sábado, 3 de septiembre de 2011

Yeah, so that goal of mine....

...to write every three days. That obviously did not happen. Sorry about that, guys! Life seems to be getting in the way of me blogging about it these days! I will try to be better, as I always say.

Right now, I´m in Lima, the huge, freezing, overpriced though impoverished capital of Peru for Peru 14's Close of Service Conference and medchecks! Conference finished yesterday and medchecks start on Monday. Just another step to finishing up service and coming home!

The first day of the conference was a bit bittersweet. As soon as Kathy, our Training Director, started off by saying, "Well, it was almost exactly two years ago that we first met here, and you all had just walked off an excruciatingly long day of traveling," I got a little nostalgic! Two years, while to me it has felt like nothing and a whole lot of time, is really quite a significant amount of time! Since I´ve been gone, friends have gotten married, a few have passed away, some have started universities, babies have been born, careers have been started, ended or changed, friends have skipped the country, other people were inspired to apply for the Peace Corps (yay!). It´s quite overwhelming, but a good growing experience.

It's interesting to look back over two years (any set of two years, really) and see how experiences change people. I now have more direction in life, a whole lot more patience, a whole lot more impatience, another language to speak, creative problem solving skills, a high level of comfort in highly awkward situations, and the ability to eat anything with just a spoon.

When people ask me about living abroad, they ask things like "What are the people like? What do you do? What is it like?" and Peruvians ask me the same about the States. To be honest, it's not really all that different. Everyone has to eat, everyone has to sleep, everyone needs a job (even if they don't want one) and everyone fights with their parents (don't deny it). Climates vary with altitude and latitude, as much in the States as here. There's a coastline, forests, and beautiful high sierra, deserts, though admittedly the States lacks a rainforest. Sure there may be a higher incidence of houses made of mud and adobe and/or cemente, but housewives take care of them just as well or better than USA housewives (no offense intended).

As for food, well....It's great. I can see a lamb in the morning and know that I am eating that exact lamb (or chicken, goat, sheep, pig, turkey....) for dinner. I know what it eats and how it was treated during it's life. That's a great feeling, even if they don't cut the pieces very well or trim the fat as much. My dad once told me of an old roommate of his who had no idea how to cut a chicken, and would seemingly j ust take the whole chicken and make two chops in it-one longwise, and one lengthwise. That's about what Peruvians do to chop their food-portions include meat, bones, tendons some organs and whatever else is in there. The main organs are separated out and given to esteemed guests. In my first house, when I had first gotten there, I was always served a heart or lung or kidney or liver in my soup at lunch. Never was I able to accustom myself enough to bring myself to eat it. But, that didn't matter because all leftovers were always fed to the dogs or pigs, nothing was left to waste, which is a great lifestyle. Well, it would be if all the dogs were able to get enough protein to fatten up enough, but that's a different story.

I still have about 2 more months in this crazy country, and i'm going to do the best i can to see as much as possible before it's time to go. Starting the next phase of my life sounds very daunting, but mostly just really exciting.

domingo, 31 de julio de 2011

Olmos lately

I really wish that I had been keeping up with this better, because there are so many things to talk about, that I don't know where to start! I've been cheating, and just keeping a Sticky Note of blogworthy things on my desktop. That list is now 23 items long- I suppose I should start telling stories. I am posing a personal challenge to myself: Tell all these stories-one every three days. That would bring me up to date on 6 October, which actually means that I would still be behind, but I would be closer up. Right? And anyway, there's a huge possibility that I would write more than every three days, as long as I can make a habit out of it. So, all three readers that I have-keep me on track. It is your duty as readers of this silly blog. And I want to know what you think! So, go forth, and tell me what you think.

I will start with a fantastic story of a vacation that my sitemate and I took in April. I believe that the dates were April 20 to 25. We left Olmos (I really should post a map of Lambayeque on here soon, it would help you all a lot-Sticky Note updated). Our destination? Laquipampa National Wildlife Refuge, in the foothills of the sierra of Lambayeque. Everyone remembers that Lambayeque is the department (state-type designation) that I live in, right? Good. We thought it would be brilliant and awesome to go up there and hike and camp and see awesome wildlife for a few days. And it was. But there were a few setbacks. I mean, adventures.......

Our first adventure was just getting there. We took the normal minivan ride from Olmos to Chiclayo just fine, and stayed overnight to get food and other supplies for the trip. We thought it would be great, since this was Sarah's first backpacking trip, to go real barebones, and just get the necessities. We walked out of Plaza Vea (read: Peruvian Walmart) with tuna, mayo, crackers, peanut butter, jam, bread, cookies and water. That it's. And that's what we brought with us. Did you see a fork or plate or cup on that list? Nope. You sure didn't.

So, we head out to start our journey the next morning, about 10am. We're told that it's a 30 minute collectivo (station wagon packed with as many people, sacks of food, and chickens as possible) to the point where we can take a combi (rusted out old bus) the 2 hours to Laquipampa. Once we get to the combi, we realize that there actually isn't any room for us, and asked if they could please find room. So we rode the whole way perched on the jump seat over the engine, on top of some sacks of who knows what. Sarah got sick of it about and hour and a half in, and sat on the top. Everyone in the combi thought she was crazy, since it was drizzling outside, but I think she had a better ride than I did. It really was beautiful. As we cut our way up rocky valley walls, and rounded up the sides of some steep cliffs, I was reminded that Lambayeque is not all the dry forest that I live in, and is a very diverse and beautiful place to be.

It was late when we got to the town of Laquipampa, about 4pm (nothing ever happens at the time that you expect it to here), and since it was drizzling, the park rangers would not allow us to go out on the trails. As it turns out, the don't let girls do hardly anything on their own anyway, but we didn't know that at the time. We set up camp in the lot behind the school house along with a few others groups, much to the delight of who I assumed to be the locals. They were absolutely enthralled as we set up the tent, and insisted on helping. Yes, people: we're girls who happen to be of a much lighter skin color, and we can set up camp just fine, thankyouverymuch.

So, we get to the subject of dinner next. We had thought that we would make tuna crackers, which sounded delicious. However- our only utensils were the tin cans that the tuna was already in, a dinner knife and a pocket knife. Note the lack of ideal food preparing objects in our possession. Next time, don't be quite so cocky, you might be saying. Well, we didn't get to that point until a little later in the trip. Thankfully, a very nice group of Chiclayanos were near us, and offered us, without knowing that we sucked at food packing, some ramen noodles. AND two plastic forks! We ate up, and took care to store the forks in a safe place for later. What luck.

The next morning, we set out to find a waterfall and see the cool wildlife. A very nice guide took us out on a lovely 2.5 hour hike to a small waterfall, pointing out the giant mountain called Nuevo Mundo (new world), that not many people hike, and all the little birds and trees. Of course we wanted to hike up Nuevo Mundo, and talked about it a lot, trying to figure out how to do it. The hike came complete with a canine companion, an adorable white dog named Paloma (dove). Apparently, there had been a Peace Corps volunteer in this town about 4 years before, and Paloma (whom we later learned had been re-named Princess) was her dog. She paid us more attention than normal, and we thought it might have been because not too many American girls pass through the area, and she thought we were her volunteer again. It was a sad parting.

In the evening, we took a hike down the hill/street from the town to look for the Pava Aliblanca (White Winged Guan) that live wild in the area. With the same guide as the earlier hike, we walked down about 30 minutes to the designated spot (which looked to me like a bunch of rocks on the side of the street) and sat for almost an hour looking for the birds. We saw 9, which the guide said was a lot, and we were happy. Let me tell you, those things are impossible to take pictures of. They never leave the trees for more than a few seconds, and like to hide in the branches. But it was a really cool feeling to have seen such an endangered animal in the wild, even if it wasn't exactly their historical habitat.

We set off to set up camp after that, very excited about the days activities. As we expected, the guide was nervous about us camping at the normal spot because it had been sprinkling, and insisted that we set up out tent under a boulder on the side of the trail. We did, headed out to the actual campsite where another volunteer friend was waiting for us, and immediately decided that it was better to NOT set up our tent underneath a big, albeit sturdy looking, rock. Again, our fellow camper saved us with his tasty food, and we shared a super tasty dinner.

And this is where it got interesting. One of the main reasons that Sarah wanted to come on this trip was that she had heard of an ancient Incan burial ground in Laquipampa and really wanted to visit it. Everyone that we had talked to said that the burial ground was still being excavated and that we coulnd't. But, after a nice little chat with another parkguard, we found out that there were TWO burial grounds, and the one that we wanted to see was actually open to the public. We just had to walk up the side of the mountain to our right. No big deal, right? he said there were trails, so we went off without a second thought.

We should have thought again. The trail ran out after about 10 minutes, and we still had at least 3 hours to go. No big deal. We could SEE where we were headed, so we tried just blazing our own trail, and following the trail when we found it. Well, turns out that the only things that actually explore that area are cows and their herders, and even then, they must not go very high on the hill. The brush was incredibility thick and was annoying adept at hiding cholla cactus that always seemed to pop out right as I was about to fall. We were exhausted. It got to be that coming to a clearing was the most exciting thing to happen all day, so that we could gauge which direction to keep going.

By about 5:30, one hour before sunset, we look up, sweating, breathing heavily and covered in dirt. We had been going straight up the side of a mountain for about 4 hours now. We were at a rocky outcrop, at the top of which was purportedly our burial ground- goal for the day, and campsite for the night. We could think of nothing but the moderately small amount of water in our packs, and the cookies right next to them. As much as we wanted to get to the top, see the valley at sunset and set up camp, we had to conceed that, at the rate that we were going and factoring in that we really had no idea where we were going, it was going to be between 2 and 15 hours before we actually got to where we wanted to get. Dejectedly (but, secretly, happily) we turned around and sought out the closest and flattest spot from where we were. An hour later, we find a slanted, but open rocky area and squeeze the tents in next to the rock, the happiest that I have ever been after taking off a backpack. And the smelliest. It was terrible. If we hadn't been so tired and bummed that we didn't make it to our destination, we would have realized how awesome it was to be camping literally in the middle of nowhere, not sure what else was around, with a fantastic view of the moon. We polished off the rest of the tuna without much fanfare or even much discussion at all, and fell into our sleeping bags.

The next morning we were able to appreciate that the area that we were in was actually very pretty, with a nice view of the valley and the town. We slowly breakfasted on the rest of the cookies and peanut butter, and crawled down the mountain, expecting it to take us maybe 3 hours to get down. It took one. We were mildly impressed, though mostly a little bitter that we took the wrong fork in the road from basically the beginning. oops. If trail maps existed here, we would have caught that. Next time.

Because it was the end of the month and we were all really broke (I think we had about 100 soles between the 3 of us), we decided to walk to the closest town where the cheap mobility would take us to our friend's site for the night. We had zero idea how long it would be, and estimated about 4 hours based on the drive up. It took 6.5. Just trudging along the road. It was one of the most beautiful hikes I've ever hiked, to be honest. You could see everything (once we got off the mountain), and could trace the road through and out of the valley, unhurried and tranquilo. About and hour and a half down the road we stopped for a while at the river, and washed up. It was the best bath I've ever had. The water was cool, not too fast and there was a perfect spot where the blazing sun did not reach my already fairly burnt skin. I didn't want to leave, but, sadly, all good things come to an end.

The walk back, which beautiful, was uneventful. We pushed ourselves really far, and made it back. When we finally made it to a town outside of the valley, we almost squealed in happiness. It was Easter day, we realized, and a lot of people were going between home and easter dinner, and we took advantage of a nice family going in the direction that we needed to go, bouncing down the highway in the back of their truck.

All in all, it was a fantastic weekend adventure. While we didn't see the burial ground, we saw some endangered birds, a beautiful waterfall, made friends with a cute little dog, and explored somewhere new. I was finally able to walk normally about 4 days later, and life went on.

miércoles, 11 de mayo de 2011

Volunteering in Peru

I swear I will one day (soon!!) write a longer and more interesting blog, but I wanted to let you guys know about a really cool opportunity! If you ever thought "I´d really like to go volunteer in another country, but have no idea how to do it," check out Crax 200 at www.en.craxperu.org! We´re looking for interested internationals to come on down and hang out with us and the animals. You could spend lots of time with awesome animals and ME!

sábado, 26 de marzo de 2011

Well, it´s been a while, hasn´t it?

So here we are, almost a year later! Oooops. Lot´s has happened lately!

To begin with, I changed sites in October. I went from Corral de Arena to the district capital, Olmos. I love it bunches. It´s nice to be closer to other volunteers (there are two within reasonable walking distance) and to be closer to things in general. Internet, the market, lots of people. Running water. It took me a while to admit to myself that I just wasn´t cut out for campo living. Not that I need constant running water or internet or anything personally, but in order to get work done and to stay sane, it actually is a little necessary. And it´s easier to talk to people in Olmos, as the conversations have gone farther than "you just hanging out?" and "you´re totally going to get married and live here forever." Nope. Not going to do that.

I´ve been working with a captive breeding and rescue center, Crax 2000, which is in another caserío (little town in the campo) of Olmos. It really cute, and eventually I will post some pics. Once I figure out how to do that. It´s challenging, but a good challenge.

A few weekends ago, we went to the department of Cajamarca to celebrate Carnaval, which is Peru´s version of Mardi Gras. It was ridiculous. Ridiculously awesome, I mean. There was a city wide water fight, and for some reason it´s cool to throw paint out, too. It made from some cool souveniers, anyway. I´ll always remember why those clothes are colored to strangely now. The next day, they had a 5 hour long parade, still threw water balloons (thankfully i think it was illegal to throw paint, though), and we all relaxed and recovered, heading home on a night bus. of course, i got sick, as always, but it didn´t last too long.

While most of us were in Cajamarca, my new (as of January) sitemate and another volunteer masterminded a super awesome sandwich competition, because most of us live on sandwiches and, well, who doesn´t like a day of fantastic food? That craziness happened last weekend. I was really impresed by the sandwiches that everyone made. There were 8 contestants (5 volunteers and 3 Peruvian women), and we had everything from mayo and hotdog, to super tangy maracuyà (a local fruit) marinated chicken, currey and soy meat, lots of mangos, and an omlet. Definitely ranks up there as one of the 5 best days ever. A special shout out to our fantastic judges, as well. One judge, Dani, was dying of a migraine and saying she was probably going to puke her guts out, but she was so dedicated to judging such delicacies that she put that aside. And kept it all in! Mike, our volunteer leader, put his best foot forward and judged everyone fairly. Sarah´s 2 host siblings also participated, and, of course, judged her sandwhich the best. Whatever. I still got second :) And her sandwhich was awesome anyway.

The 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps was this month! On 1 March, Peace Corps threw a party in Lima, which a small number of volunteers were randomly given the opportunity to attend (we did a raffel). Then each department had their own regional celebration throughout the month. Ours was last Tuesday, and it was a huge success. We spent a huge amount of time putting togther a beautiful picture gallery (if I don´t say so myself) and the actual ceremony went well. Even if I caught Dani´s flu from two days before and spent the afternoon puking my guts out. But the day itself was nice. A group of dancers performed a really beautiful dance, as well. For a second I thought, " I could totally do this, that looks awesome." then I remembered that I have zero rythm. Oh well. One can dream, no?

Sarah and I are on our way out to Zaña today, which is our friend Nicole´s site. She had invited the dance group to the anniersary party and they are performing in a festival tonight. Should be good! Pics to come, as usual.

viernes, 14 de mayo de 2010

Oh, the States.....

I feel like I've been going about this blogging nonsense the wrong way, and I hope this blog will change that. Anyway...what have I been doing....

For the past couple of months, I've been at site, finishing up my diagnostic and getting prepared to actually start DOING something. I've putzed around in site for far too long, it's high time to start making a name for myself. Well, a name other than Gringa, or The One That Runs A Lot. I've been doing little things, like summer school, hanging out with the kids a few afternoons a week, I dug a micro relleno (which the director of the school refuses to use) and I've been talking to a lot of pobladores about what they want to see change in their town. But, why haven't I done anything? I'm not really sure. Part of it is laziness, I think, because it takes a lot of energy to organize things. Part of it, I think, is also a little bit of fear. I don't want to start with something that sucks, because then they won't think that I can do anything good at all. I've been doing a lot of thinking about the type of volunteer that I want to be, too. I talked to a lot of the other volunteers at an In Service Training that we recently had in my lovely department of Lambayeque, and a lot of them are out teaching. I don't think I want to do the teaching, at least not to the kids. I want to be involved in it, but I don't want to be the main teacher. That kind of cuts down on the things that i can do, but it is way more sustainable. I can teach the teachers, I think, who, in turn, can teach for a long long time after I leave. I suppose what I really need to do is get out of my house more. The heat tends to detract me from wanting to leave the hammock in my front yard, but now that it's getting cooler, I think I should be out and about more. I'm a role model in town, and I should act like it.

That, however, will have to wait until I actually get back to site. As my title suggests, I am in the United States of America, living it up with long sleeves, non scratchy sheets, CARPET, toilets and a varied diet. PIZZA. All the English I can speak. ZERO GRUPO CINCO! I love it here. I have thought about not going bavk, but I have no idea what else I would do. I came back on emergency leave, because Greg relapsed about a week into April. I waited until what should have been the end of his chemo, but as I was boarding the plane in Lima, he was puking his guts out and went back into the hospital. I've been home for 2 weeks now (and have 2 more weeks to go) and he's still there. However, the doctors, to their very own surprise, got him into remission and now the plans have started to change. they didn't expect that that was possible, but Greg has proven them wrong countless times in the plast 5.5 years, that no one is surprised. The docs are scrmabling to put a plan together to keep him on the road to recovery. Who knows how long it will last, but we are carefully keeping our fingers crossed. It made for a nice return home, though, I must say.

This experience, the whole last 5.5 years, have been a huge lesson and test of faith, positivity and optimism. And laughing. And a whole lot of other things. But honestly, it is so incredible what can happen when there are tons of people thinking the same happy thoughts. Peter Pan had it right. Well, I guess it was Tinker Bell who taught him that lesson. In any case, when someone like Greg has hundreds of motivated people pulling for him, anything can happen. It is so obvious, too. Mom has been saying that she has sat in the hospital, watching Greg suffer in pain and whatever ailment is on the docket for the day, written an email to his supports telling them about what's going on, and in a matter of hours, he's feeling at least a little better. It's something we can see. So keep that in mind, Readers, whoever you are: positive thinking is one of the most powerful forces that we have, and we have complete control over it. Complete control. We can choose to be negative or we can choose to be positive. And I know that sometimes it takes way more energy to positive than negative, but as soon as your mind can make that switch, the just seems to get brighter. It just feels so much better. It's something that I need to keep in mind in site, and in life in general.

This trip home hasn't been a picture of wonderfulness, though. As the doctors were diagnosing Greg's relapse, his best friend went missing, in some very dangerous water in Hawaii; his body was found a few days later. The memorial service happened while I was at home, which I was glad about. It was really good to see some people who I hadn't seen for several years, and to see everyone celebrating Ryan's life with smiles and laughs. This guy was the picture of positivity, really. Everyone was his friend, he had a joke for anything, and hearing his laugh would make everyone else around him laugh, too. He was pretty darned inspirational, and a super motivating force for Greg. It was sad to see him go, though he never REALLY left us. Everyone agrees that his energy is still here and acting on us.

I hope that this trip home can re-energize me for the next year and a half of projects. I've been thinking a lot about what to do after PC, as I always need a goal to work toward. It's helped me a lot to look at the grad schools that the PC Fellows program supports, and for the next year and half I will be thinking of those opportunities as I am struggling to get people to come to meetings, reminding people that it is unhealthy to burn garbage, and all the other frustrations that come with trying to incite behavior change. I just hope that it's all worthwhile change, but that's a problem for another blog. I hope everyone is well, and if you made it all the way to the end of the blog, well, thanks a lot for sticking with it!

domingo, 7 de marzo de 2010


oh perú. what more is there to say about it. So far, things are going well. I´m learning how to deal with being a celebrity, which is absolutely awkward. it´s absolutely impossible, or at least it seems like it, to befriends with anyone but girls, because everyone thinks that when any dude hangs out with a girl and vice versa, they are a couple. it´s rather annoying.

in other news, i am slowly starting to think more in spanish and getting used to the rest of the culture. it´s a slow process, but going steady. i´m getting a trash program started in site and it is also a slow process. i wish someone had put a warning label on plastics so that it was obvious to everyone that tossing that crap in the streets so that the animals that you yourself are going to eat is a pretty bad idea. like everything in the peace corps, it´s just a slow process to get going.

even though it´s early on in service, i´ve been thinking about what i want to do afterwards. i think it depends on how peace corps goes, but i´m thinking about taking advantage of grad school opportunities through peacecorps, as long as the programs are hands on and interactive. i want to actually be doing something and not sitting around discussing theories. while i think that´sanimportant thing, i think i would go crazy if i wasn´t being productive.

tomorrow is international women´s day here, and i am very excited that peruvians recognize it. they don´t seem to do much for it, but it´s a start that they even organize anything for it. i think that will be one of my objectives for my projects.

i really didn´t have a reason to writethisblog, but since it is written, there it is. by the way, cumbis is REALLLLLLY getting on my nerves....

sábado, 13 de febrero de 2010


Well, here I am, about 2.5 months into the Peace Corps. I really don´t have anything planned to say in this here blog, so i´m just going to spill my brains out.

Let´s see........Spanish is going well. I´ve finally stopped trying to be/think/live like a Peruvian. I decided that it´s just not possible. During training, they went on and on about how we need to try to look through purple lenses, not blue (like peruvians) and not red (like americans), and it really is true. I´m a lot happier, now that I have given myelf the opportunity to have, well, intelligent thoughts, and not force myself to hang out with them and do nothing like they do allll the time. They really absolutely do NOT understand my reading. I will be sitting in a hammock for an hour or so, quite obvisouly rocking back and forth with a book, and when I get up, someone will unvariably ask if I slept well. The next time I´m in Chiclayo, the cdapital, I might try to hunt down some books for them. They ALWAYS ask if I brought them anything when I go, and this time I can say that I did. We´ll see if they appreciate them. I hope they do.

It´s the rainy season now, which is pretty awesome, but only when it actually rains. When it doesn´t rain, it´s about 300 degrees and incredibly humid. the ground is all dirt and sand, but the roads and yards are really compact, so the water doesn´t absorb well, it just evaporates, and hangs in the air.

I´m advancing in my work, though! I made a micro relleno, a giant hole in the ground so that the kids in the school can bury garbage instead of tossing it on the ground. My next project is going to be organizing something for the whole town, and getting some sort of recycling going, too. It´s to be a long road, but I hope I can make it go fast. It´s heart breaking to see everyone burning heaps and heaps (litterally, they burn it in heaps) of plastic and compostables. I try to offer alternatives to them, but so far, no dice. I guess that´s why we´re here for 2 years, though, right?

As usual, this will be a short one we´ll see if I can get in another one soon!