Much More than a Spanish Lesson
Today at school, I had much more than regular Spanish lessons.
It started when one of my teachers told me that today was very likely his last day. He had taken a test that all teachers who work in public schools are required to take. He has been working in Machu Picchu Spanish School for over 5 years. He said the pay was not good, he had never once gotten a raise, he had no health insurance, and in 5 years, he had had a total of 4 weeks vacation. Keep in mind, this is the school´s head teacher. He is excellent and very fun. His name is Saul by the way. He said he was very frustrated by the director, Rosana (with whom I am living) because for years he had talked to students and made suggestions to her as to how the school could improve, but not once had any changes been made. In past years, teachers had tried to take students out on excursions and out to small villages around Cusco, but she would make them pay for it themselves. He said she is a very good person and very fun and nice etc, but not the best administrator. She is missing out on a lot of opportunities. I wouldn´t want you to think this was a bitch session or anything. It was matter of fact and I was questioning etc. Saul is a really neat guy.
Anyway, he passed the test with flying colors. Apparently, only a small number of the takers passed the test at all. This led into our discussion about the school system here, the government, etc, and I learned some fascinating things.
Saul said that he believes change needs to start in the family. I agreed and shared my experiences working in Ferguson-Florissant. I told him we had some of the same endemic problems, just not as bad. He was very interested to hear. Apparently, in the past, the government started allowing teachers to work without having been to university. Therefore the entire education of the children went down, and now 15 years later or so, teachers can´t even pass the national exam. He talked about how dirty and rundown the schools are. How it takes money to get children into the good schools. (Rosana´s children go to some of the best.)
He told me about a hospital in Cusco that is called something like the Hospital for the Poor. That it is, he said. A couple of weeks ago, there was strong rain and some hail and the roof of the hospital nearly collapsed. Water came rushing through and sick people had to run from their beds. Just a couple months ago, three children died from infections they got while in the hospital. A couple of years ago, the wall surrounding the hospital collapsed onto a mother and two children who were just walking by on the sidewalk. Both children died. But nothing has changed. Nothing has been improved.
I learned that the current Peruvian president Alan García Pérez was president once before, beginning in 1985, I think. Back then, the economy went into a tailspin. It was necessary to stand in lines for sugar and rice, and cow milk became impossible to get. I still see absolutely NO milk in the stores.
In my next class with the one teacher I have had the whole time, Dante, I learned even more about politics. Apparently in Peru, it is obligatory to vote. If you are sick or miss voting for any reason, you are required to pay a fine of approximately 75 soles, which is no small amount here, even though it about $25. He explained that the people elected Garcia again because their other option in the last election was a military official. No one wanted a dictatorship. Also, Garcia had decent relations with surrounding countries. No one wanted more war with Bolivia or Ecuador. Even more importantly, Garcia has a good relationship with the US, which is important for Peru´s main export, potatoes. I had NO idea that was their main export. Someone told me they have 2,500 different types of potatoes. People made the excuse that the first time around Garcia was young and inexperienced. He has 4 more years in office.
Even though Saul had said the schools in the country were actually nicer than the old old rundown buildings in the city, Dante said that there are other problems. In the country, a family may have 7 kids, but they won´t all be able to go to school for very long. Usually, the father will force them to work so he doesn´t have to. Instead, he drinks.
I feel like there was even more, but remember this is all in Spanish. It was all just very interesting and I wanted to share.
Eventually, I need to write about Sunday´s excursion to Pisac and last night´s procession, which happens every year on the Monday of holy week. But for now, I need to get to bed early. I am feeling better today, and I think it is because of the medicine. But I am still far from 100% and have almost completely lost my voice. That should make for interesting lessons tomorrow. Blessings!