Arequipa and its back to Kindergarten!

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Hola Amigos!

Its been a while. Ive been busy...

All looking forward to CHRISTMAS then?!?

So just before Nick returns home ive decided to go and volunteer in Arequipa. It does mean going back on myself but ive decided its too good a opportunity to miss. Having been looking at other voluntary work in the direction that i should be following i didnt have much luck. There are lots organisations out there, but it seems many of them want you to pay for you accommodation and living, work 35 hours a week volunteering, and give them $350 for the privilege. Not really what i had planned,. so i had a choice to make. Its either go north and volunteer at a dog pound, shovelling sh*t and assisting the warden in catching disease ravaged dogs crippled by rabies, or the 14 hour journey back to Arequipa. Wasnt really a difficult choice.

I arrived in Arequipa on the Thursday morning. Coach journey was cushty as i splashed out on a full Cama seat on the coach. Its like the business class of the coach world. Heres some girl showing it off in all its glory. Nice one. After sleeping the whole way i arrive in Arequipa, and what a great place it is. I may be slight biased at this stage of writing but it really is one of the better cities. I couldnt tell you how many people live there as no one seems to know, the taxi driver said 200 thousand but i think we were lost in translation as usual, but i think its round the 1 million mark. Its not as clean as and architecturally pleasing as neighbouring Cusco but Arequipa lies in the Andes mountains and is overlooked by the the snow-capped volcano El Misti which is stunning. 

I checked into a really nice hostal, its a bit out the way but it was worth it. Its was like staying in some ones house, had a really warm feel to it and was kitted out with all mod-cons and all for 5 quid a night. Lovely. I stayed there a couple of nights whilst i contacted the coordinator for the voluntary work. I had some initial doubts about how this volunteering was going to pan out, and after 6 or 7 emails between me and the coordinator i was still no the wiser. What have i got to lose ....?!

On the Friday night i went over to the volunteer house, luckily i managed to find the place after the directions looked more like hieroglyphics rather than a map. Its a first floor apartment which looked newly built. I knock on the door and got a fairly cold reception 
 "oh i was expecting 10 americans", "nope just me, you must be Claire, weve been speaking on email", "Yes we have but my names Sara" she then walked off. Good start. The night gradually got worse as not 10 but 14 yanks turned up and we all sat down to have meeting for an hour half which was all in Spanish. Everyone in the seemed to understand what was being said apart from me. We then took 30 minutes out to enjoy some team building exercises at which point i wished it was a 3rd floor apartment with the window open. I couldnt get out there quick enough.

So the next day i moved in, and i was adamant that i was going to give this a go, but i was only too aware that the language barrier is going to be tough, i felt a bit better about things when this Aussie guy Glen turned up. His Spanish was just as bad as mine. He seems a good guy, plays guitar, and immediately suggests we go hiking at the weekend. Sounds good. 

Having sort out the accomodation etc... my next mission was to get more info on the volunteering side of things. The previous nights meeting left me more confused than ever so i really needed to find out how it all worked and what i was going to be doing. After talking to a few more volunteers it started to become clearer. Intiwawa (the organisation) works to support children from a small province outside of the city called San Isidro. Its population is in the hundreds and compromises of numerous brick shacks built around the bottom of the mountains. The terrain is just dust and rubble. The families that live there are some of Peru's poorest people, most whom have no education. Intiwawaha run many projects all which look to help different ages in the community. With help of the government, volunteers and donations, they have built a schools, a community centre and a nursery all of which are run by volunteers all year round.

So without further ado i had my name down for teaching IT and kindergarten (Jardin) for the rest of the week. Ha! Kindergarten - how difficult could it be right?

So on the Monday morning i get up around 6 to be at the bus stop for 7. Its warm already without a cloud in the sky. Ive had instructions to catch only the "blue" bus, apparently its still pot luck as to whether it will take you all the way. Just before the bus arrives i had the good fortune of meeting a local nutter who decided to throw a empty bottle at me which smashed at my feet. Just what i wanted 7 o'clock on a Monday morning. I kicked the bottle to the side of the road which he then decided to pickup and walk towards me, at which point i walked in the other direction very rapidly. Good start.

 It wasnt long before the bus turned up, which is actually called a colectivo. If i was to give you a brief description of a colectivo, it has to be over 30 years old and cram atleast twice its intended capacity. If your lucky you get to stand, if your unlucky you get to hang outside the door. I was unlucky. The bus stopped atleast 300 times, each time more people seem to get on than leave, i really couldn't work it out. The crowd eased up as we left the city. As we leave the city we pass through some small farming plots which is very strange to the green vegetation, we stop briefly as we wait for a herd of cows to pass. We head further out the city and i arrive in San Isidro. It s bleak here, no trees, warm and very dusty. I head up to the Kindergarten which a small brick building painted brightly. I walk in to find a 12 snotty nosed kids all look round at me."HOLA " they scream as i walk in. The teacher greets me and seems very friendly. She explains that the children are aged 3,4,5 equally mixed, all with different learning abilities. She asked me to help out with the 3 year olds so that she can concentrate on teaching the older children. 

On my table i have Kimberley, Juan, Gorge Shelagh. They are very well behaved and incredibly funny. Whilst the rest of the class is doing the work we get to sit there and do puzzles and draw pictures all morning. I start drawing pictures of animals which they are more than happy to colour in. Its really good for me too as i soon realised my Spanish was at the level of a 3 year old child, so we were all counting to 20 together. I actually didn't know the numbers after 10 so i just pointed at them and the kids gave me the answers. The alphabet was a bloody nightmare which i avoided doing by saying "shall we colour this in instead?!?!" Midday morning comes and we break to eat fruit, it also gives me a chance to meet the others from the group who in turn come over to me, say hello, and then make faces at me whilst they work out who i am. We then all head out to the playground which is a concrete surface the size of a five-a-side pitch. I walk down to it as i cant run with 3 kids hanging off each leg. Its bedlam. The kids all want to be thrown around the place all at once, so i try and take turns at spinning them round. Its great fun and im surprised how much im enjoying it.

In the afternoon they all given work form Seņorita to complete before they can leave.. Shes great with them and they all listen to every word she has to say, although a few of them get a little bored and declare this by coming up to me looking for trouble. One in particular, Terry, ive been watching him all day, he's a little monkey who always seems to be up to no good but i cant help but laugh at him. He's like a little man, his face looks too old for his age and he wears a chequered overalls like a little scientist - hilarious.

So after feeling fairly exhausted i made my way home on another crammed bus in time to get some food. And that's what i did for the next 2 weeks, each day getting to know each and everyone of the kids, and they are all so lovely, and so happy considering the conditions they live in. There clothes are dirty, there skin is dry, and many of them have bad coughs. The kindergarten not only gives them a education but also gives them the basic hygiene they need. They wash everyday and clean there teeth, and are also fed fruit, given lunch, all during kindergarten. This is all purchased, transported and then cooked each day by the volunteers. Apparently there was a local lady that prepared the lunch but she was diagnosed with TB just before i arrived. Everyone was subsequently tested but the children and families were not told.
I was genuinely sorry to say goodbye to the kids. After announcing to Seņorita that this would be my last day she turned round and told the kids who then bombarded with with kisses and cuddles. After being so unsure on the volunteering work im so glad i took the opportunity, ts been a real experience. Maybe one day i will return to see how the little rug-rats are doing. 

Make sure you check out the video of then dancing, Glen played his guitar to the kids one day and they all started dancing. Terry's the one who looks like hes being electrocuted. 

Next up Colca Canyon.

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