November 18, 2010
Today I spent the whole day at the high school here in Chuschi. One of the sisters, Deidy, is the religion teacher there, and invited me to go with her for the day. The school has 5 grades, which would be the equivalent of our 8th-12th grade.
Today we had two sections of 9th graders and the only section of 12th graders. The school year ends here in December, so the seniors are more than ready to graduate and move on. As a graduation trip they all got to go to Cusco and Machu Picchu. They just got back on Tuesday, so they were really excited to tell about their trips.
The high school here is a lot better than I was expecting. They have decent classrooms, and actually have an area for the kids to practice soccer and volleyball. It is definitely a step up from what I have seen in Lima and in Pampamarca as well.
(the view from the high school)
I taught the 9th graders how to say The Lord’s Prayer (The Our Father) in English. Some of them were really excited about it, and some of them could care less. Chuschi is another area that doesn’t speak Spanish as a first language. All of the students have to be taught Spanish when they start school, and the vast majority of the older citizens don’t speak a word of Spanish.
It is really a debility here to not understand Quechua. A lot of the students are a lot older than they should be for their grade. Many of them dropped out of school and went to Lima for work, but found out that they wouldn’t get hired without a high school diploma, and have returned. One of the ninth graders is 22 years old. She almost had a heart attack when I told them my age.
They were very curious, to say the least, about what I was doing there and who I was. The seniors were a completely different story. The catcalls started when I walked into the room, and they asked right away how old I was and if I had a boyfriend. After a moment of disappointment with the fact that I did have a boyfriend, as I am the same age or younger than all of them, they quickly asked if I have a younger sister. One brave student then piped up, “Pues, llévame contigo”. (Bring me with you!)
I had a great time with them, and tomorrow I will be going to a different school that is in a neighboring community to help with their religion classes as well.
This afternoon I was invited by one of the students to go to the cemetery with them. I thought it was a weird request, but I said I would go with them. I asked Deidy, the teacher, why I was invited, and she told me that one of their classmates had died just over a month ago. This kid was only 15 and he had died due to medical negligence by the nurses here… he literally drowned to death in his own spit. What a dreadful experience for all of the kids in his class.
He was also part of a dance group here, and they had just qualified for the regional competition a week before he died. The group leaves tomorrow afternoon to go to the competition, and they wanted me to go with them as they went to pray for him, and to ask him to be with them in spirit during the competition.
(A view of the cemetery, and the gate that the kids had to climb over)
I went with Deidy, and we arrived at the cemetery to find it closed. The students had forgotten to ask the mayor for the key. So we did the prayers outside the gate, the students passed around food and drink (which is normal here I guess?) and then all of the students scaled the fence to go pray, sing, light candles, and honor their friend. It was so inspiring to see these teenagers come together in memory of their friend, but also heartbreaking to see the amount of pain they were in, knowing that their friend died without reason.
We then spent the next two hours walking around the town visiting the people, and just taking in the beautiful scenery. We ran into a woman, who didn’t speak a word of Spanish, and had traveled today from her town to Chuschi. She lives in a community of about 200 people, and Chuschi is the nearest town. It took her eight hours to walk here today. Eight hours of walking non-stop. I can’t imagine. She came into town just to visit her son.
It is absolutely beautiful here. There is nothing around, no noise, no pollution, just pure mountain air. We do have “public announcements” every morning at 5:30 a.m. and every evening at 8:30. This consists of the mayor getting on a megaphone and announcing the notices and important reminders to the town. It is loud. Really loud. But I guess it works.