Saturday, October 29, 2011

One year ago in Peru

One year ago I was wrapping up my time in Peru with a whirlwind final weekend. I did a final blog entry at the airport that you can read here, but because internet was expensive in the terminal and I was very sick with a flu-like illness (but trooping on, sick days are a waste when travelling), I didn't get a chance to write up everything.

On my final Friday in Huanchaco I packed the last of my things and headed off to school with the other volunteers on the collectivo (small van) with a bag of goodies for the children. Like every other day we banged on the big metal door to be let into the school compound and were greeted by the Padre's dog, and then by a chorus of "Buenos dias, Senorita Yesica" as I walked into my classroom and took a seat at the tiny table next to the profesora's desk. 

I copied the handwriting practice into all 40+ exercise books, copying from a small piece of paper the teacher gave me because my cursive has never been great and I didn't want an entire class of first graders to pick up my bad habits.

Next I would have pasted worksheets into the books being very careful not to waste a speck of glue. Resources are very tight at CEP school. When we did art class I had to put a blob of glue onto a jar lid (which each child had to bring from home) so that the kids wouldn't go overboard with the gluing.
While I was doing this the kids would be copying the maths problems off the board and then taking turns coming up to the blackboard two at a time, to write up an answer to a problem before passing the chalk to another child for them to take their turn.

At some stage during the morning I would rip off one piece of toilet paper for each of the girls and then they would line up at the door ready for me to escort them to the bathroom. After me saying "firmes, descanso, atencion" we set off past the other classrooms to the toilets. They were supposed to march but one or two always wanted to hold my hand - something that was encouraged by the school as the kids want to feel loved. They went to the bathroom four at a time so while we waited we'd play hand games or I might say hello to the mums doing the cooking on a fire in the vegetable patch, often breastfeeding a small baby at the same time. Once I returned the girls to the classroom, it was time to take the boys. 

A couple of times in that last week I had to go find spare clothes for one of the girls who wet her pants and help her clean herself up. If any child did a poo they had to tell me so I could get a bucket of water and pour it into the bowl as the plumbing hadn't been hooked up yet. 

Because it was my final day the principal (Padre), a catholic priest, came into the classroom to present me with a certificate. I handed out some small goodies like stickers, pencils and erasers to each of the children, and a bigger bag of goodies for the school - art supplies and some cash thanks to a few family and friends who sponsored me to eat a chicken foot kebab. One by one they hugged me goodbye. I had tears in my eyes. I wished I could have stayed longer and made more of a difference.

All the teachers and volunteers had a shared lunch. I'd had my final surf lesson the day before (I am the worst surfer who ever graced this earth - standing up more than once or twice after six hours of lessons would've been a start, it was a lot of fun though!). With an afternoon free I jumped on the bus to Trujillo and from there took another collectivo out to some of the most stunning ruins in Peru, about half an hour out of town. 

The Huacas (pyramids) de Sol y Luna (of the sun and the moon) are huge, beautiful, interesting...I'd run out of adjectives trying to describe them, so instead will just post a couple of photos. Built by the Moche hundreds of years ago it is the largest pre-colombian structure in the Americas and the Huaca del Sol is estimated to be made of 140 million adobe bricks!

Then after going back to the volunteer house and double checking everything was ready to go, I headed out for dinner with some of the other volunteers. We didn't go to a restaurant but to Burger lady, who is a bit of a legend amongst the backpacker crowd in Huanchaco. This very old lady has a bbq set up in the doorway off her house a couple of streets back from the main drag. For 2 soles (NZ$1) you get a burger with a meat patty (of questionable origin) with lettuce, tomato, cheese, a fried egg and potato chippies. Then she piles on your choice of sauces - tomato, mustard, mayo or olive. We took a seat on the plastic chairs provided and tucked into our burgers as she watched with a big grin on her face, giggling like a school girl every now and then for no apparent reason. Best burger ever!

Then it was off to the bus station for the 9 hour ride down to Lima. When I arrived there I decided to jump on another bus straight away to Ica, about 5 hours further south. Arriving there in the afternoon I jumped into a mototaxi and set off for Huacachina, an oasis in the middle of the desert to indulge in a spot of sandboarding and dune buggy ride. Now THIS was fun! 

Unlike surfing I could actually stand on my board and get most of the way down a dune before falling over. The buggy ride was quite a thrill, driving through the desert up and down dunes at reckless speed. The tour ended with us watching the sun set. I find deserts to be so beautiful. Probably because nothing like that exists in New Zealand. 

After a dinner of Lomo Saltado (beef stir fried with fries, tomatoes and red onion) I took a bus back to Lima arriving in the middle of the night, exhausted, and sick but having had a great end of my stay in Peru. It's only a matter of when, not if, I'll be back!

If you are interested, I volunteered through this agency - Otra Cosa. It's much cheaper than many others, absolutely fantastic location and projects and come very highly recommended by me! They are a not for profit and you can donate to many awesome projects in Northern Peru through them - my favourite is of course C.E.P school which provides free education to children aged 3 - secondary school. 


  1. Wow, that trip must have been amazing! We sure take a lot of things for granted!

  2. It was definitely something I'll never forget. Travelling really opens your eyes to what other people's lives are like and more thankful for some thing in your own life.