Monday, December 31, 2007

Another quick update

Well, it's happend, I now only have one internet source in Catilluc and it's not very good. So a longer update will be forthcoming.

As for now, I'm currently celebrating the New Year with my new friends feeling thankful for the gift of these new friendships and hopes that they can deepen, and that my work in Catilluc starts to find balance.

Thank you all for following my blog this year. I will write in the New Year, so don't give up. And I hope that all of our deepest healthiest desires come true for you in this next year. Take care.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Feliz Navidad


I took a few days to run back to Yanacoto to visit my family from training. I needed the break as things in Catilluc were still hot when I left, which also means I need to return and finally deal with all that happened.

BUT...I had a fabulous Christmas with Loly and the gang. Christmas is much calmer and smaller here whichis a nice antithesis to Christmas in the States, but I really think there should be a combination of the two. I will try to post some pictures when I get a chance. I just want everyone to know that my Christmas was fabulous and that I'm feeling much better.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hangin' in, in Cajamarca

So I guess it would be a good idea to talk a little about my recent struggles at site because development work isn't all puppies and roses and British Children running through daisies.

Last Friday night we had a meeting with the committee. My counterpart wasn't there, neither was Rosa, and some of other members were unable to attend as well. The meeting didn't go well, but let me back up because you have to understand how quickly things compounded and how much I felt ambushed in the midst of all this.

About a month and a half ago, my host father sat me down and explained to me that I would need to move out because they don't own their house. I thought, fine. We don't really have a connection, and they have financial and marital problems. So, I figured, it was about time to look for something else. Well about three weeks ago, my dad sat me down again and told me I could live with them, they didn't think they were going to have to move. Then five days ago they told me that I could stay, but they're both going away for the summer vacations. Peace Corps rules state that I need to be with a family for my security. And trust me, I like that rule. So that same night in the meeting of the CAID committee, the topic was brought up that we all needed to talk about my housing situation. Well, my host dad, who was upset about something else, stated out and out that I needed to move out of their house. That he only said that he would take me for three months and those three months are up and now I was the committee's responsibility. His sentiments came out of nowhere, but I can't say that I'm not ready to move. They're good people who have let money get the best of them and their marriage. It's unfortunate, but a reality of life in all of the world.

So as we were discussing my housing prospects one of the committee members said, "and when you find a good house you'll start turning out better work." Well this caught me. I have been opening the CAID everyday for a few hours, but I haven't been giving workshops or "talks" because I'm waiting for the committee to help me find someone who can work with me. Peace Corps policy (and any good development policy) says that I should be second place and that I shouldn't be doing all the work, let alone all the work alone. So I brought this to their attention, and in essence the five of them that were present told me that all of the problems of the CAID were my fault and that I need to work because I had the time and it was my responsibility. I got upset. Left the meeting, went home and cried, slept poorly and woke up the next morning, marched to Llamapampa to call my APCD in Lima and ask for a site change. Well, after a half an hour or so my APCD talked me down from the ledge. She supported me and my decision to not work for the CAID until we figured out a better working situation for me. She also had the foresight to send me away for awhile to decompress and process.

Hence, I went to San Miguel for a few days, received the support I needed, and am currently in Cajamarca hoping I'll get to talk with my counterpart about all that transpired in Catilluc in her absence. I'm worried about what she'll think, but I know there is work in Catilluc even if I'm not working with the CAID. There are a number of health initiatives that I could help the medical staff work on. Also, some members of my community have approached me about cocinas mejoradas (better kitchens) as they cook over lena (campfire) in their homes. Smoke everywhere. Long story short, I have hit a wall, but I think I'm going to try to find another way to work in Catilluc for awhile. I haven't given up on the CAID, but until the committee and I can reach an agreement about how the work will progress I will find other ways to be useful in Catilluc.

And one of the important lessons has been to separate the problem from those things I love about Catilluc. And the truth is, I don't want to live Catilluc, I have just reached a roadblock in my work. The people of Catilluc are good people, as is my host family and committee members. The problem is the mentality behind their desire to lay all the blame, responsibility, and work on someone else's shoulders. It's more a statement of their culture than it is about the "bad guy" role I am required to play for (hopefully, a short time). Wish me luck.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Madrina Duties

The gift of cuy.

Well, I have fulfilled my first Madrina duties. And except for the fact that my speech was pretty shoddy and I couldn’t think. I actually enjoyed myself. Plus, I was given a big stack of cuyes to eat.

Of course like any good party in Peru, it started very, very late. And it might only have started late because there was never really an exact start time to begin with. The great thing about Llamapampa (the caserio in which I was to be madrina at the primary school) is that it’s a sure location where I can actually make phone calls on my cell phone (Catilluc doesn’t have cell phone service, although we were supposed to get it a month ago, this month, and next March, I’m not holding my breath). Sometimes Internet is not available either, as it hasn’t been this week, so sometimes this one small little spot in Llamapampa is my only connection to the outside world. Weird, no? Anyway, I went a little early so I could communicate with some of my friends from Peace Corps. Thank you for free cell to cell calls within Peace Corps sometimes that is the only thing that keeps me sane.

Long story short, it started to rain in the middle of one of my phone calls so I found some friends and passed a couple of hours just chatting with them before the ceremony started. The hustle surrounding the preparations was interesting. It reminds me of all the simple pleasures we have in the United States. I watched the parents spend about 30 minutes trying to string electricity into the little school. One lonely light bulb was responsible for lighting the room, and there was another chord spliced for a little boom box to play the music that we would later be dancing to.

Presenting the gift to one of the graduating students.
The ceremony was pretty straightforward. We started off by singing the Peruvian National Anthem, which is fairly common. Then the Director, my friend Professor Segundo gave a few words, and then there were poems and speeches from the children being promoted and a few of their schoolmates. I gave a quick, and poor, speech about the importance of education and continuing onto University after they’re done with secondary school. Then I presented them little gifts. I bought long sleeve T-shirts that said “Promocion 2007, Llamapampa” and fleece pants, because it’s pretty cold in Llamapampa. They don’t open the gifts in front of you, so I don’t know if they liked them or not. After my presents came the presents from their padrinos or madrinas, they each have an individual godparent for the promotion as well. Their godparents gave a quick speech and then we ate and danced. A nice, simple little ceremony.

As for the work, I am definitely in the three to six month stretch because I am so frustrated with my work. And I am going to have to move. My family is having some financial problems and can’t manage life with me added to their other stresses. This is a pain because I don’t have a lot of options for housing and I’m pretty much guaranteed I’ll need to buy my furniture which was easier when I had a little extra dough from Peace Corps. I will need to move in January. So on top of work being difficult, needing to find a new family, and being hit on every day by some Peruvian (sometimes under very sketchy and scary circumstances) I feel a little stressed out. So, I’ve been given a quick reprieve to go visit some friends in Cajamarca. So I’ll be headed to San Miguel tomorrow to discuss my circumstances with a couple of other PC volunteers. We’ll see if I can clear my head a little bit.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

More about Culture and Accidents

Libby, Peru 10, and my family from training. They're all so great!

One of the popular traditions in Peru is the idea of a Madrina or Padrina. This signifies godmother or godfather. There are madrinas/padrinas for everything. You can have a madrina for all of your life or just to get a haircut. Peace Corps volunteers are asked to be madrinas/padrinas quite often. Of course, there is a huge difference between being a madrina of a haircut because that’s a one-time thing. It’s another thing to take on being someone’s godparent for the rest of his or her life. Then you are responsible for gifting to that child for the rest of your life, and if something happens to the parents…then the child lives with you. They take this responsibility very seriously. Sometimes, with poor language skills PCVs end up being godparents without realizing the commitment.
A picture from the pre-school promotion. How cute?

That being said, I have become a madrina of a school promotion. This is a one-time thing. I will give little gifts (a long sleeve t-shirt, and some sweat pants) to three students from a local caserio. I felt like this was something I wanted to do once. This was an easy choice for me, but turning down being a madrina the future could be difficult. Yet, this is a hugely important part of their culture.

On a completely different note, a little less than a week-ago the bus company that I take to and from Cajamarca had an accident. The bus flew completely off the road, with my counterpart, Tania and the nurse, Ellie and her young son in tow. Everyone on the bus was badly shaken with minor injuries, but thankfully noone was killed. I rode in Hernandez (that’s the bus company) the day after and took a couple of pictures of the accident. It’s a constant realization that bad things can happen especially when traveling in a developing nation.

Here's the bus.

As for my mental health, everything’s great. Once again, I feel like my Spanish is back on track. I’m finding small ways to get out of the house even though the committee wants me to wait until January to start work. I’m hoping that I can create a project plan to get money from either the municipality or the ministry of health to fund an employee of the CAID. I believe that this will be an important advancement for sustainability. Of course, this requires a lot of work and writing a report in Spanish, but I’m up for the challenge, and I believe in the CAID and the work that it could do to enhance lives in Catilluc. Wow, is that Disney movie of the week, or what?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

New Recipe: Arroz Verde

Well, it's been awhile since I posted a recipe. Here's one of my favorite. I hopefully will be posting more pictures soon. Take care.

Arroz verde

Peel and chop carrot
Cut chicken into pieces
Heat up the oil with garlic (2 cloves)
Add liquid cilantro (chopped and blended)
Add salt
Cook well
Add water (6 cups to 5 cups of rice)
And salt to taste
When the water is boiling, add the rice
After the rice is cooked, add a little more oil