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.