Festival Preps

January 16, 2008 at 8:36 pm | Posted in dancing, friends, party, teaching, tourism | 1 Comment

The big party is about to get going here in Tucume. According to townspeople, men and women from all over the world to come and experience the joys of the Tucume fiesta. I believe this will be much like other Peruvian fiestas; religious undertones, children doing cute stuff, drunk people, cumbia ’till you drop, etc. I’m excited though, I’m going to be the co-MC of a concurso de Tondero, which is a competition of a typical Peruvian dance. I’m MC-ing with the same guy who did the Miss Inikuk competition; apparently I wowed him with my near-speechlessness at the last big event, and he asked me to be his co-animadora. Here’s hoping he doesn’t talk more about the English and the Native Americans.

I’m also helping to plan a “Noche de Folklore” with the Casa de Cultura (house of culture) which is coming up next week. We have invited singers and dancers from around the region to come and perform. Interestingly enough, most of the meetings to plan these events revolve around finding ways to fund them. Most of the groups who put them on are doing it, in part, to fund their own organizations. None, however, has saved up enough to actually prepare for the event, so everyone is scraping around for dollah dollah billz.

I started teaching my English classes last week and will go ahead and toot my own horn and say that I did awesome. Not to say that anyone learned anything, but at least we had fun. No, I do think some good Engreesh was learned by at least a few. I’ve also gotten started on a big and not-so-fun project that involves entering every sale the artisans have made over the last three years into a database to eventually be able to analyze their sales, their goods, their prices, etc. Oh excel, how I’ve missed you. I need the data soon to be able to get some potential financial backing, which is why I’m doing this myself. I hope, in a few months, to teach some excel to the artisans so they can continue on without me, because that is how I roll. It will make everyone’s life so much easier, and the museum just purchased a new computer that we can use which is helpful.

Yeah, so, life is good. It is hot here, and I have grown to love the cold showers. I still hate dogs, and while I usually still really like doing my laundry, sometimes I don’t like it. My dainty little hands get rubbed raw, but I continue to find it quite relaxing.

Happy Birthday(s) to my Nana and my Pammy— two of the most beautiful ladies I know.

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.

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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.

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)


…(musica)

azucar, oooh

…(musica)

ooh ooh ooh

…(musica)

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

(chorus)

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

…(musica)

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

(chorus)

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!

…(musica)

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

Owwwww!!!

(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!

oooh

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
TP TP TP

FIN

Ambassador’s Visit, dancing dancing dancing, eating cranberries

November 27, 2007 at 6:21 pm | Posted in dancing, food, friends, party, Peace Corps, US of A | 2 Comments

Last week I went to a beach 20 minutes outside of Trujillo for something called Reconnect, which is Peace Corps’ way to ensure that the June class of volunteers don’t go insane on their first big holiday away from friends and family. We found an ex-pat who cooked up a great thanksgiving dinner for $7 a plate – heaping with all the traditional goodies. All in all, it was really fun. I’ll spare you the quintessential ‘great to see everyone, lots of bonding, blah blah blah’, though there was all of that. I did have a great time, and I love my group, but the best thing to come out of reconnect was my return back to site. It was easy and painless and I was really excited to be back. That probably sounds silly to you, but after spending a week at the beach with great people having great times, I was expecting a difficult transition back to volunteer life.

Yet, here I am! Happy and sane. Three cheers. Quite a bit was going on the week before I left for Trujillo which I’ll attempt to catch you up on. We had a two day workshop with the artisans on team-building exercises which was very educational for me. With thirteen different artisans working in four different lines of work, conflicts of interest are bound to arise. More problematic is the sense that a lot of people are out for themselves and don’t want to put in the extra work needed to be part of a team. I must have said a half dozen times, being part of this association is more than just turning in products on the first and fifteenth of each month. We’ll see if that gets through to anyone.

The Friday before I left for Lima/Trujillo, the US Ambassador P. Michael McKinley came to visit my site. He was in my region to open an archeological conference and visited four volunteers while he was here. I wrote a bit about the ambassador when I detailed my ‘graduation’, and I am a big fan. He is honest and direct and to-the-point, but very open and amiable. He really eschews all the pomp and circumstance involved with his position and prefers to spend his time interacting with people and learning as much as he can about this country to best do his job. Among other reasons, this is why I was so excited for his visit; in the short time I’ve spent with him, I’ve found him to be quite a compelling man, and was excited to introduce him as a representative of the US. He was in my site for an hour or so and took a short tour of the museum, but spent most of the time chatting with the artisans and finding out more about their lines of work. After telling him a bit about the association, he asked: “does Peace Corps give you guidelines about what to do with your group, or do you figure it out when you get here?” I talked a bit about the haphazard process we use to diagnose problems and come up with solutions with our groups and within our communities and he seemed genuinely impressed (or maybe he is good at sounding impressed?). Here is a photo of him being impressed:

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I am so impressive!?!?

Okay, back to business. An additional interesting development of the last few weeks is the formation of a new dance group here in Tucume. I somehow managed to land the role of Vice President, though I’m still not sure what exactly that will entail. Nevertheless, we are practicing three days a week and in January we are going to practice every night so we can put on a show in February for the big fiesta they have here in Tucume. I love it. I am so happy. This is what I was meant to be doing with my life. I mean, I know I’m supposed to be a lawyer or whatever, but I am really loving this. So, everyone here grows up learning these dances, so I have some catching up to do. But the president and the guy who started the group says I have ‘buen ritmo’ which is a good start.

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.

Half Birthday

September 10, 2007 at 8:02 pm | Posted in party, Peru, pictures, religion, tourism, travel | 2 Comments

There are two things I remember doing when I was little that seem really silly now (okay there are a lot of things, but I’m going to mention two): one is the way I used to say my age to the quarter of a year; I’m four and three quarters, or five and a quarter. Why do little kids do that? I guess it is because every month counts when you’ve only put a handful behind you. The other is I remember talking with friends about half-birthdays, and mine rolls around in December. I don’t know when these lost their significance, but they definitely were important for a couple of years there.

Do I have a point? Yes (not really). This weekend Tucume celebrated what would be equivalent to its half-birthday. Carlos the fifth from Spain sent a representation of the Virgin Mary to Tucume as a way of saying ‘thank you’ to the indigenous tribes for raping the people of their land and livelihoods. In any case, the Virgin arrived in February, so every year there is a HUGE celebration here in February, basically for the entire month, with lots of games and dancing and drinking and dancing and drinking. NOTE: If you are thinking of coming to visit, and want to visit Lambayeque and my site (as opposed to the typical trip to Machu Picchu), February would be a really cool time to be here. Anyways, we recently celebrated the half year anniversary with, you guessed it, drinking and dancing. What was lacking this time were the hordes of people that apparently show up for the big fiesta in February. I put up some pictures of the daytime and nighttime processions for you to check out.

Something I hope to keep with me always is the Peruvian ability, no matter the time of year, to find a reason to fiesta. When I first heard that there was a week long (as opposed to month-long) party to celebrate the *half* year of a particular event, it brought me back to those kindergarten conversations about half-birthdays and I chuckled at the thought. I’m digging it though, and I can’t wait for the next fiesta. My salsa improves with every baile.

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.

Pour and Pass

July 29, 2007 at 7:33 pm | Posted in deep (shallow) thoughts, family, food, friends, party, pictures | 1 Comment

Yesterday we celebrated Peru’s independence day. The forthcoming thoughts are coming from a very sleepy and hungover cabeza, but here goes anyway: leading up to independence day we’ve been learning about the history of Peru, including the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores, the decimation of the indigenous population, and the consequential fight for independence. From what I’ve gathered the indigenous population was very quickly wiped out on the coast but people, customs, and traditions still remain up in the sierra. The indigenous and particularly Incan spirit is still very much alive in Peru and permeates many areas of life, which makes you stop to think just what exactly you are celebrating when independence day rolls around. Regardless, the people of this country are truly proud of their past, both Incan and Spanish aspects, and that makes it so fulfilling for someone like me to come visit or live here and experience all the living history.

So I’m thinking over all this stuff amidst my lessons on verb conjugation in the subjunctive and am realizing just how little I know about my own country in the years before the Brits arrived. I know there is information out there, and shame on me for never taking classes about America before it became America, but there really is no presence of Indian influence in our day to day lives. Let me qualify that statement by pointing out that I grew up and attended school on the east coast. Anyways, the Incan presence here is one of my favorite things about Peru, and I hope to find more native American influences when I get back to life in the states; maybe it is one of those things that you don’t notice unless you are looking for it, but over the course of my education sometimes it felt like life began in 1492.

I’ve spent the majority of today kicking back and catching some zzzz’s. Last night a bunch of people from the group came over to my place to pregame before heading out to a party in my neighborhood. For all the un-hip out there (Mom and Dad), ‘pregame’ means to buy beers or wine or booze from a store and drink in someone’s house or apartment before going out to the main event. It is a good way to spend time with friends before getting to a more crowded place, and is also a good way to save money because drinks are inevitably going to be more expensive when you get to where you are going. A healthy crowd of Americans and Peruvians showed and we had a great time. I made a CD for my brother of pure eep-opp (hip hop) and we threw that on and got our dance on to some American hip hop and then to some Peruvian tunes. Before I knew it, it was 1am and people were heading home, so we never actually made it to the party (this is a not infrequent consequence of pregaming). I think I headed to sleep around 2:30 and my brothers crawled back home at 6am after going up to the party for a few hours. They are troopers. All three of us spent a large portion of today sleeping.

Drinking in Peru is a little different than in the states. Here like there, you buy a bunch of beers, but there is usually only one open at a time. One person takes the bottle and a glass, pours himself a serving, passes the bottle to the next drinker, downs his beer, then passes the glass to the next drinker. He, in turn, fills the glass, passes the bottle, drinks and passes the glass. So the bottle and glass go around and around until the bottle is empty at which point they open a new one. For some of us, it was weird to get used to sharing a cup with 2-20 people, but I personally think there are a lot more things that are harder to get used to (chicken feet in my soup). For the most part, men pass the bottle, when the bottle gets around to a woman, instead of giving her the bottle, the man next to her will pour her a glass, give her the glass, she drinks, hands back the glass, and then he serves himself and continues the chain. So people get drunk a lot slower, but they also just continue drinking well into the night/morning. I haven’t seen a drinking game or any behavior I’d associate with binge drinking since I arrived. However, when we trainees go out as a group, or last night for example when everyone came over, we stick to our good old fashioned tried and true form of one bottle per person. I think it is pretty funny for a Peruvian person to see someone sipping on an entire bottle of beer, particularly a woman, because they are used to drinking only a half-glass or a glass at a time. For this reason usually when I’m around Peruvian friends or family I try to stick to the Peruvian way of doing things, but if I go out to a bar or a party outside of my neighborhood with my Peace Corps friends I’ll usually drink my own personal beer.

I think the highlight of last night was me dancing around with a beer bottle on my head. This was my cousin Martin’s idea, and not mine. I started off with a glass, was doing really well, then got cocky and it fell and broke. Party foul. I moved on to a beer bottle and had better luck with that, but I don’t think I’ll be making that a regular part of my party tricks repertoire.

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When You’re Slidin’ Into First

July 8, 2007 at 10:54 am | Posted in family, food, futbol, party, Peace Corps | 1 Comment

Actually, I didn’t get the big D again, I just really wanted to make that into a blog heading. I did get to make compost yesterday which sounds smelly (and was) but was also super cool and interesting. We did this at La Agraria which is a part of the University of Lima. I brought my camera but didn’t take any pictures b/c my hands were covered w/ cow doody. So we made compost using hacked down weeds, cow dung, and hay. I think we threw about four layers of this in a big pile and then added lots of water. So there you have it ladies and gents, for the next time you want to make a compost pile. I think it takes between 1-4 months depending on your climate and it turns into mushy brown deliciousness (for plants). Then, what we did with the four-month old brown deliciousness is an action that I can only compare to sifting flour. In the process, we found one live mouse and three dead ones, pobre little guys. This sifted compost is the food for plants. The spinach I planted last week was showing little sprigs of life, so I’ll keep you posted. Next week we are going to a cuy farm, and we are going to see how to ‘grow/raise’ bees.

Cuy – this is the Peruvian word for guinea pig and is a delicacy here in Peru. They love them some cuy. So a lot of people grow cuys to eat or sell, and it is actually a feasible small business project for once I get out into my site. It cannot make you a rich (wo)man, but it can definitely supplement a family’s income.

Last night I went to my little niece’s baptism. This was an hour of sitting in church and not understanding a word the padre was saying. I was not alone here, none of my family could hear/understand him either. My niece looked beautiful though, and the family was quite proud. Then we went over to my sister-in-law’s house (my brother, her husband, is working in Argentina) for a party. This was 5 hours of non-stop dancing, mostly with my ‘uncle’ who is teaching me the ropes. I hadn’t eaten much that day because I’ve been on a bread and water diet to ease my stomach back into existence, and was starving for some dinner/real food, but we didn’t eat until 10pm. The dinner was great though and was my first non-chicken meat in a long time. It was in the brisket/pot roast family I believe…yum. Today, my dancing shoes took a little rest.

Also, today I made bruschetta with my pal Rachel, and my friends Angela and Greg made icing-covered crackers and smores to eat while we watched Peru get dominated by Argentina in the copa americana. I think/hope that our Peruvian families liked our cooking; they ate all we made but they might have done that just to be polite, or they may have actually enjoyed the food. Well, I thought it was delicious. Come to think of it, making that bruschetta is about all I did today. Actually, I also did my laundry. I’m not sure whether or not I’ve touched on this, but this is one of my favorite things to do here. It is a nice time to think or to just be. I throw on my iPod and listen to some of my favorite tunes from home as well which is a treat. Though, it roughs up my hands a bit (what a wimp).

You gotta love Sundays.

Babies having babies

July 1, 2007 at 11:05 pm | Posted in correspondence, family, friends, futbol, party | 1 Comment

Lots to catch up on over the last couple of days, but first a hearty thanks to my parents, grandparents, and Kitty Kat for the letters, postcards, and candy. I can’t express how much it brightens my days to get your mail – so I’d like to send a million virtual thank yous.

Had a long weekend here as Friday was a holiday. On Thursday night the US played Argentina in the Copa Americana and lost big time. A big group gathered at my house to watch the game which was a blast, except for the actual game which was a disaster:

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There is me wearing my red, white, and blue, though it didn’t help much.

After the game we headed out to a party in my neighborhood where there was lots of dancing and some drinking. They have this thing called a vaca loca or, crazy cow, and it basically entails a person putting on a box constructed out of wood that has a cow’s face on it. Then they light it on fire and all these sparklers and fireworks go off, and the crazy person inside runs around. This drives the dogs insane – so if you can, try to picture human legs with a big cows head on top, fireworks everywhere, running around with dogs alternatively chasing it and then running away barking the whole time. It was a really good time and most of the Peace Corps 9 gang made it over to my ‘hood for the party. Didn’t get much sleep and then spent five hours playing bingo on Friday at my niece’s school. Not my real niece – obviously. The nice thing about bingo is you don’t have to speak spanish very well to play. The not nice thing is that it is not so easy to win at bingo.

Saturday got up early to head into Lima with the group. On Saturdays from 8-1 we have classes at La Agraria which is the agriculture school at the University of Lima. I didn’t know too much about this when I left for Peru, but I have to say, this might be the thing I’m most excited about with training. We are learning all about farming, maintaining a garden, how to go organic or conventional, and a bunch of other stuff about plants and herbs. It was so fun to get down and dirty in the garden and I planted some parsley and some spinach so I’ll let you know how that turns out next week. By the way – my favorite thing that doesn’t involve training might be handwashing my clothes. I am hooked on it; I put on some good tunes and wash the afternoon away. It is such a nice time to relax and to think – or to just let your mind wander. Call me crazy, but I think we’d all be a little happier without washing machines.

So I broke one of the gastronomical rules Saturday afternoon and ate a salad at la Agraria. So far so good stomach-wise (I’m writing this Sunday night), but it might have been worth it even if I had gotten sick; I couldn’t resist all those yummy organic veggies.

Anyways, Saturday night I went with my brother Alfredo to a baby shower. Baby showers in Peru are a little different than they are in the US, but they are also called baby showers, believe it or not (or, rather, baybee chow-wer). There were probably 50 people at this one, and everyone sat around in a big room and there was a show with some clowns. The father-to-be had to act out childbirth which was interesting, and they came around with some tasty finger foods. So it was not a bunch of ladies sitting around a living room gawking over PJs with footies (not that there is anything wrong with that). The *most* interesting thing about this baby shower was that the couple (unmarried) was 18 and 20 (father, mother respectively). Alfredo is turning 21 in a few months and already has several friends with babies. I have zero from college/high school. I couldn’t get over how young these people were and that they were about to have a child. Abortion is illegal in Peru, but contraceptives are available as well as condoms. I’m fascinated by the safe sex (or lack thereof) practices here; SO MANY young girls already have babies, and families are so much bigger than they are in the US. It is normal, par for the course, and so easily accepted. It is not my place whether to say it is right or wrong, and even if I wanted to, I’d have to think about it a lot more. For me, it is just so different than what I grew up around and is a huge cultural leap.

Went out dancing with Alfredo and his friends after the baybeechower and made it home pretty late (2:30ish). Then I got my ass up at 6:30 this morning to go on a hike which I’ll detail in another entry because this one is already too long, and I am already behind on my sleep.

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