Hello! It's been a while since I've updated my blog, but I guess I've fallen into a bit of a routine and there isn't really too much new to report.

As I mentioned before, I'm on summer vacation from school, and my friend Maeve and I have started volunteering at a home for children, some orphaned, some with problematic family situations, some abandoned. I go Mondays-Thursdays from 9 to 1.

It's kind of like babysitting, but with 60 kids with a lot of emotional problems and very little discipline, and I don't get paid. But I absolutely love it. The best part is that now that I've been volunteering there for about a month, I really know how things work, and have really special connections with a lot of the kids.

These kids come from what you think of when you think of a third world country. The "suburbio", which is the complete opposite of what we call suburbs in the U.S., is the slum in and surrounding Guayaquil. These are shanty towns usually built on top of swamps consisting of one room homes made out of whatever materials could be found. Here lives the poorest of the poor, which is a much larger population than the rich. They lack access to clean drinking water, education, health care, sanitation, and work.

The children in the home are the lucky ones. Despite the fact that they're separated from their families, living in an intense and emotional environment, constantly getting sick, incurably infested with lice, wearing clothes two sizes too big and shoes two sizes too small, they are so much better off than they were before. And for the most part, they're a really happy and positive bunch (despite everyones daily emotional breakdown).

My day there consists of a lot of hugging, kissing, crying, laughing, kicking, hitting, and playing. I get there around nine and play and help keep the peace until its time to go upstairs and take baths around 11. I made the drastic mistake once of teaching them how to do a game I used to play with my dad. Where I'd hold his hands and walk up his legs and flip myself around. I'm not exaggerating when I say I spend about half of my day doing that. That and playing a hand game that we taught them, which is actually really entertaining due to their hysterical imitations of the English lyrics of the song. But every day is different. Today at play time I got a lot of snot wiped on me by a friend with a runny nose, flowers thrown all over me, a bite from a 2-year-old boy, and lots of worms placed in my hands by proud discoverers.

At bath time I always go to help with the little boys because they are insane. The little girls mostly just take care of themselves, get themselves dressed then just want to sit around and chat and have us do their hair. The boys on the other hand want to jump from bunk to bunk and fight and break things and run around stark naked for as long as they can. But I don't think that's just an orphan thing, I think that that's just the difference between boys and girls in all stages of life.

After everyone's clean and dressed, we go downstairs for lunch. Which is where the little kids eat half of their soup and pour the rest on us, the ground, their friends, and themselves. Next, the babies struggle to grasp the concept of the spoon. Most 2-year-olds aren't feeding themselves real people food with utensils, and these ones are just thrown into it and they all have really interesting and unique techniques. One of my favorite little girls named Anali takes her rice, puts it on her spoon with her hand, then uses her hand to grab it from the spoon and put it in her mouth. Bellita doesn't even bother with the spoon business usually and just shoves everything in her mouth with her two chubby little hands.

After lunch I go home, shower, eat, and take a nap. Later I exercise and get to bed early to do it all again.

The weirdest part is leaving on Thursday and spending a weekend doing normal things: going to the beach, going to the movies, baking, hanging out with my family… things some of these kids have never done. And every day I don't see them, I honestly miss them, and am always looking forward to getting there in the morning.

While I'm on the subject of the home, my friend Maeve and I have received some emails and things from people who want to help out this wonderful place. Like I said, it's a lot better than where these kids were before, but is far from luxurious. Each kid has no more than 3 outfits, 2 pair of underwear and one pair of shoes, and everything is old and worn out and too big or too small. There are days when there are simply no diapers, so the littlest ones have to go without. So Maeve and I are going to start collecting from anyone at home that wants to help out - please let me know if you are interested!

Here are some photos that my friend Maeve took a few weeks ago of our friends:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/92583672@N06/sets/72157632862303090/