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.

First Team!!

November 8, 2007 at 1:42 pm | Posted in family, futbol, US of A | 1 Comment

Congrats to my brother Michael who made first team all district defensive back even though he is and will always be a cute little munchkin and plays for the smart-kids school. You make me proud to be a Howard, kiddo.

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Growin’ Up

September 3, 2007 at 9:31 pm | Posted in deep (shallow) thoughts, family, friends, kids, Peru, US of A | Leave a comment

Most of the Peruvians I’ve become friends with here have been under the age of 21. Emotionally, mentally, and otherwise I felt like a young adult back in the states, but here I’m still trying to figure out if that ‘age’ exists in a persons life. I’m referring to the time when you finish school and get a job and if you can afford it, an apartment. You are on your own to feed yourself, pay bills, and you can do with your time and money exactly what you want, and can be as responsible or irresponsible as you want. A lot of young twenty-somethings here already have a kid (or kids!). Depending on the socioeconomic strata in which they are living, (pre)teenagers start having babies as young as the age of 12 or 13 (this happens mostly in the jungle). But even in the more developed areas, people at 18,19, or 20 are having kids and it is not rare to start younger. I talked about this in an earlier entry and about the lack of sex education, but what I’ve been mulling over lately is more that period of time between graduation and getting married, settling down, and popping out young ones. For me, the last three years have been some of my favorites; I had a great job that I loved, friends that I loved, and for the first time in my life a disposable income. I want to live in a dozen different countries if only to see what people between the ages of 20-30 are doing with their lives. From what I remember in Italy, people live with their parents until their mid-late twenties and continue to study or get jobs. The break between life with Mom and Dad and independence is much more nuanced than it is in the states (Sonia, back me up on this).

From what I’ve seen in Peru, people get knocked up at a young age, get hitched, and the new family either moves in with the girl’s parents or the boy’s parents. The proud new parents and their babe all bunk up together. Depending on the economic situation, they will continue to bunk up until the kid is up to ten or eleven years old. I’m definitely basing this on anecdotal evidence and only a half dozen cases or so at that. My immediate list of contacts has spread outward starting with family members, and back in Yanacoto that began with a 20 year old boy, and here in Tucume it begins with a 16 year old girl. So perhaps this little investigation of mine warrants more time and effort. Aside from family members, I have had the opportunity to spend time with some of the older and more established citizens of Tucume, but those people are nearing retirement and have grown kids of their own. I’ve yet to tap the middle-ground, and it would be nice to befriend some people my age or even a little older, to see what we might have in common or what parts of our lives greatly diverge.

It is interesting trying to figure out where I fit in, or where I will fit in socially here in Peru. I purposely use the word ‘interesting’ as opposed to something with more negative connotations because, at least for the moment, I’m perfectly content strolling around with my 16 year old sister and her friends at night, or chilling with my 8 year old bro watching the Simpsons (pronounced los seensons). The beginnings of my community analysis here have uncovered that work is valued over education here in Tucume, and (I quote) that people live for the moment, for today and tomorrow, and not the future. So maybe all the people my age are working, or at home taking care of their kids? Today I have my first meeting with the artisan association I’m going to be working with and it will be interesting to see what the age/gender dynamic of the group is. I do think a lot of these questions will be answered as I spend more and more time here and get to know more and more people. Nevertheless, my short stay here in Peru has really made me appreciate the freedom and independence I was able to enjoy back in the states after graduating from school…not in the sense that I’m not enjoying myself, but more in comparison to what might have been had I been born here.  So, to all you yuppies out there, yup it up.

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