domingo, 26 de diciembre de 2010
Another holiday has come and gone. New Year's Eve will mark 6+ months in Peru, and the beginning of what will be a full calender year as a volunteer here in the Andes of Peru. Christmas was filled with hot chocolate, paneton (a fluffy sweet bread with candied fruit), and a lovely nacimiento, or nativity scene in the corner of my room, moss, ceramic animals, Christmas lights and baby Jesus all included.
I spent all of the 23rd preparing stollen, a German Christmas bread, the recipe being handed down from my grandmother to my father to me. Each year I would observe my papa preparing and baking away, sometimes 20 or more of these loaves choc full of rum soaked raisins, candied orange and lemon peel, almonds, and buttery goodness. To be honest I never had the fervor to partake in this productive madness, until now, thousands of miles away. Again, an epic food making process ensued, beginning with the making of the candied peel, buying a quarter liter of rum straight from the local tienda in a used water bottle (not friendly stuff) and getting three kilos of flour donated to me by my host mom. My neighbors agreed to allow me access to their adobe fire wood oven and their teen-age daughter was nice enough to help me chop enough almonds, raisins and orangsat for eight kilos of stollen. It was mixed, let to rise, and hoping that altitude and a rustic oven would work favorably, baked off at about 6pm, by 8pm we took out eight lovely stollen loaves, intact, baked through, and delicious. I was proud as a mother at her kid's graduation, nothing short of a Christmas miracle to be eating an old German family recipe in a rural mountain pueblo in Peru; in this instance I must say, "yay" to Globalization, not for leaving toxic residues of homogeneous culture, but for linking the dots between the past and present with the Cordillera Blanca and the heart of Turingia.
In the days leading up to the 24th, I felt waves of sadness, thinking of home, of the warmth of family, friends, and comfort foods. What I experienced these last few days was not the familiar string of events and people, but I must say in the end I felt that warmth and friendship while sharing hot chocolate from a communal bowl, being visited by curious, nativity scene loving kids, and watching a campo rendition of the birth of baby Jesus. Sitting in the town church, mothers, fathers and children watching Mary and Joseph, searching for shelter, a temporary home where they can safely bring to the world the light of their their new child, I felt I was ready to give this new place a name; home.
Results, fresh stollen and my neighbor's kids, Cintia y Javier
Another friendly visit from Sayda, my baby sis
sábado, 4 de diciembre de 2010
It is time...time to take that step, the step into the unknown of life, of work, of play, what will result? We just completed our first in-service training where we learn how to supplement our experiences of living in country with a refresher in current issues, potential projects, and most importantly, how to implement them in a sustainable manner. Currently, I feel a breath of fresh air in my lungs, the new motivation to begin work in the community, knowing that there are folks willing and able to collaborate with me and guide me in taking that first step...but to re-cap, I would like to talk about the phenomenon that was THANKSGIVING.
Here were the day's events (we celebrated Saturday, the 27th):
- Friday, November 26th, prep 18 kilos of potatoes, wash 12 kilos of sweet potatoes, chop onions, celery, carrots, for stuffing, thaw two 8 kilo turkeys
- Saturday, November 27th begin with 5 Kilometer "Turkey Trot," from Anta to Jangas, those in attendance: 16 volunteers from various regions, 10 adults and, 16 kids from Jangas, prizes were awarded
- Food preparation continues, 8 pies (apple, pumpkin, banana pudding), stuffing, mashed potatoes (made on wood fire), broccoli, glazed carrots, green beans, apple sauce, roasted sweet potatoes, gravy, and of course two magnificently roasted turkeys which spent 5 hours in a wood fired adobe oven, gloooorious!
- Eating time, in attendance: 16 volunteers + over thirty friends and family in the community of Jangas, enjoyment, laughter, and a dance party to top it all off (no alcohol involved)
So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I say "Thank You," to my fellow volunteers, the people of Peru, and those two Turkeys who gave their lives for an epic event.
domingo, 31 de octubre de 2010
The other day I was fortunate to speak to my parents and a close friends from the convenience of my room in Amashca. Technology allows those of us living abroad to connect to family and loved ones with ease and speed. However, technology can't do it all for us, and as I spoke with my parents that day I felt the distance between us. Speaking once every ten days can ease my mind with the sound of familiar voices, but it can't replace the consistent presence of the loving people who raised me. As many of us spread across the globe like seeds in the wind, I ask myself what consequences may result in regards to family, community and global society; will we become a world of people missing home?
This is not a new phenomena, but the context has changed, thanks to technology, and easy means of travel it gives the illusion that we are never "that far away," but our human biology, from senses to cells knows different, and they long for the comfort and security of home. I can't just stop by for a meal or a hello, and what is community if not that, people having access to people, not devices.
I appreciate the gift of technology, but I caution to romanticize it, preferring to see it as a tool, not an answer to a lonely moment. After all, take away the clothes, the cell, the computer, and we are just animals, wandering the planet, doing our best to survive, for ourselves, for our children, for the future.
lunes, 25 de octubre de 2010
Yesterday I clambered up over rock and dirt to a beautiful lagoon, Churup, nestled between a glacier and several other peaks, this mountain lake sits at 4,500 meters, which according to my calculations brings us to about 14,763 ft. The air is thin up there, and our puny sea-level lungs were feeling it. Thus begins my training. I'm turning a new leaf. I am ready to become, as they say, "hard corps," as in Peace Corps. I have had the time to adjust to my surroundings, pick up on some of the nuances of life in the campo (rural community), make sure I'm taking care of my health. Now it's time to kick some butt (pardon my french). The hike to Churup was a perfect beginning. Up there, one is able to think of life as a whole, perspective grows to include the clouds, the wind, the grasses, the endless sky reflected in the lake bellow.
In this life, we do our best to be happy, but how much is in our hands? I ask this to discover what it is that brings joy to a moment. Is it a lack of worry, concern? Or is it the presence of something, a knowing that you are where you are meant to be, that a larger force is watching over you, through your joys and your sorrows?Perhaps it is both. We have the ability to ease our anxieties, and to melt our fears. It is also up to us to have faith.
My own personal training for the next two years isn't just about a physical prowess or responding to cat calls with a cold wit. It is about rising above the boggy insecurities that keep me locked down, unable to let go of a bump in the road, holding me back. It's about getting up in the morning with the confidedence one gets from a double shot of espresso, or a couple of beers, (whatever your preference) but without the substance, relying on my internal fire, fueling me in all my endeavors.
domingo, 17 de octubre de 2010
In sickness and in health (A word on the struggles of maintaining health in the life of a volunteer)
There are so many factors affecting my health here that it is difficult sometimes to untangle the mess and find the culprit. Even more, it is rarely one thing, all is connected. Loneliness and stress affect the gut, fluctuating temperatures and dust can make one irritable, being stared at and gossiped about can bring about insecurity. Then again, there ARE bacteria and parasites that invade and cause upset both of the stomach variety as well as the emotional. So that’s why I’m here right now in my capital city, Huaraz, to discover or at least narrow down, what it may be.
Dueling with my stomach is no new endeavor for me, but I must say this feels more intense; my stomach and I are having a show down, who will draw first and fire the winning shot? Perhaps this dueling metaphor is inappropriate regarding an organ of the human body; perhaps I should opt to sit quietly with my gut and ask, ‘How are you?’ ‘What can I do for you today?’ ‘Are you missing you mom or was it that ceviche that’s making you rumble?’
I will learn, it is a process; please leave any comments of advice in the space provided.
sábado, 16 de octubre de 2010
lunes, 11 de octubre de 2010
What can I conclude in regards to working with these children? I don’t want to give more of the same, forced curriculum (that lacks context), humiliation (both kids and teachers talk down to each other), and low expectations (graduation levels are probably at about 50%, from my calculations). I ask myself, what is new and fresh for kids growing up here, in the distant mountains of Peru?
I seek inspiration; I ask questions, I want to find a new path. The Peace Corps has given me some tools, manuals, etc., but the most important piece must be generated within me, my attitude and perspective in living in this community is the springboard upon which I’ll be able to get anything done. While there are some serious issues that impede learning here, there is also a handful of committed staff that show up and do their best with the little resources available; I admire this. I cannot do this alone. For now, I’ll keep going, step by step to the peaks that surround me to inspire my creativity, my heart and shed any fears that keep me from trying something new.
Although I have felt some guilt regarding my “work” or lack there of, I think I have been too hard on myself. These first months are a challenge. In this context “work” for me includes doing my laundry (by hand), taking a shower (in freezing water), trying to understand a conversation in Quechua, climbing a hill and stopping to chat with people working their fields or grazing their animals, making a meal, taking public transportation (anywhere), not to mention making contacts with my community counterparts, i.e. getting thrown into a classroom for an impromptu English lesson, attending a birth, you know, the usual (!).
Peace Corps asks that at the end of the first three months we write a community diagnostic which we will present to our supervisor as well as our communities. There are a plethora of criteria we are asked to cover, everything from religious organizations, to malnutrition levels, to holiday calendars. We are to use formal and non-formal means to collect our data. Completing the CD will be interesting and I think introduce me into the realm of “work” as far as Peace Corps goes. But I know now, that my CD or my projects won’t mean anything if my heart doesn’t feel for this community and its people. That will remain my focus now, until the end of August 2012, and beyond.
jueves, 30 de septiembre de 2010
miércoles, 15 de septiembre de 2010
Potatoes, rice, tea with sugar, some pasta, a little carrot, tomato, peas, avas (lima beans) and chilli, the occasional pumpkin, peach or apple, a little milk here and there, today I saw cheese for the first time ever. We are lacking in protein, thus the guys lose muscle, and overcompensating in carbs, thus the women (at least the ones that don’t exercise enough) gain fat. But it doesn’t have to be this way! First of all, I see green all around me. There are fields everywhere, and garden potential is plenty. I have seen Swiss chard! It exists, as does cabbage, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, eggplant, and much more. Peru is special because it can grow everything. The fruit stands are bursting with papaya, strawberry’s (this time of year), apple, kiwi, mandarins, oranges, banana, chirimoya (the best fruit after mango), more and more. Yes, some of it is expensive considering the lacking economy out in the rural areas, but that’s were the “bio-huertos” must make their presence. People here consume vegetables as if they were precious commodities, only a little at a time. Looking at some kids faces, I see sad and listless eyes, no vitamins, no protein; these kids aren’t growing to their fullest potential, in more ways than one.
Once a year comes the fiesta and everyone eats, but what about the other 51 weeks of the year? I’d like to put some energy into this. Me, I’m privileged here; I can go to the market, buy my veggies and be happy. But that’s not good enough. I want to grow them myself and share that process. I will learn from my fellow community members about planting, growing, harvesting, but I also hope to teach about what makes a healthy body. Here, the aging process is accelerated, a man of 55 can look about 70, and it’s all down hill from there. One step at a time, like peeling layers of an onion, each day I discover more about the needs and values of the people around me; slowly, the fuzzy edges are coming into focus and what is initially shocking is evolving into deeper understanding.
viernes, 10 de septiembre de 2010
This week is party week in Amashca, which means 7 days of music, food, dancing, and lots of beer. Each town celebrates it's patron saint, in the case of Amashca, La Virgen de Natividad (also the name of the school)every year. The size of the town nearly doubles and bands are brought in from Huaraz and Lima to play the favorite Huayno music (Peruvian country) of the Sierra, eat, drink, and be merry. Unfortunately, for me being the new and only gringa in town, I felt the pressure was a bit too great to be hanging around in such an explosive environment...so while I'll be back in my community today, I am thinking maybe the first two days have given way to a more mellow crowd. We shall see.
I find it interesting that I feel some social pressure here in my community in a way I never have. While integrating is good, and I loved helping to cook and make bread in preparation for the festivities, I will have to learn to set my boundaries and say "no gracias" some of the time. It certainly is a balancing act.
It is important to have that time in your room for your activities like yoga or meditating, reading, etc...here is where one processes oneself within this new context, and one maintains integrity. We aren't just here to do projects, integrate and have an adventure, we are also here to be ourselves.
sábado, 4 de septiembre de 2010
A major challenge at this point is trust. I know that some of the people I meet are trustworthy, genuine, and positive people. Some are not. But it is difficult to distinguish; in Peru people have a tendency to be very inviting and friendly in their initial encounters. They’ll give me some fruit to take with me or invite me into their homes, but this doesn’t always mean they are sincere. Some are being friendly only to “get some dirt” on you that they can tell their neighbors about. Unfortunately, this is something I’m waking up to. I’m an anomaly; there have been some foreigners in this district from the mines, cell-phone companies, and religious organizations, so it’s important that I explain who I am and why I am actually here. There was even a rumor going around that I was from a driving school here to teach people to drive! No sir, that’s not my purpose.
At any rate, my days are also filled with many moments of wonder and excitement. I climb the mountains slopes and look out towards Huascaran and Copa Grande and am reminded of why I am here, and how special a place this is. The challenges may never go away per se, but it’ll get easier. Staying in touch with my fellow volunteers and hearing news from home will help remind me that I am not alone here, that I have support; and eventually bonds will grow with the people of this community, helping me to call this place home.
domingo, 15 de agosto de 2010
Sorting peas in the campo
Chato Lindo, the family dog
El Huascaran, tallest mountain in the tropics
Me in the campo
View from the roof
My front door
There´s a little Quechua for you in the title, it means literally ¨big ice,¨ referring to the mountain, Huascaran that looms in the background of the horizon in Amashca, my home for the next two years. Here´s some writing I did during my four days visiting my new family and pueblo, a taste of the life that is to come:
My hands are dry here, it´s cold at night, the stars glitter, it is beautiful. My family is wonderful, they live very simply. My dad is smart and lively, my mom is kind and eminates sweetness. Saida, the four year old is a revolutionary, she has a strong character! Amascha is poor, everyone works hard, my family is busy morning till night, driving a colectivo, doing maintanance, cooking, cleaning, and working the fields. Out in the community, I hear Quechua-I don´t understand, but I do at the same time-I know when they are talking about me, they laugh a lot, I have to laugh also. At home, amongst family, it´s Quechua and Spanish.
I feel I can talk with the women, they think I´m an oddity, tall, light skinned, and what am I wearing? Most wear the traditional dress of pollera (heavy knee length skirt with tights), wool fadora, and yanques (tire made sandals). But I think they think I´m alright. The funny thing is that part of me feels I do belong, I almost shed tears coming up to the town of adobe and mountains, it was magic. But I won´t be able to do this without support, of my fellow volunteers (we are in this together) and family from home-I can see how isolating it can be, stuck between two mountain chains, with only fields and mountains and stars.
I´m really just skimming the surface so far, I hope to discover the depths of what life is like here, to the best of my ability, and to do good work. The health post, municipality, and school are receptive and open to me, the next three months will be ones of great discovery and poco a poco, I¨ll find my way.
P.S. It ain´t always gonna be easy.
sábado, 7 de agosto de 2010
Tomorrow I head out to visit my future home for a few days, then it´s back to Yanacoto for a week to get ready, swear in and then we´re outta here. Man, it really feels good to be at this point. Training as they say, is long and arduous, at times strait up flabergasting with all the charlas and powerpoints and papelotes (flip charts), you just want to get going and put your knowledge to use. My site is a gem, I will be in the mountains of Ancash in the Cordillera Blanca in northern Peru. I´m relatively close to the highest mountain in the world´s tropics, Huascaran. My site is not as high of course, I think I´ll be at about 7,000 feet, but that´s a bit of a jump from Eugene and here in Chaclacayo. The community I´ll be living in is the district capital of a small area about 4,000 total habitants, in my town there are about 1,200. There is Quechua spoken in this area, but I´ll also be using my Spanish. From our group there are six of us going to this region, we are all Youth Development volunteers, it´s a good group.
I just finished checking out another Ancashian PCV´s blog, so if you want to check it out to get more info on Ancash it´s sophiedila.blogspot.com, she has just finished her two years of service and is going on to complete a third year as the PCVL (Peace Corps Volunteer Leader) in Ancash. We haven´t met yet, but she´s on the roster of super volunteers, so I can consider myself lucky to have her as a support.
Please check back in next week, I will certainly have more info regarding my site visit and my new family! I can´t wait to meet them.
sábado, 31 de julio de 2010
Me with baby cow in Cajabamba K-6 school in La Grama, Cajamarca
Kids at an all boys school in Cauday, near Cajabamba
Some lovely bed covers on display draw a large crowd (also thanks to the salesman with a bullhorn) on market day in La Grama
Me with the mountains in the distance!
Another volunteer helping organize a massive game of redlight, greenlight
Peru is beautiful
The rest of the day we explored more of what is the ¨Cosmovision Andina¨or the Andean beliefs and worldvision. We learned about medicinal plants and some shamanic rituals as well as the sincronistic religious beliefs crossing both Catholisism and indigenous beliefs. This topic is endless and I can´t wait to discover more.
jueves, 22 de julio de 2010
During FBT I have been pushed, we have prepared ¨charlas¨ or short lessons in four schools with kids of different ages, mostly high school. Here, we are given an hour, sometimes more to plan activities drawing from what we´ve learned the last 5 weeks. We use dynamic activities to get a point accross, touching on topics such as healthy relationships, learning English and leadership skills. We have toured schools, municipal buildings, health posts and had several delicious meals. Yes, I finally tried The Cuy, prepared in front of our eyes, poor little things, they really are cute, but surprisingly tasty when cooked right.
There are about 15 of us in our group including 4 trainers, and we are getting to know each other better, having to work in teams, share rooms and make sure no one is suffering too bad from the bicicleta (diarrhea). Needless to say the Peace Corps experience does away with many inhibitions, you have to put yourself out there in your work (imagine being greeted with applause as you enter a classroom), and be honest with your fellow trainees, cause they are your new support system. I am beginning to feel some changes, and it´s good.
See you back in Lima in a few days!
lunes, 12 de julio de 2010
In our language training we learn about all the wonders and intrigues of Peru, there are many. Last week we took a trip to the national museum in Lima, there we saw amazing artifacts spanning the last 8.000 years, the Moche, Chabin, and Inca cultures created jewelry, breast plates and pottery that is absolutely astounding.
Everyday, I am impressed by the culture that surrounds this country, sometimes it is right there in a museum, but often it is in the daily life of going to a market, asking directions, or being greeted by a kid in your community. Today I say thanks to Peru!
sábado, 10 de julio de 2010
lunes, 5 de julio de 2010
A quick and entertaining annectode will come from my first weekend here...I went to my first party here in the comunidad (it was a man´s 50th b-day), there was a large horseshoe shaped circle of chairs with about 45 people around an ¨orchestra¨ playing Huayno (the traditional music of the Sierra, aka mountains), they play a very similar tune over and over, but it´s nice, with sax and horns and percussion, etc. Then they pass the beer, one glass per 15 people or so, you fill about an inch, pass the bottle to the next person, down it shake the glass on the floor in one swoop, then pass the glass. This goes on all night! These are large bottles by the way. Thenthey bring out the Pachamanca, a fire pit prepared meal of fava beans, tamale, sweet potato, reg.potato, and meat, this keepsyou fit to ¨pass the glass¨ all night long.
domingo, 13 de junio de 2010
lunes, 17 de mayo de 2010
lunes, 10 de mayo de 2010
From my vantage point here at my family home there is not much I can say about what may lie in Peru. I know that I will be a "Youth Development Facilitator" serving on a project somewhere in Peru, and working with young people. I am ready, well almost. This is, as a friend recently said, "what my whole life has been leading up to." Overall, I am excited and optimistic, yet I feel a sense of duty to cover all my bases before departure. I've been minimizing my expectations, being careful to weed through some lingering hesitations and doubts, and being present in my reality. I'm still here and this is a special time of repose when life has granted me time and the freedom to be. So thank you to that, and here goes.