It’s Like Rayeeain On Your Wedding Day

May 28, 2008 at 9:49 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Irony sets in as I had what could potentially be my best Peace Corps day ever after writing that whiny and depressing blog entry yesterday. First I had some good visits with some of my favorite families in town. Even if it has only been a few days since my last visit, they always say: “Daniela! What a miracle that you have remembered us!” Something I used to find irksome, but now just find endearing. Then I headed out to the museum and while I was waiting to print out my english lessons for the day, I had a really candid and informative conversation with one of the artisans about some of the problems the association is having. Only recently have I felt like I was really being ‘let in’ so to speak, and these types of conversations really help me direct my work and my efforts. The rest of the morning I put together a mini-proposal, and when I want back in the afternoon for my classes, I spoke with some of the artisans about my ideas which would be revolutionary for the artisans and their business, and I think some of them are finally understanding where I’m coming from and how they can benefit. I’m not sure if I can get into it just yet online, but eventually I’ll elaborate on this big secret revolutionary project that I’m working on (besides the one where I use exciting adjectives to make my life sound more action-packed than it really is).

Also, last night I finally had a successful meeting with this group of mothers who I have been trying to get organized with since March. They have lots of ideas for projects in town which eventually fizzle and are never brought to fruition which has been so. frustrating. However, they do finally seem to be on board for this micronegocio (microbusiness) that they want to start, where they will try to sell homemade cleaning products and natural foods like yogurt and wine. We are going to submit a proposal for a competition that the municipality is holding, and right now I have these little old ladies out and about summing up costs and competitive pricing. Hooray! The best part about working with this group is that I can say something that to me seems mundane or obvious, and they will all start to nod their heads and clap their hands as if I had said the most insightful thing in the world. In all honesty, I don’t know if we can squeeze a winning business plan out of their ideas in the short amount of time we have (I think their idea is good, but I mean, literally a plan that will win the competition), but it is still definitely worth it to go through the motions, and there are plenty of places to look for other start up money.

In Peace Corps training they draw a chart for you that is essentially a line graph with lots of mountains and valleys and tell you that this is what your emotional and sometimes mental state will be like during your two years of service. Sometimes I wonder if I actually kept a daily chart like that with a one-to-ten-how-good-am-I-feeling-today measurement, what it would look like. Yesterday was a 1, and today was a 10.

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Nine down

May 27, 2008 at 6:23 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Sorry! Peru and my little blackMacBook don’t seem to get along, but things are back on track, and I’m back online and reconnected. Hallelujah.

Today marks my ninth month in site. I don’t remember where it was, or who told me, or what the context, but I remember hearing back in my training days, that the ninth month was the toughest one. I believe this information came from a current volunteer, presumedly one who had already been in Peru for a year and change. This is probably an unhealthy approach, but I often find myself comparing my own personal timeline in terms of milestones, breakdowns, and breakthroughs to those I’ve heard from more tenured volunteers. I wish I could remember better why exactly s/he said the ninth month was the tough one, but I’m certainly finding it to be so. Unfortunately, the problem for me is mostly cultural.

For one, it seems like sometimes people don’t listen to what you say. I’ll get an invitation to a birthday lunch and have to decline because I have english classes planned for the same time (oh, by the way I’m the teacher of those classes), and whoever is inviting me will just nod and say “yah, okay, so I’ll see you at 1:30”. Its as if there is this unwritten hierarchy of responsibilities and obviously I should blow off my English classes to go to a birthday party. After rearranging the class to be able to attend the party, I show up feeling not so great. Whatever I ate the night before is not agreeing with my stomach. So when the mountain of food (literally enough for three people) is placed in front of me, and I politely decline citing stomach problems, the plate is not taken away, but plate of ceviche is added to complement the rice, beans, and chicken that I already can’t eat. I sit there pushing the food around on my plate for a few minutes until the entire party is looking at me and asking why I’m not eating the food. Don’t you LIKE Peruvian food? It’s the best! It’s the best food in the world! What is wrong with you. Just eat it. Oh you are sick? Here take a shot of whiskey, then you’ll feel better. Now eat! Eat! Eat!

I thought this was a party. Where’s the fun?

I have also hit my saturation point with catcalls and street corner comments. At some point in the last few weeks, I just got fed up with feeling like a walking circus act, and I can’t get un-angry. I leave the house with a preemptive pissed off look on my face because I know what is coming. I used to be able to ignore it or even joke back, but I can’t do it anymore! I actually am having trouble holding in the big “F YOU” that is itching to get out. I don’t understand how people- human beings – can treat other people in that way. As a woman, and as a foreigner, I get the worst of it (at least, according to me, but some of my African American friends would contest that statement) because you get the inappropriate comments on your physique coupled with the inappropriate “Hello Hello” or “Yes Yes yes yes yes yes” or whatever other english word the person hollering at you happens to know. Okay, apparently there is a Peruvian superstition that if you see a dark skinned person you should pinch someone near you for good luck, and I can imagine it would get annoying to have people pinching each other every time you walk down the street.

But this is not a competition! The point is, no one should have to deal with feeling like a freak because they are white, or have boobs, or are black, or asian, or are wearing tennis shoes and a fanny pack. People should just be more polite. I hate to say this, but despite the nice feeling I get from acknowledgment from my friends, neighbors, and even strangers here with a ‘Good Morning’ (something you don’t get much in the busy busy states), I think I prefer anonymity. The nice greetings are not worth the offensive hoots and hollers and cat calls. No way jose.

Back to Bucket Baths

May 13, 2008 at 3:54 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

For the last week, Tucume has been without water. There is a large holding tank up on top of the mountain right in the middle of town, and three times a day for an hour or two, the municipality pumps water and it gets distributed to all of the houses. There is an underground system built, and it usually works well enough. There are days when they won’t give water, but we’ve never gone more than 48 hours without water distribution. The pump in the tank broke a week ago, and so instead of distributing water to all the residents through the underground system, the municipality started to bring a truck in once a day, and all the Tucumeneans run after it carrying buckets, tins, and trash cans of various shapes and sizes to collect their water for the day. There is a giant hose that pumps out the water from the truck, and you are faced with the inevitable pushing, elbowing, and wet feet and ankles.

I have become expert at taking bucket baths with as little water possible, and am almost out of clean underwear, but it has been worth it to see the hordes of people running after this truck with their empty water buckets. I might even be getting back some muscle mass from hauling water to and from the house everyday. Plus it provides another great opportunity for people to sit around the park at night and complain about the municipality. I suppose this is what they mean by ‘community integration’.

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