Sunday, August 30, 2009


  Just wanted to write a little note giving a shout out to my host familia from Yanacoto in Lima... they just sent a package to me full of goodies including cereal, condensed milk, yogurt, scissors and a bright green stuffed caterpillar animal. Randol wrote (in his nota to me) that his name is Hermie. It's these little things and the connecting with people I would have never known before that make me the most happy! 

Saturday, August 29, 2009

"The Peace Corps Way"

So, our Peru 13 group has a saying (ever since our Field Based Training week).  The idea is that there is a "Peace Corps way", which basically means not taking a shower for an extended amount of time, fixing random small problems with whatever you happen to have, not caring about where that "chancho" meat came from and just eating it, being ok if your hair starts to dread, shaving? what's that?... etc, etc. :)  And based on where your site is, some live more in the peace corps way than others.  Some don't have electricity, some have to use a latrine... you get more points for all the things you don't have basically. Before joining Peace Corps, and for the people at home, these basic necessity things are what seem most shocking and frankly, scary.  
 At first glance, you might think I'm pretty high up on the "Peace Corps Way" list... I live in an adobe house, don't have a room yet, no cell phone service, eat with my Quechua speaking family using a cocina mejorada, we have a burro and plenty of chacras (farming fields), we get water sometimes, have electricity sometimes, I took a kind of trickle shower with snow melt water, etc.  (important side nota: Other Peacecordians in Ancash definitely have even more rural sites.)  I have been in site since Tuesday (and am back in Huaraz for today for the welcoming of my fellow friend and Peacecordian Colleen into Ancash) and can now say that these things anyone can get used to and actually maybe start to like.  The real "Peace Corps experience" include all the random interactions you have with people and the culture.  These interactions are funny, frustrating, cute, life changing, calm, shocking, confusing and above all, amazing. Here are some examples :)  
  I'm sure everyone has seen one of those pictures where you see the typical nice white American Peacecordian in a rural town with maybe some mud huts or adobe houses in the background, and that said American is surrounded by TONS of kids from the town.. and the kids are staring a them as if they were an alien, some kids are holding hands with the gringo, some have surrounded the peacecordian's house,  crowding around to peer inside windows and doors.  This totally happened to me on my first dia. My house is literally the next door neighbor to the colegio (school) where all the kids in the primaria y secundaria (elementary and high school) go.  There are about 520 students in total which is pretty big for a rural town. I went to the school on the first day in order to introduce myself to the director and some of the teachers and all the kids just started at me. I hear the word "gringa" whispered around... lots of looks and then shy giggles, some seemed afraid, others were overly excited.. and when I exited the school to return to my casa, a herd of small children followed me to my front door.  I knew two of them (Estalin y Elizabeth.. SO adorable) from the previous day so I initiated a Mother May I (Madre, permitame) game with them and all the others (there must have been about 70 of them) circled us to watch.  I then had to go inside for a sec to grab my purse and when I came back about 20 of them where crowded around my small front door, looking in at me.  That was definitely a Peace Corps moment if I've ever seen one. Those pictures are true.
  The wonderful thing about Shilla is its size. When I go outside I always see someone I've met before and who already knows my name.  I love going down to this one chacra because it belongs to the judge of my town who is always SO nice and calls me "senorita" every other word basically.  I make sure to greet everyone all the time.. no matter if I'm walking on my way somewhere or jogging in the morning and people have called me several things besides "senorita".  Sometimes I get "senora" (do I look that old? :), and my personal favorite was "mamacita linda" from this overly enthusiastic older woman I passed by in the plaza. You never know if a little greeting will mean that you now know the P.E. teacher and are invited to a secundaria teacher meeting, or if you'll now go on a guided tour of the lower river to see the water system they're building, or that you just met a 16 year old girl who dropped out of school and doesn't know how to read, if by saying "buenas dias" you will be invited to a mothers club meeting on monday, or be asked to help plant maiz the next day. I know that whenever I feel sad or lonely or frustrated that once again the teacher didn't show up to class and just expected you to teach on your own without any preparation, or I'm sick again because the neighbors forced fed me an interesting soup with chicken feet in it... all I'll need to do is take my journal and go outside for a little paseo down the hill and just greet people and I'll feel feliz again. 
  My projects for the month I'm thinking of doing include: starting English classes with the English teachers (who don't know English) and the students, my world map project, a running club, starting my community diagnostic and attending as many community meetings as humanly possible.  Here goes nada! 


p.s. Feel free to snail mail me... my address is on this blog! 

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Arrival in Ancash

Greetings from Huaraz, Ancash!
   I just arrived this morning to the glorious Ancash! :) I literally slept the SECOND the bus started moving at 11 pm until we arrived at 6:45 a.m.  From gray to blue skies... beach to snowcapped mountains! YAY!
  Currently I am using the wifi that our hostel has here.... I just took a nap... am excited to explore this capital city and am generally very happy.  I think I had to have the storm of emotions right before coming to truly be excited now.  The last couple of days were certainly difficult (in terms of the range of emotions felt)... definitely a roller coaster. On Friday we had some despedidas (goodbyes).  With our language professors, our trainers and our host familias. We also had our graduation ceremony where speeches were said, we all stood in front, had our names called, tears were spilt... all in this huge red, white and blue tent.  We had a little party after that and then we got our track suits! They are awesome and we all wore them on the huge bus to Miraflores in Lima. The getting on the bus part was difficult because basically everything is all chaotic with EVERYONE's stuff and everyone trying to get on the bus and then everyone's families are waiting right next to the bus (crying) and the language facilitators are waving and then you get on and shout out the windows "Voy a extranarte MUCHO! Te quiero!"  or something along those lines and then the bus takes off. 
   I will admit. Ok. Fine. I cried. But you have to believe me, it's emotional! I think maybe even some of the guys shed a little tear. :) We got to our hostel in Lima and then we all went out as a group... fun times. Yesterday was all about spending time with our Peru 13 group one last time and then saying goodbyes kind of all day long. I was the last group to leave at 11 pm... so while it was hard saying goodbye all day, it was also nice to get the chance to say goodbye to literally todos (everyone).  
  I think today we will explore (other Peacecordians who live in Ancash are here to lead us around! yay! they met us at the bus stop and then took us to the hostel which made that transition with ALL our things so much easier).  I'll find out what my mail box number is, find out where all the good places to go for menu are, and just get acclimated in general (yay for altitude! it's actually not so bad).  
  So I'm off now, but know I got to Ancash safely, I'm excited and I think I'll be heading off to my site tomorrow to start the next two years of my vida! Hopefully they started the construction of the wall to my room. We shall see. :) 


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Training Memorias!

Hand washing my clothes with my host dad
Playing "Caballo Viejo" on the pianica
Volleyball with the neighborhood girls/Michael Jackson dancing
My host brother's delight at Silly Putty
My dog (Tobey) taking Patch (the stuffed animal) in his mouth
Driving to Ancash for site visit
Movie Nights in Yanacoto! (Flight of the Conchords)
Combi rides
Getting a peruvian flag pin from the owner of the peace corps store
The Fourth of July party!
The puppet show that the spanish facilitators put on for us!  (tranquilo tranquilo)
Lucuma flavor anything
Making soup with my host sis
Card nights with Lisa, Kerry and peruvian host familias
Buying pirated movies at Polvos Azules :)  (each movie is 2 soles each!)

Y Mas!

Training has been awesome! I'm excited for site and the adventure is just beginning! On Friday we will be sworn in and have a graduation ceremony. :)  The next time I write I will be have living in site for awhile! Wish me luck!

Abrazos fuertes,

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Winding Down... Starting Up!

So. A week from today (viernes… Friday… as I’m writing this) I depart from what I’ve come to call home these past 10 weeks, Yanacoto, to start the adventura in my site.  There is no other way to describe this process except bittersweet. And I don’t know how to translate that in espanol!  I feel so torn because, as seen from my last post, my site is pretty awesome and I’m excited to start work and live in the place I will be for two years, but I also really love the host familia I have now, the friends I have made here during Cuerpo de Paz Training, the staff and teachers who have supported (and will continue to support) me, the familiarity of this part of Peru, the delicious cheesecake that this wonderful little place makes just down the road from the center J etc, etc.  So I will try not to think about it this coming week and just disfrutar la vida instead. I originally thought I was going to stay an extra week to learn some basic Quechua, but as Dario (the Quechua speaking professor here) is from Arequipa and knows that dialect, it doesn’t make sense for me to stay.  Side Nota: Great Aunt Ellen sent me an awesome email telling me that the Star Wars made up language was based mostly off of Quechua! Awesome, no?  It WILL be useful upon my return to the states! J  But now I’m not staying and so I will have to say goodbye to the family here. (Belgian Emilie:  how did you switch three families during your stay in California??? It’s sooo difficult!)  Another Side nota:  Randol (my host bro) now owns a Snapper Jack’s Taco Shack Sweatshirt and likes it! Yay!  I will soon have all of Peru decked out in Ventura gear… J

I’ll probably be making one of my epic “To Do” lists that I never actually finish but I feel better when I make them tomorrow of all the things that should or I want to get done before the trek to site and commencement of work.  Also manana,  I have my final Spanish entrevista (interview) to see what level I’m in, I still would like to learn how to hand wash clothes, I want to print some pics for my host familia as a present, and go to Lisa’s host mom’s Birthday fiesta.  So, it will be a packed dia for sure.

 I am making a Treasure Hunt for some girls in Yanacoto on Sunday (yay for all the treasure hunts we made for cousins!) so that will be fun. I hope to skype with people this week! I will try and see if I can get on the internet most days (seeing as after this week internet visits will be few and far between). Onward and Upward!



  Randol, sporting the Snapps Sweatshirt!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Soy una Shillapina!

Hola a todos!  So I just got back to Lima from Shilla, Ancash for my site visit… and wow. I have a lot of stories for just one short week! To sum it up: I think my site is AMAZING, I have to learn Quechua, I had a tarantula crawl on my foot, my host familia is really sweet, I planted corn, my family owns a burro, several chickens, one pig, a dog, a cat and about 70 cuyes (guinea pigs), AND I already sported the pollera (the traditional skirt that the traditional women of Peru wear) when I went to a baptism yesterday morning…. I also partook in the drinking of beer with all the baptism attendees at 10 a.m. directly after the mass.  There was also a parade and a band involved in this baptism celebration.

My site Shilla is a little pueblo of about 1,500 people but also has surrounding caserios (other little surrounding towns) nearby.  It’s located in a valley in-between two mountain ranges (the cordillera Blanca… where the mountain Huascaran is… and the cordillera Negra… named as such because the Blanca side has snow and the negra side does not). There are no paved roads, but the plaza is pretty, there is this huge Italian church, they are building a coliseum to play sports in, the chacras (fields where they plant) are numerous, there are SO many sheep and burros, and there is a nice Municipality (I still haven’t met the mayor but I will when I go back to live there on August 22nd), a Health Center and I live RIGHT next door to the school.  From my first four days there it seems there are a lot of motivated people with ideas and everyone seems receptive to me (I am the third volunteer at this site). All the women are traditional (only some younger ones wear jeans and more modern clothing) and EVERYONE speaks Quechua. If they’re not talking directly to me in Spanish they are speaking Quechua and I’ve already learned words and phrases!  Yoosoolpaki (thank you) AaOcuya (adios), ashnu (burro), waca (cow), missi (gato)… oumi is yes and malan is no. They love it when I try to speak Quechua (especially the older women)… everyone laughs all the time and likes to crack jokes although when I take pictures they look very serious.  My madre Marguerita wants to teach me more Quechua upon my return. She is 44 and is a HARD worker. Her husband died about a decade ago and she was left with her four kids and her farm to work on her own... her perseverance and positive attitude are things to be admired.  I also will live with a 21 year old sister, Gladys who has a little girl who is 3 and is named Itzl (she is adorable) and I will also live with Marguerita’s other daughter who is 12 (Florcita) but I haven’t met her yet.   Apparently they have two brothers too but they live in Lima right now (Studying and working) and Gladys has a marido (husband).   I am excited that I get to live with them. 

It takes about 15 minutes (if you take your time) to walk around and see everything in the town. J  I won’t have a phone in my house or internet in my town.. but we do have electricity and running water (although sometimes the water leaves for no apparent reason)  Everyone says Buenas Dias back at you and I have already made friends with some local kids. I taught them the “up high, down low, too slow” game with the high fives. They seem to get a kick out of that! There are Italians who live here (as I mentioned) so I’m not the only foreigner.. but I still feel like a novelty and when I was wearing their traditional skirt yesterday for the baptism they all made it a point to comment on it. I don’t mind being the “gringa”! Everyone is friendly and eager to talk to me… some ask me questions in Quechua all the time even though they know I don’t have a clue as to what they’re saying. J  The weather is good…. During the day there is sun but it’s not too hot and it’s only chilly at night and in the mornings. The view of the mountain is breathtaking and I can’t wait to go hiking and see the national park.

 In terms of projects I have some ideas that coincide with what I’ve heard so far that the town would like to do… start an Environmental Club in the schools, work with the health post to teach kids basic hygiene as well as other health topics, start some sports clubs, work with the Healthy Families Program and also I’d like to teach music and English on the side. We shall see! Vamos a ver!

Shilla has some of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen and wonderful views.  Now that I had the site visit I feel excited to live there and also feel lucky to be in Ancash.  I know there will be bad days and good days, I have to admit I’m nervous (as well as pumped) to start taking initiative on work projects (my experiences with City Corps are going to help me soo much!).  We have two more weeks of training here in Lima and then we’re off! Ya! Hombre!  I will miss my familia here in Yanacoto a lot for sure and the security of having other American friends around to talk to and share with… but I think we’re all excited to go on to the next step and actually start working!  

I hope I will get many visitors in the next two years in Shilla! We can go hiking and exploring and speak Quechua all the time. J   Let me know if you have mas preguntas (questions) for me about my site visit! Hasta pronto!


Abrazos Fuertisimos,



Sunday, August 2, 2009

Me Voy a Ancash

Hola a todos!
  It has been a little while since the last update! So first things first... I should announce officially (some already know) I am going to be living in Shilla, Ancash!!! Ancash is one of the 25 departments in Peru.  I will be a replacement volunteer (meaning this volunteer named Vishal from Peru 9 has been living there for the last two years), Shilla has roughly 1,500 people, has 2 schools, is a Quechua speaking community  (meaning... they all speak Quechua and SOME speak Spanish... hehe.. oh man) and is also really really extremely cerca to the biggest montana in Peru se llama Huascaran... which MEANS folks.  Best hiking trails for miles are accessible from my site!!    Yessssss.  I'm pretty stoked and nervous and all that. I leave tomorrow for my site visit. Along with me, three other volunteers will also be living in Ancash pretty close to me. Colleen (from UP to Ancash!), Lisette (who was the first volunteer I met in the airport in LA on the way to Washington D.C.) and Christy (Christy Baja as we like to call her :).  I will not have internet or cell phone service in my site.. so  my posts will probably be less frequent but I look forward to where I will be. I'm a fan of the size and the place... and I get to learn a dying language! After this week I will make sure to let everyone know about how the site visit went and all that jazz.  Here is a pic of us new Ancashians: 

I celebrated the Fiestas Patrias (Independence Day of Peru) the 28th and 29th with my host familia... we went out to the nearby town of Chosica and it was pretty emocionante because my madre hadn't left the house since I got here.  We ate good comida and it felt like I was at the Ventura Fair which was nice. It's been kind of chilly and foggy lately, so the sun during the afternoon felt good.   This is me, the madre, the perro and my hermana at the fountain in Chosica:

Today, Colleen and I made no bake cookies for our new host familias for when we arrive on Tuesday... plus we also made homemade peanut butter which was DELICIOUS. :)  We ate lunch at the casa (some cauliflower bathed in eggs... with arroz of course and peas and carrots). Colleen cut my host brother's hair with success I might add. I know he would never tell us if he hated it but I think he likes it. 
  I can't believe that I only have 3 weeks left of training!! The real thing is about to start. I hope I'm ready! Apparently my new host family has their own fields where they work all day and their own guinea pig farm! Which means I'll probably be eating lots of cuy! Wish me luck. I will update in a week!