My School

I was up and ready for the taxi at 9am, but this is South America. He arrived at about 9:20, and told me the following days he would probably be there around 9:15. I was told to not bring a lot, so I had change for my bus ride home, my cell phone, and a water bottle. I arrived at the school and was greeted by a male teacher. He did not speak English, and I don’t really speak Spanish. I asked for the name of the principal, but she was not there. He showed me to another administrative type of lady who speaks a tad bit more English. She gave me a tour and then showed me to the Art room where the first male teacher I had met was sitting. He motioned me to sit down, and we had a bit of awkward silence since there is a language barrier. There were a few kids there. Most had some type of a disability,  and none spoke English. He showed me a drawing, and motioned that I copy it. I am a terrible artist, but I did my best. I drew and colored, and then the teacher perfected it. In the end it didn’t look half bad. Eventually the cook showed up, and she started preparing lunch. She didn’t speak any English as well. I believe at this point the main principal had showed up, and she told the cook I was there to help. My first day in the kitchen mostly consisted of peeling and chopping which I am terrible at. I’m used to all my first world kitchen tools, so to take those away from me I am almost useless in the kitchen. I would peel one potato by the time she would peel 5. But I was helping, kind of. As lunch time grew closer, another volunteer showed up. She was fluent in both English and Spanish. I was relieved to have a conversation with someone that didn’t require sign language. We had some downtime before lunch, so I sat in the sun. Mary Ann, the other volunteer, said sometimes she brings a book, because there is often downtime around lunch. I don’t remember exactly what we had for lunch my first day, but I have yet to have a bad meal. After lunch, the 3rd volunteer, Lauri, showed up. I was going to help her teach English in the afternoons. Mary Ann is there a few days a week and she helps with homework. The first day of class was quite interesting. We have two groups. Basically the young kids and the older kids. They knew a little bit of English, but not as much and I thought they would. They were also quite wild. Everyone would talk at once. They were easily distracted. They constantly kept coming and going out of the room. It made for an exhausting first day. Luckily Larui was taking to same bus as me home. Only difference is she got off earlier than I. The bus turned out to be the easiest part of my day. No issues getting on, with the ride, or getting off. The second day of school was very similar. I did some painting in the art room in the morning, helped out in the kitchen before lunch. I brought a book, so I sat in the sun and read a bit until it was time to teach the kids after lunch. The kids were still rambunctious. They would slide on the floor, the older ones would play on their phones, and they loved to write on the dry erase board. Some kids were better at English than others, they all seemed interested in learning, but some were more easily distracted than others. I would essentially be at school from 9-6 everyday. So when I got home from school, I would eat, relax for a bit, and then go to bed. Outside of school I would either hang out at an Irish Pub or my hostel. On Cinco de Mayo, I went to the only Mexican restaurant in central Cusco, along with every other American. I kept wishing everyone a Happy Cinco De Mayo, and expressing my excitement for tacos and margaritas, and everyone thought I was a weirdo. Except all the Americans at the restaurant. They knew what it was about. Turns out they was a group of about 75 all travelling together on a Remote Year. I don’t feel like explaining what that means. You can ask me privately if you are interested in learning about it. Thursday was probably the best day for the kids. They were calm, and active, and you could tell they were really learning. It was a beautiful moment as a teacher. That Thursday morning when I showed up, I didn’t see anyone. No teachers, just two kids. I think an administrator was upstairs. I sat in the sun and read. I was reading a really good book so I didn’t mind. Friday was a half day for me. I was only at the school for a few hours. I didn’t even finish helping with lunch. I was going on a city tour which is why I left early. I’ll explain my weekend in a different post. Monday I returned to school, as I did on Tuesday. I was only working two days that week because I was leaving for Machu Picchu on Wednesday. I had a lot to do before my trek. It was kind of a sad moment because that Tuesday was my last day volunteering with both Mary Ann and Lauri. We had a mini picture day before class. The younger kids were all about taking pictures, but only one girl from the older group would take a picture, and she was all about the selfie. I have one more day of volunteering, and that is Monday, or tomorrow. I will have one familiar volunteer, John, and one new one. The new one is replacing Larui, and John rotates days with Mary Ann. I have enjoyed my volunteering experience. Everyone was really friendly. The kids might be wild, but they have a good heart. I will miss everyone.

My Hitchhiking Tips

I had been in New Zealand for over a month and had not tried to hitchhike yet. I only had a few weeks left in the country, so I thought if this is something I want to try I better get to it. I was heading to Hokitika, and had read all about the Hokitika Gorge in my Lonely Planet book. It was definitely a place I wanted to visit. My only problem was I had no car, and the gorge was about 35km (22 miles) one way from my hostel. It was my chance to shine and hitchhike for the first time. I succeeded. I even hitchhiked again in Wanaka when I wanted to hike Roy’s Peak. My personal experiences are documented in my blog which you are welcome to read. But now as an expert hitchhiker, I would like to share my tips to make your hitchhiking experience a smooth one.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The Hokitika sign at sunset 

 

  1. Have a plan. Whether it’s a backup plan, like if no one picks you up how will you get to your destination? How long are you willing to wait for someone to pick you up? And if you are walking with your thumb out, remember in the event you don’t get picked up you will have to walk back. So don’t walk to far away from home. I never knew of someone who didn’t get a ride in New Zealand. The kiwis and their tourists are some of the friendliest people I know. But I would like this guide to be a universal one you can use all over the world.

 

  1. Pick a bad ass place to go. It just makes everything that much more exciting. You are headed to some awesome, one of a kind location, and getting a ride from a total stranger. It’s exhilarating, and makes for a hell of a story. As someone who travelled exclusively by bus, hitchhiking got me to places I would have never been able to see otherwise.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Swing bridge across the Hokitika Gorge 

 

  1. The thumb or the sign? I would use the sign in the event that from your current location you can get to multiple destinations. This prevents people from pulling over just to find out you aren’t going in the same direction. If you are on the main road, and it only goes to your desired destination then I believe your thumb will work just fine.

 

  1. Walk on the same side of the road as the cars going in your desired direction. I think this is common sense. Also, if you happen to be on a narrow road with little to no pull outs, I think you should stay still at a good pull over point. Maybe stand just before the pull over point (in a safe location obviously), so the driver has time to see you and pull over.

 

  1. Make eye contact. I think this is important because it creates a relationship with the driver before they pull over. They could have thought, “Don’t really want to pick up that hitchhiker.” But then they see you making eye contact with them, and they see your smile, and it could just change their mind. I would walk facing the direction I was headed, and when I would hear a car, I would turn to make eye contact. Sometimes, my one arm got tired, so I would walk backwards.

 

  1. Smile, think positive and have fun. Think about when you are driving down the road and you see someone with their thumb sticking out. Who are you more likely to pick up, someone smiling and happy? Or someone who looks miserable and frowning? You will be surprised how far a simple smile can get you. Also, if you think you are going to fail, you are more likely to fail. So keep sticking your thumb out and know that someone is going to pull over for you. But most importantly have fun. Hopefully no one is in a dire situation, and you are just looking for a new experience to write home about.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The summit at Roy’s Peak (Wanaka)

 

So get out there. Be safe. And experience something new!