Work, or Attempts of it…
So, ever since the elections in which the current alcalde (mayor) of my town lost, my work (and any slight progress that I had made) at the Colegio Especial has come to a stand still–or, maybe even backtracked. Right after the election, I noticed a distinct alteration in the mood at the school, teachers were organizing their classrooms and working on their own projects while students were (besides being yelled at when acting up) left to themselves. Over the past week, though, the situation has rapidly deteriorated. There are now only two teachers working at the school (before there were 6), which means one per classroom, with no aides this means that the students are often left unattended when the teacher needs to aid a student to the restroom or elsewhere. The directora is helping out as much as she can, but it is clear that work there is spread pretty thin, and I am in their way as they do not feel they have the time nor attention needed to implement any new ideas that I offer up.
I’m still more than a bit confused about why so many of the staff has up and disappeared. The explanation given was that they were going to be chosen to remain on staff the following year by the new alcalde, though why this would take them from their work at the moment is beyond my comprehension. I guess that this is the sort of confusion and disorganization that implicitly follows when a school is run by political parties rather than as its own entity, separate from politics… ¡Somos Perú!, right?
For now, I have switched working gears from the Special Ed. program to the more general Youth Development program, however I will be working more with the directora as the annual Christmas party for the students approaches. I figure since she cannot continue visiting houses with me (which, let’s be honest, wasn’t really going anywhere) we will just meet with the parents when they come to us. She has time and again told me how the families come but once a year, at Christmastime, to receive their free goodies; while I had hitherto not paid much attention to this fact, in light of the current situation at the school, and ever the opportunist, I got the directora on board to hold a meeting with the parents while their children are enjoying the party. I guess we’ll see how this pans out in a month or so…
A Change of Pace
Anyways, for the time being I have basically put my work with the Colegio Especial on hold in favor of working on projects through which I am actually making progress. Last week I worked with the health post a great deal. One of the enfermeras (nurses) and I gave hand washing charlas at a jardín last for World Hand Washing Day (Oct. 15). We also worked together prior to the charla to make Tippy Taps (an upside-down 3 liter soda bottle filled with water, bottom of the bottle cut of and turned inside out to serve as a soap dish, which can be used when there is no running water to wash hands with fresh water) to give to each aula (classroom) for the students to use in washing their hands. The charlas went as well as any charla can when given to 3, 4 and 5 year-olds, and it was nice change of pace to work with the enfermeras as they are eager to aid me in my projects.
I also began assisting one of the obstetrices with her sex ed. charlas at the colegio in the pueblo joven of Fujimori Fujimori. While I had planned on mainly working with the schools in Salaverry proper, when the obstetrice told me that she had begun giving charlas at this school, I decided that if I began work with her on her pre-existing project it would be a natural transition for her to then work with me at the rest of the schools later on. The charlas were definitely interesting for me, and I served primarily as an observer as I did not want to upset the material being taught (the obstetrice had mentioned to me prior to the charla that the school had set some limits for her). After the main charla I simply injected thoughts that had occurred to me during the charla on points that I wanted to hi-lite for the students. It was a slightly boring affair as they simply read from pamphlets provided by the ministry of health and answered questions, but I got a feel for the type of information being presented to the students as well as began working more with the obstetrices and psychologist. I believe that they are eager to alieve the high rate of teenage pregnancy and therefore excited to work with me on my projects as well. I hope, with their aid, to begin a program to train students on how to be health promoters to their peers, as we all know that teenagers are much more likely to confide in their friends than they are to their parents or other adults. With such a program I can touch on all three goals of the Youth Development program as well: health, leadership and job preparation (by holding interviews to determine who will be a promoter). Here’s hoping this project works as well as I believe it will!
In addition to aiding the obstetrices with their work at the colegio in the pueblo joven, I have also begun my work at the public colegio in Salaverry, Miguel Grau. This school is currently constructing a new building, and I believe that it is the ideal location for the world map project that Peace Corps promotes. I have gained permission from the director, but we cannot begin actual work on the map until summer vacations as the construction is not yet finished; however, with the aid of the director, I have already begun work in forming the group of students to work with on this project. Since I do not want the project to begin and end with just a map on the wall, I have already begun sessions with the students to work towards cultural awareness and geographical knowledge. The students that the director recommended were the brigederes (elected student leaders), and since I do not want the project to solely focus on those students who already have opportunities offered to them on a regular basis, I have asked these students to bring some of their friends to the next meeting (tomorrow). However, even if these students never invite others to the group at least I know that I have a group of responsible and eager-to-learn students.
Last Thursday night I elected to join my host parents and the priest on their outing to a theme park, Playland Park, in loo of attending my usual youth group meeting. It was an overall funny outing for me as my host mother and I were the only ones in the crew to ride the majority of the rides available. My host father and the priest were both frightened of every single ride. Mind you, I am living in Perú, and these rides are more the garden variety carnival rides seen in the states. We managed to convince them to ride the roller coaster (which is more likened to a kiddie coaster in the states), and they both elected to sit side-by-side in the back of the four person cart rather than brave the front seat. I looked back during this ride to see my host dad gripping the protection bar for dear life with an absolute look of fear on his face–so funny! I kept teasing them, telling them that they were “little boys,” however this taunting was turned back on me when they realized that I am scared of haunted houses–haha!
Over the past weekend we celebrated my host mother’s 42nd birthday. As the day approached, I realized that the family lacked any sort of plan for the celebration, for despite my constant questioning as to what we were going to do I was constantly answered with shrugs. My host aunt confided in me that they did not have the money for the celebration. After they had gone so far out of their way to make my birthday special, I could not bear to see this happen to my mom, so I told my dad that I wanted to buy the birthday cake for my host mom as her birthday present. He accepted this idea, and I knew it wouldn’t come across poorly since I said I wanted it to be my gift to her.
Manuel, my oldest host brother and I ventured into Trujillo on Saturday morning for me to run a couple of errands as well as buy his mother’s birthday cake. First order of business was Serpost, but surprise of surprises, it was closed. So we decided to hop into a cab and go to Plaza Vea (Peruvian version of Target or Wal-Mart) as I could buy the cake and a few other items that I wished to purchase there. While there, I also stumbled upon some pumpkins so I bought two and plan on carving them with my family this weekend. I m definitely looking forward to sharing a tradition from home as it also acts as a way to alleviate the homesickness I have been feeling lately in longing for the beauty of Autumn.
Amway, we ended up celebrating my host mother’s birthday at my host father’s parent’s home. Two of his siblings also live in the home with their parents, and they also have two babies, so it was a lively occasion! One of the babies is 1 and a half years old, a beautiful child with wonderful curiosity. The other is nine months, not yet walking but is already being trained how to use the toilet–oh the ironies of Peruvian life! The kids are babied into adulthood–can’t even get a glass of milk for themselves at the age of 13–but rushed into this life-stage change…
While my original aim of work with the Colegio Especial has veered off path for the time being, I seem to have found meaningful work to do elsewhere. I also hope to focus in on writing my community diagnostic in the coming weeks, which means some visits to the municipality–wish me luck! In the beginning of November I will also start giving charlas twice a week at Imaculada, the school where my host mom works and my brothers attend classes. There are only two classes of Secondaria at the moment, but I have been warned that they are rambunctious and lacking in respect–here’s hoping that my gringa power might come to the rescue! Meanwhile, I am looking forward to a possible beach trip in Lambayeque (the district just north of mine, 3 hours drive) for Thanksgiving with other volunteers. Also, we have early in service training in Ancash with all of the Youth Development volunteers just after thanksgiving, following which Steve will arrive in Perú for a month-long stint. Lots going on and lots to look forward to–I’m thinking the month of November might fly by!