Alibi’s Ilene Style reports from her volunteer mission in South America
The talk of the town has been the temblor or small earthquake, that we had last week in Lima at about 3 a.m. It was a 4.3 earthquake, whose center was about an hour and a half south of Lima. It was the second temblor we've had since I have been here, and I am mortified to say that I slept right through it. (I did feel the first temblor though, which was about a month ago.)
I love my new home in Villa el Salvador, the home of Antonio (Tonny) and Silvia and their three children. It is the first time in 4 weeks I have been able to sit straight up on my bed without bumping my head against the top bunk. Margaret, another voluntaria who I met at Los Martincitos and who is now my NEW new best friend, is also staying here. She is from Dublin, Ireland, and has been living here in Villa el Salvador for 4 weeks.
Margaret and I, without a doubt the two whitest people in Villa el Salvador, walk to work every morning. We try to stick to the main roads and travel over an interesting mix of terrain, including sand, rocks, dirt and several unfinished sidewalks. We've visited together an internet cafe here to check email and a locutoria, which is a store with public pay phones that are very cheap to use. These locutorias come in very handy for residents of Villa el Salvador who don't have phones, like me.
After work at Los Martincitos yesterday, Margaret and I went to help teach English to children at an elementary school just outside of Villa el Salvador. We took a bus there with Lady, the student teacher who invited us to help her. It was the first public bus I have taken in Lima. Buses are a little scary here. There are thousands of different ones, and I have no idea how anyone knows where they all go, as they all look the same—terribly old, run down and always overcrowded. Strangely, the buses in Lima are all privately owned, so anyone can buy a bus, make up their own route, and hire anybody to drive it. The government does, however, set the fare. All buses in Lima cost 1 sol, or about 30 cents. There was a man selling bread on our bus, a little girl selling candy, and a little boy playing a guitar who solicited money from passengers after his concert. I felt like I was back in NYC!
At the school, we taught English to 3- and 4-year-olds in the form of songs and nursery rhymes. We practiced singing "Mr. Golden Sun" and "Good Morning Teacher" and then Margaret taught the class "Itsy Bitsy Spider." When we got off at the bus stop on the way home, we took a taximoto (the 3-wheeled, completely unsafe motorized vehicles that we were warned never to take) the rest of the way home, because it was almost dark and it was safer to take the taximoto than to walk home from the bus stop. The taximoto was fun, but I discovered quickly that you must hold on to the bar on front, as there are no doors, windows or seat belts to hold you in.
That evening, Carmen, a 22-year-old student who also lives with the family and speaks no English, asked me shyly if I would help her with a writing assignment for her beginning English class. After we worked together for awhile, I realized why I had never heard Carmen utter a word of English. She cannot pronounce the words. At first I thought it was odd that she was struggling so much with the word "the," one of the simplest words in the English language. As I watched her frustration, it suddenly dawned on me that there is no sound in the Spanish language that equates to "th" sound in English. We spent 20 minutes alone on the word "the," as I tried to teach her how to position her tongue so the "th" sound would come out correctly. I now have a profound new appreciation for speech therapists. We practiced English together for the next two nights, and I wished her luck on her presentation, which is today. Before she left for class, she said to me, “Me gustaria que te quedaras mas tiempo aqui" ("I wish you could stay here longer"), a compliment I will never forget.