Sunday, June 12, 2011

"Vaca," No "Caca" (No More)

On the bus--I'm not too hard to find.
Yesterday, I ended my work at Pedacito de Cielo (the home for children 0-5 years) because I learned something very important during the 17 hours I spent there this week: working full-time with small children is not for me.  I can take small children in small doses.  I can even enjoy small children in small doses, but I can not be with them all the time (and not for shifts of 7 or 11 hours). My tolerance might actually be inversely proportional to the number of children in the group...more children, less tolerance.  Fewer children, more tolerance.  The number of children at Pedacito is fixed, however, and by Friday evening, as I sat in the dark of one of Pedacito's bedrooms trying to make sure that the kids went to sleep and didn't crawl out of bed, I decided that I couldn't continue with my work there, not even for five weeks.  The chaos there--and the need to be "on" all the time--did me in. 

Now, I don't want to give a false impression of the state of the home.  Considering the resources available, I think the women who work at Pedacito full-time do a good job (and a better job than I could probably do if Pedacito became my career).  Some moments of chaos were inevitable.  Nonetheless, some chaos probably could have been prevented--like the hour of chaose before bedtime in which the kids were running around like crazy, sticking their fingers into each other's butt cracks, and coming very close to stepping on the baby who was laying on the floor (and whom I was told not to touch so that he wouldn't become too attached to anyone before he went to bed).  An alternative?  Read.  At least two children were interested in the story I started and if each adult had sat down with a book, I think whole house would have been calmer.  Still, I can't know for certain, and I can't throw stones. I just know that I would have dreaded my remaining five weeks here if I had remained at Pedacito.

Thankfully, the director of the Maryknoll short term mission volunteer program was very understanding of my desire to leave and said that there are a lot of other things to get involved in here.  This coming week, then, I'll be trying out some other kinds of work and piecing together a more part-time schedule.  Adjusting to life here takes a lot of energy and can be draining, so even if I really wanted to work with little kids, I probably couldn't do it for a full forty hours per week, at least not so soon after my arrival.

Despite the fact that I will no longer be returning to Pedacito, I'm glad I gave it a try.  There were plenty of memorable moments--some good, some bad--and I've acquired some stories I'll probably be telling for a while.  (I also acquired some good self-knowledge that will be most helpful the next time I have the opportunity to work with kids.)

A couple funny stories can be lumped together by one theme: poop.  Potty humor, for the most part, is not my thing. When you work with little kids, however, poop--or the possiblity of poop--is always with you, and so I turn once again to the title of my blog entry: "Vaca, no caca" was actually what a "tia" ("aunt" in Spanish and what the children call the adults who work at the home) said to one of the kids when they were learning the names of different animals.  The tia would point to a picture of an animal and the children would repeat.  We learned about "patos" (ducks), "gatos" (cats), "ovejas" (sheep), and several other animals, including "vacas" (cows).  Someone, though, repeated "caca" instead of "vaca," which prompted the tia to say, in a somewhat reproachful tone: "Vaca, no caca."  It was the funniest part of the day!

On Saturday, poop was an especially prominent theme.  After lunch, Willa (one of my housemates) and I were told to take the youngest three children to the bathroom, sit them on their little baby potties, and not let them get up until they had pooped.  (This, apparently, was to ensure that they wouldn't poop in their diapers.)  I honestly don't know how long we stood there or how many times I said (following the lead of the tias) "Haz caca" (Poop.), "No puedes levantarte hasta que hagas caca" (You can't get up until you poop.), or "Has hecho caca?" (Have you pooped?), but the whole event culminated in only one of three children doing their "duty."  Santiago, one of the other kids, just crossed his legs like his potty was a La-Z-Boy and José
 (the youngest) ended up sticking his hands in what Matias had left in his potty. 

These are the three who had a duty to do.

A couple hours later, Willa and I left.    Our parting shot of the kids?  Try hard to picture this: all 12 children and 5 adults piled into 1 minivan with 1 taxi driver on their way to an event at which some of the children were going to perform a dance.  I waved goodbye enthusiastically.

Matias and I got along very well (and not only when he was sleeping!)

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