Saturday, December 4, 2010

It's like a Video Game!

Jumping off the Dunes!

Anacapa Island. Whops. I mean Parracas.

Our Sand Buggie! And Colleen!

Alrighty then. It's so odd being a "senior". Peru 13 (my group) is on the downward slope of the Peacecordian two year experience. And yes. We have technically until August of next year... but suddenly that doesn't feel like enough time anymore! As if two years isn't nearly enough. It's nearing the end of the school year here ademas, meaning things are slowing down a bit (or will for sure in two weeks). And that means a trip back to Ventura is very near... So basically I have many feelings going on right now.

For Thanksgiving, us 13 Ancash chicas decided to head south for the three day vacation and go to Ica, Peru (the coastal department south of Lima) to explore the beaches and wine country. The trip started and ended on very awesome notes. The first being sandboarding. Yup. A lot like snow boarding but on sand dunes. The best part of the sand dunes would have to be the dune buggies of course. SO fun. As Christie so pointed it out "It's like a video game!! MARIO KART!!" I think that's definitely a fitting description. And I think I will always remember the hilarity that was Colleen and I being scared to sled down those sand hills (picture a lot of screaming and sand in the face and mucho profanity). The other highlight of the trip would have to be the last day where we visited a fellow Peru 13ers site, to check out the local wines, piscos and white water rafting. Chevere. The season for the river was low season so the rapids were only class 2 at most, but that didn't stop me from falling out once. And it was an absolutely beautiful river.. the contrast of the dusty rock hills jutting up in the background with the oasis of green around the river... bonito. Afterwards we happened upon a resort ish place that allowed us many a sampling of different kinds of piscos, a chance to swim in the river, chat, swim in the pool... we didn't want to get back on a bus. They were so friendly and it felt like we stumbled upon a little slice of heaven. Eventually we did get back on the bus. And on that bus we were accompanied by 35 teenage Lima boys who belong to a Soccer Club. We instantly became celebrities. Our seats happened to be in the very back and EVERY single one of the boys came and circled us. "Where are you from?" "Do you like Michael Jackson?" "You speak Quechua?" "Do you have a boyfriend?" etc. etc. We were very tired and Colleen had to hold up most of the conversation with them for a good two hours. The best part was when I got to sing Atrevete te te by Calle 13 with them. ahhhh.... knowing that song by heart finally paid off!

Currently back in Anca$h... this past week I got to help out at the Peru 15 IST (some in service training).... I even had to pretend I was a business volunteer for awhile. 8 gringos visited me in Shilla and got to see Amigos y Libros in action which was awesome. In site I have been teaching a lot about AIDS and sex ed in general (seeing as Dec. 1st was World AIDS day) as well as wrapping up my primaria school classes: English, Self Esteem and Leadership... Now I'll be planning for the vacation classes I'd love to do during January and February, touching up my world map, making a lot of bracelets and hopefully accomplishing some lake hikes when it's not too rainy.

I can't WAIT to see people (and Ben and Reggie) for the holidays.... two weeks and counting!


Wednesday, November 17, 2010


So, I suppose I need to update this thing! I just got back from the U.S. of A.... Colorado to be exact. Pagosa Springs to be even MORE exact. For my dear amiga Jenna's wedding which was heart warming, fun, freezing (that true mountain air), amazing, dance- y, full of universidad friends and just a wonderful two days really. Yup. Two day trip to the states, no biggie. Actually. I'm pretty glad that it worked out that way (except for Mr. I'm going to give you air sickness so bad you'll wish you never came to Colorado prop plane from Pagosa to Denver) because it made me feel as if Peru is so close to home. It's only FOU (ugh) flights and a day bus away. But seriously, it's pretty chevere that one day I can be with people who speak my language in a place where everything just seems bigger (including airports, food, and beds) and the next I will be among colorful shorter women talking away in Quechua. I was probably annoying with all the references I made to this South American country though. In order to stop myself I started referencing Peru as the "P word" and if you didn't know this.. there are a lot of inappropriate words that could potentially start with P, so that was fun.

In the Lima airport about to embark the plane I must admit that I had a little panic attack. What will I do when I eventually have to leave this place? I can't just do that. Where am I supposed to be? I have to be with Itzel! With Gladys! With my host mom and Florcita! Can I really just stay and live down here in Peru? No. Well. Then. WHAT?! But then I just got on the plane and coming back so quickly was good. Now I'm ready to go back home for Christmas minus all that little panic attack stuff.

So. In short. It was awesome and I'm excited to go back to my actual casa in a month and I wish Jenna and Brian all the best!!!

Brought to you by the Letter P and the Number 4.

Abrazos Fuertes,

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cortando Pasto

So. There are times when I am down (not at this exact moment... but there are times). Wondering what I'm doing in life... not so much right now but in a year or two or ten from now. Where I wonder if I'm making good decisions or doing the right things. Sometimes I even feel like I have a dissonance inside of me - a disconnect - and it makes me wonder who I really am. Peruvian Peacecordian, what's that, really?

Usually when I'm in this state in site all I want to do is ball up in my room but I usually end up forcing myself outside because that's where I slowly feel better (even if not a single one of my self directed questions is actually answered). I've taken up going to cut grass for the cuyes (guinea pigs) with my madre lately in the evenings.

It's a 10 minute walk through grass and chacras (fields), the trail made by many human feet who take the trail up the hill to do their farming and grazing of animales cada dia. We take our apaches with us (the colorful blankets women here use for warmth, for bags, as protection to sit on, to carry grass, etc.) and my host mom brings along the circular scythe and we go up to cortar the pasto. This little ritual, even though I am slow at actually cutting the grass and most of the time just end up helping carrying it back down the hill, more than anything else... calms me. I know that for my family it's just another day chore, but for me with the views and the tranquility - the soft steady sound of blade on grass, the bright blue pollera (skirt) of my mama, the gray clouds bursting into light with the sinking of the sun over the cordillera negra - it's a healing task. It's the best thing about where I live, the hills and the very nature around you just make everything that much better. It's way better than yoga. jeje

So there's an October reflection. Mas on the agenda would have to be the Feria de Universidades that we're putting on in Shilla on Wednesday for all the secundary kids.... Amigos y Libros is still goin' strong, Halloween is just around the rincon, and I'm a goin' to Colorado really soon! :) From mountains to mountains.

Abrazos y pasto para todos,

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

My Name is the Amazon River. And I'm BIG and AMAZING.

Hola a todos!

I just got back from the selva (the jungle.... the Amazon to be exact) and racing 180 kilometers (don't ask me to convert that) for three days down the Amazon river in a raft that I built with three fellow peacecordian chicas from Ancash (ANCASH LADIES DO IT BETTER!) There are so many stories, funny moments, desperate moments, people met, that I don't even know where to begin. I guess I will start with what hit me first.

The HEAT. Calor to the extreme. I mean, I realized going into this that I would be dealing with a rain forest.. a jungle... and that means humidity and omnipresent sun... but I definitely didn't realize HOW much that would affect me until I got there. The heat consumes you and there is no escape. Your pores feel as if they are pouring out sweat like sap seeps from the bark of gum trees. Sweat takes the form of tears... I drink so much water and it all would come pouring out of me. Under the cover of the Amazonian rainforest and its myriad of trees and plants was where the heat licked your body the most. We went on a trek the day before the raft race which included hacking thru the Amazon with a machete and looking for monkeys, birds, weird bugs and spiders and that's where I felt I was being cooked the most. And unlike the cold, where you can put layers and layers of clothes, mittens, wool socks, find some good blankets, make a fire and drink cocoa... there is nothing you can do besides melt in the humidity in the jungle. It made me appreciate my mountains that much more.

On that day trek we got to take a 2 hour boat ride as well, which means we visited some local villages (how crazy and awesome would it be to be stationed out there where you commuted with a little boat?), held a baby sloth, and saw gray and PINK dolphins! Then we were off on the great (gret.. hehe Colleen) journey down the Amazon River for three days!

The first day is meeting the other 47 teams... getting on a bus and going from Iquitos to Nauta. Once in Nauta we procured much needed supplies (some machetes, rope, a hammer, two young boys who know how to make a raft...) and then crossed the river to start building our home for three days. :) Naturally, us peacecordians had no clue where to start. Every team was given 8 balsa logs and three smaller strips of wood and 30 meters of rope and some nails. We then had from 3 p.m. till the next day to construct the thing. With the help of the boys and a chainsaw we macheted and constructed a ghetto looking thing before sunset. We had no idea if it would hold up on us. But we were content with having finished before any other team did (actually I was worried that we hadn't spent enough time on the thing.. thinking it would surely come apart by day 3)... and it floated! That's a good sign.

The entire thing was a camping trip. The people who organize this Longest Raft Race in the World are VERY well organized, the food is good, the staff friendly.. they gave us little mattress things every night to sleep on (nobody needs a sleeping bag... it's too hot) and two of the three nights we slept in schools! :) There were bugs but not nearly as many as I though there would be and actually I came away pretty much unscathed except for 10 blisters from rowing (having done crew in college did come in handy!), some bad sun burns on the ankles, and ten cold sores on the lips (heat induced I'm sure). And you know what? We did it! Us four girls came about in the middle of the pack every day and our ghetto boat was the little raft that could! We even had the clunky heavy oars and the shoulders and back were definitely sore for a day.

For me, the best parts of the experience would have to be my team Ancash Ladies Do it Better (we were constantly singing on the top of our lungs... RESPECT... I'm on a BOAT.... build me up Buttercup... Bohemian Rhapsody... the Spice Girls.. as well as the "gotta along without you before I met you" harmonizing jingle... just to name a few of the tunes), getting into fast currents (and when I say fast currents I mean faster than when we were basically moving nowhere when we felt like we were sitting in a lake), and jumping into the river whenever we felt like it. Awww... that water felt so good. I mean. It was dirty. But it FELT so good. Other highlights would have to include the finishes each day (except for the LAST day when the last part we had to row UP current for fifteen minutes)... the first two days endings were happy because the local kids were swimming with us helping push our boats into shore, everybody cheers, and you just feel so STRONG for doing it and eating oreos and other goodies when we got tired. Also, the other rafters on the river with us were amazing and fun... we spent most of our river time with not our fellow peacecordian boats, but some men from France who were hilarious and some Limenos who pirated our ship. :)

The Amazon River is SO big... and wide... and we had to cross it a BILLION times. Well, it felt like it. :) It was amazing and I'll never feel as badass as I did when I was doing it... until next year of course!

So long Amazon! Hasta la proxima

Abrazos Fuertes,

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Candela, Candado; Tomatoe, Tomahto

Hola a todos!
As a whole, I feel pretty well integrated in Shilla. It has been over a year.. everybody knows me, the kids yell out my name, I understand more Quechua, and less and less Shillapinos think that I'm Italian and work in the church... there are days I forget that I'm too tall even (until I hit my head on a door whose frame comes up to my shoulders... have I mentioned I live in hobbit land? Ask my dad).
But recently, after a bout of feeling too self assured, my host mom and sister informed me that I'm telling too much to the neighbors. Now, I thought I was just being friendly. If I'm walking up the hill and they ask me where I'm coming from I'll freely say "From Huaraz! And this package I'm carrying? My parents sent it to me from the States!" or que ever. At first when my host familia told me that I just need to say hello and go on my way, I thought. huh. NO. I don't see any harm in it and I'm promoting friendship and connection between families. But then I realized if I just keep doing what I want that's not integration at all.... and then it dawned on me. I wash my clothes a lot longer than it takes my 14 year old sister. At meal times, I'm still served first and am encouraged to "descansar" (rest) frequently although my mom and sister are CONSTANTLY moving, cleaning, workin' in the biohuerto, taking the chanchos (pigs) and burro (his name is Ramon) to pasture... I have a completely different role. Since I have to make lesson plans, keep track of assistance, write oficios and solicitudes, etc. I use my computer a lot! And since my mom can't read, when she watches me on this thing, what does she see? What does she think? It probably looks like I'm busy doing a whole lot of nothing. And when I do help in the chacra on occasion, I'm so slow that I'm not even a help!
Just yesterday on the phone, a fellow Ancashina volunteer and amiga said "we're awkward all the time". And it's so true. Whether it's our gringo accents when we are trying to get the universities to come up and do a University Fair, to planting corn seeds double the time it takes our host moms, we will always be just slightly out of it. And what usually results from that is that we end up thinking that THEY'RE slightly out of it. Vicious circle.
But there is good that comes out of all the awkwardness/never truly fitting in: Funny stories. For instance, just recently I had a spanish language confusion problem (sheesh. You think after 10 years of this language I would be able to manejar it all). I told my host sis Florcita that I needed a key to unlock candela (which I thought meant padlock).
She was like "Really? There's a candela by that door?"
Me - "SI Florcita. De verdad!"
Florcita- looks at me confused

Later. I find out that in fact "candela" means fire. Then how the heck do you say padlock?

Florcita - Laughing uncontrollably
Mama - "Candado, Emy. Candado"

They still don't let that one go. And I guess it's the laughing and connecting to a joke and the silly things that we do that binds me to them more than anything else. No matter if I'm too tall for the doors.


Sunday, September 5, 2010


Hola a Todos!
Just recently I came back from five days in Lima for medical checkups and meetings and the like. Our whole group comes back and we give little presentations about what we've done in our sites... and basically eat really good food and get to hang out between all of our random appointments around Lima. (or Lame - a as some people call it :) During my trip there I took advantage and went to go visit my Itzel (my little host niece who lived with me for a year and then just a month ago her mom and her left to live and work in Lima) because I miss her sooooo much. And though amazing to see her, to sing Happy Talk with her again, to read her books like No David No!, and head butt game :) Gladys and I (her mom) basically were just sad that the visit was so short and that I couldn't take them with me back to beautiful Shilla. It struck me hard when I saw them on a gray cold corner of Lima with their jeans and "modern clothes" when I was so used to running up to them after going to work at the colegio with a background of dirt roads and mountains and adobe houses with their polleras and skirts on, Itzel dirty from playing outdoors all day. And Itzel had never seen me in Lima. At first I think she thought I was a different person.

I know I know I know. I'm selfish for wanting them back. Gladys left to go earn some money (which is nearly impossible to find in Ancash because of her lack of education and her young 4 year old daughter to take care of... in Shilla my family lives off the meager selling of products like corn and potatoes... and the help of some NGOs... it doesn't bring in much and in Shilla, to just sustain and live, you don't need much) and she's looking for something more... her boyfriend's studying in Lima, etc. etc. She's making a better life for herself. I realize this in my rational head and support her. But they are not happy away from my host madre, away in a world so different than the mountains of Ancash. I imagine there is more of a shock between any campo place in Peru and Lima than for me to go from Peru to the U.S. It's Lima vs. the rest of Peru and Lima's winning. It's a city full of souls working, studying, waiting for their chance. Save money. Make a better life. Normally with the idea that they'll return to where they are originally from. But it usually doesn't happen. They stay in the gray ciudad. They continue working and studying and hardly sleeping for many many years and then become used to it. And I don't want that to happen to Gladys.. Especially not Itzel.

So, life can be hard for Peruvians when moving away from home. Moving away means going to the coast because the coast holds more opportunities. To make it that much harder, the families here are a lot more close knit as you can imagine. To leave your parents and siblings is not the same as in the States (although I'm not saying there's some difficulty there for us too, but). It's leaving your vida. It hurts my host madre on a whole new level. She told me she would cry when I leave too. It's going to be painful to leave here.

Yeah, so although on a cold note, those are my thoughts. I'm so grateful that I received the host familia that I have. That I had the chance to meet Raul. That I have such great Peacecordian friends who are always there to cheer and support you even after the hour and a half dentist appointment because you had 2 cavities and that was even after the nurse STABBED you (yes.. haha) while drawing blood. Boy I hate medical stuff. So there is always good in my Peruvian life which makes the hard stuff worth persevering through.


Saturday, August 21, 2010


Hola a todos!
So. Today is Peru 13's official one year anniversary as PC volunteers! Yay. So it's automatically a day of reflection whether you want it or not. :) A year ago was a whirlwind. Leaving Yanacoto, nervous about starting the next two years, leaving friends who I met just three short months before but felt like I'd known them for much longer than that; confusion, excitement, twinge of sadness... gulp. And then now it's been a year. And so many volunteers told our group as we became official volunteers instead of just aspirantes.. the second year will be better and go by faster which means before I know it, it will be August 21, 2011.

For the occasion that is today I decided to just make a short list of the most memorable moments of this year for me as a Shillapina and Ancashina... the good and the bad... and probably the ugly:

Running from an avalanche and thinking I was going to die for a split second
Meeting Raul
Making it to Punto Union with Christie and Oso, after a local boy beat us in sandals to the top
Birthday in Lima with the Peru 11ers as their In Service Training complete with face in the cake
Itzel leaving permanently to Lima with her mom :(
Anca$h Prom
Learning to rock climb (this would be in the "ugly" category)
Hanging out with Rachel and Jenna in Maryknoll's Priest home in Puno, playing with a stuffed bear's glasses and not knowing to whom they belonged.... for awhile.
Making videos on the way up to Machu Picchu with the hermano :)
Seeing my dad try to get through the front door of my house... and in and and out of combis
My confusing "candela" for "candado" (my host mom find this infinitely funny)
Field Trip to Llanganuco with Environmental Club Kids; Yunior made sure I noticed every little plant and animal and insect on our little hike
The 3 Independent Nights of Illness. I do not need to elaborate. It's in the Ugly category
Being a ship for Halloween. (Where's my BOOTY, Lisette?)
A Yanacoto Birthday complete with Lion Cake
Eating just the cookie dough with Baja in Caraz. Memorable for sure.
My combi almost being rammed off the road
Same day as above comment: Hitting the water tube to the school bathroom.... all in order to try and make compost.
15 hour Epic Hike
My first Peruvian wedding
Hot shower after two weeks.. (yup. I still remember it)

And there are many more. Some that I can't or won't even include on such a public space. So I can only imagine the millions of goods, bads, and uglies that will occur over the next year.. which will include maybe even a trip or two back to the States... :)


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Un poco, no mas

Hola a todos!
Currently, I'm very contenta because the padres' care package just arrived with clothes for Itzel, Raisin Bran Crunch, stickers galore, cheeze its, a book from Vivian, and more children's books! It just makes me feliz. :)

En otras noticias, the 15ers (new peacecordians) are coming this next week to visit their sites, projects continue to keep going during these vacaciones (the first two weeks of Agosto there are no classes aqui), and Wednesday's trip to Llanganuco Lakes with the kids from Club Huascaran went swimmingly! yay. Umm.. things are good, I have deseos to go up into the mountains again soon and see some more Ancash lakes before the rainy season starts again in late September. And besides all that things are just going well.

Almost a year in site! I bet this next year will go by just as quickly as the first one and before I know it Christmas and a trip home will be here!

Abrazos fuertes,

Saturday, July 31, 2010

"Emily! Han chocado con el tubo!"

Hola a todos!
So. Last Friday I feel sums up how things tend to go in the work side of my life as a Peacecordian. I had classes about self esteem which went well with the little guys in elementary school, had a successful Amigos y Libros meeting with the teens (they're the ones who will eventually read to the elementary and preschool kids) And everything seemed to be going swimmingly after meetings about our upcoming project against AIDS/HIV and meetings with teachers about finding professionals for a job shadowing project in September... and I was looking forward to digging a hole in the evening to make compost with the Club Huascaran (made of sixth and fifth graders from primaria who are learning about the environment with me). The parents of the kids even showed up early with their tools all ready to go! Yay! I felt. I'm doing things! :)
Amigos y Libros Club: (Notice the books that people have been sending me! :)

And then.. 50 minutes into digging the hole, Samuel comes up to me... "Emily! Han chocado el tubo!" Which means. CRAP. We broke the water tube to the school! Ugh. Here I was riding on this rush of volunteerism and happiness to be with the kids and parents in the school when the tube breaks. I immediately thought "I'm making Shilla regress instead of progress." So I got an impromtu lesson on how to pick out, buy and fix a broken water tube. Fun times.

The Day of the Tube: parents and kids from Club Huascaran

Trash Day with Club Huascaran! This is where Shilla botars their trash we found out after 4 hours of collecting all the trash of the district with Cesar, the municipality driver of the truck in the background. As the kids pointed out it smells a bit... but has great views!

I guess why this little story represents my work here is because.. it's all small steps. It's about getting people together and working towards a goal, however small. Although we broke the tube... there will be MANY setbacks. We fixed it and will continue. I will remember this hopefully this upcoming Wednesday when I embark on a day long journey with Club Huascaran to the Llanganuco Lake for a paseo (field trip). Who knows when I'll have to fix a tube again!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Peruvian Perros

Hola a todos,
There are at least 6 dogs out to get me in the Shilla district. On my daily run anyways... because well, I have few options of routes and the one I have consistently stuck with is using the main dirt carreterra (road) up and then down (it's not too steep and flatter than most other "paths"). But along the way you go by the houses and then the dogs.. ugh the perros. I now have to keep a rock in my hand the entire way, which.. I'm definitely not out of the norm with fellow peacecordians... dogs are mean here.

But now I know my route well, which means I know the dogs well. I was bit a couple days ago (not badly mind you.. ) but my guard is always up and I know which ones to walk next to instead of run by, which ones to CHARGE at and pretend to throw the rock at, which ones to just out run, and which ones to yell at the owner to get control of. Sometimes the dogs are a no show and they even have an horario (schedule). If I want to miss the great dane (boy is he huge.. but if you just say "puppy!" in a cute little voice and walk by him he is nicer and starts wagging his tail) then I run in the afternoon/early evening. If I want to miss the horrible puppy from hell with his snarling teeth (he will bite me one day.. I just know it) then I run at 6:00 a.m. It's kinda sad that my running is scheduled by flea ridden creatures.

It's almost Fiestas Patrias time here... Peru's Independence Day... we shall see how Ancash parties. I'll probably just go home early. :)


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Llevame mis zanahorizas, mamay

Hola a todos! I am currently in Carhuaz after waking up at 4: 30 a.m. to go with my host madre to sell corn and carrots at the bi- weekly huge mercado here. We didn't sell all the carrots. But we did sell all the corn. (and by corn I mean the dried cornels of corn). For all those interested in money and numbers out there. We sold a monton of carrots (like.. 15 decent sized carrots) for 50 centimos (roughly 20 cents yo). And for a whole heavy bag of the cornels... 25 soles mas o menos. Which is what? 8 bucks. For awhile I got to sell the carrots which was fun! (more so because everyone is confused.. what? a gringa sells produce?) and I got to say things like "Llevame mis zanahorias, mamay, porfa." in a whiney voice. hehe.

I love market days. LOVE them. Although I usually don't buy anything anyway... and the ropes that hold up the tarps for shade for the vendors come up to my shoulders so therefore I must duck constantly, there's something about the hustle and bustle of it all... and the really cheap veggies that makes my day. If I could add on to my list of Favorite Things in Peru from the other blog a while ago I would add market days and when donkeys in Shilla run down the hills he-hawing and bucking and playing.

One thing of the things I do not like, you ask? The drunkeness. The way women must put up with it when their son or father or grandpa come home completely gone (although to be fair.. I have to say that women get drunk here too.. just definitely NOT as often). And how the little three year olds already know how to pretend to be drunk to be funny. Itzel, mi sobrina (my niece.. the love of my life!), has many a time come up to me in a playful mood "Tia Emily! Mira.. estoy borracha!" (Aunt Emily! Look.. I'm drunk!) while pretending to not be stable on her feet and running into the walls. I am lucky to live in a house of all women because whenever I have an encounter with a drunk Peruvian male who is completely out of bounds I get very angry Muy enojada. Not to mention sad. My madre tells me I just need to acostombrarme (get used to it) but we have discussions where I tell her I don't think it's something you should get used to. It's the worst thing, in my opinion, when I have to be around many many drunks at a peruvian party. Parties should be fun. After a year living in this country I think their drinking comes out of a deep sadness. They are drinking to forget... but it only makes them remember. They cry, they grab at people, they ramble on and on about the travesties that have happened. It's their outlet... but there's gotta be a better one, no? Their lives are hard but I think alcohol just makes them harder.

Those are my pensamientos del dia. I've been writing a lot lately which has been very helpful for me at this one year mark. I'm excited to go to Lima in a couple of days to see new volunteers and to continue my project Amigos y Libros on Friday (yay!) where high schoolers read to elementary and kindergarten students. (by the way.. I need more books for kids.. low reading level.. in spanish!)

If I were in the States right now I'd say Happy Birthday to Aaron Smith and go get a free slurpee at 7/11. :)

Abrazos y besos,

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Lil' update, no mas

Hola a todos!
Soo... Happy Birthday United States.. I am giving classes in America's honor to the secondaria kids these next two weeks... talking about what we eat, how we celebrate, and country/western music line dancing lessons... haha. American culture. Maybe I'm not even the one who should be giving this class. Lately I've been feeling that I've been away for so long that I don't even remember!

Next week I go to Lima for a couple days to help train the new Peru 15ers! yay! Locura I tell you. I sort of pictured myself last year as a trainER instead of a trainEE but not that it's actually here it just feels odd. Really? A year? Ya? Ok.

So this is just a little blog to say I'm alive and well and kicking... literally kicking dogs away from me lately... and work is definitely underway although classes always get canceled left and right.. for sports, for holidays, for teachers just wanting days off. :)

I'll write soon. Mas. Te lo juro.

abrazos fuertisimos,

Friday, June 25, 2010

Sheep Intestine for Breakfast

Hola a todos!
Somewhere between the drunken debauchery that is Shilla during the biggest party of the year (the 24th of June.. but don't let that fool you.. it's basically an entire week of fiesta as all peacecordians can tell you... Shilla is not unique in that way) and the sheep intestine I was given for breakfast the next morning, I got my first real bout of homesickness. Just pure wanna- live- in- my- own- country- where- I -know- how- things- work and I won't have to eat this or get trapped by extremely drunk men who think it's totally fine to make disgusting gestures and remarks about the "gringa". As Christie and I would say... I was DONE! :)

That and I've been having dream after dream about the United States of A lately. Maybe it's because it seems all peacecordians lately are going home for a visit. Or I miss Snapper Jack's. Or Reggie. Or familia. No se. Portland. I had a dream about Portland last night. So anywho. I'm going to be heading off to the annual Peace Corps marathon next weekend for the fourth of July. Some good solid peacecordian time. And try to keep the work going in site (which is going by the way! yay!)

That is the update. Todo esta bien! I heard the one year mark sometimes makes you think about home demasiado. Hasta la proxima


Sunday, June 20, 2010

These are a few of my favorite things

What doesn't belong? Teachin' the primaria kids Mi ropa.... drying

Itzel - my sobrina.

Hola a todos! A list of my peruvian faves.

- Cifrut (the Peruvian version of sunny D)
- combi rides with my i pod
- reading/playing with/teaching English to/general living with Itzel
- my dirt road to Shilla (and sometimes riding on top of trucks to get there)
- the sound of the rain fall on my tin roof
- hanging my laundry to dry
- learning to play volei (volleyball)
- when riding in combis or other vehicles and then looking out the window and randomly catching eyes with strangers for a split second
- the hikes and lakes in Ancash!
- dancing huayno (but with breaks!)

To be continued!


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Musica a mis oidos

Dear Regina Spektor,
I just wanted to say thank you. You will probably never read this but I just thought it would be good to let you know that it is your music that gets me through the combi rides and hard times in Peace Corps Peru. I melt in your songs. I hear the same lyrics over and over again and every time they take on new meaning and I have never felt so connected to words from an artist before. As if I was there and wrote them myself because that is how I'm feeling but I needed you to put it out there eloquently, in a different way with a different rhythm and sound. Man of a Thousand Faces is all that there needs to be in the world. And good is better than perfect.


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Como Vuele el Tiempo

Hola a todos!
It's June. It's June? It's June! Which means a whole year has passed since arriving confused and sleepy at 2 in the morning to a dark and misty Peru. And I'm still alive... and loving it! I just decided I need to write a blog yesterday while washing my laundry. There's a lot of time to think while washing laundry by hand and your thoughts tend to be spastic and have no order so I think that's how this blog is going to go.

First of all... this is true for me (and for probably many other Peru and other peacecordian volunteers, though not all) I'm finding the 2 hardest things to manejar (that means to drive.. literally.. I guess figuratively you would say handle?) would be moving my way around this new country's bureaucracy (i.e. talking to the mayor/other important people I need funding from or to get projects going with) and bathing. The bureaucracy part includes the fact that.. hey!... I speak campesino spanish all day long people! That's right. My current spanish, although understandable, is like if I learned English in the South. Or worse. And it's now mixed with Quechua. Which isn't a problem until I am in the mayor's office trying to talk about a comprehensive project we can do to prevent AIDS and why that's important. Ugh. It's just a shock for the language system in me. Also (and I think I can speak this on behalf of ALL Peru peacecordians) I am so enferma (sick) of all this stupid paperwork that Peru makes you do for EVERY little thing. So DONE with that. Aye! You didn't get an official invitation??? We have to fix that right now even though we have to go thru great hoops to do that. The world is ending if we don't write an official looking officio for every little request that mostly is just fluffy words and probably one line of content. Blah. And bathing. It is just such a process in my campo site. And there are plenty of other volunteers who have it worse (and better). We do have a shower but the problem is the water comes from Huascaran. Ice water. Yaku de rahu. No gracias. Can't do it. It literally hurts. So I've probably taken a total of 7 bucket baths since moving to Shilla the end of August last year. I get firewood, light it, boil the water for an hour but it in a bucket... etc etc. Whew. The work for such a simple thing! :) Plus when you're done you don't feel all that must cleaner anyway. So I mostly just...don't do it. Huaraz is only 2 hours away anyway. I once came to Huaraz just to take a shower and then go back to Shilla. I was desperate that time.

Anyways. Washing my laundry yesterday I did reflect on the fact about the 1 year mark.. that I'm almost one year in site too and how the concept of time has really changed for me. In the beginning... I swear that first week (although a great week) upon arrival to training in Peru.. felt like a MONTH. And training, although only 11 weeks, felt like a good chunk of time and because training was centered on a breakdown of the weeks that's kinda how I lived. Oh. Week 5 is done. Oh. Week 11. Time to go to site. Then the first months in site is broken down to 3 months because after that you meet up with your group again for a training. And things are slow as you try to put together a diagnostic. Slooowwww.. And then it picks up. Slowly I haven't been counting days or months or weeks. I now think in terms of projects.. or what I need to get done for Tuesday for my class or who I need to talk to to get a mural painted on the hospital. Or when my dad or my friend is coming to visit. My concept of time in Shilla has also changed. First it was. How long can I spend in Shilla? How many days in a row? Like a contest. And that included not even leaving for day trips to Carhuaz for internet. Now I lead a normal life.. feel very independent. I can go down to Carhuaz for a couple hours or go get my friend's dog from a neighboring town and bring the puppy up to Shilla for the day. It's liberating because now life is normal. I am free and feel I have a balanced life between work, play, escape time, travel, coordinating, time with the Peruvian chico, and family time with the host familia. Things are busy right now for work and I think that helps a LOT. The busier I am, the more time I am forced to venture out of the room and NOT watch South Pacific for the 5th time this week, the better for my emotional health. And as my friend Laurie pointed out last week (she is visiting!!! yay!) it's a BIG self esteem booster to go into the primary and the secondary school everyday. All you hear is your name being screamed happily by small children with their arms stretched out to greet you! :) That makes it all worth it. Vale la pena. No matter how successful my Environmental Club is or how how many kids I "reached" in such and such project... I made a connection with kids I never knew existed in a town so beautiful under Huascaran that I can't believe I would have never known it if I hadn't become a peacecordian.

Abrazos fuertes,

Happy Birthday Madre! :)

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Hello todos!
A quick thought/reflection or two. One of the things that sticks out about Peruvian culture is all about names. In general (I hate to generalize but here it goes) individuality, creativity and standing out is not celebrated here like it is in the U.S. This is reflected in many ways, one being when it comes to naming children.

I have been asked 6 times so far in my 11 months here to give "American" names so as to name their children after famous people. So.. you have your John Kennedys (the a 3 year old boy down the street), your Juniors (but that's their name. Not for kids who have the same name as their dad. And it's pronounced "yunor"), and a myriad of typical American names (there are three other Emilys.. NOT a single Emilia... here in Shilla with me). But of course they're going to pronounce these names in the Peruvain Spanish accent, no? I mean, that's fine.. it's only natural. But when asking me for names they want the "correct" pronunciation... which they will never get because.. hey.. we're from different countries! And that's ok! So in the end I try and explain this to them and then just give them a list of names I happen to like... Just last Thursday I included "Yukiko" on the list. The girls seemed to like it... and the fact that I told them the names is japonesa... maybe there will soon be a little Yukiko in Shilla? :)

Another thing that's gracioso (funny) is the spelling.. and the many ways to spell the names. There are many teenage boys named Roosebelt for example. Here are the many variations of spelling: Rusbel, Roosbel, Roosbelth, Roosebelt, Roosevel... etc, etc. And that's just from one classroom. And each time they spell their own name, they spell it differently. In a way, the spelling doesn't even matter. Maybe it's just a teenage thing.

An important thing to note is that it's not just American names that Peruvians choose for their ninos... they'll take any country in Europe or Russia or Asia too. I know several Estalins (Stalin) and little Hitlers running around. Yesterday, on my way to Huaraz for a meeting I saw a political mural painted on the wall that reads in big bold letters: VOTA PARA HITLER. PARA UN CAMBIO (Vote for Hitler. For a change.) I mean, personally I would never vote for him.. doesn't matter how nice of a guy he might be... that's just me though. Most people here don't know what the Holocaust was (unless they're a professional.. and even then maybe not).

I mean, the anecdotes go on and on about names... but I have to say my funniest experience was when one morning a young man came to my house, looking specifically for me (I did not know him) because his first born child (a son) was just born and he needed a name and quick (something about a birth certificate and if you don't get it on time you have to pay... which is why it's not uncommon to find many people whose birthdays are actually a couple weeks before their birth certificate declares). I gave him a list of boys names that I happen to like.. and are pretty common in the U.S.... hoping maybe he'd name his boy James or Oliver or something like that. I gave him the list.. happily pronouncing the names. I didn't seem him for a few months. Then one day he shows up again and asks "Escoge un nombre... pero no recuerdo como pronunciarlo. Puedes ayudarme?" (I picked a name... but I don't remember how to pronounce it. Could you help me?) I was excited to see which one he decided on! Would it be Brian? Or maybe Lukas? Nope. Yeltsin Heidigger... that's right. Yeltsin Heidigger. Needless to say, I did not give him that name as a suggestion. I mean.. I remember Heidigger from Philosophy 304 in college... something about ontological thought or whatever... but.. what?!? Of course I said.. I cannot help you. I am not Russian. He says "I know. But I need help pronouncing it." Apparently he found the names looking for famous people. Yeltsin was a famous scientist. Heidigger - the philosopher. Both from countries that are NOT the U.S. And that's fine. (I mean, I feel a little bad for that poor boy Yeltsin, but.. que ever). But I said I CANNOT help you pronounce this name. I am NOT from that country. I tried the best I could and he went on his way. It's a unique name alright. Maybe I'll run into to Yeltsin in a couple years when he goes to Jardin (pre school).

That is todo for now. Hasta la proxima... If you have any good name suggestions, keep 'em coming.. I will need 'em!


Saturday, May 1, 2010


The other night I woke up at 5 in the morning to the sound of haunting singing and the dim light of many candles.... and my clothes sewn to the blankets I was sleeping with. It was Pitsqay (pronounced Peets-kay). The second night after you bury someone (my host mom's very old mother just died last Sunday) their spirit is said to come back to their house, so all family members sleep there. The idea is if you succumb to your sleepiness than the rest of the family plays tricks on you by drawing on your face or sewing random clothes to you or your blankets. In the early morning hours they sing as a way to say goodbye and then burn all clothes and personal items that were owned by the deceased. Peruvians and their funerals are at least a week event which means little sleep, a lot of alcohol, a lot of family time and many customs. Needless to say, this past week I got to know the Shillapino culture, Quechua, and my host familia a little bit more.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Finalmente: Pics from Semana Santa!

Ok. So here are some fotos (in reverse order) from the Santa Cruz trek that Christie, Oso and I embarked on the first four days of abril. :) Enjoy.

I feel this is good one to show what Oso did most of the time: bark at cows and donkeys and people. :)

I always get stuck in the mud with Baja. Oh. By the way Patagonia. I need more shoes!

We made it to the top. Doesn't matter that it took us 3 hours from camp and it only took the Peruvian boy 1 hora.. nope. Doesn't matter at all.

Almost to the top. The valley behind us is what we went in to get to this point. Shumaq, no?


Peacecordians at work.

So this in reverse order.. but.. anyways.
Successful fording of river!

Oregon Trail anyone?

Actually thinking about fording the river instead of having to bushwhack our way to the trail.

"haha. We should ford the river."

Jatuncocha (in Quechua that means... Big Lake.)

This is Ichikcocha (which means? Yup. Little Lake.)

Just one of the many stunning views Anca$h has to offer.

Campsite Number 1. Getting lista for the dia.

First day. Good spirits, all of the stuff on the back.. actually that make us feel pretty good about ourselves considering every other person on this 4 day, 3 night trail hired donkeys and men to carry their gear. Peacecordians do it right. :)

It was divertido and I can't wait to explore mas!


Friday, April 9, 2010

Semana Santa

Hola a todos!
So, as I mentioned last blog, I went on a four day backpacking trip on the Santa Cruz trek with Baja... and it was amazing! As expected... even though it did not include making and eating pita....( I saw the pics.. the pita this year looked delicious). Anywho. We saw so many glaciers and mountains that it's impossible to know all their names, got to sleep in a tent, ate good camping food, walked uphill and downhill with Oso (Christie's perro), met some new amigos from Lima, hiked in the rain (only one day), saw lots of cows, donkeys and horses in the meadow, climbed up to 4,760 meters on Punto Union, got passed up by a 18 year old peruvian boy while going uphill on our third day (it took us 3 hours to get to the top.. it took him 1.. yeah! Seriously. He was a mountain goat!), practiced Quechua with the "donkey" man, and generally just enjoyed the splendor that is Ancash! Very shumaq (bonita.. beautiful). It was a good way to pass Semana Santa for sure.

Now it's back to site for more workness until ... (I'm not counting anything, but) 41 days with my padre and hermano get here!! (And Lowie tambien!!) I can't wait!

Hasta la proxima!


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Happy Easter!

Hey y'all! Just a little nota to say Happy Pascuas and Easter Egg hunting and pita/lamb eating... I will miss being there. In the meantime.. I'm backpacking for four days on my vacation. Santa Cruz trail to be exact. Should be fun.. and a different way to celebrate Easter. :)

Hasta pronto!
I will post pics.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Riverside: The original Peace Corps

Hola a todos! So it's time for a blog with words instead of just pictures... the lazy way to do it, and as I have been doing it for most of March :).

First of all, Happy 20th Birthday to mi hermano James! :) I remember I turned 20 in Spain and really felt like it was a big deal. I don't know. Something about finally changing that 1 to a 2 or something. But anyways, I hope you had a good one and you probably went to Disneyland again or something because that's what you guys do now that I'm gone. hehe.

Things are starting to roll now on the work front even though some vacation time is coming up pretty soon. Today I'll have my second (and hopefully a lot more productive) Medio Ambiente (Environmental) Club meeting with the kids from the primary school. I'll be learning to compost and do fun stuff right along with them... hopefully I'll teach them how to start little projects on their own and to work as a team as well as how to take care of Mother Nature.

In the realm of normal Shilla life I have been routinely sweeping (yay! too much dust) and cleaning every morning right along side my host familia and it recently dawned on me. The best thing, or what most prepared me in my life before becoming a Peace Cordian, was all the time spent in my grandparents' house in Riverside. :) De verdad though. Really really. Because now I'm living in an adobe house (like theirs), with lots of chickens, homeless dogs, allapa (Quechua for a lot of) dirt, no showers (although I guess that was my fault for never wanting to take a shower at grandma's.. I mean.. I would just get dirty again, what was the point?), eating delicious red grapes with seeds in the middle, cactus... the list just goes on. And Riverside was the best training. Ever. The end. :) I don't feel like I had to acostombrar so much because I was already used to it!

Speaking of Riverside, I'm getting a little sad about the fact that I will be missing Easter this year. :( Aye. No pita. I'm afraid it just wouldn't come out the same. Maybe next year I will intentar to make it if this year turns out to be really depressing. Maybe I'll just throw my very own Easter Egg hunt or something. Or dye some runtu (Quechua for eggs) at the very least. Luckily Lisa (Peru 13 peacecordian... all the way from Chota area, Cajamarca!!!!) is coming to go climbing with us here... it'll be fun and hopefully take my mind off the delicious lamb roasting slowly over an open flame somewhere far away... well. Maybe in Shilla instead of lamb it would be chancho (pig).. not too diferente, eh? I'll update about the traditions of Pascuas (Easter) here... if there are any!

Ok. Hasta la proxima! Abrazos!


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Escalaring Pics

You show that rock, Baja!

Raul... helping me get down the rock wall...

See the girl in the blue and white on the top? That's me!

They know what they're doing!

Viviana, "Burro", me and Raul. :)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Some pics to go with March Madness


baby chanchos

It's corn dryin' season!

My lil' awesome sobrina showin off some mad skills.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

What's up, March?

Hola a todos!
Marzo is here... wait? what? Marzo is half-way through? Alright. :)

March for Peru means school starts again! But here, as I found out as a youth volunteer, there is no such thing as a first day of school... or a first day as we know it. With the nervous jitters and the new crayons in the box and the first day of school activities... finding your nametag on your desk, playing get to know you games. Nope. Here the students come to school, not knowing what's up.. there's no horario (schedule) planned yet and the teachers are just getting their stuff together and the kids then usually just stand around outside or go home.. or not show up until the following week when things are a little more organized. So I have spent my first weeks of March not teaching yet.. instead planning, and hopefully things will start to get underway in April! If I'm lucky. :)

So. I'm planning a recycling program... actually, recently I spent a dia at the dump with one of the elementary school teacher and three kids to go see where the people of the city of Carhuaz (down the hill from Shilla) put their trash. They actually have a recycling and compost system and that is our goal for Shilla in the next couple of years. In conjunction with this we are planning to make a Medio Ambiente Club (Environmental club) at the primary school and then we can teach them fun things like compost and recycling art projects, etc. :) It should be fun. I think we'll be having a contest in May: make a person out of recycled things! Most creative gets a prize.

Umm.. let's see.. also I will hope to start the library and book project soon.. first step: find the Rotary Club in Huaraz. And, apart from that some autoestima classes here... some vocational orientation classes there... and we'll see what unfolds! More bracelet teaching probably... (kids seem to love that!)

In other noticias: My pig had little chanchitos! I went on a hike by myself this week without meaning to and found another volunteer's site :), I'm learning how to rock climb and boulder, and my Quechua is comin' along. Allim, no?

Abrazos Fuertisimos!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sheep Update

So I just bajared (came down) my dirt road to Carhuaz and one of the passengers of our little car put his three sheep in the back. They were all tied up and such in order to stay calm and not move around. They hardly made any noise either. Just thought I'd share that with the world. :)

We have more Quechua classes coming up next week so I will post more picture then! For now... chao!


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Shilla Perspectives

So here is the "epic" ish blog post I promised... earlier than promised!

A couple weeks ago I wrote an epic email to my mom in the states. The reason why it was epic was because I wrote it while in site (in Shilla) which allowed me to just come back to it whenever I was able and write about the things that were happening as they were happening. Sometimes when I go into Huaraz I’m distracted by time with other peacecordians and other chores and the overwhelming beautiful thing that is the internet. Therefore, emails I write there tend to be shorter and don’t cover how I actually feel most of the time in Shilla. So I’m going to give this stream of consciousness writing style from Shilla a try for my blog. Here goes.

10 de febrero
It is 3: 10 p.m. here in Shilla. Warm, sunny with big thunder head looking nubes (clouds) above which is pretty typical lately. It’s supposed to be rainy season, and I was all excited coming from Portand and all, but alas… the rain is letting me down some… not enough of it :). Anywho, today is a calm day. I woke up a little later than my usual time of 7:00, prepared my stuff for class, ate a typical bowl of noodle soup for desayuno (breakfast), and went across the street (literally 20 steps) to the school to teach my English class by 10:00 a.m. The attendance has been lacking for a couple weeks but today I had more alumnus (17 students) because I had promised it would be the day to celebrate Carnaval. At this point I should describe a bit of what Carnaval is:

Basically the best holiday ever! So, you know how we celebrate Mardi Gras? Or how at least New Orleans celebrates Mardi Gras? (my fav memoria must be in sixth grade when we celebrated in Mrs. Martin’s class… we got to make masks!!) Well, here they celebrate by soaking everyone and anyone with water… and paint in the department of Cajamarca. Mostly the kids celebrate… I mean, boys started soaking passerbys in cars and combis in the beginning of the month! But apparently it’s a big thing this weekend and to celebrate I am going to Cajamarca maƱana in order to experience the real deal of paint throwing and chaos all over the city. No puedo esperar!

Anyways, I promised my kids that we could throw water balloons and such at each other if they promised not to spray water on each other during class when I ask them not to. So. Today was the day and it was fun! We started out with me teaching them the classic water balloon pair toss and then it turned basically into a war. I was soaked, that’s for sure. The boys are little resourceful geniuses. They cut little tubes, put a bottle cap on the top, find a stick that’s the same length, and put a plastic bag over the top of the stick and basically make homemade Super Soakers. Who needs to buy a Nerf one in the stores? Afterwards we cleaned up the bits of balloons (hopefully we got all of them) and called it a day, but I think they really enjoyed themselves. Who doesn’t like soaking others? Today has basically been a day of yaku (water in Quechua) for me; I also just took a warm bucket bath shower thing (which must be my 5th one since arriving here in August… before you shout “ewwwww!!” I ALSO take showers when in Huaraz.. sheesh people) and washed all my clothes. My fingers are prunes but I smell good.

Yesterday I got my estantes (bookshelves) finally! Yay! In total they cost 110 soles for two big ones. And they make a world of difference in my room. Now I can use the walls instead of the floors as storage devices! And now my room is actually all clean and organized. Those who know (or have lived with me) don’t believe me but it’s la verdad. Now I just need to save up for a ropero (ummm… how do you say that in English? Uhhh… crap. Oh yeah. Dresser. ) I’m still living out of my suitcase.

Yesterday morning was an interesting experience. I went to a nearby caserio called Catay with a friend who knows a lot about agriculture and farm animals. About 35 minutes up, up, up, up hill. Once we arrived at the family’s house, my friend Alex proceeded to castrate a pig. Poor chancho. It looked painful. Then we gave some shots to two huge toros (bulls). I got to fill the shots… apparently I’m going to learn some random skills here. My other friend Raul, who is a rock climber/mountain guide, speaks French so my francais is getting better too… random, no?

It’s raining hard now. Yay! Gotas de agua are dripping into my room though… oh well. At least they’re not over my bed… yet. I just got back from playing with the “ovalo kids” as I call them. There’s a little plaza (ovalo they call it) area next to the Health Center a little down the hill from my casa where the kids from around this part play in the evenings. Since it was raining we gathered in the gazebo and played “nudo” or “knot”… meaning everyone makes a human knot by taking the hands of someone else in the group and untangling the knot you’ve created. Our record for the day is 14 people! Adult Shillapinos always look on with amused expressions on their rostros (faces)… hopefully in a few months it will seem normal and they’ll just glance at us no mas when I play with the kids.

I noticed that I am really starting to integrate because the people of Shilla don’t look at me strangely when I’m just walking down the street to my next destination. Kids and adults alike know my name. It just has become second nature to not be looked at twice by my fellow Shillapinos. I noticed this because when going to a different pueblo (like I did yesterday with my Ancash coordinator boss person, Nelly, to look at a potential site for a new volunteer in August) it starts all over again, with the stares and the puzzled amused looks and me feeling… very (there’s no other way to put this)… white. It makes me feel good to go back to Shilla. That would be the really difficult thing if you had to change locations like some volunteers do. You’d get past all the awkward looks in one place and then you’d have to start it up all over again in another town. I don’t blame people. I must look so strange at first. I’m truly a giant her. Probably twice the size of my frail grandma who has been camped in our house for a month because of her ailing health. They say she is 91 years old. No se la verdad.

To be continued in site...

Abrazos fuertes,

Thursday, February 11, 2010

There will be an epic blog soon...

Hola a todos!
There will be an epic written in site blog coming this blog´s way soon. In a couple weeks... as of now I do not have my computadora with me and as such cannot post said blog. But.. just a shout out to the fact that the Oregonian quoted me! Chevere!

Ok. Off to Cajamarca tonight.. hasta dos semanas aproximadamente!


Saturday, February 6, 2010

February Happenings

Hola a todos! It is officially February. I don't even remember what I did last February. :) huh. This one though is looking to be a good one. Next weekend is Carnaval which means I'm going to Cajamarca (the party central of Carnaval for Peru). It involves throwing water and paint on ANYone who passes you by for a full weekend. Words can't describe my excitement. Yay culture! That means I'm for sure going to Cajamarca with no valuables and wearing shirts I don't mind getting paint on. No puedo esperar!

Since the Quechua classes I have been able to pick out more words at the dinner table this past week which is encouraging! The stages of learning a language are so interesting. It's like putting together a puzzle... blind. Mouth and ears groping for words that are just out of reach as they're swarming around you. I wonder if there will be any Quechua professor job openings by the time I get back.

Classes are going well (I'm a fan of vacaciones utiles!), peacecordian friends keep me sane when the goin' gets tough (I miss my "site mate" Lisette!), my host family makes me feel part of their own (for instance, I've been helping making a wool blanket and I help in some way with every meal usually by making cucumber salads or pancakes, my niece can sing the entire Happy Talk song, and my host sis has been styling my hair everyday for the past week... maybe I'll actually learn how to braid!), and now I have a plethora of peruvian friends to take me on great hikes! Poco a poco, no? Oh! And I heard the great news about the newbie John Paul! Yay! :) Congrats Amy and Dean! By the time I will see him he will be a big guy!

Espero que todo este bien en los E.E.U.U. :) Hasta pronto!


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Of Mountains and Freedom

Up until living here in Ancash, Peru I liked hiking, I liked the outdoors and liked outdoor activities but it wasn’t something I thought about a lot. Or thought I needed. Now, I really can’t get enough of it. It would not be an exaggeration to say that my backyard is basically hill upon hill upon mountain upon lake of naturaleza of Huascaran National Park. When I go on my morning hike, I can walk up only 30 minutes are get rewarded with views that make me want to fly. Where before I was really proud to climb Half Dome, now I’m setting my sights higher, want to test my abilities, want to climb and explore more. When teen girls in my site describe a hike up in the mountains as just a “day hike” I yearn to be like them, to be like a mountain goat and just go!

I can really say that Shilla, Ancash is the most beautiful place I have ever been in my life and I take every chance I get to point that out to my host familia (who have seen it everyday their whole lives as well as the rest of the inhabitants of Shilla and thus have no idea that they are actually living in a gem). My little 3-year-old niece Itzl now points it out to me “Tia Emily! Mira! Shumaq nubes!” (Look, Aunt Emily! Beautiful clouds!) These are the moments that it so easy to feel a part of this town, so easy to feel myself becoming not just a passerby, but someone who is intricately connected to the nature and the people here.

Last week some fellow Peacecordians hiked over to Shilla from the other side of the hill where their pueblos are to visit and to get some delicious menu in the nearby Carhuaz. When I returned back up my dirt road to Shilla (a 30 minute trip no mas) I got to ride back in the back of a small truck! (finally!) Which just basically means standing up holding on to the bars and absorbing the shock of the bumps in your bent knees so as not to get jolted out. It was slightly raining and I was the only gringa in the back (so of course there were lots of stares and smiles) and I felt the most free I have ever felt in my life. I realized I didn’t know what freedom was before. Sure, I am part of a government program and therefore have certain goals and meetings to uphold to, however I am pretty much left to my own creations and ideas when it comes to projects and what I want to do on a daily basis. When I need to put a bookshelf in my room, I get to measure it; when I want to start projects, I make the contacts; when I want to explore, I just go! This experience is simply the most liberating one I have ever had. Maybe it’s just my age or the first time not having to answer or tell someone where I am or what I’m doing… but it tastes good.

This weekend we have Quechua classes in Huaraz, which I’m very excited about. One of my goals (besides hiking everyday J) is to be able to speak this language that I never even knew existed before last April (when I found out I was going to Peru). I now even get text messages in this language!

Hasta pronto, (can you believe January has already passed with lightning speed?) cuidate!

Abrazos Fuertes,


Friday, January 22, 2010

Peacecordian Duties

Hola a todos! Just writing a little note to let everyone know I'm still alive, well, and kickin' it in Shila. :) January and February are the summer vacation months here so I've been teaching summer school! (vacaciones utiles they call it) I teach bracelet making and "English" (I embed other things in my "English" class.. it's mostly named that just to get kids to come) and now everyday I have about 30 students (who are mostly around the age of 10). I also have been teaching a Vocational Orientation class in which I have five alumnas (female students).. to focus on how to get a job, how to get into the universities/institutes around here in Ancash. Manana I'm going to take a field trip with them and go to the neighboring town to interview some professionals. I hope it goes well! Other than that, I've been hiking, playing cards with my familia, learning more Quechua and thinking of projects to do when the school year starts up again in March. Here are some fotos of recent happenings:

Playin' Spoons! My Mountain (or so I feel when I look at it :)

The pulseras (bracelet) estudiantes On a hike with the host bro!

Helping out the Fish Farm... in short, Peacecordian duties are never what you expect!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Feliz New Year!

For New Years in Peru the thing to do is wear yellow underwear. Apparently it brings good luck if you wear some especially while the clock is ticking down to midnight. Everything is yellow, not just underwear.. there were yellow balloons, yellow stuffed animals, yellow food, (this is where the Peruvian Inca Kola... the soda pop of Peru... is handy because of it's trademark bright yellow shade) yellow TODO. :) Another Peruvian tradition is to eat 12 grapes at midnight.. thinking of a wish as you eat each one.. that's 12 wishes people. I couldn't even think of that many so I just basically said the same couple of wishes over and over again. For our Peruvian Peacecordian New Years we had the company of some of our fellow 13ers who live in different departments.. and it was simply amazing, spectacular and fun! We had some hiking adventuras, made some delicious dinners, saw some beautiful Ancash lakes and even got to go.. horseback riding! That's right! :) That must have been the highlight of our couple of days ringin' in 2010.. for me anyways. It reminded me of Riverside.. except with greenery and stunning views of huge snowcapped mountains... pretty much the same, no? :)

It's recently the start of vacaciones for the jovenes (youth) here in Peru. (They get January and February off for their summer vacation)... we'll be doing an art class and some jewelry making and I'm planning on planning for the library projects I'd love to do, some Vocational orientation classes for the high school kids and planning an Environment Club with one of the primary school profesoras. Since things are flexible in terms of my time now and the craziness of December has come to a close I'll have more time to go hiking around my town and explore mas as well... we Ancashinos voluntarios also get to have some Quechua classes during these months which will be.. EXTREMELY helpful in my learning of this idioma that I never even knew existed 8 months ago... we shall see if I even get to become at least to a conversational level knowledge. That's my goal anyway.

In other noticias, I'd just like to say that I can't believe it's already been 7 months in Peru and every day I'm learning something new about this country, Spanish, Americans, how to cook, culture... the list keeps going. I look forward to this new year knowing that by the end of 2010 I will have learned so many more things that I can't even fathom right now even if I tried. So, happy new years to todos! I hope it's going to be a great one.

abrazos fuertes,