Walking with Dinosaurs

Children playing. Scrambling for the front of the queue. Shrieks of delight. Screams of despair, then… “I’m sorry but you’ll have to wait your turn.”

The September excursion for the youngsters of Flora Tristan English School was to the not-just-your-ordinary-park in Socabaya.

One of the many things for the kids to do on the excursion
A long morning, gathering the students together, handing out ID badges and suffering the hour and a half bus journey (standing up!) led us finally to this kids-mecca. A forest of play – trampolines, swings, ball pools, an inflatable slide, bouncing animals, tree houses, tunnels, mini-cars and even a bucking bronco! Things to clamber and climb on, under and through, all of which are surrounded by an educational array of life size dinosaur sculptures with accompanying explanatory boards. Misti overlooks all and the Arequipeñan sun shines unfailingly.

The ID badges (a new departure for the HOOP excursions courtesy of our excellent Tawianese volunteer – Kai) came in exceedingly handy as all the volunteers, even those who haven’t been here for long, were able to identify which children were part of our group. It all felt rather organized and orderly, probably also due to the fact that the whole group was in one place with a clearly defined entrance and exit – we weren’t going to lose anyone.
Unless of course they were thrown discourteously off the bucking bronco.

Trying to stay on the bull!

Or jumped too high on a trampoline.

One of the many trampolines

Or flew unceremoniously off the swing in full throttle.

Or were eaten by a dinosaur.

A view of Misti Volcanoe from the park
None of which happened of course, in case you were worried for a minute there… We might lose someone however if they went into the bouncing animals ride and refused point blank to get out again…little Mauricio is rather notorious for his confused expression of “but I’m having fun, why would I leave this place?” followed by a pitiful wail if we insist on removing him.
Mauricio is still too young to reason with but the rest of the youngsters are generally well behaved. The wonderful thing to watch is how, even in such a huge park with many distractions and attractions, they seem to manage to methodically try out everything as if their lives depend on it, some of them looking so forlorn when they couldn’t get into the ball pool or the bouncing animals.
Usually a volunteer is on hand for such tragedies and we can check to see if it is possible to get them their turn and if there’s a problem explain to them why (some of the rides were only opened intermittently depending on the park’s staff who have their work cut out trying to run numerous rides all at once).

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This excursion was a lovely leisurely day. The children really enjoyed the park and it was safe and diverting enough that the volunteers were able to spend time getting to know the youngsters, rather than just herding and organizing them. This was particularly nice for me as I only know the older ones through my teaching role and don’t get a chance to meet the rest of the school other than in cancha time and on the excursions, so it was a privilege to spend some time putting names to faces, pushing them on the swings, taking pictures and chatting.
However, there was a bit of herding required when it came to taking the obligatory group photos. A process of gathering unwilling children from every corner of the park ended in a countdown to photo-time and anyone who wasn’t there by the time we hit “1” wouldn’t star in our excursion piccie. Needless to say the picture is missing a few rather more willful young‘uns but we got most people in.

A group photo in front of the entrance of the park
As usual, there were a lot of mothers who came on this excursion to keep an eye on their teeny tiny ones. This made for a precious family atmosphere, huge picnics produced from bags slung over parents shoulders and mothers chatting about who-knows-what, relaxed and evidently enjoying the day out. I sensed, from the peaceful smiles on the mothers faces that this was a day not only for the children to let their hair down but also for the hard-working mothers to breathe a sigh of relief and to allow the weight of their tough day to day existence to melt into the soft green grass and flow silently
 away to be devoured by the grey-brown 
fiberglass jaws of dinosaurs.

Posted by Julianne Ezra

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