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English Classes In San Francisco - April 22nd to 26th, 2013

{Originally posted May 26th, 2013}

Last September, Marilyn Cooper, a FEDICE volunteer, taught English for a week in a suburb of Latacunga called San Francisco. This community has had a history with FEDICE for a number of years. FEDICE has assisted with different animal projects and with a pre-school. For twelve years, the pre-school has been in a community leader's home. They serve 40 children in cramped spaces, but the mothers are very grateful to have someplace to leave their children during the day while they work.

Digna Chacha, whose house is where the pre-school is located, serves on FEDICE’s board of directors and asked that Marilyn return for another week of English for the pre-schoolers and their teachers. And so Glenn Hebert (Marilyn's husband) and Marilyn returned to share more English in April, 2013.

This time, they stayed in one of the teachers' homes. Carmen set aside half of the space in her one very large room, cinder block house for them. This space is usually her six (almost seven) year old son's bedroom. They thanked him for sharing. Cristian is a very nice child, well mannered, quiet but sociable, loving. Marilyn would not be surprised if Carmen felt he was a very special gift that she has received in life.

Glenn said that the conditions they were staying in were not what they were accustomed to, but they worked and it was definitely gracious of Carmen to open her house to them. Marilyn said their camping experiences helped make them flexible. The bathroom was across the driveway, as was the kitchen. Carmen rents out another space across the driveway occupied by a small family with a seven year old, Anita, who played in the afternoons with Cristian. Carmen and her brother, who lives across the river that passes just below Carmen's back garden, raise rabbits and a pig behind the house. The garden provides greens for the rabbits and corn for the pig (Marilyn thinks). Nothing is wasted. All scrap food is fed to the pig.

Carmen also had a dog named Blackie. Marilyn was not sure where they got the name, maybe from a television show, but she thought they did not quite get the significance of the name. Blackie the dog was actually the color of coffee with lots of milk in it. Several laughs were shared with both Carmen and Cristian about Blackie's name.

Marilyn and Glenn felt very fortunate that Carmen did not see them as a burden for the week, but some fun visitors instead. Some of Carmen's relatives came by to visit as well. Guadalupe, an older sister, had a grandson with a somewhat similar handicap as Glenn. She came by one afternoon and enjoyed meeting Glenn and hearing that he had worked during his life. She plans to bring her grandson so he can meet Glenn the next time Marilyn and Glenn are in town.

Marilyn believes her classes went well. After three years of teaching preschoolers, she thinks she has a decent system and, for sure, her students were learning some things. Glenn said they would not have invited her back if Marilyn had done a bad job last time. Marilyn loves Glenn's support!

In the mornings, Marilyn taught three levels of the children. Her first class was the almost verbal one and a half to two year olds. They sang very simple songs. Marilyn showed pictures of animals and they talked about what the animals ate and where they lived. On her third day of teaching, none of the children cried. One spent almost all the class as far from Marilyn as he could get, but when it was time to say goodbye and to shake hands, he went over to shake Marilyn's hand. One girl spent most of the time hiding her face in a bookshelf, but Marilyn suspected she was listening the whole time. The other seven children sat on the floor with her. Cristian (another, younger Cristian) liked to try to grab Marilyn's glasses. Israel said some of the words with her. Mateo repeated the Good Morning song. It was a fun class. Myra, their teacher, and Marilyn enjoyed an occasional laugh at their antics.

Marilyn's second class was the three and four year olds. When their teacher needed to leave, they paid less attention (as did all the classes), but these children spoke and they knew what un chancho, un perro, un gato, y un pollo was and sometimes it was hard to convince them that these animals could be called a pig, a dog, a cat, and a chicken. But Carmen, their teacher, helped convince them. They liked to take excursiones around the room on imaginary journeys. They also liked songs. This group, as was Marilyn's third group, was learning greetings and responses to "How are you?". They were also working on "I have __ __________." What was so great, was that when Marilyn left, Carmen continued helping them with these sentences. The children could already count to 10 in English because Marilyn worked on that in September and it had been reinforced by the teachers.

The last morning class was the four and five year olds. They might have been more mature, but they could also pay less attention if Marilyn did not keep the class interesting. On Wednesday, they did a great job with "I have a dog" and "I have a cat". On Thursday, they would be learning some responses to "How are you?" other than "I'm fine". Marilyn figured they'd be up to the task. Anabel, their teacher, practiced English with the children in the afternoons. By midweek, the children came understanding that "How are you?" is a question that requires an answer and "I'm fine" is a good one. It takes a village to raise a child.

Marilyn walked the long block back to the house after her morning classes each day and thought through her afternoon class with the teachers. Then, a little after noon, she returned to the pre-school to bring back lunch for Glenn and her. In September, Marilyn and Glenn got sick from something they ate the last day, so Marilyn and Glenn and the school were being extra careful with their food. Marilyn reheated the lunches in the kitchen when she get back to Carmen's. The precautions taken by everyone worked. Marilyn and/or Glenn didn't have any problems this time.

There is not much in the way of fast food in Ecuador. The children's food was prepared fresh by two cooks each day. They got breakfast before Marilyn arrived and what she saw left of it was often bread and a drink. Lunch usually included a fresh fruit drink, a soup which could have potatoes, pasta, or rice, with some meat and vegetables in it, followed by a main dish of rice or corn with beans or another meat or egg. There was no dessert but the children usually got a fruit for a snack in the morning (banana or watermelon, etc.).

After lunch, Marilyn returned the dishes and taught the teachers while most of the children took naps. Marilyn says "most" because there were always a few criers who either had not fallen asleep or had awakened and a few other children that did not nap. So in this crowded room Marilyn tried to hold class among a certain amount of chaos. Her adult students (the teachers) made very valiant efforts at listening, hearing, participating, and learning the new English words while holding children in their laps or reminding children to be quiet. But they did learn. They were very motivated as they thought of these children's futures. To speak English is to often have a better paying job in Ecuador, and their children were among the students that attended the school.

Cristian was brought by bus to the preschool after his classes were over in Latacunga (a 15 minute drive away). After the adult class, Marilyn and he walked back to his house where he played with Anita until Carmen came home around 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. The two children played very well together. After a while, they usually came inside and wanted to practice some English. They asked Marilyn how to say different things in English and she gave them little verbal tests on what they were learning. It was a fun game for them, which was kind of how Marilyn thinks of Spanish. She likes to see how much she can communicate or how many new words she can remember. She says it is almost like putting together a puzzle, trying to get all the pieces in the right places.

Around 6:30 or 7:00 p.m., Marilyn and Glenn had a little to eat. It was very cold and rainy the first two days and nights, so Glenn and Marilyn were quite happy to go to bed after they ate. Wednesday was amazingly clear and warm. It occurred to her that it was a perfect day to drive the Avenida de Vulcanés, the part of the Pan Americana Highway south of Quito where one drives by many volcanos. From the neighborhood, Marilyn and Glenn could see three snowcapped volcanos. In their experience, it was not often that one could see the tops of the volcanos because they were usually covered by clouds, so this was a treat for them. One night they had a nearly full moon to boot and there were stars out. Marilyn could see Orion, one of the few constellations she can identify.

Marilyn knew before they left that they would not regret the time they had spent in San Francisco, making more friends, sharing their lives with others. She says FEDICE surely gives them a number of opportunities that they benefit from. Their lives are quite full thanks to God.

It was an emotional time leaving Friday. After Marilyn taught her three children's classes and before she could slip out the door, all the teachers gave her big hugs and said "Thank you's" for the gift of English they received for the week. There was a small presentation of Thanks for the time Marilyn spent and questions as to when Marilyn was returning. She and Glenn hope to do that in September, a few weeks after the older children move on to la escuela and new children take their places in the preschool. Carmen walked back to her house with Marilyn so she could help load up the luggage, help get Glenn in the car, and direct Marilyn out of the narrow driveway. There were tears in her eyes when Marilyn and Glenn shared the last hug with her.

Whenever Marilyn leaves somewhere after she has had a very good time, she tends to drive slower for a while until she can transition into the present and the future. On this clear day, Marilyn and Glenn could see the volcanoes, Cotapaxi and Los Illinizas, and several other tall mountains while they enjoyed the leisurely drive to Quito on the new six lane highway. From there, one has to be in the present or risk getting run over! They stopped for a sandwich just before Quito and to call Isabel to tell her not to wait lunch for them. They arrived back home in the mid-afternoon to hugs from Isabel, Brayan, and Victoria who missed them the week Marilyn and Glenn were gone. Stories were shared of the week all of them were not together. And God was thanked for a safe and successful journey.

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