With the end of summer in Peru inching closer and closer I find myself humming, “In the summertime… in the summertime… in the summertime…” (the only phrase of The Kinks song I remember, see below for reference) repeatedly like an old record player.
The end of summer also means the end of the World Culture summer school classes at the elementary school. To celebrate the last day of classes Allie and I were invited to attend a small ceremony.
We were told to arrive at 10:30, and being the Americans that we are we showed up five minutes early. (As my old band director would say, “Fifteen minutes early is on time.”) In Peru people live by something they call “la hora Peruana” which means you can guarantee an event will always start anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour and a half late.
We arrived to find teachers preparing snacks and kids running wild, so we were recruited to entertain the kids for a while. We sat around and talked, played hangman, and then a game of volleyball was suggested.
The girls made the boys bring out the net and hold it while we all played.
After about an hour we were all directed into a classroom and sat down in a giant circle. The director gave “palabras” or words. This is a common practice in Peru and every meeting opens and closes with a very formal speech from all of the important people in the room. Sometimes this goes on forever… but luckily with an audience of 5-9 year olds I think we all knew it was the wrong crowd.
The director thanked all the kids for their hard work, all the parents for supporting the kids (even though there was one mom in the crowd), all the teachers for spending their summer teaching, and then the gringas (Allie and I) for all of the hard work. He then surprised us by turning it over to us to give a speech. I quickly gave palabras and took my seat again.
Refreshments followed the speeches. Everyone received a pack of saltine crackers, a chicken sandwich, and a cup of soda. Now I am all for refreshments… but giving a room full of kids soda is never a good idea. It got worse when the teacher went around refilling glasses of sugary carbonation!
As a pair of 5-year-old boys started laughing uncontrollably next to me, I couldn’t help but think about how crazy it was that I was teaching little kids at a school in Peru!
After a few more minutes the director closed the celebration with another speech and then sent the kids to pack their things and head home on a sugar high. Thinking this was all, Allie and I started to head out as well, but the Secretary explaining that when all the kids left the teachers were going to celebrate and we were welcome to join stopped us at the door.
Not wanting to pass up the chance to see how elementary school teachers celebrate the end of classes, we waited in the lobby while they packed up their desks and locked up the classrooms.
When we walked into the office there was a huge lunch set out with a little glass of Peruvian wine (basically grape juice in a sugar coma). The director began with a toast and then our plates were piled with a mountain of corn and at least four normal helpings of chicharrón. I envied that Allie, as a vegetarian, was handed a big bowl of salad instead of pig. It was SO delicious… the best chicharrón I have had yet, but after 2 big pieces I was stuffed.
After the meal we helped clean up and then made our rounds saying goodbye and making loose open plans to hang out or work together in the future.
I officially survived classes with Elementary kids and now have 75 new friends in town! That is definitely a win.