Saturday, July 31, 2010


I don't think I've mentioned that I get kissed a hundred times a day.  Every time you meet anyone, every time someone enters the room, you kiss each other on the cheek.  This is the same for people you know.  Even if they only leave for awhile.  They get kisses upon their return, and so do you.  Often it's a huge pain because even if you walk into a room with 60 strangers in it, you make the rounds.  It takes a long time.

Mostly, though, I like it.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Puerco de Caz en Cajamarca

I am back home in Huascaran after a long, eventful, exhilarating, exhausting, amazing week in Field Based Training in the department of Cajamarca.  I am officially in love with that place.  I partially very, very much hope I get placed there and am partially thrilled to get to see the rest of this fantastic country.  I am intimidated at the notion of writing a blog of this week.  So many perfect moments and so much amazing adventure.  I realized within 24 hours that I had to take notes and now I have this cryptic page of hilarious and unintelligible partial statements.  I will see if I can even begin to do it justice.

First, a random pic that was still on my camera of Ryan and Biz and Ryan's host brothers when they finished setting up the sheet and projector and we were just sitting down to watch the Universitario vs Alianza game.  That was before the trip.  Thumbs up.

The trip started off rather auspiciously as Mark, Chris Boston, and I headed into Lima in a cab and almost ran down a two year old who was just wandering unattended in the middle of the Carretera Central (the crazy big wild and loud highway.)  All of the cars were just swerving around the little guy and honking rather than trying to get him out of the street.  I decided to believe he was rescued after we drove out of sight.

When we got to Lima, there was another unsettling moment as we heard that a few of our companions had been attacked by piranhas nearby earlier in the day.  Piranhas are packs of little kids who mob you all at once to steal your things - they will even get you down and take your shoes.  Some police firing blanks intervened and the children scattered, but our friends were apparently a bit shook up.

So, we got on the bus.  Sixteen hours ahead of us, we were anxious to see the set up.  OH MAN, WAS IT SWEET.  This bus was a Super VIP, also known as a cama cama.  Our seats laid all the way down into beds, we got to pick out movies to watch, and they even served us wine in bed.  It was the most comfortable I have been yet in this country.  Fantastic bus ride.  I sat next to Tim the whole way there and back - he's my bus buddy and we had a pretty great time.

Our hostel in Cajamarca City the first night of the trip and the last.  Right on the plaza with balconies overlooking the street in our rooms.  The room the last night was particularly epic with me and the two other girls sharing a room that could sleep six.  It did prove to be a great place for us all to hang out.

Climbing a hill in Caja City.  This was a beautiful city.  I think Mallory nailed it when she said it reminded her of Antigua, Guatemala.  Super colonial and gorgeous.  We spent the first day just wandering.  I had my first anticucho on the street - and it turns out that cow hearts are delicious.  We went to the regional Peace Corps meeting and were promptly kicked out.  We were shown the PC book exchange hidden above a little artesenia shop - these are in every capital town and will be my homebases for the next two years.  I think I will try to selectively leave noticeable books and possibly sneak notes into books as well.

That night we went out with a few volunteers living in the Cajamarca area - Ken, John, Edson, and Sam.  Ken is the twin (or triplet, actually) of one of my good buddies in my training group, Ryan, and there could not be two people with the same genetic code and with more different personalities.  We had a blast going out with them.  They took us up to this hotel on this mountain overlooking the city and had a bonfire in the back.  We were also with a volunteer from Peru 4, Jason, who never escaped and his pal, a random gringo chiropractor.  This hotel reminded Biz of the Shire and he wandered around it like a hobbit.  It was a beautiful spot and we could see the whole city as well as the Milky Way.  Once we got shuffled out of there, they took us to another funny bar called Full Skee with the largest beers on earth.  It was their last night in Caja City and our first.

A little town we visited, another volunteer's site.  So beautiful.  We visited a few different spots the next day before settling down in San Marcos for the week.  We went to Vann's town and helped teach an English class to little kids and went to a zipline on a farm.  Only 5 of the 13 of us actually rode the zipline (not me), as the handholds on it were a frayed rope and you had to climb way up in a tree to start off.  It was pretty fantastic, nonetheless.  Also in this town, we were served pink cake for breakfast and everyone and their mom invited us in for a gaseosa (soda) - very fancy.  I have never drank so much soda.  At the school here, we were challenged to some sporting events.  The other girls and I played volleyball against the school team while the boys played futbol.  While we were absolutely and royally crushed at volley, a marching band played on the sidelines and about 200 kids watched and laughed at the silly gringas.  It is SO intense when you're trying to serve to a deafening drumroll.

In John's site, we had a cuy (guinea pig) feast and did a community diagnostic.  It was another gorgeous and perfect town.  Quiet and beautiful with kind mountain people, cows in the street, and perfect sunsets.  We were all too exhausted to function at this point, however.

We went back to San Marcos, where we were set to stay for the week.  We then went to another bonfire with Paul, the volunteer we spent most of the week with.  He is friends with everyone.  This guy is the King of Having Connections.  So we were able to do our debriefs and have bonfires pretty much every night at this nightclub that is only open on the weekends.

Our afternoons were taken up with teaching our class at the local Instituto Technico.  We taught a four day course to about 20 students a class on how to open a small business.  We taught marketing, accounting, business plans and lots of other stuff.  Pretty exciting.  The last day, our kids were to run a business we helped them plan, after taking a loan from our Peace Corps bank.  We lost half our kids through the process, but the survivors were pretty impressive and I am happy to say that all of our kids were able to pay back their loans the next day as well as turn a tidy profit.  And the breastfeeding 17 year old wasn't in my class.  Also, this entailed me speaking Spanish for a good hour and a half in front of a room full of students.  This was intense, but I pulled it off.  Edgar only had to repeat most things I said.

Almost every morning we went hiking.  This is a few hours up and over a mountain away - a town of 100 and a sign that says foreigners aren't allowed:

This is a bridge to nowhere.  A big one.  You have to hike a good hour to get to it and Paul says if you walk three hours more you will find a village of 50.  Why they built this epic bridge in the middle of the Northern Peruvian mountains is beyond me.

Paul has an interesting host family.  He is thirty, his host dad is 25 and his host mom is 19.  His host dad is in a gang.  Also, this is his kitchen:

Still his kitchen...

Over dinner at El Buche one night, Paul randomly busts out with, "So, anyone wanna kill a cuy?"  A few of us were immediately in.  Of course, Paul knows the cuy president and we go to his house one morning to pick out our animals.

We had to hike quite a ways out to the campo with our six live cuys in a bag...

Stopping at a mud hut to buy crazy fireworks...

These amazing women were teaching how to cook campo style.  Here I am making aji between two rocks.

And then it was cuy killing time.  This was hilarious because we were at first all slightly squeamish.  Well, not all.  Biz started us off without hesitation.  Within a couple of corpses - complete with squeaking and squirting blood - we were all just enjoying watching the process.  I killed mine pretty cleanly, though had some trouble snapping its neck, so it was a bit wiggly.  When it got to Mark however, he just DECAPITATED it and everyone just started cracking up.  So surreal in hindsight.  I mean, we laughed HARD.  Ha.  I am still laughing.

After this, we had to pull the fur off, which was quite difficult and involved scalding baths.

That night we ate our cuys all fried up and they were pretty good - tasted a bit like savagery.  Paul had explained to me earlier a bizarre drinking game you could play with a dead cuy and which I was rather stoked to try.  When in Rome, right?  He said that deep down in the brain of a cuy, you could find a little bone shaped just like a little mini-cuy.  He said that you can throw this bone into a glass of beer and it sticks to the bottom.  So then you pass the glass around and do a lot of swishing and chugging, trying to drink the bone.  Whoever drinks it, gets good luck.

So I spent a long time rooting around in the brain of my cuy.  I wasn't finding anything.  Soon, it dawned on me that I was covered in brain and that Paul had pulled a good one on me.  Nope. Soon as I accused him of this, he smashed open the brain of his own cuy and pulled out not one but two itty-bitty cuy bones.  They were much smalled than I expected - just larger than a grain of salt.

Jim and Paul each drank one.  They are lucky.

Over the next couple of days, we finished up our classes (quite smoothly), had a lot of hotel picnics, and returned to Caja City.  That last night, back in the regional capital, we owned it like real Peruvians, staying out til dawn.  We started at the most amazing little bar called Usha Usha that was covered in graffiti with little old men of the mountains playing traditional music and telling us tales of folklore.  It was friggin' tiny, lit by oil lamps, and fully magical.

Then we went clubbing...  Paul, in another feat of knowing-everyone, got us all passes to a 3 story night club where we danced and sang til the sun was rising and it was time to get caldo verde from the street vendors.  We mostly laid around all day the next day before proceeding to another lengthy and cozy bus ride.  All around successful trip.

More photos, stolen from Biz:

Cuy bone (trust me)

At the hobbit bonfire place

Procession of women in Caja City

Sign welcoming us to Vann's school


Kids at school

El Buche - Our favorite restaurant

Teaching at the Instituto

Cooked Cuy

Usha Usha

Sometimes we'd find the Youth people and kidnap Ellen and Heather - this guy was selling mattresses, I think?

It has been nice coming home and seeing everyone who went to other places for FBT and hearing their tales and terror and woe.  I have a fantastic group of friends here.  We came back just in time for condom training?  We had relay races yesterday, putting condoms on dildos.  Thank you for that, Peace Corps.  Apparently Peruvians carry lots of STDs... Fun.

Tomorrow is the first day of Fiestas Patrias, a sort of Peruvian 4th of July.  We all have tomorrow off and tonight is my friend Mallory's bday, so I think we are all headed to Chosica in a bit.  I hope everyone at home is doing well.  It hasn't been very long.  Are you all forgetting me yet?  I miss you.

I find out my site assignment a week from today.  Bittersweet as I am taken from my new friends but thrown into my new ones and my hopefully amazing project for the next two years.  Everyone cross your fingers for me that I am way up in the mountains in a tent somewhere, gardening, and maybe even learning native languages!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Cherimoya, Tortas, y Cheatsheets

I love my life here.  I was about to begin this entry with how I had a great week, and then immediately realized that all of my weeks here are absolutely superb, and that this entire exercise is getting rather redundant.  Peru never fails to both amaze and entertain.  Last night I was served a steak with only a spoon to eat it with.  I succeeded.  I think I can do anything now.

I leave today for Field Based Training.  I am going to spend a week in Cajamarca - en la sierra - teaching a business class to 25 college students.  There are four of us in my group - me, Biznieto (yay!), Edgar, y Jim.  We are going to have a fantastic time.  I am going to teach how to do a community analysis and how to do a business plan - in Spanish.  I am ready.  Edgar got Accounting, so I am hugely relieved.  How do me and accounting even go together?  We have been working all week on pretty much just this project.  We are teaching the class tech-free, as we must get used to doing, so we have spent the week making epic amounts of papelotes, worksheets, and other various tools and dinamicas.  I am becoming more comfortable with the concepts and my ability to teach them.  My Spanish will not be awesome when I leave here, but I am strangely untroubled by this as with everything else.  I will continuously learn.  When I stop learning, then I will be concerned.  I don't think that will be a problem.

It has also been rape week here in the Peace Corps.  We have been hearing stories from victims of attacks here in the Peru PC.  It's pretty unsettling.  I keep just hearing (though I don't think it's really what they're saying), "So, you are going to get attacked..."  They are drilling everything into our heads that they can to help us avoid this and what to do after if it happens.  I am just gonna focus on my kung fu lessons with Biz, and make habit all the safety tactics Enrique gives us - like don't be a chick.  I will never walk alone.  This is the key.  Just never be alone.  So I am working on that.  It's weird.  Living with the protective parents here has already been difficult for me and shedding these last pieces of independence is really the only personal internal struggle I have found here.  Far too used to doing whatever I want...

I am getting closer with my family and already realize that I will miss them when I go to my site.  My evenings consist of sitting here, at the dining table, studying Spanish and chatting with my mom and sister.  I have really moved into a pleasant and homelike routine.

I am absurdly excited about finding out my site assignment.  I still have two and a half weeks before they let us know this most imperative piece of information however.  I requested something very remote in the high sierra.  It will be devastatingly cold with low levels of oxygen. I said I need zero amenities, absolutely do not want to be a replacement volunteer, and want the smallest village they can find.  I think I am one of the only people requesting to essentially live in a tent, so hopefully I will get it.  Most other people I have talked to are asking for internet and a mid-sized town.  I am going off the grid.  Send me your favorite greenhouse designs.

My friend Ashley and my friend Mario both requested the high sierra too, so hopefully I will have buddies nearby.  Biz and Ellen will be headed to the coast.  There aren't many sites for married couples, so it seems like our jefes already know where those two are headed and it's supposed to be pretty pimped out.  I will go visit them when I need to be coddled.  I am rather tragically sad that we won't likely live anywhere near each other though.

Mario got a letter from my mother yesterday.  Which was absolutely hysterical.  The letter itself was pretty great, but I just loved that fact that another trainee got a letter from my mom.  Complete with embarrassing stories and pics from my childhood.  Nicely done, Mother.  Also, it apparently arrived six days after she sent it, which has to be the greatest miracle of the Peruvian Postal Service since its inception.  Because of this letter, Mario made me sing some Paul Simon with him at karaoke in Chosica last night.  Thirty gringos taking over a karaoke bar in Peru - absurd.  I was happy to hang out with my friends before all of us splitting up for a week.  I am far too attached to my colleagues here, knowing that I will be forcibly separated from them relatively soon.  Particularly amazing last night - rousing renditions of both Bohemian Rhapsody and Tiny Dancer.  Also, a booth in the park that made Cherimoya Pisco Sours that were possibly the greatest beverage ever concocted.

I need to go pack and shower, then meet up with my group and head to the bus station in Lima.  We have a twenty hour bus ride this afternoon, evening, night, and tomorrow morning to get up into the mountains.  I am going to go hang in the cake shop til it's time to go.  I have become an absolute full on coffee addict and my new very favorite thing to do is to sit in that cake shop and drink cafe and read.  SO RELAXING.

I love you.  Catch you in a week.  I am going to take up photography again starting tomorrow, so hopefully I will have fun visuals to share next time.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Viva Olandia!

Today is the final World Cup game.  I wish we had gotten to Peru a little before the World Cup started (instead of THE DAY it started), so that I would have had more time to become familiar with the teams and the sport in general.  I have found it impossible not to get caught up in the feverish excitement though.  I love sporting events of any sort and this global fiasco is particularly fantastic.  I am glad I was able to play my first ever game of futbol the other day before this was over - even if it was three on three on three with three goals, and even if I did lose and even if I was all but useless to my teammates - I played!  I even took damage.  This one guy, Rob, I think he's going to kill me before training is over.

We are going to my friend Ryan's house to watch the game.  I went over there yesterday, to the town of Huascata, with him and Biz so they could set up the projector and a huge dirty sheet to show the game on.  I love seeing the variety of lives my compañeros are leading here and Ryan's was very fun to see for a couple of hours.  He is practically fluent in Spanish, so his relationship with his community is substantially different from what I have gotten to experience.  He even brushes his teeth every morning with all the little children at the school.  Hilarious.  So we hung with his brothers, drinking beer in a circle (I am getting used to not pouring my own beers), and we watched the Aliancia vs Universitario game on the big screen.  It was superb (well, the game left something to be desired, but our makeshift cinema was fantastic).  Today's game is going to be a blast.  I need to come up with another Peruvian appetizer to make today - good thing my grandma's in town, I bet she'll help me.

Went to another baby shower last night.  Another.  Really.  It was way mellower than the first one, which is fine with me - you really don't need much to be thoroughly entertained with a Peruvian clown for a few hours. Also, I have been having my standardly unpleasant reaction to this week's flu shot, so I was happy to get to bed before 2am.

We had our second language interviews yesterday morning and I don't feel like I did too poorly - though I possibly could have done a little better.  My Spanish speaking ability is very closely tied to my comfort level in a situation, I have discovered. Sometimes, I can sit and almost fluently speak about home, politics, books, and particle physics.  But then someone will sit me down and ask me what I had for breakfast and what I am studying in Pequeños Negocios and I will freeze up and not know a word of the language.  My interview yesterday was somewhere in between.  I am sure I will be advancing, but we'll see how far.  Regardless, I am confident that I will be comfortable enough in the language to function confidently at site, before this last six weeks of training ends.

We have divided into groups for Field Based Training, which starts in a week.  I am in a group with Biz, Edgar, and Jim and we are headed to San Marcos, Cajamarca, for a week.  It is up in the mountains and supposed to be beautiful.  There, we will be teaching a college course for a week on Entrepreneurship.  We are preparing well and I am certain that it will go swimmingly.  I will be spending this next week doing dry runs of my portions in front of an empty classroom in order to get more comfortable with the language.

Biz came up with an idea yesterday to put on a movie night here in our sleepy enclave.  I spoke with my mom about it, who is a strong informal community organizer in this town, and she has given me the necessary information to pull this off.  If all goes well, we will be showing a movie on a sheet in the church in a few weeks.  There will be popcorn and cheeseburgers.  My entire extended family voted on us showing the most recent Shrek.  We are going to donate all proceeds back to the church.  I am excited for this.

Ok.  Must go get Ashley and see if she wants to cook with me.  Gotta leave to watch the game in a couple hours.  I am rooting for Holland, who I understand is the underdog.


PS  I will not be doing a ton more uploading of photos until I get a battery charger and some rechargeable batteries.  I have been flying through batteries and thoroughly can't afford it on my two dollars a day.  Soon, hopefully, however.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Un Discurso

Speech by President Paul Kegame of the Republic of Rwanda, 2009

     The United States of America has just sent a small number of its sons and daughters as Peace Corps volunteers to serve as teachers and advisors in Rwanda. They have arrived to assist, and we appreciate that. We are aware that this comes against the backdrop of increasingly scarce resources, of budget discussions and campaign promises, and of tradeoffs between defense and domestic priorities like health care and infrastructure investments. All that said, I believe we need to have a different discussion concerning the potential for bilateral aid.

     The Peace Corps have returned to our country after 15 years. They were evacuated in 1994 just a short time before Rwanda collapsed into a genocide that killed over one million people in three months. Things have improved a lot in recent years. There is peace and stability throughout the nation. We have a progressive constitution that is consensus-driven, provides for power sharing, embraces diversity, and promotes the participation of women, who now represent the majority in our parliament. Our economy grew by more than 11% last year, even as the world entered a recession. We have chosen high-end segments of the coffee and tea markets in which to compete, and attract the most demanding world travelers to our tourism experiences. This has enabled us to increase wages by over 20% each year over the last eight years -- sustained by, among other things, investment in education, health and ICT.

     We view the return of the Peace Corps as a significant event in Rwanda's recovery. These young men and women represent what is good about America; I have met former volunteers who have run major aid programs here, invested in our businesses, and I even count them among my friends and close advisors.

     Peace Corps volunteers are well educated, optimistic, and keen to assist us as we continue to rebuild, but one must also recognize that we have much to offer them as well.
     We will, for instance, show them our system of community justice, called Gacaca, where we integrated our need for nationwide reconciliation with our ancient tradition of clemency, and where violators are allowed to reassume their lives by proclaiming their crimes to their neighbors, and asking for forgiveness. We will present to them Rwanda's unique form of absolution, where the individuals who once exacted such harm on their neighbors and ran across national borders to hide from justice are being invited back to resume their farms and homes to live peacefully with those same families.
     We will show your sons and daughters our civic tradition of Umuganda, where one day a month, citizens, including myself, congregate in the fields to weed, clean our streets, and build homes for the needy.

     We will teach your children to prepare and enjoy our foods and speak our language. We will invite them to our weddings and funerals, and out into the communities to observe our traditions. We will teach them that in Africa, family is a broad and all-encompassing concept, and that an entire generation treats the next as its own children.
     And we will have discussions in the restaurants, and debates in our staff rooms and classrooms where we will learn from one another: What is the nature of prosperity? Is it subsoil assets, location and sunshine, or is it based on human initiative, the productivity of our firms, the foresight of our entrepreneurs? What is a cohesive society, and how can we strengthen it? How can we improve tolerance and build a common vision between people who perceive differences in one another, increase civic engagement, interpersonal trust, and self-esteem? How does a nation recognize and develop the leaders of future generations? What is the relationship between humans and the earth? And how are we to meet our needs while revering the earth as the womb of humankind? These are the questions of our time.
     While some consider development mostly in terms of infusion of capital, budgets and head counts, we in Rwanda place equal importance to relationships between peoples who have a passion to learn from one another, preparing the next generation of teachers, administrators and CEOs to see the exchange of values and ideas as the way to build the competencies of our people, and to create a prosperous nation.
     We will do this because we see that the only investment with the possibility of infinite returns is in our children, and because after a couple of years in Rwanda, working and learning with our people, these Peace Corps volunteers will be our sons and daughters, too.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Como con mis Dedos y Ahora Estoy Una Poca Enferma

I am extremely tired and a little bit sick and really can't deal with speaking much Spanish right now, so I am taking the rare trip to sit by myself.  I am in my sister's room, as the wi-fi doesn't reach into mine and I am going to bed soon.  Very early.  But I figured I had might as well blog and try to upload more pics while I am not doing anything else.  Two days in a row.  You should be very pleased with me, Ma.

The baby shower.  Holy hell.  It was the greatest thing I have done so far in Peru.  I don't even really know how to get into it.  We got there and just sat for awhile, waiting for more guests to arrive.  We were pretty much first. Me and four gringos and Ashley's parents.  People all piled in pretty fast and trays of cups of cocktail and little snacks started going around.  Pretty soon, a clown materialized.  He performed for probably an hour or more?  I really have no idea.  But the gringos might have been his favorite props.  He took up Biz and Zack right away and made them play a game that I never did figure out.  Not sure how well Biz got it either.  It was fantastic to watch.  Later he made Ashley and Ellen race to put adult diapers on two Peruvian men.  He made mountains of dirty jokes and obscene gestures and was just all around fantastic.  I am hiring him for something someday.  He had all sorts of great games - girls dropping raw eggs down the neck of the guy's shirt and having to work it all the way down and out the pant leg without breaking it, the baby daddy having to guess all the presents and force feeding him liquor when he was wrong, and many others that I could not even begin to figure out due to my lack of advanced Spanish skills.  There was a ton of dancing and drinking after this.  When we left at 3am, we were pretty much the first to go.  The folks here go til morning.  Every time.

Slept in yesterday at Ashley's house.  When I woke up it was pretty much already time to get ready for the Fourth of July party at Kelci's parents' house.  I was already exhausted and not particularly pumped to go.  I had gone out for a couple in Yanacoto on Friday and had wanted to stay in on Saturday, but you just can't turn down an invitation to a Peruvian fiesta and I am glad I didn't.  But that this point, the last thing I wanted was another party.  Again, really glad I went.

There was an insane amount of awesome American food that everyone made.  Mac and cheese, pizza, pasta salad, chips and dips, hot dogs, brownies, pudding, cakes (oh god tres leche you are awesome), and a bunch of other random stuff.  Very quickly, everyone was drinking beer and playing cards sitting in the bottom of an empty swimming pool.  I found this to be very predictable but very hilarious.  My favorite part was when it eventually turned into an amazing dance party.  We were standing in this huge circle, with a beer bottle in the middle, taking turns dancing over it.  We were great dancers.  We were listening to the World Cup theme songs on repeat for this and today everyone has it stuck in their head.  It's rough.  Worth it though.  I feel like I did some much needed bonding with many other trainees.  Good stuff.

Only 6 weeks left until training ends and I am shipped out into the jungle somewhere by myself for two years. Whew.  Tomorrow we head into the mothership office in Lima to have our last interview with our program director to help him decide our assignments.  At the end of this week, we have language interviews to reassign the groups according to how much we have improved.  I started in Beginners Mid and we need to get to Intermediate Mid by the time we leave here.  I hope to have made it to Intermediate Low by now.  I know that I have improved quite a bit.  A lot of my learning is remembering the things I knew so many years ago, so it is going relatively quickly for me (I think).

I am tired now.  And my computer just informed me that it finished getting me some comic books, so I think I am off to bed to read and pass out very quickly.  It appears I am not uploading photos.  Some other time.  I need to steal photos from the 4th party from my friends as I of course killed my batteries after taking the first pic.  I should really stock up on those things...

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Robota los Globos

First, more pics from last weekend that I stole from mi amigo around the block:

Roadside Pit Stop.  Carlos and Edgar in the foreground.

Shot of the beautiful little mountain town we went to, couple thousand feet below the camping.



The start of the ride, looking back on the town.


It was pretty dark and cold by the time we got to camp.  So we played with my friend's camera and a flashlight:

Still very cold in the morning, about freezing.  We roasted chocolate covered marshmallows while we waited for breakfast.

We were camped in an amphitheater like thing surrounded by these tripped out rocks.

When we hiked, we saw the crazy awesome sacred rocks in various shaped.  There were seals and monkeys and turtles and many other things.  Here's a face:

There are a ton more fantastic photos, but Chris' photos take about a year to load each, so I am not going to. You'll just have to trust me.

This has been an interesting week.  It's been extraordinarily difficult.  I was wrenched from being emotionally solid and having a great time to being completely torn up after finding out that my wonderful friend Zack Season was killed last weekend in a car accident.  I was out of commission for a couple of days.  I have been able to keep busy enough in the daytime to continue on with my training mostly uninterrupted, though substantially more distracted than usual.  Unfortunately, I found out late Thursday night that a friend of mine since childhood, Isaiah, also passed on this week.  I had another very rough night and have been mostly unable to process all of this, I think.  I again have tried to just continue on with my days as normally as possible.  I am so far away and there is absolutely nothing I can do, so I am mostly trying to completely block it out of my head most of the time.  I am extraordinarily grateful for the staff here, who have been extremely kind and supportive through all of this.  I am most grateful for the amazing friends I have made here so far.  People have hugged me, have sat with me, have made me laugh til I hurt, and have gotten me drunk til I laughed so hard I fell down and actually got hurt.  So that was amazing of them.

Apart from that, my Spanish is still improving pretty rapidly I think and we are learning more and more in our training.  Tuesday was a holiday, though I just laid around all day.  Friday night, I visited Yanacoto with some amigos, which is another town a short combi ride and a long uphill climb away, that some other trainees live in.  We heard they had a bar with a pool table there.  It turned out to be true, however the pockets were INSANELY small and the table itself was not in great condition.  It took us an hour to play one game.  When we left, Adam and Linda and I were chased quite a long way by a dog with no eyes.  We had to learn very early on in Peru that you never walk at night or run at any time of day without a rock in hand.  We musta chucked a million rocks at that dog (not actually hitting it of course) but it kept on.  That was pretty hilarious, creepy white Peruvian dog with empty eye sockets...

Yesterday, Saturday, was epic.  We woke up early and the other business volunteers and I headed into Lima for a project and to look around.  It was my first trip into Lima - we are about an hour and a half outside of it here.  It is a pretty cool place and there are definitely some museums and such that I would like to check out sometime.  However, I am not much of a big city girl (and lime is 8.5 million people big) so I did not stay long.  Just long enough after our project to eat some amazing and hysterical Peruvian fast food, check out a couple bookstores, and make my way out of town.  This is where the day really started.

I went home and just relaxed and worked on homework for a couple of hours.  Then my friend Ashley stopped by.  Her parents wanted to take her to a party.  Now, Ashley doesn't speak much Spanish.  So she told me that she was pretty sure it was a party at her dad's work - he works in some sort of glass cutting factory, she says.  This sounds pretty intriguing and you pretty much never pass up an opportunity to go to a Peruvian event as it is too easy to hang out with large groups of trainees instead.  I explained to my mom what Ashley said was going on.  I also told her that who knows because we all know that Ashley's Spanish isn't awesome yet.  She told me to go ahead, but that it would probably go too late and to just stay at Ashley's.

So we went and grabbed a couple more of our closest buddies, Chris, Ellen, and Zack, and took off with Ashley's folks to walk to the highway and find a combi.  We immediately figured out two things.  First, we were going to some town called Nyanya, or maybe ñaña.  Second, we were going to a baby shower.  My favorite part of this misunderstanding is that "baby shower" is the same in English and Spanish - "baby shower."

This baby shower was AMAZING.  There was a clown - a rude and amazing clown - who did a whole performance, there was a huge amount of food as always, and there was seemingly endless sangria and beer being put in our hands.

Oh crap, it's late.  I have to go to a Fourth of July party now at another trainee's house.  I will tell about the epic, all night baby shower later, and about the party I am going to now.  I will try and upload more photos as well.