Saturday, June 30, 2007

I Was Thrilled, I Was Proud And I Am Happy

Yesterday, as I walked the 3KM's to the Katitawa School, which is located in the hills above Salasaca, I was a little preoccupied because I did not know really what to expect for the day.We had an event scheduled to begin at 10:00 AM and when I left the school the night before, nothing was ready. This event had been scheduled for the 21st of June, which in the old Inca calendar, is the Day of the Sun, and still has some significance today. We had been disappointed when we were told that because of the conflicting schedules of the dignitaries from Salasaca and Pelileo we would have to celebrate the day on the 28th. As it turned out it rained almost all day the 21st but was sunny all day on the 28th which for this area is extremely rare.

The plan is to cook a lamb the old way, in a pit lined with stones where a fire is built and when the rocks are at the desired temperature the coals are removed and the meat is stacked in the center and covered with fresh aves or lima beans in their shell. The pit is then covered and left for 45 minutes to an hour.

When I arrived at the school it was more or less as I had left it the afternoon before but when I walked over to the volleyball court I noticed that there was a neat pit lined with smooth rocks ready for fire.
The parents of some of the students had arrived earlier to prepare oven and when I heard noises in the kitchen I found it full of women preparing the rest of the menu.

Little by little the guests started to arrive and around 10:30 someone yelled that the students and teachers from the Fray Marcus School, in the center of the town were coming up the hill. For me, these were our guests of honor, and those that I wanted to impress the most. Maybe my reasons are not the purest but what the heck. The Katitawa School is the smallest and with the lowest budget of all the schools in the area. We are an alternative school, with almost no support from the government, which is fine with me because you have less strings attached and less government interference. Today I want to impress this group. students and teachers alike, that you don't need uniforms and a lot of money to learn. What you do need is a staff that wants to teach and does it with love.Before the feast, the guests will be given tour of the facilities. It begings with an explanacion of the significance of the cooking pit and then on to the classrooms where exhibits have been set up of the different projects the students have created to show their skills and understanding of the different subjects taught by the only paid teacher who goes from language to mathematics to science to geography to history to art to physical education to agriculture, all in one day.
Luis Cholota, does a remarkable job. He has my respect and the respect of all of his students.

After the tour the English class will give a 10 minute presentation to show what they have learned in their first year of English. We started the English program in December of last year and now, just seven short months later, we have our first class of future English speakers who have come from zero English to being able to carry on simple conversations.

The English presentation went well. Very well.
They played to a packed house of around 60 persons in a room that has 35 desks. I have to say that the class was a little nervous but without any prompting from the teachers they got the point across that if you want to learn English....You can.

When we first started the class we had a visitor who showed up one day and while observing made a comment in Spanish, "You are wasting your time. You can't teach these kids English. I tried." This was an ill conceived remark to make in front of the class. I wish he had been there on Thursday. He would have had to eat them words instead of lamb.

Our English program has been conducted entirely by dedicated volunteers who have given freely of their time and love. A big thank you to Janneke, Ian and Elizabeth.

And to the kids....Thanks for being part of our life. I think that I can speak for all of our volunteers....I have received a whole lot more than I have given.

Vacation classes start in just a few days and then we look forward to the next school year that begins in September.