With school starting tomorrow morning, I have officially reached the end of my first Peruvian summer vacation. Like any good teacher, I am welcoming the start of the school year, since, as a result of some plans falling through, I have had a less than packed summer and am looking forward to feeling busy again.
Now, this is not to say I have not enjoyed myself this summer. We kicked of February here in Piura with the annual ALMA camp, which is a 3 day long leadership camp for teenage girls. Each volunteer brings 1 or 2 girls from his or her site, the best and the brightest, and the girls spend the weekend participating in activities and games, and listening to women speakers from around the region. We had talks on sexual health (complete with a classic condom/banana demonstration and race), feminism and career planning, and we had an open panel of successful Peruvian women. We also had the girls think of ways that they could implement these topics in their own communities. My girl, Monica, seemed really interested in working to better La Molina, and I am hoping that something will develop from the program. Monica is a really amazing girl, sometimes I am so impressed by how mature the kids are around here. She’s only 14 and she spends most of her free time helping around the house with her 5 little brothers and sisters. This summer she is working as a housemaid for a family in Piura. Thankfully she is only working for the summer and will return to school next week. (On a side note: drawback to being the city volunteer – because Monica is working, she is only in La Molina on Sundays and can’t come to the ludoteca. Therefore, when I needed to make sure that she would be able to attend ALMA, which is a 5 minute question, I had to wait 20 minutes for one of the rare combis that run on Sunday, drive 30 minutes to La Molina, ask my 5 minute question, make awkward small talk with the fam for 20 minutes, wait another 20 minutes for the combi to come by and drive 30 minutes home. Time required to ask “Can you still make it to ALMA? Here is what you need to bring…”: over 2 hours. It’s times like these I envy volunteers that could do several laps around their town in the space of 2 hours). It was really amazing to see all of the girls participating in ALMA, and I was really glad to be a part of it. We are planning on another camp for teenage boys sometime around June.
A few days after ALMA, I headed out of my dry coastal city up to the mountains of Cajamarca for Carnaval. As I have mentioned before, Carnaval is the month before Lent where Peruvians like to throw water at each other for some unknown reason. For one weekend right before lent, Cajamarcans go batshit crazy and throw paint and motor oil and god knows what else on each other. And I, being of sound mind, traveled 9 hours away to be a part of this. I was able to visit my friend Viriginia’s site in Cajabamba, Cajamarca where we partipated in some local Carnaval activities included the obligatory queen contest here in Peru, where our friend Evan was the escort. We then headed off to the city where I kicked off the festivities Friday night with drunken dancing in the Plaza with hundreds of Peruvians. In the sierra of Peru, they have a dance called Huayno
which basically involved a lot of stomping your feet and jumping around. During Carnaval, they have a dance called Carnaval (crazy I know) which is Huayno but with hand holding. (Sample the glory of Carnaval music here: http://www.fulltono.com/detalles.aspx?idm=10306). Being the good coastal city girl that I am, I had never in my life danced Huayno, much less Carnaval. However, a few drinks and a Peruvian guy to toss me around and all of a sudden I was a pro :) The next day was a ridiculous mess of paint slinging battles and water gun fights. It’s basically every 8 year old boys dream. Around 3pm it started to torrentially pour; so, wet, paint covered, and freezing, I ran back to the hostal to shower and stayed in my warm bed until time to venture out for dinner. That night I went to a large-scale Peruvian house party and felt like I had regressed slightly back to college but had fun none the less. On Sunday, the locura had calmed down to just water balloons and water buckets being dumped from every available second story porch. This would not have annoyed me so much had it not been clearly an attack on the gringo population, and me being what my friend Anne referred to as “Super gringa.” I had an amazing time, but by Sunday afternoon I was more than ready to return home and not be attacked again with water until next year. Not to mention the fact that in Piura, getting hit with water is kind of awesome (reminder: it is realllllly hottt) In Cajamarca, its generally cool and often cloudy. Getting hit with water makes you Cold. Why this tradition took off in Cajamarca and not Piura will forever escape me…
To close out the summer my kids presented something from each class on the last day and Jen came out to watch.
I am looking forward to the coming school year. Projects for the year include writing improved IEPs for all of the students at the special ed school, revamping the Escuela de Padres (a program for educating the parents of my students), more work with the teenagers in the inclusion program, and the creation of a disability prevention and awareness workshop for the local high school which I am hoping to translate into a long term teen volunteer program. Big plans and a busy work schedule, but I finally feel like I am finding my footing …six months into site.