PASEO Program Adventure—Day 28: El Porvenir, Peru

Seeing as this (past) weekend marks the end of the first half of our trip, last night, we hosted a potluck for all of the students and professors from the program. After the potluck, we all went out to the local salsa club (which keep in mind, doesn’t open until midnight). We stayed out until 3:00am, and were somehow able to make it to another workshop at 8:00am in El Porvenir. 

As we walked into the room where the workshop was going to take place, we were surprised to see more than 40 attendees eagerly awaiting our arrival. Teachers from local public schools, members of La Fiscalía, and professors and administrators from Universidad Nacional de Trujillo were all in attendance. Prior workshops had 11 attendees at most, so this was truly a surprise, and it was motivating to see so many individuals participate and take an interest in improving the overall wellbeing of their students. 

We discussed some of the many barriers that the educators face, as well as risk factors that so many students face, which can often hinder their completion of attaining an education. However, we discussed protective factors to be mindful of, and ways to foster a greater level of support between the students and teachers. Before concluding, we discussed ways to engage in self-care, and worked with the teachers to create a plan moving forward so they can begin to implement changes they would like to make in the classroom. 

Each of the public schools have a program called Líderes Escolares, where students with leadership qualities are named School Leaders. These leaders get together every  week or two and work alongside one another to help improve their school communities. After the workshop, we were fortunate enough to see a show hosted by the Líderes Escolares, in which students from each school performed a song or dance. 

Throughout the first half of the program, we worked alongside teachers and faculty members to see how we can improve classroom behaviors as well as teacher relationships with students (with the goal of helping students feel more support so that they can achieve their educational goals). This was the perfect transition to end the first half of the program, because starting next week, we will be working more closely with the student leaders, with the goal of empowering them to help their peers stay in school, avoid drug usage and gang affiliation, and help them make an even greater difference in their schools. 

PASEO Program Adventure—Days 26 and 27: Huanchaco, Peru

I decided to combine Wednesday and Thursday’s posts together since both days were mainly spent focusing on classes- Spanish Grammar and Motivational Interviewing in Spanish. 

Seeing as the first half of the trip ends this upcoming weekend (last weekend), I figured now would be a good time to mention that while I was supposed to originally leave after four weeks (this past Saturday), I decided to stay an extra month to complete the second half of the program. There’s still a lot of work to be done here (both personally and physically). Our site responsibilities will be changing next week (which I’ll discuss in upcoming posts), and we’ll be taking new classes, still with the same focus of learning Spanish for the mental health setting. 

Besides, when the food here is as good as it is with meals costing less than 5 dollars, laundry (washing, drying, and folding) costing less than 7 dollars, a monthly gym membership with a personal trainer costing less than 30 dollars, great friends (which is priceless, and surprisingly free), and both the beach and an incredible bakery less than a block away from where I’m living, I’d say life is pretty good. So here’s to another month of exciting adventures, new experiences, and more reading material for you to enjoy the next time you go to the bathroom. 

PASEO Program Adventure—Day 25: El Porvenir, Peru

This morning (Tuesday), we began the day with our Spanish for Mental Health class. Shortly after class, we traveled to El Porvenir to host another workshop for teachers and school administrators at one of the city’s local public schools. 

We start each workshop with the same question: What made you decide to become a teacher? Often times, (if you haven’t already realized) when you work in a field with little recognition when so many societal barriers are stacked against you, it’s easy to forget what motivated you to get into that particular field. It’s interesting to hear how each individual found their way to become a teacher- whether it was by choice or because everyone in their family before them was a teacher too. Regardless of how they ended up in this profession, each individual described the same goal, and that is wanting to make a difference in the lives of their students. 

The teachers discussed the hardships of maintaining their students’ attention in the classroom, mainly due to the fact that so many of them have to work night shifts in order to help bring in some extra money for their families. It’s difficult to know that majority of these students face a variety of obstacles outside of the classroom- most of which are outside of our control. However, what helps offer the slightest sliver of peace is the fact that there are so many selfless teachers willing and able to support these children in any way possible. It is our hope that these workshops will help those in the educational field better understand some of the difficulties that their students are facing so that an even greater amount of support can be fostered between the students and teachers. 

 

PASEO Program Adventure—Day 24: El Porvenir y Trujillo, Peru

This afternoon (Monday), we had our weekly meeting with a group of local women and family members in El Porvenir that I spoke about in prior posts. Each week, two students from the program are responsible for teaching the group members relaxation and emotional regulation techniques for them to utilize at any given moment and teach others in their community. This week focused on psychoeducation regarding anger and ways that anger can manifest and build up if not properly released.

Due to gender roles and societal expectations, in many cases, women are not “supposed” to experience any other feelings aside from sadness (because of course men can only be angry and women can only be sad). For this reason, it’s so important to discuss and normalize feelings of anger because without doing so, it would likely continue to remain an unspoken topic that women “should not” discuss. Throughout the next week, we’ll place more of a focus on how to release such feelings in a positive and healthy manner, now that these feelings have been normalized and accepted.

After the group, we drove into Trujillo for our Psychology in Peru class. During the class, we each participated in Biodanza, “a system of self-development that uses music, movement and positive feelings to deepen self-awareness. Biodanza seeks to promote the ability to make a holistic link to oneself and one’s emotions and to express them.” Biodanza, originating from the Greek word bio (life) and danza (dance in Spanish), translates to the dance of life. The purpose of Biodanza is to focus on human integration, organic renewal, affective re-education and relearning of the original functions of life. Its methodology is to induce integrative experiences through music, singing, movement, and situations of group encounter.

Biodanza has five main tenants including: 1) Vitality: Increased joy of life, vital momentum (energy available for action), motor integration, neurovegetative balance. 2) Sexuality: Awakening the source of desire, increased pleasure, connection with sexual identity, and decreased sexual repression. 3) Creativity: Ability to express, innovate, and construct. 4) Activity: Ability to make connections with other people through love, friendship, altruism, and empathy. 5) Transcendence: Connection with nature and feeling of belonging to the universe.

Participating in Biodanza was truly an eye-opening and enlightening experience. Seeing as not everyone may be able to verbally express themselves the way they may like, being able to express oneself through natural and fluid movements in a safe and accepting group environment may be a beneficial alternative—especially when “talk” therapy is considered taboo in many cultures.

PASEO Program Adventure—Days 22 and 23: Cajamarca Peru

This past weekend, we traveled to Cajamarca, located in the northern part of Peru. We left by bus at 10:30pm Friday night and arrived at around 4:30am Saturday morning. Cajamarca is nearly 9,000 feet above sea level, so it was nice to actually have an excuse to be out of breath for once.

Upon arriving to Cajamarca, we drove directly to the Plaza de Armas—the city center, and arranged for an organized tour later on in the day. As we walked around, we were able to watch the sunrise, and grab a quick breakfast in the local market.

Our first stop on the tour was Cumbemayo, which translates to “thin river.” Cumbemayo, “built by an advanced pre-Inca society around 1500 B.C.E, is thought to be one of the oldest man-made structures in South America. It lies in the Archaeological Complex of Cumbemayo, a place where the highest hydraulic technology of ancient Peruvian communities and the impact of time upon nature are wonderfully combined.”

After stopping at Cumbemayo, we had some time off for lunch before resuming our tour at Ventanillas de Otuzco. This burial site is home to remains of more than one thousand years—all in the shape of windows, or ventanillas.

On Sunday, we stopped at the “Baños del Inca,” where it is said that Atahualpa (the King of Cuzco who also conquered the Inca empire) enjoyed his baths. Baños del Inca is said to receive nearly 4,000 visitors each day, and if you want a personal bath, it costs the equivalent of only $2. These natural hot mineral springs reach around around 70ºC (158ºF), and supposedly contain minerals including sodium, potassium, lithium, strontium, calcium, iron, magnesium and silica. According to many, “the thermal waters possess therapeutic properties for treatment of bone and nervous system disorders; as well as bronchial and rheumatic sufferings.” While I’ll be the first to admit that showering can often be a chore, for the right price and with the right minerals, it’s definitely an experience worth trying. (The Baths, not just showering in general. That’s still a chore.)

We left Cajamarca Sunday night at 10:30pm, and arrived back in Trujillo on Monday morning at 4:30am. While we didn’t get to spend much time in Cajamarca, it’s truly a beautiful city with an incredibly vast history.

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PASEO Program Adventure—Day 21: El Porvenir, Huanchaco, y Cajamarca Peru

This morning (Friday—yes, we’re still playing catch-up), we traveled to El Porvenir to present our first workshop to teachers in one of the local national (public) schools. For the past two-and-a-half weeks, another student and I have been conducting observations in 12 national schools throughout El Porvenir and Trujillo Alto. The purpose of these observations was to note how students behave in the classroom setting, how teachers respond to student behaviors, and overall student/student and student/teacher interactions. Seeing as the specific program the other student and I are working with is geared towards preventing students from getting involved in the legal system, the overall goal is to help the teachers develop and foster a more supportive learning environment for these students.

Keeping in mind that many of these students do not have strong familial support, have limited resources at home, have parents who have to work around the clock to provide for the family (and are therefore left with limited parental supervision), have parents who want them to start working after primary school because an immediate income is more important than continued education, have parents who are involved in gangs/in jail, and/or are involved in gangs themselves, there are many outside factors that come into play that prove difficult for teachers to make an overall difference in the lives of these students.

As we interacted with the teachers throughout the workshop, we discussed various individual, social, familial, school-wide, and communal risk factors that many of these students face including teenage pregnancy, alcohol and drug abuse, joining gangs, and dropping out of school. Seeing as these were primary concerns addressed during the observations we conducted, we were then able to hear about the experiences these teachers have had with their students in each of the aforementioned categories. We discussed supportive factors too though, because as difficult as it may be to navigate around so many risk factors, there are always supportive factors that can counteract any and all risk factors. For many of these students, these teachers are exactly that.

When you spend years working in a profession where more often than not you feel exhausted, pushed to the limit, under-appreciated, and feel like the odds of success for your students are stacked against them due to so many outside influences, it gets difficult (to say the least) to persevere and keep trying to impact the lives of our future generation. The teachers we met with continue to do this, and as they described their motivation to join the field of education and their desire to continue working in this field, it truly sparked a beacon of light and hope in what has seemingly felt like a dark tunnel—especially when looking at the overall resources provided to these schools for educational purposes and the countless barriers that so many of these children continuously face on a daily basis.

After the workshop, we returned back to Huanchaco for our Global Mental Health class, which I’ll discuss in a later post. The rest of the day was spent getting a head-start on homework, and of course eating pollo saltado before traveling to Cajamarca, Peru for the weekend.

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PASEO Program Adventure—Days 19 and 20: Huanchaco, Peru

To spare you from boredom, I decided to combine days 19 and 20 into one post, since both days were fairly uneventful (or at least for you probably, anyways). On Wednesday, we had an intensive Spanish grammar course, where we reviewed various Spanish tenses and conjugations. There’s nothing to boost your confidence of believing you know another language like reviewing various conjugations and verb tenses. (That was a joke. I can think of 100 other things to boost one’s confidence with regards to knowing another language as opposed to what we did). But of course, it’s good practice, and it’s necessary to know and relearn, so I’ll leave my complaints at that.

Yesterday, we started the day with our Motivational Interviewing course in Spanish, which was also interesting and beneficial, but I’ll talk more about this in a later post. Since yesterday was Teacher’s Day in Peru, our first workshop with local teachers had to be postponed. What a concept—actually celebrating and appreciating those who help impact the future generation. Yesterday was a day spent catching up on homework, procrastinating from writing blog posts, and dedicating the evening to eating delicious papas rellenas once again.

While I’ll write about today’s adventure on Monday, I figured I’d keep you posted about what’s going on in real time. We’re currently getting ready to leave for Cajamarca, a city in Peru’s northern highlands. We’ll be hopping on a bus, which should take somewhere between 6-8 hours, so that should be an exciting new adventure. You’ll also have an exciting adventure this weekend, as I won’t have Internet access to post any updates, so here’s hoping we both enjoy our weekends off from one another.

Sorry—I’m rushing to leave, so I don’t have time to edit the sarcasm, but I do hope you enjoy your weekend! I figured a nice statement would make up for everything you read prior to that. 🙂

PASEO Program Adventure—Day 18: Huanchaco, Peru

We began today (two days ago, July 4th) with a course on Spanish for the mental health setting. Since my schedule changed, Tuesdays are a bit slower for me, so I spent the day catching up on homework, going to the gym, and going for a run. We decided to get in as much exercise as possible before feasting out on burgers in honor of July 4th.

Not every country has the same rights and privileges as we do, and while things could always be better (just like anything in life), we must not forget to take pride in where we come from when we are blessed with so many privileges. But of course, we should never settle. We can and should always do more to make our society better for everyone—especially underserved and marginalized populations. Since today (two days ago) is a holiday, I’ll let you celebrate by keeping this post short. Cheers, to independence.