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."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Good Start

So I'm here. Well, I'm there. Because I have to use Internet in Huaraz in order to stay in communication. Although you might notice my new address in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. I'm currently having some difficulties putting pictures of Jangas on my blog. So they might have to wait.

Here's the latest information:

I adore my family. I have a host mother and a host father. My host father, Julio, drives a combi (small bus like thing) and my mom, Gi, is mostly a house wife, but she sells cuyes (guinea pigs) and tends a garden. I have two younger sisters. One is named July (pronounced Julie) she is 17 and is studying to be an executive assistant, although she really wants to be a police officer. We're talking about running in the mornings, even though we both talk about loving our sleep. My younger sister just tuned 16 and she is finishing up her last year in secondary school. Her name is Yoshina but we just call her Yoshi. She is so sweet. They have all been so kind to me thus far. Especially my mom who tries so hard to cook meals that I will like. I became a vegetarian in Catilluc, so I realize that cooking for me now is no easy process. I try to be accommodating, but I've managed to lose 15 pounds that I so desperately needed to lose. So, I don't really want to go back to eating too much meat and dairy products.

The main difference between my work in Jangas as compared to my work in Catilluc is that already (day two) I have two potential clubs/classes. In Catilluc it was like pulling teeth to get anyone to work with me. On Friday I meet with a teacher in the local colegio to talk about starting or helping with a Journalism club. As you may or may not know, my Bachelor's degree is in Journalism. So I'm really excited to see if I can be of any service in this area. I also met with a very excited woman who teaches the computer classes. I'll be sitting in on her classes on Monday to see if I can bring anything to the table to help out. My main counterpart agencies have already expressed interest in working in theater and dance, environmental causes, as well as helping the teachers in the local school with computers, and other areas.

My counterpart, Milton, has been such a huge help. He is the President of a Young Adult Association. They do many things in the community like recycling, teaching about nutrition, and they will be my main support during my next year in Jangas. I am so excited to work with them. Currently, they're working with a third-year business volunteer who is teaching them about small business design and application. After he finishes his workshop, we'll start dance classes which I am really excited about. I have wanted to learn how to do more the traditional dances while I am here. After the danza (dance) workshops we'll work on a campaign to teach people about the proper way to burn trash. Apparently, there is a big day where everyone burns their garbage but they include things like plastic bags and other toxins which really aren't great for the environment. It's so hard to believe I have a support system of young people who are excited about getting into the community and making a difference.

I wish these pictures would load, but I just might try again later. Until then...

Monday, May 12, 2008

A New Start…Welcome to Jangas, Ancash

Although at this point I’ve only spent about three hours at my new site, Jangas [hongus]. Jangas is a beautiful site. Nestled between the Cordillera Blanca and the Cordillera Negra. I have a great view of Huascaran, the second largest mountain in the Americas, and the second highest mountain range (the Andes) in the world. I am feeling a little bit more positive than I was in Cajamarca. I guess that’s just a fresh start. I’m very wary after the last eight and a half months in Catilluc of the people, the work, and of course the expectations on me. And I’m very worried that my next year will be as unsuccessful as my first. So I keep plugging away, hoping that eventually excitement will come over me that makes me love this job.

Yet, Huaraz is amazing. There are great restaurants here. And in general I like the feel. Jangas is only about 20 minutes away from Huaraz, so my local market and internet are here in Huaraz. It’s also only a sol or a sol fifty to get to and from Huaraz and Jangas. It reminds me of training when we used to have to grab a combi every morning to get to the training center. I don’t plan on being here every morning, but it will be nice to sit in a coffee shop and use the wireless internet. Can you believe I’m in Peace Corps? Some days, I can’t.

Speaking of training, Peru 11 will be arriving June 6th I believe. They will be another group of Small Business and Youth Development trainees and then volunteers. I will be heading down to Lima to give a talk with the Women in Development/Gender and Development committee. We do a quick training session on gender problems that could come up during one’s service in Peru.

But today, I’m just feeling nervous. I want this new start to be the Peace Corps service that I hoped for. And maybe my expectations are misplaced, but hopefully, I can modify those as I go. Or maybe that was my downfall in Catilluc. But live and learn, right?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Last Days in Catilluc

Surprisingly, my last day in Catilluc was much harder than I expected it to be. I expected to pack up, give a couple of hugs and run out the door into the car that would take me swiftly to Cajamarca. Instead, I realized that there were many people who I owed a personal good-bye, as well as, many people of whom I didn't yet have photos. There were a couple of times when I was near tears as I said my good-byes but held it together like Scarlett O'Hara promising myself that I could cry tomorrow. I made a personal list of the five people/families that I would miss, and I'll share it here with you (including photos).

1. My family: We started off very rocky, and my host mom tended to be absent more than she was present, but it's not how you's how you end. And we ended very well. Our last few dinners together we sang songs, told jokes and funny stories, and it was just like what I wanted the whole time. So, I will definitely miss my family, but even more, I'll miss my host mom. She's such a free spirit, and I really hope that she gets her life figured out.

This is the gorgeous quilt my mom made for me, with my family.

2. The Doctor - he was a great guy. He was always very supportive, and he always had a good joke. He was there when I needed to talk about stuff, although I think he was frustrated that I didn't share enough. I really adored his wife and two young daughters as well.

Doctor Ademar and me in front of the Health Center. There's currently a campaign against Hepatitis B.

3. David and Ester and family - David's a sociologist and Ester's not from Catilluc which explains why they seemed to be the only two people at times that "got me" when I lived there. Saying good-bye to them was especially hard. I teared up a number of times. David even joked, when we took a picture together that he was going to tell all of his friends that I was his girlfriend from the US, and I told him that I was going to tell all my friends that he was my boyfriend in Peru. We always had so much fun together.

Here we are in their house with their four children.

4. Professor Edith - she is a science teacher and I met her because I sat in on a number of her English classes (just like in the states, sometimes teacher's are forced to teach things they aren't necessarily qualified for). She was the closest thing I had to a girlfriend, but I have a lot of regrets with Edith because I really wanted to get to know her better. She was gone for vacations during my hardest months.

This is a horrible picture, and we had obviously both been a little teary. My nose gets red when I cry.

5. Last, but definitely not least, Mama Casilda. You guys have seen her picture. I love this woman. She is so campo (from the country), I can't understand half of what she says, but she has adopted me and taken me in like I was her on. I feel lucky to have her in my life, and I will miss her so, so much.

Mama Casilda. I might have posted this picture already, but it's my most recent.

So there you have. I had a massage today, and I let go of all the horrible times in Catilluc. I now leave tomorrow to head to my new site in Ancash. I am so nervous, but incredibly excited.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

And Finally...The Big News

So, I'm finally ready to announce that after much debate, many long months, and a lot of crying, that Peace Corps has decided to move me out of Catilluc and to a new site in a different department. This decision has come after the awful meeting a few months ago with a few of the members of my committee, plus the constant rehashing of this awful event by community members, and the inability for the people of my site to communicated with me like adults. To explain, things have been difficult at site. And then it gets better. And then another bomb will drop and things will be difficult again. And then I'll find something else to love about Catilluc again, only to hear another lie about me in the community. The amazing thing is that I'm not much of a gossip, but I keep hearing all of these things that I have said out of context, blown out of proportion, or a complete falacy.
I've actually known for about five months now that Peace Corps wanted to move me, but it was in March when they made the final decision and I stopped holding out and decided to submit to their decision. I am sad, but not that sad. There will be people I miss in Catilluc, but they're not the people I thought. Now that things are better with my family, I will miss them a lot. I will miss Mama Casilda and some of the teachers.
My little brother Fran, my host mom Yobani, and me in a milk truck on our way to Cajamarca.

But I will not miss the gossip, learning about another thing I had done wrong two months after the fact. I will not miss my counterpart who has been a huge gossip and not much of an advocate. I've also told everyone I'm going to Tumbes, rather than telling them I'm headed to the beautiful department of Ancash. I will still be living in the Andes, and I will still live in a small town, alhough this one is four time the size of Catilluc.

Let's just say I feel a huge relief, and I'm ready for my service to get started on a more positive note. I'll tell you more about my new site when I get there.

My younger siter Ailyn and me in her classroom at school.