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.


A Very Charlie Brown October

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Get clean

August 5, 2007 at 3:46 pm | Posted in family, Peru, pictures | Leave a comment

First, I added a few more pictures of my enviromental charla and of some cuys (precooked) and of our group photo – note the supersweet bigotes. Second, before I head off into the sunset to discover my new site, I thought I´d leave you with a little tidbit about something I love here in Peru. The people in my neighborhood and from what I can tell, people all over, love to water their dirt. Every day my mom goes outside with a big bucket to water the dirt. If we are walking around town, for no reason that I can fathom she will stop in a particular spot (note: it is dusty EVERYWHERE, we live on a big mountain made of dirt and rock) and say, “what dust, so and so really ought to water their dirt today”. Another gem is when people go out in front of their house to sweep the dirt. They don´t sweep it off of a porch or stoop or anything, they just sweep the earth, to get rid of the top layer of dirt to get to the dirt underneath. Go figure.

I´m off. Mom and Dad and Steven and Michael, I hope you had a great trip! I love you and miss you and will try calling this week if I have a chance.

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.


the pics – on picasa

July 27, 2007 at 6:18 pm | Posted in pictures | 2 Comments

Uploading the rest of the pictures now. Enjoy!!

Back in the Saddle

July 23, 2007 at 9:06 pm | Posted in correspondence, family, food, friends, micronegocios, Peace Corps, pictures, travel | 1 Comment

I made it back to Yanacoto in one piece early Sunday morning. I was able to sleep for most of the 7 hour bus ride from Huaraz, and got to see Lima bright and early in the morning. It was dark, polluted, and rainy, at least the parts I went through, and I was ready to get out. A couple of people stuck around to hang out in Lima and apparently got trapped b/c of a parade. I went the cheapo route and took a 7am combi back to Yanacoto with Rachel and Greg, on which we luckily only had to spend half the trip standing. Got home around 8am, showered, and passed out for a while. It was a lazy Sunday in every sense of the word.

The trip to the department of Ancash was a rousing success from every angle. I got to take TWO hot showers (the rest were tepid), I saw some incredible sights (starting out with Harry Potter 5 before we left Lima last Saturday), was able to put into practice some of the language and technical skills I’ve been working so hard on the last few weeks, and got to spend good QT with my group. I spent two days worth of ‘salary’ to go see a subtitled version of HPV a week ago and it was the best 15 soles I’ve spent thus far. I loved the movie (I’m a huge HP fan), and it was actually really odd to do such a typical homegrown ‘American’ thing in Peru. When I walked out of the theater and heard people speaking spanish it actually threw me off guard for a minute. I thought Helena Bonham Carter made a great Beatrix Lestrange, though felt lukewarm about the choice for Dolores Umbridge. Am still loving Emma Thompson and that other British guy who plays Snape and got thrown off the Nakatomi towers in Die Hard 1. Alan something.

I ramble. I’ve posted lots of pictures on my picasa site, they start off in Chiquian at our hotel and then a hike we did in the early afternoon to a waterfall about 2 hours from the town. The views of the mountains, as you can see, are truly unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life; the contrast of green on blue on white was incredible. It is hard to believe people live their whole lives with this view out their windows. There are a couple of pictures of my students and the ‘Bank of Chiquian’ that we opened with Peace Corps money to make loans. As I believe I mentioned in a prior post, every one of the 13 groups was able to make enough money to at least repay their loans. A group of my students who ran a Bingo game actually made about 200 soles which is double what any other group made. I got to play the part of Vanna White in the bingo game and I believe there is a photo of that, as well as the makeshift bingo board. The first round, we realized that we were missing some numbers, so Greg and I made some bingo balls out of toilet paper and a red pen:

I finally tried cuy, which is the Peruvian word for guinea pig, and is a delicacy here. It tasted pretty good, and apparently is the best source of protein you can get. Most of the people (outside of the vegetarians) in my group tried and it and I think it was well received overall,


Yummy, no? The rest of the pics are from Huaraz, and some ancient ruins, and of Huascaran, which is the highest peak in Peru and second highest in South America. I’ve included my favorite shot of Huascaran below, but there are plenty more on my picasa site.

How incredible is that? We visited a lake that sits right at the base of the mountain (about 3800 meters above sea level) and there are some shots of that as well. The colors there seemed as though they were from a different palette than what real life is made of. The water was this incredible green blue color, and contrasted with the orange bark of the trees, and the brown and whites of the mountains and snow. As per usual, words fail me, but I hope the point comes across in the pictures. Aside from the incredible sightseeing, the chance to go into a community and put into action all that I had been preparing over the last few weeks was a real confidence booster, and I’m proud to say that we were extremely well-received by the people of Chiquian. The students were hard working and enthusiastic and really put their heart and souls into their projects. I think every single volunteer walked away feeling successful and that should really give everyone a great platform from which to jump off once they get into site.

To close, thank you Mom, Dad, Nana and Papa for the continual letters. I love getting them and read them over and over again. I actually keep them next to my bed and read them sometimes before I go to sleep. It sounds silly, but it makes me feel much more connected to home. Thanks also to Susan for the lovely and inspirational card. I teared up a bit when I opened it at the center today and that was slightly embarrassing, but well worth it. Finally, THANK YOU PATRICK for the awesome books and t-shirt and card. I got one book of Spanish short stories and one of poems and both books have the spanish writing on one page with english translation on the opposite page. I can’t wait to read these and there is actually a line of people who want to borrow them, but I don’t know if I want to let anyone borrow them for fear of not getting them back!! I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. It is very appreciated so thank you, gracias, grazie, spaiciba, and thank you in whatever other languages I don’t know. I hope the pictures I posted can give you all some way of enjoying what I’m experiencing, as I’m enjoying all your thoughtful gifts and letters ever so much.


July 1, 2007 at 9:52 pm | Posted in pictures | Leave a comment

I posted some pictures on my picasa site. I’ll try to update them periodically and include the best ones in the blog as well.

More to come in a bit…

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