Tuesday, February 10, 2009

to slum it

this morning i woke up at 7:30, quickly showered, ate a yogurt and headed out the door by 8am. Before leaving the apartment, I found which bus would take me to where i needed to go. i knew which street the bus would drive down but you never know exactly where the bus stop is. so i walked down the street looking for the 95 bus stop. when i found it i saw the bus was coming so i flagged it down by waving at the driver. once i got on, i pulled out my map and followed it to see when i needed to get off. the driver made an odd turn away from where i was going, so i got up, rang the buzzer and he let me off.

at 8:30 i arrived at the volunteer office. i arrived a half hour early like they told me to. what i forgot was that i am in argentina and "a 1/2 hour early" means "be on time".

the coordinator and others arrived at 9am. i paid 20 pesos for a tee-shirt so that the community would be able to tell who i was and 22 pesos for the 'taxi' there and back. we were briefed on what we were going to do today; read to the children or have them read to us, color and play a game.

at 9:30 the taxi drivers rang the door bell. everyone commented on how early the taxis were (early meaning on time). when we went outside i didn't see any taxis, the other 8 people piled out onto the side walk. the coordinator said "you four go in that car and we'll go here". where? which? what taxi?

there were two guys with two late 80's early 90's regular cars...not a taxi or what i think of as a taxi. who were they? i'm not sure, but after driving outside of city center and taking a highway, they got us there.

we went to one of the 'villa's' or slums. many of the houses weren't finished, some didn't have glass in the windows, some of the second stories didn't have roofs. when the our car came to a stop we all got out but i didn't know where we were headed. previously, in our briefing session, we were told that we'd be working in a community center so i just followed the group into a structure.

(photo below: this photo was taken from: http://estatico.buenosaires.gov.ar.
it's not the same 'villa' or slum where i was today but it looks the same)

after getting out of the car, the sturcture to our left, the community center, was constructed with red cinder blocks, but no siding on the building. there were some windows with glass and others were just an opening in the wall. there was no grass or trees in front, just dirt. we walked in through a bare kitchen area into a larger room with concrete floors. there were make-shift tables and plastic chairs.

there were already two young boys there. they were very cute and very polite. a volunteer read to one and the other wanted to read to a volunteer. 5 min later, two sweet girls of about 8 or 9 came in an greeted all the volunteers with an argentine kiss on the cheek. i sat down with them and read or they read to me. not even 5 min later, the girl i was sitting with screams "RATON!". everyone put there feet up from their chairs and screamed. I almost lost it (thinking that it was a rat), but instead it was a small mouse that ran across the floor. I laughed and said "oh, so small (in spanish)" and "he's more scared of us". (I feel like a veteran with mice since my 1920s apartment in the states was 'visited' often..... but I don't do well with rats and cockroaches; that's where i draw the line of being able to keep my cool.)

after reading books, the children colored and then played a game with a ball. towards the end we brought out the jump-rope which the kids loved. only one boy was a little pushy not taking his turn (normal for kids). all the children were so sweet, calling me "seniora" ('miss' in english). when we were getting ready to leave they all gave us argentine kisses good-bye. about 15 children in total.

we got back in our 'taxis' and arrived back at the volunteer office around 1pm.

it was a very good experience. the children were adorable, so sweet, polite and well behaved.

*if anyone in buenos aires is interested in volunteering i recommend L.I.F.E. Argentina. They have many volunteer opportunities throughout the week and on the weekends.


Anquises said...

Que dama tan especial es Vd, Yillabean.

yillabean said...

Gracias y thank you for the comment.

I know that the children got a lot out of us being there; reading to them, playing with them, but I feel like I got a lot out of it too. It was a positive experience.