Thursday, September 30, 2010


This is a blog I apparently wrote September 12th and them promptly forgot about.  Suppose I will go ahead and publish it now, simply for posterity's sake...

I think I last left off with the funny drunk doctor. I could easily start off with him again, as I have just seen him for the first time since then. Turns out he is running for mayor. So awesome. It would be completely hysterical if he won and likely pretty entertaining to work with him for the next two years. I am of course not allowed to have an opinion on matters of politics in my host community. Wouldn't want the United States interfering in foreign governments, now would we...

The last two weeks have been as much of a merry-go-round as expected. Some days I feel completely slammed – running around, meeting people, getting shit done. Most days, however, I feel somewhat stagnant. I walk around and around my town, getting to know the hidden corners. I am getting my room more and more cozy and comfortable, preparing to live my life here, I even have electricity in my room now. I am getting to know my family and feeling more normalized into my situation. My Spanish is improving. Things seem to be plugging along. Slowly.

My mother, who is also my work contact, is often gone. She works in the caserios a lot, and has disappeared to Chiclayo and now Lima, too. She will disappear for days. She has only actually been here a day or two since I last wrote. When she is here, she is a bit tough to nail down. I finally was able to sit with her for awhile last night and talk about the work I am feeling ready to get started on. We have an Artisan Fair at the US Embassy in Lima to go to in less than 2 months and I needed to figure out how prepared my artisans will be and what I need to teach them. As I suspected, they are pretty ready. My main group doesn't really need me much – but that's alright, I will find others, and hopefully soon. I get to meet my coffee farmers on the 20th. For now, I am returning all focus to my community diagnostic. I just wrote outlines for the many, many interviews I will be conducting around town this week.

I spent two of the only days that my mother was available puking my guts out sick. I suppose it was my turn to get it bad. Afterward, I was very weak for a day or two. Ashley visited and I was the most pathetic hiking buddy ever, stopping every 20 minutes to will myself not to vomit. It sure was a beautiful hike like always though.

I went to town. And I had a birthday. I suppose those are things. I went in to Chota for just one night, mainly to purchase a mattress. It's our big city, only 4 harrowing hours away and all of 30,000 people. Ashley went with me and we met up with the two volunteers who live there – Mark and Christie – and two others in the area who came in - Chris and Annalise. It was pretty exciting to eat out, have laundry done, take hot showers, flush toilets, have wireless internet, drink a beer, stay in a hotel, and just speak friggin' English for a night. Absurdly exciting. We also did quite a bit of shopping. I did buy a mattress (really just a glorified piece of foam), as well as a new pillow and a sheet set. Ash got a whole stove and kitchen set-up, so when the two of us loaded back on the bus that evening to head home, we were packing heavy. I did manage to load my mattress on to the top of a mototaxi (“Just reach up and hold it on,” seems to be the simple solution for mattress-meets-motorcycle...), and had no problem getting on the bus and getting home. It was funny – one night in town and I was pretty much super ready to be home again. Getting into my new, fresh bed was the most luxurious and amazing thing ever.

The next morning was my birthday. My family made me a delicious breakfast of these little fried things that were somewhere in between pancake and doughnut; they were apparently called, “tortillas,” as is everything else, though I have never seen what I know of as a tortilla in this country. Then they presented me with a very nice bright purple sweater. Of course, I wore it all day for them and of course it was the hottest day I have ever seen here. I decided that since it was both Friday and my birthday, it was fully appropriate to pretty much stay in bed all day and watch movies – this new bed is just way too comfortable... So I bought some yarn and a slice of cake and did exactly that.

The next day was my host father's birthday. I went down to the bakery and bought him a whole cake. I watched our ama de casa slaughter a very large duck, and we pretty much feasted all day. I don't know how old he turned, so the cake had one “0” candle on it. This prompted my father to have a long philosophical discussion with me about wasted youth and the universal desire to turn back time. Sometimes speaking Spanish makes me so tired.

Today is market day and I explored it thoroughly, though I am still holding my breath in parts of the meat sections – I will get tougher. Fresh herbs are still eluding me. People keep saying they know where to find sage and rosemary, but then they were of course lying. So, I went and watched the mayoral debates going on in the plaza. There were hundreds of people watching. There are about 10 candidates, the election is in less than a month, and it is so strange to be so removed. I did realize that I do know most of the candidates, but I really don't know much about their political stances. I suppose it's okay that I am not allowed to have an opinion, because I really don't.

I swung into our beautiful Catholic Church on my way home just know and though there were only about 3 people in the pews, there was a woman belting out the most beautiful Ave Maria. Apparently she is practicing for a concert tonight. I am going. Very exciting.

Mostly, life just seems so normal now. I am not sure what else to write. I have stopped paying as much attention to the daily strangeness. I think I saw a gringo last night in my plaza and that is about the weirdest thing that has happened in a while.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

El Penal

This is a completely random series of pictures.  Figured I should share some since I am lying all day in my hotel, watching college football.  Regional meetings are an awesome excuse to get a real bed, a hot shower or nine, and some internet.

Fiesta day in Catache:

Random - I think from a bis ride between Santa Cruz and Catache:

Fireworks for sale:

Making aji on rocks in the campo:

This is an eight story tall tower of fireworks.  They spend all day building these things and then they burn them down at like 2am.  They are extremely impressive.  See all the little spinny thingies and there are flapping birds on top and a waterfall thingie.  It all animates on fire:

Nightclub in Caja City on FBT.  Volunteer buddies and random Swiss grad student:

We do a lot of hiking.  This is Ashley, she is the closest volunteer to me:

Good buddies Ashley, Ellen, Biz, and Ryan:

Screaming Mummy:

It's the smallest soda ever:

Ryan made it:

My baby sister Sylvana, after playing in the coal pile:


Night in the Wasteland, near the end of training:

Very dramatic flower pictures from my hikes:

Ash and Mark and my bday feast:

That's my town from the top of the mountain.  The trail disappeared and we just bailed up the side of the mountain.  It was pretty good.  Cows.

I don't ever feel like blogging anymore.  Coming back to town on the first, I think.  Will update maybe then.