Monday, September 28, 2009

My Final Post

Well, I'm back. In the U.S. that is, and the truth is, well, I love it. And seeing as I'm no longer there, I feel that I am no longer discovering Peru. So I'm going to type up a quick, I'm-back-and-this-is-what-I-now-know-or-think-I-know-or-I-guess I have discovered about Peru.

My first stop in the "Ari's back" tour began in Missoula, Montana where I spent three and a half fun filled days with a few of my friends, former co-workers, and taking in the sites and sounds of one of my favorite little cities in the world. I ate at all my favorite restaurants and always with my favorite people. I even got to visit the new cohort for IYFD, and I think they're an amazing group of people. I stayed with Amber one of my best friends, and two of my close girlfriends made a 5 hour trip to see me for a total of about 8 hours (part of that sleeping, most of it talking). I visited my all-time favorite professor, and one of the members of my IYFD cohort (I miss them all dearly, it was just nice that Anna could come and visit). And I saw a ton of MCT (my former company) and visited with one of my friends who I have known since childhood. She's got a baby now!

I was so content being home. I then spent about six days with my parents. I did another little presentation for a class in my dad's new school district. It was interesting just rattling off information about my time there and trying to make it interesting for a group of teenagers. So I talked less about my work and more about how totally cool Peru is when you travel around and really dive into all that she has to offer.

After my brief trip to Oregon, I moved to Arizona! That's right folks. I'm living here in the desert, and I LOVE IT! It's so warm and beautiful all the time. I don't have a job yet, and I'm putting all my eggs in this basket. My driver's license says Arizona and all my accounts etc. are down here now. So here's hoping for a great job!

At the Diamondbacks game my first days in Arizona, of course, with a cold brew.

Well, back to the promised "lessons learned" section.

Here is what I learned discovering Peru:

1. Friends don't necessarily have to have the same interests, abilities, talents, political/religious views, or even speak the same language. Friends are the people who are there to offer you part of themselves even under the most difficult of circumstances.

2. Guinea pig is a tasty, but labor intensive food. Regardless, Peru has a lot to offer in wonderful gastronomy. (Is that the right word?)

3. Peru is a diverse country with different types of people and soils. The jungle grows cotton, while the Mountains grow potatoes, while the coast produces rice and bananas (to name a few of the many wonderful things grown in this amazing place).

4. Peruvian people do not trust very easily or quickly, but once they do you have a friend or friends for life.

5. The Peruvian school system needs a lot of help.

6. BUT good teachers do exist and do offer their students a quality education if only in the subject matter the teacher teaches.

7. Lima is not the best place to visit when traveling in Peru, and if it's the only place you go, I question your reason for living.

8. Starbucks is better in Peru.

9. But if you want something really great, go to California Cafe or Cafe Andino in Huaraz, Ancash. Heck, Ancash is just better, period.

The awesome Peace Corps crew from Ancash about a month before I left. Some of them are still there, some of them are not.

10. There is more to Peru than Manchu Picchu, and if you've been, I can guarantee you that your guide lied to you...a lot.

If I think of more, I probably won't post them, but if I start a new blog, I'll make sure everyone gets the memo so you can follow along wherever I land. Also, if you could be sending prayers and positive thoughts for me, I'd appreciate it. Especially now as I look for a great follow-up job to my Peace Corps experience. Peace Corps really was the hardest job I ever loved and one of the best decisions I ever made, but more importantly I'll never have to start a sentence with "I should've..."

Thanks for following me as I discovered Peru. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Peace.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


So absolutely loving my time in Argentina. I'm just about to travel to Chile for a few days, but I'll be back. So here are some pictures from the first part of my trip. The following are some pictures of Loly and I at different places around Buenos Aires. For those of you who don't remember, Loly was my host mom from training, and now she lives in beautful Buenos Aires.

In Tigre, where I did my souvenouir shopping.
At the world famous botanical gardens, so peaceful.
The Eva Peron museum near the botanical gardens.
The combination of my two favorite things books and theatre! El Ataneo in downtown Buenos Aires.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Now, officially, a RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer)

I know the title is mis-leading. I haven't really returned from anything, yet. I'm headed off on two glorious weeks of fun and travel to Argentina and Chile. But today I C.O.S.-ed (yes, we do make verbs out of everything). So I Closed my Service.

And I left Jangas with many tears. I saw both of my host parents cry for the first time. I held my host sister, Yuli as she sobbed uncontrollably at the bus station. I gave my boyfriend (now ex-boyfriend as we decided we couldn't make it work long distance) a quick kiss and got on the bus to Lima. I sat down on the bus and probably very awkardly scared the poor woman to my left as I cried silent tears as the bus pulled out. I smiled for a second as I saw my host sister and boyfriend standing on the corner waving good-bye to me one last time, I blew them a kiss and turned away as the tears started to fall - hard.

August 4th was by far the most difficult day of my service. I can't believe my two years are up. I can't believe that the life that has become so normal is now about to change to become like a dream. The phrase I heard the most in the last week was "no nos olivides" (don't forget us) and as I promised each person time and time again that I would never forget them, I realized they knew I wouldn't forget them, but that they were asking me, in their way, to return one day. And I absolutely plan on doing everything in my power to do just that.

So, I thank you faithful readers. I don't think this will be my last post as I have so many pictures to post, and maybe more stories to tell as they come back to me, but I am no longer an "official" PCV. And I'm crying a little bit just thinking about it. I'll try my best to write over the next couple of weeks, but I can't make any promises as I will be jumping from place to place. But maybe I'll have some time and some funny stories to tell. Until then..."no me olvides."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Long Time No Write

I didn't mean to go on a month long hiatus. But with the end of my service coming quickly, finding things to write about and time to write about them have been very difficult. So I hope you will all forgive me as this blog will just be a collection of photos. I will try to get a good in-depth blog up before the end of my service (only a week and a half left), but if not...thanks for following me as I spent two years and three months discovering Peru.

Two of my students working on their "typical foods" presentation in English class.

Same class, other students. Not an impressive pic.

At the Pacasmayo Marathon, I was only a judge, but here I am giving a high-five to my good friend Bron as she was at km 7 of a half-marathon.

My family took a trip to the Chavin ruin. Here we are in front of the bridge that connects one side of Ancash to the other side.

I took a quick visit to my friend Jason's site with a good friend of mine from Jangas. We walked to the Cave of Gibberish, and I had a really good time.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Plans for life after Peace Corps

This question has been in the cue for awhile, but like all people that have no idea what they're doing with their life, I procrastinated. So here's the plan as I know it. I plan on spending my birthday in Jangas. I also plan on spending the day after in Jangas (because who wants to travel on an overnight bus on their birthday - not me). So my last official day as a Peace Corps volunteer in Peru will be August 5th. The next day I plan on traveling to Argentina to visit my host mom from training. Loly now lives in Buenos Aires, and I can't wait to see her again, meet my host dad for the first time, and see my little sisters who are probably all grown up two years later. I have to admit, I am very nervous to travel by myself, and I just read about how H1N1 is hitting Argentina and that's not helping to calm me any. Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those people who thinks that it's as easy to get as many think, but I will for the first time since...well, I don't know...will be without consistent health care.

After approximately a week in Buenos Aires, I plan on traveling to Igazoo Falls, Mendoza, and Santiago, Chile. Right now, it's all tentative and I don't have a firm plan yet. Which means I will finally be testing my Myers-Briggs profile to see if I actually am a thinking or a feeling person. (Travel was the analogy used by the first person who helped me try to figure out my M-B, and in case you're wondering I still don't know).

I found a pretty cheap round-trip ticket, and so I will fly back to Lima on the 24th of August and leave that evening to return to the States. I should be landed in Missoula at approximately 4:00pm. And yes, I am very excited to see all my friends there again. So, Missou crew, let me know if we can get together any time on the 26th or 27th, because on the 28th my dad will pick me up, and we'll head to Oregon in order to give my Mom a big hug.

I'm not sure how long I'll stay in Oregon, but eventually I plan on moving to Arizona. This is actually another long story that I should probably save for another day. And the truth is, knowing me (and I do) life happens and my plans will change. Probably more than once.

Friday, June 5, 2009

So Much to Say

...but I won't be doing it in this post.

Instead, I want to share something that I thought was kind of cool. Over the past week my host mom has been harvesting quinoa - the super food, we're starting to hear so much about in the States. Well, it is grown here in Peru, and it's pretty cool.

It's very nice to see your food go directly from the field to the table. It makes one feel connected to what they eat. I recommend everyone grow a small herb garden or vegetable garden. I guess just one of those things I learned in the Peace Corps (well, and from my family...but I'm not blogging about that).

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Selva Start

You can't really see it in this photo, but this restaurant is called "Ari's Burger". The first time I've ever seen a restaurant with my name.

WATCH OUT! I'm driving the boat that took us to Iquitos.

We took a four day canoe trip into the Amazon Jungle. It was so gorgeous. That's Bailey in

It's been a long time since I climbed a tree. I believe this one is over a 100 years old.

This was one of the bathrooms during our trip. We tried to take pictures of all our bathrooms. This one was literally a wood box with a hole where the excrement dropped straight into the river. Obviously had to take a picture.

This is me with a sloth. How cool?

Well, the jungle was definitely one of the best trips I've taken while in Peru. As you can see from the sunset, it was absolutely gorgeous. We had a great time and I highly recommend it if anyone ever comes to Peru. I'll try to write more later, but I thought you might enjoy seeing a little about the trip.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Just a quick note

Hey all!

I hope life is treating you well. I just wanted you to know that I'll be heading out for a few days to go to the jungle. So I will not be blogging during that time, BUT I should have a lot of fun pictures and stories from my time there. So be patient with me and I will try to turn out a great blog in a week or two.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My friend Yuli

After almost a year in site, I finally have a good friend outside of my family. Her name is Yuli (like my host sister) and we hang out a lot. It's been really nice to have someone closer to my age (she's 24) to hang out with and to spend time with. She works at the municipality, has three older brothers and two younger brothers. Yuli, her younger brothers and I all go running (sometimes), and we all go out to the clubs (sometimes as well). When I'm bored or just want to speak some Spanish, I'll go to her house and we'll visit for awhile and then I'll return to my house and eat dinner. It's been nice to have a new friend.

I'm always amazed at how difficult it is to make friends in Peru. My first attempts in Catilluc were completely foiled by my misconceptions about the culture. When we make friends in the US it's usually based off of some connection. I'm friends with people who like theatre, go to church, play basketball (whatever). But here people have been friends their entire lives, and their parents were friends for their entire lives before that and their grandparents before that etc. So it's much harder for people, like me, to come in and for only two years try to develop strong friendships. I have been completely burned and back stabbed in my friendships here.

Yuli is an interesting case as she grew up in Ancash, and her family was very poor. Her father was a carpenter originally, but as he sent his sons off to the police academy, mechanics school, and now one of them is getting his degree in accounting. As they have gained more education and therefore more money, they family's standing in the community has gone down. There is a lot of jealous. Yuli went to college in Lima and wants to go back again. Which is part of the reason we connected. She doesn't necessarily have a lot of good, good friends but she also knows what life is like outside of Jangas. And she's educated. We have a lot of fun together. Lately we've been joking that we're two CRAAAAZZZY chicas. I think it's interesting that in the last blog post I talked about how my host mom and I get along even though we have nothing in common, but this week I'm talking about a friendship I have with someone with whom I have a lot in common. It's nice to have a diversity of relationships.

Enjoy the pics. They are from various events (and Yuli's bedroom) that Yuli and I have gone to together. We do typical girl things. We check out the hot guys and avoid the drunks, and of course we crack each other up.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Just a Quick Word

For all you faithful blog followers out there (all six of you)I want to let you know I'm still here. And sometimes I even have ideas to write about, but I've been doing so much writing (for IST Theatre Manual, Youth Newsletter, IYFD Group, Resume, Cover Letter, you see what I'm talking about) I haven't been able to get myself in blog writing mode. Nor have I taken many new pictures lately. I'll try to do that.

I do want to let you all know, I have really been enjoying the company of my host mom. The other day we had a really deep and intimate conversation about marital relations in Peru. I think I've said how much I adore my host mom, Mama Gi, but sometimes I'm so amazed at how different we are, but how much we get along and enjoy each other. She's told me on a couple of occasions that she is sad when she comes home at night and my light's not on. She has truly become a good friend and sometimes I have moments with her and I just want to cry thinking of leaving her. So far I've been holding it together, but I'm waiting for the tears to fall. It's gonna be a faucet here before too long.

Okay, more soon and hopefully pictures.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Six-Word Memoirs

So Smith Magazine recently ended and published a book called "Not Quite What I was Planning" that includes six-word memoirs "by writers famous and obscure". In this vein, I thought I would give it a try myself. Here are my six word memoir ideas:

1. I survived Chosica, Catilluc, and Jangas.
2. To be: Returned Peace Corps Volunteer
3. I am not a sex object!
4. No more rice or potatoes please.
5. Let me survive this combi ride.
6. Spanish is not my first language.
7. Don't make me go to Lima.
8. Ancash: beautiful mountains, beautiful people, beautiful.
9. So many projects, so little time.
10. Life is absolutely fabulous in Jangas.

So there are 10. I'll try to take some new pictures to put up in the next week or so. There just hasn't been a lot of new going on...although, school is back in session and I do have some projects in the works. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Good Day

It's hard to think of the last time I could post about one of my most perfect days in Peace Corps, or a day that I've had such a quality day of work, friends, and personal time. Yesterday was just such a day.

I woke around 6:00am which is my normal time and I read a chapter or two (or three if I'm honest) of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Around 8:30 we had a great breakfast of vegetarian lomo saltado (I think in that case it's just saltado) which is a combination of homemade french fries, tomatoes, and onions all fried up. Breakfast is always better on days when Papa Julio has a day off from driving his combi. This breakfast was no exception. Papa Julio and Mama Gi had an important day of trying to find a ram to breed with her five female sheep (ewes), and so I decided today was the day to check back in with all of my community partners. So what did I do? I read another chapter or two (or three if I'm honest) of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, got ready to be seen in public, and trotted off down the hill to visit my contact in the town hall. Before I made it past the plaza, I ran into him (Professor Alberto) and we chatted for awhile. Mostly, he told me he doesn't see there being any work, but he wants the Youth Association to take advantage of my presence before I leave in August. He also asked me if I was going to marry some guy from Jangas, but that's really a normal conversation for me. Before long we ran into my friend Hugo (who has been such a huge help since my first day in Jangas - he's really a god-send). Hugo and I set off on a mission to re-organize the Youth Association.

We visited a couple of people we knew to be leaders, and then I headed off to check in at the Health Post, Hugo in tow. It had been almost a month since I had set foot in the health post. The last time I was there, I left a little annoyed with the staff as they were taking a project I had spent many moments working on and turned it into...well, a big mess. But I felt it was time to eat humble pie and rectify the situation. I'm glad I did. I ran into Julia - the woman in charge of the health post - and we chatted for awhile. She felt the way I did about the group we were trying to create and encouraged me that we could make it more youth friendly and do a restart in a couple of weeks. I felt reassured.

Next stop, the school where I set up a couple of meetings, but Hugo and I had a mission. In our plan to re-start the Youth Association we decided to invite the 5th year students (think Seniors) to join the group. So we went to the two classes and invited the 5th years to come and take part in the planning meeting. Three community partners down, one to go. Hugo and I then went to the president of the split off youth association (oh what a tangled web this is) and invited him and his group to come and reunite the two groups into one, new, stronger, happier super group. Okay, that's a bit dramatic...Truthfully, I'll be happy if 5 people show up. And then we called to my main community partner who is currently working at one of the mines (like silver - I think) who we managed to wake up at 11:50am. I'm not sure what his work schedule is like, but that was very weird. He was invited, then allowed to go back to sleep. Hugo and I decided on a location, said good-bye, and I headed back to my house.

When I arrived, lunch wasn't ready but it was going to be good (black-eyed peas and rice which I planned on eating with the hot sauce my sister just sent me in a care package). So, I sat in my room and decided to study a little Spanish. One of my new methods for doing so, is to watch the Argentinian series Mujeres Asasinas (Women Murderers). Yes, it's as scary and demented as you would think, but I've learned a lot of new words (some swear words and bad phrases) to keep improving my Spanish.

Lunch was served around 1:45pm, and today it was just my older, younger sister Yuli and me. It was special though as we had a sister-to-sister heart-to-heart which we haven't had in months. We talked about things like if we were dating (that's a no on both of us), if she was excited to start classes again, and my excitement and sadness to leave Jangas in a few months. It was a wonderful meal, not just for the food, but I felt like I hadn't been connecting well with Yuli as of late, so this meal put all my fears to rest.

The rest of the day was spent watching more Mujeres Asasinas, reading one chapter or two (or three if I'm honest) of A,V, M, and then taking some time to watch the second season of Mad Men and completing about 10 Suduku puzzles. Papa Julio and Mama Gi did not find the ram that they hoped, so they'll have to try again at a later time.

Really, a pretty good day. Sorry no pictures, but I guess that's just how most good days go, we don't have pictures to remember them by except in our hearts.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Back to Lima

Ah yes, WID/GAD (Women In Development/Gender and Development)is upon me again, and I am headed back to Lima to work on how to encourage other volunteers to promote gender awareness in their sites. I enjoy these meetings as it seems to be one of the few times I get together with a diverse group of volunteers to discuss this and other gender related issues. On the other hand, Lima has become even more foreign to me even though I go there about once a month. I guess for the first time since I came to Peru, I feel like Peru and Jangas more specifically is (deep breath) home. I have good friends. I have a great host family, and in truth, I don't have a lot of reason to leave, unlike Catilluc which I tried to leave every chance I got. Now the thought of leaving, even for short periods of time, is daunting. Yet, with only five months left, the idea of leaving my Jangas days behind me is becoming all too real. And therefore, I am already finding myself in random moments of sadness while sitting in the kitchen preparing and eating dinner with my host family or when I'm hanging out with my other friends and community partners in Jangas. I am going to be a wreck when I pull out of here in August.

Yet, Lima is a nice reprieve. Seeing as I've been in the rain and clouds for a couple of months now, I am looking forward to a few days of sun and my non-Ancash Peace Corps buddies (many of us converging for different meetings next week) to chase away the Seasonal Affective Disorder, that I swear I have although I've never been diagnosed. Plus, even though I try to fight the McDonaldization of my life, I am looking forward to three whole days of trips to Starbucks for the latest treat or just a chai. In the Peace Corps, work is considered to be 24/7 in one's site so I have learned to appreciate the quick trips to Lima, even though I almost always go to work on some project. It's a change of pace, a reminder of what life is like outside of the campo where the sheep and the chickens roam freely to the city life where you need to be careful crossing the street. It's a reminder of life as it used to be, but not how it currently fairs. It's nice, but only for a time...then I return to the peace and tranquility of 3:00am rooster wake up calls. A life I am beginning to prefer.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Another Question Answered

If you were recommending places for someone to visit in Peru what would be your top 3 places you'd recommend? Why?
Choosing places to visit in Peru is much like trying to decide your favorite child, merely impossible. I would just like to say from the get-go that everyone who likes to travel and wants to see the world needs to make sure that Peru is at the top of the list. Not only can one visit the beautiful coast in places like Mancora and Hunchaco, but you also have a number of amazing ruins – both well traveled and less well known and on top of it there are these amazing cities to visit like Cajamarca and Arequipa. Not only that, but you can go on treks, hikes, climbs, kayak trips, etc. It’s a virtual paradise of experiences and adventures. With that said, my top three would have to be:

1. Ancash – I know I live here, but I really have seen other parts of Peru and still find that I like this place the best. There is just so much to do and see here. Plus, Huaraz is a small capital city and is easy to navigate and find people who are willing to help you figure out your travel adventures. In Ancash you can easily see Huascaran (the second largest mountain in the Americas), go on any number of treks, hikes, biking, etc. And on top of that there are some pretty interesting ruins and small cities with a lot of history. It’s also a pretty well kept secret. Everyone comes to Peru to see places like Cusco (where Machu Picchu can be found) and the Amazon River, but I have yet to meet the disappointed tourist in Ancash.

2. Chachapoyas – A sleepy little town near Kuelpa (Pre-Columbian ruins), Gocta (7th largest waterfall), and a number of other little things to go and do or see and still a decent night life. For historical value, Cusco is probably a better bang for your buck, but in terms of people, I have not found nicer people than the people I met in Chacha. It also could be your gateway right into a trek down the Amazon River because Chacha is on the border of the jungle. It was very beautiful there, but mostly the people were so great.
3. I know people expect Machu Picchu on this list, but I’m going to give this final spot to Zorritos, Tumbes where we stayed at this beautiful ecological lodge. Not as nice as Mancora, but less traveled which I really enjoyed. Plus, the Peruvian coast is gorgeous no matter what. Plus the mud baths there are so worth the 2 soles it costs to enter.
Well, there are my top three. I haven’t been to the Amazon yet; it’s ultimately my last big trip in Peru before I return to the States. So of course, the list might change before I leave, but for right now, if you’re coming to Peru make sure you try to hit some of these smaller, lesser known places.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

And then none...for a week.

I really thought I was on some kind of a roll with the last couple of blogs, but apparently it can be just as easy to slip back into apathy.

Here, many communities have a summer vacation program called vacaciones utiles or "useful vacations". In Jangas teachers are teaching traditional dance, theatre, soccer, volleyball, math, and yours truly is teaching nine (count them - nine) computer classes. This started out as one of my favorite things to do, but as kids don't come or come on weird days, I'm starting to get a little bored with it all. Not to mention I have students that can do some of the most advance work and some students that don't know how to turn a computer on.

But one of my bigger successes has taken place. Since I arrived in Jangas, I have been trying to start a Youth (& Young Adult) Health Promoters Group. And it finally is in action. I have about 6 active young adults and adolescences that attend a weekly talk on everything from nutrition to first aid to STIs. I hope this group will grow and we can use it to go into the communities and teach others what we are learning. At the very least there are 6 more people who know how to help a burn victim. I love it when I have good things to report, and this is an even sweeter thrill because I didn't think it was going to actually happen. I was about to give up on it all.

So there is a quick update. I'll keep answering your questions in the next few posts. Keep them rolling in.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Two In One Week!

2. Is it safe for you to walk around there at night?

Ah, safety…I have heard some very wise people (even recently) talk about the fact that what most people fear is the unknown. For example, we don’t fear public speaking but rather what we fear is the unknown reaction the audience members will have to our topic, our dress, and/or our delivery. We’re not fearful of spiders, per say, but of the unknown: if they will bite us, if they are poisonous, if we’ll die, etc. I think you get my point. So a lot of people have chosen to not travel because of concern for their own personal safety. I’m not saying that is bad, but I’m saying that given the right information and safety training the fear of the unknown in terms of safety and security can be overcome. In the Peace Corps we are given a ton of training in safety and security during our first three months in the country. This has been very effective in helping us understand and try to avoid potentially dangerous or compromising situations. With that said, nothing is perfect. And every year Peace Corps volunteers are robbed, assaulted, pick pocketed and even (sadly and rarely) raped.

Do I feel less safe in Peru than I do in the United States? The honest answer is that it depends on the situation. Most days (or nights) walking through my relatively small town I feel fine, but if you add even one drunk man to the mix, I get a little nervous. As I believe I have written about before in my blog, there is a huge problem with alcoholism in Peru and combine that with machismo and sometimes you have a very dangerous combination. I have been grabbed by drunken men and not given the option to escape (although I did figure out how to do it eventually). I have also been chased by a drunken man back to my house in Catilluc, Cajamarca one night after a dance. In both cases, I hadn’t touched a drop of alcohol. Being a white girl in the middle of Peru can make you a walking target sometimes it’s only wanted or unwanted attention, but sometimes the attention can change to comments, whistles, and undesirable actions on the part of those around you. Peruvians on the whole are great people, and the rare occasion that I don’t feel scared to walk by myself at night usually involves someone else drinking alcohol. The amazing thing about being a volunteer is that I always have a group of other volunteers around if we decide to stay out late. If I want to go home early from dancing, there is always another volunteer or two who will want to go back themselves or will at least escort me back and then return to the dancing. This is the family aspect of my time in Ancash. We try very hard to take care of each other here especially in terms of safety and security.

So to sum up, for the part I feel safe walking around alone at night in my sight, but in places that I don’t know well I choose the buddy system or a taxi (which has its own safety concerns, but I’ll leave that for another blog). I wish I could say I feel absolutely safe all the time, but that’s neither the reality in Peru nor anywhere else in the world.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

In Answer to Your Questions:

Describe a typical dish. What foods are your favorites?

I think we’re always curious about how others eat. If you think about it, we schedule meetings, dates, and reunions around food. Food is a part of our national culture and we are fascinated by other types of meals around the world. Go to any major city in the States and you’ll find pages and pages in the phone book of Mexican, Thai, Chinese, etc. restaurants. Not so in Peru. Even in Lima, I have only ever heard of one Mexican food restaurant and not many more than one or two of any other restaurants with different ethnic foods. Peruvians are very proud of their food. I once heard a Peruvian say that they had read that according to an article she had read, Peru had the third best food in the world after France and Japan. I tried not to laugh when she told me she had found the random article on the internet. Plus, let’s face it; there is great Indian food and Italian food that might rank a little higher in the minds of others. The good news, for me, is that I don’t hate Peruvian food. But I do admit to coming to Peru hoping for great Mexican type foods. Spicy dishes full of flavor on sizzling plates with homemade tortillas. The reality, although still very tasty, is quite different.

Here a typical family eats foods high in starch and carbohydrate content. Most dishes come with a mound of rice AND a mound of potatoes or a mound of potatoes AND a mound of pasta. Peruvians really enjoy condiments (as they call them), but it’s not like mayo and mustard (although those are included from time to time) usually they like sauces like chili sauce examples include aji Amarillo which is generally put over potatoes which is not really that spicy but is very tasty or papa/cuy picante which is spicy potatoes and guinea pig with ground up rocotto (the chili of Peru) on top. This is one of my favorite foods. I became a vegetarian in Peru (for health reasons) but I still eat cuy (guinea pig). The way I see it is I only get two years to eat the cute little things we put in cages and call pets, so I should take advantage. Not to mention, cuy is very expensive for Peruvians so it would be impolite to not eat it if someone put it before me. For every ounce of starch I eat, I probably only eat about a ¼ of an ounce of vegetables, and I would never eat fruit if I didn’t buy it for myself.

I might have written about this before, but there are a lot of myths of health based around food. Like many in the world, many Peruvians believe that water – at room temperature or colder – will cause a cold. What we consider “old wives tales” prevail in parts of this culture as science. The worst one in my opinion is the idea that fruits are “cold” foods that will cause someone to be sick longer. I don’t know many people in the States that don’t know that Vitamin C can help prevent colds and boost the immune system, and what’s the best source of Vitamin C? Citrus fruits, of course. I get so frustrated when people ask me which vitamin they should take (actual pill-like vitamin) to heal themselves. I’ll tell them the vitamin and then I’ll say, but it’s really better to get your vitamin intake from foods like broccoli, oranges, strawberries, etc. They look at me like I’m crazy and then tell me their DOCTOR told them to not eat those things. Their DOCTOR! I don’t frustrate very easily when it comes to obvious cultural differences, but this is one that really bothers me. I can’t handle when medical professionals believe the same myths that science has proven aren’t true. Science has proven that we can drink cold beverages and not catch a cold or that “cold” foods do not give you a cold, right? Or am I crazy? That’s always a possibility.

Some Peruvian food really is good though, even if it does lack a side salad, and I appreciate my family’s recent efforts to include more vegetables in their diet. I’ve even been able to introduce such foods as macaroni and cheese, lasagna, tacos, and my family’s personal favorite: vegetable soup! My host dad calls it, sopa de colores (soup of colors) because I’m always expounding on the idea that all you need to do to have a good vegetable dish is to have a number of different colors and I tell them the key to good vegetable soup is to find as many different colored vegetables (and fruits b/c we always include tomatoes) as possible. My host sister, Yuli has now made this soup twice without me around. I’m pretty proud of her and excited if this is the one dish they will continue to eat after I leave. I’m trying to write a blog about taco night, because when I came into the Peace Corps, I strangely enough had the idea that all food in Latin America was like Mexican food, oh how wrong I was, so more on that later.

These pictures are of California Cafe where I spend my internet time. Pretty cool place, huh?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I know, I know more posts!

Okay, well today I'm really just posting to post. I don't mean to go days without putting something up, but I don't really have a lot to report right now. I'm currently in the planning stages of summer vacation activities for youth. So please forgive me. Also, let's take a survey. In the post section of this page, post your questions about my time in Peru, and I'll try to devote an entire blog post to your questions.

Take care, until then.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Trip with the Family

So my silence is based purely on the fact that I've barely seen a computer in the past couple of weeks. I took a couple of weeks vacation to unwind and of course, hang out with my parents and my sister. It was so great to introduce my family to this beautiful country. Here are some of the pictures.

My whole family in front of Machu Picchu.

Lake Titicaca...beautiful view.

In front of a beautiful church in Arequipa. I don't remember the name now.

More pictures to come!