¡Saludos desde Perú! Greetings from Peru!
I’ve been here here for five days now and on all fronts I’ve been having an amazing time. I don’t even know where to begin in terms of describing everyone I have met, everything I have seen and experienced so far, but I will do my best to write in chronological order.
Harumi and Ashley (the other Chalice/Centro Esperanza interns) and I arrived safe and sound in the Peruvian capital late on Tuesday night. (To get to know my fellow interns better, see the ACIC blog posting about us and other ACIC interns in various countries). After a few hesitant seconds in front of the large crowd waiting to pick people up, we saw Sister Kayla and two others who work at the Chalice sponsor site “PINIFE” waiting with a sign toting our names. They greeted up with hugs and kisses and we then took a 40 minute taxi ride with them to get to a retreat house called “El Buen Pastor” (The Good Shepherd), in “La Salamanca” neighbourhood. We were 8 people and 5 big suitcases, 3 backpacks and a violin in a taxi meant for 7 people at most, but when in Lima…
(when I woke up to car horns and tweeting ‘pájaros’, birds):
The roads were rocky and there stairs have only recently been installed along with retaining walls. At one point we saw a group of about ten mothers (fitted with hard hats) constructing a retaining wall high above us on the mountain side! As we got near the middle of the mountain we entered a smaller state-run health clinic which deals with children up to the age of five. A young nurse explained that she works in another hospital but is completing her mandatory one-year public service commitment at the clinic (I believe this is a requirement for all university graduates in Peru).
Next we saw a typical home which was the friend of our Sister tour guide, un tal José (a certain Joe). The house was pre-fabricated and very tiny –I mean about 4m by 3.5 m –but well organized with its bunk beds, stove and shelves. Outside was a new bathroom (shower, toilet and sink) constructed thanks to donations through the Chalice gift catalogue. Unfortunately José does not have the money to expand his house on the rest of his lot (it is very rocky and would have to be leveled), but he uses it for his clothes line and as a place for his dog.
Soon after saying adiós to José we arrived at a view point. From there we could see many businesses, houses and schools in the valley which we had come from. There was still a lot of mist, but large apartment buildings were somewhat visible. Making our way around the front of el cerro, we ran into some Chalice sponsor children, including one in particular whom I was looking for, Cinthia, because I had a small gift for her from her sponsor parent in Halifax, one of my co-workers. (I gave her the card and gift –a Smurf colouring book and crayons– later when she came to the PINIFE site. She was pleased to see the picture of her sponsor family, who has actually visited her in Lima. Later I found out that Cinthia and her older sister and brother are orphans and live with their aunt).
Next we headed to their local elementary school where children were waiting to be picked up. Some of the older girls were practicing a dance to the Portuguese song “Kuduro” with their instructor, including Lara, a 10 year old violinist who I’d also see at the PINIFE site later on. [That evening Lara proudly played some scales and tunes for her peers, teachers and I. She has recently joined an orquesta sinfónica juvenil (symphony youth orchestra), no surprise because her precision in tuning and bowing are excellent. I began teaching her ‘Ashokan Farewell’ using her 1/2 size violin to demonstrate and she was quick to imitate the notes each time I handed her back her violin. Unfortunately we had to go to a group meeting all too soon, but I think she will go far in music. When she told me that one of her brothers plays the cello, another the violin and that her father plays la guitarra, I smiled with delight knowing that she will likely have support from her family to continue playing].
After a delicious lunch with the Sisters back down at the office at the base of the hill, we returned to the PINIFE site and spent several hours in the company of very joyful people including Sisters, teachers and a bunch of happy kids. There were lots of questions asked and answered, photos taken and hugs and kisses given. At the group meeting mentioned above Sister Kayla explained to the children the importance of going to school and getting good grades; the meeting concluded with a funny skit acted out by the teachers and psychologist –and even me!– about a typical day at PINIFE. While the children ate sandwiches and drank hot chocolate their mothers (and some fathers) came to collect them, at around 9pm.
I didn’t bring my camera up to El Pino because I was told it may be risky. I’ll try to get the photos off someone, but really, just imagine a lot of joyful children in various school uniforms and casual play clothes among their crayons, books, backpacks and mini tables and chairs 🙂
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–> Here in Chiclayo at 6:30pm, the sun is setting over the little park in front of my host family’s home. I am living with a 26 year old host sister J. and her parents I. and C. All in all, I am extremely pleased with my host family and the staff from Centro Esperanza who have been showing Harumi, Ashley and I around the office and some of the sites where they work. We received a very warm welcome at the Centro Esperanza office and each of the sites we have visited. Here is a snippet of what I’ve been up to since my arrival in this coastal city in northwestern Peru…
My host parents Graciela (with the pink sweater) and Isaac, who are the parents of the son-in-law of Vitalina from Centro Esperanza (in between Isaac and I), a friendly woman who I actually met in Canada before coming here!
One of the Centro Esperanza programs in action yesterday afternoon in “La Ladrillera”,
the southern outskirts of Chiclayo where rice fields were recently harvested and many new houses are being built. The program runs out of the home of one of the mothers whose two daughters participate in it.
A visit this afternoon to a ‘programa de nutrición’ (in “Antonio Raimundi”, a more urban part of southern Chiclayo) run according to a schedule on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays by local mothers for 50 children;
today it ran as a special occasion for us interns.
We were given a warm welcome with songs and this thoughtful decoration…
Looking forward to more happy and colourful moments during the next six months in Sud América 😀