Sunday, August 29, 2010

La Madrugada (¡Ahora con fotos!)

I am finally here at site, getting here on Wednesday after journeying the fabled Hero's Quest in order to arrive. I hear it's official that a few of us out in this area are the very most remote of the Peru volunteers. It took me days to get to site this time... 16 hours of cama cama and ten hours of dirt roads later, falta muchas break-downs but including a lovely man next to me barfing in a bag, and an extra night in a hotel in order to catch the 4am combi for the last crazy stretch... and now, finally, I am exactly where I want to be. I arrived to my house just in time to met the town pastor, eat a late breakfast, and get delivered a solicitud. It seems my work is really starting off at breakneck speed. This was from a campo gentleman who had come from afar because he had heard of my impending presence and was sent to request help organizing a group of bee-keepers and cuy farmers. I am so in.

After I agreed to meet with his group in Chancay Baños on Sunday, I went to catch a quick rest as that last windy and crowded stretch of road had been my least comfortable ever and had been less than optimally placed in the middle of the friggin' night. I woke up in time to grab lunch and then hit the town with my little sister, Iris, to do some very important market and hardware store scouring. It took awhile to find a bucket of bright red paint for my room, and quite an extraordinary number of strange looks. People here really like to whitewash inside. So boring. So, we got all our paint supplies, a lamp, and many other little things, and headed back home with our wares and with ice cream cones in hand. I already don't know how I'd survive without my sister – even with her disturbing Beiber-fever.

I then rushed off to a Fair Commission meeting, which didn't actually take place due to the extraordinary circumstance of this being Perú. I spent the rest of the evening and a large percentage of the next day deep in planning mode. Felt like the beginning of a campaign. I made electronic and giant hard copy versions of a three-month plan. It took eons, as usual. I realized during the process how glad I am to have a background in planning and organizing while jumping into this immense project with very little instruction. I thought about it as I did it, but even more over the next day, as I spoke with my compañeros on the phone, that this is a HUGE gap in our training. Seems that everyone I have spoken with is feeling at a loss of how exactly to begin. They even told us that this is the biggest problem with getting to site. I don't know why they don't just teach the basic set of planning tools that we all learned back home. I am going to see what I can do to get this implemented. I am glad I feel like I know exactly what I am doing and what is next, it's a pretty decent comfort when I am sleeping on straw covered in a sheet and washing myself from a bucket.

Friday morning I went to Ashley's site, an hour away. The drive is amazing – absolutely breathtaking. She lives on the other side of the range from me, and the climate is totally different. You go over the pass and you are suddenly in the gorgeous canyons and sheer golden and red cliffs of northern New Mexico and Arizona. You follow a beautiful whitewater river the whole way there and pass through little oases of farms pulled straight from visions of Shangri La. So, of course, the first thing we did was go on a hike. I am not even going to bother trying to describe how awesome the hike was. We'll just go with the literal interpretation of awe-some. I was actually there for an afternoon meeting with our artisan group, but I was stoked the only buses went so early in the day.

When we arrived to the meeting, we found out that there is this wonderful man from the Peruvian government who is already doing our job for us! Suddenly we understand why our random group of mountain women are the most well-organized artisan association we have encountered. This guy sat and taught them the very stuff I was planning on teaching them as soon as I finished my diagnostic/improved my Spanish. And he did it very well. It was also quite educational to watch. I have a new work partner and will be spending more of my time focusing on the less organized groups. Fantastic.

I stayed the night in her town and the annual town fiesta was in full effect. One thing. They built a six story high structure covered in crazy spinning and flying fireworks with flame waterfalls and other finery and then they pretty much burnt it down. I love them. Another thing. Women don't drink in towns this small, so while the men got hammered, we pounded coffee and partied like no tomorrow. Yet another. Gringas are the most interesting thing on Earth apparently. At one point, I got up on a bench to take a photo of the crowd and as soon as my flash went off (the town electricity of course went out as soon as the party started) a bunch of flashes went off back at me. They all took pictures of me. Look! A gringa! There is also epic staring. Standing and staring, one foot in front of you. Also. They say that being in Peace Corps involves lots of embarrassing the hell out of yourself, so we embraced it and let them teach us a traditional dance while hundreds watched and laughed. This involved a giant sombrero. Last thing. These people party. We went to sleep around 2am and it had barely started. Definitely still raging when we woke up at eight.

We went on another hike in the morning and then it was about time for me to return home. Ash is jealous of my site because it is bigger so people don't stare as intensely or yell “Gringa!” quite as loudly as I walk around. I am jealous of her because it is so much easier to make friends. People here aren't nearly as interested in talking to me. I already miss all my friends from her site – William (who is just like Pablito!), and his funny friend Diana; Arturo, Ashley's rockstar cousin from Lima; Diego, the brilliant little boy who gave me a regalo before I got on the bus; and even John, the suspiciously friendly cop. They were waving me off as the bus pulled out. It was the sweetest.

My baby sister ran up the road yelling, “Co! Co!” when I got home though, so that worked. I busted ass for the rest of the day getting my room how I want it. I painted it bright red, which makes my parents crack up every single time they walk by the door. It's a crap paint job. Tip: when painting a room in a house made out of mud, just realize that chunks of the wall will continuously fall off as you go and just keep going. Oh well. Then I cleaned and decorated. Then I wrote this. Man. Every day. So full. I am exhausted. Good night.
By the way. A tortilla isn't a tortilla. A tortilla is scrambled eggs, sometimes with some spinach in them. There are no tortillas. Mosquitos are also having an identity crisis. A mosquito is actually any small bug, while those filthy little bastards that suck your blood are zancudos. Somos Perú.

Post Script. Wow. I was going to post that blog this morning, but instead got pulled into the whirlwind that is Perú. Today, I believe, would have tried even someone who had a mountain of patience. For me, a rank amateur on the patience front, it was a great test of will. I learned a lot. I learned that even if you wait for your town doctor for two hours in the morning on a random curb in order to go on a trip an hour each way to a caserio, this doesn't mean you won't wait for him for FIVE MORE HOURS after the meeting. But, I enjoyed the rain, I enjoyed the company of my sister, my mom's friend Percy, and the cab driver, Edison, I enjoyed a bit of my book, I gave another speech in Spanish and even fielded questions, I received gifts of mountains of fresh honey from my new association, and I spent a lot of time focusing on slowly breathing away my frustration. I mostly enjoyed watching the good doctor eat dinner quite drunk when he finally returned from whatever he was doing. This guy is definitely the most brilliant and hilarious Peruvian I have come across (for my compañeros, this was Mark and Jorge's love child of hilarity). This doctor told me that Peruvian serve up the hot sugar water to help the diabetes and the platos full of grease for your cholesterol. He also told me that my life wasn't worth living without love and to find a boyfriend and stop working so much or else curl up and die. He is now off to hit the town and play matchmaker. I got home to a million voicemails from my mom, as of course she finally got through and the caserios have no cell service. Ugh!!!

I just bought the ingredients for an amazing American breakfast in the morning – tomorrow is my mom's birthday and I am teaching a six am cooking class for one of my presents. They are very excited. I hope they own a spatula...

Before shot of my room

After - Much better!

My awesome family

Random choice of many pics I have of how awesomely gorgeous this place is:

Post Post Script:  After originally posting this, I went home and took up journaling.  For now on, I plan on keeping my activities there and focusing on pictures here.  I feel like I am torturing the void when I post this crap.  Love you all out there in the tubes.

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