Happy Anniversary

December 18, 2007 at 7:34 pm | Posted in dancing, food, friends, horses, micronegocios, travel | 3 Comments

So, I know the world is dying to know; I found the pigeon soup to be truly gross. It was not honey brown like a chicken’s skin, but black and sad-looking. The meat was really soft and almost creamy. Yuck. I hope to never again see two little pigeons looking up at me from the yellow bucket in the kitchen. A little over a week ago I hit my six month mark here in Peru. Six months! Six months is a long time, and… a very short time. Last week I went out to visit a friend – another volunteer – who has a year and change under her belt. She has an awesome site right on the beach. We went on a short hike to get to this beautiful secluded beach where there were lots of pebbles and tons of pelicans and no people. Even though I have an irrational fear of birds, pelicans up close are amazing looking creatures. It was a great afternoon for me.

My friend and I have similar approaches, similar attitudes when it comes to site and work and Peace Corps, and it was good to see how happy and settled in she was. While I’d consider myself content, I can’t say that I don’t look to August 2009 with some…yearning. She put it well when she said: ‘you eventually start to feel like this is actually your life’, which may sound odd to the interested reader, but at times it does feel like I’m in some weird transitory state and I’m going to wake up tomorrow and jump back into wherever I left off back home. I don’t feel like I’ve established a life, a routine, or real friendships here in site and it was good to hear that all comes with more time, because I don’t feel like I’m real part of this community yet, but still an outside observer who occasionally gets invited to birthday parties.

I went to a two day workshop with one of the artisans last week as well, which I really enjoyed. These workshops usually touch upon stuff I already know about, but its great for me to see the activities they use, because I can then turn around and use them with the artisans or kids I’m working with. I’ve had the same experience several times with workshops I’ve been to, where we all get there on the first day and people are like, ‘who the heck is this gringa?’, and by the end we are all working together on projects or activities or whatnot and I no longer feel like the weird white girl.

To change gears a bit, when I was in Lima for my first three months, I had a ‘cousin’ who lived down the street (the nephew of the lady I was living with) and it turns out he is from Tucume. He came back here to visit his family this week and took me out on one of their horses to get to know more of Tucume. I live in the pueblo – or main town – but Tucume has 26 casarios in the surrounding area (smaller, poorer ‘villages’) dispersed throughout the campo, and I rarely get the opportunity to visit because I don’t feel safe going alone. The one exception is Los Riojas, where I teach once a week, but I go out there with another teacher, never alone. I love getting out of town and out into the middle of nowhere, and I’m really starting to like riding horses, so it was a really great afternoon. Three hours on horseback exploring the countryside is nothing but good for the soul (though quite bad for the unaccustomed butt).


I’m starting English classes in January with the artisans out at the museum. The artisans initially had requested nine hours a week, but we knocked that down to two, at least until the big February festival is over. I’ve also committed to six workshops over the course of the next six months starting in January with leadership and team building. I sort of feel like I’m running my own little business school down here, but I guess that is sort of the point, since I’m a business volunteer. Hopefully I’ll have a good set of lectures filed away by mid-year. Then I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I’m guessing I’ll have time to figure it out. I’ve also arranged to trade english classes for salsa classes with one guy in town, so I won’t have to do the only two steps I know every time a salsa song comes on.

I’m leaving for Xmas in Lima with the first family on Sunday and then will be back on the 27th. I hope everyone who is reading has a great holiday season, and if I don’t get around to posting until then, a very happy new year. Be safe!


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.


November 8, 2007 at 1:02 pm | Posted in language, micronegocios | Leave a comment

A Russian tourist came into the shop yesterday and I was kicking myself for not remembering more from my two years of Russian classes in high school. All I could pull up was ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, ‘I love you’, ‘I speak Russian’, and the now-defunct Soviet national anthem. He did get a kick out of that though – its always been a good party trick. Luckily the guy knew a little more English than I knew Russian so we could converse that way and I helped him buy a batik fabric for his home.

Dany gets her Groove Back

October 22, 2007 at 8:52 pm | Posted in friends, micronegocios, Peace Corps, teaching | 4 Comments

The title of this entry refers to the fact that I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately regarding my service. Mostly this derives from the fact that two of my closest friends from training went home about three weeks ago, which was, frankly, really upsetting. Additionally, the abundance of down-time, and my inability to be immediately effective, especially compared to my last job, has finally hit me. I’m still getting used to it – I feel guilty when I spend two hours of an afternoon reading a book. I had anticipated this, but am nevertheless still dealing with it mentally and emotionally. However, ever since my trip to Lima, things have been on the up and up. For one, spending time with good friends was a big plus. Additionally, the fact that the fair was such a success for my group and for me was another boon to the old heart and mind.

Today I had a day-long meeting with the artisans. It was a good lesson in Peruvian-reunion-protocol, as people trickled in around 10:15 for a meeting scheduled for 9:00am, and only half the group showed. Nevertheless, it was a successful, but long meeting. Relevant points were, for one, upcoming fairs, as well as personal and association-wide accounting, marketing, and English classes. We have now committed to four fairs in the next four weeks, all of which I’ll be attending. One is 20 minutes away in Lambayeque, the other 20 minutes in the other direction in Jayanca, one right here in Tucume, and the last in Lima. I made a small dent in what will come to be, I believe, one of my most tasking projects here in explaining that they need to smooth out their accounting process. They have a system, and it gets the job done, but it is SO haphazard, and to any outsider it looks completely disorganized. If they are going to be investing more in fair/exposition attendance, they need to be a lot more organized with their money because these things are costly. We spoke as well about their marketing, with two important suggestions. One, I thought it might be a good idea to put together some sort of book or catalogue that details with pictures their process of production. Everything is handmade, but some of it is so well-done, it looks machine made. It would be nice for gringos like me to be able to see some sort of documentation of the process and what goes into making the products. As well, I asked that they include some pictures of their products being utilized in the home. Sometimes a tourist or buyer needs a little inspiration given the products we have, and if they could see it in someone else’s home, maybe it will help them visualize where it might go in their own abode.

So, these are the sorts of things I’m helping with, at least at present. As I’ve said, they are already formalized, they already have great products. They are not, however, ready for exportation. The little steps in-between are where I’m trying to help with outside-of-the-Peruvian-box ideas (though things that may be obvious to the reader). As they become more organized, more well-known, and save more money, we can start thinking about exportation but I don’t see that happening for at least another six months to a year. Maybe more, I’m a newborn at this stuff. To aid in this, I’m going to put together a little presentation about personal accounting, because I have a sneaking suspicion that a few of the artisans might actually be losing money with the way they run their system now. I’m also going to try to throw something together about marketing, to try to squeeze more ideas out of them, so I’m not supplying all the brain juice in this operation.

Oh, so the last thing we talked about were English classes which we will start in January three times a week for three hours a session. I think I need to start preparing NOW for this, because I have no idea how I’m going to fill nine hours a week of lessons. I guess I’ll start where I always start: with a little “baruch atah adonai, please don’t let me be a complete failure at teaching English to grown-ups, Amen.”

My trip to Lima

October 22, 2007 at 7:17 pm | Posted in micronegocios, Peace Corps | Leave a comment

Last week the Peace Corps sponsored an artisan fair in the American embassy in Lima. All business volunteers, as well as youth, health, or environment who work in towns with artisan associations, could attend. The American embassy in Lima is fortress-sized. It looked like it would take ten minutes to walk from one end to the other (perhaps more, guesstimating was never my forte). There was a workshop which was about commercialization but ended up being a lot of pictures from Crate and Barrel catalogues. This is the second time I’ve been to a workshop run by a Peruvian for artisans where they showed such types of pictures, and the second time that I’ve heard the following (paraphrased): the home and decor market in the US has thrived since 9/11 because people started staying in their homes all the time and were afraid to go out. They try to make their homes feel safe and comfortable with pretty little bits and pieces from Crate and Barrel. I’ve heard this twice in one month here in Peru from experts, and was never aware of it while living in the states. I still don’t know if it is true or not, but interesting nevertheless. In any case, I could have gone for a bit more relevancy in the talk but you take what you can get (read: there was a free lunch).

The fair was all day Friday, and I was lucky enough to be at a table inside. Half the groups were outside under a tent that was a little bit leaky and it was cold and raining all day. Yuck. My groupo did pretty bueno with the sales. There were between 35 and 40 groups there and I think it was a hit for everyone (especially since CdP covered the travel and hostel expenses). Experience level ran the spectrum, so for some it was another opportunity to make a profit, while for others it was a good learning experience. For me as well, it was a great way to learn how to sell, what sells, how to set up a table, how to ‘haggle’, etc. The group I’m working with sells products from four different lines, silver jewelry, pressed aluminum, batik (dyed fabric), and woven products from native cotton. The cotton products are cool because they dye the cotton with everything from aloe vera to avocado seed- the colors are subtle but beautiful. I digress, there were a few other groups there with similar products to ours, some with ceramics, some selling food (algorrobina, honey, chocolate, yogurt), and an assortment of other artisan groups. It must have inspired my group, because in a meeting today we committed to four other fairs in the next four weeks. More to come.

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.


October 1, 2007 at 8:15 pm | Posted in micronegocios, Peace Corps | 1 Comment

Sometimes, regarding my job, it feels like I’m wearing shoes that are a little too big for my (albeit tiny) feet. I walked into a situation where I’m to work with a group of people who have pretty high expectations of me as an ‘experta’ in the field of micro-business. Which, to be honest, I’m not. Three months of Peace Corps training does not an expert make. I don’t think I’m a ‘bad’ volunteer; I’m smart, I work hard, I keep my eyes and ears open and learn as I go. However, I cannot walk into a new town, meet a new group, and within weeks be able to tell them how to export their goods to the US. I don’t really know the first thing about exportation except that it is hard to do. I’m trying my best to set realistic expectations while leaving out details that could be potentially bleak: “yeah, step one, I’m going to have to learn how to say ‘export’ in Spanish.” [okay, that was an exaggeration]

I’m learning slowly that, with the exception of a few very highly technically trained people, the job of a PC volunteer is to be someone who is resourceful enough to find out about the stuff s/he doesn’t know. It sounds like pretty much everyone stumbles through the first few months and then gets the ball rolling. I know that the eventual fruition of these weeks of ‘information-gathering’ will be worthwhile. Getting there has been tough though, especially because it is really hard to feel accomplished day in and day out.

What have I been doing as of late? For one, I’ve been working with the association on getting a credit card machine in their shop. Their market consists entirely of tourists. Tourists, who, before coming to Peru read all about the petty crime and thus do not carry big chunks of cash around with them. There is a flat monthly rate they will have to pay as well as a percentage of each sale, but I think it will be well worth it. The problem is that the museum pays the majority of their fixed costs and overhead which is making it difficult to explain to them how/why to incorporate this new cost into their pricing, because they will have to cover this one. There is a fair at the US embassy in a few weeks that we have also been prepping for. I’m still teaching out in the casario once a week, which is going well. Somehow, in only three weeks, I’ve fallen in love with the kids out there. I really look forward to Thursdays. Otherwise, I’ve been attending meetings, and continuing to get to know folks in my town. I’ve been cooking a lot as well with my new mom and have reverted to my pre-teen years in making threaded jewelry.

Here is an embarrassing fact: there is a song called ‘Heaven’ by Brian Adams that I LOVE and they play it a lot on the radio here. I sit in my room and sing along at the top of my lungs, until my brother starts banging on my door begging me to stop, which is fair, I suppose, given how terrible my voice is.

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.

    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. 


    August 4, 2007 at 3:23 pm | Posted in friends, micronegocios, Peace Corps, travel | Leave a comment

    Tomorrow I’m headed to the department of Lambayeque to check out my new site for the next two years. I’m going to Túcume to work with a small artisan association. From what I can gather, the artisan association is pretty well formed (at the least, they have a letterhead), and are looking to take their production to to the next level, be it through national and international fairs, or a website, or tourism, or some combination of those and other factors. It will be interesting to see just how the organization works, and I’m REALLY curious about their products; I know nothing about them as of yet.

    As far as Túcume goes, I don’t have too much information. I know it will be hot, but that is not something I’m worried about coming from DC. The capital city of Lambayeque, Chiclayo, is known as the center of friendship (or something similar that sounds way less lame in Spanish), and the people of that department are known for being very open and friendly. I’ll be about an hour north of Chiclyao and I’ll be neither on the coast, nor in the mountains, nor in the desert. It sounds like I’ll be in a valley and it will be fairly green. In any case, I’m surrounded on all sides by environmental volunteers so there are sure to be some beautiful sights nearby, if not right in my town. I think it is not a huge town, but its not tiny either. The entire district of Túcume has about 21K population, so I’m guessing the town itself has maybe 15K (?). There are six high schools in the district which means I’ll definitely have an opportunity to work with kids. There was an ICT (information, communications, technology) volunteer there a few years ago, but I’ll be working on different projects than he did, and I’m really glad that I’ll get to start afresh on my own project, but that I get to work with a group that already has some structure to it. There are a lot of ruins and pyramids in and around the town so I’m hoping to do some work with tourism as well.

    Family-wise, most people got a several page packet detailing their new family members, their ages and occupations, amenities of the household and other tidbits of info. I got a name and an address. Oh well, I’m learning to love the element of surprise. I leave Sunday night for a 12-hour bus trip to Chiclayo. I spent Monday and Tuesday in Chiclayo, and on Tuesday afternoon I’ll meet my counterpart who is the head of the artisan association. Tuesday night I head up to Túcume with him and will spend Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday there getting to know the community and my new family (!). Saturday I head back to Chiclayo and take another overnight bus to arrive back in Lima Sunday morning.

    I’m pretty excited to get there and see what is what. Now that everyone knows their sites, it seems that every place has its pluses and minuses, so my guess is that a lot of the stress and anxiety my friends and I have been dealing with over the last few weeks was probably unnecessary (but also probably unavoidable). Also, my closest friends from the group have been spread out all over the place; Arequipa, Piura, Lima, Cajamarca, Ancash, and even a few in Lambayeque with me! Hopefully this means I’ll be doing lots of cheap traveling within Peru.

    Whew – what a long and emotional day it has been. I’m glad the site selection is all said and done. I can’t really say that I am feeling too strongly in any direction about my site, I guess I still feel that I lack sufficient information to make an informed decision. Nevertheless, I am definitely ready to get started on my service and to start figuring out what I’m going to do with myself for the next two years. This upcoming week should prove to be quite the adventure.

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