Tag Archives: huaycan

humans of peru

Taking a cue from Humans of New York, I thought I’d elaborate on my Peru trip in the form of portraits and mini-stories.

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Being in the desert with open windows meant that every inch of every surface was covered in dirt. We had a cleaning woman, Queta, come in daily to clean: “dust maintenance” someone called it. Everyone I met who had been at the house for long enough spoke of Queta like she was an oracle, or a best friend, or a surrogate mother, grandmother, aunt, sister. It made me incredibly sad that she and I couldn’t communicate, so I took her picture instead.

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The first time I met Mauricio, he threw a football at my head. I caught it and threw it back. An American football is an unwieldy item to throw without someone showing you how, so I ran over to him before he could throw it back and guided his fingers to the laces, made the motion to throw it overhead. I ran back to my spot and caught a perfect spiral straight to my chest. I gave a thumbs up and threw the ball back.

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Juan wouldn’t speak to me, which was fine, because I couldn’t understand what he would have been saying anyway. The great thing about three year olds is that they find ways to communicate without using words because sometimes they can’t think of the right ones. I handed him some paper and a big bucket of crayons. He stared at me blankly. I handed him a blue crayon and pointed to the paper. He started coloring meticulously, scribbling all over the page, like it was his sworn duty to color every inch of it. Like I had given him a mission. Eventually the crayon caught on the paper wrapper and he handed it back to me. I ripped some of the paper off and handed it back. “Brilliant!” the look on his face said. He squatted down and started using his stubby little fingers to pry the rest of the paper off the crayon. When he finished, he handed it back to me, beaming. I looked at my watch. We still had two hours to kill. I picked out another crayon, peeled a bit of the paper off to get it started, and handed it back. He ripped all the paper off again. This went on with about six more crayons, until he started taking crayons and exasperatedly peeling off the paper, as though he were divinely obligated to do so. It was the entire purpose of his being and it burdened him the way factory workers are burdened with manual labor in order to support their families. Finally, our time was up, and I handed him back to his mother. It was like punching his time card. He was finally off the clock.

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Most people ignore all the stray dogs in the area. They’re not like dogs in America: they’re more calm, less spoiled. There was a mangy-looking dog around the classroom, who was just looking for a bit of love and maybe some food. He wasn’t bothering anyone. However, this woman, whose name I don’t know, dressed completely in traditional Andean attire, threw rocks at the dog, all the while shouting Spanish curses at it. She didn’t throw them to hit the dog, just aimed them so that they would land near it and it would scurry away. It didn’t work, though. The dog kept coming back.

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For me, this little girl is a perfect symbol of Huaycan. Maybe at first glance, she looks dirty, and poor, and maybe we assume that we should give her charity because of that. In actuality, she’s dirty because she’s been out playing all day with her friends. She may be poor, like the rest of the community, but despite that, no one seems to want for anything.

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Jefferson was the quintessential Bad Boy of his class. Because of the language barrier, I would point to my eyes and then point to him to show him that I was keeping an eye on him. So he started doing it back to me, repeatedly, and laughing hysterically, as though my watching him had any bearing on his classroom behavior at all. Despite all this, he was one of my favorite students.

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These guys were just rocking out in Barranco. When they saw I had pulled out my camera, they started serenading me.

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Peru: day 9

I went from having a significant amount of free time to having none really fast. I have an hour to kill at the moment though so I thought I’d update on the shenanigans of the last few days.

Day 5

I had a ton of downtime on Monday but the day was kind of boring and not worth writing about. I hand washed my laundry which was a horrible failure for the most part. I have the soapy water part down but not the getting things clean part. The washing machine makes it look so easy!

Day 6

Because our teaching program is for after school/work and weekends, our weekends are on Wednesdays and Thursdays. On weekends, everyone treks to Lima (two hours via combi) for a weekend of money spending, good food, and general awesomeness.

On Tuesday, after a full day of teaching, we got dressed up and headed to Lima for salsa. Thankfully, I was not required to salsa because it seems awfully complicated and people get sweaty while doing it. And there’s a lot of foot-stepping-on which I’m not fond of. But I was happy holding drinks and jackets for everyone else and watching in awe as these amazing, attractive Peruvian dancers salsa-ed.

It was very Casablanca. (And by that I’m referring to the temperature in the club, the music, and the romantic-ish atmosphere.)

We stayed in a hostel called the Lima Wari which I will discuss in more detail at the end of my trip. I’m staying my last few days in town there next week.

Day 7

After a decent hostel breakfast and a cold shower (there was hot water, I just couldn’t figure out how to work the damn thing), we visited a little cafe for lattes. The rest of the day was spent shopping. In the evening, all us ladies got gussied up (I did only to the best of my ability, which still means I looked like a potato with a crooked line of lipstick on it) and went to this amazing fancy burger joint.

I’d tell you about the rest of my evening, but it was so strange that I’m typing out my first of a series of memoirs of my trip to post when I can accurately punctuate the Spanish parts of it.

Day 8

The damp atmosphere of Lima attacked my sinuses so I decided breathing was more important and took allergy medication. Allergy meds and I don’t get along. I learned that while abroad, they turn me into a grumpy, tired, irate mess. So I’m just going to forget yesterday even happened.

Day 9 (today!)

More teaching. More dirt. More combis. More yummy food. More reading. More thinking. It’s all good.

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Peru: day 2

I’m finally here. And happy. The happy took a bit to get to.

As always, I find airports fascinating places for people watching, so the trip here was fun and enlightening. I finished Kerouac’s On the Road during my 8 hour flight which really helped put me in the right mental state for this trip.

I had no idea that airlines treat you nicer when you fly internationally. We got free TV and movies, two meals, and pretty much nonstop drink service. They also let us fill out the customs forms on the plane.

The worst part about the trip was that the airline broke my luggage. I’ll see what I can do about getting it replaced and keep you updated so that you’ll know how said airline handles such situations.

The house manager picked me up at the airport and we drove about an hour to get to the community of Huaycan. The traffic here is intense to say the least. Everybody honks all the time and fender benders are a frequent occurrence.

The house I’m staying at is a bright blue three story building of which LLI inhabits the top two floors. I’m in a room with two other volunteers (out of 11 who are staying here right now) and I have the top bunk which I’m not thrilled about but it’s fine.

Everything is covered in a thick layer of dust.

There is hot water but it only lasts a few minutes and you have to let it charge for 15 before you even get in the shower. I’m okay with cold showers though.

I walked around the town today and cannot adequately describe it without large hand gestures and a lot of “y’know?”s. There are stray dogs everywhere and dust and mountains and traffic and parades and bodegas and little shops and it’s just nuts.

It wasn’t until I had orientation that the cloud of fear and anxiety finally lifted and I felt really excited and happy to be here.

And the food. Dear lord the food. They have a woman who makes lunch and dinner every day and it’s authentic Peruvian cuisine and I just can’t even handle how delicious it is. Breakfast every morning is fresh bread and jam. Lunch is the big meal and dinner is more of a large snack.

I have my first class in a couple hours and I have to take public transportation to get there so I’m sure that’ll be an experience in itself.

Will try to write tomorrow.

Sorry for any typos and the lack of artistry in my writing. Tablet typing is lame.

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