So I admit, it’s been a while since I updated and way more has happened than I am going to accurately remember or detail here. To honest, part of the reason for not updating is that I had a little bit of a rough patch and I figure no one wants to read melodrama as I ponder the effectiveness of my time here as a volunteer. Suffice it to say, every volunteer feels useless, frustrated, annoyed, and just generally over it all at some point (usually points) throughout their service. Basically I started the school year with projects, goals and a lot of ideas which I saw slowly falling through after a month. I have yet to find a way to be effective and useful at my special education school. Most of what other volunteers work on in special education, ie promoting inclusion in the school district, my school already does on its own without my help. And my city is far too large to really do effective home visits and community projects, etc. Following an awesome vacation for Easter, I seriously began to question what I am doing in site, and had my concerns about staying.
However, after a good bit of stressing and over analyzing life, I have to an acceptance of where I am and what I am doing. I am not thrilled with everything going on in site, I’m not sure that I ever will be, but I have decided for now to focus on things that work, devote attention to a large scale project at the special ed school instead of trying to work with individual teachers, and just appreciate the fact that I still love La Molina and my kiddies enough to never really be able to leave early.
So enough philosophizing – a few anecdotes from the last few months of my life, you have missed a lot:
I took my first large scale vacation here in Peru for Easter week. I headed out from Piura Saturday night at 6 pm – 36 hrs on 3 buses later I arrived with Virginia in Puno. Memo – that is a lot of busing and it sucks. Don’t ever do it. Take a plane. Vale la pena. Anyway, Puno was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. As soon as we got off the bus this women offered us a cab, which had she not been a girl we would have walked away creeped out, but it turned out she organized tours and pretty much booked our next two days in Puno on the cab ride to the hotel. We spent the next day out on Lake Titicaca (the highest navigable lake in the world) visiting the floating islands and the natives of Isla Taquile. The people on the floating island have been completely changed by tourism in the sense that their whole day seems to revolve around presenting their way of life to visitors rather than actually living that way anymore. My boss in Piura insists that they actually sleep in Puno and not out on their handmade reed islands, but I refuse to accept this fact. Call me naïve. We also got the entertainment of an “English Speaking” tour guide who informed us of the “free times” and various other interestingly pluralized events. We spent our second day wandering around Puno in the morning and enjoying a surprising amount of good coffee. Side note – it’s freezing in Puno. I have lost that weird ability I had to never be cold in Boston. Piura killed it. While walking around, we decided to visit a lookout point up the hill we saw in Lonely Plant. It did not look that far standing in the plaza. Lesson learned: everything that involves climbing stairs at 4000 meters is far. Everything. Despite our need to take breaks every 6 steps (and they had benches this often) the view from the top was worth the climb. In the afternoon we visited ruins outside of Peru. I think the awesomeness of ruins is generally lost on me, but the location was stunning so well worth the visit. Also, the look on the other tourists faces when Virg and I insisted we could have the tour just in Spanish was mildly entertaining. I’m pretty sure they are all still convinced we didn’t understand the question.
25 years in the Priesthood ~
My host brother Santiago came up last week to celebrate his 25 years in the Priesthood. My entire family gathered for a mass at his former Jesuit high school and a reception afterwards. I know that I clearly live in a different social stratum than most other volunteers, but sometimes I forget just how much this is the case. I should have realized when I was waiting to leave, my host parents said they were about to go, I informed them I could go with them and my host mom looked me up and down and said you are ready to go? Oh… ok. I was not dressed up enough I suppose. What can you do. The mass was classy and all, but the really kicker was the reception. Peruvian party: stacks of cases of beer and plastic cups, very loud cumbia music, dancing. My Peruvian Party: wine served in actual glasses on silver trays by waiters in white coats, no music, casual conversation and mingling. Oh and tiny hors d'oeuvres. Seriously? Where exactly am I living? I don’t think this is what Peace Corps had in mind for community integration. But my family is really adorable so you just have to love it.
General Goings On~
I have been working on a disability workshop with a local high school class. We had sessions on what disability means, causes of disabilities, and how to work with individuals with disabilities. I think the kids enjoyed that the classes were interactive, and I am endlessly fascinating. I’m not sure that anyone really has become more accepting of disability, at least outwardly. But I would like to think at the very least, next time they see someone with a disability they may stop and remember the silly white girl who talked to them about treating all people equally and act just a little differently. I can have hope. In addition to the workshop on disability I have started teaching English classes at the school. Again, I’m not sure how much effect I am having on their English learning, but my activities are more interactive than their previous classes of copying vocabulary lists and writing poorly structured translations for homework. At the end of the day, I’m pretty confident that I am merely creating the next generation of boys who will call out obnoxious English phrases at white people on the streets. But, I miss teaching high school so I’m at least having a lot of fun.
As far as the special ed school goes, I have started developing a project to implement a multisensory classroom with adapted computers and other technologies and materials to stimulate tactile, visual, and motor development for students with severe special needs. It’s actually a pretty cool project that the school really seems to be backing me up on. It’s a long term project, with most of the training of teachers coming next year, but its gives me a focus at the school which I LOVE. We have our first meeting to elect the committee of parents and community partners in 2 weeks. Fingers crossed for everything to work out.
La Molina is going as it always has. The kids are great, the parents are uninvolved. I love being there. I am trying to start a library out there though, so that may mix things up a little.
I had my first birthday Peruvian style as well. My host fam thought my birthday was March 20th and thus made me a birthday breakfast and sang 2 days early. But, who would have the heard to correct them at that point? So for future reference my Peruvian birthday is March 20th. All of my Piura girls from Peru 13 came in as well as a few other volunteers in Piura. Dinner and dancing and a cake with smiley faces. Overall a nice way to welcome 23.
Well that sums up about 3 months in a nut shell. I will try to do better. Honest.