Monday, January 24, 2011

Do you see what I just did there?

I don't remember what I last blogged about, but I am on a bus, not tired, sin dramamine, and figure this is as good a time to write as any. Bus rides are spectacular. In my part of Peru, our bus rides are super atrocious in many ways – our buses are old, rusty, falling apart clunkers. Even if you sit all the way back in your seat, your knees are painfully shoved into the seat in front of you. The bus drivers are often drunk. I am five hours from the nearest paved road, so it's VERY bumpy. The roads up here are silly levels of windy. At least every fifth person on the bus is throwing up into a plastic bag. They play the same screechy wayno music at top volume the whole way. It's too hot, or else it's too cold. The person in the next seat inevitably thinks that open windows make you sick, or some other unlucky thing, and you have to close it. It constantly looks like you are definitely about to plunge about a half mile down the steep mountainsides. On this trip, my window has been hit three times by water balloons thrown by random little kids in the middle of nowhere (because of Canivale coming) and one of the times, my window was open, so now I am wet. Actually, putting it all together like this, maybe the open window theory has something to it...

On the other hand, it's on these bus rides, when you are too nauseous to do anything but look out the window that you are like, HOLY CRAP I LIVE IN THE NORTHERN PERUVIAN ANDES. It is spectacularly beautiful. I pay some price for being way further in the middle of nowhere than most volunteers, but I get the better bonus. Up in these mountains, everything is so green and lush and dramatically gorgeous. And if I am on this bus at night, there are more stars than anyone would ever possibly believe. I also get to be two steps further into the experience of cultural strangeness. The further out you go, the less “normal” everything gets. Even my Peruvian friends from the coast make fun of how out there the mountain folk are. I love it.

Another part of living so far out is that I get to be a free agent as far as my capital city goes. All volunteers have a capital city, depending on your department. The volunteers in La Libertad hang out in Trujillo; those in Lamabyeque hang out in Chiclayo; in Ancash, it's Huaraz; I think in Arequipa they hang out in Arequipa City and in Chivay too. Santa Cruz is in the department of Cajamarca, so really my capital city should be Cajamarca City, or Caja City as I like to call it (bad Peruvian slang joke?) Thing is, out where I am, I am called a “Chota-area Volunteer.” We are the forgotten bunch, tossed off the map. Chota is a town of maybe 30,000, about 6 hours north of Cajamarca City. It's little, but it's ours. There are a dozen of us or so situated anywhere from 20 minutes to 4 hours out of Chota, in all directions. So that is kind of our capital city. We have our own separate meetings there, without the rest of the Cajamarca group – the Southern Caja team.

Thing is, Chota can't fairly be counted as a capital city. When a volunteer anywhere heads in, they get paved roads, real variety of shopping and activities, all kinds of familiar things. You can't even rightly get mail in Chota, because there is no customs office – you always end up having to run into the bigger cities anyways. Really there is nothing in Chota. So, I am four hours from Chota. I am five hours from Chiclayo. Takes me ten to get to Caja City. Hell, I can even randomly get to Trujillo in less time than it takes me to get to Caja. So, I go where I want – pretty much just rotating between Chota and Chiclayo, heading down to Caja only for large events.. It's nice. I am getting to know a lot of different crews of volunteers. I am getting to hear a lot of stories about a lot of places. Yet another bonus of my extreme middle-of-nowhere-ness.

You know that the moon is upside down here? You cup it in your left hand when it's waxing, your right when waning. Confused the hell out of me for the longest time. I was seriously considering building myself a model of the universe to try and figure out why this ones. Randomly hit me one day – it was just too simple to see up close. I AM STANDING UPSIDE DOWN. Ha. I think I am going to build that model of the universe anyways. Maybe with the kids I am building the telescope with. Also, part of the upside down here – totally summer right now... Silly Southern Hemisphere.

Have I mentioned that I have been training my town in everything American and Awesome? So far, I have got people coming up to me and yelling “Top Gun!” and top gun high fiving me. Also, everyone in Santa Cruz is a Ducks fan – we had a party at a restaurant to watch the BCS Championship game. I didn't even try to explain the rules, but everyone eventually figured out when to get excited and were bitterly disappointed when we lost. I am thinking of really organizing up a Superbowl party at that same restaurant – with wings and beer and whatever. Get the whole town to come. So fun.

I am on my way back home right now. I have been at a week of In Service Training in Huanchaco, this touristy little beach place. It was super fun to get to see everyone from training again for a week. Also, we got some absolutely awesome trainings and I hope to be jumping into some more good projects this week. And Chris Heather taught us all how to think. So that was friggin' key. Don't know what we would do without that guy. By the way, this isn't sarcasm. This guy is a rockstar.

I am starting a series of children's picture books about my experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I need some good graphic manipulation software. So far, I've got “Where's Jorge?,” “The Little Duck Who Died,” and a whole series of “[Insert name here] and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Charla.”

Ok, gaining altitude and windiness now. Keep typing and I am gonna barf. Así, ciao.

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