Pedagogy of the Plants

Mountain Respite

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In the summer of 2007 I volunteered at an orphanage in Trujillo, Peru.  One weekend I traveled with the kids to the beautiful mountain town of Simbal.  It’s about 30 minutes northeast of Trujillo.  The much anticipated annual trip provides respite from dreary cloud cover, and the confines of an orphanage.

A one-way glass mirror to the left allows the person inside to see who’s waiting. Five small holes in the steel door also allow a view outside.  Multiple bells sound throughout the orphanage when someone pushes the buzzer.

Each afternoon I took a taxi to the orphanage.  Unlike the other positions, which required volunteers to arrive in the morning, mine were free to explore the city while locals went about their day.

In addition to pulseras (bracelets), John also crafts beautiful change purses.

Jesus wields a plastic bottle cap used to play a game similar to marbles.  He’s a champion who flicks caps accross the room, striking another fifteen feet away.

Juanito, a charismatic soul, holds an intricate pulsera, which sells for 3 soles, or 30 cents.

For three hours in the afternoon, family members visit on Tuesdays and Fridays. These two are fascinated by a bald gringo snapping photos.

The majority are there by court order, taken from parents deemed unfit.  Home is often unsafe.  Prior to being sent to the orphanage, many live on the street hustling, stealing, and addicted to inhalants.

Leo stands out.  He often helps with cooking, and has trouble relating to the majority. Gender roles in Latino society offer little migration.

The wall (usually) keeps the kids in, and outsiders out.

On a slab of concrete, soccer’s called “fublito.”  The goals are smaller, the game much faster, and most play barefoot.  We played almost every day, and I was schooled regularly by kids half my size.  In July, they host a tournament with 18 or so schools from the area. Bet on the home team.

Almost 18, Jose “Lobato” is one of the oldest.  He’ll leave soon.  Some have no family.  My first day, he gave me a bracelet.  I hope he’s well.

Chilcho points to the line leader who hides facial burn scars.

 A British volunteer asked about the funiest thing I saw while in Trujillo. I simply said, “Daniel.” He’s one of the youngest kids at the hojar, and maintains a stream of perma-snot guaranteed to find you.  He scales people like jungle gyms. When reality hit hard, Daniel always made me smile.

Lalo’s the resident DJ, and plays the hits during special events like birthdays (collectively celebrated annually on a single Saturday), and Father’s Day (ironic since few of the boys have fathers they would like to be near). Cumbia and regaetton rule.  Lalo carryies a TV to the bus for movie nights in Simbal.  He enjoys hearing about Lalo Alcatraz, the politically charged Chicano cartoonist.

Jose and Chavarry commandeered the camera for awhile, and these two shots are my favorite. Jose is holds a traditional Peruvian flute, played on the ride up the mountainside.

52 kids crammed into two small busses, with gear strapped to the top.

Willian, the most skilled soccer player at the hogar, has a surgical sense of rhythm.

Roberto’s the kindest kid, and made the most of Simbal’s sunshine playing songs from the rooftop to birds flying overhead.

Jen holds Daniel over the side to relish in a pastime enjoyed by kids the world over, spitting great distances. He and I hocked luggies like best friends above a field of lettuce bordered by plantains almost ready for harvest.

The zip line’s a hit.  Jen clutches Daniel in flight.

too many scars for so few years

Written by Cameron Brooks

July 7, 2007 at 10:27 pm

2 Responses

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  1. […] traveled to Peru and Chile. In Peru, I volunteered at a small orphanage (the photoblog post is here). The purpose of my trip to Chile last summer was to visit locales inspired by one of my favorite […]

  2. […] prior to my first year of teaching, I volunteered at an orphanage called Hogar San Jose.  Click here to see more from that […]


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