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—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 14: El Porvenir y Huanchaco, Peru

Last night, we went salsa dancing at a local club, which didn’t start until midnight. Given the fact that most reasons to stay up later in the States (i.e. Blacklist, Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder, etc.) are over by 10:00pm., it’s safe to say that this was way past my usual bedtime. We were out until 3:00am before I remembered I had to be at my internship site nearly two hours away at 8:00am.

Today’s observation was pretty interesting, since I was able to observe an art class, during which the students were learning Marinera—the coastal dance of Peru. I was then able to observe another class where the students were asked to draw a tree in which each part of the tree represents an important aspect of their lives—including values, support systems, and goals for the future. Last week, one of the principals informed me that vocational considerations aren’t usually discussed with the children, so it was great for so many children to have the opportunity to think about their interests, plans, and goals. It was also refreshing to see a professor teach with such passion because doing so allowed her to maintain the class’ attention, which appears to be a big problem in many of the public schools here. But it just goes to show, if you are truly passionate about what you do, you can absolutely make a lasting difference in the lives of so many others.

Upon returning from the school, I had class on global mental health, which I’ll discuss later on. For dinner, we went out for local street food, and of course, we had more papas rellenas, a baked potato dough usually filled with beef, onions, hard-boiled eggs, cumin and other spices. Once prepared, this incredible healthy (just kidding) blob of goodness is deep-fried. Because what isn’t ten times better deep-fried?

PASEO Program Adventure—Day 13: Huanchaco Peru

Today (I’m now two days behind), we started the morning with a class on motivational interviewing. My internship site was closed due to a federal holiday, Day of St. Peter and St. Paul (San Pedro y San Pablo)—a day to celebrate San Pedro, the patron saint of fishermen. Huanchaco was filled with marching bands, parades, and a beautiful celebration by the water, in which large reed rafts, or caballitos de totora are placed into the water. (Still no camera, so use your imagination.)

Seeing as today was more of a slow day to catch up on homework and enjoy the festivities, there isn’t a whole lot to report. We got water heaters installed in the showers throughout the house, which was pretty exciting. I figured I could only comment on one obstacle during my time here, and decided to discuss the rigid toilet paper situation instead. However, now that I have been able to purchase a different brand and the frigid cold water has been changed to lightly cold water, I feel like I am in a place where I can now share that with you.

And just because today really was slow, I’ll share this other story with you. Today I spoke with my grandmother for the first time since my phone fell out of my pocket. Again, I was told by locals that someone either sold the phone or switched out the sim card so they could use it for themselves. My grandmother asked if I could put an ad in the local newspaper asking whoever ended up taking my phone if they could please return the sim card to me. I wish everyone could have this same faith in humanity. And with that, here’s hoping I’ll have something more interesting to report tomorrow.

 

PASEO Program Adventure- Day 11: Alto Trujillo, Peru

This morning started with a class focusing on Spanish for the mental health setting. After class, I traveled to Alto Trujillo to complete another observation for a different school. In order to get to the school, we had to take two different busses and a shared taxi cab. As I exited the taxi cab, my cell phone must have fallen out of my pocket. However, I didn’t realize that it was missing until the cab drove off. By now, someone must have either picked up my phone and switched the sim card so they could use it, or the person must have sold it by now. Either way, I was kind of hoping that whoever took my phone would continue writing blog posts for me so I would be off the hook, but that has yet to happen. For this reason, I still don’t have a photo for today’s post, and you’re still stuck with me.

Upon doing the evaluation for a primary school classroom, a psychology intern for the school approached me and started talking about difficulties she has come across while working with some of the children. As many of the teachers from other schools already explained, she mentioned that it’s difficult to generally expect children to act any way other than aggressive when that is the type of environment they are growing up in. The school system can be perfect and teachers can be a great sense of support for these children, but the difficulty lies in what type of environment the children are returning home to each and every day.

What is also upsetting is that since so many parents mistreat their children, neglect their children, or are working around the clock to provide for their families, the behaviors of so many children don’t meet what most schools would consider to be “ideal expectations” of how a child should act. For this reason, typical disciplinarian methods don’t always work. Unfortunately, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the school’s disciplinarian (I believe every school here has one—or at least every public school) takes extreme methods to discipline the children when they “act out.” This intern told me that this particular school’s disciplinarian uses a garden hose to hit the children when they misbehave.

Again, so much of the necessary change needs to comes from the top down and from within the household, but unfortunately, this is much easier said than done. As frustrating as it is, I don’t have the solution or answer on how to go about making this change, but it’s something we need to be aware of. We never know what somebody may be going through or experiencing behind closed doors, so we cannot be quick to make our own conclusions or assumptions. Empathy can go a long way, and while it’s not the answer to a systemic problem that so desperately needs to change, I guess it’s something we will have to start with for now.

PASEO Program Adventure- Day 1: Flying to Lima, Peru

For anyone who stuck around throughout my hiatus, you probably realize that it’s been a while since I last posted on here, aside from following through with my Simple Quote Sunday challenge. A lot can happen in such a short span of time, but I won’t bore you with minute details. I’ll save those for a rainy day. 

Having recently graduated from a three-year master’s program in clinical mental health counseling and vocational rehabilitation counseling, I’ve found myself stuck between choosing what the next step will entail- pursuing a doctorate degree or joining the workforce. Before making a final decision, I was fortunate enough to come across an exciting opportunity that truly sparked my interest (and helped me postpone my decision making for the time being). 

About a year ago, I was informed about PASEO (Psychology and Spanish Elective Opportunity)- a Spanish for Mental Health Immersion program that focuses on global mental health. This immersion-based language training program is designed to build Spanish skills for use in mental health settings. 

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the program last summer due to classes and internships, but things seem to have a way of working themselves out. Now that I’ve graduated, the timing couldn’t be better. Besides, I couldn’t think of a greater opportunity, given the fact that there is such a large Spanish speaking population in Miami, and an immense need for mental health services in so many underserved Spanish-speaking countries. 

So, for the next month, I will be living in Huanchaco, Peru, and working in Trujillo, Peru. I’ll be sure to provide information about both cities throughout the upcoming weeks. During this trip, I’ll be taking intensive Spanish classes- mainly focusing on use for the mental health setting. I will also be practicing under a licensed clinician at a site of my choosing. 

I decided to work for the court’s Juvenile Restorative Justice Program (Justicia Juvenil Restaurativa). Again, I’ll be sure to include more information about this program as my time in the program progresses. 

I’d like to think that we should always be open to new adventures, and I’m glad to say that the time has come for me to embark on my newest adventure. I look forward to sharing this exciting journey with you, each step of the way. Cheers to new adventures for all of us. And for now, it’s time to get to Lima!