The past two days have been a blur - very busy and filled with many new experiences. We have been working in three different schools, are being treated like celebrities, and definitely feel that we are ambassadors of US culture and education. Add in the brain energy of speaking a lot of Spanish, trying to figure out what people are saying to us, navigating the streets of an unfamiliar and very busy small city without a map, eating unfamiliar foods, and living at above 10,000 feet, and you can imagine that I am very tired. This is an intense experience to put it mildly.
Yesterday and today we taught students in Clever's English classes on two different campuses. The way the schedule is set up, we will be teaching every day this week, but not see the same students twice. Unfortunately, they only have English class once a week, so their acquisition of the language is difficult and slow. What they lack in English skills, though, they make up for in enthusiasm. After we teach our two activities, the students ask us questions, sometimes in English, sometimes in Spanish. Some of our answers get really wild reactions, students ooooooing and aaaaaaahing like Americans watching fireworks on Independence Day. They practically squeal with delight when they learn that we have tried ceviche and like it. Some of our answers leave them very puzzled, like the fact that Brian doesn't have children in spite of being married.
The students are so excited to see us. It is very different being in an all-girls school. There is a different dynamic and different level of energy. Students are very engaged for the most part and the biggest classroom management issue is their overexcitement and noise - but they are on task and want to learn and know about us. I think they feel very honored to have us at their schools. And it truly is an honor to have this experience and to have such an inside view into the lives of Tarmeños. These students are so proud to be from Tarma and to share their culture with us.
Yesterday afternoon we also attended a presentation on the exchange of our cultures. Students had prepared a beautiful slideshow about Tarma, and Brian and I presented our slideshow about Louisiana and Arizona. After that we taught a workshop to English teachers in the area. We did two activities with them that we had planned and also presented them with gifts we had brought. These teachers are very committed to their students and are very interested in learning themselves. It was a lot of fun and it was satisfying to contribute to the educational system here in Tarma.
This afternoon the three of us piled into a small taxi with six other people to travel to Picoy, a small town about 20 minutes from Tarma. There we were treated to lunch prepared by the teachers and facilitated an activity with students in the courtyard. This was the activity that Brian prepared, involving a cord and beads to express relative distance between objects in the solar system. He ended it with a short talk about how incredibly huge the universe is, with not only our solar system, but uncountable systems within each galaxy, and uncountable galaxies within the universe. And yet, in spite of this universe being so gigantic, we all live on the same tiny blue planet called Earth, and we are really not as far apart or as different from one another as we often think we are.
There have definitely been moments today when I felt overwhelmed and a bit unmoored. I believe the term for this is culture shock, although to me, the 'shock' part of it is a bit of a misnomer. For me, it feels more like I am slowly realizing the extent of my privilege. It is a sense of beginning to understand the security and ease of living in a country as developed as the US. I am struggling a bit with how to convey this awakening in terms that are comfortable to me and that protect the people here. There is also a bit of internal confusion about how to reconcile my sense of injustice with the current state of educational funding in Arizona with what I am seeing here in Peru. It is a lot to process and come to terms with, and I feel that this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. I will need some time to fully understand the meaning of my stay here and the lessons I am learning.