Alive and..

Well I did in fact make it to the Galapgos. After my very indirect flight I arrived to the island I am staying on, San Cristobal, on Wednesday.I have to be honest and say that I doubt I will update my blog again while I´m here because one, the internet is entirely too slow to post pictures, and let´s be honest, my descriptions aren´t exactly enthralling, and two, I usually am busy all day long and I rarely find time to stop and use a computer.However, I want to try and give a brief update of my past couple of days so you have an idea of what my time is like on the island.

My time here is pretty much divided in two. I spend the morning volunteering from 8-12 and then I go off on adventures after lunch.

Volunteering here has been…trying. I am helping out a teacher with a class of twenty-two 4 year-olds with special needs. One boy has a very severe case of autism, and a few others might be a little behind, but it seems like the majority of the special needs are bad behavior.

The students kick, bite, and push each other all day long, and getting them to do an activity has been nearly impossible. The school systems are in a transition period and they are attempting to create a more effective system, but right now there is no discipline and not much learning is happening.

At the end of the first day the teacher pulled me aside and asked me to come up with lesson plans and ideas to help the class be more organized. Without a disciplinary system we really can´t get anything done, so I decided to make a giant chart to hang up on the wall with all of the students names so that we could give them stars when they behaved well, and take away stars when they behaved poorly.

Two minutes after hanging up my chart a boy ran up and tore it apart. And that essentially describes how my efforts go in the classroom.

Since then I have made a more durable version of the chart, and there has been some improvement in the behavior, but it feels a lot like I am trying to teach this large class on my own.

Aaanyways, this sounds very negative, but I do have faith I am making a difference. I have already seen a slight shift in the attitudes of the kids since I made my chart and started giving high-fives for doing well. Unfortunately, I am only here one month and making any sort of significant difference with this group is going to require time, so hopefully I can start some changes that will be continued by future volunteers.

Also, while the volunteering is really hard, the island has been AMAZING. I have been here less than a week and I have gone snorkeling with turtles, seen a blue-footed booby and tons of iguanas, swam with a sea lion (but really, he was swimming around me as if we were dancing and he even toughed my toes with his nose!), ridden in the back of the truck through the jungle to a beautiful beach, watched the sun set….and these activities are just part of an average afternoon here.

Which is why I don´t have time to blog. Anytime I think about needing to check my email, something like hiking to an inactive volcano or swimming with a shark pulls me away…it´s really tough for me.

In fact, I am only blogging now because I am waiting for the stores to open so I can buy my own snorkel gear and go swim with the sea lions again. Then I think I´m going to hike to this tiny isolated beach and watch the sun set.

So that is what I will be doing. I am taking a ton of pictures and I can post them when I get back!



The Galapagos

I ended my blog in Spain writing posts while procrastinating instead of studying for finals, and now I am starting my blog again for my trip to the Galapagos while procrastinating instead of studying for my final. How appropriate!Today is my first and only final, but more importantly,  it is also my last day in Austin before my month-long adventure to the Galapagos.Tomorrow I am heading to the Galapagos to the island of San Cristobal where I will volunteer and work at a school with special needs children through the program Projects Abroad. This program organizes for volunteers to go all over the world and, before landing on the Galapagos, I was considering spending this month in Tanzania, Thailand, Vietnam, and Fiji among others. It was pretty hard to go wrong.I chose to study in the Galapagos because one, I will be able to speak the language there, so I think that will make a more effective volunteer and I will get to practice speaking. Also, I thought I should take advantage of the opportunity to visit the Galapagos and see the amazing biodiversity and animals before it all disappears.

Aaaanyways, so that is why in approximately 12 hours I will be heading on a very round-about flight to the Galapagos.

I honestly have no idea what to expect once I get there. I am staying with a home stay family, and I know I am volunteering at the school, but that is ALL I know. Seriously. I don’t know a single other person on the island, I don’t know what exactly I will be doing while volunteering, I don’t know what the area is like, and there could be anywhere from zero to hundreds of other volunteers there (probably not hundreds, but I just don’t know!).

If you know me well you know that I like to have plans, which has lead me to constantly try to decide exactly what I will be doing from 5 years from now, if not 10 years down the road. Some might say that it is impossible to plan so far in advance, but that doesn’t stop me from trying! So maybe it is a good change that I can’t even try to make such extensive plans even if I wanted to. I will relinquish my control–or more appropriately, my delusion of control–and just take things as they come.

One thing I know I am excited for is to see all of the animals and wildlife, so I plan to take lots of photos and hopefully keep everyone updated through my blog. However, Disclaimer! Along with the many other things I have no clue about, I have no idea what my schedule will be like or what my access to the internet will be, so I hope to write frequent updates, but who knows what will happen. If I disappear after this short pre-departure post, I’m sorry, but you can’t say I didn’t warn you.

Well, I am off to finish packing and to go to sleep. I’ll send off with a picture of an island inhabitant that I hope to meet: a blue footed booby! And this guy looks like he is waving with his foot! Silly.

Hasta pronto