Where to draw the line??

We can all relate to the idea of trying to make sure everyone is happy and going out of our way to please others. We all have put ourselves through things that make us miserable or attended events because it was “the right thing to do” simply because we would rather do that than let others down. I think to an extent this can be a positive thing but there is a point where self becomes lost and neglected. Finding a healthy balance proves to be a fine line and knows varying boundaries for different people. For me, this line is vague and grey; personally, this has created some of the greatest challenges I have faced yet. For example, I still remember the exact words I used and where I was when I called my Albion College Softball coach to tell her I was transferring to U of M and would no longer be a team captain for the varsity softball team. To this day, this remains one of the hardest things I have EVER done. Then, in college, one of my best friends called my boss pretending to be me to quit a babysitting job that I just could no longer fit into my schedule. Some people may call me a pleaser as I would far rather be miserable than let people down.

And, I fear to admit that after living in the Fijian culture for over two years, the line of holding up commitments and making others happy and doing exactly what I want has become even harder to locate. In Fiji, the sacrifice for community is incredible. Your life is often directed by elders who have the community in mind. Willingly, villagers agree without complaint and honor the wishes another has for their lives. And I am not talking about a small wish- for example, I have seen this happen in the form of marriage and accepting or not accepting a job overseas.

Now, I have to determine where I want to draw this line and what balance makes me happy; of course, this easier said than done. Thoughts and opinions welcome!

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“It’s Just a Ride”

I have been on a roller coaster of adventure and emotion during the last month. A high was a visit from my fellow Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who worked alongside me in Fiji. It was amazing to be surrounded by people who have similar stories, beliefs and goals. We visited Machu Picchu (which is a place incredible beyond words!!), explored Lake Titicaca, drank kava and Fiji rum, and had many great discussions. Overall, it was wonderful to spend time with great people in such a beautiful place! Peru is a breathtaking country with a lively/inviting culture and great food. We greatly enjoyed the hikes, practice our Spanish/Fijian and exploring Peru together.

On the other hand, I am having a hard time with work, and initiating the process of acquiring my work visa has been anything but easy. I was in Lima for about 2 weeks trying to navigate the visa requirements, which happen to be additional and more complicated for Americans- go figure. The school could’ve and should’ve been more supportive and helpful. In the classroom and with my visa, I am struggling. The language barrier and the lack of communication are making my work difficult. Also, I was not aware in applying for the job or accepting the job that we are an inclusion school. I feel highly underqualified to deal with the special needs in my classroom especially across the language barrier. In my third-grade class, which has 13 students in total, 5 have special needs. There are a variety of needs from autism to Down syndrome to ADHD. I don’t feel equipped or qualified to handle this seeing as I am not even a qualified teacher.

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Ceviche in Lima!

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An amazing view of Lima while waiting for my work visa…

In addition, there was a death in my family. As I have been out of the country for almost 3 years, I didn’t even know how sick he was. I am starting to think more about family and realizing how removed I have been from my own extended family over the past few years makes me sad.

****On a positive note, I have to speak to the WONDERFUL people I have met in Cusco. I have become part of an exapat community here. Something about Cusco draws the most kind-hearted and adventurous people I have ever met. I have managed to make amazing friends here in such a short amount of time. They have been such a positive uplifting part of my experience in this beautiful city!

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Biking and brewing in Cusco with some of my friends!

Mi Colegio

I have been snapped back into reality with a full-time job. I haven’t been obligated to uphold a strict work schedule since 2014. Although serving in the Peace Corps was tougher in a lot of ways, extremely draining, and required me to be “on” 24 hours a day, as a volunteer, I had a lot more flexibility and leeway than I have now.

We started school on March 8th despite the fact that our school construction has yet to be completed. The school is finished enough to conduct classes; however, after hours the construction continues. It is moving slowly but surely- Peruvian time!

I have 5 full days of teaching English to grades 1-6. Most of my classes are 45 minutes long (which is perfect!) but several of the sections have been combined to create an hour and a half session. I am finding it hard to keep the kids in the younger grades interested in a foreign language for an hour and a half- We switch activities about every 5-10 minutes (which requires a tremendous amount of energy on my part); however, I still tend to lose their attention after about an hour.

I have gained a tremendous amount of respect for teachers. This job is NOT easy! Currently my two largest challenges are the differing levels of English the students possess and classroom management. Several of my students have a parent from South Africa or England and speak fluent English. For others, I am teaching their very first English lesson. It is tough to keep the fluent speakers challenged and not overwhelm other students! In addition, I am having trouble controlling my classes. The younger kids are tough to control due to the language barrier and some of the older classes have a majority of students with special needs. It is hard even to address these needs when you speak the same language but trying to break up fights, keep attention, and communicate with kids with ADHD, ODD, Autism and Asperger’s in Spanish is extremely challenging.  I feel highly underqualified. I hope it gets easier!

Any tips/suggestions are welcome!

 

Carnival!

Last weekend, we celebrated the end of carnival in Cusco. At first, I assumed it a celebration to start off lent but rather it takes place during lent, and I was told, “in Cusco, we don’t care about that, we just like to celebrate!” The weeks leading up to said carnival were filled with water fights in the street and getting sprayed with silly string and foam; however, we had no idea what was in store for the close of Carnival!

My host family nonchalantly informed me that there would be a lot of different dances, and we might get a little wet because people would be playing with water. I was also told about a soap that was made specially for this carnival- it is composed of lots of different types of meats, potatoes, cabbage, rice, cassava and other vegetables. However, the talk of this event was so causal that we had no idea what was to occur. In fact, the city hardly even advertised this event!

As we sat on the bleachers in the main square waiting for the event to start (on Peruvian time, of course!), we kept getting hackled to buy umbrellas and ponchos. It didn’t look like it was going to rain, but in Cusco, you never really know. As the crowds began to cluster and yell for the event to start, we learned they had to wait for the mass to finish. As soon as the Sunday service let out, the parades and dancing started. It didn’t take us long to understand why we needed ponchos once the water balloons started flying. It was a day for everyone to be children. In the stands the kids, teenagers, adults and elders were fighting with foam, silly string, and water. It was a challenge to watch the dancing and parades because we had to stay alert to avoid getting hit by water balloons! It was risky to take out my phone for pictures, but on several occasions, I took the chance. It was fun to watch the ongoing wars as water balloons flew by us- I’ll tell you from first-hand experience, this made the Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans look like a joke. At this point, the same people originally selling ponchos and umbrellas were now selling bags of water balloons for $.20… Talk about job security!

Thinking we were in the heat of the water wars and it couldn’t get any worse, we decided to make a run for it to find some lunch. However, we couldn’t have been more wrong. As soon as we left our front and center seats, we entered a war zone. The entire park behind the bleachers was covered in foam. Kids, teenagers, adults and elders were having the time of their lives chasing each other around. You couldn’t walk more than 2 step without getting buckets of water dumped on you, water balloons thrown at you, or foam sprayed in your face. We blindly started running for safety and just happened to come across my greatest find yet in Cusco. We ate a gourmet 3 course meal with a balcony view of the parade and water fights for $6! We drank wine, ate amazing food and enjoyed the rest of the carnival from the safety of my new favorite restaurant.

Life in Cusco

I am still trying to figure out the basics of my job, how to navigate the city and the language, but I was a complete tourist today! I have about of a week before classes start, so I figured now is the best time to do some exploring… SO, I snuck away from my Spanish workshop (without telling anyone) and jumped on a bus to the city center.

It was a magical day and well worth any slap on the wrist I may receive…

Firstly, I stumbled upon a Gringo writer’s group comprised of Americans most of whom have lived in Cusco for years. Although I am not much of a writer and most likely won’t be able to join their group as it takes place during school hours, I got their contact information nonetheless. It sounds like they have a variety of different events including full moon hikes!

Then, I explored San Blas, an old part of the city with beautiful brick streets, amazing restaurants/cafes and quaint architecture. I found a textile art gallery, toured the Inca Museum and found a Spanish instructor who is willing to give me private lessons 2 times a week!!! The old part of Cusco is absolutely beautiful… Unfortunately, the school I am teaching at is about 45 mins by bus outside the city. Eventually, I may look for an apartment closer to the city. I think living in the old part of the city might be worth the daily commute and would be ideal for hosting all my visitors!!! 🙂

Next, I spent an hour exploring the local market. The variety of fresh fruits and vegetables are amazing and SO cheap! In every market, they have a juice stand where you can order any variety of fresh juices and they make it right in front of you. Normally, you get a whole blender full about $1.50. I drank an entire blender of carrot, orange, mango, beet, and aloe vera juice! The markets are also full of breads, grains, meats (some rather scary looking!), fresh flowers and handicrafts.

Before returning home, I drank a beer! Saludos a mi adventura nueva!!

One week in Peru…

It has been an exhausting and overwhelming week to say the least- this has been more challenging than I expected! Given my Spanish (or lack thereof), and not knowing Cusco, which bus to take, where to buy food, or what areas are safe, I feel like a 5-year old child. I need help with everything even how to start the washing machine (it’s all in Spanish) and where to put my poopy toilet paper because you can’t flush it… So, when I managed to take a bus alone and get to work 10 minutes late, with only 3 wrong turns, I felt as though I had achieved the world’s largest accomplishment. However, upon arriving at work, I quickly realized that all our training sessions, workshops, and would be conducted in Spanish. SO, I have sat through an entire week of training in all Spanish… The other teachers, my colleagues, speak very very minimal English. My broken Spanish (blended with random Fijian words) in most cases is better than their English. Even the Ministry’s curriculum, a 10-page document, was given to me in Spanish. I am doing my best to translate and apply it to my lesson planning, but as you can imagine, this adds a tremendous amount of work to an already daunting task!

As I have been busy trying to figure out the basics such as which water is safe to drink, what bus to take, and where to buy food, I have not had much time to be a tourist in Cusco. However, what I have seen has been amazing! I explored Sacsayhuaman, an Inca ruin located about 5 minutes from the city, spent a few days with the owners of the school at their weekend house in Urubamaba, which is located in the Sacred Valley, and I have tried guinea pig (a Peruvain delicacy). I also had the opportunity to meet up with a Peruvain/American couple from Frankfort who were able to answer a lot of questions and put me in contact with important people! So things are looking up…

My head ache from adjusting to my new 14,000 ft. home and trying to understand Spanish is starting to go away, I can give the right amount of money to the cashier, sometimes manage to get on the right bus, and understand about 30% of what’s going on around me! Also, today, I moved in with my new host family. They are a very kind family with two kids, lots of barking dogs and Wi-Fi (!!!).

Lesson learned from this: My kids will learn a second if not a third language from birth.

The Beginning of Something New…

¡Hola!

Before I delve into the tales of this new journey, I want to provide a little preface for my sudden departure… As you all know, I returned from my 27-month long Peace Corps service in Fiji at the end of December, 2016. I spent a total of 6 weeks in the US before picking up and moving to Cusco. There were wonderful times during these six weeks- I spent time eating and skiing with family, took a 2-week friend tour of Michigan with a giant pot of chili, saw 3 out of 4 of my best childhood friends (the other is in Utah), drank a lot of good wine with my Chimney Corners crew, and spent a week in Nashville with Lauren; however, I didn’t feel ready to be in the US. The American way of life, the one I once lived myself, felt unbelievably excessive, unnecessary and individualistic. After coming from a warm, friendly, caring culture and living purely off the land, our problems and complaints seemed extremely insignificant. SO, all politics aside (because that in itself is a reason to flee the country), I wasn’t ready to integrate into the US.

As Cusco is a large city with WiFi, electricity, running water, and a Starbucks, I will not be off the grid like I was in Fiji; therefore, in addition to being involved in developing an English curriculum for an innovative, active primary school, my time here will serve as an outlet for reflection, a chance to integrate into something new, and will provide another context for me to compare to Fiji and the US. I am also hoping this experience will help me shake the homesick feeling I get whenever I think of Fiji…

That being said, I am extremely excited about this awesome opportunity! When weighing my options, and deciding whether or not to accept this job, I became nervous because it really felt like I was going out on a limb. I couldn’t find the school on the internet, received a contract in all Spanish, and didn’t have the network of PC staff and other volunteers (in terms of safety and medical); however, I decided to trust the organization and bought a plane ticket. I wasn’t entirely sure I would be met at the airport or I would be reimbursed for the plane ticket, but I had nothing to lose, because I knew I could handle the worst-case scenario I had played out in my head! The whole plane ride, I tried to calm my nerves and refresh my Spanish!

Upon arrival, I was met by a wonderful family at the Cusco Airport. They were holding up an official school sign with my name on it and had giant smiles on their faces! I am currently staying with this family; they are the owners of the school and have 2 young boys, hot water, WiFi and beautiful house that overlooks the city! I have been well cared for, eaten a ton of Peruvian food, and drank great coffee! They have been going above and beyond to show me the city, share local fruits with me and make sure I don’t get altitude sickness (I am doing well but still have a hard time breathing!).  I will be staying with them while my host family prepares everything. I should be moving in with my new family next week!!

I met with the director of the school, the Belgian man who hired me, yesterday for a great lunch. We discussed the history of the school, the curriculum, my role and he answered my many questions about the school. I am so excited to be a part of this innovative new school. It is called the Global Active Learning School and is newly established this year. They are created under a similar philosophy to Waldorf and focus on active and creative learning. I will focus on teaching English Literacy for grades 1-6 in a hands-on way. I have many ideas including a Penpal activity with a US 3rd grade class (Thanks Erin Fought!), creating books, poem contests, and preforming plays… I am looking for more creative ideas! If you have any, please leave them in a comment on the post or send me an email (adrianekline@gmail.com). I have the next few weeks to plan as school doesn’t start until the 8th of March! So, in the next few weeks, I am going to plan activities and lessons while exploring the city and working on my Spanish in my free time!

I want to thank those who are actively engaged in fighting to preserve our rights, environment and our democracy and apologize to those I wasn’t able to see while I was in the US. Also, a huge thank you for following my blog and my newest adventure!

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Las Plaza de Armas

Sunset Over Cusco

A beautiful view of the city!