Always say yes….
I was feeling a little stuck on what to do with my time — not enough time to really go anywhere else, too rainy to go trekking. I did many of the local day hikes. What next? I read guidebooks, I looked through newspapers, asked people — but I felt a little stuck.
I heard of a local school run by a nonprofit that was trying to do education a little different. I made contact and she invited me up to see the property and the school. So, on Thursday morning, I headed up to visit. The property itself was beautiful, up near the mountains. And the school was interesting – trying to do things differently. I met the teacher, watched the 12 kids, ages 3-5 play and then headed back down the mountain. It was a 3K walk to where I could catch the colectivo (which is basically a mini-van that acts as a bus between short distances).
On my way down, I ran into the teacher who was also headed to the colectivo. We started talking and came to realize that we were both biology teachers. She was headed to her second job – another school where she taught for two afternoons a week – and she invited me to join in! So, of course I said yes.
We had to get lunch on the way – she asked me if I had tried ceviche yet (basically raw fish that is stewed in an acidic juice that ‘cooks’ the fish). I had really wanted to try it, but was a little afraid of choosing the right place – raw fish just seems to me to be one of those things that I did not want to choose wrong for! So – this seemed to be a great opportunity. Surely a local would know where to go! And I did not go wrong – it was delicious!
Then, we headed to her school – which is a private school, though the building was dull, a bit run down and seemingly put together in a hurry. The classrooms were cement floors, the plywood walls separating the classrooms seemed haphazardly built and some of the rooms did not have doors. The teachers had no supplies except chalk for the boards. And this was a private school.
In any case, Flor took me to her three science classes. One was roughly a 7th grade, another was maybe 8th or 9th and the third maybe 9th or 10th. In each class, I introduced myself and talked about my travels. As I have mentioned, my spanish is not fabulous and my accent is even worse (the words pero and perro sound the same, caro and carro – same). And of course these are teenagers — so they giggled over my words and accent. But Flor, being a smart teacher, told them that I couldn’t speak well but that I could understand everything! 🙂 They asked about food in America (um, everyone else’s food?), travel in India (with amazement that they do not eat meat OR chicken there!), and whether I liked peru (si, me gusta mucha!).
It was so fun visiting with them, they were all so cute in their uniforms (basically a track suit with the the school’s insignia all over it). There was lots of staring and shy smiles. They laughed when I said all the verbs in Spanish were tough, and even agreed with me! We talked about college and I told them about the school I use to work at and about my students. It was great.
Following the classes (3 classes, each 1.5 hours), Flor and I walked back (turns out she lives right near the guesthouse I have been staying at). On the way, we stopped for dinner — anticucho – a peruvian dish — which is basically grilled cow heart with fries (of course — as no meal here is complete without papas). It was delicious (as long as I did not get too focused on the texture).
All in all, it was such a fun day — what a surprise!
We spoke in spanish (or castellano as it is called here) all day — there were a number of times when I just barely understood her and answered her question in a slightly related way. But she was patient with me and helped me with my verb tenses (damn you past and future! I just want to be in the moment!).
The next day, we met early in the morning and I went to her class with her for the little kids – who were adorable. One of them, who definitely would be one of the boys that would later be one of the ones in my class that I do well with (a little wild, a little off the wall, a little too spontaneous) , would come running up to me, throw his arms around my neck and hang on while giving me a kiss on the cheek. I mean, how can you not fall a little in love?!
I felt super useful too, because I helped Flor translate some activities she had in a book that was all in English — so that was fun for me (and good practice — I have some new words in my vocabulary. Like planchar, though not super useful!).
This unexpected day and a half was a great reminder for me in my waning days of travel. Always say yes (i mean, unless no is a smarter choice). But — say yes to the unexpected. Trust your gut. Go big and trust the world. Say yes.
Pictures are from my hike to Laguna 69.