“You are never given a wish without also being given the power to make it true. You may have to work for it, however.” -Richard Bach
Today consisted of another set of observations in a different school located in El Porvenir. While speaking with the principal, she informed me that out of 936 students (just in the secondary school alone), there is only one psychology intern for them to confide in, should they need to speak with someone. The resources are limited, and no matter how hard the teachers try to build their students up, so many of their families continuously tear them down.
The principal mentioned that just last week, two students got into an argument, which led to one student punching the other in the face. When the school called the student’s parent, the parent came to the school and almost immediately hit her child in the face upon hearing what happened. Fortunately, school administrators were able to intervene, but only for the time being. Unfortunately, what happens when the student returns home is considered a different story.
With regards to continued education, many times, parents will tell their students that after secondary school, they can no longer continue their education because they need to start working and bringing in an income for the family. In other cases, the children aren’t even given that option, and will drop out of school so that they can work instead.
While the principal explained that the school does have successful alumni who they are very proud of, there aren’t many. The mentality is typically to continue working where the parents work upon graduating (if the students complete secondary school), and in this particular city, this usually involves selling goods in the local market or making shoes.
Just a few months ago, Peru experienced a devastating flood, which destroyed many houses and local buildings. One of the teachers spoke to me about a student of hers who was knocked down during the flood and nearly drowned. He hasn’t been able to focus on his school work ever since, and understandably so. Many of the students’ houses were destroyed in the flood as well, which led to them having to stay at the school in the days following the flood. As of this moment, most, if not all of them still do not have a home.
The resources are scarce and lots of the familial situations aren’t conducive to fostering a child’s development in a safe and loving environment. But the students continue to smile, laugh, and find a way to continue to persevere. For many of these students, school is the only place where they are given the opportunity to do so.
After a long day of observations and class (which I’ll discuss in a later post), I went to a local restaurant for dinner with a few of the students on my trip. Papa a la Huancaína (boiled yellow potatoes in a spicy, creamy sauce called Huancaína sauce.) and tallarín saltado con pollo was the perfect way to end the night.
“Sometimes opportunities float right past your nose. Work hard, apply yourself, and be ready. When an opportunity comes you can grab it.” -Julie Andrews
“Success is having a flair for the thing that you are doing; knowing that is not enough, that you have got to have hard work and a certain sense of purpose.”
In the face of numerous tragedies such as those that recently occurred in France, Lebanon, and Egypt, it is difficult to post a weekly picture that shows something beautiful when so many are suffering. However, as unfortunate as this may be, it is in times of need and in times of despair in which people from all over the world come together as one. There is nothing more beautiful than uniting as one, as this is what must be done if we are to begin looking towards the future. Seeing so many people come together to support those affected in recent days is truly incredible, but there is still much work to be done.
We must find a way to allow unity to prevail—not just in times of need, but each and every day. This is most definitely a step in the right direction though, as the sight of the world uniting for those in need is truly incredible. As Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” This snapshot challenge is dedicated to those who were killed in the aforementioned attacks as well as loved ones affected by the devastation. It is also dedicated to a strong sense of hope that together, we can ensure a safe and bright future for all.
We had an hour or so of down time in between seeing Casa Azul and an afternoon excursion. For our afternoon excursion, we drove to Volcán de Lodo El Totumo, which is a mud volcano located in Santa Catalina, Bolívar, in the northern part of the country. The mud volcano is forty-five feet high, so it’s a small hill to walk up upon arriving. However, the volcano is 6,000 deep, but the catch is that the mud is three times more dense than one’s body density, so even though the volcano is so deep, you float in the mud.
Volcán de Lodo El Totumo has been around for between fifty to sixty years. Some individuals were claiming that the mud had healing powers, and since there was so much violence in the area, the government gave the land to locals and had the locals test the mud to see what was in it. Results showed that the mud contains sulfur and various other minerals, and it is said that the mud has helped people with different types of cancer, people with acne, and that it helps soften skin too. And if you’re concerned about the cleanliness of the volcano (as we were), there is constant circulation inside the volcano, so the mud used by a few individuals changes every few minutes with the circulation.
Companies wanted to buy the land and build hotels and restaurants in the area to increase tourism and bring in more money, but the community said no because it’s their land and they take great pride in it. The land in the area is all very natural, and only locals or relatives of locals are allowed to work here.
When we arrived to Volcán de Lodo El Totumo, we were quite skeptical about what we got ourselves into. We climbed up a small hill with steep steps and a wooden railing on the side that we held onto for dear life. Once we got to the top of the volcano, we looked down and couldn’t believe our eyes. We had to climb down a small, and also steep ladder into the volcano, where we drenched ourselves with mud. From there, a local who works at the volcano took us and moved us to the corner. While in the corner, we were passed off to another individual who works here, and received a mud massage, alongside fifteen other individuals who can fit into this mud bath at the same time. After our five-minute massage, we were passed off to a different corner of the mud bath, where we had ten to fifteen minutes to float and relax, while continuing to cover ourselves with mud.
Once we got out and climbed down the hill, we were told to walk to the lake behind the volcano. When we got to the lake, local women held our hands and walked us into the lake. From there, we were instructed to remove our bathing suit (while under the water), as the local women scrubbed the mud out of our clothing. They also helped get the mud out of our hair and from behind our ears. Once we redressed under the water, and returned to the bus to leave, I noticed just how clean my bathing suit now was, and was extremely impressed with the abilities of these women!
To say that this was quite the experience is an understatement, but it just goes to show, you can’t judge a book by its cover. Although we were iffy about getting into the mud volcano at Volcán de Lodo El Totumo, we ended up having a blast, and knowing that we were able to help support a local, hard-working community and participate in something they take much pride in, was great, too. Besides, we came out with a fun story to share with others!
Upon waking up in the morning, we began our day by heading out to La Boquilla, a fisherman village in Cartagena where individuals from class zero and class one live (the two lowest socioeconomic classes in the city). La Boquilla is considered to be a fisherman village because the main activity for locals here is fishing. Fishing is so great in this area because the ocean is connected to the swamp, so local fisherman are able to catch fish from both areas of water. If you were to go to the village at 5:30am, you could purchase caught fish that are still alive, swim in the local water, and go prepare your freshly caught lunch.
There is a lot of construction taking place around La Boquilla, especially the building of hotels, so the locals have worked out a deal with the government. The deal is that hotels building around La Boquilla must employ 20 percent of their staff from the area. In addition, the must either feed these individuals once a month, or educate them in order to help give back to this community.
La Boquilla is known for having the biggest natural reserve in Cartagena. Mangroves here grow up and down, similar to the path of a circle. This is because when the mangrove grows downwards, it creates a new mangrove tree that continuously repeats the process. You can also tell the color of the mangrove by looking at the bottom of the trunk. The colors can be black, red, or white.
Something interesting about La Boquilla is the fact that numerous members of the community come together to raise money for one another and for their neighborhood. This is evident in the fact that some members make the canoes by hand, others row the canoes when tourists come to town, and a select few are in charge of organizing visits from tour groups in Cartagena. These canoe rides, offered on what is called a bote canoa chalupa (or small canoe boat), are a main source of income to the locals in La Boquilla, and they take great pride in the work that they collectively do.