CARROT CAKE & YOGA
For our first assignment at the Rainbow Center, Ann and I would be helping a group of children make carrot cake. We went with Yasmin, our coordinator, to the market to purchase what was needed. The market, like many in countries around the world, was housed in a large cement building with enough shade and good building techniques to keep it cool inside. However, it’s not cool enough to keep the smell of raw meat to its sterile, plastic wrapped version in American grocery stores. The smell, combined with the display of the whole carcass and slabs of large chunks of meat, gave me great pause about going on as an omnivore. (I was a vegetarian for 20 years; and the decision to change that required tremendous consideration. Going back would require very little consideration at this point!)
We visited each of the women that Yasmin likes to purchase from. Baking soda and cinnamon here. Carrots over there. Vanilla and baking powder where kisses were a part of the buenas tardes greetings. Children run freely and play throughout the market. Some were helping their mothers (I assume) to mix the curry sauces that are offered for purchase in small plastic bags. Enormous bags of many different kinds of potatoes dwarfed the vendor sitting on her stool. Fresh juices were offered in a neighboring stand. One vendor had thousands of eggs stacked and prepared for bulk purchase.
We took our purchases and hopped into a small jeepnee/three wheel taxi to head to the home where the children live. Upon arrival, we were greeted with joyful faces, ready for carrot cake. Yamsin organized bowls, knives, forks, measuring cups (water glasses), and a big bowl for mixing everything together. The children were excited to teach us Spanish for words we don’t know (like “mixing”) and eager to take direction from us, even in our broken Spanish. For example, when adding sugar to oil, we took turns adding “Poco, poco,” so that everyone who wanted a turn adding the azucar would be able to participate. We could also say “despacio” or “rapido” for the stirring. Uno, dos, tres, came in handy when adding teaspoons of baking powder, soda, or cinnamon. And so on. In the end, I learned more Spanish, and they learned to make a cake.
While it baked in the oven, we did yoga poses: mesa, gato, baco, perro (bajo y arriba), balancing izquierda y derecho, arriba perro con uno piernes, position de paz, position de luz, position de chicas, and so on. There was a lot of giggling and great efforts to make the yoga poses! I showed them full back bend which produced a good 15 minutes of effort, tumbling, assisting each other, and exclaiming “MIRA! MIRA!” (LOOK! LOOK!).
One of our students, Marco, was quite adept at yoga and proceeded to teach us, step by step, how to do the lotus pose. He could also put his foot behind his head! (I was teaching “Pies a la ojo.” (Foot to eye pose.) he then gave us a demonstration of Kapoeira (I don’t know how to spell that!)
It was a lot of fun for all of us, and I stretched my Spanish in ways that were suited to how they had to stretch their muscles.
RENEWING SEE SAWS
Today we sanded and re-painted the rainbow color see saws at the children’s center. At every orphanage I have been to the playground equipment needs tending. This was a fun project for Ann and I as we watched the see saws transform before us. We also watched our hands turn deep red (rojo), in her case, and splotched with green (verde) and light blue (azul) in my case. Sadly, I can’t get the photos from my camera to my computer while I am here in Peru. Will have to post those later!
As we were painting, we were serenaded by an archaic version of the iPod: a transistor radio. In the background we heard the sounds of a brass (I recognize the trumpet!) marching band possibly playing for a football game. It was quite early in the morning for marching band music (if you ask me). We were also accompanied by the intermittent “moo” of the Rainbow Center cow. And the giggles of a small girl watching our work.
ART: A UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE
The Rainbow Center is a school for special needs children, many of whom can not be cared for by their parents either because their parents are unable or unwilling. In addition, the center has a special home for 6 children to live together with a house mother.
Each day on our arrival we are greeted by joyful faces and kisses to the right cheek “Ola, buenas tardes, professora.”
We visited this home to get to know the children, teach yoga, make carrot cake (yesterday’s project) and to undertake art projects as well. As my background is in both art and art therapy, I felt a warm sense of integration between my youthful studies in graduate school and my life today as a woman with much more life experience. That being said, in my graduate training my clients spoke English, and we had ready access to art supplies. (In my placements and work situations, we often did not have any budget for art supplies.) Here in Peru, we use what we have available; and Yasmin, our coordinator, emphasizes that what we use ought to be readily available to the children even in our absence.
So, we combined plastic bottles (those are plentiful here) with the art donations from our group to make decorated planters. The children will have seeds to plant to watch flowers grow in their window sill. Tomorrow we will combine flour and water, newspaper and paper towels, and balloons to do a paper mache project. As we discovered today, t-shirts make great smocks for grown ups and children.
During projects the children are amazingly focused, attentive and willing to learn from us. In spite of our language barrier, I taught them how to make “snowflakes” from construction paper and scissors. We decorated our snowflakes with paint, markers, and additional pieces of paper. In some cases, they made three-dimensional snowflakes! As they learned to make snowflakes, I learned to use more of my Spanish. For example, to stick the construction paper art onto the plastic soda bottle, one must push pretty hard with both hands. So, I roughly put together a few words: “Empuje con dos monos.” Which produced a lot of laughter! My pronunciation is not always accurate, and I did not realized that I had told them to “Push with two monkeys!” With coaching, “Empuje con dos manos.” To which the children replied in sing-song voice “Empuje, empuje, empuje.”
Our travel group is planning to have a compilation of photographs. For anyone interested in a slide show, please let me know!