September 26, 2007 at 8:04 pm | Posted in friends, music | 2 Comments

Happy Birthday to my heterosexual life partner and mother of my two cats, Sonyell Howantolo.
Okay – so because it is your birthday, I’ll be the afro-ed, gold-chained fellow and you can be the girl. But just this once:


Yom Kippur: Part Dos

September 24, 2007 at 5:40 pm | Posted in family, food, Peru | Leave a comment

I broke the fast Saturday night with chicken, yuca, and a tasty ginger sauce. Not your typical break-fast, but it was still a good meal. On Sunday I headed out to Yanacoto to visit my old family. I managed to get on the wrong combi in Lima and it took me a good three hours to get out there (usually takes two), but I finally made it. It was SO. GOOD. to see my family from Yanacoto. I did not realize how close I became to them, or how much I love them, until going back and feeling like I was home (not as much as your home, mom and dad, but you know what I mean). I managed to see seven of the eleven Yanacoto families and they couldn’t have been more warm and welcoming and happy to see a familiar gringa face. They have new gringos now (or, aspirantes) but they miss our group so much. I spent at the least a half hour with each family which really ate into my time there but everyone wanted to know how all the volunteers of Peru 9 are doing in their new sites. The new volunteers seem to be settling in and adjusting really well which was good to see.

It was unbelievably hard to leave my fam and come back to Tucume. It is not that I am unhappy here, I guess it was just hard to come to a new country all alone, and really establish strong relationships with people and to then have to leave those behind. Perhaps when you are here, if you find such a strong foundation you really cling to it because it gives back to you the sense of stability and belonging that you left behind in the states. Back in August, when I was headed to site, I was expecting it to be a hard break. This weekend caught me off guard though – I was unaware I could come to care so much about a group of people in so short a time. I thought it would be a fun afternoon to come and catch up and have some lunch before heading back to site. It turned out to be too short of a stay and a teensy bit stressful because I kept checking the clock and willing it to move more slowly.

I suppose in a way it was a bittersweet trip because on the one hand I came to realize that coming back to Yanacoto was really like coming home, and on the other hand, shortly after making that realization I had to leave it behind once again. With time, I hope, Tucume can mean the same to me, and I have no doubt that I’ll be back to Yanacoto within a few months for another visit.

Yom Kippur: Part Uno

September 24, 2007 at 5:25 pm | Posted in espanol, religion | Leave a comment

Last Thursday I left Tucume for a trip that a big part of me did not want to take. It was nice to be settled into site, to fully unpack, and to be sleeping in the same bed every night. I had been traveling a lot the last few weeks of training and finally had made the big physical (and emotional) move to my permanent site. Nevertheless, I had an invitation to spend yom Kippur in Lima and it was something I did not want to pass up. In all honesty, I was most excited to celebrate a holiday that is so familiar in a place that is so new and different. In other words, I unfortunately cannot credit my deep spirituality for the undertaking of this trip. I was excited, as well, to have the opportunity to observe Yom Kippur because it is such an important day for us chosen people.

I enjoyed both services, and I think the trip was well worth it. The service was really similar, surprisingly similar to the ones back at good ole’ Rodef Shalom, but with a little more Hebrew because this was a conservative temple. The deal with jews in Peru is that there are a few orthodox temples in Lima and one conservative temple. Otherwise, ain’t much doin. The service was long, about half in Spanish and half in Hebrew. The rabbi would go back and forth between Spanish and Hebrew and only a few words into the Spanish portion would my brain register the switch. It was a jumble of foreign-ness but I could understand half the jumble (the Spanish), whereas the other half were words I recognized and had been hearing for the last 25 years, but they continue to be words that I don’t understand (Hebrew). It was truly an odd but enjoyable experience. Perhaps most noteworthy was a song I used to sing in Hebrew school at the conservative temple we went to back in MD in the 3rd grade. We then moved to VA and to a reform temple and 17 years later the song pops up in a conservative temple in Peru and I still remembered the tune and the words! It was like hearing your favorite hit from 1990 that has all but disappeared from the radio waves. It is hard to explain how and why that was so cool for me, but you get the idea.

I had a relatively easy fast and bought Harry Potter movies 3,4,5 for 10 soles ($3) during the day which is perhaps not the kosher thing to be doing on YK, but all in all I think I did good for a jew in Peru on the holiest of days.

Top Ten

September 24, 2007 at 5:12 pm | Posted in food, friends, kids, micronegocios, music | Leave a comment

I did a lot of top ten lists in college with friends, though they were usually written late at night and sometimes under the influence (and unintelligible).

Nevertheless, thus far here are my top ten best things thus far about site:

  • My afternoon coffee. As long as I can keep finding that lone coffee vendor in the sea of people selling coca leaves, I should be good to go.
  • Warm and tasty breakfast drinks every morning including soy milk, or this thing called Champu which is made from corn.
  • Being able to communicate in Espaneesh.
  • Learning how to make the products my artisans make, so far wooden jewelry and pressed aluminum.
  • Going to events and being able to see over everyone’s heads (I’m tall here).
  • A tall glass of freshly blended papaya, pineapple, melon, apple, or orange juice for the equivalent of 16 cents available all morning long.
  • Making friends with all the little kids in town.
  • Learning how to cook deelish Peruvian food.
  • 98.9 FM, a Chiclayo 80s station that is like a non-stop, exhaustive, and super awesome Legwarmers set.
  • Salsa salsa salsa: all the dancing I could ever want.

    Where you at?

    September 19, 2007 at 8:28 pm | Posted in correspondence, natural disasters, Peru, travel | 2 Comments

    Per Alex Friedman’s request, I’ve enclosed a map that shows where I live relative to where the meteorite struck and where the earthquake was.

    I’ve also put up my address on the sidebar so you can always find it with ease.



    September 18, 2007 at 8:21 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

    Mystery Illness Strikes

    Happy Birthday Mom!!!

    September 16, 2007 at 10:27 am | Posted in family, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

    Sung to the tune of ‘Happy Birthday’:

    Cumpleaños Feliz
    Te deseamos a Ti
    Cumpleaños Felices
    Te Deseamos a Ti

    I hope you have a great day!!! I love you!!!

    Blood Sweat and Tears

    September 15, 2007 at 10:12 pm | Posted in deep (shallow) thoughts, Peru, sick | 1 Comment

    Today, for the first time in my life, in person, I saw a dead body. I was on a combi on my way back from Chiclayo, the capital city in my department, about 20 minutes south of Tucume. The components unveiled themselves one by one; first, I saw a small crowd of people coupled with whisperings in Spanish from the people sitting to my left and right. Next, a motorcycle on its side along the road. Then, as if in slow motion, I saw the feet, legs, body, arms and finally the head of the unfortunate rider lying on the ground. As we rode past I surveyed the scene a bit better and it appears he must have collided with either the truck or the car that were also parked alongside the road though those had no damage. I’ll never forget how much blood there was, or how red it was. Glowing red – as if it were part of a movie. Between the sights, the stuffy combi, the combination smells of people who probably hadn’t showered in a few days and the reek of the produce that had been brought on board, it took everything in me to keep my food down. I picked up bits and pieces of conversation from there on out. People discussed what we had seen for another few kilometers and then the subject changed.

    Sometime within the last year I was out to lunch with a friend of a friend who had spent a significant amount of time over the last few years living in the middle east. I remember little of the situation – where we were eating or who the friend even was – but I remember the girl we were eating with describing how quickly death became a part of life. I remember her talking about becoming comfortable with walking out of her house every morning facing the distinct and likely possibility that day would be her last, how that feeling became almost routine. When I got home today and was recounting to my host dad what I had seen, he simply shook his head and remarked how unfortunate that accidents like that are common on the Peruvian highways. I can’t say that statement surprised me, given how insane the driving is here. Nevertheless, I felt so strangely alone in that packed combi the rest of the ride and for the rest of the evening. I was in such shock and was wondering why other people’s jaws hadn’t dropped.

    So, the obvious subsequent paragraph would relate the above to a place that starts with an “I” and ends in a “raq”, though given my current function, I will sidestep that discussion for now and just say that it is amazing what the human mind can accustom itself to given enough time and certain circumstances, and how alarming are the implications of what it means when death becomes commonplace. Will the dozen or so drivers who happened to pass by within a short time and happened to see the aftermath drive any differently tomorrow? Probably not, but perhaps I can always hope for one or two out of the twelve.

    Get busy

    September 13, 2007 at 8:48 pm | Posted in espanol, kids | 2 Comments

    So a few days ago I finally read the instruction booklet on the community diagnostic I’m to perform over the next few months and it looks as though it is going to require significantly more work than hanging out every day. Once I got to reading, jotting down notes and ideas and formulating some sort of work plan, I realized how excited I am to dig my heels in and get started. Using various methods of investigation, the diagnostic will cover everything from community health to education to income distribution to gender roles and much more. I’ll be using formal and informal surveys and interviews, workshops, and community meetings to gather information.

    In the meantime I’m starting with small projects. I went out to a casario today to a school of about 35 kids between the ages of 4-14. There are three classrooms; one inicial which is kids between 4-6, one primaria which is kids between 7-10 and one secondaria which is kids between 11-14. I spent an hour in each classroom, and with the kids in the primaria and secondaria we spent the hour learning ‘good morning’, ‘good afternoon’, and ‘good evening’. With the inicial, we learned the names of farm animals, but I think it isn’t worth it to try to teach english because they cannot yet read or write. I spoke with one of the teachers and I think with them I’ll end up doing more self-esteem and health games/classes rather than formal english lessons. Tucume has a population of around 21,000 residents, but only 9,000 or so live in Tucume proper. The other 12,000 live in casarios up to an hour or even further away. In Tucume, there is electricity, a sewer system with running water, several internet spots, plenty of bodegas, and a market during the day. There is one public primaria and one secondaria that are huge and several private schools as well. Don’t get me wrong, there is still plenty to be developed in town, but for teaching kids which will be a secondary or perhaps tertiary project for me, I’d rather spend my time out in the casarios. What they lack (which the schools in town often have) in resources, both human and material, hopefully I can make up for with creativity and enthusiasm. I have already visited the two main schools in Tucume and there was such a marked difference in the conduct of the children from the casario compared to in town. The kids today were *so* shy, so tentative, it took so much effort just to get them to speak in a voice loud enough for me to hear and understand. There is perhaps more ground to be covered out in the poorer casarios, but it is ground that I should be able to cover in the two years time. I thought for sure the hardest part of today would be the actual conditions of the school and the surrounding casario. Sure enough, they were shocking…kids without shoes, no paved roads, no electricity, barely enough tables and chairs for the students. The kids get up at 5am to work out in the fields and show up to class around 8:30 (or don’t show up, sometimes). They are exhausted and worn, but it was odd how quickly the external melts away and you are left focused on the kids and their desire to learn, and you make due with what you’ve got. Ha! That sounds so cliched… but it is really true! A few hours after having to beg them to say their names loud enough for me to hear, they were screaming out “GUD AVTERNUN”, and “GUD EBENIN” when I would point to the makeshift sun and moon I had drawn on the blackboard. Slow and steady is the name of the game.

    In other news, today was day two of a three day exportation workshop I’m attending in the afternoons in Lambayeque – about a half hour south of Tucume. It has been interesting overall, but only 25% or so of what has been covered can be applied to my day to day work. Nevertheless, I do feel a bit more well-versed in import/export talk and if we ever get ourselves to an export fair, I do think having this three day workshop will have really helped. I’m in the wee beginnings of developing computer classes for the artisans I’m working with as well, and will eventually start english classes with them too. My last experience teaching computers was by far the hardest thing I’ve had to do here, so I’m really going to have to psych myself up to make sure these classes are useful and interesting.

    Happy new year!!!

    A little slice of heaven

    September 12, 2007 at 7:03 pm | Posted in food | Leave a comment

    Peru is known for having great coffee, and I’ve realized it is so well-known because Peru exports almost all of it to other countries. Last weekend in Chiclayo I scoured the mercado for Peruvian homegrown coffee and finally found some delicious smelling stuff, and I bought a little metal thing to pass water through it. All I’ve had here is instant coffee, which is where you pour coffee-flavored powder into water and then close your eyes and hold your nose and drink it and pretend like it actually tastes like coffee. So I made some *real* coffee yesterday and took my cup and went and sat out in the sunshine in the park. Jessica, my German friend, joined me as well, as she also misses the 5pm coffee in the sun. People kept walking by and looking at us like we were crazy, but I’m making a sol bet (that’s 30 cents) that by then end of my two years here at least one or two Peruvians will have joined me for my late afternoon cup of joe.

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