12 September 2011

Celebrating Rainbows

I have been here in N. Ireland for nearly a full month. The work at Quaker Cottage has changed from the summer program to the school-year program. A large difference between the two programs is the lack of outings with exchange for community time at our mountain site. So, instead of taking the children out and about to visit parks, museums, heritage sites, etc., we have stayed at our cottage work building trying to get the children on a routine.

In the mornings I work with the 0-4 year olds. We try to take the 3 and 4 year olds to a separate room where we can work on “preschool” activities, like cutting, pasting, painting, reading/writing, alphabet, etc. The idea is to work on their motor skills, build their attention spans, help them read and write, listen to stories, have artistic expression, and other great skills that will help them along when they start preschool or “nursery.” Meanwhile, the 0-2 year olds are downstairs in the baby room playing away. The two groups come together again for lunch, and then we try to get the children outside for a walk or play on the playground. The mums finish their group counseling and come outside to meet us, and the families hop on the buses to go home.

About an hour of our afternoons are spent cleaning the cottage after the 0-4 year olds have been there. Then we staff members have a late lunch together and plan for our afterschool groups, which come Tuesday-Thursday. I am still learning the afterschool program schedule; there are group games, crafts, “free play,” and snacks. The afterschool program gives children a chance to get away from home for a few hours, interact with their peers, build relationships, learn new skills, self-development, and have fun! Quakers gives the children a chance to be who they want to be, and shed unhealthy personas that they may have developed at home or at school. The program is really great.

The Quaker Cottage “ethos” and values that drive our work with the children are truth and integrity, equality, nonviolence, and simplicity. I like to sum-up the ethos as “love and patience.” :) And how I have been tested to keep the ethos in my heart while working with these challenging children! My latest preschool hour was on Friday, when I had three 3-4 year olds by myself. We started with coloring, to work on their “writing” motor development, then we moved to painting. After one particularly difficult child stuck a paintbrush down the sink, I told them paint-time was over. I quickly tried to help them wash their hands and move on to story time, but by that time the children had lost it! They were running around the room, jumping on the couches, ripping decorations off the walls, pulling games off the shelves, crawling into our game and book storage nook, and more! Within a matter of minutes I had lost complete control of the situation, and even calling for backup didn't help! We had to drag the unruly children downstairs early to join the rest of the group, 0-2 year olds along with the other staff. What an hour! So yes, “love and patience!”

As far as my time after work, we had a quick goodbye celebration for our volunteer roommate Alex. We had a great dinner with her and then went to the John Hewitt for a pint. Last Monday I auditioned to join a community choir. I was gladly welcomed into the group, but I quickly discovered that the ensemble is more advanced than I am. Now I am caught with indecision of staying in the vocal ensemble, knowing I'll need to work hard to “catch up,” or try to find a less intense extracurricular activity. I am planning to go to the next few rehearsals before I make a decision.

Last weekend I had the exciting opportunity to go to an Eagles tribute band concert at the Empire, which is a bar that was formerly a church. The venue is beautiful, yet hip at the same time. The band was really good, and they played all of the Eagles hits, some Fleetwood Mac tunes, and even one of my favorite Neil Young songs, After the Gold Rush. Needless to say, I had a good night.

I just finished up another weekend, and I must admit I was blown away. My friend Becca invited Courtney and I to Portstewart to meet a few of her friends and enjoy the northern coast. I was captivated by the coastal town Portstewart. Portstewart had stunning landscapes, and a cute village that included shops, restaurants, churches, and a former castle that was remade into a school. It was beautiful. We stopped at Morelli's restaurant, and I had some of the best chips of my life! I ordered the garlic chips, and I was served a large bowl of chips that were swimming in garlic butter; I was in heaven!

After my artery-aching meal, we drove just a few miles down the road to Portrush. We parked at the beach and walked down to the sand to find a double rainbow! Flabbergasted cannot fully describe my feelings. Once we calmed down a bit from the beauty around us, Becca and I skipped to the tide and waded in the cold sea. It was a beautiful day.

This evening I went to the Crown Liquor Saloon with friends. The Crown Liquor Saloon is one of Belfast's oldest pubs and is even part of the National Trust! Established in 1826 The Crown Bar is unique for the look and feel of a cathedral. The pub has “vaults,” small conversation rooms with doors and all, which resemble confessionals. The bar is alter-like, and there are even stained glass windows! The architecture is uniquely Victorian, amazing wood carvings, brilliant mirrors, mosaic floor tiles, and gorgeous brown, red, and gold color scheme. The Guiness couldn't have tasted better than sitting in a historic, classy, and quite unique pub.

Again, I am pleased to report another great span of time in N. Ireland. I have faced both concerning challenges, and worthwhile delights. I need to remind myself that the frequent rain and challenges are all for a reason, and I can't experience rainbows and joy without the rain and struggle. I am excited to greet the challenges to try to understand the world just a little bit better than before, all the while celebrating rainbows.

Thanks for reading!

Peace and Grace,
Samantha Carwile

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