Teacher, do you speak Spanish?

We are long overdue for a blog update. We have had a busy, but good beginning of the school year here. When we last wrote it was summer vacation, and the children were on break from December until March. During the break we took the opportunity to get involved with teaching English at vacation school, getting to know our neighbors, and helping interpret for a large medical brigade of U.S. doctors who came primarily from MN. Emily also kept on baking with the women’s baking cooperative during the summer. They are a determined group of women who didn’t want to take the summer off! We also took a small vacation to Ecuador, which was an incredible experience. Here are some updates about our ministries for the 2013 school year.

Rafael’s ministry updates: This school year I continue being the Phys-ed teacher at the school for children with disabilities where we currently live. This part of my ministry was a highlight for me last year and continues to be this year. This year I am teaching English at the parish school called San Daniel Comboni next to the parish school Santa Rosa where we live. I am teaching not because I love teaching, but because of an underline motivation and hope to be part of a small bridge of communication to better relationships between both schools. I don’t know the history between the schools but there clearly is bad energy where the schools refuse to collaborate with one another even though they are part of the same parish and are located next to each other. Doing small activities together like going in an outing together, celebrating mass together or even having recess once a month together will hopefully begin to strengthen the relationship between the schools. Emily and I are excited to work together and be a small part of the bridge to foster an environment where both schools can collaborate and create a working relationship. After all, this year is considered the year of faith and how can two schools from the same parish live out their faith if they refuse to acknowledge each other? So far we consider our presence in San Daniel Comboni a success. I, to my surprise am enjoying teaching English classes this year and getting to know the staff and children at San Daniel Comboni. So far we’ve had success with integration by having a small lunch get together with staff from both schools. For mothers’ day, we also suggested the schools combine the two separate masses by having one mass celebration as a parish versus two separate schools in order to create more communication and a better relationship.

I am very excited for the rest of the school year to unfold. This year I have had the opportunity of taking the children from Santa Rosa, school for children with special needs, swimming every week. They absolutely love it! I unfortunately don’t have more help in the pool in order to have more one on one individualized swim lessons, but nonetheless, it has gone great. Most of them are no longer afraid to get into the water and some even dare stick their head under water. This is the joy of my ministry here is Peru. It can’t get much better than this! It is my job to take children swimming and to have fun! Sounds good to me!

Emily’s ministry updates: This school year I am teaching kindergarten and First grade English classes at the San Daniel Comboni Elementary School, which is right next door to the school where we live. It has been fun to teach the younger children. The kindergarten class has 17 five-year-olds, and they are a lot of fun and full of surprises. One day I asked the kids if they know how to say “rojo” (red) in English. One of them raises her hand and replies “Me gusta su voz” (I like your voice).” “Me too, me too,” they all start to chime in one by one. “I like your hair,” says another. “I like your face,” says yet another. “I like your mouth,” says a little boy and they all began to giggle. The funny thing is, they did nearly the same thing to Rafael when he subbed for me one day.

There has also been this funny confusion with my students as to what language is being spoken. On the first day of class a little boy in the 1st grade said to me (in Spanish) after class “Teacher, do you speak any Spanish?” I thought he was joking and said, “Well, I don’t know, what do you think?” He stared at me with a puzzled look on his face. “I don’t know,” he replied. When I realized he was serious, I asked him what language he thought I was currently speaking. “English,” she said matter-of-factly. When I explained that I was speaking Spanish one of the other boys piped up and said, “But how come you don’t sound like me?” After attempting to explain what an accent is, and demonstrating the difference between how English and Spanish sounds, I repeated the question in Spanish to the group of kids that had gathered around me. “Can anyone tell me what language I am speaking right now?” In unison they replied confidently “English!” I think this is an interesting phenomenon. I have since had similar conversations with other kids of different ages, and each time I get the same response, that they think I only speak English!

This school year I have also expanded upon my ministry from last year in the school for students with special needs (CEBE Santa Rosa). I now work with the parents and families at San Daniel Comboni as well as those from CEBE Santa Rosa. I lead workshops and events for parents at the schools. This year I have been able to coordinate some combined activities with parents at the two schools, which as Rafael mentioned is very important and which had never before occurred even though the two schools are from the same parish and are next door neighbors. I enjoy this role and working with the staff, parents, and students at both schools.

Our combined ministry efforts: We have been asked to help create a couple of afterschool programs at the Santa Monica Parish Center in the barrio of Kumamoto, on the very edge of El Porvenir, Trujillo. It is about a 10 to 15 minute walk from where we live. A couple of afternoons each week we help children with their homework, reading skills, math skills and take the opportunity to teach a little bit of English, since they all seem so eager to learn how to speak English. In the future, we want to raise funds so that we can start up a recreational center where young children and teenagers can go and have fun, feel safe, and receive positive energy. Unfortunately, the poor outskirts of El Porvenir are overflowing with young people, and there are little to no activities or safe places for them to go when they are not in school. Many turn to the streets, and hang out with people that may not have the best influence on them. A recreational center is a long term dream we’ve had since our arrival and if created, we foresee positive outcomes.