Sunday, March 13, 2011

¡Lo Máximo!

I am not even sure where to start with blogging right now, but it seems I had best do it today, before even more accumulates in the fields of the strange and the awesome.

I spent the last two and a half months without my family. At first, this was great, but the charm eventually wore off – my Spanish wasn't improving and my nights and weekends were excruciatingly boring. They finally got back this last weekend and life became almost immediately amazing again. I had only spent a few weeks with them before they left and they are even more fantastic than I remember. My 13 year old brother and are having a brilliant time playing Uno and wandering the town together and me and my mom cook epically. She is talking about the three of us taking a trip to Macchu Picchu together late in the summer.

Also, I promised her I would announce to every older single male I know in the States that she is single and an amazing cook if, ya know, you need a wife. So – done there.

It's been Carnaval season. Yunzas. There is a party called a Yunza almost every night in my town, since the beginning of February. Since Carnaval peaked last weekend and Lent began, I thought the Yunzas would stop but, no, I went two of the three that were going last night. Apparently they will continue through March as well. A Yunza – It's kind of like a maypole, a Christmas tree, and a piñata combined. Every street has a Yunza and many have more than one throughout Yunza-time. What they do is they cut down a really tall tree – a deciduous tree without leaves, where the branches start very high up. The pick axe a hole in the middle of the street and set the tree up in it. Before the launch it up there, they fill the branches with presents. Weird things – blankets and t-shirts. Packages of cookies and bottles of beer. Then they drink and dance around the tree all night long, until nine or ten the next morning. They drink HARD and they dance HARD. In the morning, the drunken survivors take turns chopping at the tree with a machete til they chop it down. When it falls, everyone dives into the branches snatching at the gifts. The trick here is, whoever actually knocks the thing down, has to fund next year's Yunza. This is almost half my monthly stipend – WAY out of my budget. These are spendy parties. And man do they love to hand me that machete and, after a full night of drinking and dancing, man do I want to chop that thing down. I have shown incredible restraint.

I couldn't make this shit up. But to get to the even crazier part...

I spent the height of Carnaval in Cajamarca City. Caja City is considered the capital of Carnaval in Perú. Volunteers came in from all over the country for the weekend. I am a local department volunteer so I fortunately didn't even have to take vacation – just a weekend in my capital! But in the language here, you don't GO to Carnaval – you PLAY Carnaval. ¿Vas a jugar carnavales? I had no idea what to expect, I just knew that it involved paint fights and that I needed to bring clothes or a costume that I didn't mind destroying. It was a hundred times more wild than I expected. The paint fight part of it was HUGE. Small armies were roaming the streets with buckets, water balloons, and knock off supersoakers full of paint in wildly various colors. Armies were organized by barrio. Except us. We were the straight up Gringo Army and everyone sure did love to soak us with paint. These armies eventually congregated into a march at least a few miles long – thousands upon thousands. Everyone was drinking, banging on their buckets, and SINGING at the top of their lungs. I think the Carnaval song will be stuck in the back of my skull for a long, long time. It was mostly just, ¡JUGAMOS CARNAVALES! ¡LOS LOCOS CARNAVALES!

At night the plaza filled up with these thousands upon thousands. Again, all standing in groups of 10-20 and still singing at the tops of their lungs and drinking. But they all have drums and trumpets and everything else in the plaza at night. It's a noise like I'd never heard. Fantastic. It was impossible to get back to the hotel before dawn each night and bars and clubs were a hundred percent unnecessary. During the days, there were parades with the most beautiful and fantastical costumes I have EVER seen. Crazy stuff. I have no words.

None of the above words even some close to justifying the things I have seen and participated in over the last couple of months. Also, I absolutely love my life. Cool job, I've got.

A few random things:
- The other day I was eating lunch and randomly heard a twenty minute radio news story about myself.
- The 13ers Close-of-Service is coming in a few months and I am already sad. There is no way the 17ers will replace them effectively.
- This means that I am getting a chunk into my service. Time goes so fast I don't even know how I feel about where I am at right now. Things are going great – I will leave it at that.
- I went to an English Teaching course in Lima with a friend from site who is an English Profesor at the Institute here, so him and I will be working on some projects to teach teachers some new skills
- I went to an awesome Superbowl party last month in Chiclayo. Go Packers.
- I have one fully functioning Community Bank with 20 members and another two that are still in the initial stages. About 70 adult members. It's a pretty great project. The one group calls me “La Gringa Mágica and insist that I can do things like heal a broken bone by putting my hands on it. I tell them that yeah, I can, but not today.
- I am picking up some Peruvian sign language. There are 4 or 5 deaf people that live on my block and a couple are good friends of the family. Super different than ASL. Involves full body hilarity and running around the room. No alphabet – but you can write things out on your forearm. It will be a one hundred percent useless skill in about 18 months.
- Tomorrow my courses start at the Colegio. Vocational Orientation for all the first year students, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 4-6pm and Youth Entrepenuership for the fourth and fifth year students, Mondays and Wednesdays, 4-6pm. This'll keep me a bit busy. I am keeping on with my one English class with my seven year olds on Thursday mornings.
- I have moved into the initial stages of a library project, which will also be part children's science museum and writing tutoring center. And we are going to build that damn telescope to keep there. This may be overly ambitious and I am going to recruit help from Eugene when I am ready.
- I had a million other things but I don't remember them now.

I stole pictures from others as I never take any.

A Yunza photo, for reference, stolen from Ashley:

One parade pic, also yoinked from Ash:

The rest are Carnaval paint fight photos stolen from Mario.  We marched for HOURS.  Only he and Biz had waterproof cameras:
Christie got really sunburnt.
There's me!
Never ending.
John, Mario and Tim.  I love this guys.  All the way from Arequipa.
Well, that is all for now.  Chau.