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...