Friday, December 24, 2010

Esperando a Papá Noel

Christmas time is so different here. It pretty much just started two days ago. People finally threw up lights on a few buildings, trees in a couple of windows, and started singing Christmas songs left and right. Also, hot chocolate. So much hot chocolate. A Christmas party here is called a “Chocolatada” and consists of barrels of hot chocolate and mountains of these fruitcake-like desserts called Panetón. I am drinking hot chocolate as I write this. The best hot chocolate on earth - made with fresh cacao from the jungle.  Happy Christmas Eve. It's a hot one out today.

I have been told that phones won't work well right around now, due to overload, and that international is practically impossible. They say even Skype will be pretty unreliable. So I write my blog to say hi and happy holidays and I miss you and everything else.

I have been having a pretty fantastic time. I got a deck of Uno cards in our volunteer White Elephant gift exchange in Chota last weekend and now my family is thoroughly addicted. Also, we have really taken up cooking together – the really do like stew, though they think it is INSANE to ever leave skins on potatoes, and chocolate chip cookies are a hit, even if there was no butter in the market that day and the margarine made them melt everywhere. So we are spending a ton of time together, which is great.

I am learning jerga (slang) now and also a lot of Peruvian jokes. And seriously, the jokes here are worse than the ones my father tells at home. I think I have finally crossed a line on my Spanish and am able to speak pretty easily with most people. I am getting more friends quickly now.

Jose: How do you say frijol?
Me: Bean.
Jose: How do you call a bean with a capa?
Me: With a cape?
Jose: Yeah.
Me: A superbean?
Jose: (Laughing HYSTERICALLY) How did you know that???

I am still not sure what happened in that conversation. I think it was a joke that somehow crossed the space-time-translation barrier.

Pretty much all of my plans for summer classes got canceled, so for a minute there I had absolutely nothing to do for the next three months. When they kept telling me that almost everyone moves to Chiclayo for the rainy season, they meant it. My town is about to go ghost town for a while. Makes it hard to teach kids when they are just not here... And even my artisans don't work for the break season. Just no one does. So I am using the fantastic old Peace Corps fallback of clubs. People do like clubs and I can always use the clubs to get things done. Hiking club, running club, and youth business club first. And it would be great if anyone wanted to send me a hackysack, Or three. Then I could combine hackysack and juggling. That would be a huge hit.

I have one big idea, largely dependent on the coolness levels of the new mayor who starts January first. I have my hopes high for an awesome relationship with the new Municipalidad team, with full expectation for a crushing. But I am developing proposals of community-wide projects we can work on together. Fingers crossed. Then, I really hit a lucky break when my best friend, Jose, who is a one of the big shot docs around here, was approached by a woman looking to start a non-profit and wanting him to be the head doc. He – it turns out – knows a local gringa with a degree in Non-Profit Management, an extreme surplus of time, and who will work for FREE! So, hopefully, I will be helping these nice people write business plans and set up an ONG here in Santa Cruz. Finally, something that sounds interesting and fun, with cool people, that also covers the Peace Corps strange desire to have me work in business. I am just not a business-y person. But I am most definitely a non-profit-y person. I went to college to learn exactly how to not make money and have proven extremely successful in my field so far.

The other night, I was hanging out with the kids from the Fiscalia (I am unsure as to what would be the American equivalent, but it was essentially a bunch of District Attorneys and Forensic Medics) and they were preparing their skit for the Fiscalia Xmas party. It was a song a dance routine to a rap version of a Peruvian Christmas song. I then went with Jose to the internet to try and help him download it for them to play in the background. It turns out there are very few people in the world currently seeding any rap versions of any Peruvian Christmas songs - actually, zero. Shocker. Anyways, I did find it on YouTube. So this is my Christmas present to you. And this is what my friends were half-drunkenly dancing around and learning. They are awesome.  And I have had this stuck in my head for DAYS.  Si me ven, si me ven...

I love you and miss you all. Feliz Navidad. Today, cooking all day – I slept in and missed my chance to kill the turkey (tears). Then Christmas starts at midnight. At midnight, we eat and open presents and everything else. It's just like what we always tried to talk our folks into when we were little. Looks like in Peru, the ingenious plan of every child has won. Tomorrow everyone just keeps partying. At any hour of the day, today and tomorrow, everyone is rotating between attending mass and drinking and dancing in the plaza. Oh, Peru.

(Oh, and I tried, but they were right. Internet sucks right now, no photos for you.)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

¡Eres La Muerta!

I am referring to my new life as Host Family Plus. I think it barely counts as Peace Corps anymore. I have running water all day every day. There are even rumors of hot water, though I have yet to encounter it. My bathroom floor is TILED (not dirt). I have a real gas stove and oven and even a REFRIGERATOR. So friggin' high end here.

I think I mentioned that I had to move, as my host family was moving. I ran into the mother of one of the friends I had made during the town fiesta – Robinson, who used to live in San Francisco and spoke pretty good English. His mom, Laura saw me one day and invited me over to lunch. I explained to her my situation and boom. Just like that. Whole new family, in super amazing house.

It is just Laura, who is a profesora of very little kids in a caserio, and her 13 year old son, Adrian. Robinson lives in Lima. He is coming to visit on Friday – but only I know that. Family surprise! Beyond the family though, she rents out other rooms here. So I have a bunch of roomies, all about my age. There is a doctor, a lawyer, a judge, and a cop. I am always hanging with the law and order crowd here, it seems.

It is very fun living with all of these people. The place is huge, so there is plenty of room for everyone. Everyone is super nice and friendly and including me in all sorts of activities. My new mom even hooked me up with a PIANO in my room to take my lessons on. My cop roomie, Edir, has been teaching me some crazy words from some far out jungle language, out where he is from. My mom and little brother regularly need to be explained to, that no thank you, I actually can't borrow the motorcycle to run my errands, but thank you for the offer, again. The judge does some excellent 3m drunken singing.

Besides that, my work has steadily been increasing in pace. Well, not very steadily. I did go ahead and make a lot of recycled paper with little kids and I am still plugging away at getting my summer courses ready. This week, I was supposed to spend 4 hours each afternoon helping in some adult literacy and vocational orientation courses, but that all has been canceled except for two hours on Thursday. My class with the little ones this morning was canceled (without prior knowledge of course) as was my meeting with the Colegio Director... that was supposed to be yesterday and then twice today but I still have yet to see him.

So this is pretty standard. The more I get scheduled, the more gets canceled. Luckily I am double booked for tomorrow morning – maybe I will actually have some work! It is an uphill climb, but I am slowly gaining more with each little slide back. Poco a poco...

I busted my camera. Just a little. It is still usable, I just can't see what I am taking photos of. But nevertheless, because of this I have gotten a little out of the habit of taking them. I will try to fix that, and start saving for a new one. I heard good rumors of deals in Lima.

I went to Chiclayo last weekend and finally obtained my bicycle! Why, yes, I do have my own transportation now! This is very exciting. While there, I also made a few new volunteer friends and got to meet the family of one of my site friends. I am starting to more quickly get friends at site. I am bored a lot less often now. It's amazing. Also, one of my new volunteer buddies – turns out we have a mutual friend at home. That was pretty random and shocking.

I really don't have anything very exciting to put in here. It's almost Christmas, I suppose, but you can't really tell here. I miss crappy Christmas music and lights displays.

Love you.

Friday, December 3, 2010

¿Huelga? No se por que no.

First thing being first – NOTE THE ADDRESS CHANGE IN THE SIDEBAR. It's just easier to go to the city than to little Chota-town. And if things are going to keep getting caught in the Chiclayo customs office anyways...

Today, at the elementary school I work at sometimes, a clown came. The very first thing he did was start breathing tons of giant balls of fire, completely filling the classroom with thick, nasty, block smoke, as everyone clapped and cheered. I wanted to jump up and give a Cocinas Mejoradas-type charla right then and there. Instead, I laughed and clapped. One thing at a time...

We had Thanksgiving. The best Thanksgiving ever. A few of us discussed that we had been worried, that this was it, when homesickness would finally start to kick our asses, Thanksgiving with no family. Instead, we OWNED this Turkey Day, even without any actual turkeys.

First, we rented an apartment for the night, on the beach in Pimantel. Beautiful, gorgeous, amazing place. And absolutely stellar apartment – fifth floor, beach front, actual comfortable furniture, and amazing views. Only 6 of us could stay there – myself, Rob, Mallory, the Cobbs, and Chris Boston – and the rest stayed at the nearby hostel run by the same folks who own the apartment.

We did our shopping early that morning in Chiclayo, in the outrageously large outdoor market, and cabbed all the supplies out to Pimantel. Shopping there was pretty insane, but the market folk were infinitely helpful and, I believe, infinitely amused. We had our haphazard list of supplies, which was really just a half-assed attempt at a menu that I scribbled down in the hostel that morning. We all stood in the market yelling out things we needed, and then quadrupling the quantities. “3 kilos of sweet potatoes! No, lemme see that... 5! No, give us 10! 10 kilos!” A few market people ran around gathering it all into piles for us and keeping a tally of the money. We bought people out. We bought everything. We bought so much we could barely carry it all between 8 people. And we had spent less than half our budget.

We immediately headed for the beach. It was one pm and we hadn't started cooking Thanksgiving. I started to have a moment of concern. I quickly brushed it off, grabbed a glass of wine, and started putting people to work. It took awhile to gather everyone together off the beach, but once I did, we found every available knife in the world and people started peeling and chopping potatoes and everything else. I won't go through all the details, but I spent the entire time coordinating this out-of-hand undertaking. Everyone pitched in. Everyone but me kept boozing it up. Finally, at about 7pm, people started screaming for food. We had gotten out one tray of about 40 deviled eggs a few hours earlier, which had been immediately inhaled, and besides that no one had eaten a thing. But they had had a beer or nine...

So Rob and I rushed out on the bird mission. We had decided at the market not to buy a turkey. Everyone doubted my abilities. While I still think I could have pulled it off just fine, maybe just had to spatchcock that bad boy, the back-up plan I must admit was a hundred times easier. Rob and I found the only Polleria in town and proceeded to buy all of their chickens. We bought 5 pre-cooked, cut into eighths, beautiful hot roasted chickens. This cost the entire rest of the budget, almost exactly. Perfect. By the time we returned, everyone had already forgotten how hyperbolic their hunger had been and they were back to having their own little apartment dance party. But a few soldiers had stayed in the kitchen, following the detailed instructions I had left almost an hour earlier, and dinner was almost ready.

Omar and Jeff turned into a table-moving, place-setting, food-scooping machine, and very soon we were all jammed in. The menu: Pollo a la brasa, garlic rosemary mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole (with marshmallows), stuffing, nutritional yest gravy, pureed squash soup, massive salad with an amazing avocado dressing, rolls, and apricot bars for dessert. I can't believe we pulled it off. With a few leftovers that were scooped around scrambled eggs and some not-very-good homefries I made for breafast. Mallory gave us a few words to set it off (Yay to Mallory for arranging the entire trip!) and we all went around and said what we were thankful for. 

The rest of the night was just all of us enjoying seeing each other again, dancing and laughing and running around on the beach. We saw a beautiful sunset and were joined by a handful of Perú 12, 13, and 14 volunteers.

In the morning, as I mentioned, we had a quick breakfast ( I don't know how I stumbled from bed straight back into the kitchen) and then we cleaned up and moved out of the apartment. Ellen and I went to the market and bought them all out of coconuts and the rest of the day was spent sunning on the beach, our biggest concerns for the day after Thanksgiving only involving whether of not there was enough rum in our coconuts and whether or not we were going to stand up and join the football game.

Eventually, most everyone wandered off to a cevicheria, but Heather, Jimbo, Marina, and I just held down the beach. Eventually it cooled down and we moved back to the hostel. Supposedly, everyone else was out eating, but it turned out that was all a lie. They had actually met some kind South African and were partying at his flat. This apparently turned into some sort of disaster of epic proportions, with repercussions still reverberating throughout our country of service. I will just say I am glad I for once found myself in the mellow squadron.

All in all, it was a beautiful weekend. I got to see a lot of people I hadn't seen since training and that was just spectacular. I was however, happy to head back to site. When I left I had been mightily frustrated. Between parties and strikes, we were looking at a seven day work month. While I love chilling out as much as the next gringa, I love being able to work when I want to as well. I had even had to leave my site a day early for the weekend vacation, as there was a strike starting the next day that they were supposedly barricading the roads for. Pparently, they even slacked off at ever doing that.

This week though, has been one of my most productive yet. I have finally gotten myself up to a real-life full work week. I am doing some ginormous preparations for a 6 week course that I am teaching on Youth Entrepreneurship over the summer break that starts after Christmas. I am also getting ready to start courses for the English teachers here – as they are teaching some mighty poor English at the moment. I am starting a computer course for the teachers, as they have a computer lab that is sitting unused as NO ONE know how to use them and therefore cannot teach the children. Next week I am starting a group of kids on making recycled paper Christmas cards. Making the paper will translate into some half-baked enviro lesson and I hope to teach the kids some organizing skills to market out their cards.

I dunno. I think I found my new house and will move this weekend. I will share more on that later, as this is now plenty.  Also, I didn't take any of those pictures.  And there were some other cool ones, but it was taking UNGODLY LONG to upload (two hours for those few) so I am off.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Santa Cruz, Estas Lejos Pero Te Quiero

Way out lost in the middle of the northern Andes mountains, rainy season is starting in another 6 weeks or so, which means it is already quite wet. After the last almost two weeks of seeming endless running around to Peace Corps events, I got home last night. It was a long bus ride. This last leg was particularly long in the sense that it is usually four hours from Chota, but in this mud, on these hairpin mountainside trails, we move a couple miles an hour, in dense fog. We even had to stop for a bear last night. Really.

I got home and the town was in full party mode, plaza packed with people, marching band on the way, and anticucho out in force. This party is apparently going for the next three days. It is ALWAYS a party here. This time it is the 59th anniversary of the Colegio. This means everything is closed again. This means that the 6 hours I sat in Anita's in Chota yesterday, pouring through class materials and planning 12 weeks of teaching, cannot be used in my meeting today. Which is clearly not happening. So. Free time. Guess I blog.

I actually went to my first school anniversary party a couple of weeks ago. It was at the school my host father teaches at, and it was absolutely adorable. It starts, as with all things here, with a parade and, again as usual, dancing until very, very late. The dances were cute – groups of little kids taking turns doing the traditional dances from all over Perú in the ultra cool traditional costumes. This one, at the Colegio (High School), was similar, except that everyone was getting very drunk. At the school. Even the kids. Very odd. And, they did a performance of Thriller – zombie dancers and all.

A couple of weeks ago, we had the Peace Corps artisan fair at the US Embassy in Lima. Every year, all of the business volunteers come in with the artisan groups they work with from around the country, and sell their goods to the Embassy workers and all the Peace Corps staff that come in for it. Also, the volunteers all end up buying crap from each others booths. So, fam, Christmas presents are on the way.

I seem to have taken pretty much one photo in Lima - at the main office book exchange:

It was super fantastic to get to see a lot of the other volunteers I went through training with, and to meet a bunch of the other business volunteers who are scattered afar. It was less fantastic to do the multiple day epic journey back and forth, and also that my artisans sold practically none of their very expensive shawls. (Who wears shawls?) Actually though, both ways on the trip had their own events – more happening even than the one night in Lima. On the way there, I stopped in Chiclayo to meet a Youth Development friend for lunch and ended up having an interview with 2 Peace Corps staff from DC who were in country to “interview volunteers about the recruitment process” i.e. go to Macchu Picchu. I got free Starbucks out of it. On the way back, Biz and I were the only ones who only returning directly back to site instead of staying to party extra time in Lima. Now, it has always been tempting, when getting on a bus knowing you will not be stepping off for 15 hours, to bring a little something to drink to help pass the time. We discovered just how bad of an idea this actually is. The next morning, when we woke up sprawled across bus seats in Chiclayo and retrieved our stuff that was strewn all about the bus, we met up with another volunteer, proceeded to get the most amazing ceviche, and visited the back corner of the market, where the witch doctor sell their COMPLETELY INSANELY AWESOME wares. So I think I only got one or two pictures of that...

I only got to go back to site for a couple of days before I was off again, but they were pretty great ones. I finally got in for my day out with an agriculture ONG here. I finally found a day when they were actually OPEN. We went out to a guy's farm in Mitapampa and helped set up an irrigation system. It started in house with a bunch of cuy and the collecting of their poop. The poop had been fermenting for forty days in a barrel, one part poo and ten parts water. The poo soup was then transferred to a ditch. We then installed a LOT of small gauge PVC pipe down the side of the mountain, to drip the fertilizer into the existing water supply. We also picked a lot of tomatoes. O! And my favorite part, they had a bag and tube attached to the top of the fermenting system, where they collected the gasses and fueled their cooking stove with that. It was fun. I get to go out with these ONG folks a bunch more – I think I will learn to artificially inseminate cows next. I will also be able to partner up with them, so that when they give workshops on farming techniques, I can share the time and space to help them with management and investment stuff. Boring. But as long as I really get to stick my whole arm up a cow's ass soon.

The next day, I had my site visit. This is when all the bosses come visit to make sure you are actually doing something, are really still living there, that you aren't hiding a secret pregnancy, and that you haven't joined the rebel terrorist armies or started running coke. Yet.

I think my site visit went well. We met with the coffee farmers out in Tosten and my boss Caja boss, Jose, is going to help me with some sort of project proposal with them. My Lima boss, Alfredo, explained to the mayor that he would not be marrying me. I still can't believe my mayor had the greasy, mustached, gold-chained cajones to tell my boss, first words out of his mouth, that he was going to marry me. HA. Alfredo took care of that. We then met with another ONG and with my Colegio, both of whom I am starting big, fancy projects with. Kind of scary to really put my Spanish this level of testing. Then, the most exciting part, we got to ride in a Peace Corps mobile with them to Caja City. Alfredo and Jose in the front, me and Ash in the back with Chris Heather smashed between us. This was the fastest ride on Earth. We passed out a full round of Dramamine and had a serious dance party with a full air band for the remarkably short amount of time it took us to get there (FOUR HOURS! SO AMAZING!) We had Chris Heather on the mic, Ashley rockin' the vocal guitar, me on the keys, and Alfredo plays one hell of an air drumkit. I wish they would come to drive me places more often, so much better than hodling on for dear life with one person drinking a soda bottle of cañaso on one side and another puking in a plastic bag on the other.

In Cajamarca City, we had a four day camp called VALOR – which stands for something loosely translated to Teenage Boys Organized for Responsible Leadership. This is an event that takes place in each department each year. Every volunteer brings in a few exceptional kids to a centralized location and give them the weekend of their lives, sneaking in some pretty cool trainings. It is entirely organized (and funded, it turns out) by the volunteers, and it is pretty friggin' fun. It mostly involved tons of playing and eating ice cream. Us newbies didn't bring kids this time, so we got to spend a lot more time observing the others, which was pretty great for learning how to give good charlas. Between the futbol, the actual football, the dodgeball (and window breaking), the trips to the heladeria, and the hilarious team games, there were classes on nutrition, environmental stewardship, sex ed, self-esteem, and a project on entrepreneurship. Also, we took them to the movies, which many had never been to, and was very cool. And we did a big tour of the University and brought in a panel of professionals for them to question.

These were a very seriously great bunch of kids. When they got up to introduce themselves at the beginning, occasionally they would go on an enthusiastic schpiel about how excited they were to be there and how much they wanted to learn. Now, everyone had brought their best and brightest kids. And then they set up a point system with prizes at the end. That means these kids were running around, cleaning up after meals, making their beds, and participating fully in every activity. To the point of getting the professional panel in a huge debate with the mine engineer, the lawyer, the doctor, and even the music composer going on about responsible development and the role of the government, the mining industry, and the voters in all of this. My Spanish didn't keep up too well at that point. ALMA, the girls camp, is in June, and I can't wait. Also, next year's VALOR, we will be running the show and we will be bringing our own ever-so-earnest students. I love camp. How come I never got to go?

So, that's what I just got home from. Now, my next trips are much shorter, a quick Thanksgiving beach house adventure with a bunch of volunteers and the cooking of real American flavored food and a one night jaunt to Caja City to run errands. After early December, however, I have nowhere to go until the end of January, as they have postponed out early IST. So now I feel like my Spanish has progressed enough and I have met enough people, to get started on more projects. Maybe even get up to a full work week. Which is hard, as Peruvians work maybe twenty with all these damn parties...

One other piece of news, I have to move families I think. My family's contract on their house is up and they have been looking for a month for a new place. There are no places big enough for rent right now in town. I mean big enough in the sense that Peace Corps requires me to have my own room. They wouldn't mind moving into a two bedroom and just piling in. But I think I agree with Peace Corps on this one. So they are going to keep looking for a place, but at this point I have to start looking for a new family. I love my family, and they are thinking they may even have to move a bit out of town at this point, so this really kind of sucks. I am starting to mention it to all my local friends. I am looking at the bright side of trying to specify wanting people who eat vegetables and are Catholic!

Also, while wandering around the town of Baños del Inca, where Valor was held (with sweet hot springs), I suddenly heard someone yell, "GO DUCKS!"  I was so confused that when two hippy-ish looking gringos from Oregon ran over to me, wearing Oregon hoodies like mine, I barely even communicated with them.  It was absolutely pouring and there ws a marching band going by and still the whole thing seems a bit surreal.  Wish I had actually talked to them longer instead of just wandering off...

So, yeah. That was a lot. And a large chunk of my day. Guess I will take this to the internet now. Oh yeah, also, I have been having nightmares lately about coming back to the States someday and kissing people on the cheek and saying “Ciao.” These things are expected here at all times and I preemptively apologize if I ever slip up.  Pics are really refusing to upload today and I have been sitting here for 2 hours.  So, that's all ya get.

Town resumes function on Thursday.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Para Mi, No Problema.

Halloween isn't a thing here. They haven't heard of it. They liked the concept though. My sister decided to dress as a witch and my dad as Superman. I made a new dinosaur head. They didn't get fully into it though, as there was no where to go in these ridiculous outfits, and the disfrazes were pretty half-assed in the end. It was a start though, Next year, I will have made it a thing. I also will have a pumpkin carving party. Which prolly means letting some market folk know months beforehand that I will be needing pumpkins...

The Day of the Dead/All Saint's Day, on November first, is a thing here however. It mostly just consists of everyone hanging out in the cemetery all day, lighting candles on the graves of dead loved ones. There was also a big Catholic mass in the cemetery that Ashley and I went to. That was pretty interesting.

There was another holiday here a couple of days before, where they set up 14 altars around town – the stations of the cross. They were beautiful and elaborate, with some even having gorgeous patterned “carpets” leading up to them, made of colored sand. They were only there for a few hours.

Being quiet while other people are sleeping is not a thing here, either. I like the things that I never before realized were cultural constructs. Like if you can't sleep at two am, you don't just decide to have a solo teenage dance party in your room, blasting music while your family is trying to sleep. This, it turns out, definitely a cultural construct. I have no idea why it has never caught on here. When the baby starts crying, you might think my parents would tell my sister to shut up, but no. Just not how it works.

A friend of mine in town went to Chiclayo last week and brought me back a six pack of Heineken. Me and Ash drank it on Halloween night, and told everyone we were dressed up as Americans for Halloween.

I remembered to take pictures this week:

Me and the Mayor

Me and my class of second graders.  I am actually "Profesora Courtney" here.

A few of the altars in the streets on random holiday:

Me and my sister out hiking, on top of Cotorumi:

I doscovered on top of the mountain that my radio station sends out its signals from this atenna at this little mud shack on the hill.  Super hi-tech.

If you look really hard, really tiny and far away, you can see my friend Ashley's pueblito:

Mangoes just came into season!  Market day with sis:

My dad trying to fly holding his Superman "S" I made for him up to his chest.

One of my artisans in a dinosaur head:

Me and sister Iris and friend Rosa and artisan Elida.

Sister in witch hat we made:

We love pictures posed like posters.  Jose and MJ:

Front gates of the cemetary fiesta:

Mass in the cemetary:

There were more, but I hate the internet right now.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Ovejas lentas y Patos rapidos

When I arrive to the school, the kids are in recreo, playing outside. A few of them greet me at the front gate, yelling my name and diving in for cheek kisses. Their classroom is all the way at the back of the school, so they get a jolt of pride, walking all the way through all of the less-fortunates with their own pet gringa. When I get to the classroom, I sit at the desk in front and gather my things and my thoughts while the kids wind themselves down a little. While I sit there, they come in the room in alone or in pairs or in threes, clinging to each others arms and giggling while they deposit on my desk an array of classic teacher gifts. I walk out of my classes at the end with an armload of apples and oranges and crackers and cookies and sour gum balls. When I walk around in the streets the children scream “Profesora Corni!” and run in for more affection. They all think I am crazy to work for free but really, it's absolutely fantastic and I am getting paid mountains for these easy little English classes with the little ones.

I am planning out some classes with the Director of the Colegio (high school), but these will be more of epic programs than these little English classes are. We are talking about term long courses on Youth Entrepreneurship, starting an internship program with businesses in the community, and having half-day work shops on Self-Esteem for Girls, and Anti-Machismo for Boys. Whew. Kids. I dunno.

The teaching style they use with children in this country is far less than optimal and the results are evident when working with the adults, too. How a class works here, any class, is the teacher writing information on the board and the children copying it down. There is very little discussion and almost zero room for creative thought. Their penmanship, however, is excellent. This is a national epidemic – not the penmanship, but the teaching style. If I remember my Little House on the Prairie books correctly, the educational system in the United States was very similar in the past. Now how was that changed and can I do it here?

Because it is very frustrating. When working with the adults, getting them to come up with ideas is like pulling teeth and when one person gets an idea, the rest simply copy it, with great sighs of relief. When working with the children, I occasionally have to give in and let them copy a little something down, after the fourth of fifth time they ask each day, or else they start getting pretty antsy and stressed out. And it is absolutely astonishing the ripple effects that can be seen in absolutely everything, stemming from a lack of creative thought process. There is a lot we take for granted...

My business classes with the adults are getting better and I seemed to have gained a bit more confianza – I think I have even fooled them into believing that I have any idea what I am talking about. Then again, with the strange and not particularly useful education many have previously received, it is sometimes easy to blow minds (Let's figure out your production costs... Oh, look, they are HIGHER than you are selling your products for... Let's fix that...)

Other small life things:

  • I am a runner now, though I still hate running and do not understand runners and this euphoria they speak of. It makes me throw up. I only do it to feed my masochism.
  • More to my liking, I am now involved in an exchange with the town priest – English classes for piano lessons. I'm gonna be a regular goddamn Mozart. I don't put it like that when I am with the priest though.
  • I am thinking of starting a reading circle soon and just dropping it straight in the center of the town plaza – I am sure I can draw a rather large group of gawkers for that, and maybe they will listen to the books too, and maybe want to read one someday. I can't remain in an entire country of non-readers. It makes me feel pale and ill somehow.
  • I am writing letters to scientific supply companies in the States, to get lenses and mirrors donated to see about building a telescope for my town with my sister and some other teens.
  • I am trying to learn a little more knitting and have started weaving my first shawl with my artisans. I still like knitting all right. I hate weaving. Hate.
  • My dad has now officially announced at an assembly of adults that I was presenting to that I am very marriageable. He had a whole sales pitch for me and everything. Nice one there, Peru-pops.
  • My family hates mac and cheese, but not nearly as much as they hate nutritional yeast. I am a complete jerk though and love watching them force it down and smile and thank me for the interesting American food. The jerks gimme rice three meals a day. Rice and potatoes. Not bad foods, until you have them three meals day. They can become the most hated things... Small acts of vengeful cooking, this is what I have been reduced to.
  • With everything else, I feel that I am still getting absurd amounts of books read and have watched a lot of TED talks and movies.

Seems I am traveling practically every weekend. It would have been something like eight in a row but my Saucepampa/Tostén trip was canceled last weekend. This weekend, meeting in Chota, next weekend a horseback trip to Pulán and Chilal, the next one an artisan fair in Lima, the next one Valor Boys Camp in Cajamarca. After that it should be about time for another monthly meeting. Then maybe I can relax for a minute before a week of Early In-Service Training in early December in Trujillo. I really would like to have a little bit more static time, though I know that as soon as I get this wish I will want nothing more than to get a breaks from site.

Two month mark at site this weekend. Not sure how I feel about this. I feel that some of my compañeros already have a hundred times as many things going on as I, but then again, everyone's situation varies so wildly. I think I am mostly comfortable with where I am. I have about finished all the possible interviews I can think of to learn about the community – every school, NGO, church, and a million other things like the cops and power company and radio stations – and I have moved onto interviewing families to gather hard data about people's lives here. I feel I am conducting my own personal census. Epic task.

Miss you all. Also, I yoinked one line in this blog from a book – prolly not verbatim. Should we play a game where you get a prize from Perú if you spot it? This is really just me trying to confirm that there is consciousness out there in the void.

I forgot to take pictures this week, so here's a few from last week. I will try and remember to take some more in the coming week.
I am learning to weave:

Adventures in Chiclayo:

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bastante Cansada

In Peace Corps, I have begun to really learn to luxuriate. Oh man, I cannot even begin to describe the loveliness of a hotel hot shower on the occasional weekend, or the taste of your first real almost-familiar food in a long time. We are supposed to be roughing it here in the Peace Corps, though I find that the vast majority of time, I do not feel very poorly off. I have a nice, cozy room I have built, a great family, and I have even become used to my food being something that is there to fill up my belly, and nothing more. I do notice the times when I am reveling in the lap of luxury though, and I notice them profoundly. Roughing it isn't rough, and is fully worth gaining this depth of appreciation of hot, running water.

I think have finally started work. I spent that first month doing a lot of waiting. A couple weeks of working on my Community Diagnostic, then a couple of weeks of just waiting for the town party to be over. It finally is over, my mother has returned from her non-trip to Japan (Something about getting stuck in Chile? I really didn't understand what happened, but it's convenient for me,) and I am finally able to spend some time working with my primary group of artisans. We have an artisan fair we are attending at the US Embassy in Lima at the beginning of November, so I get to start my work with them full swing.

I am half way between my arrival at site and the three month mark that is supposed to be my announced beginning of projects, and I am pretty comfortable with where that puts me right now. While I feel I haven't yet done a lot of business project specific work, I really have gotten a decent chunk done with my diagnostic and have a plan to get my business work more stable by the time this period is over. I go this next weekend to meet with another group of artisans and a group of coffee growers in a caserio called Saucepampa, just a few hours from here. I get to stay with my host grandma in Tostén while I am there. I will be taking a rep from the coffee group to Lima with us next month too, to slang some coffee with the artesenia. Between these few groups, I have weekly business classes, weekly English classes, and weekly computer classes, so I should be able to stay a bit busy with that. I also start English classes in a few second grade classrooms in my community this week. I am not stoked on teaching English (boring for me and all but useless for the people here,) but it's what everyone wants and it will help me build relationships with the schools for when I am ready to start other classes in a few months.

I went to Chiclayo this last weekend to try and pull a package out of customs. Chiclayo is the capital city of Lambayeque and much closer to me than my own capital city, only about 5 hours. I have the option of going there instead of Chota for my regional meetings, but this was my first visit. It was pretty spectacular. I hadn't realized that by going to Chota for all of my “city” needs, I hadn't really been going to civilization at all. Chota seemed plenty fancy. But Chiclayo! My God, this place had paved highways and gringos who weren't in Peace Corps. This place had a movie theater, a beach, and a friggin' STARBUCKS. I ate pizza. So wild. So luxurious. We renamed it “New York City.”

Alas, as it is always holiday in Perú, I couldn't retrieve my package from customs. I am heading back on Wednesday, just for a couple of hours. 10 hours of bus riding in one day is more than worth the contents of the package. However, I hope this is my final trip for awhile, as I can't afford bus tickets or hotels anymore this month and going to Chiclayo for just a minute is such a teaser...

In other news, I kind of have friends. And my Spanish is back on the road to improving, after a backpedaling that occurred with the influx of English speakers for the town party.

PS Mission accomplished, package retrieved, excited to watch my family pretend to like Annie's Mac and Cheese, while hiding disgust and confusion. Also, happy to have a new rock, some strange dried out little carrots, random useless to do lists I wrote myself 6 months ago, and my copy of Overqualified around and judge people with. Thanks, folks! You guys are random. And oh yeah, I got an external hard drive and will no longer have morbid nightmares of losing everything. And the customs office in Chiclayo – SUPER Peruvian...

My mom at work

Coffee Farms out in the campo

Leading the town parade with the mayor, starting off the town fiesta

Me and some artisans, being fancy

This monkey hands out lucky tickets and I have one

They almost spelled my name right, special guests at the town party

 Town Party


Battle of the Bulge

I love their outfits