Teaching Ecuadorian kids in a Foreign Reality (EN)

05-10-2013 13:22

To the tune of Row, row, row your boat; ¨Tell me what you do, early in the morning. Everyday I brush my teeth, early in the morning.¨ Easy one, the "songs and chants for kids"-module of the teaching english course last May in Seville. It took us about five minutes to make the song and then we could sing for half an hour about morning routines: ¨Everyday I wake up, I take a shower, I´m getting dressed, I have some bread, I brush my teeth, I pack my bag, I hug my mom, I go to school… early in the morning.¨ While singing we´d mimic the activities that we were mentioning. Yeah, we were sure: this was going to be a hit for the kids.


My new three to five year old friends from the market of San Roque can definitely use a lesson in morning routines. Besides, they are fascinated by everything that´s music (-related): you can kind of hypnotize them by playing guitar and singing. During my daily brainstorm session in the shower (:D) that song we invented in Seville just crossed my mind and I was sure: if I translate this to Spanish, it will be a great success.

Although… I´ll have to leave out ¨I take a shower¨ then: most kids wake up at four in the morning and when they arrive at our class room at nine, the mixture of new and old dirt on their faces tells us that even ¨washing my face¨ isn´t part of a daily ritual.

¨I´m getting dressed¨. Yes, they do. But… they come to CENIT in the same clothes for a whole week so frequently (whether they peed in their pants or not, walked or crawled through the muddy market or not, suffered from diarrea or snot or not), that I wonder if they even have garment that could serve them as pyamas. Anyway, even if they would, they probably wouldn´t use it as pyamas then. No need to say I won´t discuss the topic ¨clean underwear¨ (if they do wear any underwear at all…) here.


Where was I? Oh yeah: ¨I have some bread¨. Breakfast. If you can miss a dollar today. Five to nine children is a lot and seventy to threehundred euros a month is not. So if the kids eat anything before we come to get them, it´s cheap food, fat and/or with kilo´s of sugar. To keep them going. But it´s not really fair to sing about having breakfast if half of them arrive with an empty stomach. So we won´t. Next?

¨I brush my teeth¨. Eeerm… no. At least, not yet: this week we´ll get the cups and the tooth brushes to teach them how to do it. Once a day. For most of them that means once a day more than they do now. And they´ll do it at CENIT, not (yet) at home.

What about ¨I pack my bag¨? Nope. No bag. Sometimes a truck with one wheel short or a fourth-hand doll that accompanie them as an ally during the long and empty days. But no bag, I mean, isn´t that for those who have stuff to put in it anyway? There you go. Alternatives?

¨I hug my mom¨ or ¨I hug my dad¨. Auw. Some parents are truly friendly to us and their kids. But work (= food) always has priority. ¨Children are like plants: they grow up automatically, you don´t really have to anything for it to happen… that is normal here.¨

¨Normal here¨ in our countries would be ¨neglect¨. Not much hugging going on anyway.


When I was getting the kids from their stalls this week, I ran up to a mom who was beating up her son with a big vegetable that looked like a too far grown leek. The boy sat slumped against the wall with his arms held up high, crying and screaming, trying to block the improvised baton of his mom. Unknowingly I guess I expected that the woman would stop once she saw me, but instead she caught the boy´s collar and dragged him to the space next to the alley, pushing me aside with her free hand to make way. Inside the room she pushed him violently against the wall, where he made himself as small as posible to bear the hits that followed. He was lamenting and screaming that she should stop all that time, and I was too stunned to react. It turned out he didn´t do his homework. ¨Everyday I hug my mom, early in the morning.¨ One more to tick off I suppose.

All my hope on the last refrain then. ¨I go to school¨. Officially, yes. Sometimes. Unless I don´t go. Sigh.  


Row, row, row your boat,

gently down the stream.

Merely, merely, merely, merely,

life is just a dream.


Uh-huh. I guess I´m going to look for another song to sing.