It's been awhile since my last update. The biggest change since then is that eight new families have started their year at the cottage. It's very exciting to meet the new families. Each family brings a new story and a fun new experience. They each bring with them the hardships that they have faced, but the hope is that with time and a bit of effort, they will learn something from Quaker Cottage or find something in themselves that will bring them back to stability. The previous group that started in October seemed particularly difficult. Some of the mums were (and still are) in a bad place, and they bring that mood with them when they come up the mountain. Despite it being difficult at times to deal with this, I am so glad that they have the opportunity to come to Quakers. Now, the reason I am mentioning the previous group is to illustrate the contrast between them and the new group. The new group is (so far) energetic, garrulous, and flirtatious . You may be asking how I know they're flirty. Ahem....Well, uh....Being that I am the only young male worker that they see at Quakers, it's easy for them to find a target.
Here's the story. It was their first day coming to Quaker Cottage, and I was lucky enough to be driving the bus while we went out to pick everyone up. My supervisor was in the back of the bus in order to chat with them. The first mum we picked up was the protagonist (or antagonist, whichever way you want to see it) of this story. She steps onto the bus, and my supervisor introduces me to her. She gives me a look and proceeds to compliment my smile and say how wonderful it is to meet me. I wasn't thinking too much of it at this point, but my supervisor was. She was the real instigator of it all. She continued to mention me in conversation throughout the rest of the bus ride and telling the mum that she should sit up front beside me. So as fate would have it, the mums did not all fit in the back of the bus (they had their babies with them too), so this mum, who happened to not have any babies with her, had to sit up front. At that point, the mum began the heavy flirting. Among other things, she said, "Well, I have a boyfriend, but I've only been seeing him for like two weeks, so it's not anything serious." Trying to be professional, I just talked to her like I would anyone else, but somehow my being nice came off as returning the flirts. Eventually, I was getting embarrassed because the other mums were a bit clued in on our conversation. It was at this point that I made a huge mistake. Because the back of the bus doesn't have vents, I had the heat blasting and that leaves the front extremely warm. Well, I was just too hot, so I turned to the back and said, "Is everyone warm back there? Because it's getting hot up here!" Instantly, I knew I had dug myself a hole. But it was too late...the words had already come out. My supervisor's response? "Oh, you're hot? Well, I think "Amber" is in heat!"
The next six months will certainly not be dull.
Speaking of six months, I am officially halfway done with my term of service here in NI. Not sure how I feel about that.
I suppose I should talk about the new children too. The babies are fun. Whenever we have a new group start, we have to be extra prepared to deal with crying babies. On that first day, one toddler had fallen asleep on the bus, so when he woke up in a new place surrounded by strangers, it must have been like the whole world had crashed down around him. I have never seen a child cry so violently. He was dry-heaving in between gasps for air and body-shaking sobs. This continued for what felt like an hour but was likely half that long. I was certain he was either going to be sick or pass out from exhaustion. And once one child start crying, the others followed shortly after. Thankfully, they were easier to calm down.
I still haven't met all of the new afterschoolers, but I have met the new preteen group. Here's a quick story from one of the new boys. We had just finished an egg challenge where we wrap up an egg with whatever you can find and then drop it from up high. After unwrapping it and discovering it was still intact, one boy grabbed the egg and, without a thought, smashed it on his head. The kids were all laughing, and the staff stood there in a semi-shocked speechlessness. Yes, what he did was funny, but we see this type of behavior from a different light. This boy is a glutton for attention. He instantly loved me because I am American, and he loves all things American. Does he really love everything about America, or is he trying to find a source of attention from me? He is unable to sit still when we're all having discussions and is continuously cutting into other people's conversations. Basically, his social skills are not where they should be. Through our interactions with him, we can see that something is likely missing from home or school, and just like we do for all of the children, we attempt to help them learn the skills they are missing or need work on while they're with us.
Outside of work, I went on an overnight trip/hike with the Ireland Young Friends group that I have connected with. Although the hike was somewhat disappointing, the time with this group is always good craic. It's like going back to camp.
I went to a park with Becky and Steffi last weekend and saved a bird caught in fishing line. It took ages, and the bird was not a happy chappy. I felt like I was in one of those commercials that shows workers cleaning oil off of coastal birds.
|At the Waterworks, a park in Belfast|
And lastly, instead of celebrating Fat Tuesday here, they celebrate Pancake Tuesday. As a pancake lover, I can get behind this day of pancake gluttony.