We passed the midpoint of our training on the 15th of July. I (Jean) was in the mountains of Cajamarca, in the charming town of San Pablo, with eight other trainees, with the task of presenting business workshops to students at a technical institute. During the workshop, the students would prepare a business plan and apply for microloans, to be paid back at the end of the workshop. I was lucky to have Vann and Alana on my team. Vann is one of the best Spanish speakers in the group, and Alana is not only a very good Spanish speaker, she also has experience with teaching accounting and volunteered to teach those sections. Thank you, both. I was there mostly for comic relief. Hamilton Players, thank you.
We stayed in a church on the main plaza, girls in one big dorm room (with bunk beds), boys in another. The important questions when we travel now tend to revolve around amenities like hot water. The first morning I was in the shower with the hot water unit turned on. The water was not hot. Not even close, but the heater was trying very hard. The light in the bathroom went out, and I looked over at the switch on the wall that controls the hot water unit, and a thin wisp of smoke was rising out of it. That was the last time I attempted a hot shower, but as a team we managed to fry the unit four times during the 5 days we were there.
Almost all of the students in our classes focused on food for their business. My favorites were the tamales for breakfast. I splurged and spent about $1.35 for a dozen. One of these days we will devote an entire post to typical foods of Peru. It is a serious topic, always a good subject for conversation. The dishes prepared by the students for their microbusinesses are a good sampler of the variety on offer: roasted chicken with beet salad and the ubiquitous side of potato, fried trout (with potatoes), cake made with fresh pineapple, more cake, fried stuffed potatoes, fried dough with syrup, grilled heart (anticucho-delicious) & a gooey purple dessert made with a dark grained corn (mazamorra-not delicious). One group chose to “organize” (I could write a post on what that meant in this instance) a soccer tournament, and used their loan money to buy a goat for the winner. We fielded a team, but lost the first game with a respectable score. No, I didn't play.
The week was full of challenges and small triumphs. One bright blue morning I sauntered into a tiny restaurant/shop and asked the little girl working there for bread (“pan”). She looked at me quizzically. “Pan” I repeated. A blank look. “Pan?” said I, giving that middle vowel sound a quarter turn to the left. Such a simple word. Only three letters. She has gone from eying me as a curiosity to calculating how to make me go away, and I am ready to shuffle out the door, kicking what's left of my confidence out ahead of me, when a voice from the back of the store shouts “PAN!”. Her eyes fly open wide, her mouth a perfect O. “Pan!” she whispers. Why didn't I say so?