Monday, November 24, 2008

Snap your fingers

...and watch the days go by. Boy oh boy oh boy - where did my weekend go?

Saturday began in a flurry of frustration. I had signed up for this volunteer program running workshops for underprivileged children between the ages of 5 to 12. Our program was a one-time activity, but the children had their own volunteer mentors (kind of like Big Brothers/Big Sisters) from another program. Hence, besides us, the child:volunteer ratio was already 1:1.

One might imagine that having such attention available would make the day proceed smoothly. It did not. The older children were uninterested and disruptive. The younger children were rowdy and uncontrollable. At times, I rather wished that I too could be young, so it would be acceptable for me to make socially irresponsible banter.

Little girl: This game sucks!!!
Andy: Nooo... You suck!!!

[Edit: No children were harmed in the imagining of this immature fantasy]

Anyways, as it turned out, the activity that I was responsible for was the final one of the afternoon - an exercise workshop. We had prepared three games following a brief warm-up stretch. By this point in the day, the kids were pretty much bouncing off the walls, acting belligerently, and expressing limited interest in anything that we had to say. As we tried to set up for the first game, this little boy kept running around and grabbing whatever I put down on the floor for the game. Eventually I chased him down, picked him up by his torso, and dragged him back to his mentor. I glared pointedly at my colleague, who was doing little more than meekly telling their child to settle down. I mean with 1:1 child:mentor ratio, shouldn't they be able to exert some degree of order?

In any case, the game collapsed, and we moved onto number two. Number two required less set up, and we actually managed to pull off a round. Despite this, the kids still did their very best to derail the whole process, including trying to cheat once the game was over. And when we tried to do a second round... well let's just say it was so impossible that we gave up, let the kids take their loot bags, and sent them home.

Afterwards, I talked to one of my friends who was a volunteer mentor. They expressed the that the children had been increasingly rowdy, but if we saw what kind of homes they grew up in, we would understand. So yes, I do deeply appreciate the work that is being done in giving these children a mentor and some much needed attention week after week. I think it's an incredible undertaking. At the same time, I was frustrated - frustrated that we had put in so much work to put together a workshop that the kids could have enjoyed if they had given it a chance. Frustrated that they had been so rowdy and that the mentors had done so little to reign them in. Frustrated that we had bothered to try teach these children something when they clearly would have had more fun just going about their usual Saturday program without us. I mean... why work so hard and then force this upon them when they were not at all interested? I joined this volunteer program to make some kind of positive impact on these children, but instead it felt like the whole thing was an unwanted, futile gesture.

Following the disaster of my volunteer experience, Mello and I hit up J-Rock's place where he was preparing his clarinet performance for the Earthtone's reception. Earthtones is a musical concert performed by medical students, residents, and fellows. After I had helped to blow up some 200 balloons for a reason that still escapes me, Mello asked me if I was planning to change before Earthtones which was being held in a semi-serious venue. Of course, this was silly, because the performance was in an hour and there was no way I could go back uptown to change... nor would I really want to, because that would be a massive waste of time.

Still, after all of Mello's poking and prodding, I did feel like I would end up looking rather conspicuous. This was especially in light of the fact that I was wearing my most grungy of clothes (hoodie and cargos) for my volunteer exercise workshop. As it turned out, Mello's boyfriend Lucky joined up with us for Earthtones, and happened to have a change of clothes on him, which I ended up wearing. Now Lucky and I are approximately the same height, but with me being the freakishly slim boy that I am, we are not exactly the same size. Because of this, I spent most of the night feeling conspicuously like a fish out of water or like a man dressed up in another man's skin (think the roach from Men in Black). Awkward...

What really put the night together though was the Earthtones concert itself. It was hosted by Sheila McCarthy, a Canadian actress of some acclaim for her role in Little Mosque on the Prairie. She was hilarious and extremely amicable, which almost makes me want to check out her TV show. The performances themselves were absolutely brilliant, including an a capella performance of "If You Could Read My Mind" by the Hart House Jazz Choir and a violin/piano performance of Zigeunerweisen by two Toronto Symphony Orchestra level musicians.

Yes, some medical students cultivate professional level musical talent in their spare time. I write blogs. What about it?

As we were leaving Earthtones at the end of the night, there was some kind of crowd on the field outside. While we wondered what was going on, the truth was laid plain for me today in the newspaper: a bunch of students had organized some ludicrous Facebook event with the plan to string LED lights to helium balloons and float them up to an altitude higher than the CN Tower. Needless to say they failed - garnering themselves little more than a few frozen tushes and an embarrassing newspaper article.

Sunday involved mostly cleaning up my room, my clothes, and my life followed by yummy all-you-can-eat sushi uptown with J-Rock, Mello, and Lucky. Four full bellies and several cheese-filled wontons later, the weekend was over. Snap snap. End.


Anonymous comments and the like

Okay, so I know some of you guys are starting to have fun, finally having realized that you can post comments under just about any name that you like. While I do appreciate all your comments, I'd like to ask you guys to refrain from using full names (in particular my full name) in your comments. It rather defeats the purpose of anonymizing all identifiers to begin with, and makes my life feel rather exposed. Oh, and yes, I have deleted the offending comment already.


Where no man has gone before...

It's here! A non-teaser trailer for Star Trek XI. My inner geek is scintillating!


Teddy said...

the rowdy children probably didn't get the same parenting you and i had. some probably came from single-parent families, experienced abuse, etc... u know, all those social determinants of health... and that's a sad thing. because you could only imagine the issues that they would have in school and consequently in life.

don't be frustrated. i'm sure they enjoyed your company. remember you're doing it for the children, not for yourself.

on a side note, i hope the girl whom you said "You suck!!!" to wouldn't be too traumatized from it :)

a_ndy said...

Thanks - you're right and I really do have to remember the children (though I think by intention, I am probably doing these things partly for myself as well).

As for the little girl... well I didn't *actually* say that. I was just thinking it. ;)