Thursday, September 10, 2009

Boredom, loneliness, and just plain fun.

I am going to be honest, the first two weeks so far have been a confusing mixture of pleasure and pain. I can say that no one day is alike. So if you want an account of my daily life that would be somewhat difficult, but I will give it a go and tell you about an average day here in site.
First I wake up in the morning to the sound of Peruvian Wyno (sp?) music. It is the national folk music that my host mother cannot seem to get enough of. The name explains it perfectly, it sounds like a woman whining/crying in an annoying tone. But who am I to judge? My mother gets up around 5am every morning, regardless of what time she went to bed, and gets to work on God only knows what around the house. I can feel her vibes through the cement walls urging me to get up. I don’t quite know why, but sleeping-in here is very uncommon. And I know that she doesn’t like me laying in bed all morning, because she will say passive little things like, “wow you slept a lot” or “you were really tired” (mind you, I am up and moving by no later than 9am every day, usually 8am). So the pressure to get up forces me out of bed and I stagger out of my room hoping that there will be a ready-set schedule of work I must do today. No such luck. So I wander to the bathroom praying that water comes out of the faucet. The water supply here is shady, mostly because it is controlled by the city, and there is not enough to go around, so water comes when it is available. By now I have learned that chances are there will be no running water so I might as well not even go through the hassle of lugging my toothbrush and toothpaste with me. And yes, as I had thought, there is no water. So I walk back to my bedroom to look for a half-full bottle of water, if I am lucky there is one to save me. If not, then this means today I will be going to the gym in the morning rather than the afternoon. This brings me to the best thing to happen to me since coming to site, well one of the best. I found an awesome gym wedged in the back of a mini-mall. It reminds me of a gym in the U.S. which is an amazing feat. Most gyms here (unless you are in Lima) are made up of a tiny little room with outdated machines, and even more outdated staff. Not this gym. No sir, this gym has brand new machines, is good in size, has a spinning room and a dance room for classes like pilates, afro-peruvian dance, step-aerobics, ab-lab, etc… It also has a trained staff that are always helpful, sometimes a little too helpful, but hey, I kind of like the attention. The best part of all is it has running water with showers. This is why it makes it to the top of my “best things since coming to site” list.
Let me get back to my daily schedule. So by now my mom has noticed me wandering around the house and is in the kitchen prepping some version of bread, cheese, hot tea, and if I am lucky some surprise object like kalamata olives or avocado, for breakfast. I eat in a large room with no furniture except the large dining table that I am seated at alone. I wouldn’t mind being alone in the room except for the fact that people usually walk through, or by it while I am eating, making it very evident to me that I am eating alone, in this awkwardly large room (and now I think people are watching me). So here I think about all the things I can do with this day, and this is where my daily events start to change. Every day I try to do something different to feel like I have made progress here. Some days that something is very little. If I am really lucky, it is Sunday which means I can devote the entire day to doing laundry and not feel any pressure to do anything else, because that is a widely accepted pastime in this country. I have set up various meetings, and have been stood up on all occasions, but somehow that has not gotten me down at all. I have talked to some local artisans, and can tell that the “artisan association” is more of an idea than an acting organization in this town. So I have my work cut out for me. The one thing that people are certainly expecting of me is to teach English classes. I really wasn’t thinking I would do that, but as the days pass, and I run out of things to be doing, I am coming to the reality that I will certainly be starting some English classes here soon.
So for now I try to fill my day with whatever little tasks I think of. Some days I meet up with other volunteers nearby for lunch, which is a nice change of pace. I also went to Huacachina recently with a friend. This is an oasis located in what are the largest sand-dunes in all of South America. This place is amazing. Anyone that comes to visit me has to go, because it is only 2 hours from my site. Here I went on a 2 hour tour on a 9-person dune buggy. The driver was a neat local man, who drove really fast making tight turns up and down and on the sides of the dunes. It was like a roller coaster ride. Then he would stop randomly on the tops of dunes so that we could get out and ride down them on snowboards. It was so much fun. Not to mention beautiful and cheap, two great things to have together.
Meals are another nice thing because they take up large chunks of time. People here devote a full two hours to lunch. A custom I say we adopt in the U.S. I don’t think in my whole life I have ever spent so much time just eating. I usually skip dinner though, because lunch is so huge. It consists of a three course meal, soup, starter, and entrĂ©e. My mom likes to make certain dishes for certain days of the week. And she is a great cook. Every time I try something new, I say to myself she should open up her own restaurant in the U.S. I mean people down here just do totally different things with food. It is amazing. I am sure that Americans would love it (most of it). Although I do have to note that the dishes are not very healthy most of the time. Every meal is high in starches, carbs, and fat. Maybe that is why it tastes so darn good…
In the evenings I like to go to the gym so that I can work out, but more importantly, shower. It works to my favor, because I have only missed two days at the gym so far and I really am getting in shape. I have also been going to the Afro-Peruvian dance classes that they have 3 times a week. These are a lot of fun. This form of dance originated in the southern, coastal Ica region of Peru. They say that Ica has the best food, dancing, and wine in all of Peru. I believe it. The dance is like hip-hop dance meets belly dance, but focuses on big movements with the chest and hips. It is great for abs, and let’s be real, everyone knows I like to shake it. It also has a Latin salsa vibe, so basically, I LOVE IT.
Now I have only left out the one thing I do most, and that is nothing. I am mostly consumed by boredom for at least half of a day. I try to do constructive things like read my training material, or make lists of things I need to be doing. But the more I try to force it, the more obvious it is that I have not a lot of work to do right now. But that is ok. I really am trying to just spend time in my community getting to know people and understand how this place works. I have attended a few community events like the mayors wedding, and hanging out at the plaza. I spend a lot of time with my host brother, who has really taken a serious interest in learning English. He tries to learn a new sentence every day. Oh and I almost forgot, we have a puppy and my brother asked me what my dogs name was (he saw her in photos) I said Lou, so he named our puppy Lou. I changed it to Louie though, because it was easier for him to say. LOL. So although things are moving slowly, I really have to say I am happy and enjoying myself here. I definitely am getting in all the “me time” that a person could need in life.

This is a picture of me and my host family on our last day together

This is a photo of little Louie

Here is a photo of me at Huacachina

Another one at Huacachina, sand boarding

The beautiful oasis of Huacachina!