A copious amount of exciting events have happened these past two blogpost-less days, but I wanted to take the time this Saturday morning to explain some things.
I know that in my writings, I haven't really emphasized the environmental and living conditions here. Although all the volunteers, Tino's family, and everyone who lives in the inner city get the comfort of (mostly) paved streets, a 2-story mall (equipped with a movie theater, restaurants, and plenty of stores), electricity, internet, and an over all relatively modern housing, the vast majority of people who live on the outskirts of town are just plain impoverished.
The "Tinkuy" part of the name of Tinkuy Perú Mountain School is Quechua, an indigenous language, meaning a congregation or meeting of people. It stands for the volunteers meeting different volunteers, volunteers meeting children, children meeting children, and this big melting pot of cultures. As I have mentioned in a previous post, the school is located right at the foot of the mountain, at the edge of the city. Because of this, an abundant amount of the students are from impecunious (very poor) families, who live in run-down dirt houses, with 10 people living in the same room. Without electricity, heating, or proper flooring, things are really nasty, especially when it rains. Can you imagine living in mud?
Most of the children as well as the parents don't have a variety of clothes to choose from, either. The kids come to school in the same outfit everyday, with dirtied sleeves, ripped jeans, shirts that are 5 sizes too small, and do not get washed. In fact, some of the kids themselves probably never get washed! Their faces are cracked and dry from the anhydrous Andean climate, and their parents don't care; most of them just don't have access to lotion or cream, and have more important matters to worry about anyway.
The other night, we (the volunteers) were walking back home at around 12 AM from a little cake café. It was freezing cold, and we were all bundled up in layers of sweaters, scarves, legwarmers, and in Adele's case, the Tinkuy Perú tracksuit. From a distance, we could see a group of young boys (probably 4-6 years of age) playing at the side of the mall. "What the hell are they doing at midnight, dressed only in t-shirts at this ungodly hour?!" I thought to myself. As we approached them, it became evident that they were playing some sort of makeshift game of soccer, using their jackets as boundaries for their tiny field, and an empty water bottle as their ball. Squealing, yelling, and laughing, it was obvious that they were having a great time, regardless of the cold or the lack of proper equipment.
"Do their parents not mind?" I wondered aloud, before I had even thought about my question.
"They probably don't even have parents," Josy had to remind me.
The whole way home, I thought about how poor yet happy they seemed, how difficult life must be for them at such a young age, and what would become of them when they got older. I wanted to cry. I realized that the most likely scenario is that they would become a street gang and be those drunkards hanging around corners all day, drinking from 8 AM to whenever the bar closes. You hear stories of these cases all the time and you can't help but wonder, why them? Why does this have to happen to such innocent and charming children? Why must some 4 year olds have to stand for 14 hours a day at the daily market with only a scale and a sad look on their faces, waiting for a generous passerby to come and weigh themselves so that they could collect a few centimos? And yet just a few miles away, other 4 year olds get to play and sing the alphabet at school, happily and obliviously? I don't understand.
Our students love coming to school. They whine and wail when we say there are no classes. They ask if they could come anyways just to play. Our kids are just so nice. It breaks my heart to hear about how even our kids, the older boys at school, are getting into cigarettes and alcohol. They think it's cool because they've never been educated about drugs, and besides, what better things do they have to do?
Even though I know there's not whole lot I can do to change the situation of these people, I'm so glad I can take part in bettering the lives of the students of Tinkuy Perú Mountain School. We teach them English, math, science, and hygiene, play games with them, take them on hikes (though it's more like them taking us on hikes, haha), and give them clothes.
This Wednesday, my last day here, we are going to distribute the clothes that have been donated to us by various volunteers. Last night, Samara, Adele, and I spent about an hour sorting out and assigning clothes to the students, and even though the clothes are all used and some have little stains or tears on them, I know that they will love every article of clothing, and I'm so excited to see the looks on their faces.
When I get home, I'm going to create a Facebook event or something, asking for clothing donations. I'll start a clothing drive at school and I am be more than willing to pay the $200 shipping cost, if it means giving the children some sort of happiness, which I know it will. I love them so much. I already know that I'll be coming back next summer. I've ranted and worried for a long time that I never felt truly passionate about anything, that I've never had specific goal in life, or a motivating factor. And now I do. I feel like this is turning into something bigger than anything I had imagined and it's absolutely thrilling.
I am happy to say that I have been changed for good.
I am happy to say that I have been changed for good.