It’s finally here! 31 students and 6 chaperones have been begun their journey to Africa. Pray that the Lord grants us traveling mercies. We are all excited and ready to have an amazing time exploring this very rich, northern region of Africa. Good food, beautiful scenes, vibrant culture and camping out in the Sahara– here we come!!!!
Clever talked about taking us to “the Jungle” all week. We really didn’t know what to expect. Every time we asked him, he just chuckled. All he kept saying was that we would get to hold a snake! On Saturday, we began our journey to the jungle. Before the day was over we would eat more strange fruit, drink fresh coconut juice, see 2 of the highest waterfalls in Peru, float down a river in the Peruvian amazon, witness a landslide, hold a boa constrictor and a macaw, dress up like Amazonians and purchase a very large taxidermied tarantula!
Perhaps, some of the most rewarding activities that we took part in were the teacher workshops that we conducted every night from 6:30-9:00. One of the best feelings that you can have is knowing that you have helped someone else grow while experiencing growth yourself. I’m not sure about the other partner teachers, but Elise and I worked our butts off! Only 5 of these teachers were fluent in English. However, this humble group of hard-working teachers met with us every night for almost 3 hours learning and sharing educational strategies as well as practicing their English. Then, what did they do after the last session? They surprised us and took us out for dinner at a nice Peruvian restaurant. This was the best PD that I’ve ever been a part of!
Elise and I are both high school biology teachers. We spent so much time talking about American culture that we were dying to do some experiments. We suggested the marshmallow tower and egg drop challenge for one of our lessons. Something must have gotten lost in translation. When we arrived at Clever’s former school, the entire student body and staff were waiting to participate! It was a good thing that we brought plenty of supplies. After the staff fed us breakfast, the fun began. We had 12 student teams and one team of school staff competing in the challenges. For the marshmallow tower, the challenge was to build the tallest free-standing structure using just marshmallows and toothpicks. For the egg drop challenge, each team needed to use the materials that we provided to build a contraption that would prevent their egg from cracking after being dropped from a particular height. Of course, it was my idea to drop it from the second floor (Egg drop video)! Who would have thought that such a simple engineering experiment would generate so much excitement and enthusiasm? Talk about maximum participation and engagement. Max trekked all the way from Lima to join us. We had a blast!
We finally arrived at our host school, Angela Moreno V. Galvez. It is a secondary Catholic school for girls with about 600 students. School hours are 7 am to 1 pm M-W and 1 pm to 6 pm on Tuesday and Thursday. Clever translated for us since most of the girls spoke very little English. They asked plenty of questions, though. Most of the questions were about American culture- common foods, leisure activities, tourist sites, Donald Trump, the immigration crisis, popular dances and our schools. Elise and I taught 11 different sections over the 4 days, running from class to class when the bell rang. In Tarma, the teachers move, which is a bit different from our school system. It was a great experience! After each class, all the students wanted to do was take “selfies!” By the end of the week, Elise and I both agreed that we would never want to be celebrities. The picture-taking was just too much! LOL!
On our second day in Tarma, we were invited to an Inca Festival. Many students participated in this very cultural event. They performed traditional dances and wore their cultural garments. Afterwards, I asked one of the women what she was eating because it smelled pretty good. We were offered some of the soup, a traditional Peruvian dish called patasca. They told us that it was made with corn, sheep and vegetables. I’m not too sure what part of the sheep was in it, though. When we were done, the woman told me that I had to help them clean butter lettuce as payment! Later that day, we explored the caves of Huagapo.
When we left the Lord of Muruhuay church a woman approached me with a baby in her hands. Apparently, there is a strange custom in Acobamba. She shoved 2 coins in my right hand, said something and walked away. I followed her and gave the baby back. Then another woman ran up with another baby. Before it was over, I had to hold 5 babies, say a blessing over them and accept money from the women for doing it. Some years ago, there was an African saint that visited this town in the past and blessed all of the children. The people believe that if a black man holds their baby, it will grow up strong and healthy. Who knew? Watch the video.
The first thing Clever wanted to do was to have us try the cuisine in Tarma. Off to Acobamba we went. We all had trucha (trout). Next, we visited the beautiful and historic Lord of Muruhuay church. The church was packed with people holding mass and there was some interesting art work to be seen. Then, something strange started to happen….
We’ve arrived in our host community and our host teacher, Clever Meza Perez, was waiting at the airport for us. We had to take a 45 minute taxi from the airport, which cost us a whole 7 dollars! Tarma is a beautiful city in Peru. It is actually surrounded by mountains (elevation 10,016 feet). We’re staying in the best hotel in Tarma, Los Portales Tarma. The people are very nice and the view is incredible.
We visited a Bi-National center that was hosting an Access Program. This is a great concept and collaboration between the State Department and the ICPNA. The idea is to provide students with the resources to become fluent in more than one language as a way to bridge cultural gaps and improve employment prospects for disadvantaged youth across the globe. These students are the best of the best from their communities. After being in school all day, most of them travel by bus for at least an hour, to participate in a 2 1/2 hour language session in English. We helped the kids with their English classwork and spoke with them for about an hour. These are some of the next leaders of the world coming straight out of Peru!