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Weeks 3 and 4: The One with Karina and the Clinic

It has been 10 days since our last trip to the hospital. This time it was my turn. Week 3 took us to the local community of Karina, where we moved in with a Peruvian woman named Beatriz and her son, William, to help with work around the farm and teach (read: attempt to teach) English at the local school. I promptly got sick and had to spend week 4 in a clinic in Puno (thanks, E. coli), so I got to hear about life in Karina from the other young women who actually got to live it.

I’ll start with the beans and potatoes because I was there for the beans (a chicken pecked my toe, perhaps mistaking it for a bean) and potatoes. We spent two days shelling and sorting these massive lima-bean-looking things into bins (we thought we were pretty good at that. Then Beatriz sat down and put us all to shame) so we could cook and eat them (they were not good). We spent another two days peeling rather stinky potatoes (we all sat upwind of the pile as best we could) whilst listening to some classic mid-2000s pop and laughing over the memories we had associated with different songs. Throughout these days, the only things that remained constant were the cows and the sheep. They went out in the morning, and we had to go get them in the evenings and bring them back to the house. My personal favorite memory of this was when Emma and I had gone to get the sheep ourselves, only to find that two of them had so entangled themselves in their lead ropes that their legs were effectively bound together and they were bounding (like gazelles) around the long grasses. Long story short: I got to put the sheep in a headlock whilst Emma got to play Twister with its back legs. Darn things weren’t even grateful when it was over.

Unfortunately, that is where my time in Karina ends. So, here’s week 4 as brought to you by Davina, Abi, and India (Emma was with me as moral support in Puno). There isn’t much of a schedule to farm life. Some things happen every day; some things happen as they need to happen. The sheep and cows happen every day (fun fact: the cows like to go down to Lake Titicaca and walk in the water. The sheep do not). We also milk one of the cows (once, I’m told, in the middle of a thunderstorm) and collect eggs everyday, but otherwise the chores change from day to day. Two days we had to carry buckets of water up a mountain to water eucalyptus trees. Two days we spent breaking up clods of dirt with pickaxes in preparation for planting. One day we spent an afternoon picking up cow patties from the front yard. Whatever needs to be done, we do it.

Beatriz showed us how she makes bread and taught us how to knit (except there wasn’t enough yarn so only India is going to have a hat by the end of it). We baked potatoes in the ground, built a dog house out of quinoa stalks, and one of the cats had kittens in the middle of the night (Abi woke up. Davina did not).

You may have noticed that I haven’t talked any about the teaching aspect of the trip. I wanted to address this separately from the work on the farm because it deserves its own bit of introspection. I’ll begin by saying it was not what we anticipated. We were under the assumption we would be working with little kids, maybe up to the age of ten, on basic vocabulary (you know, basic nouns). We were not expecting to be put in a room full of thirteen and fourteen year olds and given free range of the curriculum (I haven’t flown by the seat of my pants that badly since I forgot about my YA book presentation at university). The phrase “you don’t know what you don’t know” comes to mind. Teaching is hard enough as it is. Trying to teach in a language you are still learning yourself is a feat (I’m positive I was - maximum - 50% coherent). Things went a little better the second day when we had a plan for going over greetings and basic verbs, but I think we all wish we could have been a little bit better prepared. But beyond the shock value, I had fun. It allowed me to really dig into my Spanish (I am even less fluent than I thought I was) and our guide was there to translate in case we really got stuck.

So there you have it. I’m saying this right now: no one else is allowed to get sick. It’s not fun to miss out on any of the activities. But the Amazon is up next! Here’s to trading cold nights for bugs the size of your fist!

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