Saturday, June 21, 2008

Week 2 - Jose

After having stayed for one week at my assigned home stay, I realized that I can definitely be flexible and that it is possible for me to modify my lifestyle to accommodate the lifestyle of others. As I am writing this, I am leaving from Nogales, Sonora, and I am already missing a unique sense of feeling that I felt this week. Not only did I learn a lot about teaching and making it fun for the kids during the summer camp, but I got to experience an environment that was somewhat familiar yet distinct from my own during my stay with a host family.

The week-long camp was great. The seven of us participated in different educational stations. The main goals were to teach students about diversity and the fact that people living in different parts of the world look different from us. My personal favorite was the sports station (there were also arts and crafts, music, loteria, and cine stations). I helped Vilma, one of the camp leaders, to come up with creative ways so that the daily topic of the camp could be fun and educational at the same time. One of the days we learned about the planets of our universe. We would mention a fact of a planet and asked the kids to run to the planet they believed the fact belonged to. The planets were hand drawn with chalk on the basketball courts outside La Casa. Another day, we learned about the continents of the world. First, we learned the location of the continents in relationship to each other (they were also hand drawn with chalk on the basketball courts), and then we asked all the kids to form a straight line outside the court. We would mention a country, and the kids would run to find the continent and the country where it was found. Every day, when there was a change in stations, we asked the kids that would come to sports to tell us a fact of a country they had learned at the beginning of their day (before the summer camp began every day, we all learned about two or three countries, their form of currency, their traditions, their language, and their typical food). The week long summer camp went really well. We did not have a problem with the little kids; they would do anything they were instructed to do. However, we had a little more difficulty dealing with the big kids. They would only really come to play soccer and basketball, but we managed to get their attention and taught them some facts at the same time. Moreover, to reward them for their patience, we would play a game of soccer near the end of their time at the sports station.

My stay with a host family reinforced in me the values of living a humble and frugal life that serendipitously creates a relaxed environment. Every day, Karen and I would walk to La Casa de la Misericordia for the kid’s summer camp at 8:15AM and return at around 6PM. The route to La Casa was a dirt road, and so our shoes would always be covered in brownish dirt. When it came time to wash our face and brush our teeth, we realized that they did not have running water (the whole neighborhood had the water pipes installed but the water company had not yet opened them for water to flow through the pipes). Instead, they had bottled water that they would buy from water purification stores. Additionally, we had to flush the toilet with buckets of water. A big eye-opening experience was to see that our hosts did not have a room for the kids and another for the parents. They all lived in the same family room. Everything was more communal than in the US and the sister, three brothers, and parents knew what everyone else’s plan was for the day. It seemed that they interacted more as a family than what I have seen in the US. Overall, this created a more relaxed ambient where everyone could say what they had in mind, and the close interaction between all of them enabled the individual to be heard every single time when they spoke. It was almost as if what we call a “lower tier lifestyle” lowered responsibilities and expectations, and you felt more liberated from daily distractions, problems, and worries. I personally felt freer of concerns and about life in general even though I always had a long day of running around in the hot sun.

Interacting with the kids at the summer camp and staying to live with a host family, I realized that I needed to be as flexible as possible and be willing to accommodate to changing circumstances. For the big kids in the summer camp, I would try to come up with something new and fun to teach them the following day (e.g. I taught them to make music with their own hands). I would try to leave them with a cliffhanger so that they would come back, enthusiastically, the next day. I definitely had fun challenging them to see who could handle the soccer ball the best and prevent it from falling to the ground. As for the stay with the host family, I learned how to conserve water and flush the toilet with a bucket, among other things that people in the United States take for granted on an everyday basis. Thus, while the whole week was full of activities that required serious physical and mental activity (including individual and group reflections), I loved the experience and the opportunity to share a week and learn from many individuals in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.

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