Hola a todos! Looking back on my last post, I see that I’ve neglected my blog for nearly a month. Oops! Instead of hurting myself trying to think back that far, I’m just going to talk about what’s currently going on.
So, about two weeks ago the secret was finally shared with us all and we found out who will spend their service in the coast and who will spend it in the sierra (mountains). I am beyond thrilled to share that I will be in the SIERRA come August, when I move to site. We will be given our actual sites this Thursday, a day for which I am way too excited.
Anywho, the 35 of us were split up into 5 groups, based on our program and our location. Those from Youth Development (me) going to the sierra (me) were sent to ANCASH. If you haven’t heard of Ancash, go to Google right now (no seriously, right now) and look up some pictures. It is a beautiful part of Peru that lies to the north of Lima and has plenty to offer for those who like the outdoors. Sometimes I would just stop, look up at the mountains, drop my jaw a little bit and say, “Peru, you are just ridiculous”, and keep going on with my day. It is the second most-visited site of Peru, next to Machu Picchu. Here is a glimpse:
1. From the roof of our hostel in the capital city of Huaraz
2. On a scenic walk back from a visit to the thermal baths and on the way to school
3. The monster mountain, Huascarán, the tallest mountain in the tropics, behind the iglesia in Mancos.
Yeah. It’s that ridiculous.
I’m sitting here, trying to sum up one jam-packed week into one blog post and I’m a bit stumped on how to do that. In total, we visited four sites: Mancos, Huallanca, Carhuaz and San Miguel de Acos, however, I was really riding the struggle-bus on Sunday night/Monday because of some altitude-sickness. Because of a really rough fever that I couldn’t shake, I didn’t get to go to San Miguel de Acos on Monday but I really enjoyed the other sites we visited. Some small, some big, some hot, some cold, all gorgeous.
Throughout FBT, we were sent to a handful of different high schools in said communities and each was uniquely distinct. A couple of schools we went to were in the very middle of the community while others were a substantial bus ride away, tucked into the mountains. I can tell you that “teaching” (I don’t know if I can really call myself a teacher) in the sierra is pretty different from teaching in Lima. This is mainly because the children of the sierra are a lot more shy than those in bigger cities and they are a lot less likely to want to participate, from what I’ve observed. However, they are ALL the most adorable, sweet, curious and lovable children in existence. I think that what surprised me the most is that some of these young children have to walk 2 hours to and from school each day. It is astounding to me. One volunteer told us that in her community, girls’ attendance is so low because it is expected for them to stay at home and help or because of teen-pregnancy, which is more common than I expected and something I would like to focus on more.
Here is a picture of some compañeras and some chicas that attended a Pasos Adelante session on HIV/AIDS in Huallanca:
There was one thing that happened in transit from Hullanca to Huaraz that I will consider as an eye-opening experience for me. On Wednesday, the volunteer coordinating everything informed us that there would be protests on Friday in Huaraz and for this reason, we would avoid being in Huaraz that day. On Thursday morning, we woke up at 4AM to get on a bus back to Huaraz, to catch another bus there. Around 6AM, we encountered some people in the road, burning tires and trees to block traffic; we were witnessing parts of the protest starting earlier than scheduled. I couldn’t see very much, but people were throwing trash all over the road, holding signs, chanting, throwing large rocks. I also don’t know much about what it was about, but from what I understand, they were protesting the mines for not keeping their promises (for jobs or benefits, I assume). After sitting and waiting to move for about 30 minutes, the police came to break it up. They shot off rubber bullets to disperse the crowd and even set off tear gas. As we drove by, we had to close our curtains and duck down, just in case more rocks were thrown. It was really shocking to see such a harsh reaction to all of it and it made me feel really badly to see people running from the road. A harsh reality.
On a happier note, we spent Friday in two schools with a super chevere lunch break in between. Liz and Jamie, the volunteers that coordinated everything, took us to some thermal baths near a river. We spent an hour running from the crazy hot bath waters into the ice-cold mountain run-off water and repeating. It was exactly what we needed and probably my favorite part of the trip. and BEAUTIFUL. Did I mention Ancash is beautiful?
On Saturday we had the entire afternoon free! It was glorious. Liz took a few us up to some Wari (pre-Incan culture) ruins near Huaraz called Wilcalwain. We got a really informative tour and some awesome views. We hiked back to Huaraz for about an hour before hopping on a bus as the sun went down.
Overall, I really super duper loved my week in Ancash. The food, the people, the scenery, the ICE CREAMS, the teaching experiences, the volunteers, everything! After seeing sights in both Cajamarca and Ancash, I am absolutely certain that I will love whatever site in the sierra in which I am placed… which I will find out Thursday! Until then, chao!