Teaching in Peru
Living at 10,000 feet is proving difficult but it is these challenges and quirks which are making the experience so unique.
It’s winter here in Cusco, the ancient capital of the Incas. Each morning I emerge from my alpaca blanket cocoon and the bitter cold hits me. My breath is clearly visible, the sun is out but the mountains are still shading me from its warmth. The sky is pure blue and there is not a cloud in the sky. In the shade it remains bitterly cold during the day but in direct sunlight it is unforgiving, my lobster red face can contest to this.
Apart from the extreme temperatures, altitude is a constant consideration. Until my body finally adapted to the low oxygen levels, I really had to take it easy. Walking is much harder, especially up hill. I was even finding myself out of breath towel drying my hair.
Apart from hindering my ascent to the many mountainous locations, which includes my hotel, you can become very ill. Already two members of our group have suffered acute altitude sickness. Symptoms include: headaches, vomiting, disorientation and if you don’t descend – death. I have managed to avoid most of these symptoms so far but sadly one of our members has had to fly back to Lima.
Between surviving, we have been working with a local school. We are helping the students tell personal stories about their culture using digital media. We met the students for the first time today. It’s a real mixed group of ages, backgrounds and personalities. One small boy called Darwin impresses everyone in the first few minutes by reciting all 30 peoples names and favorite fruit as part of a name game. I proved less adept when it came to my turn. My memory is bad at the best of times, but reciting the whole thing in Spanish proved extra difficult as I’m still mastering hello and goodbye. There is no better way to learn a language than being thrown in at the deep end so I’m hoping to be at least fluent by the end. Until then, me and my assigned student Rey, are communicating through exaggerated gestures and a lot of pointing. The funny thing is, it’s working.
We began with a portrait lesson to get the students used to the cameras and principles of photography. We were taken to a historical Incan site of Sacsayhouman. Up on the mountain overlooking Cusco are the formidable Incan walls. The size and constructions is awe-inspiring, especially considering they have withstood centauries of earthquakes where the newer Spanish architecture has crumbled.
If you want to break the ice with a new group of people and everyone is a little shy, simply introduce a slide. Nearby a natural formation of rocks that were perfectly smooth provided the perfect way to loosen up and a fantastic photo opportunity.
When we finally dragged ourselves away to peruse the remaining ruins, we’re all friends and the photos being produced are amazing. The students demonstrated an amazing grasp of all the lessons and tips we gave them on lighting, angles and composition to produce some fantastic images, and that’s just in one morning’s work.