Happy Saturday, friends! I hope you are all doing well. Saturday is the volunteers’ free day, and we always use the opportunity to spend a day in the city. Usually us three volunteers all spend the day together, but today I decided to have a little solo time and recharge on my own. At home in the U.S., I have always loved doing things by myself. Sometimes I think that’s a little strange because I am such an extrovert. But I love love LOVE running around and doing errands on my own, sitting down at a coffee shop and just getting things done by myself (today’s to-do: write blog post, follow up on an insurance claim, & respond to emails)... I also find a weird amount of enjoyment in going out to eat by myself, going to the movies by myself, putting my headphones on on the bus & jamming out as I make the 45 min journey home… I’m a little bit of a weirdo. But that’s what I’m doing today! And it has been so refreshing.
As for some general updates, on the 31st of January we celebrated the feast day of Saint John Bosco. We played tons of games with the girls, made a cake, all of the good things. Saint John Bosco was a super awesome guy and built his life around educating the poor (praise be to God! Education truly is such a privilege). He founded the Salesians, which is a congregation of the Catholic church that is devoted to the accompaniment and education of underprivileged youth. This feast day is a pretty big deal around here at the hogar since we are all Salesian!
So far in February we have celebrated several birthdays. Early in the month, one of our two sisters (nuns), Hermana Letty, celebrated her birthday, and since then we’ve also celebrated the birthdays of our two youngest! They never skip an opportunity to celebrate around here. It is one of my favorite things about the hogar. You would think that with so many girls living in one place, birthdays would get brushed under the rug, but it is the exact opposite! They always hold a little birthday party for the girls with cake and gifts and I love that we prioritize celebrating each girl on her special day.
As for some more updates, we have begun the first trimester of the school year! At this point we have completed 3 weeks and it has been a ride. We are still doing online school with the girls, which is probably my least favorite thing in the ENTIRE world. But here we are! Ha. Everyone is settling into their new grades and the time off definitely helped me as well to settle back into the educator role. When I first got here and was thrown into the school schedule, I felt so ill-equipped, so unsure of how to best teach the students I was assigned, and so insecure in my abilities to handle and respond to the unique forms of misbehavior. Now that we’ve come back, I still have more questions than answers, but at the same time it is INCREDIBLE how much I have learned in the last 5 months and I think that it’s really starting to show now.
One of the biggest things I’ve learned is that there is ALWAYS a reason that a child misbehaves. There is not a single outburst, rude comment, or bout of tears that is without reason. The better that I’ve gotten to know the girls, the better I’ve been able to identify what is at the root of why they’ve acted out. And this enables me to respond in a much more constructive & compassionate way than I did the first few months– which has been making a big difference with the girls I work with regularly. It doesn’t always “fix” the bad behavior, but I can definitely tell the difference when they feel heard and understood.
And this ties in to a general theme that has been developing lately: I feel settled. I’ve felt comfortable here since probably about a month in, but I think there’s a big difference between feeling comfortable and feeling settled. There are many long days, but not nearly as many as before. The things that used to exhaust me day in and day out without fail have evolved into norms that I have developed the ability to navigate more easily. I don’t find myself staring at the clock very often anymore, which I used to be super guilty of. I used to be too exhausted to do anything but watch Netflix after I was done with the girls at night but over the last month I have found myself with more energy that I’ve used to get back into doing things for myself during my time off at night. I’m taking the time to exercise, study Spanish, research possibilities for post-Bolivia, more prayer time, and also Netflix of course :) I have felt my Spanish really improving over the last couple of months and can honestly say I switch back and forth between English and Spanish without much effort now, which is really empowering. Things are never easy and I don't think they ever will be. But I feel like I know the girls so well at this point… and that has been the thing making me feel most settled. I feel like the girls really know me and I really know them.
And seriously, what’s better than feeling known?
Sending love to you and yours.