By the by…

August 29, 2007 at 10:00 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Now I know how to install an electric plug, and I also wanted to say that I love getting your comments so don’t be shy. I’ll post some pictures tomorrow or the next day.

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Here I Is

August 29, 2007 at 9:35 pm | Posted in family, friends, futbol, kids, Peace Corps | Leave a comment

Lots of changes are afoot. The biggest and most obvious change is my schedule; to go from having six of the seven days of the week planned out for you from morning until night, to having absolute complete freedom is taking some getting used to. I arrived on Monday afternoon and settled in a bit. I ended up changing houses from the one I visited two weeks ago; the room I was supposed to stay in was still occupied. With eleven people already living there, they don’t really have room for me. They actually started building a little hut out back of bamboo and mud for me to live in, but when the regional director came to check it out she decided that it was better to find another house.

I’m now living with a smaller family under slightly different living conditions. I live with a Mom and Dad and have two brothers and one sister. One brother is 22 and doesn’t live here, I haven’t met him yet. The girl is 16 and is studying to be a doctor, and the other boy is 8 and he is my one and only friend thus far. We just watched The Simpsons and are going running together tomorrow morning. I have a room but it was empty and needs a lot of fixing up, so I bought a bed yesterday and cleaned it out today. I must have swept the floor five or six times and still couldn’t get all the dirt up. But little by little I’m making it mine. This house has both running water and electricity which is phat. I’m currently sleeping in my little brother’s room and he is sleeping with my parents. At first I misunderstood and thought we were both going to be sleeping in his room which sort of caught me off guard, but that is not the case.

I spent yesterday morning visiting the elementary school and high school here in Tucume. Walking into a school and meeting with professors and administrators in a language I’ve yet to dominate is not easy. Giving a speech in front of a bunch of six year olds is even LESS easy. I think I was asked to be the volleyball coach and I had to politely decline the offer; I haven’t played volleyball since 8th grade and while I’d love to (and plan to) play, there is no way I could coach. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what I want to do with the kiddies of the community here. I guess I’m still figuring a lot of things out. My ‘job’, according to Peace Corps, for the next three months is literally to get to know the community and not much else. Again, to go from the long work weeks at DCE, to the full days of training, to ‘getting to know your neighbors’ is going to take quite a bit of getting used to. Tomorrow I have a lunch invitation with one of the directors of the school, and he invited me to a 25 year reunion of his students Friday night which should be cool. Sunday I have a date with my little bro (named Christian) to go watch soccer.

Despite the fear of downtime, I’ve actually kept pretty busy. I’ve been spending an hour or two a day with the family I was supposed to stay with, as I got close to them during my site visit and really enjoy hanging out with them. Since there are eleven of them plus the random brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins who are constantly going into and out of the house, it is better to detail that family in another entry. There is a son, though, named Cesar who is 20 and is an artisan in the association I’ll be working with. There is a also little girl named Alexa and I help her out with her homework sometimes which I really enjoy because it actually teaches me some Spanish as well. Otherwise, I’ve been cleaning up my room, buying furniture, and trying to get to know my new family a little better. I try to get out an hour or two a day just to walk around and try to meet people. Today I went to the hardware store to buy some electricity plugs and had a nice little conversation about Cuban-US relations. I think I swung it right by talking about how much I wanted to visit Cuba. Sometimes I think people ask you the ‘hard questions’ just to start a discussion, so its always good to deflect those bad boys and steer the conversation back to Peru and back to Tucume.

Ketchup

August 29, 2007 at 8:45 pm | Posted in family, food, travel | Leave a comment

It has been a very full two weeks since my return from site visit. A couple of days after getting back to Lima I got pretty sick. I don’t know if it was the traveling or the food or the climate change or what, but something upset my stomach for a good week and a half. I’m much better now, 100%. I’ll try to detail a little what I’ve not taken the opportunity to write about in my blog:

  • The Pachamanca: this is a very traditional peruvian dish; you dig a hole in the ground and take a bunch of rocks, clean them off, and put them over the fire and get them really hot. Then you take out the wood/coal from the hole in the ground, add a layer of alfalfa to keep the food off of the dirt, and throw in the potatoes and camote (sweet potato), then you put in some of the hot rocks, and throw in marinated chicken (I think the marinade was some soy sauce, lots of garlic, vinegar, ahi (like a chili pepper), and other stuff that I forgot). More hot rocks, then beans, apples, pineapple, and mushed up corn wrapped in banana leaves called humitas. More hot rocks. You let everything cook for about an hour and then dig it all out of the ground and eat it up. Holy delicious. We then participated in a traditional Incan ceremony to pay tribute to the earth which was really cool. There exist somewhere great pictures of all this, but unfortunately I forgot my camera at home that day.
  • The sleepover: all the volunteers spent the night at our training center and we watched Volunteer with Tom Hanks which is about a really waspy Yale grad who mistakenly ends up in Thailand in the Peace Corps. There were lots of good jokes in this movie, like when Tom Hanks walks onto the plane and all the volunteers and singing some koombaya song in unison, and he freaks out. Hilarious. I also took advantage of the grass (don’t see much of that around Lima) at the training center to sleep outside with a few other people and we were lucky enough to wake up to a beautiful fogless morning which is quite rare this time of year.
  • Graduation: the last two days of training (last Thursday and Friday) we had a host family party and our graduation where we become men and women in the eyes of the Peace Corps. The spanish word for trainee is ‘aspirante’ which I really dislike for no reason in particular, and I am happy to be a volunteer and no longer an aspirante. Friday was our graduation and I was really impressed by it. The new US ambassador to Peru came and gave a great speech in if not perfect, near-perfect Spanish. He then gave a short talk in English and commented on varying opinions of the US from around the world, and how we are in a country that views the US favorably which should really aid us in our work. I couldn’t agree more, and thought about that a lot before receiving my country assignment. The biggest problem I’ve encountered here as an American is trying to convince people that we don’t, in fact, eat all of our food out of cans. Then came the hardest part of my three months thus far in Peru and that was saying ‘goodbye’ to my family. I have really grown close to them; to my Mom Jesusa and two brothers Alfredo and Jorge. Both bros are pretty stoic serious fellows and to see them tear up a tiny bit was so moving. I kept bursting into tears, getting control of myself, and talking about how I never cry and how cool, calm, and collected I was. Then I’d burst into tears again. It was all very ‘Danielle’ of me.
  • Mayhem in Lima: Immediately after the graduation, we hopped on a bus for Lima to stay one night before taking off for our sites. People started boozing pretty early. We all went out to dinner and the boozing continued. I did not booze because I was trying to ease my stomach back into existence. I’m sure I’ve already explained that in my Peru 9 group we are half business volunteers and half youth development. One of the business trainers was able to get us into a really cool club in Miraflores, so the business group headed over there around 11pm. The youth group went to a nearby bar with a couple other volunteers who happened to be in Lima at the time. All we have heard over the last three months is how tame our group is; there is a lot of hooking up (for the old folks out there, that is when a boy and a girl become more than just friends) and drinking and general debauchery in other groups apparently. I think the three month long build up of being ‘tame’ all came out on Friday night as there was a lot of gossip worthy behavior. Aside from one little cat-fight, I think everyone had a great time and would live the night over again exactly as it was if they could. I personally spent the entire night dancing, mostly by myself and with other friends from Peace Corps, and was a spectator of sorts as people got more crazy into the wee hours of the morning. All in all it was a great night, and while I missed out on participating in the debauchery, it was well worth it as now I’m healthy again.

Saturday I went to the chinese neighborhood in Lima and got some Dim Sum with friends before hopping on a bus to Chiclayo. The trip was rather uneventful (luckily) and all six of us arrived safely. I’m here in Lambayeque with Heather, Jamar, Bailey, Adrienne and Jeanette, among other volunteers from previous groups. We bummed around town on Sunday and spent the night and all headed out to our respective sites on Monday. Sunday was a weird day for me, as the weight of what was about to happen was finally upon me. I took off on my own for Tucume on Sunday afternoon to start my two years of service

Temporary Address

August 25, 2007 at 6:22 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

This is it until I set up my own mailbox.

PCV Danielle Howard
Cuerpo de Paz Peru
Casilla Postal No 208
SERPOST Chiclayo
Lambayeque, Peru

Looking forward to hearing from everyone!  Also, start sending me addresses so I can send letters; I’ll have a lot more free time starting tomorrow.

01100111 01100101 01100101 01101011

August 25, 2007 at 3:51 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Last week we had to write a ‘readiness to serve’ essay to give to the country director before being sworn in as volunteers. Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about my upcoming work and whether or not I am indeed ready for it. There are countless reasons why I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to work for a few years before joining the Peace Corps, not least of which was the fact that I loved my old job. Another reason that sits further down on the list is the ability to compare my ‘job’ here in Peru to a working experience back in the states.

For those unfamiliar with my employment history, I worked with an energy trading firm called DC Energy starting in September, 2004. After a few months working in collateral management and risk analysis, I moved onto a team that traded long term contracts in the midwest electricity market and spent nearly two years working with those products. At work, I was on the computer most of the time, and was otherwise in meetings trying to convince management to let me spend their money. There was a lot of analysis and number crunching at first (which I liked – I’m a numbers gal), and then some months later I was able to concentrate more on strategy development. I had a great 2.5 years and really liked the work and loved the people there, but wasn’t sure I wanted to lock myself into a career just yet, and started looking into development work, something that would afford me the opportunity to apply my love of numbers to more complex real world situations (and maybe to do some good on the side). There are a few more dots to connect, but that is how I eventually ended up here in Peru. The job was the typical ‘office job’ in many senses; business casual dress, some late nights at the office, deadlines, excel and powerpoint, conference rooms, office gossip, awkward but hilarious holiday party interactions, etc. One time, out my window, I saw two teenagers doing the boogie woogie up against a car on the roof of the parking garage across the street from my office. I guess that is not so typical of an ‘office job’ but warranted mention nevertheless.

Life as a Peace Corps trainee couldn’t be further from an office job, though it does remind me a bit of high school. I have to go in every day at 8:00 am so at 7:30 on the dot I run out the door with my lunch in hand to catch the bus. Around noon we have our lunch break, and everyone whips out their bagged lunches. Sometimes if the trainee across the lunch table has something you want, and you have something s/he wants, you can arrange a trade. My banana for your two mandarins? Are you going to eat that cheese sandwich? We get an hour for lunch and usually before classes start up again people will run across the street to a little vendor which is our version of a snack machine I guess. We even have our own clinic which consists of a dark windowless room with a bed. One difference is there is no parking lot to hang out in after school and spy on the good looking seniors. There is a park outside the center, but it is usually filled with kids or drunks or old people. Or all three, and you can always count on the dogs (and dog poop).

I can’t tell if I feel more like a grown up or less like a grown up here in Peru. Training is sort of an alternate universe, but I’ve gotten a taste of what I’ll be doing for the next two years, and all my ideas about responsibility, expectations, goals, and success have already been a little revamped and I believe there will continue to be changes – big ones. For one, any sort of deadline will generally be set by me, though my ability to meet that deadline will often depend on factors well outside my control. Here in training we stick to a pretty tight schedule, but once I get to site, there will be more down time than I’ll ever know what to do with, and a big part of my ‘job’ is integrating into the community, so going to a new family’s house for lunch, or watching a soccer game with friends actually counts as ‘work’ in a sense. This will definitely take some getting used to, and will require a new way of thinking regarding efficient use of time. When I get to site, my job is going to involve a lot more interaction (with artisans, tourists, government officials, other community members) than my job did at DC Energy, and I feel like there will be a lot more unexplored territory I’ll have to break into which I’m a little nervous about. The geek in me is actually going to miss the number crunching I was able to do at my old job. On my site visit last week I spent a good half hour mulling over the visitor statistics from the museum and trying to think of ways to analyze those stats to make changes at the museum or at the store. I don’t think it is the typical ‘Peace Corps approach’ to quantify that which is generally unquantifiable, but I figure it can’t hurt to try things my way. Now if only I could find out a way to build a parking garage in my new site…

Bad Blogger

August 23, 2007 at 6:38 pm | Posted in correspondence, family | 1 Comment

Thank you Missy for the lovely letter, and for the organic ´smooshed´ fruit. As you can imagine they are no where to be found in Peru and I LOVE that stuff.  Nice work. I´m so glad you enjoy the old blog.

Sorry I´ve been so absent…I´ve been sick and busy as well. Sick with everything that could possibly go wrong with one´s stomach, and busy wrapping things up and packing and buying presents for my family and teachers. Being sick here sucks, but I think it will suck more when I don´t have a toilet. Alas. I think I´m starting to feel better, or at least get used to being a little ill.

I leave for Lima tomorrow night with the group, and then take off for Chiclayo Saturday night on an overnight bus. And that is it, voila. I´m a Peace Corps Volunteer. I will cry a lot tomorrow because I don´t want to leave my awesome family here. Hopefully my family there will be of equal or greater awesome.

Apparently I have to set up my own mailbox when I get there, so I don´t have an address yet. I do have a phone number which I´m obviously not going to post on the world wide set of tubes, but if you want it just shoot me an email, and then you can call me and we can talk about the weather, or anything else that you want to chat about.

Last night I had a dream that I broke a plate and because of that got kicked out of Peace Corps. How weird!

Terremoto

August 16, 2007 at 5:50 pm | Posted in dogs, natural disasters | 4 Comments

Terremoto means earthquake in Spanish and this was the first one I’ve ever experienced save the middle-of-the-night tremor we had in New Hampshire back in April of my sophomore year of college. I was in a combi on my way to our directors house for a pizza celebration as we are winding down our training activities this week and next. We were driving along, and it felt like we ran over about a dozen or so speed bumps right in a row. As we were in a residential neighborhood, and speed bumps are common in these neighborhoods, I didn’t think much else of it until people started coming out of their houses. We’d been told there had been an earthquake and over the next few hours more and more details surfaced as to the severity of the earthquake. The epicenter was offshore of Ica which is the department south of Lima, and from what I’ve heard it registered a 7.9 on the scale and was felt down in Chile and all the way up to Colombia! Parts of Ica and Pisco were totally destroyed and the last death toll I’d heard was 400. Another interesting bit I saw on the news is that the wall of a prison collapsed and that over 600 prisoners escaped! Just so you know, the affected area is a few hours south of Lima, and maybe 15 or 20 hours south of my site, so I shouldn´t be seeing too may of those escapees hopefully.

There have been a bunch of tremors, well over 100, since the quake. It is odd living in a neighborhood with so many dogs because they sense the tremors before we do, and will start barking and freaking out a few seconds before the tremor.

The strangest part of this experience is the fact that not two days ago in spanish class we learned the vocabulary for natural disasters including the words for earthquake and tremor. Que raro. In any case, thanks for all of the e-mails of concern. Don’t let this scare you away from coming to visit!

A-okay

August 16, 2007 at 2:29 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Everything okay on this end with me, my fam, and my friends. Figured this was the easiest way to get the word out. Will post more later. Baby’s first earthquake.

Take it down

August 14, 2007 at 7:26 pm | Posted in food | Leave a comment

Last night I was feeling sort of feverish when I got home from school, probably from the change in climate and all the travel and whatnot, and I told my mom that I wanted to skip dinner and head straight to bed. She sat me down at the kitchen table and gave me a shot of something (not an injection, booze) and then sent me off to bed. Sure enough I woke up feeling better this morning. I love Peru.

Mail and Pictures

August 13, 2007 at 7:06 pm | Posted in correspondence | 1 Comment

Nana and Papa, muchisimas gracias for the article and letters and candy! It was so nice to get back to the center today and have your little gifts waiting for me. And to my heterosexual life partner, Sonyell Howantolo, THANK YOU so much for the awesome package. Two kick ass magazines, sourz, and Craisins, officially the best snack ever and not to be found in all of Peru. Also a hilarious letter that had me cracking up when I should have been paying attention in Spanish class…some things never change.

Mail-wise, I’ll be leaving Lima on the 24th so if you have been so kind as to be one of the people to send me mail, and would like to continue to do so, if you could wait until I get to my new site and get my new address. I should get that soon and will post it for certain. I’ll also have infinite more hours and will be getting paid a bit more so you can start to expect letters as well.

Also – I’ve put up a few pictures of Tucume, but wasn’t great at snapping shots all the time, and don’t have any of the house or family. I’ll work on it when I get there so you can know my new home.

One last good story about my friend’s new homes: one girl has to pee in her shower (no toilet) and the drain is pretty bad, so as you can imagine it gets pretty gross and all over her feet and legs. To go numero dos, she has to walk five minutes to the elementary school which, by the way, is closed at night and on the weekends. She did not enjoy her first experience with the shower/toilet, so she would go to the elementary school three or four times a day to go number one, and her family thought she had really serious stomach issues. Hilarious.

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