Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Las Malvinas

Las Malvinas School
Last week I started working at Las Malvinas school.  As I mentioned before, I am working with the students to develop a tour, in English, of their beautiful school garden for tourists and donors who sometimes visit.  The students who I work with are in the Ecology and Tourism Club.  There are 30 students, between the ages of 12 and 17.  I am also working with two teachers, Pricila who teaches English, and Julisa who teaches Science. 
My Students
My first day at the school I had the students take me on a tour of the garden while I took some notes.  It was a little tricky having 30 students leading one person on a tour, but we managed!  The garden is pretty expansive; there are many plants I have never heard of.  One of the more interesting plants is the cashew tree.  I had seen cashew trees in Honduras but I didn’t know anything about them. 
The fruit above the nut is referred to as a cashew apple in English, however here in Peru it is called casho.  The students began to tell me about cashos and how they use them to make juice.  So I asked about the nuts- they all looked at me like I was crazy!  Even the teachers insisted the nuts are not edible.  Finally Gilbert the gardener came to my defense and explained that the nuts can be toasted etc, but they’re not commonly eaten in Peru.  I tried the cashew apple; it was ok, sweet but with a sort of a bitter flavor.  I can see how it would be good in juice, with lots of sugar!   By pure dumb luck I found salted cashew nuts at a grocery store here in Iquitos, so I bought some and brought them in for the kids to try this week.  They loved them.  Gilbert and I are talking about the possibility of selling the nuts.  I looked into it a little, cashews go through quite a complicated process before they make it into grocery stores, I’m sure that’s why they are so expensive.  So maybe we could sell the nuts unprocessed, the cashews I bought were Peruvian so maybe we could find a market here in Peru. 
My second day at Las Malvinas we divided the students into groups and had them research all of the plants in the garden.  The students already know a lot about most of the plants in the garden, however when they did need to look up some information it was tough because the school only has two books about plants!  We’re looking into getting more books for the school so teachers can really take advantage of their amazing garden.  Since there was some down time while waiting to use the books, some of the students began to get over their shyness and ask me lots of questions!  They wanted to know about me, my family, the US, and if I know where Justin Bieber lives!   I decided to spend our next meeting talking to them about Michigan, what plants and wildlife are found there, and also a little about my life since I know they are curious!  So yesterday the students turned in their research for me to translate and I talked about Michigan.  I even let them taste some real Michigan maple syrup that I brought from Fremont for Ruth and Marcos.  It was a big hit!  Of the pictures I shared with them, I think they enjoyed my pictures of my pets the most. 
What's not to love?!
Next on our agenda is learning to talk about the garden in English.  The students only know some very basic English, so this is going to be a challenge!  I also am trying to set up a workshop for the students with another non-profit,  Amazon Cares.  They teach students about animal welfare, conservation, and responsible pet ownership.  We are also talking about setting up a field trip with Amazon Cares to visit the Pilpintuwasi Butterfly Farm and Animal Orphanage, but the end of the school year is getting close so there may not be time!  The school year starts again in March, I’m not sure if I will be working with the school still but I have been talking with the English teacher and my mom about setting up pen pals between their two classes.  My mom’s next Rainforest group could potentially write back and forth with students here for an entire year and then meet them when they come to Peru!  
Royal Purple Brunfelsia, or Kiss-Me-Quick
Torch Ginger

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