jueves, 30 de septiembre de 2010

Idle hands make for good yoga

There are times, when the hours seem to slip by slowly like a banana slug trying to cross a path, moving at an almost imperceptible pace. I do not think I have experienced boredom like this since childhood. These days, I have many more bags of tricks up my sleeve, but my surroundings dictate their feasibility. I find myself sometimes just standing there, dumbstruck, thinking, “now what?” And that’s just it; part of my job is to answer this question over and over; to make life happen. My basic needs, work, relationships, it’s up to me. I can stay in my room all day and no one will reprimand me, I won’t be fired, I am slowly learning to become skilled at a little thing called “time management.” At times this is daunting, when I am tired, I think, I can’t make it outside, it’s too much! But there are times when it is necessary to quiet the internal chatter and get out. The beauty is that in reality it takes so little just to engage in an experience. There are moments when simply opening my window creates something, climbing the hill to make a phone call or going to the store, never mind making a trip to the health post or school. Today I walked to the chacra (the fields) and sat on a grassy knoll, watching the clouds move and darken. This is when all that is there inside me is calm and clear, like a singing bowl going round and round. In this place I feel connected and joyful.

miércoles, 15 de septiembre de 2010

Hey! Want a potato?

Whew! A lot happened today. In the last 3 days I think I have eaten about 25 potatoes, cuy (guinea pig) and plenty of barley soup with lamb as well. The final days of the fiesta proved to be mellow (for the most part), at least no fighting. I think it’s time to re-implement a work out plan, cause these potatoes are going straight to the gut. All of us women volunteers know the unfortunate reality, we gain weight, and the boys lose it. Here’s a run down of the nutrition regiment (to be read like a nutrition label, the largest quantities come first):
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

Huaraz/Being Me

I am currently in my capital city, getting some errands done, taking some time for myself and reflecting a bit on the last two and a half weeks. At this time, I've had time to get used to taking care of my basic needs. I have a small gas stove set up in my room so I can cook up yummy veggies and have a little more control over my eating schedule. I have fixed my bed (it was 10 centimeters too short for the mattress), and have bought a very comfortable and warm comforter, keeping me cozy. I have been visiting the local school, K-12, 240 students, my face is becoming more known, and I'm getting ready to start planning some small projects with the kids. My counterparts and the school and the health post are lovely people. The health post is a great resource, I feel welcome there, and it is another avenue where I can integrate into the community, especially with mothers. My first thoughts there are working on nutrition, perhaps organic gardening. But there is still the need to ask more of the community regarding what their interests are. Then it is up to me to find a creative way to start collaborating.
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

I'm Happy (most of the time)!

A week of trial and error

A week of trial and error, I’ve done my best to be open and keep going when I just don’t feel like it. There have been some cultural clashes. Little things, when I just feel so clueless; moments that make me uncomfortable because I just can’t do anything about what is happening, and it feels so strange. My body is doing alright, my stomach is becoming accustomed to the food, mostly potatoes and rice, but I’m beginning to cook for myself a little. Today is market day in the nearest city and I plan on taking advantage of this to get some fresh green veggies, I sure need those. I’ve been lonely. Each day I make a point to get out and explore, meet various people, have conversations. This occupies me for part of the time, and then I’m back in my room, with only myself and my wits to keep me company. My host family has been great, but the reality is that they work all day and come home after sun-down to prepare meals and eat. I spend time with them during mealtimes and we chat a bit. My role in the family is yet to be determined. I’m part child, part guest, part stranger; this will take some time to develop.
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.