That’s right, folks. It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for, the moment we’ve all been working towards for over a year now. I could ramble and make you wait even longer, but I think we’ve all waited enough already. And so, now I’m going to do my very best to give you a virtual tour of the completed school building! (Note: a big thank you to David Espinoza for taking these pictures!)
So, there you have it!! What do you think? I know that it can be hard to get a feel for the building when there’s no furniture, so I have one more picture. Jocelyn’s classroom is all set up, and she sent me this after she moved in…
I hope you find these pictures as satisfying as I do! It’s been a long year and a long project… we deserve a little satisfaction!
If you think we’re all finished now with blog posts, don’t get ahead of yourself. The building may be finished, but the blog action is just getting started! Next time, we’re off to Canta, a town in Peru that we visited for a long weekend (don’t ask me how long ago we went there… you’ll find out the embarrassing truth soon enough). From there, we’re off to do some more South America exploring! So really, the fun has only just begun.
My final days at EA were full of fun holiday activities, but I had to balance those with the work that was still going on. The construction was in full swing, and I wasn’t going to be around through completion which meant I REALLY had to make sure I had my ducks in a row before leaving.
About one second after reviewing my to-do list, I gave up on the nice idea that I could get everything done before leaving Peru. There was simply too much to do, between finishing the drawings and organizing the documents/construction pictures/files in a somewhat intuitive way for someone else to be able to find information in the future. Instead of rushing to get it done and doing a mediocre job after working so hard to do a great job on everything else, I decided to leave the things that could be done remotely to the future… a big ‘ole gift from past-Lara to future-Lara (that present-day-Lara has been ignoring… I know, I know. I’m going to get it all done, I promise! I just know that it’s going to be a pain in the butt, and I haven’t built up the courage to face it yet. Past-Lara is always sending me the absolute worst presents. It kind of makes you want not to open them, you know?).
So, I made the electronic work second priority because I could technically do it from anywhere. That freed me up to focus on the things that I could only do while in Peru and onsite. I gathered info sheets/manuals/etc. for the products we used and scanned/filed them. I took pictures of the light fixture boxes to document exactly what was installed. I sketched a diagram to further detail the fire alarm system installation because it was happening after I left, and I was worried that the drawings alone were confusing.
My electrician best friend, Hector, and I strategized a few things that weren’t totally worked out during the design phase. I’ll admit that I was kind of hoping they would vanish or solve themselves, but that’s generally not how things work, especially when you’re the only one responsible for that aspect of the project.
I learned the most during this phase of the project. As I spent more time with Hector and understood more about how everything fits together, I realized where I should have designed things differently or been more particular about their installation. If I ever design a building in Peru again, I will do a MUCH better job!
One of the things I had been avoiding was figuring out the internet situation, but this was mostly because I knew it was going to be a mess. Let me try to explain, and if it sounds totally ridiculous, you’re understanding it correctly. The property has four phone lines used for internet. Ideally, we would get a new line for the new building, so we called the internet company to ask about doing this and they sent a guy to talk through it with us. Here’s the gist of the conversation:
Internet man: Well, we aren’t selling new phone lines for internet because we’re focusing on fiber. Me: Okay, then can we get a fiber connection? Internet man: No, it’s not yet available here. Me: When will it be available? Internet man: Sometime this year. Maybe. We hope. (Our translator Dina was there and said not to put much faith in this claim because they’ve been saying the same thing for years.) Me: … Internet man: There’s also another option! This is good for businesses and other clients who need more reliable service. It’s better than fiber and comes with any service or troubleshooting included. Me: Okay, can we get that? Internet man: No, it’s not yet available here. Me: Soooo… what do you suggest we do? Internet man: Wait for fiber to get here. It should be this year. Probably. I think.
Promising (not). I did at least get him to help me decide what to do for the cabling within the building. My goal was for it to work well whether it’s connected to a phone line or (maybe someday eventually) fiber and won’t be immediately outdated. Then, Hector helped to ensure that we were buying the right cables and connections and such.
Hector also installed the projector mounts, ran an HDMI cable from each projector location to a wall box at outlet height, and installed the HDMI outlets so there’s not just a cable sticking out of the wall. We didn’t order these outlets until later in the construction process, and I didn’t realize that they’d need more space in the wall than a typical outlet… so Hector literally drilled through the backs of the boxes into the brick wall to make extra space. I’ll admit, sometimes Peruvian construction methods frustrate me, but the “make it work” attitude came in handy in this situation!
I also made a teeeeny mistake with the wire colors. Basically, you’re supposed to use three colors in a certain order in the panel, and I mixed up the order. Luckily, Hector realized it before he connected the wires, and after a brief panic, I realized that it could be fixed by moving the circuits around in the panel. Phew! But, that changed the circuit numbers which meant that every single drawing had to be updated to match… it was a big headache, but crisis (mostly) averted!
The building still had a ways to go when I left. The major things: the roof wasn’t finished yet, and they weren’t planning to paint until January which meant that neither Debbie nor I have seen the actual completed building. It’s a little funny.
NEXT TIME… completed building pictures coming your way!! I’m VERY excited about this.
Helloooo! I know, this is probably like hearing from a long-lost friend who you never expected to resurface… but here I am! Alive and well and ready to bring you up to speed on all things Peru and beyond. I figure this is as good a time as any because who couldn’t use a little extra entertainment in their days right now? So, here’s my plan for the blog (keeping in mind that I’ve literally never followed through on a single one of these plans): I’ll finish telling you about Peru and the building project and some fun adventures. Then, I’ll finish talking about Buenos Aires because whew! We left off righttt in the middle of that trip (whoops). THEN, assuming it doesn’t take a full year for me to do those two things, we’ll do some South/Central America exploring together. And maybe someday we’ll make it back to Europe (to refresh your memory, we’re floating around somewhere between Poland and Germany, potentially lost forever).
Who knows where we’re actually going to end up with all of this (my money is on somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic as we get lost between Central America and Europe), but hey, anywhere is better than the increasingly familiar insides of our own houses, right?
Last time we talked, it was the middle of November. The building project was chugging along. I was getting antsy at the idea of leaving Esperanza de Ana in only a few short weeks. My workload seemed to be increasing exponentially, as it always does at the end of a project. One second you’re feeling fine, and the next it’s like you’re tripping over loose ends with every step.
On top of my actual work, I was trying to make plans for what felt like a million other things at the same time. My parents were coming to visit me in Peru, arriving on the same day that I was leaving Esperanza de Ana. Then, I was hoping to do some traveling around South and Central America for about a month and a half and coordinated with my aunt, uncle, and cousins for one trip and my brother for another. Except for the part with my cousins, I was responsible for most of the planning… and my head started feeling like it was going to explode. Too many moving parts and not enough time! We’ll talk more about those adventures later…
Despite being hectic, the end of November was great. The building kept progressing, and it was exciting to see some of the “finishing touches” coming together. The electrical team finished most of the cabling and installed all of the classroom fixtures. They started putting up the bamboo roof structure!
Sometimes, Debbie and I would look at the building, look at each other, and say, “Can you believe we did that? At the beginning of the year, it was a dirt patch. Now, it’s a building.” It was easy to get caught up in the chaos of each day, but there were those moments when the reality that we were actually constructing a building made us pause for a second and appreciate just how cool that was.
The end of November also means Thanksgiving, and this was my first ever away from home (amazingly). I’ve missed a lot of holidays and events over the past few years, but in my family, Thanksgiving is our special “everyone shows up” holiday. The cousins come from near and far and spend days eating and playing and catching up on the year’s family gossip. This year, going home really wasn’t an option, and the only way for me to be okay with that was to not think about it.
Obviously, Thanksgiving isn’t a thing in Peru. This, combined with the fact that Americans are always determined to celebrate it, no matter where they are, led to the weirdest Thanksgiving of my life. The American staff had the day off at Esperanza de Ana, but everything else went on as usual. We went to a Thanksgiving party hosted by the American pastor of our church in Lima, and while it didn’t feel anything like Thanksgiving, it also didn’t feel like we were in Peru anymore. From the moment we walked through the gate into their front yard, it was like we had teleported to somewhere in the States. The default language was English. All of the food at dinner was recognizable. I think I felt the most culture shock at that party than any other time in Peru.
At the end of the party, we got into the car and drove back to EA. There, the kids were just finishing the after-school program for the day. It was like any other Thursday. I shut my eyes and tried to put my head back on straight, reminding myself that we had never left Peru. It was like we had gone into an alternate reality, and coming back was harder than I imagined it would be. Jocelyn and I agreed that the day did feel like something special, but it didn’t feel like Thanksgiving. That was probably the best-case scenario.
The other good news was that we didn’t have a normal day of work on Friday. I don’t think I could have jumped right back into normal after that! We had a staff day which is a combination of training/professional, personal, and spiritual development/team building. It just depends on what Jim thinks the team needs. This one, since it was so close to the end of the year, was more of a hangout than a training. We went to this place on the beach for the day, and Jim had us start by reflecting on the year and sharing how God has been working in each of us. It was cool to hear everyone’s thoughts!
After that, we had the rest of the day to spend time together and do a few activities. Julie was in charge of planning one, and I suggested a sand snowman-building competition. There was a height requirement, but otherwise, anything went. My team definitely won, even though Julie refused to declare a winner at the end. I mean, come on! Look at us!
When we got back to EA, Julie, Jocelyn, and I ran to grab our bags and hit the road because we were going on an adventure for the weekend! On our way out, we squeezed past Defensa Civil, the property inspection people, who had come to look over the property… at 4PM… on a Friday. What is wrong with these people? Everyone was baffled. There must have been some end-of-the-month quota or something that they were trying to meet because they aren’t usually such a motivated group. Irma, the director, sent them away saying that they could come back another day at a more reasonable time because there was no one to show them around. Ha. (We also weren’t quite ready for them, so it worked out!)
Remember how excited I was months ago when they started installing electrical tubes? My designs were being put into action, and it was the coolest thing. WELL. That’s nothing compared to what’s happening now. They started installing the wiring this week, and the combination of stress and excitement that I’m feeling is slightly overwhelming.
The reason behind the stress is that I’m so much more responsible for the construction than I’ve ever been before. In my old job, we would make the drawings, hand them off to the construction company, and essentially just expect that things would be done as we designed them. There’s some back-and-forth with the electrical contractor if they have questions about the drawings, and we would visit the site a few times during construction to make sure that things were being installed as designed, but that’s it.
Here, Debbie and I are buying all of the materials ourselves. Her job has been much, much more difficult than mine because she’s truly been responsible for ALL of the materials while I’ve been focused on the electrical, but now I’m starting to get a sense of what she’s been dealing with since construction started. The electrician sends us lists of materials that he needs, but then I have to check them to make sure he’s read the drawings correctly and that his lists make sense. Managing materials and estimating wire lengths and such isn’t something I’ve ever had to do… and now I have to learn on the job while also acting completely confident so that the electrician respects my directions. AND I have to truly understand how everything works, down to the details, so that I can be sure he’s installing things correctly and explain how they should be installed if there’s something he’s not familiar with. AND I have to do that in Spanish which is a whole different adventure. I don’t know how my Spanish is in general, but let me tell ya, my electrical construction Spanish is rapidly improving. At this point, my Spanish in combination with my charades skills is enough to convey ideas so that the electrician and I can get on the same page. Basically, I half-explain things and make lots of hand-motions, he fills in the blanks, and I nod enthusiastically as he says the words I couldn’t.
Anyway, things seem to be going well so far. There’s still a long way to go with the cabling, plus they have to install a ton of lights and devices… but the first two light fixtures are in!!! And they look fabulous. Well, they look fabulous turned off. Nothing is connected to the panel yet, so who really knows? Eek now I’m thinking about the fact that they’re going to install all of this stuff and then connect it at the end and my gosh I hope it works correctly. That could turn out to be a very awesome day or a very terrible one.
Welp, no need to worry myself about that yet! I’m already busy worrying about the fact that I only have about 3 weeks left here, and how on earth am I going to finish everything that I need to finish before my time is up?
Enjoy these construction/random pictures from this week…
Whew! It’s been a while since we last talked, but for once, it’s not because I’m just super far behind on updating you. This time, the delay is because of a much-needed vacation! I’m actually in the States at the moment, and I have been for a couple of weeks now. I’m headed back to Peru soon, but it’s been a very refreshing time catching up with friends and family.
The last two weeks in Peru before I left were fun and busy. During the first week, we had another mission team visiting, this time from Kansas City, Missouri. Like I said in my last post, this was an extra exciting team week for me because the team included a couple of electricians!! I spent the two weeks before the team came trying to get everything ready for their service projects, and the electrical projects added some extra complexity into the usual planning. It was cool, though, knowing that I was going to get to watch everything come together. I guess it’s kind of the same with the building project, but that seems like a much more overwhelming situation whereas the team projects feel manageable.
The demographics of this team were also a little different than what is typical. Often, there are a few team members in their teens, maybe one person in their 30s, and everyone else is 40s and up. This team had the whole range of ages represented, but there were more 30-somethings than the usual. It felt a bit like hanging out with my friends from home which was a lot of fun.
On top of all that, Betsi’s (a 3-week intern) mom came with the team, and Betsi filled her in on how much we like brownies (we’re basically in a constant state of desperate for anything that feels like home). She brought 5 BOXES of brownies with her. Talk about an MVP. They made three of them during the week and left two for us! I know that this probably doesn’t sound like that big of a deal, but just trust me. There’s nothing better than having our weekly Sunday movie night with a warm brownie on the side.
In general, it was a great week. The brownies didn’t hurt. Also though, it was fun working with everyone, they got an amazing amount of work done, and the results of their hard work were super visible. For example, the property has felt very dark since the construction started because they took out some of the exterior lights, and there weren’t very many to begin with. The electricians installed a bunch of new lights outside, so the night after they put them up was the first in a long time where I was confident that I wasn’t going to unexpectedly walk into/trip over anything while walking around the property. Imagine that!
I was the most excited about the lights along the sidewalk. They’re the first lights that I’ve picked out that I haven’t just felt neutral about. Usually, I’m picking things that are simply functional. These are functional, AND I think they look cool. They turned out exactly how I hoped, and the fact that we found lights that were actually what I was looking for is a miracle in itself.
I’m going to totally overuse the word “exciting” in this post, but I’ve accepted it and you should too. Do you know what else was exciting? The construction! GUESS WHAT? We have our first ceiling!! It’s crazy because now I feel like I can really begin to imagine what the new building is going to look like. It’s the ceiling for the first floor on module 1, and that’s the side of the building that’s adjacent to the existing 2-story building. There’s a railing between them still, but you can climb over it and move from construction site to existing building. It’s awesome.
In the process of preparing to pour the floor/ceiling, they put in the electrical conduit (the tubes they’ll run the wires through) for the lights on the first floor and the outlets on the second floor. I had to dimension my drawings… talk about stressful! I had to make the exact final decisions about where things should go, and now there’s no changing my mind because it’s literally set in concrete.
Since I left for vacation, they’ve been working on the ceiling on the second floor. Eek! It feels like they spent forever getting set up for the first ceiling, and I wasn’t prepared for Debbie to send me a picture of them already working on the next one. I feel like I’m missing too much! But I can’t be in two places at once, and this really has been a nice break. So, who even knows what it’ll look like when I get back? We’ll be surprised together.
Oh! I almost forgot. One more exciting thing! Every four years, in the year before the summer Olympics, the Pan-American Games are held. It’s like a mini-Olympics just for countries in the Americas. This year, Peru was the host country! Julie, Debbie, Jocelyn, and I bought tickets to watch beach volleyball. I don’t think any of us were expecting much, but it was a ton of fun. We cheered on a bunch of random countries until the last match where we got to see the U.S. women beat Paraguay in the quarterfinals (they ended up winning the gold). It was cool getting to see an international competition live. Now I feel like I need to go to an Olympics someday!
What a crazy week! I’ve been trying to get as much of the electrical stuff finished as possible, but I’m running out of time, and there’s so much to do! Then yesterday, I gave a presentation to a few of the staff about electricity in general, the electrical system here, and lighting design basics. It was fun getting to share my knowledge and knowing that everyone was actually interested in learning about the things I presented. Debbie translated and did an amazing job. Knowing how to speak Spanish and knowing how to speak construction Spanish are two very different things!
At the beginning of this whole adventure, I thought that it would be nice to have a break from lighting and electrical work. I was adamant that I wanted to do something different. I’ll admit that I have enjoyed growing in other areas, but these last few weeks of electrical work have been much more enjoyable than I would have guessed. It’s nice to know that I do enjoy the field that I spent seven years training/working in because there have definitely been times where I’ve second-guessed my choice. These last couple weeks have pushed me to learn and do new things with my knowledge. I get to walk around and investigate and measure and make real decisions, and I don’t spend all day sitting at a desk. It’s so satisfying to make my brain work on a higher level!
Today was the beginning of Lara’s Last Weekend of Fun, Peru edition. What could be better than a princess day to start things off? Tony, Debbie, Julie, and I went to see Beauty and the Beast, and it was so good!! We had to go into Lima to find a theatre with Spanish subtitles and English audio rather than a dubbed version, and it was so worth the effort.
Part two of Princess Day was a 4-year-old’s princess-themed birthday party. During the week when the team was here, we had a translator to help out with things. She is super cool, and we got to spend a lot of time together that week. The birthday party was for her daughter, so it was triply fun because I got to experience a Peruvian birthday party, pretend I was a princess, AND see our friend again!
The party was, as you might imagine, somewhat insane. I’m all hyped up on sugar right now because I basically just ate candy for 3 hours. The party consisted of some games for the kids, lots of sugary snacks, dancing, princess dresses, and a piñata. In other words, it had everything required to be considered a fabulous success. It was funny seeing the kids go from being kind of shy and quiet at the beginning to wild and crazy after they got some sugar pumped into them. Sugar never fails.
In conclusion, life is great, sugar is magical, and every day should be Princess Day.
Thank goodness it’s Friday because I’m ready for a break! All of the thinking I’ve done this week has taken a toll on me. I know that sounds pathetic, and it’s not like my time here has been mindless. It’s just a different kind of thinking, and one that generally leads to me sitting in a chair for extended periods of time. Yes, it’s kind of like I’m back in an office job. It’s okay though… it might be a weird adjustment back to what feels like a former life, but I’m enjoying the challenge and the brain workout.
Yesterday I actually did spend the entire day at my desk. I did a little more background research and checked out the building plans that they have. The plans aren’t terrible, but after looking at them, I had the feeling that they might not be completely right. That’s how, today, I found myself surveying Building A (I still have to do buildings B and C). I did the easy part this morning. I went through and checked to make sure that the outlets and light fixtures shown on the drawings were actually installed. That part was extra fun because I put my computer in tablet mode, opened the PDFs of the plans, and used my stylus to draw on them. I felt super cool, and I got to use pretty colors. That’s all that’s required to make it a good day… having an excuse to draw with pretty colors.
The brain frying part of the day started after lunch when I looked more closely at the plans and realized that they contradict themselves. The information about what is connected to what is completely wrong. Ugh. That makes this a much bigger job than anticipated, and to do it right, it would take longer than the time I have left. I’ll just have to do my best.
Now I’m sure you’re bored out of your mind… sorry. The problem is that this is my life right now, so I can’t just make up something more exciting. Probably the most exciting parts of the last two days were dinner yesterday and dinner today. Apparently Thursday nights are pizza and movie nights for the kids! Delia made a bunch of pizzas, and Julie and I helped hand them out and then hid in the kitchen and chowed on the leftovers. Tonight, we made pancakes and slathered them in peanut butter and Nutella. It’s been a healthy couple of days because cheese has calcium, sauce is a vegetable, I needed some carbs to get me through our run this morning, peanut butter has protein, and chocolate is good for your brain. And I skipped dessert BOTH nights!
I don’t know that I’m really cut out to be a teacher. The last three days have proven to me that I like kids a lot more when I’m not spending all day in a classroom with them. Maybe that sounds horrible, but some people are “kid people”, and some are not. More and more, I’m convinced of my place in the latter category. For any of you who have never taught before, you can just trust me on this… Preschool and elementary school teachers are cut from a very special mold.
While the fabulous teachers here have been getting back into the swing of the after-school program, I’ve been holed up in the office with Debbie… hence the lack of pictures again today. Maybe tomorrow I’ll take a picture of my desk so that you can see where I’ve been spending my days. Exciting, right?
Actually though, it has been exciting. This might be super nerdy (okay it’s definitely super nerdy), but I spent yesterday doing research to help me understand the electrical system here. I had some awesome “ah-ha!” moments where things I’ve learned a hundred times finally clicked, and I think I made some real progress with making a plan of action. Even if I can’t come up with any great recommendations that can fix all of the electrical problems here, I can at least pull together some documents that show the existing system. The current documentation is lacking a bit because the ‘design’ was mostly just done in the field by the electrician and documented later. I think it would be helpful for them to have some drawings that are up-to-date and accurate.
Today was even more fun! Debbie let me play architect a bit, and we talked over some ideas for how to update the master plan for the property. It was last done fully in 2014, and the ministry and vision for the future have changed a lot since then! We got to walk around the property, measuring things and sharing thoughts, and then spent some time sketching up our ideas.
Dinner tonight was the dreaded chicken soup… usually, chicken soup is a Tuesday night event, and Debbie and I thought we had outsmarted the system by making our own dinner last night. Instead, I guess the system outsmarted us.
When I use the word “dreaded”, that makes it sound like no one likes it, but that’s not the case. Really, just Debbie and I don’t like it. I’m not a huge soup fan anyway, but this soup has all of the parts of the chickens that don’t make the cut for lunch. That includes feet, livers, necks, etc. Yum. The rest of the soup is actually not bad… tonight there were noodles, potatoes, carrots, corn, and a few other things I’m sure. But I’m not interested in stumbling upon a chicken foot in my soup bowl. Thankfully, I think Delia knew that and didn’t give me any chicken parts. Potential crisis averted.
In summary: brainstorming + research + sketching – chicken feet = a good day!
School started today! Our schedule has completely shifted now, and it’s going to take a little getting used to – mostly because eating times have shifted and that changes everything. Here’s how the new schedule is going to go:
5:30AM – the kids wake up
6:00AM – we wake up (on running days… on other days we can sleep later)
6:15-6:45AM – run time
7AM – kids’ breakfast
7:40AM – kids depart for school
9AM – worship
11:30AM – staff meeting, Monday and Friday
2PM – I help set up for lunch
2:30-3:00PM – lunch
3:30-5:30PM – after-school program (which I’m not involved in)
5:30-7PM – overnight program kids shower, do laundry, do chores, etc.
7-7:30PM – dinner
8:30PM – kids’ bedtime
I wasn’t completely sure about what I’d be spending my last 3 weeks here doing, but don’t worry, I figured it out today. Debbie had a bunch of questions about the electrical system here and some issues that an inspector doing an unofficial inspection came up with. She wants me to study the electrical system and keep an eye out for a few things. To name a few: if anything jumps out as unsafe, if the equipment is sized appropriately to accommodate the new buildings they’re planning, and if there are any other things that should be looked at more closely. They also want me to check out the electric bills and see if they seem reasonable.
With all of those things together, I’m going to have more than enough to keep me busy for the rest of my time here. I’m happy though. I feel like I’m being of real use and have been doing things that actually take advantage of my skills and background. That’s a good feeling to have!
Debbie and I spent the whole afternoon going over what she knows and then walking the property so that I could check out the equipment for myself. Maybe this is weird, but I’m excited to get started! I’m going to learn a lot by doing this. It’s much more hands-on and involved than anything I did while working, and I’ll definitely have to do some research and studying in order to be successful (electrical friends – expect a call from me! I’m going to do a lot of phoning friends for advice haha). It’s cool that I’ll have a real chance to figure things out and be able to make recommendations that will be taken seriously. Hopefully I’ll be able to leave something useful behind!
My only pictures today are of pumps and electrical panels, so enjoy this beautiful picture of a hole that 1) shouldn’t have water in it (so we’re off to a good start) and 2) I climbed into to get a closer look at a couple of septic pumps. Woo! If you want some slightly more interesting pictures, you can go back a couple posts to the one from Friday… I got someone else’s pictures from the staff team-building exercises and added them in!
After having some time to relax and settle in yesterday, today we got to work! The morning started off at 9AM with a staff meeting… in Spanish. I’m going to put my comprehension at maybe 50%? And if I’m being completely honest, that might be a little high. Either way, I was proud of myself because I at least got the general idea of what was being discussed. I’m sure that more than a few details fell through the cracks, but expectations of my language skills are low, so no one is really expecting me to know much after group discussions and meetings.
To give you a better idea of the dynamic, there are currently 5 of us who are from the US: Jim and Tony Kay (the directors who I mentioned before), Debbie (a Penn State architect!), and Julie (a teacher). Everyone besides me can speak Spanish, though they all mostly learned after arriving in Peru which gives me hope that I’ll at least have passable skills by the end of my 10 weeks. The national staff members obviously speak Spanish and have varying levels of English knowledge. When the group is together, Spanish is the language. Even though it makes it much harder for me to have any clue about what is going on, I’m happy that’s the case. It’s forcing me to work on my Spanish, and I can see how much better my experience will be once I feel more confident and can actually communicate back to people rather than just semi-understanding what they’re saying to me.
A five-week summer school is starting next week, and Debbie and I are teaching a “Mini-ingenieros” (mini-engineers) class together. We met once around the holidays when she was in the States to come up with some ideas, and today we had to actually plan out the classes and fill in some details. We have a much better framework now, but there’s definitely still a lot of work to do. To give you the gist, we’re going to talk about urban planning, transition into talking about building types and space planning, and have the kids each design the exterior of a building that takes up a “city block”. The hope is to inspire them to make some funky designs and interesting shapes and decorate them, and afterwards we’ll put everyone’s together to make a “kid city”.
Part 2 of the class is a robotics project that may or may not go well… Theoretically, we’re going to have the kids build these little, simple robots and then set them free in the city like it’s a robot takeover. That’s the current/still somewhat a work in progress plan, and Debbie and I are going to test build a robot next week. Cross your fingers for us because it should be interesting.
We have two classes of older kids (7-9 and 10-12 years old) and two classes of younger kids (2-6 years old). Obviously the younger kids aren’t going to be doing these projects, and we thankfully have only 30 mins – 1 hour with them each week. We’ll have three 2 hour classes each week with the older kids. The big challenge now is coming up with “engineering”-ish projects to do with the younger kids. Now accepting suggestions…
Besides planning our classes, I got to use some of my technical knowledge today! That was exciting because I was feeling a bit like this whole year was going to be me out of my element and not really using my education for anything. It wasn’t anything complicated, but they’re planning to add fans into some of the classrooms here, and I helped with some electrical investigation and gave a few options for how it could be done. Like I said, nothing too exciting or complicated, but I finally did something that made me feel like my knowledge from 5 years of college and 2 years of working could be useful in this context!
I didn’t do a great job of taking pictures today (aka I took zero), so the ones above are just more that I took while walking around yesterday. I’ll be better tomorrow!