For all of Cuzco's amazing heritage it is also the country's capital for illiteracy, alcoholism and domestic violence. So of course the usual victims of such problems are the women and children. A few weeks ago Xylia and I participated in a country wide celebration and a city wide march for women and their right to a life without violence.
Working at Aldea Yanapay has changed me. At first I thought I would just join along to make sure Xylia was comfortable volunteering in a new place....not that I didn't want to. Honestly I thought I would have Xylia work there so she could have some independence, but when you walk in that school, it's hard not to feel the love and want to be a part of it.
The school is located in a rougher part of Cuzco to serve the local kids...yet some walk up to an hour to get there. All the kids when they come in wash their hands and face, get some lotion and hug and kiss every teacher or adult there. Physical affection is really important at Yanapay, the machismo and heavy catholic influence, mixed with a disenfranchised population makes for an abusive life. Even in the schools it is customary for teachers to use physical, psychological, verbal and emotional violence. So to show these kids that there are adults in their life that hug, kiss laugh and show affection for no other reason than ...just because is of great importance. Even when they break boundaries and cross lines, it's important to let them know when and how, but always hug and kiss after.
When I first arrived I was put in the "familia sol" 9-11 year old. Now this can be an age challenging at times even in your own language...but a new language....forget it!! We were both frustrated, but as time went on, we found our place, and now they sweetly remind me "profe, no hablo ingles" when I would slip or gently correct my spanish grammar.
The 2 weeks I was there the subjects I was to teach were Indian dancing and Indian rituals....(surprisingly not chosen by me!) Every week after the kids have help with homework, play games and art, we all go to our classrooms and learn about a new subject. And on Fridays we perform something for the whole school! We did an interpretive dance about the creation of Durga. Then the next week we learned all about a child's first rituals in India, and did a small skit. I taught them about the symbol OM and I taught them the Durga mantra! They were sooooo cute! We've definitely had our struggles and bad days...but I was there for 2 boy's birthdays (which I got them a little treat for....sshh!) and I found an indian restaurant and got them a each a sweet for our last day.
I had to stop volunteering for a few weeks while I'm completing a yoga teacher training, and it hasn't been easy. I didn't realize how attached to those kids I would get....but I think about them daily. I think i see them in the street sometimes, and I imagine going back to see them again. Aldea Yanapay does a lot for these kids, and I feel like I want to give all I have to them. They have to wear the same clothes everyday, and I think about what I'm paying to keep in storage....I think about the laws of karma, and how we are born.
Last night I heard about one of the boys in my class, Andres. His mother came looking for him at the school, she didn't know where he was, but he wasn't there either. Andres' story and life is a hard one, he just turned 11(I got him a special cookie for his b-day) but after school he has to work all night in the streets selling candy, competing for attention with drug dealers and dealing with an even darker side of Cusco than I'll ever see. Andres' mother came looking for him because she doesn't know where he is....I pray he finds his way home.
|all the kids and Yuri the founder in thee center|
|playing in the games room|
|watching the show, me siting with Anais, & Andres in front w/ the red headband|
besos y abrasos, pilar