Global Service Scholar: Joey Lattarulo
A day in my life here has changed quite a bit in the last week. Throughout my first two weeks, I would awake every morning to my medical intern roommate getting ready to head to the hospital. I’d then proceed upstairs to fix some toast and jam in our outdoor kitchen. At this point in time, Sophie, a teaching volunteer, would often be making her strange English breakfast with in-shell dip eggs. We’d converse throughout the meal then part ways. I would head back to my room and spend time with Calvino until my daily Facetime call from my best friend. She would be getting home from a full day’s work just as mine was beginning. After, I would head off on a twenty-minute walk by the moat to a café called Vegan Heaven. I quickly became a regular greeted with a smile of familiarity. The décor was very intriguing, the walls being covered in quotes from vegans and vegetarians in the realms of well-known people. For me, the ones who stood out the most were Einstein and Kafka. I would then walk back to my accommodations to meet Alexina and Asal, my coworkers, and we would walk to our taxi pick up location. This daily ride to the children’s home was about 45 minutes and we were often packed in like sardines, trying to be aware of our stop, which is not an easy task. We would get off and pay our driver before a nice little stroll down a quiet road that led to the home.
Upon arrival after prying open the gate we’d be immediately met with a flood of greeting from the children who were often arriving at the same time from school. We would pull out the tables and chairs to set up for homework time. On some wonderful days we were actually able to help the kids with their homework, while on others we’d just sit and wipe the sweat off our foreheads. After homework activities always vary from soccer to anatomy in English or chasing the girls with bugs; we have a blast. Once dinnertime rolls around we reset the tables and everyone takes a seat. The children all read or recite the weekly Bible verse followed by a prayer. In the same moment that last word leaves their mouth the children’s mouths are immediately stuffed with food. The mother makes me a meal with tofu instead of meat; she really is incredibly kind. Sometimes the food is so, so good; sometimes I eat in agony. Alexina and Asal, eating the traditional food, always find themselves in agony.
After dinner is a quick clean up that they don’t really let us partake in, and then it’s back to various activities. Last night, we taught some of the kids and the mom the words for different parts of plants and the names of specific flowers before breaking into a little jam session with some of the kids playing guitars. Around 7 p.m., our ride shows up and we stretch our time there a bit before hoping into the vehicle we have begun calling the icebox. Some days I leave feeling incredibly fulfilled and uplifted because of my meaningful interactions with the children. But not all my days are that way, and some days I leave feeling unhelpful and burdensome. Attending this home, I quickly realized that I am only here to engage with the children, not to alleviate the plight of the parents. This is different than I expected, but I have grown used to it. The problem is the days in which I feel I’m not even able to help the kids in some way. Luckily, those days seem to fade in frequency in my later weeks.
Once we arrive back, we would part ways to our separate accommodations, and I would go to check my messages to see were the night had taken my friends, typically Zoe In The Yellow, the more touristy night life. We always had such a great time together and sometimes continued our venture into the night at a place called Spicy.
Now my daily life outside of service is drastically different, with the service on a gradual up-climb. This difference is due to the departure of almost all my closest friends here. In the morning I wake up around nine and wait for the awkward moment in which the maintenance man pops into my room, sees me, says sorry, and closes my door. I don’t really make breakfast anymore instead I sit around in my room until the now occasional aforementioned call comes in. Around noon I meet up with a fellow program continuer, Brittney for a stroll down to the Cat House for kombucha and lunch. We sit for a long lunch before parting ways for work.
The work is mostly the same, but always improving as the relationships deepen with the children. I at this point know I will miss these kids more than anything. When I get back from work I go up to my room and get changed awaiting Brittney to come knock on my door before she comes in and we discuss our days. My room is pumping with the music from my cell phone and we sit adjacent from each other chatting. We now go to The North Gate Jazz Co-op. Usually it is just us that head out. North Gate is incredible; every band I’ve seen has had me entranced, so though my old life may be gone I’m adjusting to the new one quite well. My biggest struggle overall is the truth of this trip being that it is much more a trip for personal growth than a service trip. With that, I hope the truth of my heart does not cast too dark a shadow for the absolute light of this trip to shine through. I do and forever will treasure the experiences of my day-to-day life here.