PASEO Program Adventure—Day 31: Huanchaco y El Porvenir, Peru

This morning (last Monday), we started the second half of our program with a class on Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT, or Terapia Contactual Dialéctica in Spanish). DBT believes that people are doing the best they can, but that we can always do better. And if you really think about it, we can do better in any given aspect of our lives- especially in areas we are trying to work on. Trough acceptance, mindfulness, and distress tolerance, the aim is to attain emotional regulation and interpersonal effectiveness.

A big tenant of DBT is Mindfulness, which centers on paying attention in the present moment without any judgments. While at first glance, we may think this is a simple concept, imagine how quick we are to judge different situations we face on a daily basis. The trick here is to put these judgments aside and observe the present moment we are living in and experiencing, both willingly and willfully.

We learned about three different types of minds, so to speak that are important to understand- really in any area of life if you find yourself communicating with others. Some people think with a rational mind (often times parents), others think with an emotional mind (often times adolescents), and others think with a wise mind. None of these are bad or worse than any other, but it’s important to understand that we each make decisions differently. Not everybody thinks alike, and in general, if we can try to understand this concept, we may find that we can work together more easily to come to agreements and find solutions.

After class, 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’s topic focused on effective communication, because often times, this is a skill that each of us can improve upon.

Think about it. How many times do you get home and have your parent/child/significant other “nag” you about something you did or didn’t do? And how many times do we do the same to those around us? While we may like to think that accusations, assumptions, and commands are part of effective communication, unfortunately they aren’t.

In the group, we discussed ways to empower the participants to express themselves more openly, because often times they may not have the opportunity to do so.

Effective communication is as simple as: 1. Describe the situation, 2. Express how the situation makes you feel, 3. Recognize the good intentions or feelings of the other person, 4. Ask/Make the request of what you would like the other person to do.

If we can feel validated for our effort or intentions as opposed to feeling guilty for possibly making a mistake or forgetting something, we’ll likely try that much harder and work with the other person to get the job done as opposed to arguing back and shutting down.

Even though these steps sound beyond simple, it takes practice to build effective communication, but it’s a worthwhile skill that can take us very far in any kind of relationship.

PASEO Program Adventure—Days 29 and 30: Lima y Huanchaco, Peru

On Saturday morning, I flew to Lima for the day to see my dad who came to visit. I landed at 9:30 in the morning, and we left on a city bus tour an hour later. Our first stop on the bus tour was the Museo Oro,  del Perú y Armas Del Mundo. 

In 1960’s, Miguel Mujica Gallo took his private collection of historic artifacts and created a foundation that manages the Museo Oro, del Perú y Armas Del Mundo. The artifacts on display were truly incredible, and it’s definitely a site worth visiting. The rest of the bus tour was spent driving by different historic landmarks and important buildings throughout the city. After a hard day’s work of sightseeing, it was only appropriate to treat ourselves to some ceviche for lunch. 

I returned to Huanchaco on Sunday morning and spent the day walking around the city by the beach with some of the other students on the trip, before officially starting the second half of our program. 

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 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.

PASEO Program Adventure—Day 16: Huanchaco, Peru

Today (Sunday—yes, I know I’m behind) was a day designated to catching up on homework. This week, we’ll begin our presentations for teachers in the public school system in El Porvenir, Trujillo, and Trujillo Alto (which I’ll discuss later this week), but there’s a lot of preparations to be done. For today’s post however, I wanted to backtrack to something I wrote about in my prior post. I mentioned a song from Thalía titled, “A quien le importa,” or something along the lines of “To whom is it important to?”

For whatever reason, so many of us find importance in what others think or say about us as we grow up. We find that our sense of confidence, or lack thereof is developed and fostered based on the opinions and beliefs of those around us. When you speak with elder adults in the later stages, many of them will likely tell you the opposite, and explain that they could care less what others think of them because at this stage in life, they should be free to express themselves however they please.

Why is it that we have to wait until we reach an older age to finally learn to live for ourselves and not based on what others think of us? What is stopping us from doing so earlier so that we can truly get the most out of what we want from life? How would our lives differ if we went back in time and only focused on our opinions, as opposed to those of others?

Could you imagine how awful it would be if we could ignore everybody else for just a moment and truly enjoy every aspect of ourselves? What a concept it would be if we could care less what others think and treat ourselves as kindly as we treat those around us. Sounds terrible and pretty scary, right?

It’s such an easy concept, but one that for some reason is much harder said than done. So what is it that’s stopping us? Yes, we can obviously find fault in these learned behaviors by blaming society, the media, and whoever else is behind our dependency to place such a large emphasis on what others think. But at the end of the day, we are the only ones who stop ourselves from breaking this cycle. We are the only ones who can push ourselves to believe in ourselves. We have more power than we tend to believe, but like any change that we want to see, it has to start with us.