A Very Charlie Brown October

October 8, 2007 at 9:47 pm | Posted in dancing, kids, music, pictures, teaching | 1 Comment

I finally took my camera out to the casario I’ve been working in. This week we taught German; we’ve been switching off every week, but I think next week when I get back from Lima we might just separate and teach both languages and then switch classrooms. We are going to try it and see how it goes. In any case, now I’m learning a little German as well as continuing with my Spanish. I put some pictures up of the classrooms on my picasa site, as well as some shots of a windmill where the town gets their water from. The windmill was broken when I took the shots and the town hadn’t had water for two days! They store some water in big trash-bin-like containers for situations like that so I believe that is what they were using. There was an anniversary last week so after classes there were some games and some dancing. I took a short video of the kids dancing, and it really reminds me of a Charlie Brown cartoon for some reason. How adorable are these kids:


I really am loving teaching out there. I also spent a few days last week working side by side with one of the artisans who makes pressed aluminum products, check it out:

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!!!!! I made that! It may look easy, but it was all done by hand, the design, everything. No mold, no nothing – it was really difficult. If you look closely enough at the picture you can probably see a ton of imperfections. The artisan I was working with makes them perfectly and in the time it took me to make one, she made ten. It was a really great learning experience and I’m proud of what I made. The box came ready made but I stained and shined it to get it ready for the shelves. Then I pasted on the aluminum piece I had worked on. Then she gave it to me as a gift! So I have it sitting next to my computer right now as I type, to remind myself that I’m not all numbers and geekage.

Today I went out with Jessica to visit a farm of a nearby family; the sister of the woman she is living with. It was so incredibly beautiful, it almost makes me regret not choosing a more ‘campo’ site. It was so peaceful, calm, and natural. They raise cuyes, pigs, ducks, chickens, and grow rice and sugar cane. It was a family of 8, one of the boys passed away a few years ago, and of the remaining children, five were girls who all married and moved away. Now just two boys live there with their mom and they manage the farm. I think they have either 15 or 30 hectares, I heard both numbers. I didn’t want to leave! I do really love my site, and as far as work goes there is a lot more to do where I’m living now than out there, but it was still a revitalizing way to spend a Monday.

Tomorrow I’ll head to the museum to help the artisans pick out the products they want to sell at the fair on Friday and on Wednesday night I head out for Lima, where I’ll be until Sunday.

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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.

    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!!!

    Growin’ Up

    September 3, 2007 at 9:31 pm | Posted in deep (shallow) thoughts, family, friends, kids, Peru, US of A | Leave a comment

    Most of the Peruvians I’ve become friends with here have been under the age of 21. Emotionally, mentally, and otherwise I felt like a young adult back in the states, but here I’m still trying to figure out if that ‘age’ exists in a persons life. I’m referring to the time when you finish school and get a job and if you can afford it, an apartment. You are on your own to feed yourself, pay bills, and you can do with your time and money exactly what you want, and can be as responsible or irresponsible as you want. A lot of young twenty-somethings here already have a kid (or kids!). Depending on the socioeconomic strata in which they are living, (pre)teenagers start having babies as young as the age of 12 or 13 (this happens mostly in the jungle). But even in the more developed areas, people at 18,19, or 20 are having kids and it is not rare to start younger. I talked about this in an earlier entry and about the lack of sex education, but what I’ve been mulling over lately is more that period of time between graduation and getting married, settling down, and popping out young ones. For me, the last three years have been some of my favorites; I had a great job that I loved, friends that I loved, and for the first time in my life a disposable income. I want to live in a dozen different countries if only to see what people between the ages of 20-30 are doing with their lives. From what I remember in Italy, people live with their parents until their mid-late twenties and continue to study or get jobs. The break between life with Mom and Dad and independence is much more nuanced than it is in the states (Sonia, back me up on this).

    From what I’ve seen in Peru, people get knocked up at a young age, get hitched, and the new family either moves in with the girl’s parents or the boy’s parents. The proud new parents and their babe all bunk up together. Depending on the economic situation, they will continue to bunk up until the kid is up to ten or eleven years old. I’m definitely basing this on anecdotal evidence and only a half dozen cases or so at that. My immediate list of contacts has spread outward starting with family members, and back in Yanacoto that began with a 20 year old boy, and here in Tucume it begins with a 16 year old girl. So perhaps this little investigation of mine warrants more time and effort. Aside from family members, I have had the opportunity to spend time with some of the older and more established citizens of Tucume, but those people are nearing retirement and have grown kids of their own. I’ve yet to tap the middle-ground, and it would be nice to befriend some people my age or even a little older, to see what we might have in common or what parts of our lives greatly diverge.

    It is interesting trying to figure out where I fit in, or where I will fit in socially here in Peru. I purposely use the word ‘interesting’ as opposed to something with more negative connotations because, at least for the moment, I’m perfectly content strolling around with my 16 year old sister and her friends at night, or chilling with my 8 year old bro watching the Simpsons (pronounced los seensons). The beginnings of my community analysis here have uncovered that work is valued over education here in Tucume, and (I quote) that people live for the moment, for today and tomorrow, and not the future. So maybe all the people my age are working, or at home taking care of their kids? Today I have my first meeting with the artisan association I’m going to be working with and it will be interesting to see what the age/gender dynamic of the group is. I do think a lot of these questions will be answered as I spend more and more time here and get to know more and more people. Nevertheless, my short stay here in Peru has really made me appreciate the freedom and independence I was able to enjoy back in the states after graduating from school…not in the sense that I’m not enjoying myself, but more in comparison to what might have been had I been born here.  So, to all you yuppies out there, yup it up.

    Get Your Desfile On

    September 1, 2007 at 2:22 am | Posted in family, friends, kids, party, pictures | Leave a comment

    I’ve been told over and over again that you have your good days and your bad days in Peru as a PCVolunteer. The last two have been great ones; woke up early to go for a run with my little brother who, incidentally, runs faster than me. Had some eats and made a really nice necklace with some beads I bought in Chiclayo; the tiny and mostly subdued artsy/creative side of me has really blossomed here. I had a lunch invitation with one of the professors/directors of the local high school which was really enjoyable. I was able to maintain a two hour long conversation about politics, religion, history, food, everything imaginable with an intelligent Peruvian. Hooray! I went on a short hike thereafter with one of the artisans named Cesar and one of his friends, Neil, to a great spot where you can see all of Tucume. Dinnered with the family and then headed over to one of the futbol fields where they put on something called a Serenata which is sort of a preamble to a day of fiesta. Kids from local schools as well as local dance groups performed various regional dances of Peru, from the jungle to the sierra and back. Today is the anniversary of the birth of Federico Villareal who is a famous Tucumenean and was born 157 years ago. There was a parade and kids from schools from all over Tucume and beyond came to march, or desfilar. I am not certain on this, but I think the Germans were here back in the 30s and while (LUCKILY) none of the anti-Semitism remains, I believe that is where the marching comes from. It was really cool to watch kids of all ages do their marches and there was even a competition for best marchers. I didn’t take any shots of the marching today but have plenty from the dancing last night and will try to post some videos so be sure to check out all the phat pictures on my picasa site as well as those from graduation.

    One other interesting tidbit; there is a girl here named Jessica who is German and is working with the Parish. She arrived last month and is staying for a year. From what I’ve gathered, her Dad is friends with the priest here, and she is working with the church in community development. She also teaches German in the Parish school. We met briefly last night and talked today about developing some sort of curriculum to teach out in the much poorer casarios (small communities outside of Tucume) which would be really exciting. It is really odd to converse with someone in a second language when it is also their second language. She knows a little English, but we pretty much just speak in Spanish. As you can imagine, it is hard to manage another second language here; I have trouble remembering English sometimes and my Italian is abysmal at present. So for her, it is easier to speak in Spanish than English, even though she knows both. In any case, this was an unexpected but VERY welcome development. I’m really excited she is here and I can’t wait to work together. While we are from different organizations we have pretty similar goals for our time in Peru (she will stay for one year, I’ll stay for two).

    Tonight we both were invited to a twenty-fifth reunion of the high school here by the professor I lunched with, named Oscar. It was really cool to attend a high school reunion in Peru! There were lots of speeches and lots of dancing, which makes it impossible to distinguish this fiesta from every other one I’ve attended. Nevertheless, people were really happy to see each-other and really emotional, and I feel lucky to have been a part of it. I spent a good fifteen minutes in front of my house tonight banging on the door trying to wake someone up to let me in, I do not feel lucky to have been a part of that but I think my host Mom was cool with it anyways.

    Here I Is

    August 29, 2007 at 9:35 pm | Posted in family, friends, futbol, kids, Peace Corps | Leave a comment

    Lots of changes are afoot. The biggest and most obvious change is my schedule; to go from having six of the seven days of the week planned out for you from morning until night, to having absolute complete freedom is taking some getting used to. I arrived on Monday afternoon and settled in a bit. I ended up changing houses from the one I visited two weeks ago; the room I was supposed to stay in was still occupied. With eleven people already living there, they don’t really have room for me. They actually started building a little hut out back of bamboo and mud for me to live in, but when the regional director came to check it out she decided that it was better to find another house.

    I’m now living with a smaller family under slightly different living conditions. I live with a Mom and Dad and have two brothers and one sister. One brother is 22 and doesn’t live here, I haven’t met him yet. The girl is 16 and is studying to be a doctor, and the other boy is 8 and he is my one and only friend thus far. We just watched The Simpsons and are going running together tomorrow morning. I have a room but it was empty and needs a lot of fixing up, so I bought a bed yesterday and cleaned it out today. I must have swept the floor five or six times and still couldn’t get all the dirt up. But little by little I’m making it mine. This house has both running water and electricity which is phat. I’m currently sleeping in my little brother’s room and he is sleeping with my parents. At first I misunderstood and thought we were both going to be sleeping in his room which sort of caught me off guard, but that is not the case.

    I spent yesterday morning visiting the elementary school and high school here in Tucume. Walking into a school and meeting with professors and administrators in a language I’ve yet to dominate is not easy. Giving a speech in front of a bunch of six year olds is even LESS easy. I think I was asked to be the volleyball coach and I had to politely decline the offer; I haven’t played volleyball since 8th grade and while I’d love to (and plan to) play, there is no way I could coach. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what I want to do with the kiddies of the community here. I guess I’m still figuring a lot of things out. My ‘job’, according to Peace Corps, for the next three months is literally to get to know the community and not much else. Again, to go from the long work weeks at DCE, to the full days of training, to ‘getting to know your neighbors’ is going to take quite a bit of getting used to. Tomorrow I have a lunch invitation with one of the directors of the school, and he invited me to a 25 year reunion of his students Friday night which should be cool. Sunday I have a date with my little bro (named Christian) to go watch soccer.

    Despite the fear of downtime, I’ve actually kept pretty busy. I’ve been spending an hour or two a day with the family I was supposed to stay with, as I got close to them during my site visit and really enjoy hanging out with them. Since there are eleven of them plus the random brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins who are constantly going into and out of the house, it is better to detail that family in another entry. There is a son, though, named Cesar who is 20 and is an artisan in the association I’ll be working with. There is a also little girl named Alexa and I help her out with her homework sometimes which I really enjoy because it actually teaches me some Spanish as well. Otherwise, I’ve been cleaning up my room, buying furniture, and trying to get to know my new family a little better. I try to get out an hour or two a day just to walk around and try to meet people. Today I went to the hardware store to buy some electricity plugs and had a nice little conversation about Cuban-US relations. I think I swung it right by talking about how much I wanted to visit Cuba. Sometimes I think people ask you the ‘hard questions’ just to start a discussion, so its always good to deflect those bad boys and steer the conversation back to Peru and back to Tucume.

    Doing work

    August 13, 2007 at 6:50 pm | Posted in kids, micronegocios, tourism | Leave a comment

    I think the thing I am most excited for is my work in Tucume. I was solicited as a volunteer by the museum in Tucume to work with the artisan association that sells their goods there. Tucume has a long rich history dating back to around 1000 AD (more or less) and has four distinct epochs of different cultures who had control; the Lambayeque, Chimu, Inca, and Hispanic colonial. I probably spelled at least one of those wrong, and am pretty unclear about the dates as well, but I’ll figure it all out and blog with more details in the weeks to come. The association I’ll be working with has thirteen artists who produce pressed aluminum, jewelry, dyed fabrics, and woven products with the symbols and iconography of the ancient civilizations.  Their products are incredible and they have a little store in the museum. There is also a jewelry studio and I believe a ceramics studio (currently unused) located in the museum that the artisans can use to make their products. I’m hoping I’ll get to use them as well. The association is pretty well formed and is formalized and they are looking to sell intra-nationally and hopefully soon after internationally. I’ll be working, at least at first, on price determination and quality control, as well as finding newer and bigger markets for them to sell to.

    The museum itself is pretty cool as well, and much like the association seems to be in the beginning stages of its life-span. It is located right at the base of the pyramids and you can walk around them, and literally be kicking around bits and pieces of pottery that are nearly a thousand years old. They are still doing a lot of excavation and for now the pyramids are very open to the public. There is one in town that you can climb to the top of. As a foreigner and tourist, there are already a lot of little things I’ve seen that I’m excited to help out with around the museum as well.  I met with the director while I was in town and she was great; very down to business and full of ideas. I think we will work very well together.

    There is definitely a part of me that is nervous that I am not qualified enough to be doing my job; there is so much potential in my little town and I am nervous about not tapping all of it. However, as my role is to capacitate and not to ‘do’ (teaching a man to fish rather than giving him the fish, or something like that), hopefully I’ll be able to work with the association than doing the job for them. This takes a little of the pressure off.

    I was able to visit two schools, and am hoping to get involved there as well. I’d love to work with the artisans and run capacitation workshops for the teens in the town, as well as start a girls sports club. Those are my two little seeds for ideas at present, but I’m sure more will come. I additionally had the opportunity to attend a local economic development workshop that the six local governments in the Valle de Leche (where I live) put on each month. Representatives from the different municipalities as well as from local artisan and agriculture associations were there and I made a lot of great contacts. There are definitely a lot of motivated people in my town and nearby, and the little part of Lambayeque that I’ll pertain to seems to be quite dynamic. Overall it was a really productive visit, and got me excited for my two years. There were worries and I saw several potential hardships to be sure, but overall I think the experience will be really incredible, and I cannot WAIT to get started. Two more weeks of training seems like an eternity, but hopefully it will fly by. 

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