Christmas Time

December 31, 2007 at 10:11 pm | Posted in family, food, friends, party | Leave a comment

I experienced some firsts over the last few weeks of December. At the beginning of the month I helped my family put up Christmas decorations in front of their house; it helped being ‘tall’. Back in August I committed to a Lima visit over the holidays, so headed down there on an overnight bus on the 23rd and arrived at my old Yanacoto haunts on the 24th. It was really great to see my old family and all my old neighbors. Other volunteers went back as well, so I killed a few birds with one 12 hour bus ride and got to see a bunch of people all at once.

We prepared a turkey (using a medical needle to inject white wine – hopefully it was unused) and took it over to the local panaderia to bake in their oven. At midnight everyone shoots off fireworks and other assorted noisy goods, which was really amazing because the place I lived in Lima was up on the side of this huge chain of mountains and it made for some beautiful fireworks. Then we ate dinner, which typically consists of turkey, and then panettone and hot chocolate. Panettone, I suppose, is the Peruvian equivalent to fruitcake, but it tastes better because it is Italian. They are all over the place during the holidays. Afterwards a bunch of people came over to the house and we danced and drank ( just a little) like the old times. I don’t really ever drink in site, so it was fun to have a few beers with friends and family down in Lima. I adore my first family and it was great to see Alfredo and my Lima Mom.

On the 25th, people are pretty chillaxed because they usually stay up until 5/6/7am dancing and drinking. I made it until 4. Around midday I headed over to another family’s house where my friends, their families, and I prepared Pachamanca. This is an interesting dish, Pachamanca translates to: don’t fill up on soda beforehand. First you heat up rocks over an open fire in the ground for a few hours. You then clean away the fire, lay some leaves to avoid the dirt and soot, replace the rocks, and overlay the heated rocks with all kinds of foods: marinated chicken, pig, guinea pig, apples, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, pineapple, and ground up corn wrapped in banana leaves called humitas. Okay, whatever else you want to throw in. You cover it all with more leaves, then dirt, and let it sit and steam and cook for a few hours. Then you dig it all up and eat it. IT. IS. DELICIOUS. Here’s a shot of us digging up the food.


The last time I made this dish I think we put a cross on top, but I don’t remember whether or not they did that this time. Pagans.


My Chanukah Gift

December 5, 2007 at 11:53 am | Posted in bugs, family, food | Leave a comment

Yesterday my life took an entertaining new turn, my brother Christian (9) has taken to killing flies, which are in abundance now that it is summer, with his hand on a table or wall and then trying to wipe them on me. Though, I suppose finding one smeared across my pant-leg is infinitely better than finding one in my soup.

Come Visit Me, A Howard Original

December 2, 2007 at 10:05 pm | Posted in dogs, family, food, friends, horses, language, music, party, Peru, sick, tourism, travel | 4 Comments

(sung to the tune of Rod Stewart’s ‘If You Think I’m Sexy’…play the video, then follow along with the new and improved lyrics)


azucar, oooh


ooh ooh ooh


You sit alone, reading my weblog
Peru sounds nice, except the trash and stray dog(s)
The climate is dry, the food cheap and delicious
The culture abounds, for you Peru is waiting


If you want to visit me
And don’t fear diarrhea
Come on azucar let me know

The flight will be expensive
But then once you get here
Everything will be dirt cheap


To Machu Picchu, I cannot escort you
It’s far away, and I’m basically penniless
Northern Peru, to you has lots to offer
Pyramids, Ceviche, and a cute jewish curly haired spanish speaking guide

So hop a plane to this third world country
At last! you can watch me dance the festejo


If you want to visit me
And like eating rice
Come on bebe let me know

We’ll go horseback riding
And we’ll hike the pyramids
We can go surfing if you are paying!


There is ancient stuff here too
Not quite as famous as the south
Come on friend/relative/complete stranger
You might want to pack some diapers


(saxaphone solo)

(time to break it down)

We will pick fruit and eat it off the tree
Guanabana, Chirimoya, and other stuff you’ve never heard of
If it’s not rainy season, we’ll go to the mountains
Ride around on donkeys, and do lots of cartwheels

One other thing, you’ll have to remember
Carry around some TP because they don’t have it available in public restrooms

IIIIIFFF you want to visit me
And like being relatively tall
Come on azucar let me know

As a special bonus
You might get to feel a tremor
Ah, I see you are booking your ticket right now!


shuu gar

if you really need TP
i’ll carry around some extra
come on sugar let me know

really really really need TP! just let me know

(whispers): TP TP TP TP TP TP

(2x) I’ll bring the TP, you’ll bring the TP


Little Miss Inikuk

November 13, 2007 at 8:20 pm | Posted in dancing, family, music | 2 Comments

Friday was the ‘Miss Tucume’ competition. My sister Vicky was a contestant:

This year they changed things around a bit and incorporated a lot more prehispanic themes into the event. They called it Miss Inikuk, and the contestants had to give a short speech in Mochik which is an antiquated language of the region. Each girl also danced a short marinara and there was a ‘question and answer’ session which I think was fully pre-scripted. It was really interesting and cool and even though my sister did the best, she did not win, but we all had fun nevertheless.

I had been helping the municipality plan the event and they gave me the job of delivering gifts at the end. Before announcing the winner, each participant was awarded a small gift. I thought I’d just be handing the gifts out to the host from backstage, but 30 seconds before delivering them I was informed, arms full of regalos, that I’d be going up on stage to hand out gifts to each girl. So there I was with a heaping pile of boxes in my arms up on stage in front of hundreds of people. Of course the host takes the opportunity to chit chat with the gringa and my ability to speak spanish (or speak at all, for that matter) ran out of the complex and left me there all alone (well, with the gifts). I finally mustered up something along the lines of: “I’m so happy to be here, it was such a beautiful ceremony, in my country we don’t have such a complex and rich history of culture and traditions, I really enjoyed seeing the dance numbers and hearing the speeches in Muchik”. It probably sounded a lot worse than that though, like “me gringa, you dance pretty.” The host decided to delve into a little spiel about how the English came to America and wiped out the Indians and everything they lived for, while the Espanoles came and took all the gold but left behind a good chunk of culture. Okay, fair enough. I was already feeling pretty awkward and that didn’t help the matter. But, I survived and made it off stage to the sound of cheers which was cool. The next day walking around town I suddenly had doubled my number of friends, and by friends I mean people who yell ‘HELLO DANIELA HELLO HELLO GOOD MORNING GOOD AFTERNOON GOOD NIGHT I LOVE YOU OKAY BYE BYE’.

Such is life in my little town in northern Peru. All in all it was a really great experience. Enclosed is a short video of some sassy children dancing the Marinara. Enjoy and check out my photos on Picasa.

PS today is Alex Friedman’s birthday but I probably won’t post this until tomorrow or Thursday. What can I tell you about Alex Friedman? Sometimes when I say that name, people cannot tell if I’m talking about a girl or a boy. HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALEX FRIEDMAN!!! I hope you always remember the time we got so sunburned in Puerto Rico that little children would run away from us screaming when we passed them in the street.

First Team!!

November 8, 2007 at 1:42 pm | Posted in family, futbol, US of A | 1 Comment

Congrats to my brother Michael who made first team all district defensive back even though he is and will always be a cute little munchkin and plays for the smart-kids school. You make me proud to be a Howard, kiddo.


Knock Knock Knocking

November 7, 2007 at 2:22 pm | Posted in dancing, death, family, food, party, religion | 1 Comment

Last week my host Mom asked me if I was interested in going to a mass with her on a Friday morning. I accepted the invitation a) because I rarely turn down invitations here as I’m still getting to know my way around and b) my family rarely (if ever?) goes to church so I figured it was an important and potentially interesting occasion.

It turns out we were celebrating the birthday of my host Dad’s mother who had passed away a few years ago. The mass was about 45 minutes long, and everyone was relatively somber. As we left the church around 10am I started heading home and my HM (host mom) pulled me the other way and said we had to go to the house and pay our respects. I stepped inside the house and the living room was set up the same way as it would be for a party; chairs lined up against the wall circling the room. Uh oh. We take a seat and sure enough five minutes later everyone has a plate of fried yuca and pork in their hands. Did I mention it was 10:15? Fair enough. Next thing I know a bottle of Yonque (I’m not sure on the spelling nor exactly what type of liquor it is – but it tastes like whiskey) is heading my way. Whenever I’m at a party I try to situate myself between two timid, quiet, keep-to-youself kind of people because they are less likely to pour you a heaping glass of name-that-alcohol despite your most determined protests.

I’ve already explained Peruvian boozing style but if you missed it, one bottle and one glass is passed around, men pour for themselves, and usually will pour for the women sitting next to them. Sometimes I am able to get the bottle and pour my own drink instead of having someone pour it for me. My little trick is to pour 2-3 drops of whatever is being passed around and then pretend like I’m taking a big gulp, so it seems like I’m drinking more than I really am. So I usually end up drinking a lot of backwash and little booze – but I actually prefer that to the alternative (getting drunk in the middle of the day). You cannot say no. You just can’t. So my solution is to make-believe.

Anyhoo, I was okay with the Yonque because it apparently dissolves all the fat and grease you just consumed so you don’t gain weight (so they say). But the Yonque was followed by a bottle of wine, and then more Yonque, and then actual whiskey, and then beer after beer after beer. People started dancing which is always awkward for me because no matter if I dance well or poorly, everyone is watching the gringa. At the beginning of the festivities there was a speech in remembrance of the woman who had passed away, but otherwise it was a generally happy occasion. Celebrating the birthday of a dead person in and of itself was weird and new for me; the fact that it was such a jovial day really turned me on my head.

Earlier this week we celebrated the day of the dead here in Peru. I headed out to the cemetery around 8pm with my HB (host brother). My HS was already there. It was PACKED, and to get there you walk through all these tents that were set up outside selling food and booze and playing music and games. Wacky. We get inside and HB starts praying at the grave of his abuela (my late HGM). HS turns to him and says ‘what are you doing’; he was praying at the wrong grave. I thought that was hilarious. So, once again, a day to celebrate the dead was something new for me…and WHAT a celebration it was.

If nothing else, I suppose having music, drinking, and dancing as distractions can ameliorate the sadness one can feel on such occasions. At first, both at the party and at the cemetery, I was really taken aback by this approach; it almost seemed synthetic in a sense. I’ve thought about it a lot though, and I’m not so sure. Maybe it is not a distraction, but instead a much-needed reminder of (hallmark alert) the good things and good feelings there are to live for, and exactly why death is such a momentous occasion. It certainly beats sitting around alone and crying and feeling depressed. Maybe a person needs both to mentally and emotionally take in the events surrounding the death of a loved one.

Mazel Tov

October 21, 2007 at 10:52 am | Posted in family | Leave a comment

This post has nothing to do with Peru and is dedicated entirely to my cousin Harris and his new bride Betsy.

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of spending time with the Newmans on the Jersey shore. BBQs at the house, July 4th at Tak, catch on the lawn, and merciless pillow fights in the den. Of course the best times were when the entire extended family showed up (always unbeknownst to Aunt Nancy until 30 minutes before) and we somehow squeezed everyone in the house at 3 Green Terrace for a feast to end all feasts. I am the third oldest cousin on my Mom’s side of the family, after Harris and Ryan. Since they were always bigger and older than me, Harris and Ryan would do really cute ‘cousin-y’ things like hold me down and fart in my face, or ‘forget’ to look for me when we would play hide and seek at the beach. As of late, the camaraderie has manifested itself by way of continually pointing out my lack of ability to ride waves, and my knack for missing the ‘wave of the day’.

Harris moved to DC when he was a freshman in college. He was always over at the house, usually sleeping off a hangover, or having help with his homework. He became a lot more like a big brother in those years which brought mostly pros, but had its few cons as well. One in particular that comes to mind is the time he showed up at the restaurant where my homecoming date had taken me to spy on us and check up on my date. He was always looking out for me though, and I’m proud to say that he has the bitchy teenager stamp of approval. It was a lot of fun having him around and he even served as the ‘grown-up chaperone’ for one of my parties so he definitely had his uses.

I think I had my uses as well; there was a time when a girl who lived in Harris’ apartment building really liked him and he was completely uninterested. She came by unannounced one time when I was staying over, so he introduced her to me, I stepped out to use the restroom, and while I was gone Harris used the opportunity to tell her that his cousin didn’t like her at all and she had to leave and never come back. I remember the day before Harris met Betsy; we were out to dinner in NYC for our birthdays and he was telling me about a date he had the next day. About a month or two later I was back in New Jersey for some beach time and Harris brought Betsy to Tak where we met for the first time. We clicked from the get-go, and bonded over a political debate one evening in the Newman household where we stood together as proud defenders of all things liberal.

I love my cousin like a brother, and couldn’t be happier to see him with such a loving, strong, kind and intelligent woman. I feel lucky enough to have gained Betsy as a friend, I can’t believe we also get her as part of the family. My one regret in joining peace corps and heading down to Peru is that I cannot be there to celebrate with you guys. I hope you like your gift – the pottery comes from a small group based up in the mountains of Piura, Peru. For now you’ll have to settle for a photo because I am too poor to ship the ceramics back to the states in a manner that ensures their safe arrival, but they’ll get there soon enough.


People are good

October 15, 2007 at 10:42 pm | Posted in family, friends, micronegocios, Peace Corps | Leave a comment

As I mentioned in the last post, I went to Lima this weekend for a Peace Corps sponsored artisan fair. By that I mean that only groups who are working with a volunteer were at the fair. It was a really great way to meet all the other business volunteers in Peru, as well as to see some of the other work that people are doing. There was a workshop on Thursday, and the fair was on Friday. On Friday night my artisan headed back to Tucume and I stayed in Lima an extra night to catch up with some of the other volunteers. A friend of a friend of a friend lives in Lima working for an NGO, and we had been put in e-mail contact but had never really met before. A few days before arriving this weekend, I shot her an e-mail to see if she might have a place for me to crash, since I dropped so much money last month staying in Lima for the high holy days. Her parents were in town, but she said she had an extra bedroom I could stay in, and offered for a friend as well. So after the fair on Friday, Rachel and I waited and met Ali at the Peace Corps office. We then went to the enormous grocery store called Plaza Vea and bought boxed wine and ingredients for rice krispie treats (and added pretzels which was a huge success – try it). The three of us headed over to Tania’s apartment where we met for the first time. Our plan was to leave our things and go out and meet up with the rest of the group around midnight as they had headed back to Chosica for a few hours. Tania was there with her parents, but gave us an extra key and said she could meet us out later. So, we came in, put our stuff down, and plopped down on the couch to introduce ourselves and get to know each other before we got going.

Before I knew it about two hours had gone talking…about politics, world events, rice krispie treats. Tania and her parents have lived all over the world and all three are incredibly smart and interesting people. I hate to compare the evening to a night with my Peruvian family because things are just so different, so I won’t. It was refreshing, though, to sit around with friends and family and exchange ideas and opinions about things happening outside of the bubble of my little town. We ended up staying there the whole night continuing to talk and then we watched part of a movie, Volver, before going to sleep.

The next morning Tania’s dad made a spanish tortilla, or omelet, which has eggs, potatoes, peppers and onions. They had a week-old Sunday Post that her parents had brought, and we sat around for almost three hours (!) reading the paper, sipping on coffee, and eating a delicious brunch. It felt so much like home, it was almost dangerous because it made me not want to leave. Once in a blue moon you meet people who make you feel so good to be a part of this world and a part of this race. I know that sounds uber-cheesy, but they had no reason to take us in and treat us like three more members of the family, especially considering it was a rare time for them to spend with each other, but that is exactly what happened. By the time I left on Saturday afternoon, I felt like I was saying goodbye to friends I had known for years. As a peace corps volunteer, having spent the last six weeks feeling quite alone in the world, I cannot explain how much that meant to me and my two friends, I can only say it and hope that somehow it can be understood, and hope that someday I have the opportunity to do the same.

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.

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!!!

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