Lindsay Linning - General Teaching Projects in Peru
The Easter holidays before my First Year university exams had proven to be a disaster, of epic proportions. Upon my tenth day of house-bound vegetation and consequent boredom, Father summons me to "take the airs". Always a warning sign. Invariably, this entails my being dragged about the Scottish countryside, most probably the Pentlands, for a several hour jaunt. Am unhappy at prospect of this, but agree to accompany him owing to lack of stimulation in present life.
After twenty minutes of supposedly "steady hoofing" in Father's eyes (translation: strenuous canter, the topic of the approaching summer holidays comes into conversation. Over three months of the year with nothing to do. The past two summers had been wasted away fulfilling the demands of office workers and their exciting administrative requirements. Never again. I had done Interrailing with friends. But none of them were available to travel again with me this summer. What to do?
Father sensed this degree of daughterly turmoil and came to my aid. "Lindsay, you've got to get out there and do something with yourself. God helps those who help themselves". And with that, I realised life wasn't going to wait for me to make the most of it.
So I went to Peru for ten weeks. What he said that day stuck with me and niggled away at me to do something. I had just enough cash to my name to pay to go with Projects Abroad to work as a voluntary English teacher in the small village of Pisac near the Andean city of Cusco. By this point it was late April. I was flying out on June 6th. My last summer exam was on 30th May and I finally moved out of Halls on June 3rd. Four days later and I was touching down in Cusco. Stress levels had peaked. I had already overdosed on Rescue Remedy. Nervous was an understatement.
However, all thoughts of Rescue Remedy soon vanished once I started my new temporary life as Profesora Lindsay. It's an almost impossible task to explain in about a thousand words what it was like in Peru for over two months (especially as I used about four hundred words explaining life pre-Peru, prior to actually boarding the plane to get to the country), and I don't want to preach about how "life changing it was having such an opportunity". But let me say this: without a doubt these were some of the best ten weeks of my life. Heading into a school nestling amongst the Andes each day on the worse for wear local bus, to help the kids in school, some being the same age as myself, was magic.
Everything about the Peruvian people; their attitudes to life, their appreciation for the little things, their positive outlooks in spite of often adverse circumstances, hit me hard, and I was left to reconsider the way I conduct my own life. Volunteering and living with a local family day in, day out, gives an individual a chance to immerse themselves in a way of life so fundamentally different to our invariably hectic and exhausting Western habits. So much so, that even by my second week, I was left questioning how I am capable of trudging through the daily grind back home. As you can see, I underwent an epiphany of sorts. How profound. Out in Peru, I decided that I had escaped a country consumed by consumerism for a short window of time and wasn't I lucky.
And that was just the start of it all. I am now a fully-fledged Peru fanatic. The flatmates are close to starting up a "Peru jar" for every time the P word or a sentence commencing with "This one time, when I was in Peru..." is mentioned. I must be infuriating. Apologies to all subject to Linning's conversation in recent weeks. Prior to the trip, I presumed that volunteering would be the only focus of my time out there. In reality, volunteering formed the foundation of many other experiences during the ten weeks. From bringing me together with my fellow volunteers, with whom I became so close that we were all able to discuss the latest incident of diarrhoea due to questionable Peruvian cuisine, to our weekends spent travelling through mountain ranges at six thousand metres jostling amidst the local Quechuan mountain folks.
The time necessary to describe these experiences of ten weeks in Peru would take longer than it does to ingratiate the fundamentals of the verb "to be" to a class of thirty plus Peruvian youngsters. No mean feat, I tell you. Impromptu parties with the locals, hostels setting us back eighty pence a night, Incan massages, eating guinea pig for breakfast, food poisoning, taking on Machu Picchu, a wonder of the world, kids charging at you full throttle in the playground. They were supreme days.
So I spent eight weeks living in this manner in the idyllic Andes with my new companions. My teaching placement ended and it was time to leave the hills. I had two weeks before my flights home. After a thinking cap session, my next destination called out to me from my trusty Lonely Planet: the Amazon Jungle. I bought my flights a few weeks in advance and went for it.
By the time for my flights home at the end of August I had braved classrooms of screaming, demonic children, surpassed death upon the mountain tracks of the Andes, swum in the Amazon River and had survived a physical attack, to name but a few. Just because my attacker was a monkey does not make the reality of the event any less traumatic! I was a new woman and capable of dealing with anything the future could bring. Even falling asleep at the departure gate for a connecting flight and hence proceeding to miss aforementioned flight only slightly deterred from this new found self faith and assuredness... Homeward bound it was.
A well-known quote from good old Mark Twain rings true to me about this summer, part of which states, "Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than the ones you did do." It's worth keeping in mind.