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!