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

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Estrellas y Truchas, Gracias Adios

Here are some things:

While I am excited to go visit an association that wants my help, that is located about 5 hours from me, the last 3 of which will be on horseback, I am unsure as to how I will help them get more tourism business. It is a very high hurdle just to get tourists to where I live, let alone another half day's travel into the mountains. I will however, take one for the team and head out there to see all of their caves and waterfalls and jungle and unexcavated Pre-Incan ruins. You're all welcome, I will get this horrid tourism off of your hands.

My Spanish has crossed a bridge. For the first long time, I was catching up to previous knowledge and tying things together. Understanding was always far easier than speaking, as it was easier to recognize words and pick things up than it was to come up with the words on my own and put them all together coherently. I have now gotten to a place where I can use my available words and structures to convey most of anything I need to, though it is often in a simplified or roundabout way, and also now I know enough to realize just how much I do not know. Often I am unable to follow someone because the accents of the deep mountains are just that hard, but much more often now I am realizing that I can completely understand a person but simply do not have the vocabulary to have any clue what they could possibly be getting at. Part of this I look at in a positive light – my accent has improved enough for people to assume I speak more Spanish than I do. Must speak more poorly...

It is apparently completely appropriate for a marching band to wander the streets at any given time of day or night. In fact, one passes my house every night around midnight and again at about 5am. I am unsure exactly when I am supposed to sleep. Am I missing something key here?

I feel so much more comfortable in my community. This place is home. They are still getting used to me, as the only gringa in existence, and shout greetings from afar. Only now I enjoy shouting greetings back. They are my friends, or will be whether they like it or not. Sometimes I just want to shout back, “No, I am not getting married soon, to you or your brother,” just to nip the most asked question in the bud. Maybe I could wear a sign.

I just drank some tea I got in a package from my grandmother in the states (Thanks, Grandma!) and it was SO strong. Wow, flavorville, I didn't realize the stuff here was so weak. It was also my first caffeine in weeks, as I am completely off of most everything that is any fun, and I think I will probably be up all night. I mean, look, I am writing a damn blog again.

My town party has begun. First, I was asked to lead the parade, helping carry the banner that announced the beginning of the festival. Later, I was given a festival brochure, complete with a schedule of events and tons of pictures. I open it up to find, in the center, a listing of people involved in the organization. There, right in the middle, in big ol' capital letters, it says in Spanish, “And With Special Guests: Courtney Anglin and Ashley Sansotta.” Apparently just being two gringas in the middle of nowhere makes us the special guests of the whole damn town party. I have also made a lot of new friends, including mountains of random people who speak some English. A lot of my new friends are only here for the week, however.

I just got back from a bullfight. It was the most beautiful, terrible, suspenseful, insane, awesome, awful thing I have ever seen. There sure is a lot of blood. Also, one of the bulls battled a horse, knocking it down along with the gate, getting to the outer ring amidst tons of gasping and screaming. There were periods when I was unable to talk. I wanted to cry and throw up and laugh hysterically. I am still shaking, trying to eat dinner and type.

My whole family is out of town this week. They took my mother to town to send her off to Japan for a month and the rest of the family is just visiting relatives in Chiclayo. Ash and Mark came to visit for the fair, as we have tons of artisan booths. We have been cooking up a storm of American food and just hanging out at the house. It is so nice, like we are real adults with our own place again.

I was out making new friends and dancing until about 3am last night, so I am thinking bed before seven. Is that pathetic? I almost always go to bed absurdly early here.

Yesterday I saw the greatest thing. We had our afternoon thunderstorms and it was a real doozy. Lightening every 5 seconds and the streets turned into rivers. I could still here noise from the plaza though, so I went to investigate. I found the bands still rocking away on the church steps and my town out dancing in the downpour, jumping around in inches of water. It was phenomenal. I love this place.

Ok. Now, less phenomenal. This town party is never going to end. Never. Still raging. Has been for almost two weeks now. I really hope I can get back to work next week, and that everyone sobers up eventually.

People keep finding me. Whether I am in a dark back corner of an internet cafe or shopping in the crowded aisles of a far away market, people who are looking for me appear to ask me whatever question. I think they must just be able to walk to the plaza and ask which way the white girl went last and follow my trail from there. I don't think I could ever have secrets.

I am in a hotel now and just took the most amazing hot shower. Might be the cleanest person in Perú. Ok. That's all for now. Hasta.

Well, just tried to upload some photos, but there seems to be a problem with me and the new uploading form on Blogger.  So, not my fault.  You didn't really wanna see all the party pictures anyways, or all the gory bullfight pics especially.  They are awful.  I will not be attending another.