Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Field Based Training

7-16 to 7-24 was my Field Based Training (FBT). This is where we are split up into groups and then sent to various departments to get to know that area and current volunteer's sites. There were three groups. One went to the mountains of Ancash (pretty jealous), another went the beaches of Piura (near Ecuador), and my group went to see both the Sierra and the coast of La Libertad.

FBT is a blast, not only do you get to escape from the training center to see some more of Peru, you also get a taste of what it's like to have a site, and live as a volunteer in the community for 2 years. We visited 5 sites, and each one had it's own specific vibe. Two of the sites were on the coast, Huanachaco and Puerto Malabrigo; two of the sites were more in land, Bello Horizonte and Proto; and one site was at 9'000ft in the Sierra (according to the volunteer), Otuzco. 

We took a night bus both times, so I don't know what the surroundings were like between Lima and Trujillo, La Libertad; however I do know that it was the nicest bus I've ever been on (see the link below). I just hope that there's a bus like this to Montana by August 2013.

Lujoso bus

Here's the break down of the the various sites we visited.

We arrived on Sunday morning, after an 8 hour bus ride, to meet Ian (my PC brother. He was the second of four volunteers to stay with my currently host family) and Kelsi at the bus station. Ian and Kelsi are current Youth Development Volunteers, and offered to be our group's FBT leaders for the week. They did a great job of planning out our visit, and made sure all 12 of us in the group got where we needed to be on time (in addition to this they acted guides, translators, event coordinators, and sources of constructive criticism during our various training activities).

Ian and I at the beach

A church in Trujillo near the Plaza de Armas.

Trujillo is the capital city of La Libertad, and is one of the biggest cities in Peru (2nd or 3rd). It also served as our hub for the first few days, as we stayed in the hostal and took combis (vans) out the various sites. Besides good street food (Anticuchos with pizza bread), there isn't much to say about Trujillo.

This was our first visit, and was more for us to see the coast of Peru, then really work. Huanchaco is 30 minutes away from town and is a local hot spot for tourist, beach goers, and good sea food. However, with it currently being winter, not too much was going on.

This place is also known for these boats made from reeds (called cabello de totora).
Caballo de totora

Puerto Malabrigo:
This place was cool, and was also the first place we got some work in. It too is a beach town, but it's more known for it's waves than anything else. Malabrigo is the home of the longest "lefter" (I think: a wave that cuts left) in South America. Its a mecca for lots of surfers and has that general beach town feel to it. While there, we got to meet the two Volunteers currently there (One working with small businesses and the other in Youth Development). We also got to see the YD volunteer in action and help her with one of her projects. First we watched a charla (informative talk) given by a dentist to pre-schoolers and their parents on brushing their teeth, and then we help the kids brush their teeth and administered so floride treatments.

Dentist Charla
Kids waiting to get floride treatment.

Amanda coating some floride gel on a girl's teeth.

Then we went to the special education school to meet the director and the students. We listened to a somewhat depressing speech from the director about the state of special education in Peru, and then helped the students with brushing their teeth. The students ranged from significantly Cognitively Impaired to not impaired at all (one girl was there due to being teased for her appearance).  Basically, I'm going to have to boil this part down to the "there is still a lot things to work on in special

After the sped school, we went for a walk on the beach and to see the surf school (a PC Volunteer's project) in action. It was great, minus the Argentine surfer who busted my chops about US bombing in Libya...(Not my fault Che). 
Me getting a good look at the beach.

Me at the beach, looking good.

Surf school.

Bello Horizonte:
This is Ian's site, and we made two different day trips here.

The first day trip was to the school to give a couple of charlas, and then visit the orphanage. My charlas were ok. The first one went well (teaching English to 3rd graders), but the second one (teaching middle schools how to communicate with their parents) was a struggle. However, I wasn't too disappointed as it was only my 2nd ever charla. Little did I know that the 3rd charla was going to be horrible (keep reading).

After the charlas, we went to the orphanage up the road to meet and play with the kids. This is not a true orphanage in the since that most of the kids have parents that are still alive, but they've been taken into custody due to mistreatment or abuse. These kids were great, a ton of fun, and full of energy; however, they were a little difficult to guide, and often didn't stay very long on any given activity.

Here's a video Miguel took (a kid at the orphanage) while we were there:

Orphanage Video

The next time we were in Bello Horizonte, it was on our last day, and it was kind of a relaxed schedule. We got there early to help Ian's youth group paint trash cans (for their community recycling program) and a murral promoting the environment. It was fun to pass the time with the kids as they got to paint and hang out.

Painting tachos

Supervising the mural

The whole crew.
After painting, Nick, Adrian and I decided on the last minute to climb the peak that overlooks Ian's site. It was a fun 2 hour hike up through an Archeology site to this saddle (see the picture below). Then we scampered up to two different peaks. This was also Nick's (from Ohio) first climb ever.
Nick on Nick's Peak

L to R: Adrian, Brice and Nick over looking the valley above Bello Horizonte from the saddle.

Adrian overlooking the town of Bello Horizonte

Proto is Kelsi's site, and it was pretty clear she had it made. Besides being a cute little town at the base of the Sierras, it also featured the following: a school full of excited and eager to learn children, a health post that is actively working with the youths to promote healthy lifestyles, a super nice host family, and all the fruit you can eat.

Just to give you an idea of how nice the people are, here are some examples.

1)We wanted bananas for breakfast one day, but the lady at the fruit stand didn't have any, so she sent Ian to her neighbor's house. The neighbor only had two banana. so she sent Ian to the next neighbor's house. There a little boy answered the door, and without hesitation gave Ian all the bananas he had (about 8) and wouldn't take any money.

2) I was buying fruit one morning and asked the lady where I could buy some cheese. Instead of pointing me to a nearby store, she invited me into her house, opened the refrigerator, and put a big block of cheese in a plastic bag... then refused any money I tried to offer her.

3) We gave health charlas to the middle school students. However, they knew we were coming, so they collected fruit from their chacras (farms) to give to us. We left the school carrying 3 huge nap sacks full of pineapples, bananas, avacado, and various other frutas (fruits) that I don't think exist in the English Language.

This class about the importance of future plans and goal setting went a lot better (I'm in the middle).

Me meeting some primaria (elementary) students.

Playing a with the kids.

This is a site that will forever be burned into my memory. Not because it was my first time seeing the Peruvian Sierras, or because of it's Virgin de la Puerta (wiki it), but because I got my lunch handed to me by a bunch of 6 year old demons while trying to give a "wash your hands" charla.

Picture this:  One gringo with mediocre Spanish skills starring at 56 six year olds set free in a classroom without a teacher in sight. Who do you think came out on top of that fight? Here's how this train wreck played out:

I entered the class confident in my classroom management skill (being a NASP member since 2006 and having listened to Dr. Randy Sprick a couple of times). The lesson plan was simple: do some interactive games to get the kids to realize how germs are passed, then show how to wash their hands (The kids had a different plan). Right after the school directer introduced me, and she the teacher left, I set my plan into action...

I reintroduced myself, smiled, and the then asked what are the class rules. No one responds. So, I say that I have a few rules (raise your hand, stay seated, and take turns) and that I'm going to write them on the board. The second I turned to write the rules on the board, 3 kids bolt out the class to the playground. I decide to ignore them, thinking that one crazy gringo playing games with the rest will be enough bait to bring them back. Nope. I have no idea what happened to those kids, but they missed out. They didn't miss any information, they just missed:

1. Smearing soap on the Gringo.
2. Jumping from desk to desk while the Gringo tried to stop them.
3. Tearing down the class decorations.
4. Playing with toys that they found in their desk (I saw one with a toy gun shooting at this neighbor)
5. Screaming in class
6. Having the Gringo scream at them in Spanish, English, and Spanglish (stop fighting, stop standing on their desks, no throwing stuff, etc).
7. Wrestling with whomever they felt like while the gringo acted like the ref.

Luckily I was being observed and was able to have the following pictures to remind me of the whole event; however, never in my life will I forget how helpless I felt as I stood looking up at the cute little kids in their uniforms, with their cute little puppy eyes, as they stood on their desks looking down at me smiling as they tried to tear the independence day decorations off of the ceiling.

Needless to say it was the longest 45 minutes of my life.

Me when I had control.

Me near my breaking point as the kids hopped from desk to desk.

Most of the houses are made from Adobe.
A flower in the Sierra, I bet it doesn't have a name.

Adrian and his pet goat.