International Cooking Lessons in Huaraz
Having just finished a fairly intensive degree I'd decided that it would be good for me to take a short break to practice Spanish, which I'd been learning on and off over the last several years. Instead of travelling aimlessly, looking to find myself I decided to be useful and volunteer, perhaps teaching and using my high level of Maths training. Arriving in Huaraz at Seeds I expected that I would just be spending my days with the kids, teaching Maths or English. I never expected that after school was finished I would be giving and attending cooking classes with the local Peruvians and other international volunteers.
Seeds offers English classes 4 nights a week to adults which is a great way for the volunteers to meet the locals. Conversations are often in English, Spanish and Spanglish which offers good opportunities to practice the language. The classes happen in the evenings, after school, so the topic of conversation among the hungry students often turns to food. During a couple of classes we made ourselves so hungry that we went out walking around Huaraz to buy fresh bread and picarones (Peruvian doughnuts in syrup).
I happened to be at Seeds during Thanksgiving so the American volunteers suggested we cook a thanksgiving dinner with the students from the English class, ensuring of course that the conversation was (mainly) in English since it was of course still an English lesson. Although the menu planning was led by the Americans, since no one else in their right mind would think to combine camote (sweet potato) with marshmallows, most of the cooking was done by the locals and an Englishman. The volunteers went shopping at lunchtime to the local markets, with one of the students, to hunt for bargains. Although we struggled to find cranberries (arandanos rojos), despite coming close with arandanos (blueberries) and or cherries, we did find a turkey and most of the trimmings. We hit a slight problem with the Seed's oven which didn't have a temperature control and was a bit small for the turkey but were rescued, once again by one of the locals who lived nearby and who's oven we borrowed before carrying the hot turkey a few blocks, just before dinner.
After the success of the thanksgiving dinner, the Peruvians riposted with a couple more Peruvian meals including aji gallina (chicken with yellow chilli and rice), papas rellenas (stuffed, fried potato balls), papas a la Huancaina (sliced potatoes with yellow chilli cream) and yuca frita (fried cassava, like potato but more fibrous) with a red pepper cream. While there was of course a chef-in-charge (thanks Sergio!), everyone joined in with the cooking offering contrasting advice on the correct method or the correct type of potato to use (Peru has over 4000 (yes, thousand) varieties of potato in common use, and God help you if you serve the wrong sort for that dish to a Peruvian).
Since returning home a few weeks ago I have already made aji gallina and pisco sours to try to revive some of those experiences. However it wasn't quite the same without the market shopping experience or the friendly sword fights with spatulas in the kitchen with Sergio. I'm sure I will be back in the next couple of years to buy some more ingredients and learn more recipes!
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February 03, 2020 at 02:47PM
From Japan to Peru
According to Webster’s dictionary, a volunteer is… just kidding. But in all seriousness, I never thought my life would fit my presumed mold of an international volunteer. I’m a 28-year-old military wife with an established nursing career and 2-year-old son, living in Japan. Despite my momentously blessed life, something was still missing. Enter Seeds of Hope.
For the last two weeks, I woke up each morning to the noisy city of Huaraz, took in the breathtaking mountain views while strolling to breakfast, and returned to Seeds for the morning session. For a few hours, I’d help some teens with their various homework and practice conversing with them in Spanish. Later, the volunteers and I would break for lunch and enjoy the local food at one of the many cafes nearby. By mid-afternoon, the younger children would arrive at Seeds and spend time on their homework. Afterwards, we’d provide a snack and spend time playing. This all sounds so standardized, but each of my days here stood out in its own uniqueness as I developed relationships with the kids each day.
Let me tell you: these kids are something else. That’s the only way to describe it. They’re so silly, energetic, and inquisitive. The girls would spend hours watching videos of my son and the boys constantly asked me to translate their Spanish into Japanese. Due to my attachments and self-admitted “mom guilt”, I could only spend two short weeks with these kids. Though the time flew by (you know what they say about having fun), these two weeks have been so monumentally fulfilling in every way.
If something is missing in your life, you might just find it here at Seeds of Hope. Meanwhile, you’ll provide children and teens with a much-needed professor, role model, and friend. If you can’t donate your time, please consider a financial donation (of any size!) to help support these kids in their conquest of obtaining an education and breaking the cycle of poverty. You won’t regret it!
It was Destiny
From tutoring jobs to camp counseling, I’ve always enjoyed helping and being around kids. Upon arriving at ‘Seeds’, the initial thing I noticed was the kid’s genuine desire to be here. It did not seem like a chore for them to be present; it was evident they admired and respected the community as a special place which they previously may not have had access to. Initially, it was a bit difficult to be ‘fully accepted’ by the kids given my basic Spanish skills - google translate only goes so far while also removing me from the essence of human connection. Fortunately, the children are very forgiving; they assist me with my Spanish as much as I help them with their English - both sides are very eager to learn and assist. After some practice and getting to know the strong personalities, I realized that verbal language is only one method of communication - I could converse with the kids by simply being a kid, again! Although it is quite embarrassing when I revisit geometric theories to understand the homework of the older kids, it is a special moment when the younger kids are in complete awe when I simply outline an image for them to color in.
It’s unfortunate that as soon as I began to settle in (3 weeks), it was time to depart. Seeds now holds a special place in my heart. I’m thrilled to stay in contact with the kids to watch and help them prosper. I will miss them dearly but will undoubtedly be back soon.
A day in the life of a Seed
Volunteering at Seeds of Hope ensures that no two days are ever the same. However, there is one thing that is certain – each day will be jam packed.
I usually get up at about 7.30 in the morning, giving me time to pop in the shower, get ready and have my granola and yogurt before the school doors open at 8.30. Although the doors open at 8.30, the children run on Peruvian time, meaning that many arrive quite a bit later. In the morning, it is the older children (12-16-year olds) who come to Seeds, because most secondary schools don’t start until about 1pm. The older children are generally quite motivated to get their homework done but will ask the local and international volunteers for help with various English worksheets, maths equations and problems, and often drawing, among other things. Be prepared to re-learn what you have forgotten from secondary school maths lessons – who knew I would need algebra and multiplying fractions again in my life?!
At about 10.30, the kids wash their hands before prayers and their morning snack. This is usually bread with avocado, cheese or a boiled egg, alongside an oat drink. Seeds really promotes hygiene, nutrition and eating well to the children.
After brushing their teeth, the children leave between 11 and 11.30, allowing the volunteers a break until 2.30! That means three hours to do whatever we like, whether this be exploring the buzzing city a little more, grabbing a 10 sol Menu del Día (to Brits that is a three-course meal for £2.50), popping to the market for groceries, or catching up with friends and family on Skype.
From 2.30 Seeds gets a little bit crazier, as the younger kids pile through the door. Most of them are between 8 and 12 years old, meaning they love to play all sorts of games and giggle at everything! At 3pm, they start their homework if they have it, or they do some drawing, colouring in, reading, or whatever we encourage them to do. Be ready to read fairy tales in Spanish – the kids love to hear you read too and won’t hesitate to correct your pronunciation!
At around 4.30 the kids have recreo, so many of them go into the courtyard for a game of football. Others will want to play a board game with you, watch videos on YouTube or have a go on Steph’s virtual reality app on her phone, which is funny to watch! At 5pm, the kids wash their hands for prayers and their snack, and they leave at about 5.30, having brushed their teeth and kissed the profesores goodbye.
On Mondays to Thursdays, this allows about an hour before the adult’s evening English class, which is a way of fundraising for Seeds. We currently have four very friendly students who come to the school to improve their English. Volunteers are encouraged to participate in this, and I particularly enjoy it because it gives you the opportunity to meet some lovely local Peruvians, and to learn about the Peruvian culture.
The students leave at around 8pm, which is the perfect time for dinner! The volunteers take it in turns to cook for each other, or if we are feeling lazy, we eat out. Huaraz has so many options for food – from Chifas (Chinese) and grilled food to local cuisine and more Western food options – we are spoiled for choice.
We are all pretty exhausted after this, so after watching something on Netflix in the sitting room or chilling out with the others, it is time for bed, ready to do it all again the following day!
As someone who will start Modern Foreign Languages teacher training in England through UK charity Teach First later this year, volunteering at Seeds of Hope is ideal for me. I am gaining so much experience with children of a variety of ages, having my eyes opened to a different culture and different ways of life, and am improving my Spanish immensely.
The only thing I regret is that I am not staying longer!
All of our blogs are written by our amazing volunteers