One Month in Huancayo

Trip Start Jan 31, 2005
Trip End Mar 30, 2006

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Sunday, April 17, 2005

Hello Everyone - First off, we want to thank all of you who donated to our Peru For You fund - we are excited to report that because of you, we were able to donate around $650 to the organization. They are obviously pretty happy and will be getting us details on what the "grant" will be used for soon - they have a pretty long wish list. We'll keep you updated. Thanks again!!!

Our month in Huancayo was busy but gratifying. Our typical day: wake up at 6:45 (what, is this the real world or something?), breakfast with our host family, and out the door around 7:40. We took a colectivo (basically a shared taxi on a specified route) to the orphanage and taught our first class from about 8:00 to 9:15. Jeff taught a group of older, more advanced students, and Allison taught a group of younger, very basic level students. Allison's group in the morning was pretty challenging - a few memorable days involved kids punching each other and then hiding under tables to escape the minor discipline we attempted (as in, "Go sit with Jeff's class...") Pretty much confirmed that Allison is not destined to work with young children. The time between our first orphanage class and lunch (around 1:30) varied through the month, although most of the time we would catch a combi (basically a mini-bus) to the language institute affiliated with Peru For You. For the first week we had two hours of Spanish lessons at the institute, and then for part of the second week we had free time until lunch. Starting by the third week, we were asked to help teach English classes at the institute - we each had a private student for two hours each morning. Since we weren't paid, the profits went to Peru For You. After the classes we caught a colectivo back to our house for lunch (became experts in Huancayo public transport...) After lunch we usually walked to the orphanage (since we had more time than the morning) and taught our second class from about 3:00 till 4:15. We switched levels in the afternoon, Allison teaching a different group of advanced students and Jeff teaching a different group of beginners. We had less students in each group in the afternoon, which made teaching a lot more fun and productive. After the afternoon groups we took a combi back to the language institute where we taught and/or helped with more English classes. We did everything from helping with conversation in group classes, to helping a businessman complete an FDA import form on the internet, to teaching a crazy 11-year-old who a couple of times threatened to bite Allison (she got all of the nutty kids...) Not sure if he was really going to do it or not... Left the language institute around 7:30 and took a colectivo back home. Ate dinner and planned for the next day.

We lived in the outskirts of Huancayo with a very nice family, which consisted of Abel (the dad), Marisol (the mom) and Romina (their two and half-year-old daughter). They lived in a small house located above several small stores near a big outdoor market. Abel works as an economist with a water company and Marisol used to be a business consultant and teacher, although she is currently raising Romina and has another one in the oven. Their house was comfortable, though small and basic. The suburb they live in only has running water half of the day and most of the their house has unfinished cement floors and walls. We enjoyed spending time with them greatly, and will particularly remember Marisol's excellent vegetarian food that she cooked for us. We told her she should open a restaurant.

The days and weeks passed unbelievably quickly and despite the occasional challenges we had an excellent experience. There are several talented kids in our orphanage classes who we think of often and hope that they will have the happy and fulfilled lives they deserve. We also made good friends with many of the teachers and support staff at the language institute and are happy to have had the opportunity to have learned much about Peru. We particularly left admiring the two people managing the volunteer program - Natalia and Aldo - they are both very talented and have a lot of vision for a country with many challenges.

In addition to our work at the orphanages and language institute, we had the opportunity to see a lot of the city of Huancayo and the surrounding valley. We arrived during Semana Santa (Holy Week) and were able to see traditional processions on Good Friday, including carpets in the streets made of flower petals (a typical Latin American feature). We also spent one Saturday going to a traditional animal market outside of town and some local ruins. Another weekend we saw some sights around Huancayo including a beautiful city park dedicated to the local indigenous culture, called the Parque de la Identidad Wanka. The walkways, bridges, benches and fountains were constructed out of small stones and rustic wood and incorporated interesting details such as traditional hats, art and animals into all of the park's functional features (walls, lights, etc.) It looked like something from Madrid, designed by Gaudi. The next day we visited some towns outside of the city, one of which is one of the biggest trout producers in Peru and a popular destination for Peruvian tourists. After an excellent trout lunch we took a hike in the hills above the town, which are primarily used to herd sheep. Really beautiful Andean scenery that looked like something out of a movie...

Our most memorable excursion was during our last two days in the area. We went with Aldo (one of the volunteer coordinators, as well as a mountain guide), two other current volunteers and a former volunteer to a nearby mountain called Huaytapallana. We left on a Saturday morning and took a mini-bus up to the mountain, stopping along the way at a village that was decimated by the Shining Path about 15 years ago (it was a prosperous village with thousands of head of sheep, which were almost all killed, along with several villagers). The village is now poor and has a sort of ghost-town feel - we visited two nurses from France who are working there long-term to assist with the town's health clinic. The president of the village (that's what they said he was called...) showed us around. It was both interesting, sad and inspiring to see the work being done there.

From that village we headed up to the start of our hike and were surprised at how cold it was (we started around 4,000 meters (about 13,000 feet)). Hats, gloves and scarves on, we hiked for about 2 hours past mountain streams and llamas to our camping spot, which was located pretty much at the base of the glacier of Huaytapallana at around 5,000 meters (16,500 feet). After setting up camp and eating lunch, we took a walk to a nearby teal-colored mountain lagoon below the glacier and then took a path up a ridge to get even closer to the snow. It was cold, but really beautiful. The night was long, as our sleeping bags were somewhat lacking and our tent was... crowded. Have you ever actually put four people in a four-person tent with backpacks? Not much room to spare. Got up the next morning and took another walk towards the glacier, came back to the campsite, had lunch and then walked back down to meet our bus back. Despite the cold, it was a good trip. For one thing, we were impressed by how acclimatized we have gotten to altitude - no problems hiking even at 5,000 meters. Only took two and a half months to get to this point... After a trip to a sauna/Turkish bath in Huancayo with all of the other people on our hiking trip (popular in highland towns, as many houses don't have hot water), we said our goodbyes and took an overnight bus to Lima.

Huancayo was a wonderful experience. We want to give a big thanks to the people behind Peru For You and all of our friends at the language institute, not to mention all of you back home who generously contributed to their work.
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