Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Third Installment of the FBT Chronicles

Alright, so after a very long silence, I’m back in Jangas. I want to finish talking about FBT before I post about my thoughts after a year in country, my vacation for Fiestas Patrias, and my time in Lima for our one year med checks and program updates.
I left off with us still in Caraz…
All 14 trainees, 2 volunteers (Vishal and myself), plus the two trainers left Caraz early Wednesday morning to Carhuaz and then we all caught a combi to Shilla, Vishal’s site. A quick note about Vishal: He’s one of my good friends from training. We had the same language class together and we both lived in Yanacoto. So it’s been cool to move to Ancash and to be nearer to him and to Frank, both of whom I rank as really good friends. Shilla is a very small town of around 1,000 people who still speak a lot of Quechua. He has the most amazing view of Huascaran, and the people there are very friendly. They all greeted us as their donkeys passed by carrying food for the guinea pigs. The trainees didn’t get much time to settle in; they quickly threw their stuff down in Vishal’s house and headed directly to the colegio. The night before, as the trainees were planning, they made the decision to split up into two teaching groups based on language ability and those that had the courage to discuss sexuality with a group of 16 and 17 year olds that they didn’t know.
The lower level Spanish speakers taught a Nutrition class, and they did a really good job. They had a great class planned with activities that had the children moving, running, and learning about the four food groups. They used a house as a metaphor for the importance of the food groups, and they had a “check for learning activity” where the children had to find the foods scattered outside and come back to their groups to place their food in the proper place in the food pyramid. The kids really seemed to enjoy this activity. I was impressed with the activities this group chose, and I plan on stealing a few and using them with the kids here. The advanced speakers had the difficult task of giving a charla on sexuality. They used magazines to talk about the images used to portray sexuality. They then talked a little about a definition of sexuality, and then they answered what questions they could about things related to sex and sexuality. This was really just a starter class getting the students amped to work with Vishal more in depth on this particular topic. With this group, I was impressed with their courage to tackle this topic especially in a mountain community – which are known to be a little bit more conservative and closed.
After both groups finished teaching, we settled into the hostel where we ate some lunch and the trainees enjoyed the rabbits hanging out in a lofted caged area. After lunch, Vishal lead us on a hike just outside of Shilla. It was a really beautiful hike with a gorgeous view of the surrounding area and of course Huascaran was just in your face. Maybe the best part is that I spent the entire hike with Isa, the tech trainer (who was one of our language trainers), and we talked about a lot of different things from how training was going to what I would be doing in the future. I really got to know Isa well on the hike, and she tried to talk me into becoming a trainer in the future. The truth is, I would love to, but it all depends on how it all ends here and what I do in the year after I finish. When we returned from the hike, the trainees wrote their first solicitudes (these are important, bureaucratic documents that really are a pain in the ass of any volunteer – they help you get things). They also planned their sessions for the next day. Later that night we ate dinner with Vishal’s family, and many of the volunteers ate their first cuy. The trainees returned and went to bed, and many of them passed a sleepless night because of the cold Ancash night.
The next morning they got up early, ate breakfast, and we headed to Jangas. The trip was very quick and the trainees got settled into their third and final hostel while I headed into Jangas to arrange some last minute details. We re-met around 9:00am and the trainees got to know the colegio where I work. They also got to meet some of my favorite teachers, and they also got their first bump in the road.
I wanted to give them a real-to-life volunteer experience (which means that something would fall through or everything would change) and that’s exactly what we got. Within the first few minutes that we got there, we discovered that the Director of the school needed to change the times for the culminating field day event as the students were preparing for a parade; also, she decided that instead of a few classes doing the field day event on Friday, the whole colegio would participate. This would mean that this group of trainees would work with 200 kids within a two hour period. Luckily, they still had a day to figure it out, but that’s truly what happens. I will often walk in to a class to do one thing and end up needing to prepare myself for something else. Or even more commonly, I get used to having to put off a class because the kids are preparing for a parade.
Even while working through the administrative details for the next day, they still had a class they had to teach. Again they broke up into groups based on Spanish language ability and they taught classes on self-esteem. When they finished with those classes, one of my counterparts (Professora Elba) and I gave them an opportunity to improve their lessons and give the same one again to another class. Both groups took the opportunity and improved their first classes a little bit. I was very proud of them for accepting the challenge, and I know it was a great experience for the students as well.
The rest of that day they either planned for their field day or we took a tour of Jangas. My counterpart, Milton, and some of the youth from the association took them around Jangas and into the Cordiellera Negra to see the view of the Callajon de Hualas. I really enjoyed this part of the trip as I felt like I needed breaks throughout the day from planning and organizing. Plus, it gave me more of an opportunity to get to know the trainees on an individual basis. This has become so long and boring, I think I need to write a Part IV. So forgive me, I’m going to have to post again another day to finish the last two days. I’m somewhat backed up on blogs. I have more things to talk about than I have time to post. More to come!

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