On our fourth day of having literature class and going to the orphanage, we ate breakfast at the usual 9:00, which was once again wonderfully presented by Mery. Today she served us some fresh homemade hot chocolate, which was absolutely fantastic and rich even with no sugar in it. We also ate Chuta, a type of bread that can only be found in Cusco.
The most interesting part of breakfast, however, was not the traditional food. Mery told us that the Peruvian government mandates that the high schools in Cusco teach the students Quechua, the native Andean language, as part of their curriculum. We were all pretty amazed to hear that, because we previously believed that the Quechua language was slipping from the main population back into just the mountain towns where it began and nothing was being done to prevent it. It appears that quite the opposite is true. Personally, I think it's wonderful that the schools are ensuring that the students learn such a deep-rooted part of Peruvian culture, because without these classes the population would slowly lose its grip on the native Peruvian cultures.
Mery's family is actually a prime example. She and her husband can both speak Quechua, but don't do so regularly, so her own children don't really know the language. She's worried that her grandson, André, (who, as they say, is quite possibly "the cutest") will grow up without a firm grasp on the Quechua culture. My hope is that the high school Quechua classes return the importance of this language and culture to its proper place in Peruvian society.
After breakfast, we would continue to discuss Quechua and the indigenous Peruvian's situation through José María Arguedas and his book Los Ríos Profundos. The book itself is essentially a fictionalized autobiography of Arguedas's life as a child. Arguedas was mestizo, (a mix of Spanish and indigenous blood) but had a stronger Spanish influence in his appearance. However, despite his appearance and social background, he identified much more with the native Peruvian culture. As he became more and more involved with the culture, he realized how poorly treated the indigenous population was, and was in fact on the receiving end of many travesties himself. In the novel, the narrator, Ernesto, is in a very similar situation. The story mainly follows him through high school as he both makes friends and sees the brutality of the world. From his interesting perspective as someone in between the indigenous and Spanish cultures, Ernesto offers the readers a unique view of the relationship between the two groups of people.
After discussing the book, we ate pasta with a creamy sauce filled with vegetables and beef. For desert we had a delicious chocolate pudding.
After eating we went to the orphanage. I returned to the same casita as the day before (this time with a little help from Angela) with all of the older boys in it. Today was strictly a work day, so we didn't get to play with the color-in soccer ball that we decorated yesterday. Angela and I helped out a young boy that on our first day at the orphanage I nick-named "Tarzan" (he never sat down on the swings) with his homework on the parts of the eyes and ears.
Now, neither Angela and I have studied anatomy for quite a while. So once the homework started asking for the inner parts of the eye in all honesty we were both pretty lost. Thank goodness Tarzan took notes from class, so with our combined knowledge we helped him to focus and finish his homework.
At Amy's casita the kids started off by playing with her hair, which appears to be a reoccurring theme. Afterward they took out a box full of masks and tried them on. Finally, it was time for homework, and Amy ensured that the kids concentrated and got it done.
Angie and Beth were in the casita with the younger group of kids. Their favorite memory is of the 6 month old baby girl bubbling with laughter every time that someone started dancing in the small living room.
However, their casita quickly turned into a hair salon as you can clearly see...
After having heard Mery's talk about the Quechua classes in high school, I was very happy to find a Spanish-Quechua dictionary on a shelf in our casita. It appears that Quechua is in fact back on the rise.
Here are a few more photos from the orphanage today, including a few girls showing a remarkable feat of strength by picking up yours truly.
After the orphanage we dropped by the mall for a few minutes and then returned to Mery's house. After resting for a little bit we went out to the Plaza de Armas for dinner. Just off the plaza there is a restaurant named Mesón de Espaderos and it is absolutely fantastic.
Mesón's main speciality is in meats. Beth, Dra. Shaw, and I got grilled steak; Amy had tomato soup and chicken kabobs; Angie had grilled steak topped with marinara sauce and cheese; and Angela got an alpaca steak, which I tried and was very tasty. I definitely wouldn't need any prodding to go back there again.
From Mesón, we returned to Mery's house for the night. Tomorrow is going to be our last day at the orphanage, and it's going to be awfully hard to say goodbye.