Friday, January 14, 2011

...And a Happy New Year!

Here's a blog I started in December, and forgot to finish. So I'm posting it now (February):

The past few months have been a whirlwind with projects finishing and new ones starting... friends visiting, and new travel adventures.

The last blog I wrote I had recently moved in with my new host family. Since then the school year ended, so a few of my projects also came to an end. The small business in the high school (Melchoritanos Emprendedores) will be on hold until the new school year when we start up with a new group of students. In the end the group sold enough to give S/75.00 to the school and keep the rest for themselves. The decision was that they would give 40% of all sales to the school and the rest of the profits would go to the student/artisan. So it's not an amazing number, but for the first year, its a good start. I'm just glad we didn't end in the red.

Another project I have been working on is my youth group called Jovenes Lideres Voluntarios (Youth Volunteer Leaders). Our last official activity was a trip up to Lunahuana for river rafting. The students who attended an HIV awareness workshop were able to go, and the funds from our community raffle paid their way.

My good friend Penny who is also a Peace Corps volunteer in Nicaragua came for a two week visit. Along with our other childhood friend Emily and a co-worker of mine, Ena, the four of us took to the mountains and hiked up to Machu Picchu. It was an awesome trip. First we spent some time eating good food at Jack's Cafe and shopping for mountain garb in Cuzco. Then one train ride later, and a little less weight to our wallets, we found ourselves hiking up the mountains at 4am to reach the breathtaking view of what is known as "The Naval of the World". When we reached the viewpoint, however, we were met with rain and cloud cover. Though it wasn't ideal, hiking around Machu Picchu in a raincloud was somehow enchanting. It felt like we were spending a day in the life of the Inca's. Due to the heavy fog, Penny and I were separated from our other friends, not to be reunited for hours. When we finally found them, the clouds started to clear and we were able to get a clear view of the beauty that had been in front of us the whole time.

After our adventure in the mountain region of Peru it was time to come back to my reality in the hot desert that is my site. Penny stayed at my host families house for a week. We did some local touristy things and she also helped out at the Comedor I work at. The best part (for me) was that she was here for Christmas. She ate dinner at my house with my host parents, which was really nice. But mostly it was good to have someone from home here on the holidays. It was definitely a step up from my first Christmas in site.

After Penny's visit I started a 2 week youth business simulation course. It was a part of the Comedor's summer activities program for youth. I spent 4 hours each morning teaching 12 youth how to start and run a business. They were broken up into 3 groups and each group came up with a business plan which they then implemented at the end of the second week. With a loan from the "Peace Corps Bank", each group spent one or two days to realize their business and pay back the loan. One group chose to host a bingo which earned a lot of money because they got many of the prizes donated, and each managed to sell over 50 bingo cards at S/2.50 each (the buying power of S/1.00 is roughly equal to $1.00 in my site). Then the other two groups chose to do a delivery breakfast business and a Cevicheria. Neither earned a lot, but mostly due to the capital needed for start-up.
Here the kids are working on their business plans:

By the end of the two week business course it was time for more visitors. This time, my parents and baby sister came to visit for two weeks. We spent the first week in my site where we did a lot of meet/greet. My parents even danced at my host dad's birthday party! Something I never thought would happen... After a week in my site we went to Lake Titicaca in the department of Puno. This is the highest navigable lake in the world, where people live on floating islands. There is also a very rich traditional culture of the people on and around the lake. We had a great time there, granted the altitude kicked our butts :(

After my parent's visit, I had another two week break where I helped lead a volleyball/sports camp, and man it was HOTT! We would go outside each morning for about 4 hours and by the end of the week I was so beat, I felt like a dried raisin. I taught baseball as well, which was hilarious and a lot of fun. The kids here know nothing about the sport, but they all loved it. It was most difficult explaining to them why you want to run around the bases, and why the kids in the field want to get the ball to the base before the runner gets there. It sounds simple enough, but it was such a foreign idea to them that it took a few attempts until they were somewhat playing a sport that resembled American Baseball. The most common blooper was when the batter would hit the ball and then get so excited they would go running after the ball (instead of running to the base) and end up wrestling one of the outfielders to the ground for possession of the ball...haha (it still makes me chuckle just thinking about it).

Next my aunt and uncle came to visit but only for a few days. They came to my site where they met a lot of the people I work and live with. They ate lunch where I eat with my host family every day and they got to see the Comedor in action. It was a short but very sweet visit.
I am so happy to have been able to share my life here with friends and family from back home, and I am very grateful to have friends and family that care about my life and care enough to come visit me all the way down here.

This is where I'll sign off for now. Thanks again to all those who are still reading my sporadic blog.

Monday, November 1, 2010

New House, New Home

I have packed up my bags, and with Lady in tow, moved to a new house. Somehow, along the way I managed to accumulate double the belongings I had when I came to Peru a year ago... Needless to say, I haven't completely unpacked, but I feel at home already! The new family is way different than the one I was with before. They are honest and seem to live up to a higher standard of morals than most Peruvians. I hate to put it that way, but it's the truth. The family consists of the mom and dad and their son (19 yrs) and daughter (14 yrs). The son is studying Law at a local university and their daughter who is still in high school attends classes 8 hours a day 7 days a week, which is more than double the amount of time an average student is in school during the week in Peru. They are much more relaxed and seem, in a general way to put it, a lot more in control of their lives and what happens to them. My old host family was great, I don't want to construe that point, but they had so many issues that were fairly easy to fix, however, they just chose to be reactive rather than proactive in every situation. This all related to their level of honesty as well... Anyways, I got to know my first family really well since I spent a year with them, so I'm not being naive, I am aware that I hardly know this new family and who knows what I'll learn within this year, but lets just say, I have a good feeling about it.
The daughter Cristel is a great kid. She has already latched onto me and always wants to chat about what went on during the day, life issues...etc. It's a nice change from my old host brother who always wanted random advice about his girlfriend (I'll add that he never once took my advice...). She also has come to the gym with me twice. She really looks up to me, which makes me a little nervous. I remember that age, I had so many questions... For example yesterday she asked me about my nose piercing. What could I say? I'm sure her parents don't want her getting one so I didn't want to encourage it in any way. I just told her it was something I did but that it's not for everyone. Another example that's a little more embarrassing is she picked up my birth control and asked me if I was sick. I guess I take after my mother, because it's hard for me to lie (even in situations where maybe it's best not to say the truth), so I told her it was for in the event that I got raped, I wouldn't get pregnant. I think I scared her S****less with that answer. Good job Alana. But it's the truth, Peace Corps suggests females take birth control during their two years for that very reason... Anyways, lets just say I'm sure I'll be claiming her as my 4th "sister" in no time.
As for my new host brother, his name is Jean Carlos and he is also really well behaved. He always calls me senorita which cracks me up, and just says really quirky things. He studies a lot and surprisingly knows quite a bit about America. Which I'm finding he probably learned from YouTube because he's always on it.
The family seems to have become fairly comfortable with me in a really short time, but that's probably because I was a lot more comfortable when I first moved in and knew exactly what to expect (in comparison with the first family I lived with). I can tell when they need reassurance or when I need to explain certain things about myself to them so that they understand me better. Also a lot of people in town already know me, so they don't feel like I'm a complete stranger coming into their house. All of which, has sped up the "getting to know you" process.
As for my first host family, things are great. I have been back to visit a couple times and there isn't any tension with them at all. I'm really thankful that this whole transfer went smoothly.
I have been working on some new projects. First I formed a youth group called Jovenes Lideres Voluntarios/JLV (Youth Volunteer Leaders). I've organized it after a group I was a part of called Peer Helpers. We would meet every week and do fun activities as a group, as well as invite community members to teach us various topics that we could then use to help the community in some way. It was fun and gave me something to do during the rough stages of middle school. We have had 3 official meetings so far and the turn out isn't bad. I have at least 5 or 6 youth at every meeting and sometimes more. For Halloween we watched a scary movie called House of Wax on the projector. We laid out on some blow up mattresses, popped popcorn and drank soda. It was a lot of fun, and they really seemed to enjoy it. Next we are going to do a raffle to raise some funds for more activities.
Second, I have been working with two artisans to get ready for the annual Embassy Artisan fair that Peace Corps Peru hosts every year. I am taking a who makes candied goods and pisco, and another association that make woven baskets among other woven items. I am on the planning committee for the artisan fair so I have also been taking part in organizing the workshop the day before the artisan fair. Photos to come...
The other project I recently completed was a photo exhibit in the main square of Chincha (the main town of my province) for tourist week. Myself and some local professionals got together and formed a group called Colectivo Enciende, with the objective of realizing activities in the Province of Chincha that promote the art and culture of this area. This was our first activity. By soliciting the financial support from local municipalities and other entities we were able to print out 10 large banners of photos with support frames to present as a photo exhibit in the main square of town. It was a huge success, people were really happy to see the photos (both historical and current). There were many comments on how that was the type of event that should be happening in Chincha, and that it was about time people take a larger interest in the local culture. I was really happy at the response we got from the community and although logistically it was a stressful event, I am glad to have been a part of it. Coming from a small native town and growing up in the Tlingit culture, I feel I have a large understanding of the importance of traditions and culture, and because of my experience, I can offer ideas in ways to help it flourish. Oh, I cannot forget that I also had my official 15 minutes of fame. I believe I gave 5 T.V. interviews and 2 for local papers. I purposely didn't watch the local news all week in order to avoid the embarrassment. However, a few people have told me (with a giggle and grin) that they managed to catch the few minutes I aired.

Monday, October 4, 2010


It is official, I will be forced to deal with Alfredo, this 24 year old mayor of my town, for another year. Don´t get me wrong, I see nothing wrong with youth being involved in politics, even at a high level such as mayor. But this guy has barely got a high school degree, and zero work experience exept for the last botched year that he spent as mayor of my town.
The campaigning that has kept me up late at night for the past 2 months and has forced me to put a hold on some projects finally came to an end last night. As they carried Alfredo through the town square on their shoulders, the whole town was there to watch the results of the days elections. Half the crowd cheered and jump up and down as they chanted the campaign slogan, "¡Alfredo es la voz!". The other half started in awe, anger, disgust (ok maybe I was the only one with disgust on my face), and shock as Alfredo reached his campaign headquarters. There he gave a speach, which might I add, was the first one he gave throughout his entire campaign. He is not, how do you say... gifted in the realm of public speaking. Or in my opinion, speaking in general.
Why am I so opposed to Alfredo? Well, he was the reason I came to Grocio Prado. He was excited to have me here, and asked Peace Corps to "please send a business volunteer to their town". However, since the day I arrived he has avoided me at all costs, and done little to help me with my projects in the town. I don´t want to get into all the things he has done to me personally... but lets just say, I was really looking forward to working with a new mayor.
Elections here are much different than in the states. Here, everyone must vote, and if they don´t they have to pay a fine of about S/75.00, which is a lot of money to poeple here, it´s what most people make in 1 or 2 weeks. Anyways, since everyone votes, the campaigns are run differently. Each candidate tries to get their name out as much as possible, so they paint the town red! well, ok they paint the walls in all the town with campaign parafanalia. And they give out t-shirts and flags to as many people as possible. Then they hold "meetings" every other night. In these meetings each candidate chooses a street in town to block with their stage, they set up speakers and basically hold a campaign party in the middle of the street. They las til 12:00 or 1:00am. My host family loves them, they were at a Meeting every other night... It was their best option for socializing in the past few months I guess.
Also each candidate has a headquarters in the middle town square where they blast music all day long. I´m not exagerating either, they play the music so loud, it would be illegal in the U.S. To top it off though, they pay people for votes, and I guess it´s not illegal?
Well anyways, thats all I´ve got for now. This country continues to amaze me :)

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Times They Are A-Changin'

I just finished up with my one year Medical Checks. I had a yearly physical, dental check-up and presented all the work I have done in the past year in Peru, plus a project plan for year 2. Wow, I cannot believe one year has come and gone. For some volunteers it went slowly, but I can't get over how fast it has gone for me. I guess time flies when you are having fun.

A lot has changed since my last blog. I am working in some new and exciting projects. First I am working twice a week with a group of students in the high school who have started a small business venture making arts and crafts out of local shells. We do a business workshop on Tuesdays where they learn all about running the business, then on Thursdays we have a lot of fun hanging out and being creative with the shells.

Another project that is keeping me busy is a 2-day drug awareness workshop I am facilitating in the high school with all students from Cuarto and Quinto (equivalent to 9th and 10th graders in the U.S.) I can't really explain how I got involved in this project, but it has become very rewarding and looks like it will develop into some larger projects in the coming year.

Of course I am still working in the Comedor on various projects. I am helping with some grant writing, hosting an all girls leadership camp and lets not forget organizing my monthly health campaigns. They continue to haunt me at the end of every month ;)

A failing project that keeps me awake at night is the Community Bank. This is a new project for business volunteers in Peace Corps Peru. It helps show people the importance of savings and credit. I really want to start a functioning bank before my two year stunt is up, but it looks like the community is doing all they can to keep that from happening. Not to worry, I will trick them into starting a community bank if I have to. This is one project that I will not let fail...

If you are wondering what has happened to any past projects I have been working on, the likely answer is that it's either on hold or the community partners working on the project have disappeared...

In other news, I am moving out of my current host families house and must find a new family to live with. I originally felt like it might be time to find a new house when my host family got it in their minds that I was their personal ATM machine, but then other issues developed (nothing extremely serious), and I thought, "better to mitigate this situation and move out while we are all still friends than let things go bad over the next year." It has all worked out for the best though, I think my host family will miss the monthly rent I was paying, but at least we will still be family, and I will continue to spend time with them over the next year.
Current Status: currently on a house/family hunt and looking forward to a fresh start!

I also participated in a Marathon in the Norther Coast of Peru, I only ran a 10K and (although their records show differently) I am positive I finished in UNDER my goal of 1 hour :)

As you can see, everyone took the marathon very seriously. These two guys ran the 5k with a Caja (box) of beer. They would run for a little while, then stop and drink for a little while and continued this pattern until they finally finished 4 hours later. At one point I passed them and they handed me a cup of beer as if it were water. In case you are wondering... of course, I drank it ;)

Needless to say, I continue participating in community events like baby showers, baptisms, birthdays, holidays, etc... We always invite Winnie the Pooh aka Winni Da Puh for all you hispanohablantes out there.

I can't forget to talk about my visit to America, it was amazing, overwhelming, short, long, comforting, happy, sad...etc. I cannot begin to explain all the emotions I felt during my trip "home". But I will say that it was good to be back. I started off in LA with my little brother, then we road tripped up to Durango CO, where my sister was getting MARRIED. Yes, MARRIED! I think it was all too much to wrap my head around, especially coming from a year of being in Peru. I have to say, it was the most beautiful wedding I have ever seen, and I was so proud to have been a part of it.

I have a few visits coming up from friends and family so I am excited about that. It should be interesting to see how they handle the lifestyle here, haha! I also am starting to think about my plans for the end of this year. I can't decide on staying for a third year, or trying to start grad school... oh the places you'll go..

Thats all for now. As they say in Peru, "Nos Vemos"

Monday, May 10, 2010

Arekeepin it Real

The days of constant heat and no air conditioning are officially over. When I woke up the other day with a sore throat and feeling all-around yucky, I knew winter was officially here. It all changed overnight. I can’t believe that one day I was looking at all my unworn jeans and sweaters cursing the space they took up in my luggage, and the next day feeling as if I needed to buy a few more. The upside is that I am not constantly sweating and the mosquitoes have appeared to die down.
Along with the weather changing, a lot of events have come and gone without my recording one of them on my blog. So here I go, I will try to recollect the most important of them all…

I went to Arequipa for Semana Santa or Holy Week for all you English speakers out there. As most people know Latin American countries are majority Catholic, meaning everyone is Catholic even if they don’t really go to church (thank you Spanish conquest). So for Easter holiday they celebrate for an entire week, rather than one day like most Americans. Luckily Peace Corps Peru gives us volunteers 4 days of free vacation, meaning we don’t have to use our allotted 2-day-per-month vacation days. So I, along with some other volunteers decided to meet up in Arequipa city, the second largest city in Peru. This has been by far my best trip taken in Peru. Arequipa is a large city known as the “white city” because all of the buildings were constructed of a white volcanic stone. Ok… actually I found out that it got its name “the white city” because during the Spanish conquisition wealthy Spanish families settled in Arequipa and since their skin was a lot whiter than the local Peruvian’s skin color the city became known for its “white” inhabitants. I guess now a day’s they say that it’s the “white city” because of the buildings… who knows.

Anyways, I spent the first two days in Arequipa city where I ate some REALLY good food (I was overdue for some non-Peruvian dishes) and toured the Santa Catalina Monastery. It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. Construction on the Monastery was started in the 1500’s by the Spaniards, and continued into (I think) the 1700 or 1800’s. Behind these large white, stone walls exists winding roads and the darkly lit rooms where nuns have been living for over 400 years. When the Spaniards finished the initial construction of the monastery the wealthy families would send their second born daughter to live there from the age of 12 for the rest of her life. The nuns were never allowed to leave the monastery and had little contact from the outside world. If they ever chose to renounce their title as a nun it reflected poorly on her family name and usually would be disowned by her parents and siblings. I found this place to be in amazing condition and it was beautiful inside. The colors were so inspiring, I definitely want my future house to have colors like this on the inside…

After Arequipa city, I went into the Colca Canyon. I rode a bus from Arequipa city to Chivay, a beautiful town located in the hills of Arequipa. I stayed one night in Chivay and it was Cold! I wore the warmest clothes to bed and slept under 3 heavy wool blankets. It still wasn’t enough. The weather in Chivay was so different from my site. The air was dry and cold. I could tell because my skin got so dry during the trip and that next morning I woke up my nose felt like it was going to crack and bleed… It was all worth it though because that morning I went to the natural hot-springs located in Chivay. I spent a good two hours soaking in that water and sipping on a Pisco Sour. It was heaven. After the hot springs I headed further into the Canyon to John´s site Yanque. John is a good friend and fellow volunteer. His site is very rural and quaint. The people of this town literally lived off the land (talk about subsistance living...). I was able to converse with John´s host family and learn a little more about the town. We also went on a mini hike to some local Incan ruins.
By the time that finished it was after 6pm and dark out. The town was officially shut down. I returned to the home stay, where I would spend the night. It would be another cold night. However, I was tired and ready for sleep. I woke up at 4am the next morning to head even deeper into the canyon. Why 4am? Well, there is this lookout where you can see deep into the canyon and if you go early enough you can see the Condors flying through it. The catch is that you can only leave from Yanque to see it if you jump on the bus that passes through at 4am. And you literally have to waive it down and jump on. All the other people on this bus at this hour are local farmers headed to work. They are very traditional people that carry their baby’s tied on their backs, and speak a dialect of the native language Quechua. When I finally made it to the lookout point at 6am it was just in time to watch the sun rise. Imagine it, the deepest canyon in the world and a clear cold morning as the sun rises over the Andean mountain peaks… Needless to say, it was an unforgettable moment in my life, and the best Easter morning ever. Although it was freezing out, and I was tired as heck, it was well worth it. I stayed for about an hour and a half, and left on the next bus that passed through. I have to admit, I didn’t see the condors, but I felt like I got what I had come for…
I headed back out of the canyon to Arequipa city to catch my 12 hour bus back to site. All the while not knowing what surprise awaited me. I arrived to the bus terminal in Arequipa around 4pm, and went to the counter to check in for my departing bus at 6pm. The man behind the counter looked at me and said, “senorita, there are no buses leaving for Lima today” “how can that be?” I asked, “I have a ticket to Lima”. “Well there just aren’t any busses leaving to Lima” he told me again in a matter-of-fact kind of manner. I sat there for a second and thought to myself ok, he obviously isn’t going to give up information easily, so I persisted… 10 minutes later he finally divulges to me that there is a strike going on further up the Pan-American Highway, so no busses are leaving for Lima because they can’t get through (gee was that soo hard to say?). He gives me a phone number and tells me to call tomorrow to see if the road has opened up. Fast forward 4 days later, after numerous calls to said telephone number and Peace Corps Peru headquarters, I was 500 soles poorer but I finally got on an outgoing bus to Lima. Although the bus ride was 18 hours instead of 12, and I missed a week of scheduled meetings and classes, I was happy to be home.

Since then I have been trying to get back into some old projects and start some new ones. I am facilitating the initiation of a small sewing project. The
mothers of some school children have taken interest in staring a Co-op where they make and sell school uniforms at bargain price. They only work a few hourse a week and make their childrens uniforms instead of buying them.
I also have been helping out a small artisan group made up of high school kids. The income goes to the students and their school. We are starting from zero though because last year they only sold 4 items...

Alright I must cut this short because I´m about to be late to my English class... Until next time...!

Here´s our Mother´s Day Lunch celebration. Nothing like eating outside with the chickens and flies on a cold day :)

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Party Scene

I have mentioned before that parties and celebrations are a huge part of the culture here in Peru. People throw parties here for everything from baptisms to birthdays. And its not just a little get together with close family and friends, no these people will put their entire savings into one party. For example, my host family just threw a huge wedding for my sister, and are basically broke from it. Not to worry... They are already planning on the next party, my host brothers 18th birthday in December.

Now, I will say that not every family is as social as mine, but I do know that people are throwing enough parties that I have been to more of them here in Peru in these last 7 months than I have been to in my entire life. The part that always makes me chuckle is that each party, no matter what the occasion, follows the same general format. First is the ceremony (it could be a baptism, wedding, etc...), which nobody attends. Then there is the after party, usually at someones house (if big enough) or at a local of some sort. The partying cannot begin until a series of awkward speeches, dances, and photos are taken. Usually the god parents of the guest of honor will make a toast, and proceed to dance with each other. The entire time all of this is narrated by a peruvian man, we can call him the "M.C." however I'm sure his version of m.c.-ing wouldn't be allowed anywhere in the U.S. He will talk at every moment of the series of speeches and dances. He will be the only person at all animated about the events, and he will play puppet-master with the guests until this charade finally ends. At which point people let down their guard, do away with any good manners they were previously fronting and begin drinking the memories of those awkward moments away.

I generally get through all of this by laughing my ass off at the ridiculousness of it all. Most Peruvians are generally shy and poor public-speakers, so why they put themselves through all of this is a mystery to me. Nonetheless when an invitation is handed my way to attend such an event, I always go. After all, I told myself I would be a "yes" person for my two years in Peru.

This is the point in the night when I really start to have fun because, well as I have said before, everyone in Peru dances. Everyone. So needless to say, I find myself on the dance floor for almost every song that plays. I mean, men here know how to dance! Well, in general... It's just nice to be in a culture where if you DON'T dance you're weird...

OK what's next? People buy large boxes of beer, we call it the "caja" (pronounced Kaha). This caja is filled with 12 40oz. bottles of gross Peruvian beer. A group of selected individuals will stand around this caja in a circle dancing and drinking. Some will even sit around their caja, whatever the case may be everyone is drinking and those who don't want to drink must pretend that they are drinking anyways. You pass around a bottle with a cup and everyone drinks from the same glass. When the bottle gets to you you must pour anywhere from a little drop to half-way into the glass and drink it as fast as you can. CHUG. But wait, before you drink you must pass the bottle onto the next person, BEFORE you drink. This is essential, because by passing the bottle on to the next person before you drink you are saluding them, or toasting to them. If you don't toast to anyone before you drink, you must drink again or the bottle won't move on. This process goes to show how important customs and rituals are in this society. Everyone does everything a certain way, and they never break away from the norm. Here I am with the wedding cow, head and tail!

I was recently asked to be the bridesmaid at my host cousins wedding. ¨Yes¨ I said when my cousin asked me 1 week before the wedding. What would this entail? Well no matter how many times I asked what I would need to do they would always tell me, "nothing, just learn a dance is all... oh and rent an ugly dress... and shoes... also chip in 15 soles for ´la hora loca´... Then come and take pictures at our civil ceremony... and then be at the brides side the entire night... oh and then you can´t leave the party until the party is over... but nothing really." OK, so they didn´t tell me all of this at once, it all came over the course of the week. I should have known better though, Peruvians never give the whole truth. However, after all is said and done, I am happy that I can say I was part of a Peruvian wedding. Here I am in my frilly Barney colored dress...

Then just last weekend I was asked to be a stand in Madrina (God-mother) at a Quinci├▒era. This is the biggest birthday in a girls life, it marks her 15th birthday and is when she officially becomes a woman. So how else to celebrate a girls transfer to womanhood? Thats right, you guessed it! Awkward series of dances and speeches, for all of which I played a starring role :) yay. So I know nothing about this girl and now I have to stand up and congradulate her and thank her parents, and act like I am so excited for this party she has thrown. One perk however, is that I was the recipient of a fat pigs thigh! We fed on that pigs thigh in my house for days... The whole time I was at this Quince├▒era the M.C. was yelling out my name and getting them to shine the light on me, mostly because I was the gringa playing the madrina and actually, I think I ended up stealing the show. woops... Anywho, I kept thinking to myself the whole time how silly it was that all the close family and friends of this girl were here to watch the series of awkward events and I was the one taking part in them. And I probably knew here the least. To me it seemed much more logical and less awkward to just opt out of the Madrina for this celebration. Well by the end it was clear to me why I needed to play stand in Madrina. You see, I was standing in for my host sister who is the real madrina. If my family didn´t have me stand in, they wouldn´t have been able to receive all the goodies that came along with playing Madrina at a celebration such as this. By 1:30am when the party was just getting going my host mom made a quick exit towards the door and on the way told me to come outside. I followed along, not sure what was happening... We were dipping out! I know it doesn´t seem like that big of a deal but all of a sudden it all made sense to me. You don´t leave a party that early here in Peru, and you certainly don´t leave that early when you are the Madrina. Well, my folks were plenty tired and had gotten what they came for; Their fat pigs thigh, a whole cake, and a large baking pan full of Carapulcra (what we ate for dinner). We were off, in the car before anyone noticed.
Was I used? Yes.
Did I feel used? Yes.
Did I care? Honestly, no.
I was plenty ready to leave and felt I deserved the cake, pigs thigh, and pan of carapulcra for all the awkward moments and stares I endured that night.

Well these are just a couple of my party stories, I am sure more will come. For now you can see just what my social life in Peru has become. Or should I say, lack-there-of...

Posing for a picture at my cousins wedding, here I am standing with the groom and the other groomsmen and bridesmaid.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Alright, it has been forever since I last posted a blog. I remember before coming here that I was determined to post a blog at least once every two weeks, now it is barely once every few months. I guess it just goes to show how different my life has become. I no longer walk in the door, go for my laptop and flip it open to check my email everytime I step foot in my room. Instead I come home and usually sit down to have a conversation with one of my family members and eventually find my way to a cozy spot in the house to read a book.
My life has also become a lot more comfortable. I can't remember the last time I cared about "doing" my hair or puting on makeup. Not that it should have ever been a concern, but here (unlike America)no one really goes to extreme lengths to look better than they already do when they roll out of bed in the morning. I guess they do like to polish their shoes every morning, and for some reason believe it is essential to wet their hair everytime they get the chance. However, rather than adapt to their standard of grooming, I have decided to give the majority of it up.
I have continued to go to the gym on a regular basis, and feel great about that. I wish I could get my diet more in check, but it is hard when food is such a central part of the culture here and rejecting any meal is like a slap in the face to the chef. So I basically eat anything they put in front of me. I have, in the meantime, perfected my yelling skills,"poco, no mas!" ("Just a little!")is what I yell everytime my host mom goes to dish me up. She gets the point now... She loves to tell people that I will eat anything, but that I just cannot eat a lot because I don't know how. LOL!
Oh trust me lady, I know how...
In other news, someohow my camera broke. It just stopped working one day. So there will be a hiatus on photo taking for a while.
I also bought a puppy! After my family decided to banish Little Louie to the Chacra (farmland) for eating all the chicken eggs, I took it upon myself to find another dog. Her name is Lady-Chica, she is mostly blind, but i'm pretty sure she can see anything right in front of her face. She is so cute, and loves to sleep. She eats, plays, sleeps... all day long. I have started to let her spend all her time outside in the back of the house and she loves it. She isn't scared of the crazy cat or the crazy chickens that my mom has back there, and I'm almost positive she has no interest in eating the chicken eggs either.
As for work in site, I took a break for the holidays, and am feeling a bit guilty that I havn't gotten back into the swing of things yet. One thing after another just seems to pop up and every week it's a different reason for why I cannot get much work done. I do see in the next couple weeks that I will be able to get some work done towards a few projects I am launching.
I plan to start a youth entrepreneurship club at the comedor, as well as host a preventative medical campaign at some different locals in my site. I also am in the process of applying for a PEPFAR project that will educate my community members on the dangers associated with HIV/Aids. Aside from all of this I am still trying to find my way into the artisan community. I have yet to have any success working with the artisans, so I think it is time to change up my approach... As before I am still working with the organic avacado association which mostly involves getting the various forms filled out so they can move forward with the project.
As for my social life, well lets just say I am integrating well. My family is almost too comfortable with me. My host brother loves to come to me daily to get advice about his 'difficult' life... He has no job, hardly does any school work, and is always in a fight with his 15 year old girlfriend. My advice is almost always the same regardless of the issue, "be honest, grow up, and stop making excuses..." I can only hope that some part of my advice will rub off after two years.
My host mom is definately opening up as well. She was very quiet and reserved for the first few months, but now she is more willing to speak up and talk to me. She is still reserved and doesn't have much to say, but I'm 99% sure that it is just the way she is, and she just doesn't really care about talking to me anyways. My host dad is still excited to have me around, he checks in on me daily and I really think he is someone that is looking out for my best interest (but you never know...). One day he came home really drunk, like i'm talking stumbling around and yelling to the top of his lungs that he "loves me like a real daughter." When he apologized the next day for the way he acted, I told him in wasn't a problem, and acted like it was no big deal (even though I will never look at him the same again). He was obviously relieved to know that I wasn't upset, and I think it helped build some trust with him. It's funny how these things work.
Well I am sure there is much more to talk about, but this will have to do for now. I promise I will post more blogs in the NEAR future. For those of you that might still be reading any of this, I appreciate you for following my blog, it makes me feel closer to those of you that are so far away ;)
I also want to give a shout-out to my Grandma in the Oh-hi-OOOOH! I hope you are doing well, miss and think about you a lot!!!!
And to all those who have sent me care packages and letters, they are amazing, and whenever I receive one it literally makes my day! Thanks Mom, Hedy, Aunt Nancy, Grandma, Kelsey, Penny, Steve and Amelia Gage, The Esquiros, Abby, and Melissa.
I hope everyone is doing well back home ;)