Quincy Community United Methodist Church
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Where ever you are on your journey of faith you are welcome here
SOMER O'BRIEN IN ECUADOR
For Six months the Quincy Community United Methodist Church has to say good bye to our beloved organist/pianist Somer O'Brien as she follows her dream to make a difference in our global community. She has chosen to become a part of a project to make a difference in Ecuador through "The Ecuadorian Experiment in International Living" . During this time Somer will be immersing herself in the Ecuadorian life and teaching under privileged children.
MESSAGES FROM SOMER!
I hope that you all are having a great summer and for those of you in Boston, I hear it has been hailing so, um, feel free to come to Ecuador for a bit, the rain has let up here and the weather is gorgeous. I actually miss being in Boston when there are leaves on the trees, and I miss sitting by the Charles in a tank top and waiting for the dark...
but the weather here is indescribably beautiful and I think I´m turning into a mountain girl.
The past weeks have been wonderful but not exactly what I´d had in mind; about a month ago I was visiting one of the several incredible waterfalls very near where I live and was climbing some rocks when I fell and tore some ligaments in my ankle. I was laid up in bed at the lodge for about a week, in a cast for the first time in my life... and the following week I went back to Quito to have some physical therapy and continue recovering. This week I finally returned to the lodge and my teaching, and was so happy to do so... I really missed my students and had a very warm welcome back.
It´s interesting what happens when you have a lot of alone time without being able to walk: one of the things I wanted to do while here was to spend some time thinking about my life, about the choices I make, about how I manage my "path". Some of the lessons I didn´t know that I needed to learn but have been confronted with : patience. how to graciously and gratefully accept help from other people. patience. how to live with discomfort and continue moving. how to be a little braver and have a little higher tolerance for pain. I´m also getting to be a better swimmer, since swimming is my primary form of physical therapy and my only form of exercise currently...
In Puerto Quito it´s now summer, which means that it doesn`t rain too much, and is sometimes cool. Early mornings are gorgeous-the other day I woke to a huge open sky, with a few clouds and a tender, unripe sun. I made a promise to get up early every day so as not to miss it in the future. During the day the sky feels more closed in-it´s humid, hot, and cloudy, and the impressions are of heat and life everywhere. My favorite times are sunrise and the time between sunset and darkness.
I am getting to know the families of my students, little by little, and I had the delicious (and only slightly disconcerting) experience of having two mothers come to my class one day with pencil and paper in hand, asking if they could sit in...
I can understand more than half of what my students say to me now, which is really nice. I have my own aula (classroom) and the walls are starting to fill with art projects...it´s such a pleasure to have my own workspace and I am free to teach in my own style. I am creating my own curriculum as I go which includes a lot of games and interactive tools to encourage active participation. The kids love to play hangman with their english vocabulary, and they love flashcards. During recess I usually have a good handful of kids in my classsroom drawing pictures...
The kids are really beautiful. They are all individuals and really special and the more I get to know them the more I enjoy my time here and the more truly lucky I feel to be having this experience. The thing I hope for the most is to be able to give them a little breath of something new, something to help motivate them to keep learning and searching for knowledge. Life in el campo (the country) is brutal and beautiful. Working is much more important and valuable to the members of the community than education, because daily survival doesn´t leave much room for ideas of intellectual advancement. Families are large and everyone old enough works to help support the family. Most work in the plantations in the area, which grow among other things african palm, palmito, platano, coffee, cacao, and yucca, on the farms, or in the nearby hosterias. Some of my students will make it to colegio (secondary school); few will graduate. Most will go to colegio for a few years and then leave because they take a job or start their own families. Therefore, my primary goal is to get my students excited and involved in their learning, and to help spread this enthusiasm beyond the school and into the community.
I have posted the photos I´ve taken so far on my facebook page; if you are not already a member of facebook, it is free and a great resource for connecting with friends and colleagues professionally and personally. It is a secure site and very easy to sign up. The website is www.facebook.com. Once you have signed on, you can search for me by putting my full name in the search window, and then send a friend request to me; once I "approve" the request, you can go on my page and view my photo albums. I have attached a few here in the email as well but there are many many more so look me up on facebook!
Thanks for your support and to all of you have sent me email. I miss you and wish you all health and good experiences this summer...Drop me a line anytime....
Besos (kisses) and abrazos (hugs),
Just wanted to say a quick hello and give you a little update on how I am doing...
I'm living and working in a very small village named Unidos Venceremos, in between the towns of Puerto Quito and Pedro Vicente Maldonado. The area is populated by people from all parts of the coast of- from Loja in the south to and Esmeraldas (check out a map of ). The region is "coastal lowland" and is filled with "fincas" or small farms growing platano, yucca, coffee, sugar cane, guayaba, guaba, cacao, and coco (coconut) to name only a few... Many people work on these fincas cultivating and harvesting the vegetation. The village is made up of about 30 families, and there are about 40 students in the school ranging from 5 to 12 years old. It takes me about 3 1/2 hours to travel there by bus from .
Some overall first impressions:
It's very hot and humid! There are two seasons- a rainy season and a less rainy season. The rainy season lasts from October to May (more or less) and is called winter; summer is beginning now, drier and more sunny. The sun rises around 6am and sets aroundevery day, and sunset is heralded by cicadas, who sing from 6 to 6:30- they say you can time things by using the cicadas as a stopwatch... Birds of infinite colors and varieties, none of whose names I know yet... and butterflies that can grow to be as large as the birds...
People are shy but very kind. I am still getting to know the families of the students I work with, but as I get to know the students better I am also feeling warmth from their parents.
The kids in the school make a definite impression... they show a great deal of strength and stubbornness, and somehow seem "old" for their ages, despite their small physical size. Life is hard; they don't have much, and they learn to fend for themselves at a very young age. They love outdoor games and art projects, especially anything involving glue, clay, and scissors... I haven't ventured into paints yet...
Teaching English in the country is quite a challenge. The system of education inis very different - so I am working hard to make everything very hands-on and activity-based to encourage multi-level learning. I'm still in the beginning stages but have had some successes. My camera broke the day before I arrived, so I have yet to take any pictures, but when I can I will send them along...
I live at an ecotourist lodge called Kaony Lodge www.KaonyLodge.com ... I am surrounded by orchids, butterflies, birds, and insects (and bats at night), huge ornamental plants and trees of every variety imaginable. My cabin has a roof of woven toquilla, a local plant with a sunburst of long slender leaves that are dried and woven for roofs and other things...not only do I have hot water, but also a pool to swim in every day, and delicious food. Typical meal: ceviche of palmito (heart of palm) or camarones(shrimp), cooked yucca, patacones (fried platano pressed into bite-sized pieces), fish, often tilapia, either steamed in an hoja (leaf) or fried... and is also renowned for its soups- beans, fish, potatoes, yucca, vegetables-
my days begin at 6:30 or 7, sometimes with a swim, followed by breakfast, and then I go to the school from. To get there I walk down a sendero (foot path) along the river- which gets flooded when it rains a lot- and then cross a footbridge to the little road which takes me to the village. It's about a ten minute walk.. if I cross the bridge during other times of the day I usually see some of my students bathing in the river... I give between 3 and 5 english classes per day, and then go back to the lodge for lunch and a swim. Then some days I teach an English class to the lodge employees in the afternoon, which is a very different experience than teaching to the kids, but equally enjoyable. I also end up learning quite a bit of spanish in these lessons. By then it's dark! and I have dinner, and do lesson planning, and hang out with the employees, talking and learning about ecuadorian cuisine from la Senora Adriana, the cook. Usually my dreams are accompanied by crickets, the thundering of the river, and rain, because it rains every day from 4 or through the night. On the weekends I often return to - or actually Sangolqui, in El Valle de los Chillos, the valley to the east of - to hang out with Alex's family, lounging around and talking and eating... it's sort of like my home base here and is extremely relaxing. They've been so welcoming that I feel I am home when I'm here. In the climate is completely different- the only similarity being the rain. Right now I am in here in and it is pouring and thundering. is in the Sierra- the Andes range which extends from north to south throught the central part of , so it's much cooler and fresher and you can really feel the altitude...
Anyway, I promise to send photos when I have them and just wanted to say hi to everyone, that I miss you all very much and am so grateful for your gifts, your support and encouragement. I can't wait to see you, and if you just happen to be inanytime soon...
Feel free to email me at this address, I check my email at least a couple of times each week.
Love, and hugs and kisses,