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.