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Archive for November, 2009

The rainy season’s begun in Cusco! That means choclo, mangos, and mandarins aren’t far away!!! Luckily, it’s mainly been raining at night, which is fine by me. It lulls me to sleep. But I also think it’s been making me lazy. Somehow as I lie in bed at night and listen to the rain drops pitter-pattering on the rooftop I lose all determination to go running in the morning. At least that was the case all last week and this morning. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow.

January is when it gets really bad. You’ll wake up and it’ll be a sunny, clear day and then by lunch the rain will be coming down like the sky cracked open and the ocean fell through, turning the streets into rivers. Really. There’s no way to keep from getting wet. It comes in from the sides, from above, and from below. So you either settle for getting your shoes wet, or you wear rain boots every day, rain or shine. The rain usually only lasts for about 15- 20 minuutes, then the clouds part and the sun breaks through, and it’s hard to believe that you’re standing there soaking wet. It’s like a temper tantrum. Strong and ugly, but short.

Luckily, Omar and I will be in Lima come January. Hopefully the hotheaded rains will hold off until then. Then you’ll hear me complaining about humidity. But we’ll deal with that when we come to it. I’m getting excited about life in the big city…a new place to explore, new restaurants to check out (granted they’re not too expensive), I’ve even been thinking about trying to learn how to surf- I hope I don’t chicken out!

On another, completely unrelated note I just learned the word for handcuffs in Spanish. Esposas. “Wives” in English. And no, it’s not slang. That’s the actual, official word. That says something about Latino mentality. Maybe that’s why Atreyhus hasn’t proposed yet…….

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Recently, I’ve been visiting organizations all over Cusco to see about the possibility of placing volunteers with them come this summer. I’ve been to organizations for women, orphans, and children working in the streets, just to name a few. Last Monday I visited a school called ANIA: Tierra de Ninos “Vida en mis Manos”. ANIA stands for Asociacion para la Ninez y su Ambiente (Association for Children and their Environment). I didn’t know too much about the organization before I went- just that ProPeru might want to work with them and my boss told me to go. The ANIA School I went to is located in a town called Huacarpay, a short 40- minute bus ride from Cusco city.

Before I went, I had a few email exchanges with Yanet, a teacher and the woman in charge of the school. He emails were very friendly, she always wrote to me in big, green font and said things like “les esperamos con mucho carino” and “un abrazo fuerte”. I had a good feeling about the place. When I arrived in Huacarpay, I followed the directions Yanet had given me and eventually saw a cute little green school situated on a small hilltop that overlooked a lake. When I entered the school, the sight of gardens greeted me on either side of the walkway. There were 2 gringas making some sort of bench out of mud, plastic bottles, and plaster. I was about to enter a classroom when a small woman with skin browned by the sun and shiny black hair popped her head out. Yanet. She was wearing a ruffly green apron, and promptly greeted me with a “besito” on the cheek.

Most of the children who attend ANIA are from the remote countryside of Cusco. Their families bring them to Huacarpay to work as housekeepers, and to learn Spanish. Yanet explained to me that the parents think they’re doing something good, by giving their children a chance to be successful through learning Spanish, but that they’re really harming their children by effectively abandoning them and leaving them to live with families that treat them like less than dogs [my words, not hers]. This is why Yanet and the other teacher who works at the school, Norma, make sure to give the children all the love and affection possible. Towards the end of my tour, Yanet brought me into a classroom filled with children. All of them excitedly said “Hola” to me and a bunch of them ran up to me and gave me hugs. I couldn’t get one girl to let go! They’re definitely really sweet children, and it’s so sad to think that they don’t get the love they deserve where they live. ANIA is their only refuge.

ANIA’s philosophy is to educate children through means of the environment. They recycle everything, from the dolls they make out of plastic bottles, to the purses they weave from plastic bags, to the benches they’re making out of weighted plastic bottles and mud. They make most of their crafts in art class, and sell them at the annual Christmas Market Cusco has every December 24th. The money goes to buying things for the school, as the government doesn’t help them out much. Last year they bought some camera equipment and now they have a news show that they broadcast on YouTube.

Their main focus is on plants. Each student gets a small plot of land that they learn to take care of. Many of them have small vegetables growing. Through the act of farming, the children are taught the value of nature. Each plot if divided up into a section for “Pacha Mama” (Quechua for Mother Earth), a section for sharing (they bring the plants in that section back to the house they live in), and a section for personal gain where many of the children sell their crops or eat them themselves. They also have a greenhouse, where the students work in groups, and they get their own small plot for medicinal plants. Yanet and Norma encourage a visual and physical approach to learning, rather than having children sit and listen to lectures and copy down notes.

ANIA encourages creativity and resourcefulness in children while teaching them about the importance of taking care of the earth.  In a world where global warming is becoming a bigger threat every day, ANIA is certainly an example to be followed.

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