Happy Anniversary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where you at?

September 19, 2007 at 8:28 pm | Posted in correspondence, natural disasters, Peru, travel | 2 Comments

Per Alex Friedman’s request, I’ve enclosed a map that shows where I live relative to where the meteorite struck and where the earthquake was.

I’ve also put up my address on the sidebar so you can always find it with ease.

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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.

Ketchup

August 29, 2007 at 8:45 pm | Posted in family, food, travel | Leave a comment

It has been a very full two weeks since my return from site visit. A couple of days after getting back to Lima I got pretty sick. I don’t know if it was the traveling or the food or the climate change or what, but something upset my stomach for a good week and a half. I’m much better now, 100%. I’ll try to detail a little what I’ve not taken the opportunity to write about in my blog:

  • The Pachamanca: this is a very traditional peruvian dish; you dig a hole in the ground and take a bunch of rocks, clean them off, and put them over the fire and get them really hot. Then you take out the wood/coal from the hole in the ground, add a layer of alfalfa to keep the food off of the dirt, and throw in the potatoes and camote (sweet potato), then you put in some of the hot rocks, and throw in marinated chicken (I think the marinade was some soy sauce, lots of garlic, vinegar, ahi (like a chili pepper), and other stuff that I forgot). More hot rocks, then beans, apples, pineapple, and mushed up corn wrapped in banana leaves called humitas. More hot rocks. You let everything cook for about an hour and then dig it all out of the ground and eat it up. Holy delicious. We then participated in a traditional Incan ceremony to pay tribute to the earth which was really cool. There exist somewhere great pictures of all this, but unfortunately I forgot my camera at home that day.
  • The sleepover: all the volunteers spent the night at our training center and we watched Volunteer with Tom Hanks which is about a really waspy Yale grad who mistakenly ends up in Thailand in the Peace Corps. There were lots of good jokes in this movie, like when Tom Hanks walks onto the plane and all the volunteers and singing some koombaya song in unison, and he freaks out. Hilarious. I also took advantage of the grass (don’t see much of that around Lima) at the training center to sleep outside with a few other people and we were lucky enough to wake up to a beautiful fogless morning which is quite rare this time of year.
  • Graduation: the last two days of training (last Thursday and Friday) we had a host family party and our graduation where we become men and women in the eyes of the Peace Corps. The spanish word for trainee is ‘aspirante’ which I really dislike for no reason in particular, and I am happy to be a volunteer and no longer an aspirante. Friday was our graduation and I was really impressed by it. The new US ambassador to Peru came and gave a great speech in if not perfect, near-perfect Spanish. He then gave a short talk in English and commented on varying opinions of the US from around the world, and how we are in a country that views the US favorably which should really aid us in our work. I couldn’t agree more, and thought about that a lot before receiving my country assignment. The biggest problem I’ve encountered here as an American is trying to convince people that we don’t, in fact, eat all of our food out of cans. Then came the hardest part of my three months thus far in Peru and that was saying ‘goodbye’ to my family. I have really grown close to them; to my Mom Jesusa and two brothers Alfredo and Jorge. Both bros are pretty stoic serious fellows and to see them tear up a tiny bit was so moving. I kept bursting into tears, getting control of myself, and talking about how I never cry and how cool, calm, and collected I was. Then I’d burst into tears again. It was all very ‘Danielle’ of me.
  • Mayhem in Lima: Immediately after the graduation, we hopped on a bus for Lima to stay one night before taking off for our sites. People started boozing pretty early. We all went out to dinner and the boozing continued. I did not booze because I was trying to ease my stomach back into existence. I’m sure I’ve already explained that in my Peru 9 group we are half business volunteers and half youth development. One of the business trainers was able to get us into a really cool club in Miraflores, so the business group headed over there around 11pm. The youth group went to a nearby bar with a couple other volunteers who happened to be in Lima at the time. All we have heard over the last three months is how tame our group is; there is a lot of hooking up (for the old folks out there, that is when a boy and a girl become more than just friends) and drinking and general debauchery in other groups apparently. I think the three month long build up of being ‘tame’ all came out on Friday night as there was a lot of gossip worthy behavior. Aside from one little cat-fight, I think everyone had a great time and would live the night over again exactly as it was if they could. I personally spent the entire night dancing, mostly by myself and with other friends from Peace Corps, and was a spectator of sorts as people got more crazy into the wee hours of the morning. All in all it was a great night, and while I missed out on participating in the debauchery, it was well worth it as now I’m healthy again.

Saturday I went to the chinese neighborhood in Lima and got some Dim Sum with friends before hopping on a bus to Chiclayo. The trip was rather uneventful (luckily) and all six of us arrived safely. I’m here in Lambayeque with Heather, Jamar, Bailey, Adrienne and Jeanette, among other volunteers from previous groups. We bummed around town on Sunday and spent the night and all headed out to our respective sites on Monday. Sunday was a weird day for me, as the weight of what was about to happen was finally upon me. I took off on my own for Tucume on Sunday afternoon to start my two years of service

Chiclayo is not so awesome

August 13, 2007 at 6:52 pm | Posted in crime, travel | 3 Comments

The site visit went great up until the last five minutes. Right before hopping into a taxi to get to the bus station, my pals and I were walking back to our hotel to get our bags, chit-chating and killing time before getting on the bus. Now, I have been warned about this numerous times and usually am really careful with my bags and about being aware of my surroundings, but I was definitely caught off guard when a man walked up next to me, grabbed my purse and yanked it away. I grabbed the strap before he could take the whole kit-and-kaboodle and started fighting with him and screaming. In English. Though, at that point I was yelling so loud I doubt the language mattered. People on the street started nearing us and people were running out of the stores nearby to see what was going on. I think it was the right reaction. He finally gave up and ran off and hopped on the back of a motorcycle that was driving by. I guess they work in pairs. I won. Hooray. Anyway, I was pretty lucky because my passport, all my money, my phone numbers, my iPod, my camera, my bus ticket and my firstborn child were all in that purse. Just kidding on that last one, but if I had one, I probably would’ve had him in there too. Dumb; dumb to keep everything in one spot and also dumb to walk with my purse on the shoulder that faced the street. Though at the least, this experience will always stay with me, and a couple of my friends saw so hopefully they will walk around with more care as well. So maybe some good came out of the whole unpleasant experience.

When I was a lot younger and Steven and I would get in little arguments sometimes they would end up being physical. You know how siblings are. I remember the feeling of getting so frustrated, mostly derived from the fact that he could then and still can outsmart me in arguments, and just wanting to *hit* him. I think the worst that would happen was some pulling hair or missed swings. Anyways, I think its been 20 years since I’ve felt the desire to cause physical harm to someone, but I have got to say, after that guy ran off, it took everything in me not to run after him and tackle him and beat the crap out of him. In the end I’m glad I did not do that because I am quite short and have small muscles and probably could not have ‘beat the crap out of him’, so to speak. I have a little better idea now of what people mean when they say violence begets violence. I really had to talk myself out of a lot of anger.

In the end, I consider myself lucky, and even if I had lost my purse, I still would have had my health which is the most important thing. And, I still think Chiclayo is awesome, I now just think it is an awesome place where I’ll have to be much more careful. So my helpful hint to all you world travelers out there is to keep your money in separate spots, to walk with your purse crossed over your body, to keep the bag on the side of your body that is furthest from the street, and to beat the crap out of anyone who tries to mess with you.

Chiclayo is awesome

August 7, 2007 at 12:20 am | Posted in travel | Leave a comment

I love it here. The bus ride was easy and comfortable though I wasted two hours of my life watching Premonition with Sandra Bullock and am stupider for it. She should stick to Miss Congeniality sequels.

Anyhoo, the city is great, the food is great, the people are great; I did some exploring today and am so excited to discover all the nooks and crannies of this new capital city of mine. Tomorrow I´ll meet my counterpart, the president of the artisan association I´ll be working with, and with him around 5pm I´ll head out to my site in 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.

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:

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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,

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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.
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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.

Heading home

July 21, 2007 at 9:06 pm | Posted in friends, micronegocios, Peace Corps, travel | 1 Comment

I’ve been wearing the same two pairs of pants for the last week or so. I’ve had an incredible time and have seen some amazing sights, but I’m definitely ready to get back to Yanacoto and wash my clothes and sleep in my bed and hang out with my Mom and bros. Right now I’m in Huaraz with half of the group waiting on an 11pm bus back to Lima. I taught a bunch of people Euchre so I’m a happy camper because I could play euks nonstop and never get bored of it. We get in around 5 or 6am and then I’ll catch a combi back to Yanacoto. 

Today we went up to a lake that sits at the bottom of Huascaran which is the highest mountain in Peru and the second highest in South America. I think we were up around 3800 meters, and couldn’t even see the top of the mountain because it was covered in clouds.  It is so incredibly beautiful here in Ancash, I lack the words to describe it but luckily I took a number of pictures which I’ll post early this week. The business simulation wrapped up really well and all of the businesses were successful (or were at least able to repay all their loans).

Going on very few hours of sleep this week, I’m going to keep this entry short, but will close with a photo that was taken after our sex education lecture last week. To finish up the class, we had a ‘condom race’. We had to get into three teams, and line up, and everyone had to practice putting a condom on a giant plastic penis (otherwise known as a dildo). This, as you can imagine, was hilarious. More hilarious was the dildo fight I had with my pal Angie afterwards; as you can see from the photo (dildo fight), I am obviously winning

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