Science comes to Catache

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Students in Catache learn also traditional Andean crafts

Ten pairs of frightened eyes are staring at me. There is total silence in the classroom. I ask: ‘Why is air important? Why do we need air?’. No answer, just silence. The scared eyes are still watching me. Finally a shy voice, so low that almost impossible to hear, says: ‘We need air to breath’. It was the first day of my workshops in Catache.

In the city the kids are loud and selfconfident, making the work of the teacher as hard as possible. In the campo the problem is different: the kids are so scared they hardly ever speak. They need time to adjust, to get used to new people. A friend of mine, Anne Bernhardt, who spent almost a year as a teacher in Catache was telling me that for the first week the kids didn’t say a word, they were just looking at her from behind of their blankets. My experience was not so extreme, but I didn’t achieve much more than a whisper.

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Together with Profesora Ana of Catache

Although difficult, it was still one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had in Peru so far. The highschool of Catache is tiny, there are not more than 30 kids attending it. Some of them come from far away and need 2 hours of climbing the hill every day! The school is lucky to have two wonderful teachers: Profesora Ana y Profesor Carlos, who follow their mission in Catache already for 5 years. They’ve been living with the campesinos, sharing their everyday life and problems, trying to improve the life of the community. With their arrival the campesinos started to take more care about environment and the education of their children. Profesores Ana and Carlos are truly inspiring people and I admire their work.

But not all the teachers are so good – many of those that come lack imagination, initiative and new ideas. It’s understandable – who dreams about being a teacher in the middle of nowhere for 200€ per month (if you have family it is not enough to survive!)? I give you an example: the science teacher has a school microscope at her disposal and she says she does not know how to use it! Just think how many great science lessons you can make with a microscope, and it just sits on the shelf and collects dust… The students learn about magnetism without seeing a magnet, about electricity without ever touching a cable..

P1340090I wanted to change it, at least for a while. Show those kids that science can be fun. And we really had fun! At the beginning shy, with time they started to do the experiments with more self-confidence. And all of them were fascinated by the microscope. So fascinated, that they started to kill small flies and insects around the classroom to see how they look like under the microscope! I tell you, it is a wonderful feeling to look at the kids and teenagers amazed by the world of science!

Finally – the village wants to hire me as a teacher for next year. What do you think? Should I accept the offer? 😉

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The lost world of Catache

Far far away, deep in the Andean mountains, at the edge of the awe-inspiring cliff, lays a little village…

The people living there are simple but have great hearts and know what is love, respect and hospitality. They live quietly, with their sheep, and eat what the earth is giving them. They wake up early with the sunrise and go to sleep with the sunset. Most of them have never seen or touched a computer in their lives. Internet for them is a virtual world they have never entered. How could they if the electricity has not yet reached their homes? When the sun goes down each house lights a candle. And the village goes to sleep in total darkness and total silence, since there is not a single car in this place…

Sounds like a fairy tale? This village really exists, it is called Catache. From Cajamarca one needs to follow  bumpy mountain roads for 90 min and then walk almost 1 hour. I visited Catache a week ago, to give science workshops in the communal high school. It is a place where the time has stopped. Some would call it uncivilized and undeveloped, others ‘the third world’. I say it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. In all the sense of the word ‘beautiful’: regarding the landscape, the traditions and the people themselves.

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