mercoledì 8 gennaio 2014

On the road from Santa Cruz to Salta

 Hi guys,

many days are gone since the last update of my blog. In the last days I was quite busy with the preparation of the Christmas time in Montevideo. We celebrated Christmas with the poor children of the are where I was working and they truly enjoyed it! Thanks to some donation we got, Santa Claus could exist for the too!

Just after Christmas I started my trip flying to Santa Cruz de la Sierra and after a short visit, I continued towards Sucre. The historical centre of the city is wonderful and truly worth a visit. But cities were not my big aim when I flew to Bolivia. So I couldn't wait to continue my trip. Get on bus and go up to 4500m between colourful and isolated valley, crossing some small villages up on the mountains with their mud houses and with the women wearing their typical colourful dress carrying their children on their backs. 

Fortunately and quite surprisingly the altitude was never a problem, so I was springing here and there without having to stop every two steps :)

After this long bus trip among those deserted valley I got there...I got to Uyuni. I don't think the name will tell you a lot, at least I had never heard about it before but it was an incredible place. In Uyui you can see the biggest salt flat in the world. I don't want to tell you much about the place...just look at the pictures to understand why I found it so incredible :)


Not to bad, isn't it? :)

After enjoying this impressive show of the nature, I was ready to get on the death train to Villazon. I don't know what the name satys for, maybe it's because the train was travelling (more bumping then traveling!) at 4000m across valleys and mountains crossing spots where you had the impression of flying because you couldn´t see the bottom of the hole we were passing eventually...Argentina! I cross the border with no problem this time! I'm in the Jujuy region on the 1st of December 2014! UHM???? What??? Nein!!! Another time again!!! The custom officer didn't change the months when he stamped my I crossed on the 1st of January and on my passport stays now 1st December 2014 :( Unfortunately, when I noticed it I was already too far away...hope tomorrow at the airport everything will be solved politely...

During these Argentinian days I could enjoy the breathtaking Jujuy and Salta area...always staying between 1000 and 4700m...a truly experience!

Ok. Unfortunately, I've to leave you...I was stealing a computer at the reception of the hostel I'm staying at, and now they are kicking me away...

See you soon!


sabato 2 novembre 2013

Change of career!

Hi everyone! 

Many days passed since the last time I could write a post. During these last two weeks I have been overwhelmed. I only had time for working and sleeping :)

Let's start with a bad career as a tango dancer is over for the moment. Juan, the teacher, had an accident and he won't be able to walk for 4 weeks and then he will need physiotherapy for 3 was very sad to see him like this, because I know that he lives teaching. I wonder how he will do...

Starting point.
The good news is that I now started a new career: I'm learning to work with mud for building huts :) So I started a course last Friday. Our goal: to build a place where poor people can be attended with natural treatments like medicinal herbs or receive psychological help if needed. The therapist will work in the clinic pro bono. 

Our dream!

 So we, 36 volunteer guided by an architect, started this adventure with a huge amount of positive energy end enthusiasm.
The first part was quite hard. We had to fill up bags with sands and use them as a stabilize the base of the future walls.
My first part of wall!

  So we filled 100 bags with an tremendous effort and then I was asked to calculate how many more we had to fill before starting the construction. After a quick calculation I gave the group the response: "More or less...100"
The group: "100!!! Ivan, are you crazy! What on earth are you talking about??? You must be joking!!!"
After a short explanation, I could convince them that Maths is not an opinion and that we really needed the 100 bags :) So back to work! Anyway, nobody never lost la buena onda!

When we started the construction of the walls in the afternoon, the group started working with a new energy! And After 3 hours, I could finish my first part of the wall!

The best part was jumping into the swimming pool to prepare the mud :) Unfortunately, I don't have picture of that part, because as you can imagine we were all full of mud everywhere...
Internal walls
 ...and my camera is not mud proof :) Afterwords we split in several small groups and each group was responsible for a part: external walls, internal walls, doors, work...and then another great moment! It was time time to cover

External walls
the walls with mud. This process is quite easy: you prepare the mud, you took in your hand and you splash it against the wall. The mud sticks on the structure. Now, during this part of the construction passed some small "accident" like a handful of mud flying "accidentally" towards another component of the group :) 

Creative wall

Understandably, the person who was hit always thought that the mud had been tossed to him/her on purpose and reacted fighting back :)

Now I don't want to bore you with to many details. All in all was a great experience and I learned how to build walls using only sand, soil, water and some wood! We couldn't finish the clinic but we had a wonderful time together. Moreover, I will continue working on the clinic to help the therapists to finish it!

The merendero
  All this experience helped me a lot in this week. After closing the course I was called to a new challenge! Tomorrow we will build a mud wall around the "merendero" which is the  place where we give to eat to the poor kids(like Franco, whom you see in the picture). On top of that we entertain them with different projects like theatre and lots of games :)
The goal is to protect a little more the merendedero which has been vandalised a couple of time and to show the poor families how they can improve their barracks only using the things they can find around them! So far, all the kids and some women are working hard with us. We are missing the men power...we hope that our 40 volunteer who will come tomorrow will transfer some of their enthusiasm to the men of the Barrio! Anyway, during this week I was asked to help to coordinate all needs for tomorrow. I will only discover on Sunday if I did a good job ;)

So if you want to know what will happen, keep following me!


mercoledì 16 ottobre 2013

A wonderful camp

Hello everyone!

As you can easily imagining reading this post, I survived the 3 days camp with my students. I left the house on Monday morning fearing the worst but I ended up living a great experience!

The adventure starts at about 8:00 on Monday the 7th, all on the bus! Oh no! There is a teacher missing! We wait...15 min...we wait...30 min...we call him, no answer...45 min...we call him, he answers! "Sorry guys, I forgot to update my watch on Sunday..." (we changed to daylight saving on the 5th)...ok, we go, he will reach us later.

We get to the camp at about 10 and we meet the second group of students. The camp is an idea of the government in order to reintegrate the young students who live in a critical context with (ours) with students attending a normal high school. Basically, they are 45 students of a sixth grade (diploma year like in Zurich), we are 27. I see they are somehow shocked at the beginning: our students are loud and, let's put it this way, use a colorful language.

Thanks to the help of the hosts of the camp, the ice is soon broken. The students of Durazno realize in which situation they are going to live in the next 3 days and react the best way! They are ready and open to get to know us without prejudice!

And after a stroll...we get to the beach!

Oops! But where is Carlos, the missing teacher? He should have been here by now! We call..."Hi Carlos, where are you?"
"I'm at the camp!"
"We don't see you!"
"Neither do I!"
"Are you at Kiyu camp? Are you sure?"
"Kiyú? Ehm Kiyú..."
"Carlos?! Where are you?!"
"In a camp...well, I'll reach you soon!"

Waiting for Carlos, we have fun playing on the beach!
The great thing is that our kids are playing with all the other one. For this one time they are all one, they are all just young people having fun together! 

 Unforunately, it is now time to go back to the camp now! he is! Carlos, after a 5 hours walk got to...the right camping place! Finally in Kiyú :) Now the whole team is complete!

Cynthia and Viviana conforting Carlos
after his 5 hour stroll along the
south coast of Uruguay :)
 And after some night activities and a's finally time for the big challenge! The NIGHT(mare)...
...but incredibly, apart from a couple of strange noises typical of a night with 16 adolescents in a bungalow, and some pine cones flying in the bungalow...everything was perfectly fine and we could sleep 4 hours! (Much better than the 4 minutes I was expecting to sleep :) )

domenica 6 ottobre 2013

Con el barro en el barrio


I'm sitting on a sofa to enjoy the last hours of quietness. Yes because tomorrow I'm starting a new adventure: we go 3 days to a camping place on a beach with 35 students. As in every spots in the world, 35 adolescents spending two nights together, won't probably spend their nights sleeping in their bed, so we, teachers, are called to our duty. 

But facing this new experience, I want to tell show you the first step of a project we started in the "Barrio", the place where our students live. As you probably remember from my pictures, they live in barracks, which for us is difficult to call home. The problems is, they don't have whether the money nor the knowledge to build normal houses. This is maybe going to change. Mariana, one of the nun living here, met a man who might be able to make a change. He is a man who builds houses made of mud. Mud is something which is not missing at all, so we can start changing our enemy (the mud that invades all the barracks when it rains) in our best friend!

At the end of October we´ll have a 3 day course to learn how to build block of mud and the architect is then going to come with us a week later in the barrio to help us building the first walls and teach something more. We already started getting ready!

Piling up sand.

Everyone helps as he or she can! For the moment, we have mothers and children working hard for building their houses. The men need some more time to get convinced to lift their bottom from their chairs. 


This is a house now...

This is how we would change the house above
And after some hours working hard, we all deserved our plate of spaghettis :)

Well, I'd better go to sleep now, because I won't sleep for the next two nights!

Have a nice week!


martedì 1 ottobre 2013

Who are my students?

Welcome back to my blog!

I hope you're all fine and ready for my new post! 

Today I'd like to tell you something about my students and the Uruguayan education system.

Here students start primary school at the same age as our children in Switzerland. They attend 6 years of primary school before going to high school. Here the first difference. There is no other option than attending a high school for the they are obliged to study until the third year of high school. If you want to keep studying you can attend year 4, where all the children basically receive the same education and then year 5 and 6 where classes are pulled apart and then rebuilt according to the profile (scientific, linguistic, artistic,...). This systems generates very inhomogeneous classes up to year 4: in one class of 40 students you might have the future Einstein and Shakespeare as well as some students who can barely read their name, you might have very quiet and attentive students and some whose aim is to destroy the school and the teachers with it, or in the best case students who only go to school for socializing. What happens then? The students who can't cope with the system because they are slower in understanding or misbehave are expelled...and come to school like mine. Here they call it "Aula comunitaria". We are supposed to teach them the same topics they need to go back to high school and finished at least the third year. This is what we try to do. Here it becomes difficult...

In each class we have between 10 and 20 students, it depends from the day. The absence rate is extremely high. Today for instance we only had 6 students out of 20 in one class. All the students here have a very difficult life. They generally live in very big families with stepbrothers (3,4,6 up to 11!) with adults, who aren't mostly their parents. Others simply live on the road. In these first weeks I heard stories of fathers beating mothers, of brothers killed on the road, of sexual abuses, of girls who need to work as a prostitute to survive...the story of a 14 year old girl who is pregnant...the father is 15...I heard stories of children abandoned and beaten...the point is, these stories are their stories, these lives are their lives. And I have all of them in front of me...
So they come to school, can have lunch here and go back "fighting" to survive outside. Since they are little they are surrounded by violence, drugs, prostitution. The great majority of these kids have been to prison or have brothers who are now in jail. They have been beaten. Some of them are probably using drugs. To get to the crux of the matter: they live or have lived an horrible life which make them be tremendously aggressive or totally apathetic. Dealing with this situation in class is an enormous challenge.

The typical class works like this. Generally, the students need 10 minutes to get the material ready, at least 2/3 of the class. 1/3 on average just keep looking at you or doing other things. So we start for example with an exercise: let's say, solve this equation...during the time they solve the exercise we (teacher) need to: hear provocation but not respond to them, ask 20 times to be quiet, avoid some unidentified flying objects, make some jokes, beg the student to copy what we are writing on the black board, beg the students to lower the volume of the music, try to stop them writing sms or calling friends...I forgot, we also need to lock the door of the class, otherwise we'll receive visits from students of other classes who managed to escape...after doing that, we can proceed to the second eq...ah no...there is no time left...45 minutes are over! So in 45 minutes we have lost one equation...
This is a bad day though! On a good one we can also get to solve 3 equations. 

 Anyway, apart from teaching them what we can, we try to help them with their lives simply making a cake for Carla's birthday for instance (she has long lived on the road...)

 ...or cooking some "tortas fritas" on a cold day.

...or organizing a meeting with Christian Namus, the girl in the middle, who is a rpofesional boxer, world champion, who visited our school. The kids were going mad for her :)

We can also spend some times playing with them...I think I was in a better position...even though I didn't manage to win because after taking the picture my opponent got slightly upset and all the pieces flew all over the place ;)

We also organize 3 days of camping for them. Monday we are off! We'll go to a beach, where we rented 3 bungalows and the students will have the occasion to escape from their routine for 3 days and have fun! So next week I will tell you how it was! After sleeping for a couple of day for recovering the 2 nights there :)

Take care!


martedì 24 settembre 2013

September holidays!


I hope you are all fine! So the summer is over for you and spring starts for me...even though in Montevideo the temperature barely reaches 5 degrees...

It's quite a long time I don't write. The point is, I had some days off!

Last week we had September holiday, so what an occasion for discovering one part of Uruguay! I couldn't miss it, so I left on Wednesday morning heading to Mercedes, which is a small town on the west. 

 The weather was beautiful and I asked all the people around to move away to let me take these pictures :)

As you can see in this picture, Uruguayan fight the heat of the summer days, eating with their legs in the water :)

Once in Salto I could enjoy 3 Summer days. Salto is famous in Uruguay for its thermal waters. I just needed 2 relaxing day after all challenges of the school!  
Not only did I bath though! I got to know 4 very friendly Uruguayans with whom I spent some times and who made me discover some part of the city. The most funny part was when they discover where I "La Teja". At the beginning they thought I was working with kids of "La Teja" not actually living there.

As soon as they understood I was actually living there, they looked at me with widening their eyes in disbelief and started asking how it was to be there. Some of them have been living in the city for years but never dared to come even close to the place where I'm staying...So I was explaining them and showing them some pictures :)
So let me know if you still want to visit me here ;). It'll be adventurous to be in place where even the people from here judge as a "no go!". 

Apart from the Therms, there was not really much to see around the city, so I ended up learning how to use the potential of my camera...I let you judge if I was successful :)

Chapter Tango: yesterday I had my second class. After the big success of the first one, I was plenty of expectation...the problem was that the teacher too was if possible even more plenty of expectations than me. So he was trying to teach me like 4 different moves which was quite a difficult task for me...


<-- What I tried to apply...

What the teacher wanted me to apply...........-->

But apart from hitting some couples which were on my (our) path and hitting a door and stepping on my partner feet 4-5 times nothing else went wrong :) But I don't have to give up! But yeah, it's more difficult than I had thought two weeks ago! 

Good, I better go to sleep now because tomorrow is going to be another long day here! I hope you enjoyed reading this post and could laugh a little! Next time I'd like to write something more about my students and it'll be less funny but I hope equally interesting for you...

Have a nice week!