And now, back by popular demand…

Posted On July 15, 2007

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Puno, PeruHey All,

Here is my new and improved blog (took the original down a few weeks ago, but thought the current craziness of Peru had to be shared).  Here in Puno, Peru (whose one redeeming quality is being the “gateway city to Lake Titicaca” – try to say it without laughing) we have braved frigid temperatures, little-to-no water, and ongoing strikes.  In large part these strikes haven’t made the news as Puno is not a major city (surprisingly though, Peru didn’t make the international news until recently either – but what can I say, if it’s not in the Middle East…).   Basically,  the public school teachers are striking against new, more stringent educations laws.  In international rankings Peru ranks 198 out of 200 for worst education programs (after most African countries).  It is said that most public school teachers do not have a basic understanding of mathematical concepts and are therefore unable to teach this information to their students.  The new law would force teachers to pass a test evaluating math and comprehension skills.  They would have 3 chances to pass this test (and the option to take a refresher course).  Unfortunately, this was enough to send the teachers into a frenzy and storm the city.  5,000 teachers took over the local airport in Juliaca and burned some equipment (I had no idea there were 5,000 teachers in the general area, but I think some people jumped on the bandwagon), but luckily the Peruvian army was able to take it back.   Policemen armed with machine guns and bullet-proof shields have become a normal thing here.   The striking teachers continue to receive their salary during all this madness (and actually get paid twice this month because it’s Dia del Peru on July 28th).  Meanwhile the children haven’t been to school in over a month…In general, I think strikes and protests lose all meaning when they become an everyday occurrence (as is the case in Puno).  Everyday a different group is marching…maybe I should invent a cause and join in.

I’m also including a picture from what I think is the best angle of Puno – away from the shoeshine boys who hound me to shine my sneakers (when I tell them it’s rubber and suede they persist) and the kids who thrust finger puppets in my face…