Greetings from the place I like to call “The AQP” (the airport abbreviation for Arequipa, Peru). I’m back at New Hope doing a bunch of photography stuff for two weeks and I’ll be the first to tell you that this is a very different trip for me than my previous. First, I’m only here for two weeks instead of six months. You can get a lot done and become really comfortable in six months. Being here only a few days has been hard to get adjusted (physically and emotionally), and when my time is up after two weeks I’ll have just started to get my high altitude lungs to say the least.
This is also the first time I’m staying at the home by myself (without any other gringo friends) and things can be a bit frustrating language wise, and a bit lonely in the mornings and evenings when all is quiet (that is if it ever is quiet with 50 kids). However, the loneliness is temporary and when the kids see me they ask “Classes de la fotografia?” and then they make the camera gesture in front of their face as if they took a picture. I can never tell them a definite yes or no for a class because it all depends whether their homework and chores are done, and they have to ask their tutor too. There are kids that have been able to take pictures, but not as many as I had planned.
When planning this trip I had grand visions of photo classes galore, kids pasting, cutting, and coloring a grand photo craft and all the rest that goes along with it. But I forgot one detail when planning for these classes. The kids are already in a bunch of classes, normal school classes that is, and a ton of homework to boot. To say the least, they only have so much time to take pictures. The project I had planned isn’t going to happen this time around, but the kids who have finished their chores and homework will be able to use a camera and shoot their little hearts out with the subject I give them.
My grand vision is probably a bit too much for one person for only two weeks during the school year. It’s been really hard to let that photo project go for right now. So, instead of the glorious project, we are shifting gears to do something special for the kids with pictures. I’ll post more about it in the future as it gets closer to being finished and unveiled.
Being back has been great in many ways, I’ve hung out with kids I’ve missed and thought about a lot, and I’ve also met some new kids. Victor just arrived three days ago, and since he isn’t enrolled in school yet he’s just wandering around kicking stones and day dreaming. So, I gave him a camera and we shot some pictures together. He seemed to enjoy himself and he got a few good shots, the one of the fish that you see below. It was his first time using a camera and I think that’s the coolest part about doing all of these classes, when someone who has never used or seen a camera gets to take pictures.
Beyond cameras, I get to do some things that photographers don’t do. Like, pick up kids from school. This is one of my favorite things to do while I’m here. I get to walk in the warm sun (get stared at because I’m so tall and foreign) for about a half mile or so and then the kids come out of school all excited and run up and give you a hug. This is where you really get stared at, because all the little kids coming out of school have never seen anything like a gringo, let alone up close and knowing some of their friends from school. The kids are all smiles since school has just finished for the day and then once we have everyone we walk with partners to ensure everyone makes it home safe (usually about 15-20 kids). The kids usually pair up with a good friend and horse around the whole way home. Its hard to keep that many kids in line, but you do the best you can.
Some days you pick up the older kids, which I described above, and then some days you pick up the nuggets (aka: Luis, Julio and Nilar, the little boys). If you’ve ever had a hard day for any reason, picking up the nuggets is best cure for the blues. These little boys are so funny and cute. I once bought them ice cream when I picked them up from school and apparently its engrained in their minds that gringos picking you up after school means ice cream. And of course we spoil them with it, one ice cream is only 30 centimos, or 10 cents in dollars. So we walk home hand in hand licking our ice cream and talking about their day at school (most of which I barely understand, but I like hearing them talk about it anyway). They’re still at that age where they’ll go on and on about school instead of responding with a “nothing” to your “How was school today” question.
Two weeks is a short lived experience. It will have many memories and emotions wrapped up in these days. But this trip is more than photography or projects, its to stay connected to the kids, love them and just spend some time with anyone who wants to hang out with a tall gringo. Enjoy the photos, I know I have.