Sunday, July 7, 2013

Going the distance

The teaching portion of our trip was spent in two schools, Santa Rosa and Carmello. The students and teachers taught me so much about Peru, the education system, and working in a classroom in the two weeks I spent teaching there.

After our two week "English Camp" the group prepared to visit other more rural schools in the small towns of Chinchero and Huillacapata. I personally had no idea what to expect being that we were only there to observe instead of teach. I speak for the whole group when I say the rural schools surpassed our expectations and left each and every one of us humbled by the experience. The differences in the schools were astronomical. The principals were involved in everything the students did as opposed to the city schools where I'm not even sure I ever met the principal. We were greeted with songs and dances as well as memorized poetry by the students. In Chinchero the girls taught me games and songs during their recess and we observed a typical classroom in which multiple grades are taught and multiple languages are spoken. As a group we took school supplies to donate but upon arrival I realized some kids needed shoes and other basic necessities more than pencil sharpeners and notebooks. Despite the demanding circumstances, the classroom management was admirable in comparison to the larger city schools, and the students' willingness to learn and participate in each and every activity was heart warming. The students told us stories of their routines, getting up and tending to their families animals before walking an hour to school each day, all without complaint. Our time spent there was appreciated by all and I am so very grateful we had the chance to experience a different world inside of Peru.

At the second school we visited we were able to help paint the cafeteria and enjoy some more quality time with the students. We were able to see the green house the school had for plants and vegetables and we were even served fresh potatoes and cheese after an intense soccer game with the kids. The volunteer work we did at that school was very rewarding and I know it is an experience I will never forget.

The respect I have for the teachers and principals of rural Peruvian schools has flourished with my growing knowledge of all that their job encompasses. Most teachers travel great distances every day without the use of cars or public transportation. They take on the strenuous task of teaching not one grade but two or three all at the same time in the same class room. They manage diverse classrooms with excellence and handle language barriers with acceptance instead of pressuring conformity.  To say I was impressed by the students and teachers at these schools is an understatement. I am happy to have observed teachers that devotedly go the distance. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Santa Rosa

The biggest and possibly most important part of this trip to Peru is the in-school work we are doing. We were finally able to start in the class rooms today of a local private school called Santa Rosa. Santa Rosa is an all girls school with students of all ages. I was blessed with the opportunity to help teach in a first grade class room of 25 students. Since the education system in Peru is quite different than in the U.S., most classes have around 40-50 students. Luckily for me there are two first grade rooms, meaning each one only has about 25 students. We prepared lesson plans before arriving in Peru with little idea of what the students would know, what they would be learning, or how the class room dynamic would be. Needless to say, the lesson plans we made were pretty useless (at least for myself) because the material the students were learning had nothing to do with what we had put together. When I met with their teacher last Friday and got a better idea of what they were currently working on, I threw the lesson plans out the window (figuratively speaking of course) and started from scratch. How will I communicate with them? I wondered. Will they understand me?...But one question above all the others amplified in my mind, How will I make the students WANT to learn English?
The problem was, as many teachers openly expressed to us, the students here in Peru don't want to learn English. They don't like it, it is too hard, and they don't see its importance. Truthfully I had to ask myself how I would feel if I were being forced to learn a language that was only used in other countries, or other continents for that matter! In Texas you can barely get students to learn Spanish and the use of that language is not only useful but necessary in many parts of the state. So why? Why force them to learn a language they could go their whole lives without? I think tonight I will ask Ana and Eduardo (my host parents) why they think English is important since Eduardo knows it and Ana is learning. But until then, I'm left with nothing but speculation. Maybe it is because the tourism industry has been growing now for years in Peru, and in order to keep the economy growing the tourists speaking English must keep coming. Maybe it is because knowing English will prepare the students for international careers, or careers involving business and communication. Whatever the reason, students are expected to learn it, and I am here to teach it.
I started my morning bright and early (well maybe not so bright but definitely early), and enjoyed my usual wake up call from Diego and Alonso, "Good Morning Kristina!!" they say as they stand in my door way, "Buenos dias Alonso, Buenos dias Diego!" I say back, pulling myself from sleep. The morning slips by fast and before I know it I'm walking out the door with a breakfast sandwich Ana made me in my hand. I meet my friends that live near by at the park and we walk to the main road to find a taxi. As nervous as we were to be late we arrive at Santa Rosa about 15 minutes early and have to wait outside with the rest of the group. Little girls run by us smiling and waving, their perfectly pressed uniforms identical to one another. Finally I see my teacher, Senora Cecilia Luna, and she takes me to her class room. We talk about the work book and what the students will be doing that day, then she explains to me that if I want to teach a lesson myself I should stick to songs and games. Soon the first grade girls begin to spill in, each one staring at me like I'm an alien, and they start to ask the teacher why I am there. Once everyone has taken their seats I introduce myself and tell them I will be helping Senora Luna teach English. We start the day with songs, Jesus loves me was sung as a group in English and in Spanish, then Senora Luna asked me to teach them one. I was put on the spot so I taught them the only song I know in English and in Spanish, "Head Shoulders Knees and Toes". Luckily they loved it and Senora Luna asked me to teach them songs every day if possible (I guess I have to learn more songs...). Once the girls were settled down from singing and dancing we sat down to do book work. I walked around the room stopping at each table to make sure everyone was on task and keeping up. Some of the girls had every answer written in correctly before I even got to them, and when I came by to say "muy bien!" I could see how proud they were.
The rest of class went on without a problem in the world aside from a bit of classroom control I may need to work on. The teachers at Santa Rosa seemed to have a difficult time getting their students to pay attention or to listen. I told Senora Luna as we left class that day there were many things you could do to get the class focused. Especially since they are learning English, using English rhymes would not only get their attention, but teach them new words and phrases. For example: The teacher says, " 1 2 3 Eyes on me!!" and the students say back, " 1 2 Eyes on you!" this is a fun and easy way to let the whole class know you have something to say. Another example is this one: Teacher says loudly (when students are being very loud) "Clap once if you can hear me!" then students paying attention will clap. With a lower voice, teacher says, "Clap twice if you can hear me." and more students will clap twice. By now the room should be quiet and the teacher can whisper, "Clap three times if you can hear me." and all the students will clap. Anyone who has been in an elementary classroom before knows kids like to clap, they like to make noise, and they like chants and rhymes. I plan on using this to my advantage rather than fighting it; hopefully I will get positive results. I have two weeks to spend teaching at Santa Rosa every morning and I look forward to seeing not only what I can teach them, but what they can teach me.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness
                As I walked out of the airport in Cusco I expected to see a family holding a sign with my name. I had communicated with la familia Carrera Yupanqui (my host family) many times via Facebook so I knew I would recognize either Ana or Eduardo. Instead all I found waiting for me was two unfamiliar faces holding a white sign that read UTSA. So, I walked over to them to see where my family was. Paola and Franko, the USIL coordinators, introduced themselves and explained there were too many of us to have our families pick us up here, and that we would be dropped off closer to our homes. I will admit I was a little disappointed to have to wait longer to finally meet the Yupanqui family, but I was excited to finally be in Cusco, Peru. We loaded the bus and placed our baggage accordingly so that the first to be dropped off had their bags easily accessible. My suitcases were placed on top of the bus so I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant. I could be the last to be dropped off and that’s why they didn’t want my luggage in the way, or I could be the first; there was no way of knowing. We took a short drive away from the airport and Paola and Franko gave a short explanation of the altitude sickness we would most likely experience. “You won’t feel anything at first” they explained, “because there is still enough oxygen already in you.” But we were told this would wear off within the hour, and that we needed to rest and drink coca tea. Soon we were in a neighborhood full of beautiful houses and apartments. We came to a stop next to a park where a group of adults stood talking to one another. Eventually I was close enough to realize one of the men standing there was Eduardo! I jumped with excitement and began to gather my things; this was my stop. He greeted me warmly as soon as I climbed from the bus and pictures were taken of everyone together. A taxi driver grabbed my luggage and placed it into his car and Eduardo announced, “Okay I am leaving with my temporary daughter!” as we walked away from the bus. He asked me about the trip and about Lima, and last but not least asked if I was feeling okay. I told him I was feeling fine, but he assured me that wouldn’t last. We made a quick drive to the house where Eduardo showed me around and I met Diego, their son, and Hilda, their nanny. Ana and Alonso were not home, but Hilda served me sopa con pollo y papas, and it was amazing. Eduardo insisted I eat this light meal, then lie down and rest. “You must rest or you will not feel better,” he said, “Drink lots of water and let Hilda know if there is anything you need”, and with that, he left back to work. Although Diego does not talk, or understand English, he held my hand and led me through the house. I was mesmerized by the view from their home! Mountains and city lights and beautiful landscapes, it was truly phenomenal.  Before long I began to feel dizzy. My head began to ache and I felt tired and weak. I informed Hilda that I was going to rest but it took a little more convincing for Diego to leave my side. I wasn’t bothered by his company though. In the United States I am a nanny for a family of seven so I was even relieved at the familiarity of the situation. Diego gave me a kiss and left me to sleep so I closed the door and climbed under the blankets.  By this time the room was spinning and I felt absolutely terrible; Eduardo wasn’t kidding. I drank the water that was placed in my room and turned my phone on to text my mom. I told her I wasn’t connected to WIFI yet because Eduardo had left to work and I needed the password from him. I also turned on the mobile phone the university provided for me, but couldn’t figure out anything on it because it was in Spanish. I fell asleep fast thankfully and woke up about an hour later. I made the mistake of standing straight up from the bed way too fast and nearly fainted. I crept out of my room but didn’t see anyone home. I felt awful, the room was still spinning my head was still hurting and I was sure if I didn’t lie down soon I would’ve thrown up. I crawled back into bed and fell back asleep for another couple of hours. When I awoke, I could hear voices. I heard Ana get home from in my room and decided it was a good time to get moving. It didn’t take long for Ana to see the condition I was in. She brought me an oxygen inhaler and some coca tea, that I drank eagerly hoping to feel better soon. I also met Alonso and the boys played in my room while I unpacked. I was surprised to see that Alonso spoke some English, he even sang “If you’re happy and you know it” to me. Soon I was feeling a little better and Ana brought some food into my room. I will have to get the name and the recipe later, because I am already craving it again. The best way I can describe it is a small fried pastry filled with cheese and dipped in a creamy avocado dip. OOF! Haha, it was so good. She told me to stay in bed and relax and sleep as much as possible. I’ve been in Cusco for over ten hours now and I still feel a little unwell, but hopefully by the time I wake up tomorrow all will be fine. Eventually I figured out how to change the cell phone I was given to English, and I was able to talk to my dad. Unfortunately, it charges whoever is on the American end of the conversation 3$ a minute to talk to me! So we only spoke for a few short minutes. I am anxiously awaiting Eduardo’s arrival back home so I can connect to Wi-Fi and iMessage my mom, but until then, I’m going back to sleep!
Buenas noches!!

The view from our living room!

Part 3 Lost in Lima

Lost in Lima continued...

When our check came it was about 150 sols for all the food and drinks. Because one American dollar is about 2.75 Peruvian dollars, this check was extremely cheap to us. We paid our tab and decided to walk around to a local café to have drinks and dessert. The walk was exciting. We were slightly lost for a while but our genius friend Ivo had a map, imagine that! After he studied the map for a few minutes he looked up and said. “Dos cuadras mas!” as he pointed in the direction of the coast. The entire group stopped and stared at him knowing he was teasing us because of our complications earlier that evening. Before we knew it laughter broke out between all of us for so long my sides began to ache and my face hurt from smiling so hard. We walked to a small shopping center right on the coast where we could see the water and enjoy great company. We stopped at a café and ordered coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. We also indulged in a little Peruvian tres leches, as well as a chocolate dessert. Cups and plates were passed around as if it were thanksgiving, everyone trying a little bit of everything. Ivo entertained us with stories of his travels and life back in Colombia. It is safe to say he developed a “fan club” with us, being that we were so interested in his accomplishments. Ivo informed us that he was not only a chef, but the dean of his university, and that he would be here until Friday taking classes. The group enjoyed our treats and relaxed for a while, not wanting the night to end. We had to check out of the hotel in Lima at 8am and it was almost midnight when we left the café. Having learned our lesson, we caught a cab to take us back to the hotel. We each hugged Ivo good bye and wished him a safe journey home, then all five of us climbed into a small cab. Four of us were in the back seat, Professor Saldana, Felicia, Jesus, and myself, but it took less than five minutes to get us back home. Go figure. We all laughed and joked about the night as we spilled out onto the sidewalk and drug ourselves up the stairs to the lobby. There was one of us staying on every floor so each time the elevator stopped you could hear a symphony of, “good night!” “Buenas noches!” “Sleep tight!” “See you tomorrow!”. Finally, on the fifth floor it was my turn to get off. Professor Saldana and Sonya each wished me a good night and I walked to my room, alone for the first time in hours. It was so quiet I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to sleep. Thankfully my fellow classmate and roommate at the hotel Crystal was still awake when I walked in and I was able to share with her the crazy night we had before getting some sleep.  I checked my Facebook just before going to bed to let my mom and friends know I was okay and that I would be flying to Cusco in the morning. Waiting for me there was a message from Ivo that read, “I made it back to my hotel safely, good night.” I am so grateful for the night we spent in Lima. The adventure was not only exciting it was a learning experience for us all, and a chance to prove to myself that I can do it. I can explore this new country, I can try new things, I can meet new people, and most of all I can get lost in Lima and live to tell the tale. ;)
Sonya, Jesus, Ivo/Colombiano, Felicia, Kristina, Lili Saldana

Part 2 Lost in Lima

Lost in Lima continued...

We began our journey to the restaurant Edo with coca tea in our hands and eagerness in our hearts. The streets were still busy with honking cars and bustling people, and we were confident we would make it there in about twenty minutes. The sun was already down so it was a bit frightening at first, but as we walked and talked and laughed and talked some more, any fears I had of being unsafe were obsolete. It wasn’t a very cold night in Lima, somewhere in the 60’s I presume, so with our light sweaters and hot tea we walked fast hoping to make it to Edo before our Colombian friend. Before long we felt as though we had been walking aimlessly for more than ten minutes, so we stopped to ask for directions. It was a coffee shop that we chose to stop in and immediately they knew what we were talking about. “Dos cuadras mas” and he pointed in the direction we were already walking. Excited to be told we were so close and heading the right way, we continued on foot. Unfortunately after two more blocks, twenty honking cars, and three flirtatious locals, Edo was still nowhere to be found.  So, we did what any intelligent tourist would do, and stopped for directions again. This time it was a security guard who told us again, “Dos cuadras mas, no mas cinco minutos,”  and again we took off expecting to arrive at our destination soon. Block after block passed as did the minutes and we began to feel anxious. Where are we? I thought. Truthfully none of us had any idea. “Dos cuadras mas” was all anyone told us when we stopped to ask “oh si Dos cuadras mas, Dos cuadras mas.” This phrase quickly became ironic and annoying because not only had we already walked two blocks and then two blocks again and then two more blocks, almost an hour had past and Edo was still nowhere in sight. All we had to find the restaurant was a name and a street address and out of the four intelligent, educated, and experienced people I was accompanied by that night, not a one of us had a map. Of course the luxuries of Google maps and GPS were not available but we did run into one police officer with a smart phone and he ultimately told us exactly where we needed to go, and trust me, it was more than dos cuardas.  We began to fear Ivo would have left the restaurant by now thinking that he got stood up; we never told him we were going to walk so he had probably already been there at least thirty minutes. We had no service to contact him, so as our pace quickened in hopes of reaching our destination sooner we prayed he would still be there waiting for us. Once we were on the right street and we saw that the numerical address’ were going in the right direction, first 2000, then 3000, and so on (we needed to be in the 6000’s), we grew hopeful that we would be eating soon; lord knows all that walking built up an appetite. Finally as we turn a curve in the road I see it. “Edo! I found it!” The group laughs along with me, “Couldn’t you have ‘found it’ forty five minutes ago!” Felicia teases. We cross the street and finally we are here! We look around nervously looking for our friend from the tour, Ivo, and sure enough he is sitting in solitude at a table prepared for six. We receive a warm welcome and explain why we are so late. Ivo says it is fine and that he thought maybe we were lost. We tell him the story of our decision to walk, and he laughs at our bad judgment. “At least you are here now!” he exclaimed and we proceeded to order our food. Because Lima is right by the Pacific Ocean, the sushi and fish we ordered was fresh and decadent. It seemed like we ordered everything on the menu! I tried a little of each, but was blown away by the smoked tuna roll. “OOF” became the most heard phrase at the table “OOF so good!” and “OOF try this one!” it was truly amazing. The conversation at the table was a mix of Spanish and English, as Ivo primarily spoke Spanish while Felicia and I primarily speak English. Despite the language barrier, it was not difficult to understand what was being said at the table. There are only two things in this world that are universal; smiles and food. And this night had plenty of both!

To be continued...

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Lost in Lima

Lost in Lima

It's our second night in Peru and our last night in Lima so of course just staying in the hotel until we leave for the airport at 8am is out of the question. A few members of the group and I decide we are going out; we make plans to go to dinner at a well known sushi restaurant and explore Lima one last time. Sonya also invited a gentleman we had met earlier on our tour of Lima; He was a Colombian Chef visiting to see the university in Lima, which is why he was on our tour through the university with us. We all washed away the dirt and grime from our long day in the city and prepared ourselves for a real adventure. As I walked to the elevator that would take me to our meeting place in the lobby a few thoughts ran through my mind. What if we get lost? What if we get kidnapped? My mom wouldn't like this too much... I have no idea where I am going... But as the elevator door opened and PING'd to the next floor, so did my mind. I am only in Lima one more night. I trust the group I am with. We will be fine. And so it was. I walked into the lobby to see Jesus waiting for us; truthfully I was happy a man was going to be accompanying us, two when you include Ivo. It made the situation much less scary. Sonya, Professor Saldana, and Felicia soon joined us in the lobby and we mapped out our plan. A taxi was called and we were ready to go but it was estimated to take longer than we were willing to wait so eagerly we asked the receptionist how far the restaurant was. She assured us it was right down the road; a straight path. Está a dos cuadras de aquí.... Dos cuadras? We thought about it for a second and made up our minds. "Call the cab and cancel por favor. We are walking."

to be continued....

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

night before the big trip

WOW! It's currently 2:30 in the morning and I am still up getting ready to leave to Peru. I have to be at the airport by ten but there will be plenty of time to sleep on the plane. I've been packing and making last minute preparations all night, and with every passing moment I grow more and more excited. Saying "good bye" to everyone today was difficult, but I know I will be able to keep in touch via email and Facebook. I can't believe that just a few hours from now I will begin my study abroad journey. The best is yet to come.