dads, and kids telling me to have a good night and they would see me tomorrow. For the first time, I occured to me that I'm getting rather attached to this place and these people and it is going to be very difficult to leave them 10 months from now.
While Tuesdays are my least favorite DAY of the week, they have become my absolute favorite NIGHT of the week. First of all, it's Italian night, which means either pizza, spaghetti or lasagna for dinner - not normally my absolute favorite cuisine, but it's nearly impossible to find decent Italian food in the city of Quito, so I have come to really appreciate the delicious grub Maria and Antonia cook up. Tuesday also happens to be my dish night. Again, not something I would normally look forward to, however, the TLNDB (Team Leave No Dish Behind) has a pretty kick-ass time doing the dishes. Not only do we have a sweet team name (although, not such a time-efficient philosophy, we're finding out...), but we have a team cheer, team slogans, and we're in the process of designing team aprons...AND we have team commradery (not sure hot to spell that) like you wouldn't believe! Dish time is followed by spirituality/reflection with all the volunteers, madres/padres, and any guests we have in the house. It's a nice bonding and sharing time, and always leaves me inspired and motivated to take on the rest of the week. Finally, my favorite night concludes with a bang - literally. It's a thing we like to call "Flaming Plane Tuesdays." Don't ask me how it started, but it has evolved into a select few going up onto the roof of our house and throwing paper airplanes lit on fire at the people sitting on the patio down below. Sounds silly, I know, but it's actually quite fun and entertaining (and don't worry, the planes rarely actually make it near the people sitting on the patio). We predict that it will continue to evolve into a competition of sorts...different roof tops (we have a big house), moving targets, gasoline (haha), "flaming desk tuesdays" perhaps...the posssibilities are endless!
Wow, I think that's enough for this one. I had to make up for not writing for a while though. If you made it to the end, congratualtions! Lots of Ecua-love...