Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Diego's time teaching English in Huanchaco

My name is Diego, I was born in Brazil and raised in Spain. After finishing my bachelor in Economics I decided to travel to Peru to volunteer as an English teacher for 6 weeks. So, I arrived in Huanchaco on the 17th of July and the day after I had my induction with Otra Cosa Network (OCN).

On my first day of work the OCN’s assistant director, Laura, walked with me to the school I was supposed to teach at, Escuela Primaria Maria del Socorro which was two blocks away from the office. I was introduced to the school principal who offered me a working schedule after a long and interesting conversation. In the beginning I was supposed to work only three days a week, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, from 8h15 until 12h00 and teach 3rd, 5th and 6th grade. At the end my schedule was changed so I could teach every class of every grade but I still worked less than 20 hours per week.

By that time, I had never taught English before and it was a challenge for me to be able to control a class of around 20 students in Peru. I was surprised to see that the children behaved really well and were delighted with my Spanish accent. Soon after, I was known in the neighbourhood as “el teacher Diego” and I was really pleased with their eagerness to learn.  I would say that if you want to be an English teacher in Huanchaco, the better you speak Spanish the more control you can have over the class but, in the other hand, I truly believe that the most important characteristic needed in this case is the teacher’s personality and his/her charisma with the kids. In fact teaching English in Peru is an excellent way for non-Spanish speakers to improve their Spanish.

A few weeks after my arrival, I was invited by some other volunteers to have a look in the afternoons at another local project, called the SKATE RAMP in the humblest part of Huanchaco, called El Cerrito de la Virgen. Our goal was not only to keep the children away from the streets but also to help them with their homework, take them surfing or to the cinema. Gradually I was seduced by the existent freedom to create any activity we wanted over there. As money was the biggest barrier to our ideas, we decided to raise some funds by ourselves. As an example two volunteers, Agathe (France) and Andy (England), decided to sell juice on the beach and raised more than 100 soles. Some weeks after, Andy and me, we thought of doing a charity quiz at a local hostel by the beach and we raised 146 soles. The quiz was a success in every way and we will repeat it every two weeks. Right before I left we were meeting up with all the volunteers implicated in the project in order to decide how to invest our own funds. Probably we will build a ping pong table and a play house at the ramp.

On weekends we are free to discover the surroundings of Trujillo, the biggest city near Huanchaco. Two places that no one misses are the Chan Chan Ruins and the Huaca de la Luna Ruins. The first belonged to the Chimues culture during the fifth century and the second belonged to the Moches culture 10.000 years ago. It is also possible to travel to other important cities over the weekend, like Chiclayo (3 hours trip) or Huaraz (8 hours trip). I’ve been to both and I loved them. Chiclayo is famous for its Señor de Sipán Ruins and Huaraz for having the highest mountain in Peru called Huascarán. If you are planning on doing a bigger trip, you can always ask permission from OCN and to your school and take some time off from your project to travel. Usually what most people do is to finish their project one week before their departure day, so they take some holidays.

Where to stay in Huanchaco? Basically there are two options. First is to stay in a local family house and second is to stay in a hostel. I would say that hostels are the best option to socialize with new people while a family house is recommended if you want to get more involved with the local culture. During my stay, I was very lucky to contact a previous volunteer from Mexico who recommended me a hostel called Mc Callum. I could not imagine my stay in Huanchaco without Mc Callum as almost every single day I met new interesting people, however I understand it is not the best choice if you want silence from 10 o’clock in the evening. It is not the cheapest option either (single room is 20 soles a day while others charge 10 or 15) but it offers 24 hours a day internet connection and all day hot water shower. Besides it is very safe, has a good location and the owner, Patricia, is a sweetheart. Referring to family houses I would recommend Luis’ House as the owner is a very interesting person and the volunteers staying there are very happy.

My experience was very positive. I feel that I learned more from the kids than I taught them. I tried to make them associate learning English with something really fun and I would like to believe that I succeeded on making them see that there is life outside Peru and English would be a key to many future doors.  Please feel free to ask OCN to give you my contact details if you would like to contact m with any questions. And as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said: “Treat a man as he appears to be, and you make him worse but treat a man as he potentially could be, and you make him what he should be.”

Click here to apply and find out more about teaching English in Huanchaco. Or click here to apply and find out more about the Cerrito Skate Ramp project.

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