Monday, July 20, 2009

passion fruit cremolada on the lips

Dancer Pose Machu Picchu

excited about coffee plants

at the peak 11,000 ft.
still breathing

Nora's Amaryllis
all the way from Holland to Peru

Host siblings and Juanito

Juanito and China


Rooftop Tejas

Dream House

Firstly I know I have been rather incommunicado with all of you in these last months. I apologize for that. Work, or rather, random activities have been keeping me busy ever since the rains stopped sometime mid May. A quick update:

I have gotten involved in a few community gardens one with the high school the other with the health post. Vince, my site mate, and I hosted our July regional meeting in Canchaque and 12 volunteers came to learn about gardening. We oooed and ahhhed over some serious worm composting learned about seed saving etc… and ended up planting a garden in the health post, conveniently located a block from my house. So I am found there daily watering and loving our seedlings.

Our HIV/AIDS classes have been mixed up a bit since there hasn’t really been any school since the beginning of June due to the schools week long anniversary party, a visit from the Mother Superior from India, the town festival celebrating campesinos and now three weeks of vacation for Peru’s Independence day and the spreading of Swine09 as Jenn calls it. But we are working with the health post nurse and have given five classes to the teachers on adolescence, puberty etc. So once we finish with them in August the idea is for the teachers to pass info onto the kids. If all goes well, we will have a fair in September and each class will present something that they have learned about a healthy adolescence.

Song club goes along learning Enrique Iglesias now. And the Expo Feria is in full swing. At least preparations are, making bamboo stands, getting participants for the coffee fair, the artisan fashion show and the traditional food fair. Once its done I can say I never have to work alongside small town government again too many formalities for me. I did however have fun experimenting with Adobe Illustrator in designing the programs and such, so that’s a bonus.

Finishing up a world map manual complete with country profiles, recipes, pictures of traditional dress, music, movies, fun stuff and am excited to go to Lima and present the project to the current training group. I started for the third time 100 Years of Solitude and seem to be sticking to it though the characters are as difficult to keep track of.

I had a lovely visit from a dear friend from MMC. We walked for five days to get to Machu Picchu. It was fantastic. I lament the fact that it took me a while to situate myself amongst many tourists spending a good amount of money, myself included. It was very different than what I have been used to for the past year and a half. But it was worth all the frustration, exhaustion from climbing to 11,000 feet, cold nights in tents and then another hour climb at four in the morning to stand at the top of the astrology tower welcoming the first rays of the sun over the ruins. We formed a band, called Kissing Kiwicha, wrote a song about Camel Backs, delighted in our Flash Packer status and danced a trio one night along with T-Huff, Pink Floyd and a dingy club in a dingy town in the southern Amazon.

Jenn then visited Canchaque and taught some dance classes which the kids just loved. We talked a lot, philosophized, dreamed, laughed and enjoyed catching up.

Her visit has put me in a good place. Everyday I feel like I could stay here longer, and then in the same day I have moments of intense frustration and longing to be done with all of the social behaviors that are now becoming annoying rather than new and interesting. I found myself the other day confused as to my role here as a women, not that I even make conscious decisions to be submissive, but that’s just how it is and I guess I have adapted so fully and immersed myself to the point of losing my place. It was quite shocking. So it seems I really am in the back end of my service, shocking again. I feel good about loving it here but also will soon be ready to move on to the next adventure. There are plans, but I will wait to elaborate until they are a bit more specific.

I hope that you all are still well and good and enjoying wherever you are.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

burning blue and green into our veins, the sun shines down once again

The rains have stopped!

We had our first HIV/Aids session with the teachers
We had a great three day program with Pep-Far in April and I am now working with the obstetriz, profe Juanita and my friend Fabiola in the high school. Two sessions with the teachers then 1 class a month per classroom for five months culminating in a Feria open to the town where each classroom will present on something that they learned.

As secretary of the party planning committee I am proud to announce we raised 700 nuevo soles (a little over $300) for our Expo feria we are planning in July.

It is shaping up to be like a small county fair a place where people can sell their fruits and veggies, cheese, coffee, deserts, weavings etc… and we are having a Gastronomic contest between the restaurants. Oh and the veterinarians want to offer services on how to care for animals and Tio Julio said he’d provide the worms to promote worm composting.

Tio Julio ordered five honeybee colonies!

I went camping at the beach for Easter with some excellent company ate waffles did yoga, sang round bonfires and danced on the beach

The other day Vince and I rode our bikes to Piura. It took me 7 hours to come within 51K. And I decided it wasn’t worth it anymore to ride through the Piuran desert so I jumped on a bus.
I am part of the activities committee for Valor.

This is a three-day camp for high school boys where we have sessions on planning for the future, responsibility, leadership etc. We are organizing frozen t-shit contests, capture the flag, scavenger hunts and lots of stuff to keep us active and deserving of the pool after running around all day in the Piuran sun.

The kids and I are organizing a movie night here in Canchaque to raise funds for them to go for free.
My English song club is all right the kids come and go. But we are learning High School Musical songs so later we can learn the dances that go with them!

The high school is inaugurating their Center for Ecological Recreation for their anniversary next week. I am helping with the garden, we have cucumber, spinach, Swiss chard, lettuce, celery and cabbage growing, and I am still searching for eggplant seeds. They are also building this little cabin out of Bamboo which will be really fun for camp outs and maybe cooking classes?

I will have a few visitors in these next months, which I am excited about beyond description.
If only I had so much to do this whole time. But then I wouldn’t have made the friendships I did. I see now that there is a strong bond built between people suffering from constant drizzle and lack of activities.

Friday, March 27, 2009

"Animal Vegetable Miracle" it

Havivi told me this morning that a spider peed on my eye after I showed her that my eyelid was all red and gooey and burned like it was sun burnt. John said it was a Zorro, which is like this tiny little scorpion that releases a sort of acid, so much for my mosquitoes net working.
I went to Ecuador to visit Megs and saw Michelle too. It was all good and difficult at the same time. Wonderful to see them but hard also to realize we are all in similar situations and struggling to figure out what’s right, what our purpose is and where we currently are on the emotional rollercoaster.

“No Claudio would never wear pants that loose” –Megan when asked if the guy wearing normal jeans walking towards us was her boyfriend Claudio

I met Claudio shortly after. Played a game of basketball with his family and friends and then later that night discovered he played drums in a Kiss cover band. This was amazing information. I whipped out my new Emo Morales t-shirt lined my eyes charcoal black and was set to rock out with the Ecuadorian Kiss fans only to hear that Claudio was a little embarrassed and didn’t want his girl to see him play. Alas, Megan has promised to fill me in when she actually gets to see the band perform.

We made bagels and cheesecake, stir-fry and green curry. And discovered a new fruit called Zapote. It is a mix between a peach a mango and a bitty squash. It is real tasty. We also went to a cardio striptease class. Megan told Michelle and I that she often went to a salsa aerobics class during the week so of course we jumped on board. At first it was good clean salsa, then the amazingly flexible young man teaching us became suddenly more excited after “Thriller”. Maybe it was the music, or the arrival of an audience, or the 40-year-old women taking of their sweatbands, whatever it was, it was no salsa. It was oh so much more.

Upon returning home I was greeted warmly by my family and friends. We even had a glorious day of sun and a soft whispering Spring Breeze that lifted everyone’s rainy disposition. As the school year starts Marisella once again enters into her prison. I realize now she is the only person I have met, ever in my life that could care for the girls in the boarding house with such empathy, heart and warmth. I don’t know how she does it.

March has flown by and the rain seems to be throwing in some twists to remind us of her power. I crossed the river today thankfully, but the water was almost up to the bus windows and you could feel the current struggling to pull us off track. I sure hope this is the end of the rainy season because if it gets any worse in April I imagine some tragic things could happen. We already had two landslides an earthquake and various thunderstorms. I have posted a list on my wall. It is called “In case of …” and I have listed my go to items should I suddenly have to escape. Ha-ha I don’t foresee this happening but better prepared than not. I have started keeping some dear valuables in my backpack ready to grab and go too!

I have started helping out in the high school. One of the nuns and I are trying to get a food project started so we can give a little snack to the kids that walk 2-3 hours to school without breakfast. We are in the process of getting funding from the municipality, but all moves rather slowly in that office.

I am also helping the English teacher with her advanced classes, though advanced isn’t saying much. There is a disappointing mix of the students being to afraid to learn and make mistakes and the teacher rushing through her exercises to stay on track, that no progress is really made. So I am committing myself to working on vocabulary. The teacher will start a unit without going over vocabulary first and then we just go around translating everything for the kids. So I told her I would make a vocab list weekly and try and ignite some memorization and fun learning in her classes.

Chicope production continues we have washed peeled, strained, cooked and jarred hundreds of Chicope so I am glad the season is almost over. Although I guess oranges are next. Marisella just keeps going, I don’t know how but she is a great inspiration.

Lots of things planned for the upcoming months and though I may not have figured out my exact purpose here yet, I am enjoying my time more and more with the hope that things come together
A long lost friend, recently found again reminded me that….

poco a poco anda lejos or
Little by little you go far
So that is my current mantra

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

mis patas

golden bananas

Luciana at her class party

Luciana and Fabiola

Christmas dinner
Havivi Marisella Maricarmen Abuelita Carlitos

Abuelita and Marisella


Juanito asleep in the manger

the rain

the green

the day we planted veggies in our decorated milk cans
Franklin has the knife, good thing the banisters were far away

Sunday, February 22, 2009

MaƱana es para siempre

Much to report.
First I am to tell you that Juanito, my cat, ate lentils four times today. Havivi wanted you to know this. We think he has worms and is therefore feeding an army.

This afternoon, as I am peeling mountains of chicope for jam, Abuelita comes in to prepare her daily soymilk. I say,” Abuelita, careful with the ants” and she laughs and tells me they were in the sugar the other day. And that is why I found her at the sink spooning ants out of her soymilk one by one. So five minutes later she is back spooning ants and laughing, I pull out the strainer once again to help her out. Maybe this is why the other day she said as we were sitting down to lunch, “ con la gringa somos como familia” With the gringa we are like family.

It might also be because Tuesday night as the rain was pouring down me Havivi and Marisella are lounging waiting for Havivis boyfriend to come for dinner. One of us says something about the infinite rain and Marisella says, “ I know lets scare Joel”, the boyfriend. So we get to it expecting him any moment now. I have the comforter over my head and am sitting behind the dining room door which I am too shut after joel enters and start making creepy noises. Marisella is crouched behind the curtain into the bedroom with black gloves on to reach for Joel’s feet as he enters the room and Havivi is in bed luring Joel through the trap. All the lights are off and Abuelita is watching Chabo in the living room.

Joel knocks on the door comes in and greets abuelita. Havivi calls from the bedroom and Joel proceeds into the dining room, but he turns the light on. HA. So here I am covered having just closed the door feeling Joel staring at me very confused. Now instead of turning the light off, I somehow think rolling around on the floor in my sheet would be scarier. So that is what I do and I can just see Joel looking down at me totally confused. He tries to pull the comforter off but I don’t let him and I try and force him into Marisellas trap but by this time no one can keep from laughing and we all end up rolling around on the floor.
But poor abuelita was terrified almost to tears that we were going crazy what with our frantic preparation and then our hysterically poor performance. I sat and watched the rest of Chabo worried Abuelita wouldn’t recover.


I have learned Spanish soap operas are just as terribly addicting.

That one never throws out pineapple peel because Agua de Pina is one of the greatest delicacies on earth

And that the minute something is dirty, you wash it, otherwise mold will come

I learned not to wear pants that are see through when wet if you plan on playing with water

And I have grown into a deep relationship with The Guardian Weekly, so much so that like my father, I am always three or four behind and once finished can’t bear to throw them out feeling a sense of accomplishment and sentiment towards such a wealth of information so easily compactable.

Finally I have learned that the community here looking for anything to do with a youth development volunteer seems to be in hiding or of very shy, perhaps invisible personalities and yet somehow there is enough work for two volunteers. Yes, starting tomorrow I have a site mate, wonderful. Now he does come for small business management so I am happy for Marisella and her many products waiting to be commercialized. And I wont be the only foreigner dancing at the discoteca but I have officially given up trying to understand reason behind pc administration.

I’m off to Ecuador in a bit here so you all take care now and just boil that pineapple peel in water with brown sugar and cloves. Good for your kidneys too.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

And the fruit keeps falling

I heard some voices outside my room. A little girl her parents and my landlord making small talk before the real work began. My landlord is a dentist, this I new before moving in but really only understood when I came home one day and found bloody cotton swabs and teeth garnishing my front door. Since then it has become normal to see people comfortably seated in the Guayacill furniture with their heads tilted up and there mouths filled with plaster or whatever he uses to make fake teeth. This morning however was a bit more than I bargained for. Waking up to the whimpering of a child as novacain is inserted into her gums and teeth are pulled out is not all that pleasant. Thankfully I was very rested having gone to bed early last night so Iw as able to get up and out of ear of the torment.

Yesterday we, Havivi, her two friends and I ventured into the dewy green mountains in search of Maracuya aka Passion Fruit. Though after three hours of hiking we were unable to locate the treasured fruit we did happen upon banana apples, yes a hybrid of bananas and apples, Lucuma, an orange chalky fruit that looks like a coconut on the outside and is better served as a flavoring in ice cream and yogurt, plenty of guineos, the unripened bananas people love so much for breakfast and loads of Avocados, the buttery kinds. Quite the successful trip to the chakra I would say. I tendo to go once a week. Usually with my friend Pedro. And this way I have unlimited fruits, sometimes veggies and I get to go hiking. Saturdays are a good day to go and if we are lucky the rain will hold off for a few hours and only the mist will blanket our outing. Yesterday was the first half day of sun since Christmas I think. It was glorious and all my clothes dried so fast instead of the normal week long process.

All this week I have been helping Marisella process her jams. She made Chicope jam which is a fruit similar to papaya but oh so so so much better. You can smell them a block away! So we made Jam and also processed Alcaparras. The dictionary translates it to capers, but these are different. They are actually the flowers of the Agave plant from which Tequila is made. Marisella pickles the flowers with hot peppers and well in fifteen days I expect they will be quite good having been soaked in apple vinegar.

Summer school continues for three more weeks. My students vary, somedays we have 12 other days three. We have planted seeds, made rainsticks, learned about nutrition, though I think these kids have had so many Nutrition sessions that they can spit out the correct answers without knowing why they are correct. I actually asked the question, how many glasses of water do you drink everyday?
"eight" says Franklin casually knowing he is right, but not knowing why.
So that was a bit frustrating. I moved on to reading but only three kids came that day and Franklin would only read all the easy books so he could get a star faster, I told him that to finish his sheet he needed to start reading chapter books and he refused and instead went to slide down the railings of the mayors office. I know my patience is being tested, but come on, how many times do you have to tell the kid he cant run around screaming and playing in the mayors office?

Really hoping for some luck in the trash stuff come March, though now it seems plans might be changing and money may be shifted around for an agricultural project. Beautiful right I cant wait to ge tinvolved in planting Maracuya, Peaches and Avocados...but then where is the youth development? Still thinking of going to the campo schools too when school starts up again, we shall see, its all about connections right and relationships so working on those in the meantime.
And loving it really. I have a wonderful family, great group of friends, we are having a luncheon today, Cebiche, Papa a la Hunacallina, Sabado, Tallerines Verdes( like a pesto sauce)and ranch with veggies, they love ranch dressing here thanks to the five previous volunteers. So it goes. and the sun is out again today. wahoo.
hope you are all well

Thursday, January 8, 2009

and the rain came down down down

yikes January!

right now I am sitting on the back steps in my Mayors office charpsing the free internet. Having just come from another meeting about this summer school we keep talking about. I almost wish i hadn't even tried to get help and had just done it alone. I say that really just because after pushing to get something planned amidst the Christmas and New Years shuffle was impossible and then after returning from vacation, a lovely one at that in Buenos Aires with my fellow Bolivia volunteer Michelle, I find that my original counterpart good old JV has somehow been ousted by my 16 year old host sister. Yesterday, since the rains wouldn't let up I found out through good old fashioned girl talk with my two host sisters that the personnel in the office are being changed due to some sort of corruption. But the only reason JV is out is because my host sister is the Queen of the town, she won the pagent last year, and with the victory comes a year of work in the mayors office and somehow it means she is the new secretary. Amazing. Good in some ways and bad in others. I think JV will still help me out a bit, but I am far from understanding and frankly feel that to ask questions would be silly. So again we have met and planned to meet again and the months slip away like the slugs trying to crawl up my wall.

yes I have slugs and fleas and spiders and all sorts of creatures searching safety from the rains. Girl talk also revealed the potential danger of the mine up the mountain possibly, due to heavy rains, caving in and barraling into town in the form of mudslides. Needless to say I am packing an emergency bag and looking for potential higher ground. In the meantime I will hopefully be participating in a reading club, maybe weekly movie showings, dance classes and any other fun activity we can come up with to keep us sane in all this rain.

Reading heavily as well and experimenting in the kitchen with my family. We made a plethora of desserts for our midnight Christmas feast including brownies, key lime pie, craisen white chocolate chip cookies and two types of banana bread, one being bomb banana muffins. Mari Carmen is a genius in the kitchen and she graciously allows me to observe and sometimes help. Though I am never allowed to wash dishes, even after I tell them how many dishes I washed at home with dad singing his "Do the Dishees" song so fervently in the background. It doesn't translate all that well into Spanish. Abuelita (grandma) watches tv, Chabo, at 6pm everyday. She usually falls asleep but I sat with her the other day and I think we had a a good time. Granted she doesn't hear very well so its hard to have a conversation me shouting into her ear and loosing all faith in my Spanish as she nods, smiles, sometimes responds and laughs. Oh how she laughs, little pearls. It is one of my most favorite things Abuelitas laughing. So it goes here in the mountain rains but in a way it is nice and leaves time for lazy afternoons spent chatting or dreaming or dozing in my hammock. Thrilled to have more time for letters, I hope I stay true to my promise. Might go and salvage an old bookshelf to put in my room now, or help Mari Carmen read a childrens book in English. We do an hour a day and she is really good just needs practice. I guess I am looking forward to the green that the rains bring. I feel like a frog hopping around the puddles in my green shoes!
till soon
slug hugs