Your $1500 in donations got me here and let me do amazing things volunteering at this I'm trying to raise $575 to come home after 15 months! Make a donation (every dollar helps!) and read all about this unexpected adventure I've had. Thank you for your endless support!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

New plans, as usual

Alright, it's August and I am unsurprisingly with new plans. Before an update on HOOP and what I've been up to in Arequipa, here's my new life plan for those interested:

  • Work with HOOP until I find a replacement for myself. We all want professionals to be running HOOP and although we founded it (or perhaps because of it) we know we are not the best people for the jobs we are in. The person could start as early as September, but I'm thinking late Fall (Spring, here) most likely.
  • Go from Peru to Washington D.C. on January 20th to see my sister Valerie's Navy School graduation on the 25th, hang out with Val for a week on the East Coast on her off time.
  • Spend a month or 6 weeks in the Pacific Northwest seeing all my loved ones.
  • Return to Lima in March 2013 to get a job in tourism while I apply to be a flight attendant with LAN or Taca. Not sure how long that would keep me in/based out of Lima, a couple years I'm thinking at the moment.

Anticipated flight attendant job acceptance victory dance
Pretty different plan than I had a year ago, that's for sure. I absolutely love and am committed to the success of HOOP, which is why I know I need to find someone else with the proper experience to do my job while I stay involved as a board member. I also want to work in a non-development related field for a while and I figured achieving my childhood dream of being a flight attendant would be a pretty cool way to do that! Plus I think living in Lima would be amazing and I do still have a way to go in my Spanish learning. I'm not excited that I won't be able to see everyone back home very much but that just means I'll have to cram in a bunch of quality time in that window and skype a lot more :)

At HOOP, we have been developing our aims as an organization and figuring out what direction we want to take Flora Tristan English School in. This obviously seems like something you do when you start up, not so many months (years, with FTES) after, but the entire process of starting an NGO is something we have done sort of upside down.Once they are solidified, I will give you an update!

Flora Tristan Community had an anniversary celebration, which FTES attended and participated in This photo at right tells you basically nothing about it, so go to this video and see the kids do their dance to the wildly popular Balada Boa song. It's Brazilian and you cannot escape it in South America. We're not a dance keeping that in mind I think we all did a pretty good job :) If you want to watch the original choreography, here's the dance we learned

TT and me, on our visa trip to Chile

We are still low on volunteers, but that should pick up mid-September. Currently, Priya and I are staying until January/February, Li is staying indefinitely, Eddy is staying 5 more months, and in September we will get 3 volunteers who want to stay 6-12 months--including the return of Teresa!! Teresa (aka TT) was our school coordinator but went home to Austria for the summer, and will be returning in September to be our Marketing Director for a year.

FIA is seriously lacking Fisher Fair Scones
For the last 11 days I worked as an anfitriona at FIA, the International Fair of Arequipa which was like a disappointing Puyallup Fair. No animals, not enough shows, and seriously lacking on the food front. Anyway, being an anfitriona (literally: hostess, essentially a promotion girl) requires the following: smiling, wearing ridiculous polyester promotional outfits, and standing. Very challenging. BUT it pays really well and who doesn't want to get paid for standing around and smiling? I was going to include a photo but I can't find one...I'll just throw one into the next blog randomly and if we're friends on facebook I'm sure you'll see it.

I had a great birthday, thank you all for your birthday wishes. I treated myself to a weekend in Lima and had some really great seafood. I must say I am pretty glad to be where I am in life at 22, and I think this year is going to be even better than the last!

Mil abrazos,

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

It's Finally Here!!

HOOP HOOP Hooray!! The website is finally live. Please visit our website at! We will be adding more content over the next few months, including a version in Spanish, but for now, it will give you a good idea of what we are up to and how to contact us.

We have been very busy, but having to wait to do a lot until the website was launched. Now that it is launched, we are hoping to get a lot more volunteers. We are extremely low on volunteers at the moment, but the school is still up and running. HOOP is thriving and the school is very much open, and we welcome any volunteers that want to come work with us. I have been loving my job as Volunteer Coordinator/Human Resources director, communicating with volunteers and designing things like risk assessments, interviews, and contracts. It's actually really interesting (not kidding). I'm hoping that when I go home I can continue working in Human Resources.

Over the weekend, we went to the leadership workshop, led by Carmen and Marielena (the social worker who has been doing the diagnostic for us). It was very cool!! The girls that attended were part of the Flora Tristan community and want to change things for their community. Some will be helping us out at school, and some are free to help us if we ever have things on Saturdays, and all want to work on community projects to improve Flora Tristan. Carmen and Mari are so great at leading these workshops, they really shine! Mari is in the green sweater and Carmen is in the black jacket. In this video, Carmen is explaining leadership styles (and for some reason I am making a very sad face, if you see me in it).

Last week, Jose (the psychology student who volunteers with us) led a workshop for students about manners and behavior. We are excited to use his behavior chart system to reward students for good behavior and determine who will go on excursions. For our teenage students, we are going to start some sort of leadership class or club (similar to the student government idea I wrote about months ago) so that they can have a stake in the school, gain some responsibility and skills, and hopefully help out the older leaders that we have in our Saturday leadership workshops with the execution of community projects.
These videos are in Spanish.....but hopefully if you can't speak Spanish you can still grasp how attentive the students are. Behavior is an issue that we continuously need to come up with new strategies to tackle, and Jose is really helping us. The students went over polite phrases and later on in the workshop practiced them. He also ran through some quiet techniques, like having the students hold their breath for part of a song and then exhale, in order to calm the class down and get silence. Magda and Yajayda were the two social workers who ran our workshops before, but they are not able to run them any more since they are back in school. The students loved Magda and Yajayda, and are also really respecting Jose, and they enjoy his workshops.

That's a little update from HOOP, please check out the website! Also thank you for your donations, I am now only $550 away from buying my ticket home. My plan is to be home the last week of September, so if you can, please donate $15 today to help get me to my goal so I can buy a ticket ASAP. Just click on the donate button on the side and make a donation through paypal (you don't even need a paypal account to do it). Helping me come home would be a great early birthday present!! And please share my blog with anyone who would be interested in helping me or HOOP. 


Friday, June 1, 2012

It's already June?!

Hey everybody!

Another update on HOOP, English teaching, and the happenings in Arequipa.

The founders of TNT, Jay and Luis, are currently in Arequipa and we are sorting out the transfer of information and processes from TNT to HOOP. After a very difficult meeting, we have ended up with the school, as we had planned and as is legally ours to run. Hooray! Now things can get rolling. The Flora Tristan English School continues to run smoothly, and my job as Volunteer Coordinator/Human Resources Director is just starting. The HOOP website will be launched around June 11 so you can check everything out. The logo looks great and it will be a really clean and easy to navigate site. If you haven't checked out our facebook page, it's
Here Priya and I are in the TNT office, where we will never work in again.

I am continuing to teach English at El Cultural, where I think I'm growing on my students since they bought me cake and said they wanted to take me around Arequipa. A really nice feeling, as they usually awkwardly laugh at my jokes and I can never tell if they like me or not!

Speaking of showing people around Arequipa, here's a short youtube video of Arequipa which shows some sights I see everyday (the cathedral), and some I have never seen (the inside of the monastery).

I have yet to buy my plane ticket home, and do not have enough money to buy a ticket since my only income is 600 soles/month ($225). I am asking you all a huge favor--donate or loan me money so I can buy my ticket home! To those who have donated already, thank you so so much. I need $825 more to buy a ticket home for the first week of September. My goal is to raise this money by the end of June so I can buy my ticket far enough in advance that the price won't go up. If you would like to loan me money, I can promise to pay you back by the first week of December, just write a note in the paypal box. Anything you can offer would be greatly appreciated!

In Arequipa news, the weather is sunny and warm and the mountains are majestic. Same old, same old :)

Big southern hemisphere hugs,

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

HOOPing It Up, and Back to Fundraising

Oh. My. Goodness. I keep thinking things are going to calm down so I have time to write a proper blog, but I just don't know when that's going to happen!!

I am now the first official volunteer for HOOP! I am the volunteer coordinator, although while we don't have volunteers to coordinate, while we are still connected to TNT for the next few weeks, I am doing all kinds of things. Right now I am working with the rest of the HOOP staff (Priya, Carmen, Teresa, and Li) and an organizational psychologist to design exactly how we want our organization to be structured. He asks us questions we would never think to ask ourselves, about what exactly we want, what problems we may encounter, how to be sustainable, etc. It is quite a brain work out, and all in my ever-worse Spanish. (I moved out of the volunteer house and live in a room below a family's apartment in an attempt to improve my Spanish, but I am never there so I have yet to practice and continue speaking English most of the day.) He is only here for a week so we have been doing a lot of work on it.

I also have been doing a lot of diagnostic research. A diagnostic is the first step in creating an NGO, as you have to get a complete profile of the area you want to work in and their needs. I am doing international and national research on statistics about things  like domestic violence, literacy, drug addiction, alcoholism, malnutrition, HIV/AIDS, child trafficking, prostitution, and racism. I love doing research and it has been a fascinating process, although at times very depressing to read some of the statistics. One I just read is that in Peru, 51% of all urban women and 69% of all rural women will experience physical or sexual violence during their lives. Really depressing, but unfortunately not that surprising. The social worker that is working with us on the diagnostic is doing regional reasearch down, from Southern Peru, Arequipa state, Arequipa city, Cono Norte, Flora Tristan, and then administering surveys to the community based on what information we find out.

Depending on what information the diagnostic uncovers, we may be doing a completely different project by the end of the year. We do know that the areas we want to work in are Education, Families/Communities, and Health.

The website is so close to being launched, and when we do I will post it all over everywhere and make a facebook page! You will be able to check it all out, including our snappy new logo.

I am still teaching English for pay at El Cultural and enjoying it. I am making enough money to live and eat real food--not just bread! I have yet to buy a plane ticket back home and I'm going to start raising money for that. I am asking for $900 so I can come home in September! If you would like to donate but you can't really afford it, I would gladly accept a loan that I could pay you back when I get back to Seattle and start working. Just write in the paypal note that this is a loan, or shoot me an email.

Also if you would like to donate to HOOP, while we do not have a bank account set up yet, you can donate using my paypal and I will give the money to HOOP.

I'll keep keeping you updated with everything and I miss you all,

Friday, April 13, 2012

It's all happening in Arequipa

I just waited for a cup of drip coffee in a cafe where I was the only customer, for 10 minutes.

Things take a long time in Peru.

Something that has been in the works for a long time, over a year, has finally happened at TNT. We are separating into two organizations and starting a new NGO, which will be called Helping Overcome Obstacles Peru (HOOP). It's going to officially happen in two months, but it's happening!

HOOP is going to run Flora Tristan English School, our community leadership program, and any other programs we decide to run in the future. TNT will run the Casa Hogar Luz Alba orphanage and will continue to work with Pachawawas to raise money for the orphanage.

We're really excited because we're now going to have the freedom to develop our community program however the community needs us to, and get the NGO/school staffed enough so that we can run as efficiently as possible. We are creating a sustainable and project-focused NGO, as opposed to the way it was before which was unsustainable and volunteer-focused. We are leaps and bounds ahead of where NGOs usually start, since we already have a program running and a staff and group of volunteers to run it, but we are going to need some serious money quickly and there is SO much to learn. The founders of TNT are going to use the office furniture and computers, some furniture from our house, and anything else they invested in when they started TNT to start their new organization, so we'll need to buy new things. We get to keep our office and our volunteer house, but our volunteer traffic will go down, and we need donations to buy supplies and stay up and running. They will need to find an office, as well as hire a new volunteer coordinator and administrator since ours (Priya and Carmen) are going to be working for HOOP. As soon as there is a way to donate to HOOP, other than through this blog (just tell me you want it to go to HOOP instead of me), I will tell you. The website is launched but not quite ready for public viewing yet.

The majority of my job over the next 5 months will probably be fundraising and promoting our new NGO. Very exciting! I thought I was working with a young organization before...! I will keep you all informed about fundraisers I am putting on and if I get HOOP published anywhere. In the next 5 months we will be working on "small" fundraisers (100s and 1000s of dollars), and then when our community diagnostic is done, we will present it to big organizations, banks, and governments to try to get funding.

We were actually going to name the organization Abriendo Puertas or Opening Doors, but there were too many NGOs named that already. HOOP was my idea! I'm excited to be so deeply involved in the creation of an NGO, and excited to see what direction this takes us in. If we discover what the community really needs is medical care or gang violence prevention and not English classes, we will change our projects or create new ones to accomodate that. It feels like we're operating with more integrity to be creating something based on people's needs, not just stabbing in the dark with the only tools we have.

Reporting from the scene with all the news on the developing situation,

And since I don't have any photos related to this, here's one of me, Enrique (former development/school coordinator who has since left) and Priya (friend/boss/all-around champion for this new NGO) at a concert in February.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Autumn Begins (a very wordy, long-needed updated)

Okay, so I made a promise that I would update my blog every week, and clearly that has not happened. It is just too often with all the things I have to do! I am repromising to update every 2 weeks.

Now that that's taken care of, let me tell you what I've been up to. For one, I've been super sick. I have had all kinds of illnesses since I've come down here, including the flu, stomach problems, tonsilitis, a cold, allergies, and now I seem to have some sort of lung infection. My lymph nodes swelled up to the size of an egg in February and after 5 days of antibiotics, went down. However, the problem returned in March, and even after 10 days of antibiotics and several weeks of "watch and see" the node is hovering around chestnut size. There is a bet in the house about when they will return to normal (my idea, I have already lost). I am now taking antibiotics for my lung problem so perhaps it will help my lymph node along, too. I am also going to try being vegan for the next week to jam-pack my diet with vitamins and see if that makes a difference.

The clouds over Misti finally cleared!
Attendance has gone way down at school because the regular school year has started. As little as 25 students have attended in the entire school some days this week! Students have their regular school day, go home and eat and have to do chores or take care of siblings, and then can't attend. They also might not want to spend 3 hours at school after they just went to school. We are restructuring our schedule again, this time to offer English classes for everyone as usual, an hour of homework help for older kids, and games and movies for younger kids. We'll all go to cancha (playtime on the sport court) after those two hours.

My most exciting news is that I GOT A JOB! I am working as the teacher for the conversation club at the North American Peruvian Cultural Institute (El Cutural), which is a fancy English school partially funded by the U.S. State Department. They teach American English and have certification programs that allow students to get certified by American universities, and they also encourage and facilitate study abroad programs to the U.S. I will earn enough money to stay down here without donations (as long as I move out of the volunteer house into a homestay) and because one of our volunteers will keep the club running, they are awarding us five 2-year scholarships to El Cutural, which we can award to our brightest students. I teach 4.5 hours every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, which has been fun for me.
All of the TNT volunteers at one of our recent
volunteer meetings

In terms of future plans, as I said in my last post, I have decided to stay at TNT in Arequipa until September. I really love what this project is doing and I want to see some things that I've been a part of starting become realized. I am going to probably take on more of a marketing role for TNT very soon, and pass on the majority of my school coordinator duties to someone who will be returning to take on that role in September. If I stay in the office most of the time, the chances of me being so sick all the time will probably reduce, and I'll be able to make more of a difference for the organization.

That's about it for me! A more exciting post to follow in two weeks, hopefully with some better pictures.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

After-school activities

Just wanted to post some pictures of the 3rd hour class that we have started running. Yesterday we had music class, and the kids are loving it. Last week we sang Firework by Katy Perry (we have to choose songs the kids will enjoy singing but are also appropriate and slow enough that they can) and Baby by Justin Bieber. I, of course, added some fun interpretive dance moves to Firework, which the kids all enjoyed laughing at. We have a new volunteer who has a great singing voice, so she's taken over now! This week the songs are Just the Way You Are by Bruno Mars and  Soul Sister by Train. Not my first choice...but they're easy to learn!!

The kids here are really into K-pop (Korean pop) and a couple of the girls said they would come up with a coreographed dance to a song called "Mr. Simple" by Super Junior. Here's the link if you're curious about what it sounds like. Catchy, no? How can you have so many people in one band? K-pop is huge here, and when we were doing surveys to find out what other classes we could offer, one person put down Korean. I don't think that will be happening anytime soon, since we don't have any Korean volunteers. However, we are thinking about starting a student government program. There was a program in Paraguay where students elected a President, Vice President, and ambassadors, who would then observe their classmates and if they saw anything that  looked like there might be abuse going on, they would tell their supervising teacher. Then the child and the supervising teacher would go to the parents to investigate what's going on. Pretty neat, huh? We also think it would give children more ownership of the school. Since we have electricity at school now we have started the computer skills class, and hopefully will start the typing program part of it early next week. 

We are gearing up for another psychology workshop on Sunday and the first workshop for kids on Friday.  The workshop for kids will be about bullying, and their rights and responsibilities. Hopefully this workshop will help start to change the way that children interact with each other in this area, as many children engage in bullying, violence, and violent play. The workshop for the parents on Sunday will be about physical health and emotions, and the interaction between the two.This is something that definitely does not get talked about enough here, and I think it will be some pretty revolutionary content for the parents to hear about!

Here's a couple photos of me and my co-coordinator Enrique, and one of our teachers, Teresa. They refuse to take a serious picture with me! We're standing in front of the side of the school where one of our students painted our new logo. Our new website will be launched soon which has the new logo. I'll give you all the details when it's launched (as it's much more professional and something you might want to share with other people).

In Julia news, I am considering staying in Arequipa as School Coordinator and Marketing Director (a position we don't have but desperately need) until September. If I get free housing, can raise enough money, get a big donation from TNT to fund me doing that, or move out of the volunteer house into a cheaper homestay, I will do that. I really want to see that all the work we started will be continued in the future, with the new curriculum, social workers, and our future plans to present our project to governments and organizations for funding. I'll keep you updated!

You all have helped me raise $1500, and I only need $500 more to meet my 6 month mark. Thank you for all of your contributions and please share my blog with your friends and family!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Things I'm Getting Used to in Perú

After a week where every other day our water was shut off with no explanation and following three weeks of no electricity at the school, I realize I have become accustomed to many things in Perú that just wouldn't stand back home. Some things make my life way more difficult, some things make my life so much better.

Here's a quick list of things I'm getting used to in Perú:
  • Dirt roads, which are washed out in the torrential rains we've been having.
  • Stray dogs everywhere. I never try to return the dog to it's owner like I would back home, either.
  • Random parades, to celebrate any occasion. Also, random protests. These happen weekly.
  • Waiting forever for food - you know, more than 5 minutes.
  • Food being available everywhere - I can go around the corner to find two women with competing homemade-tamal-out-of-buckets businesses, and I regularly buy a big piece of watermelon from a street vendor on the way to work.
  • Coffee tasting like garbage, and drinking Nescafe regularly (yes I am still complaining about that)
  • Needing to bring toilet paper with me everywhere - if a bathroom has a toilet seat, I'm happy. If a bathroom has toilet paper, it is the ultimate luxury.
  • Jaywalking everywhere, and the rare crosswalk sign has an animated person walking, and then as the time runs down the person starts running. I, of course, do not support this as at an early age my mother told me not to run across the street because you will definitely trip and get run over by a car, and I still never do.
  • Seeing a gigantic snowy volcano right next to the city, just like at home (but closer)
  • Waiting for the bus on the side of the road and flagging it down, not having a timetable, not being stressed about it being late because it doesn't have an expected arrival time.
  • Not fitting anywhere because I am so tall.
  • Sitting in the front seat of buses next to the driver.
  • No elevators anywhere.
  • Taking taxis--deciding on a price before I get in the car, always asking for 50 cents cheaper even if it's a reasonable fare, knowing all the safe taxi companies, nearly getting into accidents everytime.
  • The same things being sold on the same street - literally there will be a street where they only have copy shops, or eyeglasses shops, or paper stores, or furniture stores. There is no competition strategy here.
  • Copies costing more for single-sided than double-sided, because down here the paper is the expensive part, not the ink.
  • The garbage truck coming by on whatever day it feels like, and instead of having a set time, it just blasts a song (each neighborhood has their own song, ours is currently an instrumental version of Barbie Girl by Aqua) and people have to run out to the street to put their trash out.
  • Buying milk in a bag. If I want fresh milk, it comes in a plastic bag. If I want weird fake milk, I can buy it in a box.
  • Living without grapefruit juice, diet coke, peanut butter, cheddar cheese, corn tortillas, and dates. And a whole bunch of other foods that I don't miss because I get to buy fresh food on the street.
Here is a list of things I have seen being sold on the street:
  • Sweater vests
  • Garment bags
  • Tea towels
  • Tupperware
  • Shoelaces - a man carrying around about 5000 shoelaces of various sizes and colors is an Arequipa classic
  • Whole-leaf stevia
  • Made-in-front-of-you juice
  • Baby polos
  • Toilet brushes
  • Grammar books
  • Candy
  • Blank CDs
  • Superglue
  • Medicine
Most of these things can also be sold on the bus, meaning that a person will hop on to your bus and start yelling their spiel about their product, then walk around asking each person if they will buy one, and then hop off at the next stop. People actually buy some of these things, which always surprises me. Who is on the bus and thinks, "Yeah, I should really buy 2 tubes of superglue right now"?

I am loving every day down here and I am sure there are things I have gotten so used to I wouldn't even think to write them down. Every day I find something new to love about Arequipa!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Charla Psicológica - Psychology Chat

One of my favorite things about working for this project is that things that are just ideas one day can become reality within weeks. In December, there had been discussion of having workshops available for the parents. At the monthly parent meeting we took a survey asking what kind of workshops they would want and the majority of parents said they wanted a psychologist to come talk to them. They also said they were interested in learning about child development and parenting. I asked my Peruvian friend if he knew any psychologists, he did, and we set up a workshop for the next month.

It was a success! Since most parents work Monday-Saturday, the turnout wasn't that high, but the moms who did come were very interested. The psychologist talked about things like praising and encouraging your child's good behavior as opposed to yelling and punishing bad behavior, not fighting in front of your children, not taking negative messages from spouses to heart and taking that out on your children.
The parents had a lot of questions, which was great, because we thought they wouldn't want to talk very much. We were also able to introduce two social work students and one anthropologist that we will have running workshops and doing a diagnosis of the area, respectively. I am most excited about a bullying workshop, because this area especially has a lot of problems with bullying and violent play. The social workers have a lot of health experience, so hopefully we can run a lot of health workshops as well. 

The launch of the curriculum went well and all the students are jazzed about the extra hour of activities. We are hoping to get some professionals to help us out during that extra hour so that students can be learning art, music, and dance from professionals and being coached in sport by experienced coaches.

In non-school related news, we had a Superbowl party at the volunteer house yesterday which was a pretty big hit for the Americans and a kind of boring cultural event for non-Americans. Apparently a game of American football takes too long. I hadn't noticed! I made pulled pork sandwiches with coleslaw and we had a 13x9 pan of guacamole. It was fun and tasty and very American (although the commentary was in Spanish). 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

School Relaunch and More

All of our busy busy work at the school is culminating in the relaunching of the school tomorrow. We are going to have a new curriculum, new rules, and even new hours. Other curriculums have been tried in the past, but this one has a lot of accountability written into it, so I am confident that it will last. Everything is going to be heavily documented and then it all has to be signed off by me or another school coordinator. It also helps that this curriculum was developed by several professional teachers.

During the extra hour we are adding at the end of the school day we will offer art, music, computer skills, and sports classes. Hopefully if things go well, we could have a Flora Tristan volleyball and soccer team and compete locally! Or at least just have regular weekend games. A big thank you to Cannon for buying me two Mavis Beacon discs (they have it in Spanish now!) and to my  mom for sending them to me. We plan on teaching the students at school (and possibly their parents on the weekends in the future) how to type, use programs like Word and Powerpoint, and eventually internet skills. We have a volunteer right now who teaches art back home, and she is developing our art program. The music class will soon incorporate dance, but in the meanwhile while we don't have any really dancey volunteers, it will just be teaching English language pop songs. Maybe if they decide to branch out they'll teach the kids the Electric Slide or something :)

Another project we're working on is getting psychologists, social workers, and nurses/doctors to lead workshops for parents and children on topics like bullying, domestic violence, nutrition, health, sexual health and any other topics that the community says they'd like to learn more about. Our first event will be on February 4th with a psychologist, talking about child development with the parents. I'm very excited! We are going to interview some social work students this week and set up a sort of internship situation with them so that they can run several workshops over the next few months.

Wish me luck, this week is going to be a hectic one!

To close, here's some more pictures of the neighborhood that the school is in:

The outside of the school

The corner shop where we go after school almost every day.

Yes, that is a dog wearing an alpaca pullover sweater.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Long Time No Update!

Hello everyone! I know it's been forever since I've updated and you all have no clue what I'm up to down here in the southern hemisphere. My New Years resolution is to blog weekly so hopefully you'll all be more informed. I only have 15 weeks left in Arequipa!

I am now volunteering at TNT´s other project, the Magical School of English in Flora Tristan, a neighborhood at the base of the mountains. It's about 40 minutes by bus from our house, and the neighborhood is very low-income. They have dirt roads, tin roofs, and just put in a sewer system in the last month. The school serves about 75-100 students per day, from 4 to 17 years old. There are four classes for children and one adult class, Monday through Friday. Currently we teach English for an hour and then have an hour of playtime on the sportcourt that's down the hill. At the end of the month, the classtime will be extended to an hour and fifteen minutes, and we're also thinking about keeping the school open for more hours and functioning like a community center, where children could come work on their homework.

Inside the school, our bathroom is on the right
Saw this woman on my way home after school
The view from outside my old classroom
Starting in December, I became the School Coordinator for Traveller Not Tourist. I share this role with Li, who just left for a month of vacation after being here for a year (but will be coming back for another year), and Enrique, a guy who just arrived this week and will be here almost as long as I will be. I am working as a school administrator, making sure all the teachers are doing their jobs, and working on developing the school. At the end of the month, we are launching a new curriculum that was developed with professional teachers who volunteered, complete with textbooks. It's keeping me quite busy! I was teaching for the last three weeks but now that Li is gone I float around to classes and manage the school during class time, and during the morning I work in the office on curriculum documents and school administration.

I'm also working on getting a psychologist to come talk to the parents about child development, parenting, and other things that they expressed interest in learning about at a school meeting. Monthly workshops for parents on things like health, mental health, parenting, job skills, handicrafts, and rights, will hopefully make the school more of a community center. This is the project I'm most excited about, because I think the school has a lot of potential to do so much more for this community, and I know I have the background to help make that happen.

In other news: I had an excellent Christmas, including parties for the school and the orphanage, and for New Years we went to the beach. I am not speaking as much Spanish as I would like to be, but I have a friend I do translating work for in my spare time (don't have much!) in exchange for cups of coffee and we speak Spanish together. I am working on getting a job in Colombia in May so I can pay for myself staying there for the six months and volunteering, although hopefully I could get a job in social services so I'm doing what I'm passionate about. I miss all the comforts and delicous foods of home but I am still so grateful to be here and I smile so much everyday. I miss you all!

Thank you so much to anyone who made a contribution to me, it means the world to me and I am much closer to having enough money to stay down here until the end of April. Only $500 to go!