Organised chaos: An Excursion with Flora Tristan English School

It was a beautiful sunny Arequipenan Saturday in early September and it was that time each month that all the HOOP volunteers look forward to – the weekend excursion with those students from our English school who have shown their commitment with good attendance and behavior. This time there were about 30 children accompanied by a handful of mothers keeping an eye on their toddlers.

The early shift had already caught the bus to Floran Tristan with our School Coordinator to pick up the students. I went with the late shift into town ready to meet them when they arrived at our first destination: El Mundo Alpaca (Alpaca World).

Brad, Kai, Miriam, Kordi and I waited in the courtyard with the Alpacas until our crowd arrived – full of glee at seeing the noble beasts in person. They clamoured and clambered on the fence to get a look and to try and touch them but to no avail – the Alpacas decided whether they wanted to be a part of this gang or not and either stood aloof or sniffed nonchalantly at the tiny outstretched hands.

The children of Flora Tristan at El MundoAlpaca

El Mundo Alpaca is essentially an Alpaca showroom – showing off the animals themselves but also the wool they provide and the products that can be made from it. There is a huge barn with a variety of weaving looms on display to demonstrate the various ways the wool can be processed, including a senora in traditional clothing demonstrating hand-weaving.

There are huge piles of wool and lots of things to prod and poke and touch and climb and jump into so all of this was thoroughly engrossing for our students. Like a giggling whirlwind they charged through the place until we managed to gather them together for a drink of water ready to move onto our next destination – the Cathedral Museum.

Hsiang, the School Coordinator, had miraculously managed to negotiate free entry to the Cathedral Museum for everyone in our group – playing the charity card seemed to work! At the Cathedral we arranged the tickets, stored our bags in the cloakroom and our group filed through the metal detector into the building under the beady eye of the security guard.

The first part was a tour of the Cathedral itself – the students particularly interested in the “Diablo” at the foot of the pulpit and mesmerized by the richly adorned statues of the Virgin Mary all around the walls. One of my students was impressed most of all by the Cathedral’s organ that has pride of place as soon as you walk in the door and stretches majestically from the floor to the roof.

Inside the beautiful Arequipa Cathedral

Our patient and professional guide quickly and calmly gathered the students together at each point of interest and told them something exciting to grab their attention – for example that the Bishops’ smocks on display, decorated with gems and golden thread, weigh a mighty 30kg! Many of the stunningly preserved artifacts spoke for themselves – gleaming gold and bejeweled, spraying sparkles into the goggle-eyes of the youngsters.

“NO TOQUES!” was the oft repeated refrain – keeping curious mitts away from the shiny display cases. The younger students were getting a little impatient so our guide took us to the crowning glory of our visit – the roof of the Cathedral, only accessible via guided tour. Impressively high, boasting views of the Arequipenan volcanoes and the Plaza de Armas, the roof is the home of the Cathedral’s two famous towers, in one of which we came nose to nose with the giant antique bells. You can even try to ring them if you’re daring enough.

The amazing view from the roof of the Cathedral

Being in such an imposing setting was a little scary for some of the children so we scurried back downstairs and reclaimed our belongings. The final stop was chill time at Plaza de San Francisco, where there is shade to enjoy an ice-cream, benches and steps to sit-down, peace and quiet to have a chat and space to play tag, football, volleyball or even fill up empty ice-cream bags for a water-fight…which eventually became a little too enthusiastic so we enforced a quick round of plastic bag confiscation to calm things down a bit!

Personally I love the excursions, the children are always so delighted to be visiting somewhere outside Flora Tristan and it’s a pleasure to chat to them outside the classroom, see their personalities in a different setting and find out what makes them tick. We’re due for an excursion to a park or mini-golf course next time because scooting around the town centre gets a little bit chaotic when trying to cross roads and keep everyone together and safe…but we’ve not lost anyone yet and don’t intend to, thanks to the diligence of the School Coordinator and supporting volunteers. We did however almost gain a new child last time…so we’re planning to introduce ID badges so all volunteers, including the new ones, can identify everyone in the group!

The children playing in Plaza de San Francisco

Can’t wait for the next trip…and, actually, I still don’t know the difference between an Alpaca and a Llama…

Find out more about volunteering for HOOP Peru at http://www.hoopperu.org –

Posted 4 hours ago by Julianne Ezra

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