Thursday, March 11, 2010

First Family Project Solo

On a Saturday morning at the end of February, I had my first solo Proyecto Familiar (or Family Project). I’ve mentioned them in an earlier blog post, but in case you’ve forgotten (or in case you aren’t religiously stalking every single new blog post of mine --??), here’s a recap.

Each volunteer does two Proyectos Familiares every month. You get together with a group of biological siblings here at NPH, and for two hours, you do whatever. Eat, make food, play games, walk to Parramos, take the bus into Chimaltenango. With the kids’ busy schedules of school and chores, they normally spend most of their time with either the other people in their classroom grade or with the other children in their section. Proyecto Familiar exists to carve out official time for families of brothers and sisters and cousins to spend some time with each other – without 300 other kids in the same room.

After starting out very Guatemalan (I had to wait 30 minutes for two of the girls to finish morning chores; had to wait another 10 minutes to track down a third sister; brother who was supposed to take the bus to NPH from the high school house in Chimaltenango was nowhere to be found), things went great!

I walked into Parramos with the three younger sisters: Irma, Estela, and Maria. We visited the market so we could buy fruit, because we’d decided we were going to make a fruit salad.

(They initially wanted to make a pizza. I said no. Lots of volunteers make pizzas during proyecto, but I was not about to attempt my first from-scratch pizza when the pressure was on. Someone mentioned ensalada de frutas? That’s what we’re going to make. Besides, you all never see fruits during meals. Fruit salad it is.)

With the money each child receives for proyecto (5 Quetzales each = about 60 U.S. cents), the girls and I bought a pound of strawberries, a small watermelon, a pineapple, and half a dozen bananas. And miraculously, as we were finishing up our shopping, older brother Hermelindo arrived in the park on a bus from Chimal. Perfect!

It was adorable to watch the girls with their older brother. Hermelindo is in his first year of bachillerato (high school), and he studies music in the capital. It’s the first year he’s not living on NPH’s campus, and it was obvious the girls miss him a lot. Once he arrived, they really had no interest in talking to me, but that’s sort of the point of these proyectos.

Hermelindo gave each of his younger sisters another quetzal to treat themselves to dulces, so the girls loaded up on candy and pastries before we headed back to NPH. They even shared the sweets with me, which was so nice, but also made me feel like the stingiest person ever. While I’m a miser about my tiny volunteer stipend, these “orphaned, abused, and abandoned” kids have no problem sharing what they have. It wasn’t the first time I’d been offered a snack that a child purchased with their own money. It wasn’t the first time I’d felt like I didn’t deserve it.

Anyway, it was back to NPH for some fruit salad time! The kids were more than excited to do everything themselves. They wanted to wash the fruit, cut it, and mix it all up. I basically wasn’t allowed to help. We played tracks of Hermelindo’s favorite songs on my computer while we assembled the ensalada, and when we finished, we had a huge bowl of delicious fruit! (And a huge mess of fruit juices all over the table and floor…oops.) We each filled up a bowl, watched the first half hour of Twilight in Spanish (Crepúsculo), and raved about how good the fruit was. (I knew scratching the pizza idea was a good idea.)

Estela in charge of las fresas (the strawberries).

Estela and older sister Irma scoop out servings of ensalada de fruta.

Yummm...ensalada de fruta!

When it was time to go, the four kids also insisted that they clean up, so we wiped down the room and headed off in our own directions. I ran off to lunch with some other volunteers.

After a shaky start, I sort of loved proyecto. Like a lot of experiences here, the getting ready part can be pretty frustrating and stressful, but once you’re actually in the moment (elbows deep in watermelon and strawberries), you sort of wonder why you were ever freaking out in the first place.

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