Giddy Up

November 9, 2007 at 10:37 am | Posted in espanol, friends, horses, micronegocios, Peace Corps, pictures, tourism | Leave a comment

It appears that I forgot to write about my day out in Sipan. The Senor de Sipan is Peru’s own version of a King Tut, and was discovered back in the 80s. Sipan is a site about a half hour east of Chiclayo and my friend Bailey is volunteering there. She is mostly working with the museum on tourism but is also working with a group that makes algorrobina which I guess is sort of like tasty tree sap.

The professor I’ve been working with out in the casario, Los Riojas, had last Thursday off of work and invited me to go out to where his parents live to check things out. He, his daughter, and I along with his two sisters and his niece all left from Chiclayo around 10am on a combi out to Pucala. For reference, Tucume is situated north of Chiclayo and these sites were east. We headed out to the local stables in Pucala to ride some horses. I’m not sure about the last time I rode a horse but it was probably in the fourth grade with my friend Jaclyn back in Great Falls. I have really been missing out all these years – it was so much fun! There was one point where I accidentally picked up the whip-like-thingy (pardon my lack of horse vocab) and the horse I was riding started galloping. I couldn’t figure out how to get it to stop, and everyone was yelling at me to drop the whip-like-thingy so the horse would stop running, but seeing as how I don’t know how to say ‘whip-like-thingy’ in English, obviously I couldn’t understand what they were saying in Spanish. I finally figured it out and we slowed back down to a trot.

We then hiked a good 45 minutes to get to Sipan – to get there you first walk through some farmland which was really beautiful, then you hike down to a river to cross it. It only came up to my knees, but it was so hot out, I got pretty soaked on purpose. Then we hiked up through Bailey’s town called Huaca Rajada and then to the site museum where they discovered the Senor. Unfortunately for the town, they removed most of the cool stuff, but left some bones and ceramics. They moved the rest of it to the museum in Lambayeque called Tumbas Reales. My friend Bailey made a good joke and said it should be called ‘Cosas Reales’, because all the tombs are still in Sipan, but all the things or ‘cosas’ are in the museum. The joke potentially is not so good in written format. Apologies.

It was a really cool day between the horses and the pretty hike. Bailey gave us a tour in Spanish of her site which was awesome and then we all had lunch together. I think, for Bailey, being able to show people around her town really made her realize how many friends she has made there and how much she has learned about her site in such a short time. Here is a shot from the tombs – I think all the stuff in there is fake, but it was cool nevertheless to see where they had dug everything up. More pictures are up on my picasa site.


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.

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!!!

Would you like some cheese with that…

September 8, 2007 at 6:50 pm | Posted in dogs, espanol, sick | Leave a comment

It is not my style to use my weblog as a medium through which I can complain or get things off my chest. BUT, I have gotten several comments about wanting to know all the depressing, sad, or otherwise unhappy details of my life here in Peru. So, here goes (don’t judge me):

The noise for one: sometimes, I just want to have peace and quiet, but ever since electricity arrived (I’m guessing), stereos have been blasting Salsa, Nectar, or Grupo Cinco all day every day loud enough to make your ears bleed. If it is not the stereos, it is the dogs barking, or the chickens caw-cawing, or the horns blasting. Most intersections lack stoplights, so cars and trucks just honk before they get to every intersection – or pretty much non-stop. I still haven’t seen two cars arrive at the same time, but I guess whoever has the louder horn wins (?). Anyways, if you are thinking of joining the Peace Corps in Latin America, might I suggest an industrial sized box of earplugs – it is my most valuable possession here in Peru. I am 100% serious.

The language for two: I don’t think I ever posted the results of my final language exam. I was bumped up two levels again to advanced medium which is one spot below fluent (advanced high, then superior, or fluent). Hooray! I was really surprised and excited. So my Spanish is the bomb at present, but still, sometimes it is so wearing to speak in another language all of the time. Moving to Lambayeque meant (means) getting used to a whole new accent and new slang. Sometimes I get so excited about the stuff I’m talking about and I JUST WANT TO TALK IN ENGLISH, but no one understands it. Another bummer is sometimes I really feel like I hit these plateaus with my language level and it is frustrating to not be able to express myself exactly the way I want to. An additional gripe is the accent; now that my grammar and sentence structure is better, I’ve been trying to perfect my pronunciation with little success. In particular, words with ‘rd’ in them such as guardaropas or tarde are difficult for me to say. My little 8 year old brother always asks me to say those words, so I’ll say them and then he will point and laugh at me. This wouldn’t be so bad if the rest of the family did not also start laughing.

The efficiency (or lack thereof): things get done a lot slower here, and while in most circumstances I really am embracing this new pace of life, in others it can be frustrating. Case in point; I lost my bank card my first day in site (super smart, Danielle) and right away called the Peace Corps office to get events set into motion so I could get a new one. This was almost two weeks ago now, and I was told it would take up to a week to get a new one. I’ve called several different people and keep getting the same response: we’ll let you know when you can go pick it up. Grrr.

Lastly, and most important, the getting sick. I haven’t talked about this a lot in my blog, but since my site visit I have been having on and off stomach problems for almost a month now. It is not bad or serious, mostly just annoying. I’ll be fine for three or four or even five days, and then have between an hour up to an entire day of really bad stomach cramps accompanied by the big ‘D’ and the big ‘V’ (that is diarrhea and vomiting). Again it is not debilitating, mostly just bothersome, but I’m almost getting used to it. AND, it is definitely tapering off (I HOPE I PRAY!). I’m pretty sure what is going on here is there is something in the water that wasn’t in Lima, and I’m just getting accustomed to it. Such is life, but some days it can definitely be a downer, especially when I have to put on a happy face when meeting new people.

So, the worst it can get: I’m feeling really sick, and there are stereos blasting all around, and dogs-a-barking, and horns honking, and I have to explain to my Mom or whoever in espanol why I keep running to the bathroom (I guess it is a little worse if there doesn’t happen to be toilet paper).

Okay, now back to the peppy, fun-loving, dreadlock-growing* Peace Corps volunteer you all know and love!

*just kidding!!!

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