Just take this stinkin’ fish

July 18, 2008 at 1:51 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I broke a cardinal (unofficial) peace corps rule this week and gave the people the proverbial fish. The artisans I’m working with were invited to a huge ten day fair in Kennedy Park in Lima where they will probably have access to the same number of tourists in 10 days as they would over several months at the museum here in Tucume. Kennedy Park is a beautiful park in the middle of the most touristy district in Lima (Miraflores), and the fair takes place during the height of the tourist season (your summer, our winter). They needed a catalogue to participate in the fair, and the one they had is a 3 on a 1-10 scale. We have discussed for months updating the catalogue, but I’ve hesitated taking charge of the project because without me, without my camera, without my computer skillz (that’s a purposeful ‘z’), they would not be able to make a catalogue or replicate what we would do together. I finally bit the bullet, and spent all last week and this week taking photos, writing up technical info sheets about each product including prices, measurements, and production capacity, and trying to write impressive and moving descriptions of the artisanal processes they use. I couldn’t send them to Lima with what they had, and time was running out, and it had to get done. I did work with two of the artisans on the information gathering portion of the project, but the majority of the ‘cutting and pasting’ was done by me. I think that companies usually hire someone to do this sort of thing, so in a way, they contracted a free fake expert to make a catalogue for them. Hopefully next time around they will have enough savings to hire someone (who actually knows what they are doing) to help them.

They warned us about this in training; often it will be significantly easier to accomplish something alone, than with two, three, or more people helping you out. Fight the urge, they told us. I guess I finally caved. I felt so accomplished and so quickly! Its amazing how long things take when you are collaborating and teaching and helping but *not* doing. When I was in middle school, I used to go to the local elementary school once a week to give homework help, and some of my work here is oddly reminiscent of those tutoring days. It requires an unbelievable amount of patience, especially when the solution or resolution is right there within your grasp, but you have to sit back and urge urge urge someone else to work towards it.

However, the infrequent and sometimes nearly imperceptible successes are real feel-good moments. It is an entirely different form of satisfaction than the one you get from the more tangible accomplishments. I’m hoping to have more of those as I move into my second year. So bring on the fishing lessons.

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The Pacasmayo Marathon

July 8, 2008 at 11:18 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

A capital ‘K’ Kudos to volunteer Steve who organized the Pacasmayo Marathon that went down this weekend. Steve is a business volunteer from my group, Peru 9, and for the last ten months has been working his tail off organizing a series of races that took place over the weekend, including a marathon, half-marathon, 10k and 5k. A bunch of volunteers were there to run the races or to help out, and there were a decent amount of Peruvian participants as well, which was surprising because running isn’t nearly as popular in this country as it is back in the states. I have only run one other race in my life, the 5K Turkey Trot with my little brothers back in 2006. I ran the 10k this time, and it felt SO great to come in and finish strong. I know a 10k is chump change to many people, but it was a big accomplishment for me, I had never run more than four or five miles before and only a handful of times had I even run that far. What a unique experience it was to run with all my friends along these beautiful cliffs overlooking the ocean. It was so fun, in fact, I could almost forget the fact that I was running a race and that I hate running. Three of my friends from Peru 9 and a handful from the other groups ran the full marathon, and to watch them come in was so inspirational. It’s hard to train here; there aren’t real running trails, there are lots of scary stray dogs, there are mototaxis in a hurry who will run you off the road, and for some there is also high altitude to deal with. To run any marathon is a big accomplishment. Here for some reason, it seemed colossal, and I almost exploded with pride as Greg, Wes, and Ali crossed the finish line.

The spirit of the peace corps volunteer was very nearly palpable that Sunday morning, it was one great day among many good ones over my last year here in Peru.

Bonita es La Selva

July 1, 2008 at 10:41 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My trip to the jungle was incredible. The highlight, by far, was Monkey Island a.k.a. the happiest place on earth. The monkeys are there to welcome you when you step off the boat. They climb up onto your back as you head up to the main clearing to accompany you with song and cheer. Up above, more monkeys await you to take your sunglasses off of your face and scurry up the tree leaving you shades-less but entertained. My family and I went on a week long jungle tour with a company called Explorama which was started by a Peace Corps volunteer (!) who was in Peru back in the 60s. We spent six nights at four different lodges situated along the Amazon and Napo rivers north and east of Iquitos. The accommodations range from sleeping on a wooden platform under a lean-to out in the middle of the jungle with a latrine to a luxury lodge with enclosed rooms, air conditioning, hot showers, a pool, jacuzzi, and water slide. For the entire week we were paired up with a guide and activities included mostly jungle hikes and boat trips. Our guide was born and raised in the jungle and spoke at least 5 languages. He knew every plant, every bird, every bug we saw, and had lots of good stories about jaguars and poisonous snakes that were fun to hear, but weren’t really something I would want to experience first hand. The food was delicious and well prepared. Aside from the monkeys, we saw giant iguanas, tons of different spiders and insects, tarantulas, pink river dolphins, a capybara, a taiper, anteaters, sloths, turtles, alligators, and piranas (caught when we went pirana fishing and eaten later that night for dinner!).

We visited a couple of different villages along the river, and got to meet and greet some locals. The people, as I’ve found in most small towns in Peru, were incredibly friendly and welcoming. Some years ago Explorama build a canopy walkway which consists of hanging bridges placed between trees. The walkway is 1/3 of a mile long, and is a great opportunity to see the jungle from the unique vantage point of up above. It was build for biologists but was recently opened to the general public. That was definitely another highlight of the trip. We also visited a local shaman who is contracted by Explorama to share some of the history and traditions of curaduismo with the tourists. The potential for healing and medicinal usage of the plant life in the Amazon is really incredible. I wish there was some way to bring more research and development into the area without exploiting the local resources and the local know-how, though from my understanding, the resources there are not very tightly regulated. I spent a great 26th birthday with a serenade of ‘Feliz Cumplea├▒os’ with my four favorite people in the world. There were so many once-in-a-lifetime experiences we had over the course of the week – I wouldn’t change a thing about the trip.

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