Who knew parenting was difficult?
Fortunately, there are those more gifted than me here on our team, such as Zoro, Maddy, and Carlo pictured above with Alicia and Baby Jose. This Sunday I wasn't dying of a mystery illness so I joined Zoro in parenting and cooking for the Guerreros while their house mother Saray took a day off in town. One of the most difficult challenges with these guys is finding things for them to do that are productive and captivating. Thankfully the weather was hot and sunny so they were able to entertain themselves for hours at the swimming hole.
Making Some Improvements
One of the biggest highlights of this week was the improvements Elizabeth and I were able to make to our classroom. We were able to relocate our teaching space to a quieter side of the house with fewer distracting toddlers and opportunities for students to disappear. Managing lackadaisical high schoolers has proven surprisingly easy, it's motivating them to focus and learn that has been a challenge.
One of our goals for this semester has been to introduce science as a topic of study since English and math are currently their only classes. After presenting them with some scientific fields, they chose "earth science" and were enthusiastic about the little parcels of knowledge we were able to relay about the Earth's size, geological layers, distance from the sun, and the changing of the seasons. It was refreshing to see them excited about learning, even if my horribly translated speech on the phases of the moon and the solar system was content they mostly already knew.
And while my Spanish doesn't necessarily improve while talking with the students that speak English fluently and translate what I can't explain, I have been able to connect more with them by exchanging personal stories. I count this as a win in settling into life in Bolivia.
This week I struggled to figure out how to be productive in the afternoons. The afternoons are designated chore time, but with agriculture on campus at an all-time low after Melissa's long but necessary hiatus from keeping Familia Feliz afloat, most available tasks involve repair work. And most repair work involves tools that can't be found, don't work, or don't exist.
I mostly occupied myself this week with replacing torn window screens in the volunteer's house and the Guerreros' house. I replaced two having next to no idea what I was doing, so Melissa's older adopted daughter had to teach me and Carlo the correct method. After that, we were set. The boys, both volunteers and students, helped for various sections.
If we thought we were falling into any sort of monotony this week, it was certainly disrupted by a particular voice message from Sierra. She was down the road with some of the littles who were getting dental work done. Her phone was about to die, and the house next door was on fire.
With no idea of the size of the fire, the danger level, and with half of the volunteers in town on their day off, it took us a few minutes to make a plan. Zoro and Emilianne, the two other volunteers at Familia Feliz that day, decided to get some cardio and run down the road to the fire. Knowing I would absolutely not be keeping up with them, I ran over to Melissa's house for the car and the older boys who might need to join in carrying water.
For better or worse, by the time we collected all of Familia Feliz's newly formed volunteer fire department and arrived on the scene, Zoro and Emilianne had been there for about 10 minutes, along with Teacher Juan and the owners of the flammable structure in question. They had successfully put out the flames while Sierra had kept a car full of hyperactive 5-year-olds under control, and a smoking kitchen area and ruined wall were all that remained.
The next two mornings the campus was greeted by torrential downpours which lasted the entirety of the first day and most of the next. This was the weather I had expected from Bolivia. Leaking roofs, wet laundry, and impromptu lakes all matched my imagination, but canceling classes both days was not something I anticipated. With no particular responsibilities in the morning, the volunteers got to hang out, organize files in the school office, talk over our experiences so far and make a game plan for how to improve, and watch a movie.
On our weekly day off, I went into Rurrenabaque with Zoro, Emilianne, and Sierra. It's only our second time, but so far the tradition is to get groceries like coveted peanut butter, find somewhere to eat except everything thing is closed so we always eat at the same place, and then pay a few dollars to chill in an open-air hotel lobby. Here we can use the WiFi to write blog posts and anything else you need internet for, since Familia Feliz only has cell reception. Taking taxis back-and-forth is the only option unless the campus van is already going into town for other errands.
This week we're partially reorganizing things to hopefully run smoother. We're going to be eating in regular locations to put less stress on the cooks, and defining boundaries of authority with the kids so no one is confused about who to listen to and when to listen. I'm looking forward to expanding our science class and finding more ways to connect with the Guerreros and my students.