Monday, December 15, 2008

Opinions and the Recommendation Game

For I love to play the recommendation game. You know when you are sitting in a restaurant and you’re not exactly sure what you want, you ask the waiter or waitress, “what do you recommend?” Now the answer in the States usually includes an answer. “Well, I’m particularly fond of the blue cheese chicken or if you’re into salads, I’d try the cob.” I like this game. It gives me an opportunity to try something new AND not make a decision. The game is only fun if the other party will play it with you, and I have a hard time finding participants in Peru. The other day I was at the fruit stand and I knew I only wanted to buy a small quantity of fruit, but I wasn’t exactly sure what I should get. So I asked the woman working at the tienda what she recommended and her response was, “it’s all good.” I believe her, but that wasn’t the question. The question is what she would get if she were in my place. So being the former journalist I phrase the question a different way, “what’s good during this season?” The senora again responds, “It’s all good.” I still believe her, but I’m growing increasingly frustrated that she won’t play one of my favorite games. Finally, after a long silence where I’m not sure how to get my new friend to play my game she finally says, “It’s mango season.” So thankful that she has at least tried to play along I buy two mangoes for my host sisters (I’m already sick of them and it’s only the beginning of mango season).

I encounter this problem a lot. I’ll be sitting in a restaurant here in Peru and again I’ll be unsure of what to order and so I’ll ask for a recommendation. I’m usually lucky to get an answer, but if I do, you can bet that I order that particular item because I want to give Peruvians the idea that their opinions and ideas have value. The underlying problem here is twofold. First, it’s a matter of self-esteem. Peruvians (as a generalization) are not taught that their opinion matters. But when you’re playing the recommendation game with me, your opinion always counts. I rarely ever turn down a recommendation. One of the things we do in the youth development program is not only teach about self-esteem, emotions, and self-knowledge but recently I went to several classes and put signs on three different walls in the class room. The first reads, “I agree.” The second, “I don’t agree.” And the third states, “I’m not sure.” Then I read different phrases (the older the group, the more controversial) and the students then have to walk to the sign where their opinion is stated. One of the phrases says, “You can get good work even if you don’t finish high school.” The students then have to defend their answer – not all of them, but I call on different ones to see why they think what they are thinking. I’m amazed with how little these students think about their own opinions. Many students thanked me for the activity after class saying it was the first time they had thought about the topics I had brought up (everything from education to abortion) and they appreciate that I don’t judge their opinions which is key to teaching these types of classes. I absolutely have to put my opinions and ideas out the back door, but I do get to play devil’s advocate and it is fun to get people to think about their answers. Now that I think about it, I would love to get more activities like this – so if you have any, feel free to send them to me.

The second fold in the twofold underlying problem is that this is a culture of people who don’t want to offend other people. They are a very polite culture. For example, sometimes people are invited to a party in which they know they cannot attend, but regardless they will accept the invitation and then just not show up. Because it is better to save the face of the person who is inviting you to their face, if you don’t show up the inviter can always say they never invited the invitee. So while playing the recommendation game people don’t want to offend nor be offended. They don’t offer up their opinions readily in case it’s contrary to yours and then you would be offended. I like aspects of the polite culture, but it is frustrating when you set up a meeting or invite people to event and they never show.

I have had minor success playing the recommendation game with younger children. Often times they will be helping out their parents and somehow they’ll catch my eye, and so I’ll ask them what do you recommend. After some hesitation, and maybe a little prodding on my part, they will quite frequently give me a response. And no matter how good or bad the recommendation I always take it to show the child that their ideas are valued and valuable. I guess it’s one of the little things I try to do on a daily basis to improve the lives of those I encounter.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


So after making several trips to Huanchaco (in La Libetad) and Piura, I was ready for a vacationto a new part of Peru. So six of my close PC friends and I got our act together and ventured off to Chachapoyas right on the edge of the Amazonian Jungle. While there, we walked around Kuelap (the oldest, most intact city of the pre-Columbian era) and we hiked to Gocta the third tallest waterfall in the world. As you can see by these pictures, it was absolutly gorgeous, and I had a great time. If you come to Peru, make it a point to head up to Chachapoyas. It's not overly touristy yet, and it has some of the nicest people I've met yet. They really respected us and it never seemed like they wer trying to rip us off. That's a real plus after 1 year and a half in country.

The following pictures were taken by my friend Alex. I think sometimes my blog is a little shy of pictures of me, so here you go. Enjoy!

My friend Freddie and I in front of Gocta - very wet, but very refreshing after a long hike in the Andino Sun.
The hike to Gocta.

Touring Kuelap. Yes, I wore that hat all weekend, I'm trying to protect my skin.

Maybe the best picture of me yet in Peru. It shows just how much funI was having.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Life Goes On

Huscaran - the second largest mountain in the Americas.

One of the biggest challenges of life overseas, or in this case in the Peace Corps, is that as you are facing all of these great new adventures in a new culture with cool people, all the cool people you left behind in the States (or elsewhere) are having great adventures that you are missing. For example, my friend Brenda emailed me today to tell me she will be having her fourth child in just three short days. I have barely been a part of her third child's life and now I'm over here and won't even be in the same country (let alone the same state or city) for the delivery of this child. And sometimes this thought makes me very sad.
But maybe what makes me even more sad is the passing of my good friend Noah Ginnings at the age of 26 after a 7 year battle with brain cancer. I recieved the news Thursday afternoon via email from another good friend and have pretty much cried the last two days. It's hard to lose someone, but it's even harder when you have no one else to mourn with, no one who knows who you are talking about and what impact that person had on your life.
And these are only a few examples other friends have had babies, gotten married, found new jobs, started dating, broke up with the love of their lives, etc. And yet, what I do now, where I live now has become the new normal. I wake up to the knowledge that I am often more concerned with how my PC friends are doing, or if my counterpart's grandson has been released from the hospital, and how my Spanish is fairing in any given setting. All adventures. I guess sometimes it just feels like a shame that we only get to live one life at a time. And sometimes, I guess that's more than enough. But right now, for me, it's just not enough. I want to be able to hold my brand new niece or nephew (Brenda's child, yep, she's like a sister) shortly after s/he is born. I want to attend Noah's memorial service and cry my eyes out with others whose lives he touched. But I also want to be here hanging out the with the students at the school Virgen de las Merecedes and cracking jokes with my host family at dinner.
The next step, of course, is that I return to the States and I start to miss out on the adventures here in Peru. I find myself thinking about this more than I should while I'm still living here. I'll miss the graduation of my favorite class of students to work with, my host sisters will get married and have children - hopefully after they finish university, and my host grandparents will pass away (also hopefully after some time).
I did sign up for this, and the double life is one we live whether we want to or not. So, I guess I write this post to say "keep in touch." I still want to be a part of your lives, and I write this blog to keep you firmly in mine.

Yes, I live here. Don't hate.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dia de Los Muertos

My host sisters in front of their grandfather's grave.
November 2nd this year was El Dia de Los Muertos and unlike last year when I was headed to Cajamarca to say good-bye to another volunteer from Peru-9, I attended and really appreciated the beautiful sentiment that comes with a day like this.

A private moment for Mama Antu.

Now we have Memorial Day in the United States, and the month before I came here I made my first trek to the family grave site with my ailing granny and family (including my older sister) to put flowers on our family's gravesites. But really, here in Peru (and maybe most of Latin America) this is a special day set aside to remember those that they have lost. I went with my host sisters Yuli and Yoshina and we met up with my host grandmother, aunts, and uncle in the cementary. We started at the gravesite of my host mom's brother Javier and I watched as my host Aunt Gloria carefully decorated and sprinkled water on the headstone. This took at least 30 minutes. Then we went to my host mom's grandma's site and the same commenced.

My Tia Rosa in front of Javier's grave.

I wish we took things like this more seriously. I really think that this is a celebration of life and way of remembering those that have passed. I think I'll start to take Memorial Day more seriously. I know it's supposed to be about our troops, but I think we should remember all life and what our ancestors have given to us, plus the lessons we have learned thanks to them.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Peace Corps Love Lives

I’ve been meaning to write a blog like this since the first few months at site. I think about all the things that you guys (all five of you that are still reading my blog) would like to learn about, and I have to think that one of the things I would want to know, if I were you, is about relationships in Peace Corps.

The first three months you are saturated with other US citizens, now effectively known as your training class. You learn together, party together, and stress out together. This, for many, is the best opportunity to hook up with another Peace Corps volunteer. There are always attractive parties in any given training class, but obviously like most relationships people connect because of their backgrounds and beliefs. And we’re all thrown together in this crazy experience, so we’re bonded. I have heard RPCVs (Returned Peace Corps Volunteers) say that they were hugely tied to their training class. I’ve met my share of people who met in Peace Corps and got married. Peru-9 hasn’t had many couplings (less than any other training class in Peru), and the ones that are starting to come out of the wood work have taken a long time to mature. I think part of the hold-up is that you could fall for someone in training and then be sent to the other side of this big country for your site assignment. And that is what has happened to others. I know couples that are only “together” when they are physically in the same place. Others have broken up at the end of training. Others just haven’t dated knowing that they would be separated by hundreds of miles of geography. And still others get together in training, break up at the end of training, but end up back together when they get to their sites; no matter how far away those sites happen to lie.

A few do actually manage to start relationships with volunteers in the field. I can’t think of many, if any, relationships across numbers (i.e. an 8-er with a 10-er), but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened and I just don’t know. I do know that once you get to your capital cities eager to start your “official” service, and then you go to your site which is incredibly isolated and lonely, you do start to see the other volunteers in your department through different eyes. I have seen this in my friendships. People that I was barely friends with in training have become some of my best friends based purely off of geography and who I could trust to be in the capital city at the same time I happen to be with a shoulder to cry on or enough soles to split a beer and a pizza (not like in the States – the pizza, that is). People tend to change when they get to site. How can you not when you’re faced with poverty and a life you have never known? And so sometimes volunteers start to meld together, they start to understand each other and develop relationships, again, based on their new background and beliefs. I have not been fortunate to have a relationship like this. I adore the male volunteers in my group, and they’ve become friends and more often than not, obnoxious little brothers – who I love and adore.

I have gone on a few dates with Peruvians. Now the stereotype of Peruvian men (maybe latino men in general) is that they are all machismos, very likely to cheat on their spouses or girlfriends, and who think that being with a gringa (light skinned, light eyes) is another notch on their belt. In other words, we are warned very early to be careful of dating Peruvian men. I’d like to think I’m a good judge of character and that (from time to time) I can see someone’s potential when no one else sees it. At least that’s what my mom always tells me. So I have had the distinct privilege of dating at least three really great Peruvian guys. They have all been very kind, sweet, and just the right amount of romantic (I’m not overly appreciative of romance in general, but I appreciate a guy who “gets me”). They also have a way of helping me with my Spanish. I always learn new vocabulary when I go on dates or meet a guy in a club (or outside one as one of my stories goes).

It would be interesting to do a comparison, but I’m pretty sure that more female PCVs marry Peruvians than male. Recently, I heard about two female Peru-8ers that have gotten engaged. I think another complication of the US Citizen-Peruvian relationship is the where do you live and how do you get them into the United States or find work outside of Peace Corps in Peru. I have heard that it can cost upwards of $2000 to get a Visa to get your Peruvian significant other into the States (and that’s before the plane ticket). This has been a major hold up for me as I’m afraid I’ll be the gringa notch on the belt that then proceeds to help him escape from his life in Peru so he can go the States and leave me. I’ve heard plenty of these kinds of stories as well. Although, I haven’t heard it happen to a Peace Corps Volunteer. Plus, once you get them into the States to start your life together (let’s imagine this is a good guy) then you have to deal with the racism, the looks your significant other would get while trying to learn a new language, and the cultural differences. How would a Peruvian male feel about a wife who could make more money than he does? Do you help said spouse get other family members into the States? Do you continually hope that one day his/her English will get to a place where they can go to school and get a college degree? All these and so many more questions need to get answered before a final decision is made. A number of volunteers have had serious relationships in PC knowing full well that they will break up and leave the significant other behind. This might sound harsher than it really is, but sometimes relationships are unavoidable as is the oncoming break-up.

This, of course, has back-fired from time to time. As relationships with Peruvians in site have caused major drama whether the young lady has said that the PC volunteer is the father of her child or just the gossip that comes with a break up, especially of the local PC celebrity in the community. It can be so extreme that PCVs are removed from their sites or have to deal with incredibly messy break-up situations (like attempted suicides or threats of arson from significant others’ parents). Relationships are always complicated, and I guess we should never enter into them lightly, but in Peru we tread even more cautiously. I currently, am not seeing anyone, but I do still have nine months, and anything can happen (but maybe this statement effectively jinxed it.) I’ll report if there’s anything to tell. I hope all five of you are doing well. You are missed.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Day in the Life...again

A while back I think people asked me to give an update on how I spend my time at site. Now that I've moved to Ancash and have a ton of projects, I think it is again an appropriate time to talk about this topic. Of course, it varies on a day to day basis depending on meetings, classes and travel. But for the most part, here's how it works.

6:00am I wake up. Everyday, no matter what, I'm usually up by this time. Then I usually listen to some music or a podcast or I do a bunch of reading. I try not to do anything before 8 not because I'm not up but because I want some quiet morning time to start my day.
8:00am (this varies) but usually around 8 my host mother calls me to have breakfast which is usually bread and avocado, but sometimes egg. I've tried to adopt a vegan lifestyle as much as possible (I'm really bad at it right now). Lately, I've been buying enough avocado to have a half every morning and to give the rest to my host sisters. This is usually when Mama Antu (my host grandmother) makes her first visit, greeting me with "Buenos Dias Adriana." Even though we remind her, she never seems to remember that there is no 'd' in my name. She usually asks me some kind of health tip; today she wants to know what vitamins she she should buy to get better - she's had a sore throat for weeks. I tell her that she really should be eating her vitamins, and that Vitamin C and E are what she wants and she can find that in oranges, mandarines, and carrots but she complains that they are cold and she shouldn't eat them because they're "cold". Side note: there are a lot of beliefs here that "cold" water and food cause illness. First, if they ever realized that it's not that "cold" and that it doesn't cause sickness, I don't know what they would do - mabe start eating more vegetables. But who am I to argue, I've never seen the studies to know that they are wrong. Regardless, I try to convince Mama Antu that she needs to eat more oranges and mandarins. We'll see.
8:30am - I'm usually headed to the school to teach Quien Soy Yo or a Values Class or something of the sort. Lately on Mondays I've been teaching Gender classes at 8:00am.
10:30/1:30- I head to the health post (on some days) to see if I can meet up with anyone. They have been so busy there lately, I feel more like a nuisance. So I'm hoping that I can find time to work with them after October. Maybe during the summer vacations from school, we'll see.
1:00 - I eat lunch with my family. It's usually rice and beans or something of the sort.
2:00 - I retire to my room to plan lessons, read books or magazines, listen to podcasts (my latest favorite NPR's "Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me!" (Thanks for the rec. Julie), watch a TV show or two.
4:00 - I usually do a half an hour of yoga.
5:30 - I head down to the municipality to teach a two hour computer class (this happens Mondays and Thursdays right now, but we'll see if it expands)
8:00 - I return to eat dinner at my house. This will usually be the first time in the day that I will see my host father. Also, we watch a Mexican Soap Opera called "Victoria" and 9:00pm Megali starts (a Peruvian gossip show that I can't stand - but more on this in a sec.) So around this time I retire to my room to plan lessons, read books or magazines, listen to a podcast, or watch a TV show or movie or maybe listen to music.
10:00pm - I'm usually hitting the hay or going to sleep.

So, that more or less is my day. Sometimes I have more classes and meetings and some days I have nothing. Some days I walk all the way to the school, health post, or city hall only to have to return because my meeting or class has been canceled.

As for Megali, think the TV show "Extra" combined with a show like "Ellen" (I say that only because Megali likes to dance in the opening as well - "Ellen" is a much better show in my opinion). Megali Medina is one of the biggest celebrities in Peru. She reports on all the gossip, but she also is homophobic and the show is kind of in bad taste in general. That being said, Megali was arrested about a week ago which I personally believe is an injustice. Now don't quote me on this, but the Peruvian law structure is very similar to ours and I think that Megali was in her rights even if what she did wasn't for the best of motives. She was arrested last week for taking pictures of a famous Peruvian Futballer (Soccer player) on the sidewalk in Miraflores (which is a really nice part of Lima) with a model. She has evidence that they were together, kissing and hugging. And she got arrested because that soccer player brought chargers against her. Now, I don't support the paparazzi or anything, but from my Journalism law classes (and if the Peruvian law structure is as similar as I think it is) she took the pictures from the sidewalk, and he was doing it in public - which means he has absolutely no grounds to have her arrested or sued. Anyway, we'll see what happens with Megali in the next couple of weeks as she fights for her freedom. But in truth most people believe a huge injustice has happened here and there is a huge abuse of power. I think someone recently told me that they think that government wants her arrested so she'll stop reporting on their private lives as well. What do they have to hide? And like I said earlier, I don't support her, nor am I a big fan of her program, but this is obviously an abuse of power.

That's just the local news.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Yuly's Birthday and Other Cultural Things I Didn't Know

So my older younger sister turned 18, October 1st and here in Peru Birthdays are very important, but mostly an important time for family. So all of my host mom's side of the family gathered to eat cuy and celebrate Yuly's 18th. This date marks the first time I actually found myself sad to think about leaving them in the summer of 2009. I teared up a number of times, but luckily, no one noticed. All in all it was a pretty chill day, but for the record: I love my host family and even my host extended family.

The birthday girl is to the right and my host dad "Papa Julio" to the left. The cuy was good, but not as spicy as normal.

This is my host mom's mom. They call her Mama Antu, and I love her. She's so great. She always says how much she' going to miss me when I leave and she's always checking to see where I'm gonna go. One day I asked her what she thought about having four girls before she had a son and she said, "I think it's pretty great."
Another thing I learned lately is that sheep are not allowed to eat alfalfa because it knots up their stomach. Below are pictures of my host mom and aunt (Tia Rosa) pressing the alfalfa out of the stomach of a sheep that didn't know any better. Notice they are using a sandal. I love Peru!
Never a dull moment in the Peace Corps.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

All about the IST

A scene from one of the final skits from our Theatre IST.
Every Peace Corps group in Peru gets one In-Service Training during their service. Peru 9 Youth Development’s was last week. It was held up in Piura, and yours truly plus two of my good friends from Peru 9 lead and taught it. The IST was about starting a Teen Theatre group in these small communities to talk about social issues. It was a three day workshop taught entirely in Spanish as volunteers were required to bring a Peruvian Community Partner with whom they would start a Teen Theatre group upon returning from the IST.
My Community Partner and I. Elba is so much fun. I'm glad I took her.

I am most proud of the fact that my Spanish managed to hold up, and that I did one of my favorite workshops entirely in Spanish. I'm really proud of our efforts to make it the best IST possible, and we heard that this is the first time PC-Peru has used volunteers to teach the Workshop. So we're very excited that this will be replicated with Peru 11, and that they will have our Peru 11 trainers.
But I think pictures say it best, I mean theatre really is all about action.
Volunteers playing the improv game "Machines".

Jamar and Jah playing props as Peruvian Cumbia Singers in a Music Video.

Ali, Elena, and me the three Volunteer trainers. We had such a good time, really NAILED IT.

All in all, I feel like people had a really good time. I didn't hear a negative comment the entire time, and people who were only doing it to do it, said they learned a lot and are excited to go back to their sites and use it. So I think we should be pretty happy. I think there are ways we can fix it before the Peru 11 IST, but that will come when it comes.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Welcome Back ONW Spanish Students

I just returned from a long week of teaching trainings, and so my brain is mush. But I just wanted to drop a quick post saying that I am doing wonderfully. Both of the trainings (one for WID/GAD and the other an IST about starting a Teen Social Theatre Group) went off without a hitch. I learned a lot and even taught people in Spanish. Teaching in Spanish is both a comfort, as I realized that I can speak a lot more than I think, and a challenge, as I realized I have barely a grasp on the more complex grammatical concepts.

I'll post more on this in my next post when I have pictures and can explain all that we were doing.

But I also wanted to send a big shout out once again to the Olathe Northwest Students from Olathe, Kansas. I'll be responding to your email within the next week. Keep up the hard work, learning Spanish is so worth it, as is travelling to other countries and seeing the world! I highly recommend it. More news to come!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Quien Soy Yo? - Who Am I?

"Quien Soy Yo?" is a program curriculum for children between the ages of 8 and 14 to learn more and develop their own self-esteems. It was created by a Peru-5 volunteer who only recently returned to the States after taking a third year and being a tech trainer for Peru-11. The curriculum uses activities such as personal flag, discussions about the things that make us special, as well as tools that help the children think about their favorite things and what they like about themselves. This has become an important tool for Youth Development volunteers here in Peru. It's a great curriculum that you can just jump into as soon as you get to site whether your Spanish is great or poor. Plus, any teacher, public official, health worker, social service worker, or educated person in Peru will tell you that everyone in Peru needs to have their self-esteem built up.

In the United States we don't really ever think about this. My generation has been practically raised on self-esteem and self-discovery, but it's easy to see the effects that a low self-esteem can have on children or their country. I know that might sound dramatic, but really believe that working with young people and their parents to raise self-esteem would help drop the statistics on alcoholism, familial violence, and poverty. Having a healthy self-esteem not only makes you more confident in yourself but in your ideas and your ability to carry them out. Their is a lot of idea stealing in Peru. If one business sprouts up that is successful, in a matter of weeks you will see five more just like it and right next door. Yet, Peru is country rich in resources and the people I have met have the most untapped potential.

When I arrived in Jangas, I immediately started teaching "Quien Soy Yo?" in two classes of fourth graders. They seem to enjoy the class, and every where I walk I get greeted with a "Buenos Dias, Profesora" and a kiss in the cheek. I already see some of the quieter kids coming out of their shells. And the kids now state with a little more conviction their likes and dislikes. But they're still learning to appreciate themselves and those things that make them special. I'm hoping to rap up this class and move on to something else. I also am looking forward to doing similar curriculums (but slightly different in the older classes).

These are the two teachers that I work with. The top picture is of Prof. Blanca and the bottom is Prof. Rosa. They're great teachers. I'm very impressed with their professionalism and desire to work with me. Plus, their students are pretty well-behaved.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Elections, elections, and more elections

Many people ask if we PC Volunteers keep up with what's going on with the U.S. elections, and the truth is we can be as involved and aware or uninvolved and ignorant as we want to be. I actually watched much of the Democratic National Convention from my hostel room in Lima. And I get email updates about the elections where I could watch the speeches at the Republican National Convention. So I know what's going on. It's not as in my face here, and I do have to do some research, but I appreciate those people or organizations in which I am a member that keep me posted on all the important political and entertainment issues happening around the world.

In this new time of massive globalization I can't really walk down any street in Peru without being asked about the United States elections, and even more specifically I'm often asked about Barak Obama which I think demonstrates that the world is watching us during this election, and people from other parts of the world find Obama intriguing and his nomination as ground breaking and interesting. People rarely ask me about McCain. Sometimes I'm asked about Bush, but more and more people want to know about Obama and if I'll be voting for him. We're not supposed to take a political side being PCVs, and I'm pretty private about that kind of thing anyway. But it has helped me develop some more political vocabulary. And it's a topic that opens up doors to hear their opinions on their own President (Alan Garcia for those of you not paying attention), the Free Trade Agreement between the US and Peru, and their ideas and thoughts about the US. Sometimes where I live, people are a little closed off from stating their opinions and critical thinking isn't really taught in schools here. So I enjoy when my friends or students or co-workers (non-PCVs - because they have no problem stating their opinions) in Jangas talk about their thoughts.

In other news, I have been doing exceptionally well lately. I have been working on my Work Plan for the next four months and the truth is, I'm overwhelmed. I have so many potential projects, all of them are something I'm looking forward to working on, but it's a question of time and whether or not my community partners are excited on working on them. One of my newest frustrations is that I'll set a meeting, show up to meet, and then have to set another meeting because either everyone forgot or are busy or in another activity. So with a few organizations I have had multiple meetings to try to create new projects and activities. It's kind of crazy, but asi es la vida. In the grand scheme, it's such a minor frustration.

More to come...with pictures. I couldn't upload them today.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Reflections of One Year

I actually wrote this post at our one-year-in-country mark, but today we had our one year anniversary IN SITE. Although, technically this is my second site, and I haven't been in Jangas for one year yet. Anyway, enjoy:

At the beginning of June I officially lived in Peru for one year. That year has had its ups and its downs. I have lived in three different locations with three very different families. I loved Yanacoto and my family from training. Loly is still one of my closest friends, even though she now lives in Argentina. I liked, then hated, and finally loved my family in Catilluc. Maybe the greatest lesson of my time in Catilluc is that everyone deserves an extra chance and extra efforts because sometimes those people with all their extra chances just go on to prove themselves to you. And you also then get many chances to prove yourself to other people. On the other hand, I loved my community in Catilluc and then hated it there. During my months in Catilluc I felt like I was being taken advantage of, manipulated, and everyone expected me to do their work or the work they wanted me to do. And on top of it, they felt like they could gossip about me regardless of the truth. Yet, I don’t think I would change my journey to this point.
I am so thankful to be in Ancash. I now have a great and supportive family. They have been beyond kind to me, and they are always ready to share a laugh or at least a smile. Every night at around 6pm, I go to the kitchen to watch and help my host mom cook dinner. At around 8pm, my host sisters roll in from school, and shortly after my host dad drives his combi into the yard, and we eat and watch a Mexican telenovela called “Victoria.” I’m glad that my Spanish is starting to improve because I can actually follow the story-lines. That and I can communicate slightly better with my host family and the people I want to work with. I have a long way to go with my Spanish, but I sure have come a long way from where I started.

In this past year I have learned a lot about Peruvian culture and myself. Here’s a brief list of the things I have learned:

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times – Catilluc and the nine months of growth through challenge has taught me that I can survive anything. But more importantly, I have learned to hold on in bad situations.

Peace Corps makes strange bedfellows – I have become friends with people that I probably wouldn’t have given a second thought to in the United States. This has therefore helped me learn more about myself and open up my mind to new ideas and opinions.

You can poorly speak two languages – my Spanish is no where close to where I need it to be, but now I’m losing my English. Add a little Quechua to the mix, and well…I can barely communicate.
Friends and family back at home are so important – I always knew this, but I have received more support and encouragement from those who have known me and love me than I have at times from PC staff or other Volunteers, although both are supportive in their own right and own ways.

Here’s my checklist of cool things I’ve done this year:

I have danced cumbia, huayno, salsa, meringue, and other dances…very well.

I have danced marinera…very poorly.

I have made friends with people from Peru, US, Argentina, Germany, Italy, Spain, England, Ireland…to name a few.

I have seen Huascaran, the second largest mountain in the Americas.

I have seen the Pacific Ocean from the Southern Hemisphere.

I have become a member of the Women in Development/Gender Analysis and Development Committee.

I have met a person from every Peru group since we re-entered Peru 5 years ago.

I have dated a few really cool Peruvians and a couple of duds.

I have walked among ruins, was rained on in Machu Picchu, and took self-portraits all over Cusco.

I have stared into the deepest canyon in the world.

I have received phone calls and counseled other volunteers in their times of need.

I have found people to call and counsel me when I am in my times of need.

I have attended Catholic Mass and celebrated Catholic celebrations that I had never heard of before.

I have had an egg passed over my body to tell me that I’ve had evil eyes cast upon me…an Andean tradition to identify ailments.

I have missed my friends and family dearly, but have yet to really miss my life in the states.
And maybe most importantly, I have lived, laughed, loved, cried, and survived…maybe even thrived here in Peru.

Thanks for all of your support in this year. I really have less than a year left now.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Final FBT Chapter...Finally

Friday was the big day. The trainees would work with 200 students from Colegio Virgen de Las Mercedes in Jangas in the areas of self-esteem and team building. They decided the day before that they would break up into teams of two with a stronger speaker and weaker speaker as teammates. And the students broke into grade levels and moved around to the different groups. Leanna and Alex did a team over-under game with a ball (I hope you can imagine what I'm talking about). Milene and Kelly did a self-esteem exercised where a box with self-reflective questions on it was passed around the music and when the music stopped the student with the box had to answer one of the questions. Erin and Elizabeth did the spiderweb game where you receive a ball of twine, say your name and something about yourself and then pass it to someone else, keeping part of the twine. When everyone has participated you have a spiderweb with the twine. Jason and Margret did a number of team building exercises like sitting on each other's laps in one big circle. And Kat and Glenn put together a puppet show (in less than 24 hours) about a young girl who learns that beauty is found on the inside not on the outside.

Who knows if the students really enjoyed it, but I was speaking with two of my favorite teachers and they were asking me about using games in their classes. I hope to springboard this into a class for teachers to lean how to use icebreakers and games to teach and review themes in their classes. I've already spoken with my main counterpart at the school and the Directora and they're both on board.

Afterwards, they ate lunch and met a friend of my fellow Peru 9-er Jake's (who lives across the river from me) and heard more about the issues facing the youth of Peru. The trainees said they really learned a lot from this discussion, so I'm really glad that we had this talk in place. The friend did a really good job of highlighting for the trainees all that young people in Peru deal with, their misconceptions about sex, the lack of support and help from the local and national governments, the difficulty getting into and then paying for college, etc. The trainees later stated that it was a real wake up call for them about what exactly they will be dealing with their two years in Peru.

After lunch we went on a tour of Jake's artisan studio. Jake works with ceramicists here in Ancash. He is a Small Business Volunteer, and it was good for the trainees to get to see what he does. Then we followed it up with a conversation about working across cultures. The rest of the night they had free to hang out and do what they pleased, after working so hard that day, they deserved it.

The next day, our final day together, we all became tourists and headed up to this gorgeous glacial lake called Llanganuco. It's a glowing crystal blue, and we all walked around it, and a couple of the trainees even had the courage to jump into the ice cold waters (with bathing suits, of course). We had more sickness on Friday, some people dealing with altitude sickness and some with food that hadn't agreed with them. So not all were present for our little excursion. We then returned to Tarica where they all got packed up and then we headed into Huaraz for them to get to know this gorgeous capital city.

Me and Jake at Llanganuco. Isn't it beautiful? By the way, before you all email me - we're just friends.

When I knew the last combis would be heading out of Huaraz, I said my good-byes and left. They wouldn't leave until 11:00 that night. All in all, I had a great time. I made a bunch of new Peace Corps friends, and I learned that I really like that aspect of training. I would love to be a trainer in the future, but it is all so dependent on schedule and getting the job.

I have since seen the trainees, and as of yesterday, they have been sworn in and are now officially volunteers. They had their big ceremony yesterday. Congrats you guys! I have so enjoyed getting to know you.

And now onto other topics.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Third Installment of the FBT Chronicles

Alright, so after a very long silence, I’m back in Jangas. I want to finish talking about FBT before I post about my thoughts after a year in country, my vacation for Fiestas Patrias, and my time in Lima for our one year med checks and program updates.
I left off with us still in Caraz…
All 14 trainees, 2 volunteers (Vishal and myself), plus the two trainers left Caraz early Wednesday morning to Carhuaz and then we all caught a combi to Shilla, Vishal’s site. A quick note about Vishal: He’s one of my good friends from training. We had the same language class together and we both lived in Yanacoto. So it’s been cool to move to Ancash and to be nearer to him and to Frank, both of whom I rank as really good friends. Shilla is a very small town of around 1,000 people who still speak a lot of Quechua. He has the most amazing view of Huascaran, and the people there are very friendly. They all greeted us as their donkeys passed by carrying food for the guinea pigs. The trainees didn’t get much time to settle in; they quickly threw their stuff down in Vishal’s house and headed directly to the colegio. The night before, as the trainees were planning, they made the decision to split up into two teaching groups based on language ability and those that had the courage to discuss sexuality with a group of 16 and 17 year olds that they didn’t know.
The lower level Spanish speakers taught a Nutrition class, and they did a really good job. They had a great class planned with activities that had the children moving, running, and learning about the four food groups. They used a house as a metaphor for the importance of the food groups, and they had a “check for learning activity” where the children had to find the foods scattered outside and come back to their groups to place their food in the proper place in the food pyramid. The kids really seemed to enjoy this activity. I was impressed with the activities this group chose, and I plan on stealing a few and using them with the kids here. The advanced speakers had the difficult task of giving a charla on sexuality. They used magazines to talk about the images used to portray sexuality. They then talked a little about a definition of sexuality, and then they answered what questions they could about things related to sex and sexuality. This was really just a starter class getting the students amped to work with Vishal more in depth on this particular topic. With this group, I was impressed with their courage to tackle this topic especially in a mountain community – which are known to be a little bit more conservative and closed.
After both groups finished teaching, we settled into the hostel where we ate some lunch and the trainees enjoyed the rabbits hanging out in a lofted caged area. After lunch, Vishal lead us on a hike just outside of Shilla. It was a really beautiful hike with a gorgeous view of the surrounding area and of course Huascaran was just in your face. Maybe the best part is that I spent the entire hike with Isa, the tech trainer (who was one of our language trainers), and we talked about a lot of different things from how training was going to what I would be doing in the future. I really got to know Isa well on the hike, and she tried to talk me into becoming a trainer in the future. The truth is, I would love to, but it all depends on how it all ends here and what I do in the year after I finish. When we returned from the hike, the trainees wrote their first solicitudes (these are important, bureaucratic documents that really are a pain in the ass of any volunteer – they help you get things). They also planned their sessions for the next day. Later that night we ate dinner with Vishal’s family, and many of the volunteers ate their first cuy. The trainees returned and went to bed, and many of them passed a sleepless night because of the cold Ancash night.
The next morning they got up early, ate breakfast, and we headed to Jangas. The trip was very quick and the trainees got settled into their third and final hostel while I headed into Jangas to arrange some last minute details. We re-met around 9:00am and the trainees got to know the colegio where I work. They also got to meet some of my favorite teachers, and they also got their first bump in the road.
I wanted to give them a real-to-life volunteer experience (which means that something would fall through or everything would change) and that’s exactly what we got. Within the first few minutes that we got there, we discovered that the Director of the school needed to change the times for the culminating field day event as the students were preparing for a parade; also, she decided that instead of a few classes doing the field day event on Friday, the whole colegio would participate. This would mean that this group of trainees would work with 200 kids within a two hour period. Luckily, they still had a day to figure it out, but that’s truly what happens. I will often walk in to a class to do one thing and end up needing to prepare myself for something else. Or even more commonly, I get used to having to put off a class because the kids are preparing for a parade.
Even while working through the administrative details for the next day, they still had a class they had to teach. Again they broke up into groups based on Spanish language ability and they taught classes on self-esteem. When they finished with those classes, one of my counterparts (Professora Elba) and I gave them an opportunity to improve their lessons and give the same one again to another class. Both groups took the opportunity and improved their first classes a little bit. I was very proud of them for accepting the challenge, and I know it was a great experience for the students as well.
The rest of that day they either planned for their field day or we took a tour of Jangas. My counterpart, Milton, and some of the youth from the association took them around Jangas and into the Cordiellera Negra to see the view of the Callajon de Hualas. I really enjoyed this part of the trip as I felt like I needed breaks throughout the day from planning and organizing. Plus, it gave me more of an opportunity to get to know the trainees on an individual basis. This has become so long and boring, I think I need to write a Part IV. So forgive me, I’m going to have to post again another day to finish the last two days. I’m somewhat backed up on blogs. I have more things to talk about than I have time to post. More to come!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

FBT Training - BLOG # 2

For a while there it felt like I had nothing to talk about, and now all of the sudden there is a flurry of activity in my Peace Corps service that I want to report about on this blog. I’ll try to divide all of these new topics up into different blog entries in order to give you bite size chunks in the place of one long rant. But let’s start with Field Based Training Peru 11.
As you might or might not remember the first 11 weeks are only training for PCT (Peace Corps Trainees). It is a time to improve your language skills, get a better understanding of your host culture, and to get to know the people who will be spending the next two years and three months with you. Around week six the trainees are sent to different locations around Peru to get their first taste of life as an actual Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV). Because as hard as they might try in training, and as close as they get with the resources they have, there is still a huge gap between what life is like in training and what life is like as an actual PCV. So each training round APCD’s call up groups of volunteers and ask them to prepare a week for a given number of trainees. I received this call the weeks before I left Catilluc.
Monday, July 14th, 10 Youth Development PCTs with one Technical trainer and one Language and Culture trainer arrived in Huaraz tired (from the long and sleepless overnight bus ride), but eager to spend a week outside of Lima walking in the shoes of current PCVs. We immediately exposed them to the 9,000(+) feet difference in altitude to walk to the combi stop that has combis heading to Caraz. It was the first test of whether or not they would hold up to the high altitudes where they would be staying for the next week. In Caraz, they met Frank, a PCV from my training group, he immediately gave them a small, two-hour community analysis for them to go into the community and learn about Caraz and what opportunities there are to do Youth based work based off of information obtained in the community from citizens themselves. This is one of the first small glimpses PCTs receive before entering their communities to do their own community diagnostic.
After lunch, they heard a few words from Frank’s counterpart and a number of the PCVs in Ancash came to do a Volunteer panel. I’m not sure how helpful that particular panel went. A volunteer panel includes volunteers sitting before the trainees fielding any and all questions about PC life. I felt like it was one of the weaker aspects of the week. But if they learned just a little bit then that is a good thing. Also, it gave them a chance to meet some of the Health, Small Business, and Environmental Volunteers.
We put them to work right away. Monday night they discovered that the PCTs would be dividing into two groups and would be teaching a hand washing charla to second graders the next day. The divided up and worked together to plan what elements they would use to teach kids to wash their hands, a big problem in Peru and other developing nations…and sometimes even that person who walks out of the public restroom without washing his/her hands. You all know what I’m talking about. Anyway, they spent a couple hours working on their lessons for the next day and finally got some much sleep that night.
At this time I think it’s important to talk about this group of Trainees and how impressed I was with them. Here in Ancash, we received three male and seven female trainees. In the group, there isn’t one bad one amongst them. I was so pleased at how hard they all worked, and how excited they all are to be here and to get started. And still they are very appreciative of the training they are receiving. At this point a year ago, I was so sick of training and so ready to be a volunteer. But these PCTs all spoke about how they are enjoying training and can’t wait to go back and learn. They also loved the beauty of Ancash and seemed to enjoy their FBT. I can’t even say that there were standouts. At different points throughout the week I felt that each of them stepped up to take over a class or to do something impressive outside of the classes or our interactions with each other. I did have a strong connection with Leanna. She became a friend that I hope to maintain throughout the years. We had so much in common from our love of movies to our understanding of development work. I was impressed with her drive to improve her Spanish, and she motivated me to work on my Spanish again. There have been very few Volunteers that I have had an instant connection with, and I’m really hoping that she gets placed in Ancash so we can go hiking, camping, and get our nails done together (yes, I still have my girly moments).
On Tuesday we stayed in Caraz, one to allow the PCTs to give their charla in one of Frank’s schools, but also to give them more time to plan for their next day in Shilla with PCV Vishal (also from my training group). One day I’ll get a picture up of these all-stars so you can see them for yourselves. Tuesday night we also had a great little barbeque. It was nice to get some casual time with the PCTs to get to know them better, as well as to give them a few minutes throughout the week to chill and not think about working with children. Well, as you might be able to tell, I spent last week with the PCTs so I didn’t do anything at site. I need to plan some lessons so part II will come in a few more days.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Just a little taste of FBT....

So I don't have a lot of time to write. I need to process through this last week. I will say this though. I had an absolutely fabulous time. Peru 11 rocks and they are going to be a great group to work with.

Half of the group giving a charla to a third grade class in Jangas. (r-l. Erin, Kelly, Kat, Jason, and Alex). They did a fabulous job.

Jason and Kat playing human knot with the students at Virgen de las Mercedes in Jangas.

The Young Adult assosciation in Jangas surprised me with roses. They like me! They really like me!

More to come! Plus Fiestas Patrias (Peruvian Independence Day!) is coming up. There will be a lot of picture opportunities again.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

New Trainees New FBT

I'm sorry it has taken me so long to write. With my extended time in Lima and trying to plan Field Based Training (FBT) for 10 Peru-11 youth Development Trainees my time and mental capacity have been limited.

The good news is that Peru 11 will be here on Monday, and I'm very excited to get to know them better and to get to see them in action. Of course, I'm stressed out bcause I've only been here for a couple of months and I'm going to be introducing these trainees to classes I have yet to work with. It's a lot of work to put together a week of FBT, but more than that, I feel like my FBT was really strong. So I of course, want to help these guys have a good FBT as well.

Wish me luck! More to come!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Good-bye Wisdom Tooth...and Peru 7 members of WID/GAaD

They pulled my wisdom tooth. Apparently if you self-medicate long enough, they (the doctor types) see it as important to take action. I self-medicated for nine days, so Washington gave the okay to pull it. And let me tell you, it was the easiest trip to the dentist I have ever had. I was in the chair, he gave me an injection to numb my mouth. I went back out into the lobby to chat with my friend who came along to take care of me. They called me back into the chair and maybe seven minutes later I was holding my wisdom tooth, perfectly intact, between my thumb and my forefinger. I haven't had any pain, bleeding, nothing. I feel great.

With that said, I'll be heading home tomorrow. I'm excited to return. Now that I love my site, I don't like being away for very long. So I'll return on Wednesday.

Our WID/GAaD time was really productive. It will be sad to say good-bye to our Peru 7 members, but I think we'll have a good crew for our future endeavors. The training with Peru 11 went very well. They are a very positive and energetic group. They took the workshop very seriously, and I hope they had as much fun as I did. I look forward to working with them in the field.

It's always really great to get to meet the newbies, although it always signals that we're losing another group. Many in Peru 7 C.O.S. (close of service) August 2nd which means that I'll get to say good-bye to them before they go, but talk about a good group. They will definitely be missed, unless they're taking a third year. And then there are still more memories to be made. Peru 7 showed us the ins and outs of this country and what it means to be a Peace Corps volunteer. They took us to the good restaurants, told us which hostels give PC discounts, and danced the night away with us in the local discoteques. But, I don't want to say good-bye, to those seveners that will be leaving us, too early. I still have a month with a few of them.

But again my time in Lima is coming to a close, and for the first time since I started my service. I can't wait to leave Lima and return to my "home". That's nice. I think it shows that I finally love my job.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Still Normal

I've been having trouble sleeping for the past few weeks. I wasn't sure if it's because we're eating dinner just before I go to sleep every night (usually between 8:30pm-9:30pm), if it's the environmental noise from the roosters who have chosen to crow at 3:00am and every half an hour after that until we're all up and moving, or if it's something else. I've been trying to wear earplugs, but that didn't help. So last night, I grabbed my new sleeping bag (thanks Katie) and I climbed in and didn't wake up until 7:15am. It was so nice. Although I think I woke up briefly in the middle of the morning (probably a rooster), I managed to fall back asleep immediately so it doesn't feel like I woke up at all. Ironically, I'm more tired today than I have been on nights when I didn't sleep very well.

I also am having a wisdom tooth problem. My upper right has decided to grow in with a vengeance (I know, I know you're asking yourself - "at her age!") but regardless it's the most painful wisdom tooth I've had to date. I'm not sure if Peace Corps will pull it or not, that decision lies in the hands of some dentist who reviews cases like mine in Washington. I could of course always just go to a dentist here to pull it without PC permission, but I doubt I would take that kind of risk. My former host mom in Catilluc had tooth pain, went in and pulled one, and then lost six more or something. She's 29 and doesn't have any of her upper front teeth. Not a good option.

I head to Lima this week. I'll be going to training (Peru 11 is here) with WID/GAAD (Women in Development/Gender Analysis and Development) to talk about gender specific issues that we face as volunteers here in Peru. I'll report more on it when I get to Lima on Thursday.

All in all, things are still good. I've started teaching self-esteem charlas to 4th graders, and they now all stop me on the street or in the school to greet me or give me a kiss on the cheek (a common greeting in Latin America). It's nice to be appreciated. PC has also sent some seeds to help start my single mother's garden project. Now, if only I could get the regiadores on board with me, but they've been busy travelling lately. I'm also trying to get tutoria up and running, so I can start teaching values and other important themes in the secondary school. I can't seem to get the teachers on board with me in this project, which has been slightly discouraging. But that's normal. I'll resume my efforts on this when I return from Lima.

So, just a quick update. I'll post more pictures soon. Take care!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Things are too normal

Well, life has fallen into the normal pattern. You know when you get to a place where you don't even know what's exciting anymore because everything is the same ol, same ol. So, until I have a cool story to tell or more fun information, here are a few more pics from my time in Ancash.

This is the Plaza de armas en Carhuaz which is just north of my site. I've been very impressed with Ancash's Plazas and Catholic churches. Even with the destruction caused by the 1970's earthquake they've managed to really create some cool architectural stuff in their towns and cities. Huaraz might be the only exception, but it still has some cool stuff going on here as well. The plaza fountain does a color show at night.
Mama Gi and her cocina mejorada, so I'm not smoked out of the kitchen every night. She's not a great cook, but she's very sweet. She knows I'm not a big fan of white rice so whenever she makes it for the family she makes fried rice for me. I hope to start cooking for them soon, who knows if they'll like my crazy recipes, but we'll find out soon enough. Gi is very busy and she has talked to me about cooking on the nights that she is off in the field working. I might take her up on that. But only if I can cook the stuff I want.

My first regional meeting we took a hike up to Lake Churup. It was quite the hike and I was out of shape and lagging far behind my Ancash colleagues, but here's the picture to prove I got there. Not a bad view right.
Well, hopefully more to come. I did get my haircut today and a manicure too. Sometimes I can't believe I'm in the Peace Corps.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Family Time

I don't really hve much new to add. I am loving Ancash, and I'm very happy in my new site. Here's a couple more photos:

There was an Parade to Raise Awareness about the Environment. It was really cool to see all of the kids in their traditional dress and signs in Quechua.

Also, here's a pick of my family (l-r) Julio, Yoshi, July, and Gi. We have a lot of fun together.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

In Memory

Today is the 38th anniversary of one of the greatest tragedies to befall the people of Ancash. On May 31st, 1970 a 7.9 to 8.0 earthquake hit Ancash. Just last August I experienced a 7.9 earthquake that originated in the department of Ica, south of Lima, and it was a little scary. The problem with this earthquake in Ancash was that in the 1970’s the infrastructure of Ancash wasn’t prepared for the damage this would cause. It devastated Huaraz wiping out nearly 80-90% of the city. Many people died. But the tragedy also managed to annihilate an entire pueblo. 17,000 people were killed when a chunk of ice broke off of Huascaran and caused an avalanche and landslide that wiped out Yunguy killing the entire population except for 400. A small group of youth that were off performing a play or watching a circus (depending on the source) in another town, and were spared, but their families weren’t. Yunguy is only 45 minutes away from Jangas. In total 47,000 people died in the department of Ancash with estimates upwards to 66,000. Picture of the wrecking from

My host father, Julio, remembers the earthquake well. He was seven years old. He told me that he was sweeping the floor of his house, while his older brother was cleaning dishes, and his younger two-year old brother was playing nearby. Julio said it started as loud sound, and then the earth started to rock, then shake, and finally the ground would open up and then close again. He and his three brothers ran outside to an area where there weren’t any trees or walls that would fall on them, and they watched the walls of the mud houses around them tumble a little bit. But thankfully because the strong structure of the adobe houses, there wasn’t much devastation in Jangas. Julio told me that very few died here. Huaraz on the other hand looked like a wrecking ball had gotten loose. I recently saw an amateur video taken of the carnage; there were walls, windows, and dead bodies everywhere. Yunguy was nothing but a mud slab.

This picture is from You can kind of see where Yunguy formerly resided.

The new National Park of Old Yunguy. (There is a new town of Yunguy).

I recently visited Old Yunguy which is now a National Park. It is a flower garden with a few memories of what was left after the earthquake finished. The only thing that survived intact was a white statue of Jesus that was located in the Plaza de Armas. That statue currently resides over the cemetery looking out over the expanse that was the former Yunguy.
I can’t describe how sad I felt walking through Old Yunguy knowing that thousands of people were buried beneath my feet, families, young children, communities, and entire city all gone in a few moments. The death-toll amounts to 16 Sept 11ths or the entire city of Wilson, North Carolina being wiped off the face of the planet. Coincidentally, almost 10 years to the day Mount Saint Helen’s erupted on May 18th, 1980 killing 57 people and a number of animals. Recently, some volunteers were told that there is a prediction that another big one is going to hit Ancash this year. Here’s hoping this prediction proves to be false.
Here I am in the National Park in Former Yunguy.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The New Life, The Good Life

My new room with a REAL lemon tree (right).

I really like Jangas.

I've only started my second week, but I'm already doing so much work. I'm meeting with so many people and we're starting new projects. In a few weeks, I will have easily surpassed the amount of work I did my entire time in Catilluc. I went to a meeting of the Asociacion Cultural de Jovenes - Jangas (my primary project), and instead of people just sitting around looking at me for answers or ideas, they actually had ideas. So I'll be starting an English class this Thursday.

Now teaching English is a big debate in not only Peace Corps, but in the Development Work Community. There are many pros and cons for teaching English. I usually err on the side of not teaching it, because it makes me feel like I'm forcing my culture on them. Although I guess if they ask and I don't teach it, I'm also asserting some kind of power of control. In the long run, I feel better about teaching it in Ancash than Catilluc because I feel like it is more useful here. There is much more tourism in Ancash, and Jangas is so close to Huaraz and Huascaran that them learning English might help them find jobs. And if English can give them a better life, I guess I need to suck it up and learn how to teach English.

My new bed in my new bedroom in Jangas.

Last night my counterpart called and said that one of the Regiadors (advisers, city council member type-people) would like me to teach a class on Parenting. It's pretty cool when they are asking you to teach classes that you hadn't really thought about yet. So I'll meet with him tonight to see if I can be of some kind of service in this area. More and more projects, more and more opportunities.

Of course, I still need to work on my Community Diagnostic Study, which will help me understand and learn more about the community where I know live and work. I guess that will happen when it happens.

More pictures and stories to come.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Pics for Jangas

Finally, I am able to post some pics of Jangas, Ancash. This is a view from a neighboring hill.
To the left of that hill in the background is Huascaran, but this wasn't a very clear day. I hope to go out in the next couple of weeks and get a good shot. It's really beautiful here right now. It's bright, sunny days and lately it's been clear enough to see Huascaran, although I think I need to go down the road a little to get a good picture.

Yeah, I live here now. It's so beautiful. I feel very lucky. And even though it's only been about a week, I really like it here. I was even feeling a little under the weather yesterday and still found myself thankful for my family (that pumped me so full of natural home remedies for my different symptoms) and my new room.
I had a meeting on Friday with the four communication teachers, and it looks like we're going to start a Journalism club. Who knew? I haven't been a practicing Journalist since 2002. This should be interesting. But I guess it's a whole new vocabulary. And I will be working with the communication teachers so maybe they can help me improve my Spanish. It's better, but I've somewhat stalled and now would like to take it to the next level. There are some other potential options for work as well, like self-esteem classes in the primary school, computer classes, and tutoria (which is like a potlach class where I can teach healthy lifestyle and money management classes).

My first meeting with my primary project is tonight. I'll be watching another volunteer give a talk on business, which I am very excited to learn about as well as meet the other members of the Young Adult Association. After Ryan (the volunteer teaching tonight) finishes with his classes we're going to move into learning traditional dances. And after we're going to do some environmental projects.
I've been here just under a week, and I already feel like I've been here for a year.
I LOVE ANCASH! And as the other volunteers in this department say, "Ancash is better."