Friday, February 23, 2007

Day 164: Certified Quechua Speakers

This afternoon, in the company of chocolate cake, 5 Peace Corps volunteers in Ancash, Peru were certified as Quechua speakers at an official ceremony. The 5 volunteers live and work in rural villages in the high mountains of Peru's famous Huaraz region and will utilize their new language skills in their work in community health and environmental education and awareness.

This week is the second week of Quechua classes for this group of well-trained volunteers who are eager to return from the capital city of good food, cable tv, and hot showers, to their remote sites where they will be able to put the enormous vocabulary lists to use. These volunteers find that practicing the native language with their neighbors helps them to better integrate into the communities as well as asserting the value and importance of the local tongue to those who speak the language in their own homes.

Classes consisted of grammar, song, and field trips. The song above may have appeared in vocal-form on some of your answering machines during the past week. 'Puka Wayta' translates as 'Red Flower' and speaks to the natural beauty of local flora and fauna. Songs, poetry, and storytelling helped the group to practice their pronunciation and general comprehension of the language.

However, because of Quechua today is primarily a spoken language, the class field trip to the Thursday Huaraz market proved crucial to the learning curve. There the group practiced basic dialog with local vendors of everything from medicinal herbs to vegetables fresh from the cultivated land.