Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Finally, we're talking about...sustainability

It feels like my life has taken on somewhat of a comfortable continuity, except that the internet isn’t working so I haven’t been able to check my email in a number of days or update my blog. I would be frustrated by this if I actually felt like I had something to write about, but lately it’s been the same ol’, same ol’. Yet something fantastic happened the other day. During a cancelled meeting, five members of the CAID committee and I met and talked about the future goals of the CAID. Now I didn’t set these goals, but surprise of all surprises…one of the main goals is sustainability. Apparently, they have been listening, and many people had ideas about how to accomplish this. I am so excited. My work is not in vain.

Now it’s never easy to take a step back and let someone else be in charge of everything, but I’m learning to give up me ego in that respect. During my courses last year, we spoke frequently on the importance of an international volunteer learning to be second in the eyes of the people they help. Especially if that volunteer will only be in that country for a short time. This can be difficult for a control freak like me, but I’ll take it over the crazy thought that as a volunteer from another country I should be doing all the work and assuming all the responsibility of a foreign institution.

On a personal note, I haven’t seen my host mom since before Christmas. There’s a lot of gossip around town that her and my host dad have split up. I don’t know that I believe that. I also haven’t seen my host dad in over a week. I leave for Cajamarca to attend a wedding on Thursday. One of the workers at the Health Center is getting married after being in a civil union for over 11 years. I am very excited for her. Also, coming up is the big, huge pre-Lent festival…Carnaval! More details on that soon.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Life is Better in Catilluc...sorry to worry you.

So, I know that was quite the cliffhanger I left you with the last time I posted, and I’m sorry about the infrequency of blogs, but Internet has been touch and go in Catilluc as of late. I don’t have constant access like I do when school is in session.

But the good news is that everything is better. I really love my time in Catilluc. I’m either more able to handle the situation or the gossip has died down. Either way, I am the happiest I’ve been since I came to Catilluc. I feel like I’m starting to develop some great friendships. At the top of the list is my next-door neighbor, Rosa. She’s been such an asset and advocate for me. I have been spending more and more time with her family, so much so that I call her mom, “Mama Casilda.” And now that I’m starting to speak proficiently and making connections in the community, I have begun to figure out who is part of Rosa’s/my extended family, and we jokingly refer to each other as aunt or niece or whatever. It makes me feel like I’m starting to become part of the community.

Of course, I’m moving and so preparations are under way to move into my friend Marly’s house. I’m excited and nervous about the move. I am excited to leave my current situation, as I really have no idea what is going on with my host parents. They seem to be having problems, but it’s not like they would talk to me about it. In fact, the other day when Maximo returned home he went into his room and cried. I only know this because his four year old soon was in the common room and he whispered it to me. And both of my parents are gone. I haven’t seen my host mom since before Christmas. And Maximo tends to be a little passive-aggressive, and in a culture where that is already fairly prevalent, this is a hard thing to handle. I feel like my next family will be much more direct with me about how I’m doing. Yet, I don’t have any furniture and they don’t have a door or glass on their window. So, I’m still waiting until I can move in.

I’ve been opening the CAID everyday, but I do feel like there is other work I would like to do. I feel like I would much rather work with teenagers than the pre-teens and children that tend to show up at the CAID all the time. I’m not sure how to get more teens to come without isolating the youngsters, but I know I’m much happier working with the older group. Plus, I feel like a lot of the work is on hold until school starts again in March. But I have a number of ideas in which to work in the secondary school.

Here’s an update of pictures as well. Take care.

Dancing with the Prof. Antenor at the primary school promotion.

My siblings from training lighting up firecrackers at midnight on Navidad.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The long overdue Christmas and New Year update

So here’s the much-promised update from the last few weeks:

Christmas was awesome. I am so glad that I chose to spend it with my family from training as I know, love and miss them very much. Loly and the girls will be leaving at the end of January to move to Argentina. We spent three days hanging out together. Loly even went with me to get my haircut, as there are many rumors from Peace Corps volunteers of hairstylists in Peru cutting off way too much hair. No one really noticed that I even had a haircut so I don’t think that this stylist cut off too much. Christmas in Peru is very different from Christmas in the States. First of all, you barely know it’s Christmas. There isn’t a lot of advertisement or stores filled to the brims with holiday decorations. Also, Peruvians mostly celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve (Buena Noche). They all stay up and ring in the Christmas day at midnight. Papa Noel visits the home and places presents next to the nativity scene for all of the children, usually about one present each. Adults toast the day with champagne and they light fireworks and sparklers to announce the birth of Christ, then the children put the missing baby Jesus into the nativity. Some Peruvians have a Christmas tree, but all Peruvians have a nativity. And the tradition is that at midnight on Christmas morning baby Jesus is put in the manger. Then families either eat turkey or sometimes chicken as well as a midnight meal with more champagne. It was really beautiful and simple. I hope to carry some of these traditions into the US with me, as I really appreciate the significance and low emphasis on materialism.

New Year’s also has a number of new traditions. First, for luck you can wear new yellow underwear to ring in the New Year. Also, when the toll strikes midnight of the New Year you can eat 12 grapes for good luck, or if you want to travel you can take your suitcase and run around the plaza (every town or city has a plaza). Also, there are a lot of fireworks and champagne drinking. Oh, and you can burn a dummy full of straw to burn all the bad from last year and start the New Year fresh. Allegedly in the outskirts of most cities there are big fires with big dummies. I didn’t really get to see that as I was in the center of town.

As for the work, I’m learning a lot about how you can really offend in a culture that you don’t know or understand. I’m also learning how important it is to have friends who explain stuff to you. Almost three weeks ago, I had a big discussion with my committee where they attacked my method for working with the CAID, but they did it in a very personal way. I now realize that there is a lot of jealousy on the committee. I hadn’t realized how jealous these people are of me, and I’m not really sure what to do with it. Anyway, when in this meeting I felt attacked and like I was going to offend, I excused myself from the meeting and left. Well, apparently, I did it all wrong, because the few committee members present wrote a document to give to the head of the Health Center saying really mean and personal things. The thing about writing documents in this culture is that first, I didn’t know I had offended anyone and no one took the time to explain it to me before they decided to write me up, and second, they don’t talk about the document. So, in other words I was in trouble without knowing I was in trouble. This has been a very difficult week, as I feel very betrayed by the people who were supposed to support me and help me navigate the Peruvian system. I have found out that the jealousy of these people is so strong they would rather kick me out of the CAID (also because they want me to do all the work, and don’t like that I am insisting upon their assistance) rather than try to work out how we can work together.

At a recent CAID committee meeting the committee voted to keep me, but now I’m not so sure I want to stay. There are certainly a number of other projects I would love to work on, and sometimes I see the CAID as a sinking ship. The committee can’t get out of their own ways, a few members of the committee are too busy judging and attacking me and my personal choices. It’s really frustrating to be such a public figure. It’s even more frustrating to work with people who don’t understand me and haven’t taken anytime to get to know me. I am working really hard to not do the same thing, but I am definitely hurt by their actions lately (not all of them just a handful). Of course one of the ringleaders is my host father who has been spreading untrue gossip about me in the community. I can’t wait to move out, but don’t have any options at this point. This is a really uncomfortable situation. Hopefully when I move things will get better. I love many people in this community and I think they are really neat people so I’m hoping to continue to grow in my love for Catilluc, and little by little I think I can forgive the committee members.

Luckily, it’s a New Year and I’m ready for a new start. I am happier than this blog post probably suggests. I certainly am starting to discover who are my friends and who aren’t in the community. And little by little I feel like my Spanish is improving. So, I am learning to take the good with the bad and not overly generalize a complex situation. Pretty good lesson for the New Year.

Currently, I'm having email problems, I'll just have to send the photos in one big update when I'm in Cajamarca.