Friday, June 14, 2013

Chacra Workers

One night I came home late from Caraz, it was dinner time and dark, but when I arrived to the house, no one was home. So I went out to the chacra behind the house and found the whole family hard at work turning the soil around the corn. Yes, even Yordan had a little pick and was giving it his best effort. Feeling a little left out, I too grabbed a pick; however, after about 15 minutes, Roger politely suggested we stop, as I accidentally fell a few corn stocks with pretty ugly chops of the pick. Not helping Roger out at all, but surely setting him back some, stopping was fine by me because in just 15 minutes of 'work' I had already gotten a huge blister on my hand (Roger got a kick out of this when I showed it him at dinner).

Yordan showing me how it's done. 

Yeferson the Lumberjack

Yeferson cracks me up almost everyday I spend with him. He's always so enthusiastic, and does every at 100 mile per hour (even if it's completely wrong). Lately, thanks to World Cup fever that starting to hit Peru, we've been playing soccer every night in driveway. Yeferson loves it, and I get a giggle out of how much of a little crap talker he is. For a soon to be 8 year old, he talks a lot of smack. I'll make a video of next time we play, but for now, you'll have to do with these pictures and this short video:

These are from when he and I went down to the river one evening to cut and haul firewood. Not wanting to be a social loafer, Yeferson made sure to bring his saw to cut some wood with me. Unfortunately, his saw is one of the plastic tools Cate's dad gave him during his trip to Lima.

School Improvements

Ok, so I've alluded to the school making some notable progress these last few months, and you may be asking why it is. Well, I my opinion, it's because the school's director has been forced to retire. There was a law passed mandating that all school directors over the age of 65 to either step down and return to teaching, or retire. Sr. Florencio, who has always been a top-notch-guy to me*, chose to step down. And with this simple action, I've seen the infighting that existed between the teachers and director get lifted. So with no more pettiness, the teachers have been very animated to do additional projects to improve the school.

They got parents are coming to work around the school, things are getting painted, computer classes are getting started, there's a school garden, and almost any idea I throw at them gets picked up. It's too bad it hasn't been like this before, but it's part of the experience.

Here are few examples of the changes:

Here's Yeferson drawing a snowman on one of the school laptops.  Where has he  ever seen a snowman before?

Here's the kids getting a school garden started. Stayed tuned for after pictures.

* In all fairness to the former director, for most of my service he was the only guy I could rely on. Two summer schools ago, he and I were the only two at the school everyday, and for my first year's youth groups, he was the only one to really show up and lend a hand. I enjoyed his support and help; however, it was tiring having to play them middle man anytime we need both he and the teachers work together. And although he'll be missed, I do see the need for a fresh face to keep the school making advances.

Pedro and the School Radio

Professor Pedro has been a real spark plug this year. He's the new school auxiliar (disciplinarian), that used to work at Yuracoto a few years back. After bouncing around Caraz for awhile, he's returned to Yuracoto with real fire in his belly. Besides putting amazing events for tings like Dia de la Bandera (Flag Day), he's also the first teacher I've seen to willing stay after school to do projects with the kids. And if kids don't show up, he does small projects to fix the place up. It's been really refreshing to have him around.

For more fun facts, Pedro is originally from Chiclayo, a large coastal city, and has a background in public radio. These two factors combined, make him one of few super outgoing people in my site. He always catches me crushing the school grounds and pulls me into his classroom for a talk. The last chat ranged from human evolution, migration across the land bridge, and if Aliens built Machu Picchu (the talks always have an impressive span).

I see Pedro's oratory comfort as a huge asset, that why I was excited when he set up a "School Radio" It's basically a loud speaker and mic, but its great because he does 'investigative journalism' (where the kids focus on a topic and go out to ask their peers) and a daily news segment (where the kids take turns reading articles from the news paper with music cut in between the articles). Pretty cool, however, I'm embarrassed to share that they wanted to interview me about my work and Peace Corps the day I took these pictures, and declined (I was having a tough day with my Spanish, so I wasn't feeling confident enough to go on the air).

Here's the pics:

Here's Naysha and her co-anchors reading the news. Note how the  co-anchors are timidly hiding. That's part of the reason the school radio is so cool. 

Naysha is one of the first kids I met when I came to town two years ago. Her family owns one of the local stores, and she was part of Christie's youth groups. She pretty outgoing, as this picture shows. My man Pedro on the right with his finger on the button to cut mic and play music between stories. 
 Here's a short video:

Thursday, June 13, 2013


As I'll share in future blog posts, the vibe here at the school in Yuracoto has taken a significant turn for the better. The teachers are pulling together, and my proposed plans are finally getting off the ground. Too bad I only have a few more months here.

One such project that I've seen come to life, after at least 8 months of promoting it, is the peer-reading groups, titled "Amigos Con Libros"/"Friends with Books'". The idea is that with books that Sarita hooked me up with, we get the older students to read out loud to the pre-school kids. Originally, I wanted the high school kids to do it, but the Elementary grades really wanted it, so I let them try.

There were few challenges. One, being that the preschool teachers are not connected to the Yuracoto school. They are their own school, with the two teachers acting as their own school directors. In the past, before these two new teachers arrived, the two schools didn't want to work together, even though they're on the same property, in fear that there'd be a power struggle and the Preschool would loose their autonomy. Luckily, during a meeting that Adam attended, the two new preschool teachers were excited about the project, and agreed to spearhead the activity.

The next problem was getting the Elementary teachers on the same page. One of the Preschool teachers and I pitched the idea in a 30 minute meeting. There's 8 Elementary teachers, and in the meeting you could see the huge differences between the teaching abilities. The good ones were two steps ahead of us, actively shouting out great ideas; (unfortunately, we had to temper them, as it's almost always better to start small and slow, and the build from there. Also unfortunate, is how good teacher tend to quickly move on to jobs in Caraz or other larger schools) The 'less able teachers (read "bad" here) were sleeping, texting, and asking if they could 'just show the Clifford movie, instead?' (I kid you not). In the end, the meeting was a success and we got the program off the ground.

Here's how it has worked out: I used 13 of the 50+ books I got from Sarah (In total, I've received over 200 books from her; however, they've now been distributed out to other volunteers throughout the department of Ancash), to use as a carrot to get the program going. I told the teachers that we'd do a 'trail run' with the 13, and if it works I'll ask my 'source in the USA' for more books. In reality the other books are in my room, being read by Yeferson until I'm sure Yuracoto is ready to take on the full load.  The teachers laminated the books, and divided them up between grades 1-6. Then each week preschool kids host a grade level that has spent time practicing reading their story. So far we are two week into the program with "Bizcocho Goes On A Walk" and "The Little Red Hen" being read (thanks to grades 1 and 2).

The system works pretty well. Here's some pictures:

The second graders presenting "The Little Red Hen":

The teacher made a story-board of the book and then a few students got up and read out loud. 

Here's one of the superstar Preschool teachers getting the crowd fired up. 

The storyboard. 

My finger covering a picture of a volunteer reader. 

Another volunteer reader. 

And yet another volunteer reader. 

After the story was over, the preschoolers colored pictures from the story (love the hats). 

 Here's the first graders work. They made a scroll that played on a T.V.:

The teacher was pretty happy with the end result; however, it was a little bit distracting for the younger ones. I really liked the effort though, so I had no problem.

Before any of this could happen, Keren and I had to split up the books. She came over to my site, and we made a day of it. We went on a bike ride, cooked pizzas, and sorted through the books (most of my time was spent tending the cooking fire, and keeping Keren from reading every book cover to cover). 

May 2013 Randoms

According to the "2 minute" rule, if I just sit down and dedicate two solid minutes to updating my blog, I'll build up enough momentum to power through most of the task. Let's see...

To start off, I have a few random pictures to share. The first is this cool Yordan, Yeferson, and I found outside my room on Mother's day. Could it be a new, crazy version of the Mother's Day Hatch (shout out the Madison River)?

It's a grasshopper that looks like a leaf. It even swayed back and forth, as though it were a leaf in the wind. Pretty cool. Shout out to intelligent creation/evolution (playing the fence on this one.., don't want to upset anyone).

And finally, this is a kid I saw playing on my walk home from Caraz to Yuracoto. It's a homemade dirt board/skate board. This could be the next Tony Hawk!

Notice the shoes. These aren't Vann's or from DC.