Monday we have a reprieve, we will start on Tuesday at the school and Willy sits us down and talks to us about the kids and what to expect. San Cristobal has a population of 6000 of which just under half are of school age!?! This not so much a demographic problem (young people are good news as they will soon be workers) but a contraception problem. We are told that 13 year old Mums are common place and many teenagers struggle, unsurprisingly with parenting. Some quick maths tells me that I could already be a great grandfather and not just plain old dad if I started so young and my offspring followed in my footsteps. I start to wonder about Ben being 13 years old quite soon but don’t want to go there.
Willy lays it on and tells us if it is ‘different’ here and not to expect the standard of discipline we might expect. Classes will be noisy and kids often get up and run around. With no streaming the mixed abilities mean it is difficult to target lessons to the brightest and slowest and the large class sizes make much of the lesson about crowd control. Some kids get hit at home or don’t come from loving homes so expect some emotional issues. To be a teacher you now need to have a teaching degree but they have a transition period so some don’t which is apparently a problem. We don’t admit to our shameful degreeless status. But they need help and we can make a difference. I remind myself that if it was easy it would be boring.
School starts at 7.15AM and finishes at 12.30PM with a 20 minute ‘lunch’ at 9.15 and another 20 minute break at 10.45. It is a 15 minute walk with kids but we can grab a taxi which costs $1 to anywhere in town. I suspect we will be using them as Ben, Zoe and Lara are so good at getting ready in the morning and don’t need hours of parental chasing just to get out of bed?!?
In a taxi I spot a bundle of dollar notes on the dashboard, probably over $1000. After the dangers of Quito it is a real surprise, I turn my flash off and take a sneaky photo as it just seems so unusual. What we have been told about how safe it is on the Galapagos looks to be right which is reassuring.
We pay a quick visit to the school meet the headmistress who talks fast and I catch very little but hope Willy and Mo will pass on anything critical. Ben, Zoe and Lara meet some of their future classmates who look excited and cheer their arrival. Good news! On the way back we walk past the kindergarten which I think looks like a children’s prison:
We are also encouraged to help in the centre between 2.00PM and 8.00PM with the English classes. After a quick lunch testing another restaurant out confirming our suspicions that cappuccinos are served sweetened and with cinnamon pretty much everywhere we dash back to the centre to help with the 2.00PM class. There are already two teachers plus us which seems overkill so I leave Mo and BZL to help and spend the afternoon exploring town, carrying 7 loads of shopping up the hill and savouring the exercise.
You might think poor me lugging 20 litres water bottles uphill but it was great to do something physical after our time in Quito where you never walk anywhere after dark or if it’s too quiet, which stopped a lot of our normal exploring on foot or going for runs. Many shops here are opening at 6.00AM and closing at 9/10.00PM. Quite a few close for a mid-afternoon siesta or the owners just live in the shop with a big TV on the wall. I went into one and the owner was asleep on the floor to be awakened by a gringo trying to buy a balloon whisk (I never managed to find a whisk anywhere?). Almost nothing has a price tag so I resort to asking the prices in a range of shops before buying. What I discover is that a $9.50 bottle of olive oil is $15.00 in another shop but the second shop has cheaper rice etc. I end up buying our supplies from maybe 15 places, they probably think stingy rich gringo but it was great to practice my Spanish.
In the evening, after siesta, I discover that almost everywhere is a shop and they all sell much of the same stuff, but only one sells real butter. You can buy filter coffee but not filter papers and someone’s front room is actually a barbers at one end.
Mo and the kids managed to do 3 hours at the centre and enjoy themselves but are knackered and agree we will have to see how it goes after our school day. As I am still up and down the hill on my shopping spree, Mo gets the nasty job of cleaning the kitchen. Just writing about cockroaches brings back the stink. One cupboard will have to stay shut as the smell still wasn’t eliminated after a lot of elbow grease.
Dinner is mash made with a fork (of course it is meant to have lumps) and steak. I have bought some Lomo Fino (fillet) as this is what the butcher produced when I asked for steak and at $6/libre (500g = 1 pound) I was happy as this costs $30 in England and will be a treat. I look forward to miming my order for rump steak next time. We improvise enough plates with some success:
Puerto Banquerizo Moreno, the main town and our base in San Cristobal feels to be booming, glossy new government buildings, lovely promenade and lots of construction work, mainly on big houses. Apparently they don’t do mortgages and cash is king, you buy a piece of land from the municipal government and build as many floors as you have cash for, hence the reinforcement bars sticking out of so many roofs waiting for the next bundle of cash. Saying that, even though it is low season it feels quiet and I wonder how much tourism has been affected by the global financial crisis?
An early night tonight ready to step into the breach tomorrow…