Pachacutec is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of place. Very few people from the States will ever see anything like these slums that completely cover the hills north of central Lima. However, the truth is, while they may be once-in-a-lifetime to us, they are an entire lifetime to the young girls and boys that I will teach for the next two months. As I come and leave, travel the world, and develop my own life…they will stay in Pachacutec. Minimal education, and even less money, will cause that. Of course, some will escape into other parts of Peru, and around the world, but for most, Pachacutec will be their home.
The streets of Pachacutec are pavement, littered with men and women sweeping the sand back into their “yard” and off of the little government development that they have been offered. The women carry babies on their backs, held by thick pieces of cloth, while the men will move their most precious cargo – crops – in a similar fashion. The hour-long bus ride from Lima out to these impoverished areas, offers a brutally honest view on the culture of Peru – sales on the corners, fresh fish smelling up the air near the harbor, stray dogs digging for food, children begging from travelers, and smog. So much smog that the beach…located less then a mile away…is rarely visible from even the highest point on the hills. If I didn’t know better, I’d guess Pachacutec was located in the heart of Peru.
As a district of Lima, Pachacutec is incredibly large, and divided into smaller portions…numbered 1-8. The schools where I will be teaching are both located in the furthermost portion, peaking out of the houses with their blue, wooden fences, and uniform children running and playing. The sand fills each and every crevice on my boots, jeans, and body during recess as I skip and play and run with the children. Of course, my basic Spanish severely limits the conversations that I can have with them…however, a smile and holding hands are universal signs of friendship. Even in class, when attempting to teach the different pronunciation between Tuesday (“one two, twos-day”) and Thursday (“uurrrrr, uurrrr, uurrrr-sday”), the students may not understand a word that I’m saying, but clearly understand when I smile, and laugh, and dance when someone finally pronounces their English correctly.
Body language really brings people together in Pachacutec. It teaches you that even though money and other resources – such as basic plumbing – aren’t always going to be available, and you may not speak the same words, there is still hope.
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