American high school students learned a lesson not taught in the classroom. How some children in the Andes Mountains may spend up to 2 hours each way getting to and from their local, rural schools. In spite of the obstacles, rural children make sacrifices to get to their schools. What do Americans think of that?
On March 10, 2011, 5 American students, including 1 Cambodian exchange student, boarded their flight from Norfolk Virginia to Cuzco, Peru. They were driven to a small village one evening where tents were set up by Adios Adventure Travel staff. Students enjoyed the best dinner of the trip, prepared on a “bunsen burner” (says one student) by Peruvian porter “Hernan.”
The drizzly, cool weather did not dampen anyone’s spirits as the first course, quinoa soup was served to suspicious students, followed by fresh-caught trout, which canceled out the quinoa (and the suspicion) And ending with a decorated cake, pretty enough for a Peruvian princess. Students helped clear the table for cards, then the boys went off to the bushes to use the bano before piling into their tents for the night.
To ease the shock of waking early, porters “knocked” on each tent and served hot tea or coffee, followed by a bowl of warm washing water for each occupant. Students were so shocked, they forgot to complain about being aroused from their slumberous comas and promptly arrived at the breakfast tent ready for their hot wheat cereal and green onion omelettes, a culinary treat for everyone.
American students helped clean up the dining tent, helped pack up the equipment and helped hoist it all to the top of the van before the local students arrived. Yes, lazy, coddled, entitled American high school students seemed to enjoy the camaraderie while they worked. Hernan prepared an extra large pot of hot cereal and American students served up little metal bowls to each local child who showed up. Everyone noticed how each child ran to the spigot to wash his/her bowl immediately after eating. Then each child sought the final destination/storage container for the bowl he/she possessed.
Meanwhile, rowdy boys unpacked a soccer ball and American & Peruvian players jostled each other for the ball on the concrete pad which served as a field, behind the school building.
Peruvian students were assembled in lines outside and the American students unpacked the duffles containing the backpacks. Attempts were made to match gender-specific bags to the appropriate boy or girl, but the message was clear, “you get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit.” Everyone got a bag and that was the important thing at this moment.
A million dollars could not have been better received by the community of Peruvian students and their 4 male teachers. While smiles of gratitude lingered on the Peruvian students’ faces, the American students and their entourage threw their own backpacks on, walked out the giant metal gate and headed down the dirt road away from the school and the village.
Days later, the experience is still fresh in our minds and the photos help us remember the special moments we captured with our cameras. No one is sure who was changed more by the experience, the Peruvian students or the American students?
If you have followup questions, students live in Virginia Beach and can be contacted through the Virginia Beach Friends School.