I’m scheduled to begin teaching an English class to a group of teachers who work at a local private elementary school.

Day One:  Huaycan is just about the dirtiest, dustiest place around and for the most part the voluntarios only wear t-shirts and shorts and ratty old sneakers that no one cares about.  We’re mostly only teaching a bunch of dirty, dusty children and/or adults, so it wouldn’t make sense to look nice anyway.  But since I’m teaching at a private school I put on a dress and black flats.  It’s hardly the nicest dress around, it’s somewhere between a summer dress and a business casual one, but hardly fancy.  I walk downstairs and all the voluntarios are shocked.  It’s not often any of us even showers to go to class, so this is a big deal.

I walk down to the school.  The director meets me and tells me that on account of Semana Santa, most of the teachers have either forgotten about the class or don’t have time.  I tell him that’s fine, I’ll come back next week.  But no, he wants me to wait, just in case.  He takes me to the classroom, sits me down and says he’ll be back shortly.  He comes back an hour later.  No one’s showed up.  He apologizes profusely and we agree to start next week.

Day two:  Because it’s a private school it’s basically on lockdown.  It looks more like a prison than a school.  It’s surrounded by an 8 foot high cement wall and steel gates.  There are a bunch of parents standing around the entrance and pounding on the gate when I arrive.  No one is answering.  The parents are freaking out.  Eventually the steel door opens, a little girl with pigtails lets us in.   Inside, there are children running wild everywhere.  In and out of all the classrooms.  Throwing things,  fighting each other.  Slamming doors.  Standing on desks.  Total chaos. Hmmm, little different than last week.  I walk to my classroom, the door is locked.  I knock on the director’s door.  No answer.  I stand around awkwardly for a bit and watch the madness.  A little girl walks over to ask me what I’m doing here.  I tell her I teach English (or well I would if anyone would let me).  I ask her why all the kids are running around.   “There are no teachers.  They have a meeting.” 

Hmm.  Okay so I guess the teacher’s just sequester themselves in a soundproof room somewhere and leave the children to run amok and take over the school.  Every child’s dream, really, but how is this allowed to go on? After awhile, the only adult I’ve seen in a half hour walks over to me and informs me that she’s the admin assistant and she can let me into the classroom.  She says the teachers are almost out of their meeting and won’t be too late.  I enjoy that the fact that they’re already a half hour late is not considered to be “too late” at all by Peruvian standards. We walk by a group of kids hurling rocks over the school walls, she doesn’t say anything and neither do I.  There are no rules in Peru.  Even in private school.

I set up the classroom.  Take chairs off desks, write some grammar points on the board.  “Hello my name is Abby,” etc.  I watch the kids go nuts outside.  A child runs by me chasing another with a broom.  Two kids are sword fighting with plungers, while their friends cheer them on.  A kid pops into my classroom, takes a broom and a dustpan and then looks up and sees me there.  He freezes.

– Um, can I?

– Are you going to use that to clean up or to fight someone?

– Fight.

– Um. Yeah, okay go ahead.

I think I’m getting the hang of this no rules thing.

Like everywhere in Huaycan, dogs abound.  Classroom dogs, much like roof dogs (see previous post) are actually pets that are well fed and basically cared for.  Two very friendly classroom dogs come and hang out with me and I name them Naranja and Cicatriz, because let’s face it, Amigo’s been taken.  “Do you want to learn English,” I ask them.  They just stare at me panting and wagging their tails.  “Sit,” I tell them in English and they do.  Wow.  They must’ve had this class last semester.

So I sit there.  The classroom is all set-up.  The name tags and attendance sheets are out, the lesson is on the board, the worksheets are all ready to be passed out.  I’m even dressed up . Still no one comes.  I have this ridiculous feeling that I’m being stood up for a date.  Class is over.  No one shows.  I erase the board and put everything away.   In the movie of my life there will be sappy music playing as I clean up.  The soundtrack to life in Huaycan, now available for download.

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