Doesn’t this sound like its going to be the most amazingly scientific post?
I’d like to tell you about the Zone of Proximal Development (click link). Lev Vygotsky, a psychologist, created the idea to describe the best mixture of challenge and support to promote movement and learning in a person. Other theorists go on to call this the idea of ¨Flow¨. Moreover, its the best way I can describe my experience over the past few days.
At the point where the challenge was greatest (Lima airport) I felt that my support was lowest and I lost interest and wanted to withdraw from this task all together. However, as the challenge has decreased and the support has increased, I find myself really enjoying it and feeling very engaged.
It’s amazing to experience how I’ve turned a difficult corner and started to adjust to Peru. Getting here and getting settled were the hardest parts of this journey (so far) and now that I’m supported, I am so happy to be here. I trusted that this would happen, but it had started looking bleak that night on the airplane…my seat mates were two Spanish speaking young men and my seat was at the window. The guy in the middle had his suitcase set in the aisle of our seats and had his legs spread over it so far that his feet were actually all the way underneath mine! I was thinking to myself, “why aren’t these people following the RULES!?” and “How am I going to sleep like this?!” and “I want to go home!” HAHAHAHAH. It all seems very funny to me now, but the me on that plane was really close to tears. I eventually asked him to move his things and explained that I needed the space for my feet. He obliged, but only partially and I just had to accept the fact that my space might be invaded more than I preferred. Needless to say, it was challenging.
I went to orientation on Monday, where we learned important things about how to use the toilets and not to drink the water…(by the way I am not sick from brushing my teeth!) We learned about safety and the expectations for our volunteer sites and all about the wonderful things available to do here in the city. Then I took a Spanish placement exam and went to my first class. I am so happy to be in Spanish classes again. There is something challenging and yet so satisfying about it (flow, shall I say?)
I have been assigned to work at the Madre Teresa Centro Nutricional, (Mother Teresa Nutritional Center) it is not the Peruvian Hearts agency as I had conjectured, but there are other volunteers working with Peruvian Hearts. The Nutritional Center is especially for children who are malnourished and doctors send them to the center to become healthy. The children don’t live in the Center, but spend 6 hours each day there. The average age of the children is 3. I am working this week with the 1-2 year olds and next week with the 3-6 year olds. I also have a partner volunteer who goes with me every day, Wynona. Wynona is a college student and is also staying here for 2 weeks. She speaks fluent Spanish, so it will be nice to have her as a friend at the center.
I spent the morning working there today and really enjoyed being a human jungle gym, fighting off getting bitten by attention hungry kids (wasn’t completely successful on that one and I have the bruise to proove it–ouch!), gave out snacks, helped feed the children lunch, learned some songs, danced and played. The kids are just like any other kids I’ve ever met. They do not hesitate to hug, smile or even launch a large item at each other when fighting over a toy.
Something I found absolutely hilarious is that two of the kids who climbing on me most of the morning discovered that I have a mole on my neck. I was amazed as they played with it and tried to tickle me and more or less tried to pull it off until I had to ask them to stop. The remarkable thing about this is that every child between the age of 15-20 months that I have ever spent time with has discovered this mole and acted exactly the same way towards it! I guess this is a phenonmenon that crosses cultures. I am definitely going to write a children´s book someday about that mole of mine. (thanks to Jack Eikelberner for a great title.)
Another favorite from the day is a little boy named Kevin. It was his first day at the center today and he was very scared and wouldn´t stop crying. When we arrived to help, he sort of walked over to me with his sad little face and held on to my leg so I sort of played with his hair a little and talked to him. Once he calmed down, he was my best friend the rest of the day. He kept putting his head on my arm to get me to play with his hair. So cute.
Thanks again to all of you for your support and thoughts. I carry them with me everywhere and it keeps me going and believe me, I need all the support I can get…so I can get into the flow!