domingo, 26 de diciembre de 2010

Stollen in the Andes

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)
Here, we celebrated an American tradition in the best sense, sharing with other cultures, rejoicing in our friendships, and creating a meal that astounded not only ourselves but all those involved. There were some challenges, such as no running water, some missing ingredients, but at the moment of the event nothing was missing, the warmth generated by this exchange of food and friendship filled the gap of any missing cranberry or confection. The fact that this event was spawned by a group of twenty something gringos made it that much more special. We got the support we needed, it was a community event, a Peruvian stone soup if you will. Easily, could this group of young volunteers have partied amongst themselves, Peru, being merely a backdrop for an event we all know so well, but we took that step, out into the unknown, to bring together a group of people who otherwise may never share even a glance, to share a meal, a space, a laugh, a moment never forgotten.
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.