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!

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).