Thursday, June 25, 2009

Week 3

Week 3
This week things began to run smoother. I finally knew which bus to take to DIJO, Monte Alban and Tlalix (and even more importantly when to signal that I wanted to get off, and by signal I mean get up and walk to the front of the bus, clutching the aisle seats as I go as to not topple into the lap of a stranger as the bus bumps over the 'topes' (speed bumps) that decorate the highway). It is a good thing that I had finally acquired this familiarity because Antonio fell ill and I had to make my way to Monte Alban on my own on Friday.

Although I had established a routine, many of the small details of my work continue to surprise me. Take for example the women in the kitchen at Monte Alban, who I'm convinced are fountains of creativity. Both Monday and Friday, when I arrived at the sink, I found a new plate washing method in place, with the ultimate goal of devising the most efficient way to wash the thousands of plates that pass under their hands every day. The challenges are numerous: because the plates are after all dirty, the water in which we wash and rinse becomes dirty very fast. Furthermore the towels that we lay the plates on to dry get super wet super quickly, to the point that they are dripping water onto the floor, creating an unsafe workspace and impeding the drying that we need. Also after the first wave of breakfasters, the cart that the kids leave their dirty plates on is overflowing and disorderly. Even those niños who want to leave their plates in the correct spot cannot, because there is no room.

The women in the kitchen see the problems and go about fixing them, little by little implementing new methods to increase kitchen efficiency. My role in the kitchen changed from "dish washer" to "leftover food scraper." Basically instead of washing, I stand at the cart and scrape the food that is left on the childrens' plates as they leave them. At first I was a little disillusioned by this apparent demotion: I came to help and could not even wash plates? But I soon understood the system and saw that my role served two purposed: the plates arrived much cleaner to the sinks so the water didn't have to be changed so quickly and also, by having someone stand at the cart the children were much more inclined to leave their plates in an orderly fashion. Another plus was that I got to say good morning to each of the children as then left their plates.

This week in Monte Alban I also had a very interesting encounter with Richard, one of the few preteen boys who come to eat breakfast at the Comedor. On Friday I arrived alone because Antonio was sick, and Richard immediately came up to me and asked earnestly: "Sarah, where is Antonio?". I was surprised that he 1. knew our names and 2. was so interested in Antonio's whereabouts. Richard continued to ask me questions about Antonio, and ended up volunteering to work in the kitchen, almost as if he were taking over Antonio's role in his absence. This spirit of collaboration was astounding because we only had only even met Richard because the first day we worked at Monte Albán, Richard was banished to the kitchen and required to wash plates as a punishment. I can't help but ask myself, what generated this change in him? I am sure it is in part fruit of his time in DIJO.

In Tlalix the most interesting occurrence of the week was the arrival of the dentist. She came to give a dental hygiene presentation and preform a very general evaluation of the niños teeth. All the children brought their tooth brushes to class that day, and for those that forgot the dentist provided a new one. Using two students as examples, she taught them the correct method to brush (the "circular method") and then we all headed out to the basketball court for an interactive demonstration. She gave each student a pink pill that they had to chew. The pill, upon disintegration, clung to the plaque in their mouths, giving them all pink smiles. They sheepishly looked at each other, only imagining how pink their own mouths must me. Several of them stopped smiling all together, not wanting the others to see how rosy their mouths were. When we gave them the opportunity to get their toothbrushes and begin to brush, they took it with great enthusiasm. The pink plaque painstakingly purged, they turned once more into a smiling, energetic bunch, who in the future will hopefully brush their teeth with more diligence!

Semana 3

Ya esta semana las cosas empezaron a fluir bastante bien. Ya conocía bastante bien el camino para llegar a DIJO, Monte Alban y Tlalix, un conocimiento que resultó indispensable porque Antonio se enfermó y yo tenía que ir solita a Monte Alban el viernes.

Aunque ya establecí mi rutina, las detalles del trabajo todavía me sorprendieron. Tomo por ejemplo las mujeres de la cocina de Monte Albán, que se establecieron en mi mente como fuentes de creatividad. Sea el lunes come el viernes usaron una técnica diferente para lavar los platos, con la meta final de encontrar la maniera más eficiente de lavarlos. El problema en general era que el agua se ensuciaba muy rápido y había que cambiarla mucho, que retrasaba mucho la lavada. También los trapos donde dejamos los platos se mojaban demasiado y la cosa sobre que los niños dejan los platos se llenaba demasiado rápido. Tomaron cada problema, lo analizaron, y propusieron una solución. Hay todo un sistema nuevo de lavar pero no quiero entrar en todas las detalles. Basta decir que mi rol en la cocina cambió de "lavadora de platos" a "chica que quita la comida que queda en los platos." Al principio me desilusioné un poco de este cambiamento: no era ni capaz de lavar platos?? Pero al fin entendí que así resolvieron dos problemas: en primer lugar, los platos llegan al fregadero ya mucho más limpios y por eso el agua no se ensucia tanto, y por segundo me estacionaron al carrito donde los niños dejan los platos y por eso, los dejan en mejor orden, y tambien puedo consolidar los vasos y bolos de una forma más organizada para que no se desborde.

Otra cosa que me gustaría contar de Monte Albán esta semana es un encuentro que tuve con Richard. Llegué viernes como dije ya, sola, y Richard inmediatamente me acercó y me preguntó: "Sarah, donde está Antonio?" Me sorprendió que sabía nuestros nombres y que le interesó tanto el paradero de Antonio. Además Richard continuó a preguntarme de Antonio, de donde era, porque vino a Oaxaca, si le gustaba cortar chiles etc etc. Los otros niños se fueron del comedor pero Richard se quedó por hora y media mas porque quería ayudar. Conocimos a Richard en la cocina porque le pusieron a lavar como castigo un día. Pero este viernes, se puso a trabajar con nosotros, no como castigo sino de su propria voluntad. Trabajé lado a lado con Richard, quitando comida de los platos de los demás y arreglando los utensilios. Era otra persona que el niño quejido que estaba en la cocina el primer día. Me pregunto que le pasó, que causó este cambiamiento en él?

En Tlalixtec la cosa más interesante de la semana era la llegada de la dentista. Vino a revisar la higiene dental con los niños con una demostración que resultó muy efectiva. Después de enseñarles como lavar los dientes (el método circular), fuimos todos afuera a la concha y les dio una pastilla roja. A comerla, la tinta roja se pegó a la placa de los dientes para que los niños viesen cuanto estaban sucias las bocas y dientes. Se miraban el uno al otro con mucha vergüenza, y algunos dejaron de sonreír por unos momentos para esconder los dientes. Cuando les demos la oportunidad, empezaron a cepillar los dientes con mucho gusto. La placa roja quitada, volvieron a ser niños sonrientes, que con suerte van a cepillar los dientes con más frecuencia. Era un encuentro muy bien hecho; los niños aprendieron y se divirtieron, y sirvió para reforzar/reseñar conoscimientos muy pertinentes a sus vidas.


  1. Cara Sarah,

    Your blog is great! I am already interested in all these characters, the children and your companions.

    Of course he knows your name... children are much more perceptive than we think. Divertiti!

    tante belle cose


  2. I need to have this training on the use of the toothbrush!! I had six sections at the dentist last year! Great job Sarah, and thanks for keeping us up to date!


  3. Sections? what is Luca talking about?? Forgive him ;) Sarah! So happy to hear your updates. Sounds like things are going really well. I am very happy for you. I am in love with Richard already ... keep writing we love it!