Thursday, December 24, 2009



Lake Titikaka was amazing! Thank you to Richard (hehe) and Jenna for the splendid vacation in Peru!!! I will update tomorrow on the adventuras...

Taquile woman (one of the islands we visited on the Lago)


Spectacular views from Amantani island


Yeah. We wore the traditional garb. And then went to a party. :)


Amantani Island. Looking very patriotic with the Peruvian flag.


Uros. The Floating Islands. Very chevere.


You really couldn't take a bad picture, you know?


Roomies reunited!


More traditional clothing.... the hat surprisingly stays on.


awwww....


Right before seeing the "Fertility clinic" or Fertility Temple as some people call it. :)

Friday, December 11, 2009

You feel like you're a Peacecordian when...

So. I need to share a quintessential Peace Corps moment that I had this week. And yes, I did need to bold Peace Corps in that sentence because even if I wasn't in Peace Corps when this following little cuento (story) happened I would think "huh. This is a very Peace Corps moment." Here goes:

This semana, Shilla is celebrating their 75th Bodas de Diamante Anniversary which is on the 14th by the way.. but in Peru you take a day holiday and turn it into a weeklong (or sometimes much longer) party. Everyday this week Shilla had somethin' else goin' on from a cooking contest (which I was a judge to by the way :) to parades to theater and dance contests.
On Wednesday there was a medical day where the Health Post when down to the Plaza and gave free consultations (from a checkup to a dental visit to a gynecological appointment.. yup. You heard me. And that last check up in a test mind you. Outside. In the plaza.) Anywho. They also were giving out free medicine. The health post workers asked me to help out with set up and facilitation, etc. Which is really nice because basically it was a way for me to get out there and have the people see me some more doing something for the community. The health post also asked me to dress up as Santa Clause too.. but luckily I got out of that one (it's so hot in those costumes!). So, I was ayudando without much direction (the thought came to me that it felt very much like City Corps and that I should probably get a teen Shilla City Corps group together to do stuff like this next year) and it didn't feel like the health workers really wanted me around all that much (I mean they're the experts.. I'm just tall so I can hang banners up high where normal Peruvians can't reach)... I felt a little bad because I really wasn't all that much of a help. But then... a moment happened.

I was talking with my padje (abuelo en Quechua) who is this really sweet old man by the way. He calls me nina (little girl! how cute is that?) Anyways, we were sitting on the curb chatting when someone starts passing out little candies to ALL the people waiting in line to see the doctors (and there a lot of people by the way). The candies are these little lemon tasting/shaped hard candies and each come in their own handy dandy wrapper. The problem with that is everyone, without a second thought, will just throw that wrapper on the ground.. and this goes for any kind of trash any size..... anything (they don't have the "oh my gosh, my napkin just flew out the window do you think we'll get fined?" kind of guilt that I would say most Americans have). So, naturally my abuelo let his wrapper fall to the ground. I then, nicely, picked up the trash off the ground and said "I'll throw this in the tacho (trashcan) for you". A second later I looked up, and every single one of the traditional pollera, yankee wearing women who probably don't speak much Spanish, saw me and with a smile were picking up their wrappers that just a second ago they had dropped! Yeah. I was awe struck. Ok. I know it's something tiny. But after feeling like no help and seeing that just by picking up a wrapper the size of my thumb nail for my grandpa made all the rest of the Shillapinos pick up their trash... it made my heart warm. I felt like maybe.. maybe I am a help. That maybe I will have an impact. No matter how small.

So. That's my Peace Corps story. I am heading to Lake Titicaca in a week with Raquel and Jenna (words can't express my excitement) after next week's Peru 13 Youth Development reunion meeting (yay for seeing amigos!). I hope everyone is having a good Christmas season with many candy canes and good smelling trees (I told some of my guy students that I like the smell of pine trees, so they brought me some leaves by the way). Hasta pronto!

Abrazos
Em

Sunday, December 6, 2009

La Lucha Contra El SIDA (World AIDS Day)

"Jovenes Contra el SIDA" (Youth against AIDS)


They let me speak on the loud voice in the ambulance!


We had a little charla (class) in the plaza about STDs and AIDS with the doctors...








That's right. We had a marcha!


Some of my high school girls in the quinto grado


And some high school boys in cuarto grado!


I think it went well!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

3 Months in Site!

Some Shilla youth! In our awesome new coliseo...

I will hopefully start to work more with the primaria (elementary) kids mas starting next school year. The Peuvian summer vacation starts the end of December until March... maybe some art summer school classes? We shall see....


Fellow chevere Ancash volunteers on a hike to Lake Churup.

The fellow volunteers are amazing.. and the new 4 Peru 14ers just got here this past week. Quechua classes in January will be very fun and hopefully more hike filled.


Baja and I on the hike!

Oso (Christie's dog) came on the hike too! There is an Ancash volunteer tradition of jumping into the glacier lakes.. we shall see if I actually do it...


Sun rain view from my casa.

The rainy season has started officially. I remember, literally, the first day of October it poured and basically there was lluvia (rain) the entire rest of the month.. and then.. it stopped. Until recently. I love the sound it makes on my tin roof and I can't wait til it is raining all day long... just how I like it. Plus todo is all verde (green) now. It's gorgeous. Oh. Also, there are frequently rainbows in sun showers like this one depicted above. My host sister Gladis informed me that rainbows kill people. So I told her that we think there is a pot of gold at the end of them.... which is a sillier explanation? You tell me.


The little plaza close to my house.

Dad. Here is our portion of a paved road. I believe this plaza is relatively new and I enjoy sitting in the little gazebo things when it rains and playing/chatting with the kids on the steps.


Me and some Shilla madres.... after teaching about AIDS.

World Aids Day is December 1st.. so we're going to have Shilla's first ever March against AIDS on Tuesday. In order to prepare, my health post counterpart (the awesome dentista) and I taught some charlas to the secundaria kids and some moms about what AIDS and HIV are and then we'll have the marcha.


My PANDA trash can! Too cute to not buy.... should I send you one Bri?

I still falta some things for my room like a dresser/wardrobe.. and hopefully I'll paint a mural. We shall see...


Mi cozy cuarto... with a wall and all... and this is after I cleaned it.


Fun with the sisters.

I swear I work on my Community Diagnostic too.. cough.


World Map Progress.. I'll be posting just world mapness from start to finish soon when it's all done. Falta poco. The jovenes are good painters!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Peruvian Pasttimes

- Combi rides! (the best ones are on the way to or from Shilla from/to Carhuaz)
- Eating soup for breakfast (usually accompanied by a second dish... I miss cereal)
- Sleepovers in Jangas
- Listening/Dancing to Huayno (lyrics I sing a lot: Se va.. se va.. con el coche de su madre!!!)
- Listening/Dancing to Cumbia (lyrics I sing a lot: dejame entrar.. en tu vida y tu corazon!)
- Paint things
- Read..... a lot... and I mean... a lot.
- Swatting flies off my host abuela (grandma).... and then learning important lessons about hygene
- Disfrutaring (enjoying) the rain (it oftentimes works as a shower)
- Yelling at various animals (mostly chickens and our cat)
- Hang out with the host family (playing Go Fish, Bingo, generally laughing/eating meals)
- Recording cute Itzel (my niece) moments
- Teaching English in and out of school
- World Map-ness
- Trying to obtain Quechua superpowers
- Wearing yankees (the typical tire shoes)
- Sleeping (I get about 8 hours every night :)
- Chatting with Shillapinos
- Teaching children the "up high, down low, too slow" game
- Recently, spreading the word about AIDS (world AIDS day is December 1st)
- Huaraz time a couple times a month... meaning delicious American food with fellow volunteers
- Walking up and down my hill
- Eating papas like nobody's business
- Spending time with the jovenes (youth)!

Happy Turkey Day a day late! Today we (Ancash voluntarios) are making a delicious huge Thanksgiving Cena (dinner). Yay!

Abrazos,
Em


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Anca$h Updates

Reporting live from Carhuaz in my Internet café favorito. I have a fever and sore throat among other enfermedades but it´s all bueno. ¡Tis the season for the flu! My family always takes great care of me... Anywho.

So. Don´t read the next little paragraph if you don´t like bugs, eggs in your skin or blood... skim down about halfway to where I talk about communicacion instead :) I now know that I must wash my feet more often. ¿Why you ask? Because apparently there are these little bugs called pikis (pronounced peekees) that can burrow into your skin and lay their eggs. I saw it first hand in my abuelita´s feet (grandma). It mostly just looked painful and hard to get the little eggs and critters out with an aguja (needle) shoveling into her flesh. My job was to swish the flies away from her feet. Man. I feel bad for her. I can´t communicate to her because she only speaks Quechua.. just some phrases like "nanan?" Does it hurt? or "Yameiyakukekanki?" which roughly translates to How are you? But I did notice yesterday that I was understanding a lot more Quechua than I did when I first arrived. yay! Mostly because I know some words and gestures and the interjected spanish words help a montón.

A ver. Más noticias (more news). The new Peru 14ers will be arriving to their sites next weekend which is pretty awesome. I´m no longer a newbie! hehe. Lisette (fellow volunteer and friend en Anca$h) just got a puppy!!! Now two Peru 13ers in Ancash have puppies.. Baja too... she named him Juneau (because he´s a husky) and Baja has Oso (which means Bear). They are adorable. Colleen and I think it would be kicker if we both got puppies. And then brought them to Early IST in December (our first meeting up with everybody since training). However. Puppies are a lot of work... sooo.. don´t worry madre. I don´t think I´m getting a puppy. More likely a horse :)

Thanksgiving is coming up ya.. we will have a pilgrim/indian theme. ¡¡¡¡ANCA$H is BETTER!!! I will be makin´the mashed papas. Although I am SICK of potatoes mashed ones will be a good change from the regular boiled ones I get. In one day I must be served at LEAST 8 to 10 potatoes... probably more. And they´re the thing that usually stays on my plate. That´s including beakfast lunch and dinner though.

I hope all is well in the U.S. of A. Extraño a todos and I can´t wait for Raquelita´s, Jenna´s and my trip in one month!!!

Abrazos,
Em

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Daily Life in Ancash: pics and video

World Map Progress!


My Front Door


Chocolate Torta for breakfast?? At 5:40 a.m.? :)


My hermana Gladis' Birthday! 21!


Baby guinea pigs (cuys) on the fridge!


video A Niece and a Baby Chicken :)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Piano, anyone?

Just a quick nota to say that I think I may have found a piano I can use twice a month! We shall see... I had to fill out a solicitud (Peruvian's official document to do anything) and everything. I will keep the masses updated. There have been several Shilla teens who have asked if I could teach them... this could be promising! :)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pirates and Perspective

Happy Día de los Muertos!
I just wanted to write a quick nota letting todos know that Ancash is Better. :) That is our (the volunteers who live in Ancash) theme or motto. Because it is true. Last night for Halloween we all dressed up.. and we went all out. The theme was pirates (one of the volunteers had even been growing out a beard since April to get ready for last night!) so most were some sort of pirate and then the rest of us pretty much adhered to the theme by being something related. Lisette, for example, was the treasure chest, Baja was Tiger Lily... there was a mermaid, parrot and even a narwal (¿spelling?). I was a ship (as I think I noted in the last posting).. because every crew of pirates needs a ship right? Complete with cannos, a sterring wheel and an anchor. It was pretty awesome and fun to get into the spirit of Halloween. Candy was consumed, fun was had.. and even the new Peru 14ers were there for their Field Based Training.

In other noticias, I can´t believe it´s already Noviembre. Locura I tell you. Getting to know the community, doing the diagnostic and starting small projects does make the time fly! There are so many little stories I have now and it´s been amazing to learn about this culture and my own. Yesterday, I was thinking how I had never REALLY looked closely at American culture like I am now.. here in Peru. When we (all the voluntarios) get together in Huaraz it´s like a little other mundo (world) where we just immediately understand each other without having to explain anything. Even if I meet an American Peace Corps volunteer who I´m not BEST friends with, we still have that commonality which facilitates ease. Jokes are más or menos caught, our actions aren´t weird, what we eat is normal and delicious... and I´m starting to see what it must look like to see an American from the outsider´s view... from a Peruvian´s perspectiva. Just like it´s really very easy to generalize the Peruvian culture and say... they´re always late, meetings are just talk and no action, they are hard workers, they like to drink alcohol, they dance a lot etc. etc. so too must it be so easy for them to think like this about us. That is why, with this in mind, I still haven´t tired over explaining the same things over and over again... like.. "Sí, hay lluvia en algunas partes de los Estados Unidos, pero tienes que tener en cuenta que los EEUU son grande y hay muchos terrenos y climas diferentes, como en el Perú. En Oregon, llueve un montón como acá en Shilla.. en el sur de California, casi nunca!¨ (yes it does rain in the United States but you have to remember that the U.S. is huge and there are lots of different climates and terrains like in Peru. In Oregon it rains a lot like here in Shilla and in Southern California, almost never). It´s only been two months, so maybe I will tire explaining the same things over and over again.. but I´ll just need to keep that perspective in mind.

The real joy is when you start to get to really know some of those people who before were ¨Peruvians¨in your mind. That perspective has melted away for me in regards to my host family. I don´t see my madre as that ¨cuy (guinea pig) killing machine who works in the chacras¨ so much as I now know that she loves to crack a joke and to laugh... that she gets nervous by other people she sees as authority easily.. and when she gets nervous her eyes somehow look smaller and her voice is quieter, that there is a tender sadness underneath everything she does and she´s content to live in Shilla but it considerate to think of even a crazy California girl´s needs without even having imagined ever leaving her country. The herbs they use in tea and the many illnesses they prevent don´t seem outlandish or weird to me anymore.. even the other day when my madre told me that she heard bread causes cancer I caught myself... wait. Maybe bread does cause cancer. Who´s to say that all those thing I learned in the U.S. weren´t just fabled myths too? Peruvians could be right! This is all apart of asimilating I guess... and it will continue... I´ll be Peruvian before you know it! (just kidding Laurie.. I´m coming home.. no te preocupes). I can´t wait to get to know my familia and other people in my community más, and for their own label as ¨tall blonde gringa Americana¨to wash away when they look at me in return.

¡Hasta la próxima!
Abrazos desde Carhuaz,
Em

Friday, October 30, 2009

This should have been posted awhile ago... :)

video

Spring Update (it's reverse here in the Southern Hemisphere)

More World Map - ness. Notice our resourcefulness with the chairs. Also note that in Peru, there are no liability laws.


My sister Gladys (on the right) with Itlz (my niece) on our donkey, Ramon. Returning home from work in the chacras.


Fun with PhotoBooth at home during a rainy evening.


Me. Drawing some countries. On a ladder I do not trust. :)


Hola a todos! I'm reporting from Huaraz, Ancash (the capitol of this department!) from one of our amazing cafes which is complete with brightly painted walls, hundreds of libros (books), delicious veggie sandwiches and even a mural of Where the Wild Things Are. (I believe that movie is coming out or came out this month... right? Look, I'm not SO out of American happenings :)

So. What I've been up to lately. Mostly the Community Diagnostic actually. Which (hey!) is what we're actually supposed to be dedicated to our first three months in site. Basically it consists of gathering facts, conducting formal and (mostly) informal interviews with community leaders and people who live in your pueblo, attending meetings, making and giving surveys... basically finding out TODO about your town. How many births, what are the common illnesses, are there teen pregnancies? what do the youth like to do? are there youth groups? how many teachers are there and how often do they just not show up (often)? do people wash their hands? how many donkeys is too many? what does the alcalde (mayor) do? etc. etc. etc. Sooo... I've made some surveys for the segundaria kids, gotten to know the municipality folks by attending meetings (they tried to get me to buy the huge castillo firework thing that costs like S/2,000) and I now know all the problems and disputes my fellow townsfolk have had this past year, how many births there have been (61!) and the ages of their padres, and the average age to get married based on the last two years. I had some young kids draw me some maps of their town too, which was an especially cute part of doing this epic project. It's a good way to do productive things and learn a lot about what Shilla needs and wants from me for the next two years! Also, I'm learning a lot about Excel.... because when you have time, and a huge paper/project due in a month... there' s no better time to do it! I'll come back from my little adobe town with mad computer skillz (courtesy of fellow volunteer Lisette's patient.. or not so patient... teaching as well).

Besides that.. the world map is coming along. We finished drawing all the countries this week. Whew. All those little islands up norte are difficult! So we'll be painting these coming up weeks which should be the fun part. Ademas, I spent some time at the jardin (basically preschool) reading Mis Amigos (the kids book I brought with me), and getting to know the very chevere principal and teacher Erika. She is as tall as me.. and a peruvian! It IS possible. :) She has a lot of insight I feel to what Shilla students need and lack.

On the Host Familia front, I feel mas and mas part of the fam. Last night we (my madre, 13 year old sis and I) all cuddled in the same bed in the basement and watched the popular soap opera Luz Maria. It was raining and it was just... a comfy moment. Also, my little sobrina (niece) Itzl now is like my mini magnet. I'm exposing her to the many wonders of American and world music. I've been reading the wonderful book that Vivian sent me for my birthday (thank you so much for the package by the way!) about music and how it has shaped human culture (titled The World in Six Songs) and one part talks about how if a young kid is exposed to a range of music at an early age they'll be more open to different genres later on. So. That is my new little side project. Get Itzl to like artists such as: Steve Miller, soundtracks to musicals (like Happy Talk from South Pacific), Jack Johnson, M.I.A, Lily Allen, Ok Go, Manu Chao and yes.. even Flight of the Conchords, They Might be Giants and Red Elvises. Also, the C is for Cookie song (from Sesame Street) has come to be a favorite. Needless to say, it's been very entertaining and fun... even if we have to stay inside during the afternoons because it rains every day now. :) yay!
Living in Portland prepped me for Peace Corps!

I'd just like to point out that the music playing in the cafe is Cat Stevens. That is why Huaraz is awesome.

Happy Halloween (and Dia de los Muertos!) to everyone! I will be dressing up as a boat. Yup. A boat. Or better named.. a ship. Because our (the volunteers) theme is pirates. Although I doubt that it will be better than my bull two years ago with Rachel, it will rival with my mountain that I dressed up as in Spain back in '06. :) Eat Brachs candy corn for me.. or better yet.. you can send me some! :)

Abrazos y Besos
Em




Sunday, October 25, 2009

Some pics of Recent Shilla Vida

World Map Drawing


Making puppets from plastic bottles!


The Little Library in Llipta


I love her jewelry.


Seriously. The most beautiful sunsets ever.

Some Epic Hike Fotos!

Glaciers!


Pristine Lakes!


With the Peruvian neighbors....


Contemplating beauty. :

Sunday, October 18, 2009

My First Peruvian Boda (wedding)

So. I was invited to attend the wedding of one of my Peruvian cousins (who is the host sister of the previous volunteer here in Shilla). She and her husband are super amable and have the most adorable little boy. At the wedding, it turns out, he also got baptized (two for one!) and had this cute little tux on. But that´s besides the point. Anywho. So the mass part (since they are Catholic) was pretty much the same (except the priest asked the public if they wanted to receive communion and nobody went up to receive it) and then comes the after party. Peruvian parties (it does not matter if it´s for a wedding, funeral, birthday or a saint´s día) last a long time.. and by long time I do not mean 6 hours. I mean from 11:00 a.m. until 12 midnight. Yup. That is not an exaggeration. For everyone in the Peruvian Peace Corps right now, they would just nod and think that was normal. ¡So this post is just for you guys at home!

I had prepared for this and made sure to get my shut eye the night before.. since it was my first Peruvian wedding after all... and my familia was all going (including my two bros who live in Lima and hardly ever come to visit) and I knew that I would have to partake in the rampant drinking of alcoholic beverages and I would have to ¨bailar duro¨ (literally: dance hard). Their reception happened to take place in our newly opened coliseo which is this big indoor sports arena where you can play volleyball, basketball, soccer... and hopefully tennis (I bought a couple of cheap rackets and tennis balls recently.. I plan on lowering the volleyball net and teaching some kids a new sport! We´ll see how it goes). Needless to say, the coliseo is really nice and it was a good place to have a peruvian wedding reception.. lots of room, places to sit, the band had bueno accustics. (I´m sure the entire town, and towns surrouding Shilla, could hear the music all night long). The beginning of any Peruvain party is a little awkward. Everyone just sits next to their family and sort of talks a little... it gets better once the Pisco comes out. I ate, I did tomar (drink some alcohol) because literally they force it on you, and danced. I realized I really do like dancing Huayno (the two step.. it´s actually a very easy skipping kind of dance.. I can see why they do it and why they girls wear skirts while dancing) and being with the familia was really fun! After some time, all the party attendees got a little... borracho (drunk) and the fun starts. The band plays for about 20 minute sessions and then rests for about 15 minutes... and it continues like that. You dance, you rest and drink, you dance again. I think they do it this way because it really releases their feelings. My family, and the Peruvians I´ve met so far, work really hard and then they party hard in order to just feel. I think they drink during the parties to release their sentimientos and really feel the loss and joys of vida. They dance to just release.

We got back home about 11 p.m... I could still hear the music as I was drifting off to sleep... literally. The party was still going on. It was fun and I´m sure I will be seeing many more holidays and parties very similar to that one. Also, it was a great way to get closer to my familia. My host mom now calls me her hija and was hugging me a lot anoche. I feel so comfortable with them, they´re always looking out for me!

Next weekend, I´m heading to Huaraz for our monthly meeting with all of us Ancashinos. So, if you have skype you should get on sometime Fri evening or Saturday anytime if you can! I always want to give a shout out of congratulations to Amy and Dean! Just heard about the baby noticias! ¡Yay! Baby´s first trip.. ¿to Perú? hehe.

¡Hasta pronto!

Abrazos fuertes,
Em

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Paseo (HIke) for the Ages

¡Hola a todos!
So. The title of this blog seems like it could be metaphorical. But it isn´t. Not even close! Last Thursday I embarked on an epic journey with my 3 vecinos (neighbors) and their two cousins and the family dog Peter up into the mountains. We didn´t go to Huascaran (the highest mountain in Perú, which I have a beautiful view of from my casa by the way), but we did go up to a very large point and saw 5 lagunas (turquoise, pristine glacial water lakes!) and we didn´t go back down the way we came up... we essentially were walking for 14 hours and it snowed where we ate lunch. (Take THAT Half Dome!) It was dangerous, very difficult, and amazing. So WORTH it. I definitely had difficulty with the air and the being tired.. but I persevered. And let me just say that Peruvians (especially those who live in the mountain pueblos of Ancash) NEVER tire. I aspire to be like them after two years. Oh. And I saw 5 avalanches. :)
In other noticias, the world map is definitely underway.. we have all the squares drawn up there and will commence the drawing tomorrow mañana. We played another riveting game of Ultimate Frisbee Peruvian Teen style this morning and on Thursday my sisters and I are putting on a Washing Your Hands puppet show for the kiddies in primaria. (complete with a little song on the pianica! now we just have to practice... :) Today is jam packed full of English classes (like every martes) and I think I will be going on a hike Sunday with the familia. (probably not as epic as last Thursday´s hehe... I mean... my right big toe nail is completely black! that´s just to give you a visual... )
Halloween is coming up and I believe that all us Ancashinos are going to be dressing up as pirates. I´d better get on that and see what I can rummage up for a costume. Although.. nada could compare to the bull and matador that Rachel and I were a couple years back. I will post pics up in a couple weeks from the hike to the clouds and back.
¡Hasta pronto!

Abrazos,
Em

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Livin' the Vida Shilla pics

Some cute children I teach.
The sisters and the nice


Rachel... next Halloween?
My Dirt Road
Celebrating Carhuaz's Saint Day


World Map!


Market Day


World Map: some of the students painting the ocean



Mi familia