Saturday, November 7, 2009

Coming to you live from Cusco

Hello friends, family, and loyal blog followers!
I am currently writing this blog from Cusco. I know I have been slacking in the blogging process lately, so rather than hash out the last two months of service, I have decided to dedicate this blog to showing you some photos of what I have been up to since my last blog. In order of least recent to most recent, here are some photos for your viewing pleasure...

Every month the volunteers in my department meet to discuss various topics. One of them (a less serious topic) was the newly implemented idea of arm wrestling to finalize decisions. Whenever we are in disagreement about anything or have a problem deciding on an issue, we will designate one person from each side of the debate to arm wrestle over which side will win. As you can see, we only do this to keep sane...
This is a photo taken at sunset in my site. I was sitting on a bench while waiting for a friend. This street is what draws the tourists to my town. Located on it are small artisan shops filled with baskets, and other woven goods, as well as food vendors, and the Melchorita. The people of my site believe that the Melchorita was a woman saint, located on the street is the remains of her house. People come from all over to spend time there, pray, and tour her living quarters.
Here I was celebrating another volunteers birthday, Peruvian style. Most celebrations consist of a circle of people passing a bottle and small cup around, each taking a sip and passing it along. After hours of this we continued the tradition by eating a ton of food and dancing until the wee hours of the morning in a small living room.
I stay busy by teaching three English classes a week, one for adults, youth and children. Here I am teaching the children how to count in English. It was semi-successful. I didn't really want to teach English classes, but it is nice being able to help those who are serious about learning. And I have to say, I have never enjoyed singing the ABC's quite like I do now...
As the weather is warming up, Summer is definitely here. I have even managed to take some time out of my busy busy schedule to lay on the beach (note the sarcasm). The beach is only ten minutes from my house. Can't complain.
Here is a shot of Chincha, a medium size city located 10 min. from my site. The last week in October was "Tourism Week" in Chincha. Basically a made up holiday by the local municipality to try and create more tourism in the area. A good idea if you ask me. However tourism is still lacking in my area as compared to some others, but we are getting there. Anyways, the week of festivities include a huge concert in the center plaza on Thursday night, and a parade to mark the end of the week on Sunday. This photo is of the center plaza of Chincha where people were lined up as the sun was setting to watch the parade come down the street. Every group in the parade was a dance group and each took turns performing in front of the large crowd. I was certainly mistaken as a tourist throughout the week, but it was slightly entertaining because people were thanking me for being there :)
The photo below is of two members of the agriculture association signing the official rules of the association. I recently conducted my first taller (workshop) for an association I am working with. The association is called something like Small Agricultures of Organic Avacado from Topara- High Part (but in Spanish of course). The name is really long and I never seem to remember it correctly. Anyways, this group of 32 people live up in the Sierra of Grocio Prado (my site). They live a campo style of life, meaning they have no electricity or running water, and everyone owns their own farmland. This association has won a $20,000 prize to help fund their project of growing organic avacado. They are all fairly uneducated (outside of the vast knowledge they have when it comes to farming), and they don't really have any idea of how to run a business. So here I am, a resource for them to use along the way. The project timeline is two years, which works out really well, because that's exactly how long I will be here. I hope to help them learn how to work together as an association to make this project work, and more specifically help in teaching business themes such as marketing, accounting, organization, finance...etc. This first taller was about business organization. I talked a bit, then we would do some sort of dynamic, and repeated this a few times. By the end we had come up with the roles and responsibilities of each member of the association, as well as an official document that lists the rules of the association (of its members). They (and I) were very happy at the end, and felt like the association was a bit more organized, and now everyone was on the same page as far as what their role was in this project.

This photo below is a typical Cusco street. Cusco is located in the mid-southern sierra of Peru. As most of you know, Cusco is the starting point for anyone looking to visit Machu Pichu. So to start, let me tell you that my trip to Cusco does not (regretably) include a venture up to the "7th wonder of the world" (or is it the 8th wonder???). That being said, I have to say that even without a trip to Machu Pichu, Cusco is an amazing place. This is a business trip. I was invited to come up by Julie, the director of a dining room for poor children (aka: comedor). She also happens to be my Alaskan friend who happens to live in my site, weird, I know. We planned the trip to Cusco so that we could look at a couple of comedores in Cusco that are running successful programs that we are looking to emulate at the comedor in Grocio Prado. Aside from the business part of the trip, we have spent our time walking up and down the beautiful Mediterranean style streets of Cusco. Being here makes me feel like I am not in Peru anymore. Unlike where I live (Grocio Prado), Cusco has a little bit of everything. It is a very old town known as the "living house of the gods". It is antique at first sight, walking the streets are local Peruvians in the traditional Inca garb. Mixed in with this Peruvian culture is a modern, laid back, hippie generation of locals and foreigners. I have seen everything from yoga studios, to Indian food restaurants. This beautiful mountainside city is one of the neatest places I have ever been, and I cannot wait to come back.

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