Monday, December 31, 2007

Another quick update

Well, it's happend, I now only have one internet source in Catilluc and it's not very good. So a longer update will be forthcoming.

As for now, I'm currently celebrating the New Year with my new friends feeling thankful for the gift of these new friendships and hopes that they can deepen, and that my work in Catilluc starts to find balance.

Thank you all for following my blog this year. I will write in the New Year, so don't give up. And I hope that all of our deepest healthiest desires come true for you in this next year. Take care.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Feliz Navidad


I took a few days to run back to Yanacoto to visit my family from training. I needed the break as things in Catilluc were still hot when I left, which also means I need to return and finally deal with all that happened.

BUT...I had a fabulous Christmas with Loly and the gang. Christmas is much calmer and smaller here whichis a nice antithesis to Christmas in the States, but I really think there should be a combination of the two. I will try to post some pictures when I get a chance. I just want everyone to know that my Christmas was fabulous and that I'm feeling much better.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hangin' in, in Cajamarca

So I guess it would be a good idea to talk a little about my recent struggles at site because development work isn't all puppies and roses and British Children running through daisies.

Last Friday night we had a meeting with the committee. My counterpart wasn't there, neither was Rosa, and some of other members were unable to attend as well. The meeting didn't go well, but let me back up because you have to understand how quickly things compounded and how much I felt ambushed in the midst of all this.

About a month and a half ago, my host father sat me down and explained to me that I would need to move out because they don't own their house. I thought, fine. We don't really have a connection, and they have financial and marital problems. So, I figured, it was about time to look for something else. Well about three weeks ago, my dad sat me down again and told me I could live with them, they didn't think they were going to have to move. Then five days ago they told me that I could stay, but they're both going away for the summer vacations. Peace Corps rules state that I need to be with a family for my security. And trust me, I like that rule. So that same night in the meeting of the CAID committee, the topic was brought up that we all needed to talk about my housing situation. Well, my host dad, who was upset about something else, stated out and out that I needed to move out of their house. That he only said that he would take me for three months and those three months are up and now I was the committee's responsibility. His sentiments came out of nowhere, but I can't say that I'm not ready to move. They're good people who have let money get the best of them and their marriage. It's unfortunate, but a reality of life in all of the world.

So as we were discussing my housing prospects one of the committee members said, "and when you find a good house you'll start turning out better work." Well this caught me. I have been opening the CAID everyday for a few hours, but I haven't been giving workshops or "talks" because I'm waiting for the committee to help me find someone who can work with me. Peace Corps policy (and any good development policy) says that I should be second place and that I shouldn't be doing all the work, let alone all the work alone. So I brought this to their attention, and in essence the five of them that were present told me that all of the problems of the CAID were my fault and that I need to work because I had the time and it was my responsibility. I got upset. Left the meeting, went home and cried, slept poorly and woke up the next morning, marched to Llamapampa to call my APCD in Lima and ask for a site change. Well, after a half an hour or so my APCD talked me down from the ledge. She supported me and my decision to not work for the CAID until we figured out a better working situation for me. She also had the foresight to send me away for awhile to decompress and process.

Hence, I went to San Miguel for a few days, received the support I needed, and am currently in Cajamarca hoping I'll get to talk with my counterpart about all that transpired in Catilluc in her absence. I'm worried about what she'll think, but I know there is work in Catilluc even if I'm not working with the CAID. There are a number of health initiatives that I could help the medical staff work on. Also, some members of my community have approached me about cocinas mejoradas (better kitchens) as they cook over lena (campfire) in their homes. Smoke everywhere. Long story short, I have hit a wall, but I think I'm going to try to find another way to work in Catilluc for awhile. I haven't given up on the CAID, but until the committee and I can reach an agreement about how the work will progress I will find other ways to be useful in Catilluc.

And one of the important lessons has been to separate the problem from those things I love about Catilluc. And the truth is, I don't want to live Catilluc, I have just reached a roadblock in my work. The people of Catilluc are good people, as is my host family and committee members. The problem is the mentality behind their desire to lay all the blame, responsibility, and work on someone else's shoulders. It's more a statement of their culture than it is about the "bad guy" role I am required to play for (hopefully, a short time). Wish me luck.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Madrina Duties

The gift of cuy.

Well, I have fulfilled my first Madrina duties. And except for the fact that my speech was pretty shoddy and I couldn’t think. I actually enjoyed myself. Plus, I was given a big stack of cuyes to eat.

Of course like any good party in Peru, it started very, very late. And it might only have started late because there was never really an exact start time to begin with. The great thing about Llamapampa (the caserio in which I was to be madrina at the primary school) is that it’s a sure location where I can actually make phone calls on my cell phone (Catilluc doesn’t have cell phone service, although we were supposed to get it a month ago, this month, and next March, I’m not holding my breath). Sometimes Internet is not available either, as it hasn’t been this week, so sometimes this one small little spot in Llamapampa is my only connection to the outside world. Weird, no? Anyway, I went a little early so I could communicate with some of my friends from Peace Corps. Thank you for free cell to cell calls within Peace Corps sometimes that is the only thing that keeps me sane.

Long story short, it started to rain in the middle of one of my phone calls so I found some friends and passed a couple of hours just chatting with them before the ceremony started. The hustle surrounding the preparations was interesting. It reminds me of all the simple pleasures we have in the United States. I watched the parents spend about 30 minutes trying to string electricity into the little school. One lonely light bulb was responsible for lighting the room, and there was another chord spliced for a little boom box to play the music that we would later be dancing to.

Presenting the gift to one of the graduating students.
The ceremony was pretty straightforward. We started off by singing the Peruvian National Anthem, which is fairly common. Then the Director, my friend Professor Segundo gave a few words, and then there were poems and speeches from the children being promoted and a few of their schoolmates. I gave a quick, and poor, speech about the importance of education and continuing onto University after they’re done with secondary school. Then I presented them little gifts. I bought long sleeve T-shirts that said “Promocion 2007, Llamapampa” and fleece pants, because it’s pretty cold in Llamapampa. They don’t open the gifts in front of you, so I don’t know if they liked them or not. After my presents came the presents from their padrinos or madrinas, they each have an individual godparent for the promotion as well. Their godparents gave a quick speech and then we ate and danced. A nice, simple little ceremony.

As for the work, I am definitely in the three to six month stretch because I am so frustrated with my work. And I am going to have to move. My family is having some financial problems and can’t manage life with me added to their other stresses. This is a pain because I don’t have a lot of options for housing and I’m pretty much guaranteed I’ll need to buy my furniture which was easier when I had a little extra dough from Peace Corps. I will need to move in January. So on top of work being difficult, needing to find a new family, and being hit on every day by some Peruvian (sometimes under very sketchy and scary circumstances) I feel a little stressed out. So, I’ve been given a quick reprieve to go visit some friends in Cajamarca. So I’ll be headed to San Miguel tomorrow to discuss my circumstances with a couple of other PC volunteers. We’ll see if I can clear my head a little bit.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

More about Culture and Accidents

Libby, Peru 10, and my family from training. They're all so great!

One of the popular traditions in Peru is the idea of a Madrina or Padrina. This signifies godmother or godfather. There are madrinas/padrinas for everything. You can have a madrina for all of your life or just to get a haircut. Peace Corps volunteers are asked to be madrinas/padrinas quite often. Of course, there is a huge difference between being a madrina of a haircut because that’s a one-time thing. It’s another thing to take on being someone’s godparent for the rest of his or her life. Then you are responsible for gifting to that child for the rest of your life, and if something happens to the parents…then the child lives with you. They take this responsibility very seriously. Sometimes, with poor language skills PCVs end up being godparents without realizing the commitment.
A picture from the pre-school promotion. How cute?

That being said, I have become a madrina of a school promotion. This is a one-time thing. I will give little gifts (a long sleeve t-shirt, and some sweat pants) to three students from a local caserio. I felt like this was something I wanted to do once. This was an easy choice for me, but turning down being a madrina the future could be difficult. Yet, this is a hugely important part of their culture.

On a completely different note, a little less than a week-ago the bus company that I take to and from Cajamarca had an accident. The bus flew completely off the road, with my counterpart, Tania and the nurse, Ellie and her young son in tow. Everyone on the bus was badly shaken with minor injuries, but thankfully noone was killed. I rode in Hernandez (that’s the bus company) the day after and took a couple of pictures of the accident. It’s a constant realization that bad things can happen especially when traveling in a developing nation.

Here's the bus.

As for my mental health, everything’s great. Once again, I feel like my Spanish is back on track. I’m finding small ways to get out of the house even though the committee wants me to wait until January to start work. I’m hoping that I can create a project plan to get money from either the municipality or the ministry of health to fund an employee of the CAID. I believe that this will be an important advancement for sustainability. Of course, this requires a lot of work and writing a report in Spanish, but I’m up for the challenge, and I believe in the CAID and the work that it could do to enhance lives in Catilluc. Wow, is that Disney movie of the week, or what?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

New Recipe: Arroz Verde

Well, it's been awhile since I posted a recipe. Here's one of my favorite. I hopefully will be posting more pictures soon. Take care.

Arroz verde

Peel and chop carrot
Cut chicken into pieces
Heat up the oil with garlic (2 cloves)
Add liquid cilantro (chopped and blended)
Add salt
Cook well
Add water (6 cups to 5 cups of rice)
And salt to taste
When the water is boiling, add the rice
After the rice is cooked, add a little more oil

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Help for the ONW paper

This is a picture of the women who sell me my vegetables in Cajamarca. They are so great they scout out stuff that they don't have so I don't have to go running all over the market. And I love the traditional Cajamarcan sombrero.

So I have returned to Catilluc, finally. I feel like I haven’t slept in days even though I slept a little on the bus the first night of my return trip. I never sleep on the bus to Catilluc but that’s because the road to Catilluc is windy and treacherous and the bus isn’t that comfortable. It’s really old. I am looking forward to slowly diving back into work. The committee for the CAID decided a few weeks ago that it would be better if I started with my real work plan after the New Year when the students are on vacations and after La Navidad (Christmas).

I want to send another shout out to the Olathe Northwest Spanish Four class, and potentially give you a little help on your most recent assignment from Senora Winkler and Senorita Robinson. I hope I’m not too late. Also, I received your cards. Thank you so much. I will respond to them as soon as I get a chance. For those of you not in ONW Spanish classes, feel free to read on anyway.

So there are four areas you were supposed to compare and contrast with the United States: “A Day in the Life,” “Food,” “Family,” and “Cultural Oddities.” Here are a few brief thoughts on each topic.

A Day in the Life:
Well, there was an entire post on this, but let me talk a little bit about what I see from other people. Life is much more tranquil here, that’s too be expected. Many people pass the days just sitting on a bench outside a local store (tienda) and gossip or the women knit. Knitting is very common in Catilluc and can’t walk down the street without finding a woman in the middle of making a scarf or a shawl or a poncho.
And you can’t just walk down the street you are required to saludar (greet) every person you see. It’s part of my daily life as the walk to the Internet takes me right through the center of town. To not greet someone is to say you don’t like him or her. This is something I’m not used to at all, but I work on every day.

Mountains and Mountains of rice and potatoes - carbohydrates. I am gaining a lot of weight in my stomach because this is mostly what I eat. We were told in training that any Peruvian meal begins with a lot of rice. Rice cookers are a fairly common household gadget. My family doesn’t have one, but we still eat a lot of rice. Come to think of it, I haven’t eaten a piece of fruit or a vegetable today. I really need to run to the store to buy some.

Multiple generations live in one house, and more often than not families stay in the same communities. Although this is changing some with modernization and globalization. Poverty is driving many people into the major cities to find work. It’s more common to see three siblings in this generation of adolescents, but just one generation back you see families of 8, 9 or 13 plus.
Couples don’t have to be married officially. In fact, often times they have common law marriages and later get married in the church. There are often two declarations of marriage, but many people avoid the church, even if they call themselves Catholic. Divorce is very unheard of and is very stigmatized. I have heard several snide comments about the United States in this regard, how we have so many divorces. Of course the problem is, there is actually a lot of domestic and sexual violence that occurs in families. And women are often stuck in awful, terrible marriages. That’s not to say that there aren’t good marriages, but they are somewhat few and far between sometimes.

Cultural Oddities:
I didn’t know where else to put this, but gossip is rampant and awful here. I’m fairly used to it in the states, but this takes on a whole new connotation when I hear things about my that I either entrusted to someone else or I hear complete lies about me.
Instead of the use of Senor or Senora, Don and Dona are used, for example, Senor Last Name or Don First Name, same with women’s names. When I first came here I thought there were a lot of men named Don, and I wasn’t sure where the name came from.
The system of education here is very, very poor. There are two warring factions: the union (called SUTEP) and the Ministry of Education. Often teachers strike, abandoning their classes for days or weeks at a time. And sometimes they just don’t show up to class for a long time. Of course they aren’t entirely to blame. They don’t receive much support from the Ministry of Education. Basic supplies are dramatically missing. This of course means that the burden can often fall on parents to provide supplies, or money, or labor for new building projects.

All right, so just a little more. I apologize if I’ve covered this before, but this is what came to mind as I was thinking about it. Feel free to email me if you have any questions. More positive blogs to come.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Women in Development and other reasons to go to Lima

I am currently writing from the Peace Corps office in Lima. I have now been out of site for over a week, my first big trip since arriving at site three months ago. I can't believe it's been three months. To quote Kelly Clarkson (possibly for the second time), "Three months and I'm still sober."

So a few weeks ago, I applied to be part of the WID/GAD committee. Peace Corps has five (possibly more) side initiatives in all countries. They include: HIV/AIDS (this one is fairly obvious), Women in Development/Gender and Development (research shows that countries with strong or growing women's rights move out of the development stage quicker), Children (also fairly obvious), Information and Computer Technology (was much more of a buzz a few years ago, but still very important), and Municipality Organization (don't know anything about this, but the name sounds pretty explanatory). I received a position on the committee and now I'm in Lima researching ways that we can incorporate women into our work. It's really a cool initiative and I'm really thankful that Peace Corps is thinking about these things.

Another great reason to be in Lima...lattes. I miss them desperately and can't find good latte places in Cajamarca, if they exist at all. I've been stopping by Starbucks (I know the name itself brings up cringes in many) daily. It's so nice. I would say it's weird the things you crave at site, but the truth is, everyone knows I'm a latte fiend. So it's not weird at all.

I'm sorry it's been several posts since I've put up any pictures, but I'll try when I return to Cajamarca. I don't have my USB for my camera right now.

I did get to go see Loli for a brief day and meet some of the Peru 10ers. They are really cool, and I'm excited that this is the group we will work with the most extensively for the next year and 9 months. The girl who is staying at my house is so sweet and so nice. We call ourselves training sisters. Of course, she's going to Tumbes (far, far north) who knows when we'll see each other again, except on Tuesday when the WID/GAD committee talks to the new group about the women's initiative.

A quick shout out to Olathe Northwest Spanish classes. I will try to post a little more regarding your future papers. And hey Dona Annie! I hope all is well.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Sorry, I have been unable to get internet the past couple of weeks. Here's an old post:

So it has been a wild ride in Catilluc the past week. I think I’ve said it before, but I’m not sure how much work the teachers of Catilluc do. Case in point, this week was the 25th anniversary of the secondary school. And there really wasn’t school all week, but there was a beauty pageant, two dances, and a whole day of cultural happenings. Many of which I missed because I either didn’t want to go, or I have a big Peace Corps presentation in a week, and really don’t know where to go or what to do with it.

The pageant was very interesting. It was like any other pageant, except a little more boring and a lot more whistling (silvando in Espanol) and oogling (not sure there’s a translation for this) by the audience members. In fact, I would easily say that two thirds of the attendees were men. The girls weren’t even dressed scandalously. Pageants have never really bothered me before, but this one really did for some reason. By the end of it, I just wanted to leave. The other interesting thing is that my mom did the make-up and the very naturally beautiful girls looked like clowns. Thank you Victoria’s Secret Beauty (my one year of work) for making me so aware of make-up tragedies. It was so depressing I didn’t stick around for the dance. That, and I spent three painful, make-up and whistle filled, hours watching the pageant on my feet.

I did dance the night away the following evening. Like I’ve talked about a number of times, alcoholism is a big problem. So I spent most of the night dancing with drunken men. Luckily, there is no such thing as slow dancing in Peru so I didn’t have to be touched and fondled, but I had to listen to the rude comments (being a gringa gets a girl way, way too much attention). I love to dance or I wouldn’t have stuck around. I also wanted to get walked home, but the teachers I passed the night with wanted to stick around much longer than I wanted to, and I don’t want to doubt their reasons, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that they wanted me to start dating one of their colleagues…but I’m not sure about that (p.s. no interest there). Anyway, I ended up running home because the said drunken colleague was in pursuit. My host family didn’t open the door right away, so I pounded and pounded until finally I could get in. Nothing bad happened, except for maybe my manners, but hey, he was drunk so what does he remember now.

I’ve been working on researching my community as part of a Peace Corps presentation. It saddens me to learn about the problems that can be found in this tiny berg. In the past three months I have learned that teenage pregnancy is at 4%. Poverty is incredibly high. I’m learning more and more about the culture of alcohol. Earlier tonight, a good friend of mine told me she was sad because she works all day and her husband takes the money, spends it on alcohol, gets drunk and then (at the least) mental abuses them. She didn’t say anything about violence, and I didn’t see any marks, but I hope to talk with her more as the days come. She has been a good friend to me.

I’m back to being frustrated with my Spanish. After having a couple of good weeks, I’ve started hanging out with the local doctor. He’s a cool guy, but right now he’s driving me nuts. He’ll ask me a question, give me three seconds to process it, and then turn to the next person and tell them I don’t understand him. Sometimes I do, but my self-esteem is dropping slowly. I told my counterpart today that I want to take a “pause” from him. But just a few minutes ago, he harassed me again about my Spanish and then told me I took it too seriously (which was so the wrong thing to say with how I’m feeling about my Spanish right now). So I denied an invitation to his house, began to cry in front of him, and then (practically) ran to my house to avoid making a scene (probably too late). I’m in a weird state right now. I can’t really explain it. I’m sad half the time, and yet I’m happy the other half. I feel very manic, and when I try to figure out why I’m so upset I can’t figure it out. Then I’ll be happy again, and forget that I was sad two seconds ago. Luckily, I go to “reconnect” our Peru 9 three month reunion where we present our research and catch up with the other volunteers in our class. I am so excited to see the good friends that aren’t in Cajamarca. I’m excited to see the volunteers from Cajamarca too, but I did just see them three weeks ago. Anyway, I hope to post one more time before I go (this Saturday) but Internet has been sketchy. Take care.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Cajamarca Vacations

So in most cases, Peru has a very easy geographical system. For many of the departments' (think states) capital cities are named after the department. So I live in the department of Cajamarca, and the capital of this deparment is also named Cajamarca. In the Peace Corps (Peru - at least) we get permission to go into our capital city once or twice a month to buy supplies, jump on highspeed internet, and see some of our other friends to exchange stories and get advice about projects. Sometimes we have meetings to discuss departmental projects, and let me tell you...I have lived in smaller and larger cities for too long because I LOVE going to Cajamarca. Sometimes I love it so much that I don't want to return to Catilluc. I like the slightly faster pace. I like that I can go grab food that I am somewhat accustomed to, and I like that I can speak in English (for the most part) with my PC buds. I can call my family and friends to catch up on their lives or lend support if they need it. It's really a nice retreat.

Life is still beautiful in Catilluc. I adore my family and feel us growing closer everyday. I bought a book for my siblings in Cajamarca. They seem to really enjoy them, so I thought I would help build their library a little bit, especially because I am always reading - or try to set a good example. I haven't seen my counterpart yet this week, but things are a little crazy here as the next three days are the 25th anniversary of the secondary school. I'll try to remember to talk more about the system of education in Peru in an upcoming blog, but for now I'll just say, give them any reason to not have school, and they don't. (Gross overgeneralization, but that's my experience in Peru so far). More on this later.

I'm doing well. I'm somehow managing to avoid the cold/bronchitis that is going around. I don't feel lonely, but I do feel like I can't get a handle on the classes I want to teach in the CAID yet. I really need support (someone who will work beside me) or this will never be sustainable, but for now I'm working on patience. One example is I started reading Leon Uris' Exodus, and my copy is missing thirty (really good) pages. So now I have to wait till we can send me another copy. Ah well, I need to learn patience. It's a good start.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Sex and Food Peruvian Style...Part II

I learned the other day that there is a caldo de maiz out there that the children don't like very much...must try it and report back. And I only say that so that title rings true because I want to write about...

My first conversation about sex in Spanish with a Peruvian, and I was shocked. I was walking back from working in one of the local caserios with one of the teachers who also serves on my committee and along the way he decide to tell me all about his new concerns for his love life with his wife. Like I said, I was shocked. But being someone who likes to talk about sex even though I don't have much training in counseling or sex, for that matter, I thought I'd give it a shot and so I talked about hormones, sexual drives, the feminine mystique and a few other things too. I was very proud of my ability to articulate myself.

So long story short. It was a fun conversation, and just this last week I feel like my Spanish is so much better. I feel like I understand more and can talk more. So thanks for all the positive thoughts out there. I mean when you can start talking about sex with someone...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Sex and Food Peruvian Style

My friend Mily and her two children, Sylvia and Jorge.

Sometimes I think about the number of phrases that will make my blog pop up on a google search. It scares me.

So in continuing with speaking about culture, I thought I should fill everyone in on the meal situation. Most mornings I wake up to eat soup. Caldo verde is really common. Caldo means broth and verde means that the soup has a bunch of cilantro blended up in the broth with potatoes and sometimes macaronis. They might put parsley and basil in, but I don’t think so. I think it’s mostly just cilantro. Maximo, my host father, once told me that caldo verde is good for diabetes. I don’t really know, but it sounds right. Sometimes for breakfast we just have bread (pan). We don’t have a panaderia in Catilluc so usually the bread is brought in from Tongod (about 45 minutes away) and stored for a week until the next market day (Wednesdays). Sometimes my family or I buy paltas (the Peruvian name for avacados) and we’ll put that on our bread, and sometimes we’ll buy jelly (marmelada) or butter (mantequilla) but those are both treats. Sometimes we have café for breakfast with the rest. Sometimes we don’t. Oh, and if we have caldo in some form or another, we usually have hard boiled eggs and as hard as it is sometimes, I try to eat two because I’m pretty sure I’m lacking protein here and that’s a pretty good source.

Lunch is usually the biggest meal of the day. The food always varies. But there is usually a heaping mound of rice and potatoes. Sometimes we have lentils or beans (my favorite lunches) or a small piece of chicken or meat, and even more rarely we have trout. There is a nearby stream that apparently provides Catilluc with fresh trout. About once every two weeks my mom splurges and we go eat at the local restaurant run by a really nice family who are good friend with my family. Tuesday is pollo alabraso and papas fritas (rotisserie chicken and French fries). It’s pretty tasty. When my mom isn’t here or just when they invite me, I’ll eat at my neighbor’s house. We’ve had ceviche with trout (a typical Peruvian dish), papa de la huancayina (boiled potatoes with a slightly spicy cheese sauce), and cuy (guinea pig – you’ve seen the pictures). Today, I ate at a friend’s house and we had tallerines (noodles) with aceite and atun (oil and tuna). It was pretty tasty, of course even my noodles were served with a huge side of rice.

Dinner is usually a little smaller. Mostly it’s coffee (for me tea because I try to avoid caffeine after 4pm – I am such an old fart) and pan. I feel I need to mention at this point that because I live in a small town, that we only have one kind of bread. It’s white bread rolls. They’re hard to explain because they’re not like what we eat in the States. But to locate pan integral (wheat bread) or pan de trigo (also wheat, but tastes different), one needs to buy it in the larger cities. Sometimes I buy some in Cajamarca when I go, and I try to share it with my family. It’s pretty expensive by their standards. There are times when we have a bigger meal at dinner. I can’t really tell why this is except when we have parties and then you eat way too much rice and potatoes just before bedtime. I love it when we have fried eggs that we can put in our bread.

Beverages, on the other hand, are a whole other matter. I can’t believe how little the people drink here. I am going through serious latte withdrawals (yep, snobby and preppy thing to say, don’t care). I miss my Bear’s Brew, Loosecaboose, and The Break (to name just three of the coffee houses I frequented in Missoula). Like I said, for most of the time we have tea or coffee with most of our meals. At lunch you might see a juice of some kind. I’m really starting to love banana juice. Also at lunch a person can have maracuya or some other drink the name I can’t remember. Sometimes I drink a juice (sometimes hot, sometimes cold) where they put gelatin in water.

And now on to sex. The reason I wanted to talk about this a little is because last week a young girl surprised everyone when she popped out a little baby boy. No one knew she was pregnant and her sister delivered the baby in their room, at home, in the campo. Then because she had so much shame, the mother then went into postpartum depression. So to make a long story short, teenage pregnancy is looked down upon here, but it is a major concern. Also, a lot of young girls’ first sexual encounters come from a rape. The girl sometimes gets pregnant and then has to marry the man who raped her in the first place. Sexual education classes are taught boys with girls. I think that this is a mistake because I feel like women can be taught how to say “no” if there isn’t the peer pressure and goofing around that comes with a topic like that. And our obstetriz (think nurse practitioner) told me that women marry young here (this presents power dynamic problems when the husband is ten years or older) and will not know sexual pleasure in their entire lives. Interesting, no? I do know that birth control is bringing down the number of births in the district of Catilluc. We have more evangelicals than Catholics here, but even the head of our Catholic church here believes in birth control. So it is used. It’s often just those that don’t visit the health center or young girls that get pregnant.

I’m doing well. It’s been raining a lot here, and apparently it will get worse until May and then it will get cold. I’m fighting off a minor cold with herbal remedies from the states. And I’m dealing with some body image problems because I think I’ve gained too much weight. If the scales are to be believed, at 5’1” I weight 149 pounds. I don’t believe the scales, but regardless dragged myself out of bed to go running for the first time. It practically killed me, but it felt so good. So this has been a long post. Enjoy a couple of photos. I’ll write when I can.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The missing Parillada pictures

The missing parillada pics. The vats of rice and potatoes. Carbo overload!

A picture of two of the committee members.
Professors Segundo (think Junior) and Maximo (my host dad, yes, I'm taller than he is).

Committee members, friends, and spouses helping to prepare the meat.

Friday, October 19, 2007


So three days ago the committee for the CAID held a parrillada to raise funds, we currently don’t have any money, and long story short, I had a good time, but we didn’t make any money.

The preparations started on Sunday when all the shopping was done. A parrillada, by the way, is a barbeque. But don’t think hamburgers and bbq sauce over chicken wings, think rice and potatoes (the traditional dish of Peru) and a big old slab of meat. On Monday night a big group of us got together to peel potatoes. We peeled two large bags of potatoes and set them in water to a wait the morning. The next day at 8:30am we started to set up and cook. At around 10 or 11 people started to show up. Now, what is a barbeque without beer, and if I haven’t explained the intricacies of drinking and alcoholism yet, let me interject…

In Peru there is a huge culture of alcoholism, but not in the sense that people realize they have a problem and head to AA or the Peruvian equivalent. No, it’s extremely common to find a group of men standing around in a circle on the street passing a large 40 oz bottle and a little plastic cup. This is known as “paso el vaso.” Did I mention this could happen at any time of day, even in the early morning? So by mid-afternoon or mid-day it’s not uncommon to find some very drunk men. This was the case at the parrillada.

At around 5:00pm the director of the secondary school and a local rancher (campesino) got into a fist fight right in front of me. They were both totally wasted, so the fight was rather humorous, but it was the first time I really saw the toll that “paso el vaso” could have on the community. I don’t drink in Catilluc because one of my good friends is the local Evangelical pastor’s wife, and according to her, Evangelical Christians don’t drink. So I don’t drink here, not that I’m much of a drinker to begin with, or truly an Evangelical, however, it’s culturally important to participate in this activity. So I’m between a rock and a hard place in Catilluc, and yet, I feel like my decision to not drink here has been a good one, especially considering the fight.

At the end of the day the committee gathered and realized that not enough people had attended to make any money. Our costs were too great and our income too little. So, all that work, and we still have a cash flow problem. I have pictures, but can't get them to upload. I'll try again tomorrow. Take care all. Cuidate.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Day in the Life and Rumors…

So, as requested here is a breakdown of my typical day in Catilluc.

I wish it wasn’t true, but I wake up around 8:00am everyday. Although I just bought an alarm clock in Cajamarca, and I hope to start waking up at 6:30pm to run and make breakfast for my family on occasion, or learn how to cook caldo verde (a soup with potatoes and cilantro, usually eaten for breakfast). As of this morning, I’m still rolling out of bed around 8:00am. Then I stumble downstairs and eat breakfast. Often it’s just my little sister and me, when we finish she dashes off to school and I return to my room to heat up water for coffee or tea. Sometimes I spend my morning researching the past activities of the CAID, studying Spanish, reading a book or a magazine or meeting new people in the community.

This morning a trudged down to the secondary school to interview the director, who wasn’t there (a fairly common thing in Peru), and instead I interviewed one of the math teachers and one of the science teachers. I also sat in on one class. I returned to my house at around 11:00am and started making lunch for my little sister and me. She showed up around 12:30pm and we ate black bean soup at 1:00. She left for school again at 1:30pm. Then I went back to studying (because it’s raining). I spent the afternoon drinking coffee, studying Spanish, listening to music, reading Newsweek (current project: identifying all of the world leaders), and reviewing my research. I kept waiting for the rain to break to see if any kids were going to the CAID, but the CAID isn’t well attended when it rains, so I’ll just have to wait until tomorrow when I have my group of Senoritas.

On a regular day, I head to the CAID at around 3:30pm and stay there until 6:00 or 6:30. Afterwards I come home, eat, and then I head to the secondary school (often with my host mom or my siblings) to jump online. I return an hour later and hang out in my room. I usually go to sleep around 10:30pm. So a pretty tranquil day for the most part, it’s nice to have my life to slow down a bit.

As for the aforementioned rumors…I’m discovering what chisme (gossip) is like in a small Peruvian town. The other day I discovered that a gentleman in my community, who has seemed to be a big supporter of mine, is questioning and “investigating” the Peace Corps. He works for his cousin, the mayor, who thinks that at some point my predecessor brought in all this money from Peace Corps and that my counterpart and another member of our committee stole it. Which isn’t true in the least. At first I was upset, but now I just laugh. Obviously they have no idea what the Peace Corps is all about, because there isn’t any money sitting around waiting to be spent on little projects in Catilluc. These two people believe that if they can find out what happens with the money then they can get some…Of course, this could just be a rumor too, which is why I’m choosing to handle it in a completely un-Ari-like-way. I’m ignoring it, but updating my Spanish vocabulary with words that could explain the Peace Corps better in case the need ever arises.

Here are some pictures of my life here in Catilluc:

My room with my kitchen


And a cool sunset in the department of Cajamarca

Friday, October 5, 2007

Lessons learned

So a good friend recently wrote me with three very good questions. I thought I would answer them for everyone. So in no particular order:

What am I learning?
What's great?
What's not so great?

Peru is great. I'm loving life here. I'm really very content. Lately I've been cooking a little more which is something I've always wanted to do and tomorrow I head to Cajamarca to buy a guitar because I want to learn how to play! By the time I come back to the States I might be able to accompany myself on the guitar.

Let's see what am I learning, I imagine you're not referring to my new desire to cook or play the I'm learning a lot about patience, about a loosening up and letting go. I used to be so afraid to "let my hair down" and now I realize there was nothing to fear. I hope that I am much more fun and learning to have fun is a valuable lesson that I continue to learn everyday here in Peru.

What's great? Peru in general, my younger siblings, taking it easy, my counterpart, good Spanish speaking days, when people love my cooking, and emails, letters, and packages from home.

What's hard? My bad Spanish speaking days, potatoes and rice, lack of communication, cultural nuances that drive me nuts, my mom being gone all the time, being so far from the one's I love and not having anyone to share this with (that's not neccessarily referring to romance either). I miss my friends and family.

So yeah, life again is really grand. My mom is back and we spent a lot of today cooking. I hope that we can continue to build on our relationship.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


Because life in Peru is not always puppies, roses, and British children running through daisies. I thought I'd give a quick list of frustrations with some explanation.

It is often said of the church that 20% of the people are doing 80% of the work. That truth carries over to the committee I work with here in Catilluc. Part of Peace Corps goal is to make a given project sustainable, which means it will carry on after the volunteer and PC pull out. This is hard to do when no one shows up to help me work with kids, but that's okay because...

I am bored with the Youth Center right now. I'm no where near ready to start with my lessons yet, but I would love to do something more than watch the kids play, break, lose and steal the toys at the CAID. This will hopefully change soon.

Communication. I have been telling my family for weeks that I need to go to Cajamarca (my capital city) this weekend, but it was only yesterday that I learned that my father's birthday party is this weekend. Which makes me have to change my plans because birthdays are a big deal here. My weekends revolve around how quickly I can get back to Catilluc to work at the CAID...this new development makes that slightly hard.

Speaking of family, my mom is probably my biggest frustration. She's gone a lot. And last week I gave her 100 soles to buy some vegetables, knowing it would be way more than she needs. She returned with very few vegetables, no change, and a sandwich maker. Suspicious, no? We still haven't bonded yet, and I know Loli (my mom from training)is a hard act to follow, but it's easier to bond when two people are at the same place at the same time.

All in all, I still love this place and feel very lucky. I'm not bonding with my mom right now, but I am bonding with others in the community. My counterpart and I had a great chat today, I watched a pick-up game of volleyball (I might play one day), and I came to the internet with my good friend who is the Pastor's wife which made the frustrations barable (sp?). I am very content, but there are always minor glitches. There's no such thing as a perfect place or person.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

La Arianita

A newish picture of me.

Greetings Family and Friends and soon to be friends,

I'm doing great! I just returned from an unexpected moon hike with my host mom, her sister, and her sister's boyfriend. It was a crazy experience. I spend part of my time mostly upset with my mom, because she's gone more than I would like. Don't get me wrong, she's a great mom, I just get bothered when she leaves for the weekend yet doesn't return until Tuesday or Wednesday. But during our crazy hike I realized tonight that she's a free spirit. She just goes with the flow, which explains her lack of time management. She is the kind of person you like having in your life because crazy things are going to happen, like you're going to end up hike through a random field to get home with only the full moon to luminate your path. I need to spend more time with free spirits as they ease mine.

This picture is from the Dia de Juventud. I was supposed to go on a hike with a bunch of kids, but ended up with just these three which was cool in the aspect that I got to get to know them better and we took a ton of fun pictures like this one. We also got caught in the rain which was bacan (cool)! I love the rain, of course, that might change in a few weeks, but as for right now... I love the rain!

I am well known around town as Arianita, Gringita, or (and this one's my favorite) La Gordita (little fat one) which is for the record a term of endearment, not one I'm particularly endeared to, but one nonetheless. I think the funny thing is Spanish isn't well known for its double letters. Where we have book, committee, and Arianna they have libro, comite, and Ariana. In fact, the other day I caught myself writing my name wrong. I corrected it, but it's funny to adapt to the culture in ways you never expected.

So I'm going to sign off now. Take care.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

15 minutes and not much to report

I take an hour everytime I go to the cabina (internet place), but of course after reading and responding to all the emails I have very little time. So here's a quick update off the cuff so to speak.

I'm doing much better. The past couple of days I have felt a dramatic improvement in my Spanish with quite a few examples. A couple of days ago I spoke at the Town meeting, and I managed to speak for about five minutes in Spanish without any gramatical problems, at least that's what my friend said. And I believe her because several people took me for, if not fluent, at least proficient...until I corrected them.

Oh the fun thing about the town meeting, is that if you don't show up for two, you have to pay a fine. It's only 5 soles (think $1.66), but when you live in a town without parking meters it's a pretty good way to raise some dough. And it makes people attend. Of course I want to start instigating dramas and songs so that at least it's not boring and the important information is not lost on the masses. But we'll have to see how that idea flies.

Also, I think the rat problem is fully taken care of. I have seen my guardian angel cat a few more nights, and our little kitten is starting to chase them away in the rafters also. Not to mention I now have my ceiling completely covered with mismatched plastic, but I don't care. Also, finally have the pictures of friends and family up on my wall in my only took me a month.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Navigating the Faux Pas

Well, I'm writing this one off the cuff. My host mom sits next to me, laughing at the pictures of herself, we're bonding today but more on that later.

Until now I've considered myself somewhat culturally sensitive. And yesterday and today it has really hit me in the face that one of the things that is deeply ingrained in US culture is directly at odds with the culture here in Catilluc. That thing is eating, food, and accepting invitations.

So I'm not much of an eater. Anyone who knows me knows that I have to be hungry to eat. Now depending on the time of my life I might be hungry all of the time, or I might not eat for days. I used to worry my parents to death. Here, it's bad to not accept an invitation and I refused three in a row all pertaining to food. In Catilluc, they believe that if you don't want to eat their food, you don't like it. So usually you have to suck it up and eat it, but for me this comes with an added consequence (those with queezy stomachs be duly warned), I'll throw up if I eat when I don't want to. In essence, I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place...oh, and I'm a people pleaser. Not a good combination. So I rejected, and I rejected, and I rejected. Bad, bad, bad. Then I went home and cried, cried, cried, because I knew I was doing the wrong thing in the eyes of the people of this culture. Even worse, I cried in front of my host family at lunch, and they thought I didn't like the food. Which is crazy, I love the food! I just don't want to eat potatoes and rice the size of my head. Is that too much to ask?

So the new solution, garnered with the help of my family, is that I accept all invitations and what I can't eat, I take away in a bag. I don't like the idea, but it's a small sacrifice to make in the name of cultural sensitivity. And even though I cried in front of them, my mom took it in stride. She really seemed to understand the difficulties of transitioning to a new culture. She said she had a similar problem when she moved to Catilluc. So I feel like we have broken through some wall and now we're heading in the direction of a really great friendship. I hope so. I think she's great so I'm hoping that this only grows and grows. I really do love it here. I guess it was just one of the days that I needed to get out of my system. There's always a lot of adapting that happens in the first couple of months (and beyond). I'm glad I'm getting the full experience. Tomorrow will be a better day filled with invitations, acceptance, and bags of food.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Week 3 in Catilluc

Las Senoritas on the river

Week three. I wish I could say my life has taken on some kind of steady schedule, but my brain is rebelling against the very thought. Every time I try to wake up early to go for an early morning walk, my brain screams “Didn’t we just do this for 20 months? Cut it out! You’ll have the rest of your life to have some kind of schedule.” So currently I’m rebelling. I won’t rebel for long, but I will rebel until I buy an alarm clock, which I almost did at my last visit to Cajamarca city, but rebelled against it then too.

Our first three months are supposed to be about research and not about work. Currently, my life is the opposite. I open the CAID (youth center) everyday except Sundays, but I have yet to ask a stranger a question about their community. In my opinion, this is bad. I need to get on this research thing, but for right now I’m just enjoying getting to know people especially the children. My favorite groups are my two groups of Senoritas. I have one group of the girls in secondary and one for the girls in primary (ages 9-11). Last Tuesday, I took the older girls on a hike up the river. Or should I say, they took me on a hike. It was really fun, but I noticed that although I was trying to stay sure-footed they were scampering around in flip-flops. We enjoyed a picnic of yogurt and my favorite vanilla tasting crackers. It is when I’m with these girls that I feel like I’m doing something worthwhile, even though we haven’t really started the “worthwhile” yet.

Yesterday, I went to Tongod (the nearest city, and city it really isn’t) with the woman who is quickly becoming my good friend. Her name is Luz and she is the Pastor’s wife. She is 24 and so far we get along great. My other good friends include my host parents. My mom, Giovanni, is only 29 and my father, Maximo, is the nicest guy I have ever met, but I think I talked about them recently in a blog. I am also good friends with my next-door neighbor, Rosa, who was really good friends with the volunteer I replaced. Rosa is the biggest helper at the youth center. She is 30. So it’s nice to have friends my age even if their lives are very different from mine (they all at least have two children aged 9 or older - do the math, that´s fun).
Rosa is on the right, my mom, Giovanni is on the left.

Also, yesterday, I went to a birthday party at a friend’s house. And let’s just say I was a little confused. The Spanish is improving, but it’s times like these that I just want to laugh at myself. I had come under the impression that it was the birthday of my friend Milly so when I got to the house I wished her a happy birthday. She laughed, it wasn’t her birthday. I then heard her say something about Brian’s birthday. So I thought to myself, who’s Brian, but I went along with it anyone. Eventually I figured out that Brian was the younger son of my other friend Violet, but to make things even more confusing we were also celebrating the birthday of her older son, Arnold. Apparently they were born three years and one day apart. By the way, Violet is one of the older mothers in town. Oh, and I had brought a present for Milly, not for two boys ages 6 and 3…oops! Is that a culture faux pas? Anyway, other than being offered more food that I can eat (a common problem I encounter) fun was had by all, and I actually managed to have an intelligent conversation with the guests. Baby steps.

Here´s a photo of Brian and Arnold. I did buy them gifts today. It was a cultural faux pas.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Guardian Angel Cat

So, I'm still absolutely in love with Catilluc and the people here, but I'm still not sleeping through the night because of the rats. All though last night, I had a guardian angel cat who I could hear chasing and terrorizing (and honest, hopefully killing) my little roof visitors. Let's hope it comes back tonight. All help if welcome and I would love to have a deep REM sleep eventually.

I find myself being a little moody, partly because

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Cooking with the Gringa Part II

First of all, a shout out to ONW Spanish 4 Class and Doña Annie. I hope all is well, and I look forward to getting to know you guys over the next year. ¡Buen Suerte chicos!

Second, another pic from Swearin-in the lady in purple is our Training Director, Kathleen, she's awesome!

From time to time, I learn another Peruvian recipe. Here's one for you to try. It's one of my favorites because it has my favorite herb...culantro (cilantro).

Arroz verde

Peel and chop carrots (you could probably add other vegetable to this, Peruvians don't cook with them nearly enough)
Cut chicken into pieces
Heat up the oil with garlic (2 cloves)
Add liquid culantro (chopped and blended)
Add sal(t)
Cook well
Add agua (6 cups to 5 cups of rice)
And salt to taste
When the water is boiling, add the rice7arroz
After the rice is cooked, add a little more oil
¡Enjoy! ¡Disfruita!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

You might be a gringa...

You know you’re a gringa living in the Peruvian campo when:

Part of your job description is to “accustumbrar a las ratas” (get used to having rats around)

You haven’t bathed in a week, changed your clothes in five days, brushed your teeth in three days and you’re still considered the best looking thing in town.

It’s a good day when you remember to brush your teeth and you don’t have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Fats and sugars have switched places with fruits and vegetables on the food pyramid.

There is a church service every night of the week.

Taking a shower rates right up there with gouging your eyes out with a spoon.

A mosquito net is used less for mosquitoes and more for large things that could drop on you while you are sleeping.

Walking the length of your town takes less time than walking across your University campus.

You now eat animals regarded as domestic pets in the United States.

Even though you’re well into your 20’s someone else now cooks for you, washes your clothes, and yes, even dresses you.

You carry around a key bigger than your wallet.

A little humor for you.

Great Rats!

Sorry, I've been having some computer problems in Catilluc...This was written about a week ago:

A pic from swearing-in

Rats! And I mean that quite literally. I don’t like rats one bit. I never have. I can deal with mice, snakes, and spiders, but I am scared witless with rats. And last night, day two/night three in Catilluc, my trust was shattered as I watched a rat (dare I say ROUS – Princess Bride reference) crawl up the wall on the right side of my room and scurry out the space in the roof. I could not sleep for the rest of the night. It doesn’t help that I had two more instances with said rat. One time it fell (possibly fighting with another) on my stove. I screamed and it scurried away. And the ultimate time was when I heard it crawling back down the wall right next to my bed. At this point I had put up my mosquito net so I was scared but at least felt somewhat secure in my bed. Although I sleep in a double bed and my mosquito net only fits a single bed. We put up some plastic on the ceiling to at least give me a little more protection, and I believe we have rat poison ready for consumption in different places around the casa.

The plastic going up

Other than the great rat race of last night, I love Catilluc. I love the people, and I love my work. I have already spent three afternoons with the children who frequent the CAID. Yesterday we exchanged songs and then games. It was so spontaneous and fun. I’m hoping to play “Boppity-bop-bop-bop” today. Here goes nothing. We’ll see if I can explain anything with my broken, but improving Castiliano (Spanish).

I truly adore my family. I have two younger siblings again, Ailyn (Aileen) and Fran (short for Franklyn). Ailyn is four or five years older than Fran who is four turning five here soon. She takes really good care of him, and is more responsible at nine than many young adults I know. My mom was missing for my first couple of days here, and Ailyn took really good care of me also bringing me coffee and lunch. I certainly saw the humor in my nine-year-old sister taking care of my 27-year-old self. I think I’m going to get an insight into what it must have been like watching Mardy (my older sister) and me grow up. Ailyn takes great care of Fran, and Fran is just rambunctious. My “parents” are so wonderful. Again my mom is almost my age. Giovanni is younger than my previous host mom, Loly. Maximo is a teacher in a local school. They are the sweetest most accommodating people I know. They have been very generous with me.

I’ve been practicing yoga every morning as some sort of exercise seeing as last time I stepped on a scale I needed to lose at the minimum 15 pounds. At the most 25, but that’s not my greatest concern as I am trying to be as polite as possible, even if that means eating way more carbs in one sitting than a person would need in a week. I’m taking a multi-vitamin too, as I am just not getting enough fruits and vegetables in my diet. I also finished the final Harry Potter, and now I know I need to go back and read all of them. I don’t know what that has to do with anything, just wanted to put a word out that if you would like to discuss the book…email me.

I have also begun my research. Part of our job description gives us three months to research our community and then report back to Peace Corps at “Re-connect” (our three month gathering with trainers and staff). Catilluc is a great place, but it has its share of problems. When I get down, I just remind myself that I have yet to work the perfect job and this place isn’t any better or worse than working in the States – rats aside. All in all, I will truly start researching next week.

Please note the address on the side of my blog. I know it’s expensive, but if you can send a letter or a package it would be really nice. If you can send a package (I’m not picky, send anything), please write “regalo” on the outside and send it through standard USPS mail. Don’t send expensive stuff or electronics (not that you would). Any mail, email or snail mail is appreciated. You guys are the best.

Sunday, August 26, 2007 last

Hello faithful followers of my blog. Sorry it has certainly been a long time since I've posted an update. So here's a very brief wrap-up.

The past week has been spent preparing for swearing-in and departure. I passed my Spanish exam, and the other significant tests like safety and culture to swear-in with the rest of the group on Friday. Swearing-in was a formal but sweet occassion, other than the really crappy soundtrack (I mean they played "I will always love you" directly after the ceremony) it was really nice. We had the chance to meet the new Abassador to Peru, and we learned that Peru is one of the few countries that still has some appreciation and admiration for the U.S. It's a miracle, I know.

Anyway, we mingled and took a lot of pictures, but before we all knew it we were saying good-bye to our awesome training host families, and jumping on a combi to leave for Lima. We got into Lima late (because once again our drivers didn't know where we were going). Once we arrived at our hotel we took off for a nice dinner and some post dinner drinks with our trainers. It was really great to see everyone one last time. A lot of tears that day.

Yesterday, we hung out in MiraFlores and then late at night we jumped on an overnight bus to Cajamarca city. We got in literally 30 minutes ago, and I am excited to be writing about my trip to Catilluc. I head there tomorrow with my Counterpart, and I say good-bye to my Cajamarca crew and Peru 9 for at least a couple of weeks. I'm really ready to move in and get settled into Catilluc. I'm ready for the humbling that comes with being a US citizen in the middle of an entirely Spanish speaking, campo living community. There are going to be so many mistakes.

Well, that's the update. I don't know when I'll get to post again (I think my postings will cut back a bit) but I will do my best to post asap with more information about Catilluc and my adventures there. Thanks for keeping up with me.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Not a Hypochondriac

So, Pepe does exist, and Pepe has existed for awhile.

I have been unable to shake this cough (symptom of something bad happening), but a few weeks ago one of the doctors told me my stool sample came up negative for any parasite. I didn't believe because I had tried cold medicine and allergy medicine and nothing had worked. It didn't make sense.

So I went and visited my Doctors again and allegedly I got the wrong news about my stool sample. I do have a parasite, a bacterial parasite...can you have a bacterial parasite? Anyway, Pepe will be killed starting Monday.

I'm just glad to know that I don't have these symptoms from stress.

Now if there was only a pill to make my Spanish better, I would be lovin' life.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Feeling the Earth Move and other thoughts on earthquakes

I know everyone is concerned because of the International news about the 7.9 (last I heard) earthquake that hit Peru last night around 6:45pm. The epicenter was around three hours south of Lima in a Department (think state) called Ica. You'll remember I visited Chincha, Ica about two months ago. That's exactly where the earthquake hit...or should I say four earthquakes. According to the Peruvian news there were four, but we were feeling aftershocks even today. Felt two pretty awesome ones last night at around midnight.

I'm fine. All is well. I felt the first earthquake, all two minutes of it, and the ones following, althught we just thought they were aftershocks. But other than the climbing death toll in Ica (the epicenter) all is well. Allegedly Pisco, Ica (known for its amazing alcoholic beverage of the same name) is leveled. We have one Peace Corps volunteer in Pisco. Thankfully, she was in Lima editing the environmental newsletter. All five PC volunteers in Ica are accounted for. Coincidentally enough, they were all away on PC business, dance competitions, or vacations. Everyone in Peace Corps is very thankful for that.

We're all just going to have to wait and see how this pans out. There might be some disaster relief involved for the Peace Corps. Our swearing in is Friday the 24th. I have my final language exam Saturday. Please be thinking positive thoughts for me as if I don't make the right level I am delayed in starting my service in Cajamarca.

But the big news for my friends and family is that I am fine. Thanks for all the emails and postings. Feel free to email with any questions. You guys probably know more in the states than we do here.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

And the winner is...Catilluc, Cajamarca

Or maybe that's the other way around. I'm the winner, and I've won a trip to Catilluc, Cajamarca. I'll be living and working here for two years.

Catilluc (Kah-tee-youk) is a small pueblo anywhere between 300 and 800 people. There are 17 surrounding caserios. It is surrounded by green, hills/mountains, and cows. Dairy, potatoes and corn are the main exports and the main jobs in town.

It's also a very progressive town. They have built a youth center, and my job is to run it. But what they don't know yet is that I'm trying to work myself out of a job. I'm trying to make it sustainable. I have a great counterpart who is on board with me. And I'm replacing an amazing girl, Laura, who did some great work while she was here. Here's a pic.

I've tasted my first cuy (guinea pig). It's not bad and very nutrious. So I'm pretty excited. I really feel like a lucked out. Of course there is only one phone in the entire town. And internet access might be difficult so my blog might drop off a bit. But know that I love hearing from everyone.

Oh, and by the way. I think Pepe and I have parted ways. Although I still have this cough...I guess we'll just have to see.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Training can feel sooooooooooooo long sometimes

So just another quick post today...

Lately I've been bemoaning training. Don't get me wrong I appreciate training, I just want it to end very soon. Apparently this is very common among trainees. It seems to get to a point where you just want to be at your site doing your work, but fortunately (and sometimes unfortunately) they need to teach you how to do your job. I know this sounds like I'm complaining about a good thing. And maybe I am, but I want to be honest about the trials as much as the successes and this is one of them. Training can feel soooooooooooooooo long sometimes.

But we only have three more weeks left. And we find out our new sites on Friday. Interesting story behind sites. It's a somewhat common topic of conversation among bowel movements and food we love from Peru and miss about the States. We are all speculating about where we could possibly go. Our APCDs (Associate Peace Corps Directors) work very hard to find the right placement for the right volunteer. This is important because if a volunteer isn't a good fit with their site things can get messy. Like the volunteer being incredibly frustrated and give up or leaving (which is always bad for any given site as there is a good chance they won't host again). Sometimes when the fit is not as good as it could be, the APCD will make an exception and move the volunteer. My APCD allegedly has a great track record at this, and to this point I have no reason to doubt her. I am one of the few youth volunteers that doesn't have even the slightest clue where I am headed next week (for site visits, one week only and then we return to training). So Friday is going to be like Christmas the years I don't make a list and leave it to fate. So everyone wish me luck.

Friday, July 27, 2007

I went to Peru and all I got was this stupid parasite

Let me start off by saying there is no official diagnosis at this point, but my symptoms are leaning toward a potential parasite.

Here's what Wikipedia says: In some people, intestinal parasites do not cause any symptoms, or the symptoms may come and go. Common signs and complaints include coughing, cramping abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence and diarrhea. In more serious infections, sex loss, skin-itching, fever, nausea, vomiting, or bloody stools may occur. Some parasites also cause low red blood count (anemia), and some travel from the lungs to the intestine, or from the intestine to the lungs and other parts of the body. Many other conditions can result in these symptoms, so laboratory tests are necessary to determine their cause.

I definitely have many of these symptoms. Not the more serious infection symptoms. So hopefully I'll get to the bottom of this with our fabulous Doctors here in the Peace Corps.

Until then, I think I'll name my parasite - Pepe the parasite. What's the old Marilyn Monroe quote: "If I'm gonna be alone, I'd rather be by myself."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Chincha Part II

On Wednesday we went to Laran a town just outside of Chincha and we worked with a much poorer subset of children at a Campo (farm) de niños. This was a different experience because we were working with an environmental volunteer who liked working with kids and one of her projects involves working with these kids on recycling and cultivating a farm. Her name is Abby and she’s amazing. Anyway, we paired up with a couple of the children and went out into the community to collect recyclables. Let me just say this, we could have done this all day. There was garbage on every street corner, but we certainly grabbed a lot of recyclables and brought them back to the campo. Then the trainees (us in Peru 9) put on a sketch about hand washing and we did an activity where we put a little oil on the kids hands and they pressed them on a sheet of clean paper to see how dirty their hands were. Then we actually washed hands and ate oranges. I liked this kind of environment for working with kids. This is definitely more of a community-based approach, which I’m starting to believe I want to see what it’s all about.

On Thursday we worked with kids in a cemetery. These are street kids of their own kind. Many of them living in the cemetery with their parents who work in the cemetery selling flowers, candy, or washing the graves while some of the kids selling candy on the streets of Chincha. These kids were very active and somewhat difficult to manage, but it’s not that big of a deal ultimately. I’ve certainly dealt with tougher in the United States. We performed the same skit from Wednesday and played similar games to those we played on Tuesday, learning from our mistakes I must say. Both Wednesday and Thursday we had glitches with water, but that’s part of the learning curve I guess.

Friday was the big event. We took a collection of children from all three sites and held a festival for us, planned solely by us (except for the details – thanks ladies of Ica you rock!) By far one of the coolest experiences I have had is riding the bus with all of those kids and the looks on their faces and the sound of awe in their voices. Definitely a true Peace Corps moment…need to put that one in the heart to call on when it gets tough out there.

We did a new skit this time. It was one that I’ve seen done a number of times, but the kids really liked it. And we played various games with various dynamics. To say the least it was fairly difficult with so many kids and so many volunteers, but so worth it. One of the important reminders we received came at the end of our time there, as another group showed up and proceeded to leave shortly after the arrived. Allegedly, a group of 70 students decided to jump on a suspension bridge that our group had crossed nearly an hour earlier. Needless to say the suspense bridge couldn’t handle the jumping and collapsed taking the kids with it. There were some serious injuries, teeth gone, bloody bodies, broken bones, but thankfully no deaths. It’s a reminder that we are responsible for the safety of the children we come into contact with.
I’m sick today. It’s not fun to be sick, but it’s kind of fun to think I have a parasite…how’s that for a cliff hanger?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Chincha Part I

So a week away from the training center for Field Based Training, and now I have all of these new emotions and thoughts to sort through. Field Based Training (FBT) was supposed to be a time of seeing what happens in the field and what kind of work will be good for you. There are two kinds of work found in Youth Development in Peru. The first is working with a Center-based organization, think orphanages or group homes. The second involves Community-based work where a volunteer works with three or four or more organizations, schools, churches, etc. in a given community, but all in all, the volunteer is largely on his/her own. I was part of the group sent to explore center-based work in Chincha, Ica – south of Lima.

I think, based off of my limited knowledge, that center-based work is what we are used to in the states. It’s very similar to any work in any bureaucratic organization like social services or public schools. I imagine doing this work would be just fine for me, but after my week in Chincha I’m hoping for a community based site which shouldn’t be too difficult seeing as there are 14 community based sites and only 4 center based sites available for my training group. Let me explain:

We arrived in Chincha late Sunday night and checked into our hostel. Our hostel was nice and for a time actually had hot running water, which was a change for most of us. For the most part, we spent that first evening just hanging out and resting, a thing we actually get very little practice in during training. The bus ride over was interesting for me given that it was the first time I actually questioned why I had joined the Peace Corps for the first time. I know week six, not bad. I quickly brushed those thoughts aside realizing that Chincha was the first taste of the unknown outside of the safe confines of training, our training staff (although we did have a few trainers with us), and our total group of 30 from Peru 9. I thought it was an important moment though to realize that I was human and that I was going to experience some real emotions during training rather than staying so busy that I don’t have time to think about it.

The next day we met all of the volunteers currently serving in or around Chincha. There are only five from two sectors. There are two youth volunteers and three environmental volunteers. We toured the city and learned about how the city works. Later we had a volunteer panel where we heard about the experiences of the volunteers thus far, three of them COS (Close of service) in just over three months. All in all, I’m impressed with the volunteers they are great ladies (yes, five females). It’s always nice to hear about other volunteers’ experiences, but you do tend to hear the same answer for many of your questions…“It depends.” We also found out that this would be a working week, not the semi-vacation I had hoped for, but that’s okay. Now that it’s all said and done the experience was so valuable.

On Tuesday we went to Hogar de Niñas (Home for Girls) in Chincha to have a fiesta with the girls there. This is a center-based site. A rotary club from Cananda started the hogar. It’s a home for girls found on the streets, taken out of their homes for abuse or neglect, or girls that were sexually abused or exploited. I have been to orphanages before in other countries, and I guess this isn’t truly an orphanage like the ones I have been to as many of these girls still have parents, in fact their parents come and visit or call or possibly both. We played games with the girls all morning, and it was really fun. And it’s good to know that adolescent girls don’t change that much between the U.S. and Peru. Yet I found myself not wanting to work in that environment right now. I realized that the US system is much like that, and I could end up in that system for the rest of my life.
One of the major lessons I learned at the hogar is that throwing money at something doesn’t make it better. The community and the world have been incredibly generous with these girls, but what these girls really need are people who are willing to spend time with them. They need family.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Gone for a bit

I just wanted to send out a quick post letting everyone know that I might be out of blog/email range for about a week, but we'll see. Our entire crew is breaking up into smaller groups to go to three different places in Peru for Field Based Training. I'm going with seven of my friends to the Department (I think that's what they call they're state type things) called Ica. It's just below Lima (the department not the city). I will try to email and post while I'm there, but if I don't get around to it I apologize.

Other than that, we had another day at La Agraria. This time we learned about beekeeping and cuy (guinea pig) raising. It is fascinating how nutritious and valuable guinea pig is to eat. I do hope I get to try some soon. We tried some fresh honey and man was it great. I've been somewhat addicted to honey since I've been here. Usually for breakfast I have a cup of coffee con leche (with milk) and two rolls with mantequilla (butter, but really margarine) and honey. It's wonderful.

Anyway, our time at La Agraria cruised by and then a few friends and I went into Lima for a little time. We decided we needed a quick pizza fix so we went to the Calle de Pizzas (Street of Pizzas) in Miraflores. The pizza was as close to home as I imagine anything can be here, but then of course I haven't visited a fast food restaurant yet.

Afterwords, we headed to a little Artisan marketplace so I could buy a purse to take with me to Ica. We found many other wonderful treasures too, but are wary about buying until we know where we are going in our site placements. Remind me to talk about site placements eventually. I found a cute little purse and we were off to meet a friend of one of the girls I was exploring Miraflores with. We are getting really good at asking for directions around here because we have to do it a lot. Eventually we arrived at our destination and had some great food for a really affordable price. In fact, we had a cold beverage, a sandwich with fries, a pastry, and coffee all for 22 soles (s/.). That's about $7. It was heaven. We returned somewhat late, but I still beat my family home from their daily activities.

Now we head off on a new adventure to see new parts of Peru. I'm so lucky!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Cooking with Edith

Today was a busy day. We started off by attending classes de idoma y cultura (language and culture). In this class we learned to cook two traditional Peruvian dishes. We cooked papas rellanos, these great stuff, fried potatoes, and arroz con leche (very similar to tapioca pudding, but a little better). My teacher Edith is the best. She’s been so supportive and helpful during this training period. We got to eat our product, and I’m telling you, I am one heck of a cook…when I have people directing me and cooking with me. This is one of many exercises we do in utter and total Spanish. It’s a great exercise, and I love to learn how to cook here. Peruvian food is so good. I have a feeling my Spanish will really improve when we get to site and we’re not speaking so much English. I’ve kind of taken the pressure off myself and feel a little better.
Another training activity, which is new to trainees in Peru, is that we have Youth Groups we go to and teach the objectives of the Peace Corps Youth Development Program in Peru. We are broken up into our "core groups" which for me includes two other people. Every week we go to a local school and play games, educate them about health, jobs, and other things. This has been the best learning activity so far. It is very hands on, sink or swim with the students in our community. Of course it is slightly difficult to hold a youth group when the teachers are striking, but that's a long story that I will save for another post. Talk about educational drama, this is pretty interesting.

We are also required to find a Community Contact (DCC) and find some way to build our community and do research at the same time (CDA) all while learning a language and cultural customs. It's no small task to be a Peace Corps Volunteer during training. Remind me and I'll try to talk about both of these activities down the road.

With all humor...I'd like to note that there is a sport down here that is almost unheard of in the United States. It's called "futbol" or otherwise known as soccer. Now I know we are all aware that we have a women's soccer team in the US (and they're pretty good), but I think we are unaware that we have a men's soccer team from the US. And apparently this "men's futbol team" plays in tournaments with other countries like Peru. Actually, they play a lot of tournaments that I've never heard of like the CopaAmerica or the PanAmerica Copa (which is allegedly taking place in the US - can you believe it). In fact, I'm pretty sure there is a "men's futbol" tournament at any given time of the year. Of course the US "men's futbol team" isn't very good which is why none of us have heard of them. They keep getting beat by countries like Argentina and Mexico. Didn't we invade these countries at one point? Anyway, just wanted to let you know about a little, unknown sport that is happening under our own noses in the US. Once again that is "men's futbol/soccer". All jokes aside, it's kind of fun to learn more about this sport. I wished I was here during the World Cup until I learned that Peru isn't very good in futbol/soccer either. Why do my teams always lose?
Take care, I love hearing from you.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Composting and Bautismo

So I didn’t get a chance to post yesterday because I had a busy day. But first…

Friday I found out that I moved up a level in Spanish. I have qualified for service, for now. I am at Intermediate Mid…which is the lowest level you can be to become a volunteer. It has motivated me to work even harder on my Spanish. So I spend a lot of time just working on verb conjugations. I’m surprised I moved up. But I appreciate it. I still have a long way to go in order to qualify for service.

Saturday was a big day for a number of reasons. First of all, we returned to La Agraria to learn more about organic garden. This time we learned about soils and how to maintain them. We also built our own compost pile. As you can see in the pictures we were motivated to have a very big compost pile. I think composting is really fun. I remember learning about in seventh grade biology class. My grandparents always had one too, and they always had a great garden. More than ever we’re learning the importance of hand washing and food washing. As you can see in this picture, after we get done planting, composting, and in general, playing in the soil, we have group hand washings and it actually takes awhile. Usually when we’re done for the day we hang out in Lima, but yesterday I…

Returned home to attend my little sister’s bautismo (baptism). I was so glad to come back. The ceremony was pretty comical. The priest was unintelligible. He was mumbling at 100 mph behind his book while children were screaming and playing behind me, cell phones were ringing, and three teenagers were gossiping and giggling. Not only did I not understand a word (which is fairly common), no one understood a word. Not even the Peruvians. My friend Danielle and I had to bite our lips in order to not bust out in the middle of this obviously important ceremony. All of Karen’s family and some of Loly’s friends came back to our house for dancing, drinking, and eating. I’ve attended a number of parties like this over the past month (yes, I’ve now been here for a month, miss me yet?). It was fairly crazy for a while, but it’s always fun.

There’s a tradition I want to talk about that happens at every fiesta or dance. Here, they have big bottles of Crystal, no not champagne, one beer made in Peru that tastes a lot like Bud light. The tradition is that you all share from one glass. I can hear you gasping from half a world away. So you get fairly used to pouring a little bit for yourself, drinking it, and then passing it on to someone else. I’m still learning about this tradition, as I learned last night, it is important to allow the men in the group to serve the women. And when one bottle is emptied and the next bottle is ready, you have to add a small portion of the new bottle to the old in the shared glass. Did that make sense?

I still love Peru. I feel more and more confident in my Spanish, but still have a ton of work to do. Please keep sending me your positive thoughts and prayers for Spanish acquisition.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

First Fourth for the Ninth in Peru

Yesterday I celebrated my third Fourth of July out of country, at least. I might have spent a couple in Australia also. I need to think about that. The staff did a really good job of making the day special. We broke into teams with our Spanish language instructors and played silly picnic games all morning.
This was my team "Los Matadores"

After the games, we ate a lunch of corn chips and guacamole, carrots and celery, and grilled chicken sandwiches plus coca cola. And what would a Peruvian Fourth of July be without Inka Cola? It wouldn’t be. Anyway, I had a great time. On top of that, my friend Cass was celebrating her 21st birthday. Her husband and host family threw her a big surprise party so a bunch of us walked up the hill to their pueblo to see her and celebrate with her. We had a blast.

Dodgeball...what a great game

And what´s the Fourth without a water fight?

Today we had our second language test. I don’t feel very confident about my interview. But I’m relieved to have it over with.

One of the things I forget to post last time was that there are currently 5 Peace Corps groups in Peru. Peace Corps 5 will role out in August (except those that have chosen to serve another year), Peace Corps 6 will leave in November (I think). Then PC 7 will leave August 2008. PC 8 in November 2008. We leave (PC 9) August of 2009. PC 10 will arrive in-country in September (remember they’re the group working in Health and Environment) and will leave November 2009.

Finally, here´s the picture of me eating my first ceviche.