Week 19: Chao for now


The time has come and the end is upon us.

My last week at FAO was kind of busy. The workload in the office was light, but we had some big events. This year is the 70th anniversary of FAO and we had a video conference with all the other FAO offices in Latin America and the Caribbean. This call was long and fun and very festive. A lot of pride and thanks was expressed from many FAO members for the work that we do. And I totally agree; I have a great sense of pride for the work I’ve done in my short time here.

The team

Some of the team with Señor Preissing

The following day (October 16) was Día Mundial de Alimentación, or the World Food Day, and the office went to a feria. At this feria, we had speeches from our own FAO Peru representative, someone from MIDIS and QW, there were farmers throughout different regions of Peru selling their produce, traditional dances and songs. It was a good time and I enjoyed being witness to this event.

The roulette wheel

The roulette wheel

The day after this, there was another DMA event in a neighborhood in Lima Provincia. The point of the event was to teach about food security. We had a booth along with all the ministries and other players in the community. At our booth, we had a roulette wheel with numbers 1-20, that corresponded with flash cards 1-20 each with a question about food security, hunger, agriculture in Peru, etc. We gave away information packets about food security, family farming, a work book for children, and a cook book to come lucky attendees. Again, there were more speeches, food, lots of information packets, and something for everyone in the family to learn. This was a community event, a family event, and a good opportunity to spread the message about food security.

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This was my last event and it was a fun way to go out. I have had an absolutely incredible time in Peru and am beyond thankful for this opportunity and the folks who helped me along the journey. I’ve learned a lot from my time in Peru, mostly about myself, but also about food security, creating a workshop, working with children, model building, and how truly important it is to think and act holistically to solve some of our most pressing problems. This was a fabulous internship and learning opportunity and I will say that I took advantage of it.

On a side noteIn addition to learning as much as I could on the job, I also took advantage of the weekends and holidays to visit other parts of Peru. The weekend before I left, we had a 4 day weekend so I took my last adventure in the south of Peru to a city called Arequipa. In this region, there is the Cañon del Colca, which is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in some places. I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon but I hear it’s quite impressive. Likewise, the Cañon del Colca was impressive and did not disappoint. Coming from Florida where it is very flat, this was maybe the hardest hike I’ve ever done. We went 1,300 meters (roughly 4,250 feet) one day and 1,300 meters back up the next day. It was intense. It was so beautiful! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a landscape like this before.

At the bottom of the Cañon del Colca

At the bottom of the Cañon del Colca

Peru is a beautiful country and a place I would definitely love to visit again in the future. This was my first trip to South America and it was everything I hoped it would be. From the food to the culture, traditions, landscapes, dances, handicrafts, and landmarks, it’s a remarkable country with a rich history. I had a wonderful time in all aspects, in the office, in the field, at the events, and around the country.

Cañon del Colca

Cañon del Colca

Cañon del Colca

Cañon del Colca

Día Mundial de Alimentación community event

Día Mundial de Alimentación community event

Mis jefas, Fanny y Yenny

Mis jefas, Fanny y Yenny

Día Mundial de Alimentación event 1

Día Mundial de Alimentación event 1

Cañon del Colca

Cañon del Colca

Día Mundial de Alimentación community event

Día Mundial de Alimentación community event

Día Mundial de Alimentación community event

Día Mundial de Alimentación community event

A snapshot of our booth

A snapshot of our booth

Dream team working the second event on DMA

Dream team working the second event on DMA. Flavia, me, Roxanna, Gustavo.

Week 17 & 18: Revisiones y Reflexiones


Wow, these last two weeks have flown by. Things are wrapped up at the school and I am spending my last week in the office. Here’s the recap of what happened:

Week 17: Today’s lesson at the school was drawing the big picture. During the past 6 weeks, we’ve talked about many things and maybe the kids don’t remember or don’t understand how everything fits together. So today, we went over the highlights and connected the dots. I wanted to make sure that these children understand why I am here and that we share this world, so what you do here can actually affect the rest of the world. It may not have been the most exciting lesson, but I believe the point got across.

Revision: Asking questions to see who was paying attention.

Revision: Asking questions to see who was paying attention.

And week 18, my last week at the school. How bittersweet it was. Two ladies from the office joined me at the school and I am very thankful that someone else could share this experience with me. This week, I asked the students a lot of questions. I wanted each student to tell me something they have learned. A lot of them mentioned the importance of nutrients (for ourselves and that a garden needs nutrients, also). A few students mentioned plastic contamination. And some students said they learned about composting (which, if you know me, you know this warms my heart).

After the revision, I gave a pep talk to the kids encouraging them to stay in school and learn as many things as they can. I printed some photos throughout our time together and brought them in to pass out. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a photo of every student working in the garden so a few kids were sad, but overall, this was a big hit. Of course, after our talk, we went back to the garden and Silvia and Juana (the ladies from the office) spoke with the professors and took photos, as well. Any opportunity to go in the field is exciting and this was a great day to come. Two other interns from the office accompanied me to the school on two separate occasions, also; but personally, I think this was probably the best day. This is definitely a day I won’t forget anytime soon. I think I learned as much from these kids as they learned from me.

The teachers of the school. To the left is the director, Señora Zoraida and to the right is Señora Esmeralda.

The teachers of the school. To the left is the director, Señora Zoraida and to the right is Señora Esmeralda

I also gave a presentation about my project in the office at FAO this week, which went over well. It was neat to see other’s interest in my school visits. I felt well-received during the presentation and was asked good questions. After this presentation was also one of times when I felt really proud of myself. I came to Peru not being fluent in Spanish, and therefore not having a lot of confidence when I found out I would be teaching at a school. Although I am still not fluent, I have learned so much. Giving a presentation to children is different than giving a presentation to your colleagues. After the presentation in the office, which was not perfect, but it was not bad, really gave me a confidence boost.

On another note: The weekend between this two weeks, I went to Cajamarca (a city in the northern Andes of Peru) to visit my friend’s parents. This was a fun trip, different from my other trips because I was taken in as family. I have to say that these two weeks in Peru were very comforting, even though I was still outside of my comfort zone at times. But it is working through the challenges that produce the most satisfying outcomes.

The northern Peruvian Andean countryside is really beautiful. Cajamarca is a quaint city, although recently has been disrupted by some mining activity. For me, it seemed like the history and the integrity were still strong, and I can appreciate that about any place. They have farms, textiles, and a few ruins, all worth visiting.

En route to Cajamarca. Andes Mountains from the plane for as far as the eye can see.

En route to Cajamarca. Andes Mountains from the plane for as far as the eye can see.

Cumbre Mayo residents

Cumbre Mayo residents

Cumbre Mayo

Cumbre Mayo, a pre-Incan aqueduct ruin with some really impressive giant rocks.

Cumbre Mayo, or the Bosque de Piedras, is a pre-Incan aqueduct 'ruin'.

Cumbre Mayo, or the Bosque de Piedras, is a pre-Incan aqueduct ‘ruin’.

Visiting a garden with Hydrangeas the size of my head.

Visiting a garden with Hydrangeas the size of my head.

Las Ventanillas de Otuzco, believed to be a funeral site with each window serving as a grave. The person would be put inside in the fetal position believed to encourage reincarnation.

Las Ventanillas de Otuzco, believed to be a funeral site with each window serving as a grave. The person would be put inside in the fetal position believed to encourage reincarnation.

Las Ventanillas de Otuzco, believed to be a funeral site with each window serving as a grave. The person would be put inside in the fetal position believed to encourage reincarnation.

Las Ventanillas de Otuzco, believed to be a funeral site with each window serving as a grave. The person would be put inside in the fetal position believed to encourage reincarnation.

Visiting the Granja Porcón. This llama is so fancy!

Visiting the Granja Porcón, a farm that is also kind of an animal refuge. This llama is so fancy!

Reflections

Reflections at the school. Bittersweet.

Week 15 & 16: Plastico y semillas


The last two weeks have been pretty low-key. And I enjoy this down-time, actually. When I first started my internship, there were a lot of workshops, conferences, and meetings, and it was all very exciting. I’m very thankful for the opportunity to have attended all those workshops. But now, I’m enjoying focusing on the work and the task at hand. I’m still going to the school and giving my lesson plans, and I also love having this little break in the week. It’s such a great opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and try to teach some impactful lessons.

Week 15’s lesson was about plastic, and how it is a problem globally. In some parts of Lurín, a decent amount of plastic can be seen littered on the streets and lining ditches. And every time I go to the school, I pick a few plastic scraps out of the garden. So I explained to the children how all this plastic on the streets and in the grass affects the health of the community, the health of the environment, their health, and why they should care. Lima, like my hometown of Tampa, Florida, is a coastal city and all this trash (much of it plastic – bags, bottles, forks, bottle caps, lighters, etc.) has a very high probability of blowing into the ocean (or in the case of Tampa, the Gulf of Mexico). 80% of ocean pollution enters the water from land. And plastic never goes away, rather it simply breaks down into smaller pieces.This of course is bad for the environment because fish and other sea creatures don’t always know the difference between zooplankton and shredded plastic bits. As plastic is made from oil, it’s quite toxic to ingest, and can oftentimes kill the animal that ate the plastic. And then it’s also possible for it to go through the food chain. Bigger fish eat the smaller fish, some crabs eat fish, octopuses eat crabs, and in Lima where ceviche is a popular dish, sometimes we humans eat those fish and other sea creatures whom have eaten plastic. Cows, dogs, birds, ducks and other land or air animals sometimes also eat plastic. And again, it’s possible for us to eat those cows and ducks. This information blew the kids’ minds.

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Passing seeds out to the younger kids.

So what can we do about all this plastic? Well, of course we can recycle. But if there is no recycling infrastructure or center, what can we do? We can reuse the plastic bottles that are so prevalent and make planter pots of out them! And this was our activity after my lesson about plastic and the environment. We cut plastic bottles, added a mixture of compost, soil, and manure to them, and placed red pepper and papaya seeds in each one. The kids loved it.

Plastic bottles pots with fresh seeds waiting to bloom

Plastic bottles pots with fresh seeds waiting to bloom

Week 16: Our lesson was about seed (semillas) saving. Almost all fruits and vegetables have seeds. When we save seeds, we can grow more food and help ensure our food security for the future. It makes sense for us to save seeds, as we have a garden. We can also save lots more plastic bottles and in time have a ton of little sprouts and seedings going. I told the kids that all the pepper seeds I brought the previous week were from one pepper, and one kid’s eyes got so big; he couldn’t believe so much could come from one pepper, not much bigger than the size of a fist.

I also explained to the kids that it’s important to save seeds in a community (or country, and everywhere in the world, really) where agriculture is practiced. In the case of climate change and more severe weather patterns, more or less rainfall, flash floods, extreme dry season and other changes in the weather where it’s possible to lose crops, having a community seed bank can be a lifesaver. Big industrial agriculture and GMO seeds simply generate new seeds and ship them to the farmers. But saving seeds the old fashioned way and sharing them with our neighbor when needed is an investment in our future, and our food security.

Again, the overall theme of the lessons are waste as a resource: food waste (compost), plastic (planters), seeds (more plants). I’m nearing the end of my internship and have two more school visits planed. Next week is drawing the big picture together and the last one is reflexions.

Fun fact: the weekend between week 15 & 16 was my 30th birthday. My mom came down from Florida and we started this new decade on a fun note. We went to San Lorenzo and the Palomino Islands off the northern Lima coast and saw sea lions (thousands of them!). And I have to say, being here in the middle of this amazing experience is a great way to spend a birthday.

Mom and me on the Malecon

Mom and me on the Malecon

Visiting the Cathedral of San Francisco

Visiting the Cathedral of San Francisco

The sea lions of Palomino Island

The sea lions of Palomino Island

My friend, Sandra after the sea lions trip

My friend, Sandra after the sea lions trip

Week 13 & 14: Moving along


Hola a todos!

These last two weeks have been pretty calm in the office. There were no workshops or conferences, so I’ve been in the office making my lesson plans for the kids at the school and doing more research for my final paper.

Here’s a little more about my lesson plans for the school… I am teaching waste as a resource and have a thought out series of lessons that build off each other, and all relating to the garden in some way. The first lesson was the importance of the garden, because gardens grow food and provide another area where we can obtain nutrients, which we need to grow. And by growing our own food, we contribute to our own food security. The second lesson was about what a garden needs, and gardens need nutrients, as well. So I talked about compost a little and the importance of sunlight and water in a garden. The next lesson, I went into more detail about about compost and taught about food waste and how it is a global problem.

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Teaching about the importance of composting food waste

This past week, I had my lesson plan about plastic ready; however, when I arrived at the school, the professors had other plans for the day. One of the professors said that a nearby farmer offered us some of his banana trees, but we had to do the work. So with a wheelbarrow full of shovels, we walked a few blocks to the field and dug up banana trees, 11 in total. Then we walked back to the school carrying our banana trees. And then of course, we had to transplant them in our garden. So my plastic lesson will have to wait until next week…

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Transplanting

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Some of the lovely students

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Transplanting

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With on of my students, Mayra

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Teamwork was the only way to carry some of these trees back to the school.

hf

Week 12: A new place


My supervisor, Yenny; our communication department head, Loretta; Carol from our ally Global Humanitaria; and myself in Puno.

My supervisor, Yenny; our communication department head, Loretta; Carol from our ally Global Humanitaria; and myself in Puno.

This week was full of activity! It was awesome and I’m so thankful for the opportunities that were granted to me.

On Tuesday, I went to a conference about school gardens where I met more FAO liaisons working elsewhere in Peru helping to establish and implement school gardens. MIDIS was also at the conference, and as Qali Warma (and the school feeding program) is under MIDIS, I learned a little more about to the extent of their participation in the programs. Working in an organization as large and spread out as the FAO has been an incredible learning experience in and of itself. And being an intern for a limited amount of time, I don’t necessarily have all the background information and full articulation of contributions from all actors involved. However, attending all these workshops and conferences helps to clarify the bigger picture and desired goals; which in turn helps me with my project and create a model more targeted at addressing certain needs and/or missing pieces.

On Wednesday, I went back to my little school in Lurín where I taught my second lesson about what is important to a garden. Last week, we learned why a garden is important (because it provides us nutrients), however a garden needs nutrients, as well, in the form of sunlight, water, and compost.

Teaching the kids the basic nutritional elements important to a garden.

Teaching the kids the basic nutritional elements important to a garden.

Ariadne's drawing

Ariadne’s drawing

On Thursday, I had the opportunity to join a FAO field visit in Puno (a city in the south of Peru close to the Bolivia boarder). We flew in Thursday and went to a school on Friday. The purpose of the visit was to recognize a school for their achievement in nutrition in school meals, as well as recognize one student in particular. The student, Ariadne, drew a picture that became the Peru banner for the International Year of the Family Farmer (which was last year; 2015 is the International Year of Soils). Ariadne comes from a family of campesinos, or peasant farmers, so she said she drew what knew.

Aitor, our FAO representative who spoke, Ariadne, and Roberto from Global Humanitaria

Aitor, our FAO representative who spoke, Ariadne, and Roberto from Global Humanitaria

Our day at the school in Puno consisted of a ceremony (presenting a plaque to the school and to Ariadne); speeches from the director of the school, FAO, the director of Global Humanitarian (an ally organization in Peru and globally, also dedicated to eradicating hunger); a market display of local products; and singing and dancing. It was absolutely beautiful and so much fun to be a part of!

Additionally, I had the opportunity to stay in Puno for the weekend and do some exploring. A little background of Puno: it is a city on Lake Titicaca, which is the largest lake in South America and the highest lake in the world (over 12,000 feet/4,000 meters above sea level); there is a lot of agricultural activity in Puno, both in the fields in terms of vegetable produce and sheep, cattle, llama, and alpaca farming (for meat, leather, and wool/hair for textiles) and agricultural activity from the lake with a large population of residents being fisherman. Puno (and everywhere in Peru, really) is an interesting city with a rich history. There’s Incan history and folkloric stories (Puno is the folklore capital of Peru), and dances, festivals, and traditions hundreds of years old. It’s a lovely, quaint city in the altiplano, high plains, of the Andes with some of bluest skies I’ve ever seen in my life.

Llamas

Llamas

Incan funeral tower

Incan funeral tower

Lagoon next to the funeral tower

Lagoon next to the funeral tower

Visiting an Incan funeral tower outside of Puno.

Visiting an Incan funeral tower outside of Puno.

One of the Uros boats, also made of reeds.

One of the Uros boats, also made of reeds.

Visiting Lake Titicaca and the famous Uros, floating reeds islands, and seeing how this community lives.

Visiting Lake Titicaca and the famous Uros, floating reeds islands, and seeing how this community lives.

Market offerings

Market offerings

Students dancing: a traditional dance in traditional attire with a bag and/or rope (with pom-poms at the end) to help encourage the growth of seeds and harvesting

Students dancing: a traditional dance in traditional attire with a bag and/or rope (with pom-poms at the end) to help encourage the growth of seeds and harvesting

School market offerings

School market offerings

School market offerings

School market offerings

Plastic bottle garden in the classroom at school in Puno (also the activity for my school in Lime next week)

Plastic bottle garden in the classroom at school in Puno (also the activity for my school in Lime next week)

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Greenhouse at the school in Puno

Week 11: Revisitando la escuela


Well, the kids are back. I’m back. It sounds like we’re all ready to go.

I went to the school on Monday to say hello to everyone and check in with the teachers. As things are always subject to change, I wanted to make sure we were still on the same page with what days are best to visit and give my lesson plans. There were only a few minor changes in our original schedule and the director of the school, Señora Zoraida, told me that to would be good to come on Wednesdays. So from now until the end of my internship, I shall visit the school every Wednesday. This works for me. It was nice to see the student again and chat with a few of them. I was also very pleased to see that more banana trees were planted in my absence. Our garden is growing!

On the first Wednesday, I gave my first lesson plan. It was simple, but necessary: The importance of the garden and what it can do for us. One of the things I am most passionate about is food waste. And in my mind, food waste being turned into compost is one of the simplest solutions to our current environmental crisis. So, under the umbrella of ‘waste as a resource’, I am teaching the children of this school about composting, food waste, a little bit about seed saving and a little about climate change. I’m only taking up about 30 minutes a week of their time, as they have a schedule already from their teachers and lesson plans regarding the usual math, science, literature, etc. However, I also plan to incorporate some of those basics into the garden education curriculum. After all, how many paintings and essays are there that have used this marble we call home as their creative inspiration.

New banana and baby avocado trees to be planted.

New banana and baby avocado trees to be planted.

Helping clean the site.

Helping clean the site.

Preparing a new site for more banana trees. And I saw a little avocado tree, also.

Preparing a new site for more banana trees. And I saw a little avocado tree, also.

11 banana trees in total!

11 banana trees in total!

Week 9 & 10: La calma antes de la tormenta


In my weeks after vacation (and while the school system is still on winter break), I reorganized and caught up on some research. I had a meeting with my advisor and we defined a little more the research she wants. So I tweaked my plan of action a bit, gathered some articles for a new literature review, and spent a lot of time reading and writing these weeks. I feel like I did at the end of the Spring semester when I was spending a lot of time in the library, just reading and writing. The student will return to school August 17 so this time of collecting thought, writing lesson plans, and general preparation is kind of like the calm before the storm.

Between days with my head in the (electronic) books, we took an office field trip to some farms in rural Lima. FAO, the various Ministries (of Education, of Health, of Development and Social Inclusion), and a few folks from the UNDP went to the farms. It was an intersectoral field trip, if you will. We went to three farms and met some wonderful famers (all ladies) and had a delicious lunch prepared with goodness from the farms.

The point of the field trip was to visit some of the farms that provide for the Qali Warma school feeding program (some of these farmers also participate in the weekend BioFerias [eco fairs] in the weekend markets in metropolitan Lima), strengthen the relationship with those farmers, get better insight as to how and where our food comes, how far it travels, etc. It was a fun trip, and a nice bonding experience.

The day after the farm visit, there was a conference with FAO and the ministries that was wrapping a series of workshops. I had the pleasure of attending some of the workshops earlier in my internship and learned a lot. The overall theme of the workshops were to discuss the successes and challenges of the School Feeding Program. It’s a continuous work of progress as there are many facets of this Program; but the efforts to better articulate the role of the actors, next steps, and goals have a history of success. The workshops have been full of great information and give me ideas for my personal project, more topics and areas to research, and give me a better understanding of how government policy is born.

I am half way through my internship now and I actually have the most amount of work ahead of me. I will return to school next week when the kids return from their break, and we shall continue work in the garden. I will also prepare lessons to teach the kids the importance of the garden, food security, and, of course, compost.

Lordes, president of the local farmers community in conjunction with the markets.

Lordes, president of the local farmers community in conjunction with the markets.

Lordes' farm

Lordes’ farm

Another lovely woman who participates in the BioFerias. She also has a fantastic compost pile!

Another lovely woman who participates in the BioFerias. She also has a fantastic compost pile!

Last farm visit and group of city folks.

Last farm visit and group of city folks.

Lunch ingredients

Lunch ingredients