It's said that you learn something new every day… I think I have a week's worth today.
An important one is language! My biggest difficulty has been understanding people when they talk, as they all seem to talk so fast! When someone wants to know where I'm from, I expect them to say 'donde vives?' (where do you live?) or 'de donde eres?' (where do you come from?). But today a teacher said to me 'de donde vienes?' which also means 'where do you come from?'. I was trying so hard to think what he was asking that I totally missed him asking my name. My blank expression led him to explain in English what he had asked! I was so embarrassed I muttered something about not hearing (or maybe I said not listening!!!) and scurried away. Must get a hearing test when I get home…!
We were fortunate enough to have been given the opportunity to take part in an intensive Spanish course in Madrid, and I am so grateful for this. However I can't stress enough to volunteers coming to South America over the next few months how much knowledge of Spanish benefits you, it helps you take part in discussions and when you have to present yourself to teachers and classes!
I have learned that the teachers in my school only get paid once every 4 months. This explains why one teacher invited us to a beach bar where she worked. (I hope Telefonica/O2 never adopts this approach!) I also discovered that their monthly wage is less than what an average customer service advisor earns in a day, and it's quite shocking when you really think of the reality of that.
Finally I have learnt how materialistic we are in the western world.
We have finished painting the play equipment at the Escuela in Atacames, and the kids love it. We initially wanted to replace it all but it just wasn't financially possible, and actually the end result is the same – the kids have an area they love and can play in safely.
We often replace rather than repair things because it's more convenient, and because we can. Some people don't have the option, yet I don't see them complaining.
I've got a lot to think about!
Erika is one of our Pronino volunteers and is blogging from Latin America. To find out more about Proniño, head to http://dnc.o2.co.uk/home/Pronino.