Hola! My name is Karly and I spent the month of April at Paulino and Elvia’s house(and their three kids Bolivar, Roberto and Hugo). It was a great month full of adventures, Spanish practice and art! Yup, art. I intended on spending my time tutoring and helping at the school, but ended up spending the time painting eight murals. I arrived at Malingua Pamba with several members of Pam’s family and another volunteer, Suzal. Suzal used to be a high school art teacher and was responsible for painting the murals on the new big community building. The murals were designed to tell the story of Pamelita and how she assisted Malingua Pamba. We didn’t realize how detailed the murals were going to be and by the end of Suzal’s week painting, it was clear I was going to be the one responsible for finishing the rest of the smaller details. That is how I ended up painting for about three weeks straight.
Fortunately, I wasn’t painting all on my own. The goal of the project was to get as many kids involved with the painting as possible, and we got A LOT of help. The kids were so excited to get into their little paint smocks (Suzal and I had cut holes in fabric for the painters to stick their heads through and cover their clothes) and put some paint on the walls. There were times when there was too much interest in the project and some paint would end up in areas outside the designated wall space. I have not had much experience painting so I was very thankful to follow Suzal’s suggestions and organization to get as much of the project completed before she had to leave. We ended up working a lot with Alcedes’ older sons, especially William and Patricio. Paulino’s sisters Sonia, Blanca and Enma also helped a lot and even had complete control over an entire mural. I really enjoyed spending the mornings hanging out with the older teenagers as they painted and we got to ask each other questions. I also had a lot of fun helping Suzal with the kids because she couldn’t speak Spanish and I was her bridge of communication when she needed to explain the paint assignment.
In addition to painting, which I did mostly in the mornings and a bit into the afternoons Monday through Friday, I also had a chance to help at the colegio (the older kids’ school) two Saturdays. One Saturday I helped with a few classes and the following weekend I taught all day, working on the English verb “to be” and “to have”. It was tricky to know exactly what to do with the class because I was pretty much just thrown into the classroom with no idea of what the students knew, what they were working on, what resources they have, etc, but as the days went on I got more comfortable and enjoyed interacting with some of the older classes especially. I was surprised at the low level of English knowledge of all the high school students and am unsure how much of a lasting impact I actually had on them, yet I don’t question that each class I was in had a few good laughs! For example, one day I was trying to say “I am hungry” in English, but was translating it into Spanish. I sometimes have a difficult time remembering the difference between hungry and man in Spanish (hambre vs. hombre) and accidently said “I need a man” which of course was a lasting joke throughout the rest of my time there.
One of my favorite parts in Malingua was forming relationships with some of the students and kids at the school. I particularly enjoyed talking with the older students who were curious in my culture and were more willing to answer questions I had for them. I particularly remember this one time when I was working with Enma, Blanca and Sonia on some English vocabulary. The girls had asked if I could tutor them sometimes during the afternoons, and while they were so busy it only happened once, we still had a great time together that one lesson. After going through several lists of words, we started chatting about the United States. Sonia asked me a very interesting question that I was very excited to answer: “Is there poverty in the US?” I instantly thought of all the stereotypes concerning Americans in the media and realized that Hollywood films don’t always show all sides of the story. Although the truth is not pretty, I was happy to share with the girls my view on how there are some very real similarities between Ecuador and the states. This conversation is something I won’t forget because I felt a great connection with the girls and was actually able to talk about more than just how many siblings I have or what my parents do.
Besides the painting and little teaching I did while in Malingua, I spent some time exploring the area on a few hikes and eating some great food. If I could give a “World’s Best Popcorn” award, it would definitely go to Elvia! Her popcorn was always perfect, never burnt and didn’t have too much salt. She was such a gracious host, serving fresh fruit juice, hot tea and plenty of tasty food. I loved spending time with her young boys: Bolivar (Boli) is hilarious and always said my name several times whenever he saw me; Roberto is adorable and loves to point out different objects in his school books (sometimes in English, especially “butterfly”, his favorite English word); and baby Hugo who constantly had a smile on his face and put one on mine. I clearly remember the day I saw little Hugo walking around the house with a chicken foot in his hand, sucking on the meat as if it were a lollipop. Visions like this are what I will continue to take with me and reminisce about when I think about Malingua!