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 cafĂ© 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 guitar...so 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.