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.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastico. Point of debate. I think you actually shove your hand up the other nether regions of cow, no?