Friday, July 27, 2007
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
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
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
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
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.
Sunday, July 8, 2007
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
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.
Tuesday, July 3, 2007
* Peace Corps has four ares of development: Small Business, Youth, Environment, and Health
* Small Business and Youth train together (right now) or during summer. Environment and Health train together right after we leave.
* Our trainers are the coolest. We have both language trainers who we can only speak Español with, and technical trainers who help us figure out how to do our jobs. Some of them are Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCV). Others are host country nationals who are incredibly helpful and supportive.
* When we arrived in Peru we had an orientation and were immediately interviewed in our language skills and put into groups. We are being interviewed again this week (week four of training) and again at the end of training, and one more time at the end of service. You have to reach and Intermediate mid to qualify for service. My first interview took me to an Intermediate Low (that was lucky). I only have to rise one level to qualify for service. Peru has never had a volunteer not qualify for service. They do everything in their power to get us through.
* Training is very hands on. We speak Spanish quite a bit, but we also have to develop contacts in our areas (note: networking), do community assessment and research, as well as work with youth or people in microbusiness. You jump right in.
* Rumor has it, that if you don't hate training by the end, you didn't do something right. A ver. (We´ll see.)
So, that´s my update for now. I am still doing well. I'll keep you posted when I think of other things. If you have questions, feel free to email me.
Sunday, July 1, 2007
After we finished with our lesson for the day, we ventured to Jockey Plaza. Jockey Plaza is a mall with a Cineplex and everything. It was kind of weird to be in the middle of Peru, to live with families that live with very little money and to go to a very materialistic place. And this time, it was only with about 20 soles. Which isn’t enough money for the kind of stuff we could buy there. We certainly have to deal with strange emotions going to a place like that. I want to return one more time next week to watch Ocean’s 13. They call it something else here.
Today was more parties. I went to one at my friend Elena’s house where we learned how to make anticucho (grilled cow heart shown below) and another one at my grandma’s house. We had arroz con pollo and ceveche. Which is a traditional dish of Peru. It was my first ceveche in Peru. I’ve heard amazing things about this, and actually had some last year at my friend Jairo’s house. Well, my first taste was no disappointment, but then of course my grandma is no slouch of a cook either. Anyway, the food was great. I think Peru’s food is fabulous. This is the second email I’ve posted about food.
Here´s a pic of my friends Frank and Greg cooking anticucho.