Week 2 in Ecuador started off with a bang as I decided to go to the mall and buy a basketball so I could play with my roommate, host sister and her cousin David who lives next door, is my age, and speaks English fluently. Just walking around in the mall is an experience on its own as the place is gigantic and I stand out like a sore thumb. But I love the feeling. Its refreshing to be out of the comfort zone I have known my whole life and be immersed in a different world and culture. Though I am by no means fluent in Spanish, I know enough to have a decent conversation with people. Pretty fun getting a reaction out of someone when you start speaking to them in Spanish and they are taken a back. I hope that by the time I leave Ecuador I will be almost fluent. But back to Basketball.
It was a beautiful Sunday and we went to the park and must have played at least 2 hours, which was made harder due to the high altitude here. Great feeling to relax and just play a game with new friends and laugh. My team of Anita (my host sister) and I won, mainly because I learned Anita was really aggressive and at times resorted to pushing and shoving David and Tiffany. The following day I returned to the park by myself as I don’t have work on Mondays and everyone else was busy. I shot around for at least an hour and was starting to contemplate heading home as I was getting a little tired and it was pretty hot outside, yet something told me instead to sit for a minute, drink some water and play a few minutes longer. A few seconds after I got up again I noticed a boy watching me. He was sitting by the road and kept looking over at me as a dribbled around. I asked him if he wanted to play, he nodded his head and came my way. He must have been under the age of 14, was built a little differently and I wasn’t able to understand him but the next 2 and a half hours of playing with him were something else. He wasn’t strong enough to get the ball up to the hoop so I would hold it with him and help him make baskets by guiding the ball up to the rim after he released it. He loved trying to steal the ball from me and running from one side to the other. Sometimes he would sit me down and talk to me for minutes at a time. I would ask him questions and he would answer, and I tried my best to understand but I usually ended up going along with what he would say. I think humans need to feel understood and its an awesome feeling to sit and just listen to what they have to say, its validating. I finally got so tired and had to leave, first I found out from a lady nearby where he lived and made sure he was capable of getting back home. It was hard because he didn’t want to stop playing and honestly I didn’t either except I was just so wiped out. Loved his laugh, and he really cared about me and made sure I didn’t forget my water bottle. One of those goodbyes where when you finally head different directions you keep looking back to catch one last glimpse of them.
The work week was filled with so much laughter and hugs from the kids in the market, such a rewarding feeling. As well I finished my Spanish lessons in the afternoons on Wednesday and therefore was able to stay in the afternoon session Thursday and Friday instead of leaving at lunch time. My favorite memory of the week came in the Tuesday market as a little girl saw us from the other end of the market and booked it over to us. She had such a sweet little face and puffy little cheeks, but also a lot of wit and humor for a 3 year old. Often I feel the children in the markets are older than their actual age as many have had to work and care for their siblings. As well they navigate the busy marketplace with an ease and confidence that’s a little frightening as most stand no taller than 3 feet, and cant see over anything. They weave in and out of the bustling feet and stray dogs at lightning speed and I have a hard time keeping up. I thought I was tired just working a half day with the kids but finally working the full 9 hour day left me exhausted. Working with children requires high energy and expression to capture their attention. Sometimes after corralling 30 kids, convincing a group of 4 year old boys not to climb on the parked cars for the third time, and settling countless disputes over whose turn it is to play with a toy you are more than ready for a minute of down time. Yet no matter how tired you are, when a little kid shows you the picture they drew you always find the energy to exclaim, “WOW!! I love your picture!”