Friday, June 29, 2007

Cooking Lessons

Today I received my cooking lessons. I know some of you are curious about the food in Peru, and the truth is, I think it’s great. My host mom makes great food, as does my grandma who lives just up the street. So some people have asked for recipes and here is the first one I have learned to cook.

Estofado de Pollo (Chicken stew)

Over high heat:
Add 2 cloves of crushed garlic and
One small onion chopped into small pieces to oil
Cut a carrot into half round slices
Cut chicken into pieces
Add 1 teaspoon of salt
Add a spice called “panca sin picante” - also known as ahi Colorado
(Some kind of red spice that I don’t know the direct translation for)
Add chicken (Loly throws it in with bone and all – I think American pallets would prefer sin hueso – without bone)
Add carrot and a cup of peas
Peel, slice, six small potatoes
½ cup water
Add corn
Add potatoes (reduce heat)
Add another cup of water and 1 chicken bullion cube
Let cook for awhile
And then add cilantro

It’s really tasty. Here are some pictures. Notice the chicken’s feet. My little sister likes that part the best. I avoid that part the most. Loly usually puts this over rice.
The first dish in any Peruvian meal is usually rice and much to my US mother’s dismay (I’m sure) they usually have potatoes and corn as well. I try to keep my portion size low in order to not gain weight. In fact, I’m losing it. Which is rare, but I am thankful for the loss as grad school added about 10 pounds I definitely didn’t need. I’m starting to fit into my clothes again!

Last night we went to the celebration of our Pueblo’s Patron Saint. It was pretty tame. Most of our Peace Corps crew showed up. And I danced the night away. My “uncle” has returned from Argentina to find work and I’m starting to get to know his friends better. They’ve all known each other since they were kids. We danced and had fun. We also watched this crazy bull (that’s really what it is called) dance around with flames shooting out of it. Okay, okay it was a paper mache bull with firecrackers shooting off of it, but you definitely couldn’t get a permit for it in the United States.

Other than language (which I sometimes feel like I’m actually managing to progress) my other frustration includes not knowing my fellow volunteers very well. But luckily I’ve had some great conversations with some of the people who live in my pueblo. This is a double edged sword as living so close to so many Americans (and having so many projects to do for Peace Corps) has prevented me from speaking Spanish full-time. Actually that might be my only complaint about my training thus far, too much English. But I do feel like my Spanish is coming along. We have more language tests this next week to see if we’ve improved and to possibly create new language groups. I had my evaluation yesterday and it went well, but I wish I could show more growth than I am. My instructor agrees. She feels like I could be making bigger strides. I don’t really know how to do that, but I guess I’ll keep working on it. I have a new study partner. Plus, I’m making friends with some of the advanced speakers and they are reassuring me that I’m on track in the long process of learning a second language.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Culture Training Begins

This weekend I went to Lima, twice. The first time we went for class. We spent a day wandering around various parts of Lima asking questions in Spanish and discussing tourist attractions all in Spanish. It was interesting. I really like my Spanish teacher. Her name is Edith and she’s amazing. I enjoy spending time with her. Sometimes I feel like I’m really bad at this, but then I’ll strike up a conversation that I’m able to carry for awhile and think – maybe I’ve got this. We visited Barranco for the first part of the day. Barranco is a part of Lima that has a lot of Bohemians living there. We didn’t get to see any. They were probably all asleep.

Later, we went to the Palace of the Government to watch the changing of the guard. I’m not sure how I feel about watching such a Colonial practice knowing that the people of Peru were oppressed to carry out the ideas of their Spanish rulers. Although, I’m American – that’s like the pot calling the kettle black. It was just a little strange to watch. Lima’s colonial feel really is beautiful though gorgeous palaces and buildings that make you feel like you’re in Europe. At around 2:00pm we were allowed to go out on their own, and I hooked up with some other girls from the group and we had Pisco Sours and junk food while chatting about our adventures thus far. After we tooled around the city for a while, we headed back to Chaclacayo in a taxi. We made a quick 45-minute trip out of a trip that would have taken us an hour and a half (at least) by combi (bus Volkswagen type things).

I know this because the next day on a whim I was invited to attend a Peruvian National Dance Recital, but more on that in a second. I woke up the next morning way to early because my friend Sam and I wanted to burn off the junk food we had eaten the day before. We took an hour-long hike up the hill and visited some “ruins” just outside our pueblo. Now when I hear ruins and Peru, I think Manchu Pichu. Is that what we found? No, we found some drawings of a lizard in a hill. We went with our friend Vishal and his host family. We had a lot of fun but we took some very crazy climbs. We would literally scramble up one hill to have to free climb down into a ravine only to scramble up the next one. We had a good time though. I’m really glad I went. Plus, it was an excellent workout.

When I returned, Loly said that her friend had invited me to go watch her brother dance in Lima. I love dance (as you know) so I jumped at the chance. We traveled by combi for about two hours. Driving in Peru is crazy, and at one point I watched the combi driver scrape up against another car. It’s always an adventure on the combi. We did arrive safely, and I got to watch some very cool traditional dances and my friend MariCarmen and her brother Luis danced a number of dances with me. I couldn’t help but think I was the focal part of those dances because I was the lightest-skinned, lightest-haired person there. It was fairly obvious that the gringa (white girl) was on the dance floor. I had a blast though and got a couple of decent pictures. I totally want to learn how to do some of these very cool dances.

I didn’t take any pictures, but I did find the Peruvian version of the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. They were these teeny-tiny, sparkly blue dresses, with hats on a string. Oh, how I wish I had those pictures. It was really a cool event. I’m so glad I was invited. Hopefully I can use these dances (which I learn them) with the kids that I will be working with.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Another Post Without Pictures...sorry

Training is an intense process. At the beginning of training I heard that some people think it’s harder than their graduate programs. Now, I won’t go that far, but I will say I am being put into fairly normal situations but unable to communicate in the way in which I would most like to. For example, in order to prepare us to work with youth groups (not just a religious term in the Peace Corps) they have broken all of the members of the Youth Development area into smaller groups to go to schools around Chaclacayo and lead class for one hour a week. Not much, right? Unless you factor in that I can barely speak the language right now, and if you put me in front of a classroom of 15 year olds I get nervous and am even more unable to communicate. Today my group and I made our introductions and all went well, but I was barely speaking. I was communicating through smiles and head nods. My Spanish just feels so limited right now. Once again, I’m trying to be patient with myself, but I don’t think I’m speaking enough Spanish throughout my day. At the end of class, the kids wanted to hear our National Anthem. Let´s just say I was more willing to sing THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER, than to open my mouth to communicate.

Another key assignment involves each individual person developing a relationship with someone in Peru is working with youth. I found this great house for girls, and I think that I will try to continue to return there to meet with the Housemom, but my Spanish today was awful. Luckily, Loly was with me so I hope she got a lot of it and can re-explain it to me. I return in a week, and I hope that my Spanish is much better then.

We have a number of other small projects, research, and we have intense classes of learning Spanish. I try to remind myself that we’ve only been here a week and a half and that my Spanish will come, but sometimes it feels like we’ve been here for months. I’m trying really hard not to play the comparison game with the other volunteers, but it’s hard because so many of them speak so well or are picking it up quickly. Plus, there is always Peruvians around to remind that I’m not speaking to a full proficiency. Soon enough these worries won’t make much of a difference. I have a ton of time before I’m sent to my site.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Dogs, Dogs everywhere and not a spot to pee

So one of the other things about Peru that I find interesting is the treatment of dogs. I like dogs, but I´m learning to not like dogs while I`m over here. First of all, they are everywhere. They are like goats in small villages of Africa. They wander around freely and do their business wherever whenever the need may be. As we were doing research today (wandering around our barrio talking to people - I love this kind of research) we saw something come out of a dog´s behind that was unbelievable. I don`t know what it was, and I´m not going to gross you out with more details, but it was crazy.

So last night, I was returning from celebrating a friend´s birthday when on my dark path to my house a dog started growling at me. Dog´s in Peru tend to be aggressive and it was dark so I wasn´t thrilled with the situation. He kind of hounded me so I picked up the biggest rock I could find and pretended to throw it at him. He ran away, but I don´t like the darkness and the scariness of the dogs here.

Dogs are not well respected here, which in a way I kind of respect. I´ve always felt like Americans spends too much money on their animals. Yet it seems like there is a neccessary balance. Treating a dog poorly just makes it mean which then puts me in scary positions in the dark. I´m sure there is more to this because I´ve been thinking about it for days, but I´m tried from trying to translate Spanish all day.

My Spanish does feel a bit stronger. It´s important for me to hold on to days like this because tomorrow could be an equally difficult day. I´m learning poco a poco, but sometimes I wish I was fluent. I guess it´s all about the journey to the fluency. Send me your positive thoughts.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Peruvian Kryptonite

I have found my Peruvian kryptonite. The thing I really can’t stand. There is a Public Address system in the barrio I live in, and almost every morning around 7:00am a man gets on the PA system and gives announcements. Yesterday, during “El Dia de Padre”, he talked for over two hours starting at 7:30am. I can’t stand it. Luckily for me, this is not culture shock this is life. The people who live here can’t stand it either. I’ve had numerous conversations with people here who understand my frustration with the early announcements. Another Peace Corps volunteer, Frank, says that man is his nemesis. I couldn’t agree more. Here are some pictures so you can see that you can’t avoid these megaphones. They are everywhere, even in the local church.

It’s interesting that I’ve been here for a week and it was on this very celebrated holiday that I had my worst Spanish day yet. I woke up unable to construct a sentence in Spanish. I try not to get down because I haven’t been here long enough to be bad, and Loly says that I have improved a lot since my first Sunday here. She believes that I will get better and better. That’s what everyone tells me. Speaking of Loly she has become one of my closest friends here. We talk about everything, and we laugh about all kinds of things like when my four-year-old sister throws a tantrum (which happens hourly, if not more). I find that I want to spend all of my time with her. And that’s saying a lot because I’m meeting cool people, and my fellow volunteers are awesome.

So as I mentioned earlier, yesterday was “Dia Del Padre” as it was in the States and people went all out. We had dinner with my “abuela”. She lives up the street and houses another Peace Corps volunteer. We had arroz con pollo and “papa a la huancaina” (Huancayo is a city five hours from where I live right now) the dish is like a potato with alfredo sauce on it. We had a couple of beers also. One was Crystal the beer of Peru, it tastes like bud light. The other was Cuzqueña it’s a dark beer that tastes just sweeter than Guinness. I really like it. It’s common to combine it with Inka cola (the soda/pop of Peru) then it tastes like a root beer. Inka Cola tastes like cream soda just sweeter. I ate with my two sisters, Loly, my abuela (Jesusa), Danielle (the other PC volunteer), and my “tio” Jorge. He was the only man with whom we celebrated Father’s Day. After the late lunch we watched a quick pick-up game of soccer and then returned home. I did call my dad if anyone was worried.
At the market

Thanks for reading my blog. Keep the comments coming, and let me know if you have any questions you want me to answer in my blog. I´ll try my best.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Day to Day

So, I thought I would try to talk about my day. I don´t have a lot of time left, so here goes nothing.

I wake up at 6:00am and eat breakfast with my host mom (the one who had me at five) and my two sisters. Usually it´s coffee with milk, toast or bread, sometimes ham, avacado, or something else. Then I watch the news in Spanish where I understand very little, but thankfully for pictures I get the gist. At around 7:00 my mom takes my sister´s to school and I take a shower and get dressed. Around 7:30 (when headed to the PC training center) or 8:00 (if I´m headed to a language and culture class in my town) I head to training. I´m in training most of the day and around 5:00pm a bunch of the volunteers return together. We walk up this crazy hill (which I hope to take a picture of eventually) and head home. I greet my sisters and talk to them about their days as well as talk with my mom. Every other day I head to the internet cafe to post. But we usually eat around 7:00pm. Then my mom and I chat for awhile longer.

Here are the pictures:

This is my friend Sam and me with the extended family at a mass celebrating the life of a member of our family. I don´t know all of the people in this picture. Sam is to my right and my mom, Loly is over my left shoulder. You probably recognize my sisters. By the way, this is the second mass I attended. I´ve attended three in a week.

Here´s another picture with Sam and me. This is at a pizza place we went to last night to celebrate our first week in Peru.

Here´s a night shot of the town I live in, at least for these next 10 weeks.

Here´s an artsy shot of a moto taxi driving by. They have three wheels and are crazy, but most people take them to get up the hill.

Alright, peace everyone.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Mission Impossible

So my first goal is post a couple of pictures. This is my first attempt at posting pics on a public computer so here goes nothing.
Here´s me at the Training center a good pic. I´ll try to post some of the stuff we actually do, if I´ll remember to take my camera out from time to time.Here´s Karin and Kati.

This is a picture of my younger hermana, Kati and I. She is fascinated by my camera. Always wants to take pcitures.

Two locitas. We have fun together.
Today we had to go around the city and find out about stores and stuff Peruvian. They called it mission impossible. My group was sent to find a tallier (auto mechanic workshop). We found a good one and learned how cheap it is to maintain a car. Well, I guess cheap for US citizens. We also had to learn about the education system here in Peru. In some ways it is very different and in some ways it isn´t.
I´m always amazed at how much of a health nut my (Peruvian) mom is, and yet she still thinks you can catch a cold by the weather. She is the most wonderful woman. I think she is an amazing woman. I love talking to her about everything.
Back to the mission impossible. I bring it up for two reasons. One, it is the closest I´ve come to culture shock yet. Walking around a city and not really knowing the language while being on my partners time frame was starting to test me. But I managed to make it through without any real problems. I guess I caught it in time. The other reason I bring it up is because we had a competition today to see who could come up with the most information, and my team won. We received Peruvian chocolate. The debriefing for the Mission Impossible was really fun. We laughed a lot. We have the best facilitators. I hope to have a picture of Mike and Mariu soon, but they weren´t being very cooperative when I was trying to take one today.
I´m so glad I´m in Peru. I´m so glad I´m here with these people. My Peace Corps team keeps me sane. They are the coolest, most positive people I´ve met. I´m gonna dash, but I´ll hopefully have more pictures and more to tell. Thanks for the comments. They make my day. Feel free to email me as well.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

They Do Everything in Spanish when You´re in Peru

So, I made it. After 16 months of preparation and application and medical inspection, I am here. Peru is a wonderful country with amazing people. But I guess you can hear that anywhere. My first couple of days were spent in a retreat center where we received Orientation into our program. I´m really loving the way Peace Corps Peru does things. It is such an amazing compliment to the Intercultural Youth and Family Development Program that I´ve been a part of last year.

But enough of that. We´ve moved to Chaclacayo and I live in a small town really close by. It´s really more like a suburb, but I don`t know how to describe it. I live with my host mom and her two wonderful and adorable children. My hermanitas are 7 and 4. The older is very calm the younger is very emotional. Reminds me of my sister and me. Anyway, they´ve all been very helpful with my Spanish which we speak almost around the clock in training. I´m learning more and more. I can understand when people talk to me directly about 70% of the time. Of course I have difficulty constructing a sentence. The good news is I tested into a higher Spanish group than I expected. Now I need to put in the work. I will be proficient in Spanish ASAP! It´s my goal.

I have taken a bunch of pictures, but haven´t had a chance to put them on my computer yet. I will post them next time. Mostly, I just wanted to let everyone know I was here and that all is well. Peru and I are doing fine.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

So we leave tomorrow at 3am for our flight. It's so crazy. By this time tomorrow I'll be in Peru.

I love my teammates. So far they are all so cool, and everyone who said they would be people who understand you - were so right. One person commented that it was nice to be among kindred spirits and as you looked around the room everyone was nodding and some people teared up. It's so crazy. We're all about to embark on the biggest adventure of our lives! It's gonna be so fun.

On my first day in Philadelphia a group of people went to the Liberty Bell. Interesting symbolism, no? All in all, staging has been way better than I expected. I've been through several trainings, but this is the first where it felt like even the slightly crazy ideas were accepted. Our trainters were open to everyone's comments. How freeing?

Anyway I just wanted to write a quick post before I show some pictures from our time here. It's been nice, but Peru here we come!

Here's me with all my luggage...and believe it or not, I don't even have the most. I'm not even close. I'll post more pictues as I can. Take care everyone!

Monday, June 4, 2007

The Chaos of Packing

I leave for Philadelphia, PA (our staging site) tomorrow at 8:30am. It's so crazy.

I thought I would post a few pics of what my packing has looked like. I forgot to take one with everything scattered everywhere, but so far I still don't have everything in my bags that I was hoping to take. I guess I might have to start weeding out stuff I don't need. Although, if it's in one of these bags at this point, I think I need it. We'll see.

Anyway, I'm starting to get excited to finally just "go and do it - enough with the talking about it." I'm looking forward to meeting the people that will be heading over there with me. I'm hoping that I can connect with one or two of them at least, but hopefully all of them.

Yeah, that's a lot of stuff. I'm definitely going to have to weed some out.