'Round the Girdled Earth: A Week in the Life

By John D'Antonio, Guest Columnist | 1/29/13 7:00am

I have now been in Ollantaytambo for almost three full weeks, and it has been an incredible experience so far. Classes are in full swing, and I’ve been able to learn, explore and have a ton of fun. Every day is a different adventure, but there are some aspects that stay consistent.

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I wake up at 8 a.m., eat my usual bread with butter and fruit juice, and get ready for work. It’s a 10-minute walk from my front door to Yachay Wasi, the summer school I work at with Lauren from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The kids at Yachay Wasi are between the ages of two and nine, and are a blast to work with. A teacher probably shouldn’t have favorites, but there are two-year-old twins who won’t ever let go of my hands and are the absolute cutest kids in the world.

After lunch on Mondays and Wednesdays, our time is spent preparing lessons and worksheets, practicing lessons, going over class material and working on the long-term curriculum for class. When we finally finish working on that, the other volunteers and I usually run to the nearest convenience store and buy a Sublime candy bar so we’re not starving during class, and also because it’s the most delicious candy bar I’ve ever tasted, ever.

After we’ve satisfied our craving for Sublimes and prepared for our classes, it’s teaching time! From 6 p.m. to 7:25 p.m., Nicki and I team-teach our basic English class, which is generally comprised of female street vendors, Spanish teachers, restaurant workers and hotel receptionists looking to learn English and gain an edge in their work. So far, our basic class has covered introductions, greetings and salutations, and the alphabet.

With just five minutes to spare, there is a quick transition from basic English to our intermediate class. I teach this class with Lauren from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. The students in this class are mostly men working in construction and engineering, and the class is a continuation from the previous semester. At the end of this class, I generally run home to eat dinner around 9:30pm before heading to sleep.

Tuesdays and Thursdays are a bit different in Ollanta. Although we don’t work at Yachay Wasi, we still have to get to work by 9am for staff meetings and class preparation. Our second basic English class is every Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., and our two computer classes are from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. The computer class addresses using the internet, Google and focuses on how to use email. It can get pretty complicated and messy when we attempt to explain in Spanish how to use a computer.

During the days in between our classes we have various meetings, and I’ll often have to work a three-hour shift at our organization’s fair trade textiles store. Workdays can be long, often going from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., but it’s worth it, and Awamaki makes sure we have time to relax, explore and have fun as well.

John D'Antonio, Guest Columnist