Happy one week, Arequipa!

Unlike normal relationships, where the first week of being a couple is like forcing everyone around you to live in a fluffy pink cloud of cotton candy, I’ve already come to recognize that many of the quirks that in the first few hours of being here made me go “wow!” are actually likely to drive me batshit while I’m here.

And not only is that okay, but it will be good for me.

I posted an Instagram yesterday that touched on my first day at school, but this is my first post since going to the school yesterday because, well, I’m really tired. I don’t even feel like I can say I’ve properly joined the exhausted teacher club because I’m only teaching an hour a day and then going to cancha (recess) with the kids for an hour afterward, but HOLY CANNOLI I was so tired when I got back last night. It’s even worse tonight, because I decided that the soccer field could use a little estrogen in the mix and think I’m currently experiencing altitude sickness for the first time. The giant chocolate-filled churro I had as soon as I got off the bus back to the city tonight definitely helped, though. (Not pictured because I ate it so fast that the burp that followed probably lasted longer than the time it took to eat it).

So, what are my days actually shaping up to look like? Well, I’m going to a yoga class tomorrow morning that, if enjoyable, will have me getting up at 7 A.M. on the mornings I go (I know, is “7 A.M. wake-up” and anything even a plausibly enjoyable combination?). I’m lucky enough to have most of the morning to myself, and then at about noon, a fellow volunteer and I make the 30-minute walk to the HOOP offices where we prep for class and eat lunch. At about 2:20, we take a combi (remember those?) outside of the city, and get off about 45-minutes later. Class starts promptly at 3:40, so right after disembarking we go into the classrooms and set up the room for class.

The front of the school we teach at.

This week I’m shadowing other teachers before being loosed on my own class, a reportedly large group of rowdy 7-11 year olds. It’s also International Week, meaning that we’re teaching the kids all about where we’re from and with a different age group every day, but has also been helpful for me because I’m new and don’t know where everyone I’m working with is from either. Yesterday was pretty cool because the teacher I worked with was with his usual class of roughly first-grade-aged kids; you could really tell he was in his element, calmly controlling the chaos that came with little learners who love him, but also have the attention of puppies.

Today we were with a much smaller and slightly older group, which was a pleasant change of pace. The lead teacher was able to spur on seven of the eight throughout the period with the word-banks, worksheets, and crossword he made for them, while I tucked into the back with a student who needed a little more attention.

Stumbled-upon tip of the day: If you have a student who is struggling with writing letters, notice which hand they’re using to write with before showing them what it’s supposed to look like yourself. The student I worked with today really struggled with the fine motor skills required for the more intricate letters we use, especially the letter “e,” and initially I didn’t understand why showing them how to do the letter myself wasn’t helpful–couldn’t they just watch the movements my hand made and then at least sort of copy that?

Claire, you moron, they’re LEFT-HANDED.

^^Literal transcript of the thought that popped into my head after a watching a few unsuccessful attempts.

I’m right-handed, so actually, considering that the student was using their left hand, they were copying the movement really well–just in reverse. Fortunately, my handwriting in my left hand is just about right for the age group we were working with today. I drew the letter for them with my left hand, and then, inspired, asked if I could hold their hand in mine and guide it in the proper motion for the letter. They said yes, and I took their left hand in my left hand (important because we write differently depending on which hand we’re using) and took them through the motion of drawing the letter–“e.” The pen moved across the paper and stopped, and then I took my hand away.

“Okay, all by yourself now. You can do it.”

They looked at me uncertainly. I pointed to the letter. “e” I said, emphasizing the phonic, but smiling. C’monnnn. The student put their pen to the paper and for a few moments their hand obscured what was being put on the page.

Then, they moved their hand. A perfectly acceptable “e” in big, looping font came into view.

I gave them a high-five and a fist bump, because you’re not allowed to get emotional. Emotional. Starts with an “e.”

Surrounding area by the school.
More of the surrounding area. 

Happy one week, Arequipa.

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