Trujillo: Settling in for my Assignment

I’m now in my Espaanglisch hostel where the last several days have been a bit of a blur. Interesting things are happening faster than I can possibly write about them so I’ll start with a synopsis and then post more details about specific aspects later.

Arrival in Huanchaco: The Otra Cosa (OC) organization arranged for a taxi to pick me up at the Trujillo bus station and take me the final 12 miles to the seaside town of Huanchaco, where they are headquartered. I spent less than 24 hours in Huanchaco, staying in a hostel near the OC office, and receiving an “induction” on the

My Hostel in Huanchaco: Palm Trees Support Walls

following morning. It seems most NGOs use this word induction for what I would call an “orientation.” (For me, induction brings memories of entering the US Army :-).) I met Emily who runs the day-to-day operations of OC, and learned she is from West Orange, New Jersey!  Two volunteers conducted my orientation, Rose from Spain and Jual from Portugal, and they did a nice job of providing an overview of the many programs OC runs in this area. I also got safety tips, a warning about the prevalence of counterfeit bills, and a tour of Huanchaco. Huanchaco is a seaside town where many foreigners live/visit and where surfing is a major industry. Rose and her husband Adrian invited me to lunch and we enjoyed a soup and rice entree at a vegetarian restaurant. Two volunteers from Manchester, England joined us there. They all made me feel very welcome. At 3:00 I met Najin, the nice young Korean woman who runs the OC program, and she took me to my assignment in Trujillo by taxi. As an OC volunteer I have a standing invitation to join the Thursday volunteer lunches and to participate in the monthly “tour” of all OC projects. I certainly hope to do this, assuming I can fit it into my what promises to be very busy schedule. Finally, Huanchaco is a very interesting place in its own right so I will post more about it including photos/videos in a future post.

Trujillo/Espaanglisch: Najin and I were met at the Espaanglisch (ESP) hostel by program coordinator Tomilyn and former program coordinator Elizabeth. Tomilyn, a nice young lady from Seattle who, at her young age, has already traveled the world extensively, showed me to my room and spent a couple of hours getting me familiar with the house, the program and the neighborhood. She also introduced me to the other 3 volunteers already here. These are Daniel, a nice young man from Germany, and Alex and Holly, two nice young ladies from Maine who have degrees in education. All three of them are in the midst of long tours of multiple South American countries, something I find quite impressive. A day or so after I arrived we got another new volunteer, a nice young African-American man named Marcus. He is from a suburb of Little Rock, Arkansas. At present, the ESP house is fully occupied so Marcus is living in a hostel near here: he will move in with us in the near future when a room becomes available.

I have my own bedroom and share a bathroom with the other volunteers. There is hot water and, despite the absence of air conditioning or fans, it is cool enough to sleep at night. We have a communal kitchen area where we store our own foods and have access to the stove and refrigerator. The head of ESP, David Mercedes, lives here as does his Aunt Carmen. We call her Tia Carmen (Aunt Carmen) but, since she is slightly younger than me, I’m thinking about calling her “Hermanita Carmen” (little sister.) She speaks no English but she is very friendly and willing to slow down and repeat things to help me understand. We can communicate a little now and I’m looking forward to the time when our conversation is not so limited by my difficulties with Spanish.

Carmen basically runs the household and this includes taking care of 5 cats (3 adults and 2 kittens: very cute but somewhat feral) and 10 or 15 guinea pigs. I had heard it is common for Peruvians to keep guinea pigs in their homes to use in their cooking but I thought that was probably only in the rural areas. When my Spanish improves, I will ask Carmen if many/most people around here also have guinea pigs in their homes.

Some of the cats in our ESP House

Guinea Pigs in courtyard just off the kitchen

Spanish Conversation Class My first evening here happened to be on a Tuesday: Spanish conversation class night. For about 90 minutes, two local, college-age English/Spanish teachers conducted conversation exercises/games where no English is allowed. Lourdes and Noe are engaged to be married and both are excellent, dynamic teachers. Although I was, by far, the poorest Spanish speaker there and felt pretty intimidated, they made it so much fun that I really enjoyed it and I look forward to next week’s class. (I will take my video camera to one of the Spanish conversation classes in the future, assuming all participants are OK with it.) Since that evening I have scheduled private 1-on-1 Spanish lessons with Noe. My first lessons was last Thursday and I found it to be very helpful. We speak primarily in Spanish but he allows me to change to English if I need to ask something too difficult for me to express in Spanish. He gave me homework too: to write something describing my typical day at home in diary format (present tense!) I’ve already scheduled 3 more lessons with Noe for next week.

Summer School Winds Down: Over the Peruvian summer (winter in northern hemisphere), ESP volunteers have been assisting another local NGO: Una Sonrisa de Amor (A Smile of Love) in a summer school program for children in one of the neighborhoods most distant from the city. Alto Trujillo is a poor area, high on the dusty slopes of a nearby mountain. To get there from here we start with a 15-minute walk to the USDA office in the center of town. There, we join about 10 USDA volunteers and pile into 2 or 3 taxis for the 30 minute ride to Alto Trujillo. The summer school program concluded yesterday with a party at the little dirt-floored schoolhouse where it has been held all summer. The party was great fun – since my ability to communicate verbally is still very limited, dancing together was a nice alternative way of making a connection with the kids and the non-English-speaking volunteers. In the video below, you’ll follow me and my fellow ESP volunteers as we make our way from our house to the school and partake in the festivities marking the final day of school.
Video: Last Day of Alto Trujillo Summer School (click on photo)

Next Week: Regular School Year Starts: We are all busy planning to teach English next week at one of the 2 primary schools we support. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday we will teach grades 1 through 5 at Simon Bolivar school. We will be at the school from 8am until 12:30pm but only teach for a portion of that. Throw in the commuting and I consider it a full day’s work (although maybe that’s the perspective of a retired person.) The following week we will start doing the same thing at a second school, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so we’ll be teaching 5 days a week. We also offer walk-in “Gringlish” conversation sessions on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday evening. Our clients for these sessions are adults who want to work on their English conversation skills. Although there shouldn’t be much preparation required for the conversation classes there is preparation for the primary school curriculum. It all feels like a bit much right now but I will try to just take it one day at a time and see how it goes. I’m sure it will get easier as I get more familiar with what it all entails.

OK, that’s all for now – gotta study Spanish and think about a lesson plan for 5th graders for Wednesday. I will post much more later but it might be until next weekend before I can get to it!

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