Goodbye to Trujillo

I’m sitting in my very nice hostel room in Huaraz, where I’m trying to recover from a sleepless night on the bus and to adjust to the thin air here at 10,000 feet above sea level.  My first impressions of Huaraz are…. Wow! … but I’ll write more about that later.  In this post, I want to describe my final days in Trujillo.

My Final English Classes at the Primary Schools
All week I was keenly aware that each class was my final one with these particular kids. I had decided not to tell any of the kids I would be leaving but made an exception for Samita, the little girl who has referred to me as “grandpa.” It didn’t seem to phase her. Elizabeth, who has a lot of experience with these kinds of things, told me that it may be beyond the kids’ comprehension to imagine someone going away to another country and not returning. People here cannot really afford to travel so the kids may think that if someone is here now, they will always be here.

On Thursday, my final class day, we taught pre-school, grade 5 and grade 3. Pre-school was fun because the kids are getting more comfortable with us and seem to look forward to our arrival. I led the kids in singing a very simple song: “Hello, hello, how are you?” sung to the tune of “London Bridge.” They seemed to like it even though the English is too hard for them. What was funny was that, every time I asked if they wanted to sing it again (“Otra vez?”) most kids cried out “Siiiiiii!!!” but one little boy drowned out all the others with “Nooooo!!!!” We sang it several times: each time I asked if they wanted to sing again his “Nooooo!!!!” was the loudest cry. It was my first exposure to a 4-year-old heckler. At break-time some of the pre-schoolers found me sitting in the shade and piled on. I pretended they were hurting me which got joyful laughter: nothing better for the soul than a belly laugh from someone under 4 🙂

Later, the same “Hello” song was well-received by the third-graders as I finished my final class. The third-grade teacher keeps the curtains drawn, stopping any air-flow and making it extremely hot in her room. My thinking that morning was “this is the last time I have to teach in this oven!” This particular teacher is also one of the most supportive to volunteers: staying in the classroom most of the time and handling discipline issues. When class ended and the children were placing their chairs on their desks, I mentioned to her that today was my last day and I thanked her for all her help. She immediately told the kids to put their chairs back on the floor and sit down. Then, she asked for volunteers to say a few words of goodbye to me. About 4 or 5 students made little speeches: I couldn’t hear much in the noisy room with their soft voices but I did recognize the “thank you for teaching us.” Tolu said she recognized “from the heart.” Despite my inability to capture the full meaning, I was touched by their efforts and sincerity. I also enjoyed many goodbye hugs, in the classroom, and as I was leaving the school

Goodbye to My Adult English Students
I’ve been teaching a basic English conversation class Mon, Wed, and Thursday evenings for the last 4 or 5 weeks . Although I enjoy it because it’s similar to my volunteer job at the Connection in Summit, there hasn’t been any continuity in student attendance: many students take advantage of the “first week free” offer but then stop coming when they must start paying the 30 soles ($12) per month. The last few weeks, my young roommate, Vinny has joined me and I think we’ve been very effective as a teaching team. Three young ladies have been regular students and our sessions have been both instructive and fun. Two of the young ladies, Merly and Maria Elena, are enrolled in a local English school and they see our class as an opportunity to practice conversation with native English speakers. They hope to get jobs on one of the cruise ships that stop at Lima. English competency is an important prerequisite for getting hired, even for people working as housemaids.

On Thursday, Maria Elena gave me a nice Peru key-chain as a going-awy gift. And, she and Merly asked us if we would like to have dinner with some friends. It took me a few minutes to understand that what she meant was they had brought cheese, bread, and juice and would like to provide our dinner. So, after class, we enjoyed a delicious, light meal together. They both expressed their appreciation for my efforts to help them with their English and I was touched to hear it. The evening before, we had taken the photos you see below. It was really nice to finish my adult classes on such a high note.

Lupe, Vinnie, Maria Elena, John and Merly

Goodbye to Espaanglisch
I had told everyone in the Espaanglisch hostel that all I wanted for my “goodbye” was to have dinner together on Friday evening, before I headed to the bus station. So, Elizabeth, Tolu, Vinnie and Marcas and I enjoyed a nice dinner at one of my favorite restaurants (see photo below.)

John, Tolu, Marcas, Elizabeth & Vinnie at Panotti's Restaurant

I had wanted Tia Carmen and Tia Ana (her sister) to join us but had no luck getting them out of the house. I wanted to buy their dinner as a gesture of thanks for all the hard work they had done making our house livable, and for their patience (well, usually) in helping me communicate in Spanish. Since I couldn’t get them to come to dinner, I ordered a cake with “Muchas Gracias, Tia Carmen y Tia Ana” on it. After dinner we all enjoyed the cake and I got some nice photos. Unfortunately, Tia Carmen stubbornly refused to pose for any photographs. As time for my departure neared, my two Spanish teachers, Noe and Lourdes, came by. They had wanted to come to dinner but were busy teaching in Huanchaco. Tolu made a nice speech about how much she had enjoyed working with me. Noe and Lourdes gave me nice gifts, as did Elizabeth. Noe’s gift was a tee-shirt with “Inca-Kola” on the front (Inca-Kola is the local favorite: it tastes like bubble gum.) Lourdes gave me a couple of nice key-chains and Elizabeth gave me something I can use in my next teaching assignment: wooden stamps with English sayings like “Good Job!” etc. We had a great time laughing and teasing together, including a sequence where I removed the tee-shirt while making “bump-and-grind” stripper moves. When I had it off, I threw it to my groupies (Tolu and Lourdes) who screamed in excitement. Some photos from the evening follow:

Tia Ana, Elizabeth and John

Marcas, John and Vinnie

Noe, John and Lourdes

Tolu and John

This teaching assignment has been a difficult one for me. A lot of it has been great fun and very rewarding but the long combi rides, long days and constant uncertainty of whether we were really prepared for class had worn me down. For that reason, up until the last few hours before leaving, my focus had been on finishing and moving on to a more relaxing venue. But, those final hours together made me realize I had made some nice connections with people here and it was a little difficult to say goodbye. I feel lucky to have worked with these wonderful people and I will always remember them

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