Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Week to Remember!

Most of the Greek students - happy and eager on day 1!

I slept in the last room on the right and taught in the 1st.

Sunrise over Ayacucho



2nd and 3rd year students and faculty.
"Brother Mike, where are you.  The bus is going to leave Uripa soon".  I was sitting in the taxi from Andahuaylas to Uripa, about an hour from both towns, watching the driver repair his overheated engine.  The bus from Uripa - a minivan, or combi, actually - was going to take me to the middle of the next State, Ayacucho, where I was going to spend the week teaching Greek 2 in a seminary.  The driver got the engine cooled down and filled the radiator with water and I made it to Uripa, just in time to catch the bus, which had been waiting for me to start the 4-7 hour (depending upon the rain and road construction) trip to the city of Ayacucho.
January and February here are the rainy season, and we get TORRENTIAL rains that cause mudslides that can wash away or block roads, destroy villages and isolate towns.  As we crossed the river Pampas, which is low ground and jungle-like, the rain began to fall as we began the ascent up to the mountains of Ayacucho.  about 3 hours into the trip, just as my legs were beginning to cramp up, we came to a huayco, a fresh mudslide, that had blocked the road.  We just turned a corner and were in 2-3 feet of mud.  The driver managed to back us out of the mud - with help from another combi and some rope. I began preparing myself to spend the night in the altitude, around 15,000', with no blanket or food.  I did have a warm winter coat and a bottle of water at least. But, it was Sunday afternoon and classes were to begin the next morning, and the combi was half full of students and faculty of the seminary, so the driver decided to try another route.  We backed down the road for a couple of miles and we came to a turn off with a sign that said, "historic Inca road".  Oh goody!  A 700 year old road not made for vehicles with wheels (the Inca never invented the wheel).
We slithered and wobbled our way for about and hour and a half and finally hit the new road again and Praise God! it was clear.  We got to the seminary in time for supper.  The seminary was held in a school, with classrooms serving for bedrooms, kitchen and dining rooms and of course, classrooms.  The school was closed for summer vacation, so it was good use of a facility.  I slept in a classroom on a thin little mattress on the floor, in the same room as another teacher and his wife (from Mexico), her mother and brother, the other profs younger sister and brother who were students.  The food was typical "Andina cuisine" - potatoes, little breads, thin gruel and soup (which was mainly miscellaneous organ meat - not my favorite!).  The Mexican mother-in-law of my fellow teacher got very tired of the food and one day, I was told to eat very little supper, and after 10 pm curfew I was invited to a Mexican feast - home-made chicken tacos with home-made Pico de Gallo.  Yum!
Monday started classes.  Greek 2 turned out in reality to be Greek 1.  This seminary only functions in vacations, January and February, and they had forgotten what little they had learned last year.  It was large class - 23 students - and all but a handful were Spanish second language.  They had grown up speaking, reading and writing Quechua.  So, the majority of the students didn't even know or understand Spanish grammar terms.  But with classes from 8 am until 10 pm, we had plenty of time to work.  Eventually, all but 3 students passed the final exam and we have made arrangements for them to continue to study via email and their textbooks and I have agreed to come back next year and teach Greek 1 & 2.
On the way back, we encountered a blizzard in the altitude - snow, ice, hail, freezing rain - not falling on us but rather swirling around us.  The clouds came in from below us and were pushed up by the mountains.  The combi had no heat and I was so happy for my heavy winter coat that I bought in Ohio last year.  As we drove on we began to descend and the snow and ice turned to heavy rain.  Suddenly there was a loud roaring sound and a large chunk of mountain began sliding down to the road, with trees and boulders dislodged by the mud.  The driver stomped on the gas and we just made it, a large boulder hit the back left side of the combi and shoved us almost into the abyss on our right.  Everyone was wide awake for the rest of the trip.  We avoided one other mudslide by a few feet.  Then we had to drive through another 3 small slides, but after an exciting (I am personally a little tired of excitement!) trip I made it home safe and sound.