Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Godforsaken Rollercoaster

I will go for weeks - weeks! - of loving my life here.  I am sure I will stay a third year and in fact may just stay in Peru for ever.  Doesn't the old world sound so boring and tame?  Doesn't the freeness and insanity of this place make me feel amazing?  Isn't the jungle calling my name to go stay in forever?  And then one day, today, I will just wake up with it all gone again.  (I am blaming Jaime Oliver for this because nothing else was different about last night.)  I wake up and I just don't want to face it.  I don't want to hear the same stupid stories on the stoop.  I don't want to watch everything around me fail with a dull plop of apathy.  I don't want to see everyone not care and just keep waiting for things in their community to change, for someone else to do it.  I don't want to be the circus freak yelled at on the street at least once a block - still.  I am just done.

It was the last day today of yet another section of Future Planning courses with the kiddies at the high school.  I skipped up this time to make sure I get all the seniors done before the end of the school year in two months.  So I had sixty "high school seniors" in a room for a couple hours today, working on college savings plans.  I am always a bit demoralized on the last day of this course, as it is The Day with the Math.  It hit so much harder this time though because I went a few grades up.  I thought for sure it would be different.

All they have to do is put the total amount of money they need and the number of years they will save.  They then turn this number of years into a number of months and divide the total to get the amount they need to save each month.  Not too tough right?  I am pretty sure any one of us could pull this off by the age of nine at the latest.  In our heads by the time we're 11.  We are working with simple round numbers.

They couldn't do it.  I mean a few could.  The ones with parents wealthy enough to take them in for special schooling in the city during vacations.  Two of them.  The rest were calling me over for (exact quotes,)

"How may months in two years?"
"Well, there's 12 months in a year..."
"Yeah, but how many in two?
"Well you just multiply 12 by 2."
"I can't do that."
"It's 24."

or, with one who is much better at this...

"How many months in 10 years?"
"Multiply 12 by 10."
"Ok, 12... 24... What's next?"

and many other such forehead slappers.  It's these times that I just don't know what to do anymore.  It took over an hour to get all of these students through writing down and doing the math on one goal.  They had to wait for either me or the one calculator to get to them.

After, I called my friend Ellen, lamenting the fact that I am in this slump today.  She was feeling it today too and we talked about the whys and the hows.  These kids have been in school for four hours a day for the last ten years.  They do have math class.  The thing is, the professors just write the problems on the board, with the answers, and the kids copy them down.  The same as every other class.  It is unlikely the teachers even know how to do the math.  When the kids read, they have some solid basic literacy, but absolutely ZERO reading comprehension.  They can read Green Eggs and Ham aloud to you (I am talking 15 year olds here) but afterwards, they have no clue what it was about.  None.  Just words on a page.  They know how to read them, how to say them and, maybe, if you ask about one, they can tell you what it means.  But string them all together - waaaaay too much.  And then you just wonder what the hell you can ever do.  You just want to run to Lima and run screaming into the Ministry of Education asking them what the hell they think they're doing with their teacher trainings?  But you can't.

Things I have had for breakfast, just this week: sheep tongue, intestine stuffed with stomach lining, river clams.

Tomorrow will be better.  Next week I will be back to my good ol' staying-here-forever self.

1 comment:

  1. Today I started some activities for the Peru Map project. I went to the senior girls class (because they´re divided by girls and boys) and handed out blank maps of Peru. I then asked them to fill in as many departments they could from memory. After telling them 20 billion times to quit cheating by looking in a book and quit talking with their neighbors,I finally just took them away from them to see what they could accomplish in the 10 minutes I gave them. Maybe three of them correctly labelled Lambayeque--their OWN department. The rest....
    When I was 15, I had to label every country in the world and it´s capital. IN THE WORLD. All 50 states and their capitals came way before that.