PASEO Program Adventure—Days 53 and 54: Huanchaco, Peru

On Tuesday, our workshop with one of the groups of Líderes Escolares was cancelled, due to a huelga (strike) on behalf of teachers from various schools in Trujillo. Simply enough, the day was spent catching up on homework and preparing for two other workshops scheduled for later this week (which included procrastinating and going for a walk outside), followed by an adventurous dinner with some of the other students. And of course, since it’s my last week, I made sure to take in the sunset once again.

We began Wednesday morning with our Spanish for the Mental Health Setting class. After class, I had my final evaluations and supervision for the program, which consisted of an oral proficiency exam as well as reading a sample case study and deciding how I would work with the client and provide psychoeducation regarding TEPT (trastorno de estrés postraumático, or PTSD in English), as well as psychoeducation and techniques for relaxation. After the evaluation and supervision, we went out for a light dinner and spent the evening listening to music at a bar by the beach, and then sitting by the beach, as we took in the beautiful sights of the city.

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PASEO Program Adventure—Days 47 and 48: Huaraz, Trujillo, Huanchaco, y El Porvenir, Peru

On Wednesday morning, we had breakfast at our hostel (consisting of eggs, toast, butter, jam, freshly squeezed papaya juice, and coffee) for 4 soles (about a dollar and some change). After breakfast, we headed over to the bus station, and returned to Trujillo on an 8-hour bus ride. Once we made it to Huanchaco, we celebrated returning to sea level and being able to breathe again with a trip to the gym, followed by dinner. Because once you return from vacation, what else is there to do aside from eat?

On Thursday, our morning observations at local schools were cancelled since we had a workshop for the Líderes Escolares planned in the afternoon. As mentioned in an earlier post, we have been hosting workshops with groups of student leaders from three different schools in each group, with the focus of changes in adolescence and psychoeducation regarding anger, aggression, sadness, and depression. 

Following this first workshop, we’ll host a final workshop with each group with the focus of empowering the student leaders to share everything they learned with their peers, and also how to spot signs of anger, sadness, depression, and suicide, in addition to how they can refer students to necessary resources, should someone be in need of help.

Today’s workshop was another initial workshop with a new group of Líderes Escolares. There is so much to be learned from the younger generations, and any opportunity to work alongside student leaders and individuals wanting to make a difference in their community is bound to be an enlightening and incredible experience. And today’s workshop was exactly that.

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PASEO Program Adventure—Day 46: Huaraz, Peru

On Tuesday morning, we hopped on another bus, ready for another exciting adventure (without oxygen). As we drove into El Parque Nacional Huascarán, our first stop was to see Pumapampa (agua gasificada), followed by Puyas de Raymondi, the largest species of bromeliad, and Laguna 7 Colores—a beautiful lagoon consisting of various colors. After making stops to see each of the aforementioned sites, we continued driving until we made it to our final destination.

When the bus dropped us off at our final stop, we were at a higher altitude level than the 15,000 feet mark we reached yesterday at Laguna 69. Just stepping off the bus was enough to leave you (by you I mean me) out of breath. We walked into the site of Pastoruri, and had one of two options. We could pay 7.50 (nearly $2) to ride a horse up the path and then continue walking for 15 minutes, or we would walk the full path for 45 minutes. Because the altitude was so high and given the opportunity, we decided to ride horses up the path.

Once our horses dropped us off close to the top of the path, we had one of two options yet again. You could either pay an employee of the site to carry you on their back while they walk up the path, or you can walk the path yourself. We walked on our own, very slowly. Within 15 minutes, we made it to Nevada Pastoruri and Laguna Congelada. Even though it was freezing (as we surrounded by glaciers), and even though we were 16,000 feet above sea level gasping for any breath we could take, the view (pictured below) was absolutely incredible.

As our time on the tour was coming to an end, and more importantly, as we began to turn blue and have icicles forming on our bodies, it was time to return to the bus. We walked down part of the path, and rode another horse down the remainder of the path.

As the tour concluded, we stopped for dinner along the way, and returned to our hostel to rest for the evening prior to returning to Trujillo tomorrow morning on another eight-hour bus ride at 9:30am.

PASEO Program Adventure—Day 42: Trujillo and Huaraz, Peru

This morning (Friday), we hopped on a 9:30am bus that took us from Trujillo to Huaraz. As we drove eight hours north into the capital of the Ancash region, we came across beautiful sites, and snow-covered mountain tops.  

Today (still Friday) is the start of The Fiestas Patrias, or Peruvian National Holidays, which are celebrations of Peru’s independence from the Spanish Empire. The celebrations continue from Friday until Saturday, so tonight, we stopped by Huaraz’s Plaza de Armas, where a rock concert celebrating rock bands from all across Peru was taking place. It was great being able to celebrate such a joyous occasion with great company, and of course seeing such a strong sense of patriotism among the locals. 

PASEO Program Adventure—Days 39, 40, and 41: Trujillo and Huanchaco, Peru

Each of the schools we work with were closed on Tuesday (of last week) since all of the students were participating in a march throughout Trujillo, celebrating Peru’s Independence Day (July 28th). I spent the morning working on homework and completing observation evaluations, and in the afternoon, one of the other students and I went to Trujillo to walk around and take in the sights. (We really went in for work because we didn’t realize the schools were closed in the afternoon, but when we arrived, the director of our site gave us a tour of the Plaza de Armas.) So in the end, our mistake ended up working out for the best.

On Wednesday, we had our Spanish for the mental health setting class, followed by supervision. After supervision, one of the other students and I led another group for adolescent males at the site I wrote about last week. This week, the group focused on anger and ways to recognize that one is experiencing feelings of anger. The goal is to help group members recognize their feelings in the moment and try to implement techniques to de-escalate the situation and release one’s anger in a healthy manner. After our group, we had our Spanish Grammar class, since we begin our vacation on Friday due to the national holiday.

Again, since we begin our vacation on Friday (until Wednesday), Thursday was spent getting a head start on homework, completing observation evaluations, and packing for a trip we will be taking to enjoy our time off. Tomorrow morning (this past Friday), we’ll be taking an 8-hour bus ride to Huaraz, in the northern part of Peru to enjoy our time off. The enjoyment will officially start once we get off the bus, but a vacation is a vacation, so here’s to new adventures.

PASEO Program Adventure—Day 37: Puerto Chicama/Puerto Malabrigo, Peru

This morning (last Sunday), a few of the students and I traveled to Puerto Chicama, also called Puerto Malabrigo, which is two hours north of Trujillo. We arrived in the early afternoon, and spent the day exploring the area alongside the beach. After trying to swim in the water (which was pretty cold, to say the least), we rented four-wheelers for less than three dollars. 

While I’ll admit that I was hesitant about going at first (because of homework, wanting extra sleep, and plenty of other excuses one could pull out of the book), I have to say that driving by the breathtaking beach and lagoons with great friends on a beautiful day with incredible weather was more than I could have asked for. It’s spontaneous adventures like this that last as memories for a lifetime.

While it’s definitely easier said than done, it’s important for us to remember that the only things guaranteed to us in life are death and taxes. Whether or not you pay your taxes is a different story, but everything in between is completely up to us. The decisions we make, the actions we take, and the dreams and adventures we choose to pursue are ours to make. 

It’s easy to say “No” and stay within our comfort zone (which for many of us on a Sunday morning is under our covers), but it’s taking that first step outside the front door and saying “Yes” that leads to new adventures. More often than not, the ball is in our court, and the steps we decide to take are entirely up to us. So why not decide to live a little and enjoy the most of our time here?

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.