With the year rapidly coming to an end, we’re starting to process our entire year and the progress at all of our schools. First up, in order of our ordinary work week, is Los Nogales!
GSW’s participation at Los Nogales is as old as the program itself. We have worked at this school since the beginning in 2003, and we have the best relationship with the community, director, teachers, and students. We also teach English to all the students, boys included, in 4th, 5th, and 6th grade! This means that we get to interact with all the teachers and students during time outside of Chicas Dinámicas, and we have felt more integrated in the community. This was the first school to invite us to their anniversary ceremony in September, fundraising polladas on the weekends, and class field trips to Maras and Moray. Plus, we love eating lunch at the restaurant across the street that is owned and lovingly tended by parents of some of the students. We even had some of the moms and girls from this school over for a Thanksgiving celebration at our apartment when Lydia’s mom was in town, and we reflected on how thankful we were to have found an extended family here in Cusco. We became part of the Los Nogales community from the beginning, and it made us feel welcomed in a new, foreign land.
This was also the school where class was the easiest to conduct. The court is located within the school grounds, we have a key to the school, and when school ends everyone leaves, so we always have the peace and quiet of a confined safe space to ourselves. It was nice to relax and not worry about anyone stealing our bags, asking boys to leave the girls alone, or competing for court space.
When we joined, 8 students consistent came. That grew to a solid 15, with a strong contingent of 6th graders. Other girls would come and go over the course of the semester. By our field-trip to Machu Picchu, we took 12 of the most consistent, well-behaved participants! For all of the girls, it was their first time visiting the World Wonder! Peru Rail generously gifted us train tickets, and we stayed in a local hostel owned by a sweet family. Despite the wonder of Machu Picchu, most girls reflected that the hot springs in Aguas Calientes were the highlight of their trip. We hope that in future years they will remember the ruins as well!
We were invited to attend the graduation ceremony for the 6th graders. It was exciting and emotional to end the year, watching them move to bigger and better opportunities. The students dressed up in suits or dresses and were in full hair and makeup for the event. Moms and dads dressed to the nines as well. It was a change from seeing our girls in their sportswear for class, and we both couldn’t stop smiling for the whole night. There were many songs and dances throughout the night that reminded us of our awkward middle school dance phases, but the most memorable was watching 6 of our girls sing and dance to a song that we always used to sing together. It was very meaningful, and some of the girls came up to us afterward to ask if we saw it. We ended the night with some tearful hugs and gave the girls some goodbye presents and letters that we had written for them.
After three months of summer vacation travel, we returned rested and ready to begin class again and rebuild the program. The 4th graders, our newest group, had both the largest numbers and strongest athletes. We also had 3 new girls transfer into the 6th grade. In March, about 25 girls came at different times, then 15, and now, in recent weeks, we have a consistent 4: Melissa, Alina, Samantha, and Andrea. This is due to the recent teachers strikes, as well as the many holidays and celebrations during the months of May and June. But those 4 have been incredible. We know that they will always be in class, and it has been great to watch them grow a genuine friendship, share inside jokes and nicknames, and encourage each other in class. While we miss some of our other girls who have stopped coming to class, having these 4 makes each day worth it.
A great perk of this school is that some of the girls who graduated last year still live nearby and so they have popped by from time to time to check out class and say hi to us. We even went to a pollada at a local secundaria, where one of them now attends school. It has been nice to stay in touch with them and hear all about their successes at their new schools.
While the year didn’t end as we would have liked, we are very pleased with the relationships we have continued and formed at this school. It is safe to say that we will miss this school and community the most, but are looking forward to the new relationships future PMs will form with them.
To Profe Martha: Thank you for being a staple during our time in Cusco. We seriously consider you to be a surrogate mother, as you always look out for us, cook for us, and make us laugh at your narcolepsy during English class. Director Uriel: Thank you for continuing to be a huge support for the program. To our girls, old and new: thank you for being the best English students we could ask for, doing your homework, and scoring well on exams. Thank you for always showing up, be it one girl or twenty, keeping us in line, and teaching us new things about being a teacher. We love you and will miss you muchísimo! ¡Hasta luego!
– Profe Lydia y Profe Alika