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


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