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.

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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.
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Good Tip

October 28, 2007 at 1:03 pm | Posted in food, Peace Corps | Leave a comment

If you didn’t already know, it is unsafe to drink the water here in Peru if left untreated. This is the case for visitors and natives alike. Therefore, to stay hydrated, volunteers have three options. One is to buy bottled water. Bottled water in US standards is generally pretty cheap (about 33 cents for a bottle), but the cost can build up over time and they don’t really give us enough to cover that in our monthly stipend. Another option is to boil water. Depending on your source of fire, this too can be costly. Imagine how much gas, wood, or charcoal you would go through to boil enough water to drink over the course of days. Additionally, boiling with wood or charcoal can give a smoky unpleasant taste to the water. The last option is something called the sodis method. You leave a clear plastic water bottle filled with untreated water out in the sun, and the sun’s rays disinfect it leaving you with clean nice tasting water. Here are the details:

– it has to be clear plastic, not colored plastic
– remove wrappers
– no bigger than a 2.5-3 liter bottle
– if the bottle is very scratched up, it won’t work, needs to be clear, clean plastic
– It must get non-stop direct sunlight so roof access is usually necessary
– put it up on your roof, or in another place where it will receive direct sunlight all day, you can remove it at the end of the day
– if it is cloudy, it is recommended that you leave it out for two days
– if you are getting the water from a lake or river, you need to filter it first to ensure that it is clean of dirt and particles (worst case, run it through a t-shirt or something)

That is it! Cheers!

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.

Giterdun

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.

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.

Túcume

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.

Allillami!

August 2, 2007 at 8:22 pm | Posted in friends, Peace Corps | Leave a comment

Today instead of my regular Spanish class, I took a class of Quechua which is the ancient Incan language that they still speak in the Sierra. It was an optional class because most of us won’t be going to Quechua speaking sites (and we still actually don’t know where we are going), and only about a third of the group took advantage.  I figured that even if I don’t end up in a Quechua-speaking site, it still was a great opportunity to learn even a little of such an ancient language, and boy was it difficult. Granted, it was only two hours worth of class, but it definitely didn’t come as naturally as Spanish or Italian did. The sounds and words just seem more…foreign…even than other foreign languages. Perhaps similar to Hebrew, though I’ve been speaking that since I was a little kid so it is hard to make a true comparison.

This afternoon my group and I had our CDA, or community development activity. Over the last eight weeks, one of our many projects was to plan, as a small group of five trainees or less, some sort of activity in our communities to mimic and practice the sort of thing we’ll be doing more in depth in site.  I worked with Rachel, Greg, and Angela and we hosted an environmental ‘workshop’. Yanacoto has five zones, and up in the fifth zone someone constructed a botanical garden about ten years ago. A really old man maintains it, and it is still in decent shape, but many in the community have lost interest; kids run through and rip down plants, people leave trash, etc etc. We had our workshop up in the botanical garden today and about 20 kids, and maybe 10 adults showed up which was a ROUSING success.  I can’t tell you how many times volunteers have talked about planning activities to which no one shows up. I was shocked that we had so much participation.

Here is how it all played out: first, to get the blood going, we all pretended to be seeds growing into plants and stretched to the sky. This may sound silly, but it was a good way to get everyone to participate and pay attention. Next, we had a map of Peru and then pictures of different natural resources such as wheat, coffee, or grapes. We handed these out to the kids, and then had them come up and tape to the map where in the country the resources grow. We talked a bit about why these resources were important, and then to bring it to the community level we talked about what they could do as citizens of Yanacoto to protect the environment. Given our limited knowledge of environmental issues, this revolved mostly around maintaining the community garden, planting trees, picking up trash off the street, and keeping the water sources and air clean. We walked around the garden for a bit and Angie and I talked about some of the plants that were there and their uses.  To name a few, there were mint, rosemary, sage, thyme, lots of cacti, and even a cotton tree! We finished up by having a competition to see who could pick up the most trash, and we left the garden a LOT cleaner than it was when we arrived.

The kids seemed genuinely interested, and some of the adults were teaching us a thing or two about the plants there. I think, on their own, people probably won’t head back day after day or week after week to look after the plants, or to plant more. But just *maybe* if we got one person interested enough, they can serve as the spark to keep the maintenance and appreciation of the garden going. Even if all we accomplished today was to clean up the garden, I feel really good about this afternoon.

My other last bit of interesting news involves some income generating activities we learned about in class yesterday. These are activities which can be used to raise money for an event or small trip within the community, but aren’t sustainable sources of income. We learned how to make jewelry out of old magazines or gift wrap, how to make really pretty recycled paper out of old newspapers and flowers, how to make jam, and how to make yogurt. Even if I don’t end up using these specific activities in site to generate income, I definitely plan to use them for personal consumption. Both the jewelry and paper were really pretty, and the jam and yogurt were tay-stee (especially mixed together) and all were surprisingly cheap and easy to make.

That is about it. The next time I post, I should know my site (I find out in 12 hours or so). I have been waiting for this last bit of information for a *long* time (since I applied last September – almost a year) and am so excited to get started. Sharp – if you are still reading, thanks for the postcard. You still sound like…you… and believe me that is a good thing. I hope your trip was a blast and I’d love to see pictures if you’ve got any. Hope all in the trading world is going well.

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