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.