Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Bus Windows

Hola a todos that still check in with my blog!
   Recently I have been traveling within Ancash a bunch... up and down the callejon de Huaylas in pimped out combis, cruzing down south with Regional Coordinator Nelly to develop new Huaywash sites for the volunteers that will be here in a month already, driving up to Shilla for a quick visit.... and I find that I generally really enjoy these trips.  All you need to do is put the headphones in, the ipod on, a good playlist and voila!  Distraction from loud unwanted noises such as huayno blasting from the car radio, gross men talking about unpleasant things, and small babies crying.  Amazingly enough good music also takes away from unpleasant feet or campesino smells as well.  And besides just serving as a distraction it also allows me to just contemplate everything that is going on especially in these last few months that I am here in Peru as a peacecordian.  I let the lyrics and music sweep me up as a stare out bus windows and just let myself FEEL.  Sometimes when there are too many things going on around you feeling can be exhausting especially when you're mostly feeling sadness, confusion, anxiety and other emotions that seem equally not fun.  But in a combi with my playlist on, I let my band friends do the talking: Currently mostly Calle 13, Manu Chao, The Civil Wars, Elliot Smith... among others. Sigh.

   Recently on one of these trips I realized why I feel so crazy and desperate about my imminent departure from this country I have grown to know so well.  It's because well. I am breaking up with Peru after a 3 year intimate relationship. So intimate that it's confusing.  It's nothing that Peru did specifically.. It's not Peru, it's me. I think I need to get to know myself outside of the context of this relationship.  And, hey, get to know other countries too maybe while I'm at it.  Peru wasn't a bad boyfriend - far from it.  We got along splendidly, have many of the same things in common.  Peru challenged me to grow in ways I didn't think I could.  I cried. I laughed. I skipped hand in hand at times . Clutched longingly at toilets while on the ground in severe pain.  Stared confusingly at its people, understood and felt part of its people, became one with its mountains, choked on its dust, gotten sick on its bacteria and parasites.  We've even had our spats.  I mean, there have been times I have been so angry at Peru especially when it comes to injustice and the "red tape" processes. But now, as it's coming to an end I feel forlorn.  Part of me doesn't want to leave the familiar.  It's what I know and what I've made into a home these past few years.  But I know I need to break free and it won't be easy.  I calm myself with promises that I will come back and visit as OFTEN as possible, that I will call Peru all the time and make sure it's still included in my life.  I'm a bit scared even to take off and go back to the states, figure out my next step and keep going on this whole "life" thing.

  I guess what I'm really trying to say is: I think I'm ready and I'm getting excited about my little adventure/trip after Peace Corps ends, going home, visiting friends and family and Christmas and the new bunny in the house (her name's Panda... isn't that just a great name?), getting some sort of job, going to grad school

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Peace Corps... in colloquial terms... is one hell of a ride. Yes, I realize that I would be growing and changing and becoming more mature no matter where in the world I would have been or what type of trabajo I would have been doing, but there is something about living in this country, constantly fighting cultural battles, coming to terms with my own American-ness, the ups and downs of language acquisition, seeing poverty face on (and living there but still feeling separated from it somehow), and being violently ill frequently that when combined has made my mental health... well, go nuts. I know what lowest of the lows and highest of the highs means now. I had an idea before but now I've LIVED it. It's every moment: the "I've want to QUIT RIGHT NOW" times and the "I feel so connected to this community and everybody in my town loves me" times. The extremes are so extreme. This journey has turned every easy going stable even keeled peace corps volunteer I know into a bawling euphoric crazy person mess. En serio. Why, just this past week I was elated and excited about Halloween and newbies coming, felt awesome and competent at teaching geography/Mapamundi in INABIF, then felt like the worst teacher in the world as the kids in Antipayan chewed me up and spit me out for two hours and then two days later I cried my EYES out for no good reason for two hours. No joke. There was really no reason for it. I'm officially crazy. As I always so eloquently put it two hours before ending any hike or any endurance adventure: "I'm DONE!". Peace out. Completely checked out of the building. Done.

It doesn't matter if you've already been here for two and a half years. It doesn't make it any easier and you never know when feelings will strike.

With that said, I feel like, this year I have taken epic trips which serve as appropriate metaphors (NOT smilies... there's no "like" about it) for my time here in Peace Corps. The best metaphor? The climb to the summit of Ishinca Mountain. Let me explain:

Never in my life did I think I would even THINK about climbing a mountain. Ice? Snow? Pick axes? That's the stuff of The Weekly Reader, my friend. What I read back in 2nd grade from the safety of my desk on the coast of California in elementary school. But alas, when you date a mountain guide and you live in the Andes and everybody else is doing it... well... it all the sudden becomes feasible in your mind (I already explained I'm going crazy). So, Raul took Christie and I over Fiestas Patrias to climb the "easiest" of these montaƱas... Ishinca. The three hour only slight up hill walk to base camp wasn't so bad so I was feeling pretty good about the whole thing. We went to bed by 6 pm anyway, ready to wake up at 1 a.m. to start the trek.

Base Camp "I could walk on snow all day!"

After sometime you feel yourself get into a rhythm. I liked walking through the night, not being able to see anything ahead, only your current footstep mattered and once I started keeping a steady slow pace things were ok. Once we were close to the ice I have never felt that COLD. HOMBRE. It sliced right through the 3 pairs of pants I was wearing (SNOW pants mind you) and it was starting to get steeper. When we reached the ice, out came the crampons (the spikey things you attach to your shoes to be able to walk on snow). I was very nervous and did not believe those spike shoes would prevent me from falling. But, hey! Those things DO work, who'd of known? And when we got onto the ice I felt SO elated! I could walk on snow ALL DAY LONG! (I'm pretty sure I shouted that out loud). I felt secure and pretty strong and WOOT. The top didn't look all THAT far away!

Spike Shoes and Pretty Views

Cut to 3 1/2 hours later... Tired.... leg muscles shaking... confidence lacking.... nerves setting in... the summit was still a ways a way and it looked like we had to climb two ice walls in order to get there. That's when I sat on the ground and literally was ready to call it a day. I wouldn't have gone up there. Would have been just content enough with the beautiful view to say "DONE!" if it wasn't for the fact that Christie was also tied to my rope and really wanted to get to the top (we were very close after all). So. I just had to keep going. There was no where else to go but up (you getting the metaphor now?).

I call this one: I'm DONE!

Cut to the very last bit. Climbing (or scrambling and crying in my case) up the snow wall to the top. Halfway up my nerves were so gone that I just stood, shaking, tears pouring out of me, screaming like a small child, could not. would not. continue. Just leave me here. pitiful. I just apparently had to get it all out of me for a good 5 minutes and then I just kept going until we made it. It felt so rewarding (although I was still shaken) to be there and to have done it. 9 hours of uphill paid off- but it wasn't done yet. There's always still the bajada (going down) and Raul wanted to go down the other side of the mountain which meant we had to be lowered down with a rope, over a crevasse and then jump backwards. Oy. I was done. No mas. I was so ready to just live on the top of Ishinca for the rest of my life. But I was forced into moving and seriously.. there is nothing like the feeling of sweet sweet relief. So much so, that that feeling stayed with me for basically the rest of the way down the snow. SO happy to be alive! How beautiful is this earth! Etc. Etc. :)

The summit!

Then we reached the gravely rocks. Frustration sets in, I'm definitely not a mountain goat when it comes to going downhill. So I decided to get creative in order to solve the problem and get down faster. I literally slid on my butt for a good 15 minutes (those poor pants.. so many holes) but I did get down faster! It was effective! I don't care what Raul says. For the last hour or so we literally ran (it wasn't so steep). The end was in site, the weather good, the trail not too slippery... and we BOOKED it! The whole experience felt like a WONDERFUL way to cap off my two years in Shilla. It WAS my two years in Shilla.. just in... a 13 hours span instead of 27 months. I don't need to explain the comparisons, right? Some things, like the crying, can just be cut and pasted from the mountain to my room. :)

We have to do WHAT now? The End.

Peace Corps is like a marathon.... see? Similes just aren't as good! I guess what I'm trying to say is... if you want to know what my last two years have been like, go climb a mountain? Yeah. Go climb a mountain. Your own personal mountain.

Abrazos desde los Andes,

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Estoy viva!

Hola a todo el mundo!
Now before everyone starts to quejar (complain) that I haven't written in a while... please, just see the title of my last blog... times were a-changin! I left my site of Shilla after two years, I had a wonderful month in August back in Ventura, and now am finally settling in to my new trabajo and living in Huaraz! The big city, hombre. If New York is The Big Apple... I guess Huaraz would be... The Big Cuy? 100,000 people. Movin' on up.

Now. No voy a mentir. It's taking some adjusting. I miss my campo lifestyle much more than I thought. Don't get me wrong! I love my daily (if I want to) hot showers, gym membership (yay for latin dance classes!), opportunity to eat what I want (if only I knew how to cook!), wi-fi in my room (skype 24/7 = more Matwee time) and new apartment (teal and yellow walls = awesomeness)... but I miss my host familia like crazy as well as my host mom's usually awesome cooking, going to recoger the burro with Floricta, reading to Itzel, Shilla's lifestyle, the kids and just plain living in an adobe house like it was nobody's business. One of my favorite pastimes was ducking in and out of my little door to my house and seeing the surprised faces of passing vehicles of peruvians and gringo tourists to see a tall white girl living there. Sigh. The little things. Now I'm clean, my hair is more manageable, my socios (the professionals I work with) have RPM (which means we can communicate for free via phone) and hey! I'm actually doing work! Looky there. In the last month I have been more productive than the last two years put together :) No joke. It's only a slight exaggeration. Slight. I like what I'm doing and I'm busy. Busy. Busy. Just being here for a month and a half as PCVL in Huaraz has given me a whole new perspective and respect for what other peacecordians are doing in their little pueblos (and what I did). If volunteers are truly living in there site, are present and making friends... then, hats off to them! It's a whole different kind of hard out there in the little mountain towns that I didn't truly understand until I came out of it.

Anywho. I wanted to take this opportunity to relay the list of things that I've learned now from living the city life since September 1st.

1. Don't pack a powdery white substance (in my case... pancake mix) in your luggage in a plastic tupperware. That can look a little sketch.

2. Do learn how to cook. I can only eat so many quesadillas.

3. You will continue to get dangerously ill in the city. Don't let Huaraz fool you... you're still in Ancash.

4. Re-learn how to use the internet. There are so many other things you can do/look up/read besides Facebook! The news exists!

5. The teens in a city are slightly different. i.e. The girls don't cover their mouths out of embarrassment when they talk and they like to contribute ideas! And the boys can still be little jerks.

6. The mamas I work with still appreciate Quechua.
7. Have friends over all the time. They sometimes cook for you! Invest in a colchoneta (little mattress).
8. Ask yourself "Why am I doing the Great Amazon River Raft race again?" BEFORE you go.

9. Decorate.
10. Appreciate being close to the mail box. Packages and letters and fun things... candy corn, cards from 1998, etc.

11. All birthdays should be celebrated by eating cuy.
I made the cake on the left. She only turns 5 once right? :)

I spend my evenings skyping Matwee. :)

There you have it! Just some things I felt the need to mention. Stay classy, San Diego. Thanks for stopping by.


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Ch- ch- ch- ch- Changin'

Hola a todos!
Apparently there is truth in the correlation between less blogs and the closer a peacecordian is to their two year mark. So, sorry about that. Here's an update!
First off, just recently I got the wonderful news that I get to stay one more year as PCVL (Peace Corps Volunteer Leader) here in Huaraz! I'm soooo excited and feel this is definitely where I need to be in the next coming year. I'll get to support my fellow Ancash volunteers and still work in youth development, but just now in the capitol city. Sigh. Best news. EVER :)

So I now have just two months left working and living in Shilla... I've got Amigos y Libros classes to wrap up, a presentation and report to do, some med checks, the town party at the end of this month, and many many despedidas to attend to. It'll be hard to move but it's a good step to be going to Huaraz.. I'll still get to see my host familia on occasion while changing up my work a bit. Change is good. I have to keep reminding myself of that.
Just last night Julie and Caitlin left back to the states after their two week Peruvian adventure (and it was DEFINITELY an adventure). Having them here in the Callejon de Huaylas this past week was soooo fun and refreshing. They even lived in Shilla for half the week! Brave souls. Two glacier lake hikes, 10 classes, one peruvian meeting, chifa and California Cafe meals later they are on their way back home. I've been so lucky that during these past two years I have had so many visitors who want to see what I'm doing here and be a part of it. Ahora, solo falta Bri! :) I'll see Julie, Caitlin and the rest of the six pack in August on my month leave.

Hokay! That is all for now! Cuidanse! I'll be back in Cali for a bit soon.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

An Ellipsis

Hola to everyone!
Well... What to write about? It seems the number one thing on my mind these days is that Peru 13 Peacecordians have 5 months left and counting. And this week I kept thinking to myself... What did I do everyday, every minute, every second here in this little mountain town to get me to this point? How can you go one minute mentally prepared for a long haul and the next feel as if you'd like to reign it all in a little bit... slow things down. Even if I get to stay in this country longer than just August, this two year journey is still coming to an end and you can't help but reflect and wonder what has changed in you, what you've come to realize, what's matured.

Or at least you hope all those things have happened. :) I was different when I first stepped on the bus at 2:00 a.m. to go to my new home of Chosica, Lima. But those changes would have occurred no matter where I was in the world. Things happen in your 20s. You don't have to go to a developing country and live in a Quechua speaking town for two years to start coming into your own, for your frontal lobe to solidify, to hold fast to strong opinions, to love, to lose, to fight for injustices, realize what you're good at (and what you frankly suck at) and come to terms with hard realities that before once felt to be the stuff that adults played with.

Now what to do with all that. Is that the task of the 30s? To take it and run with it? No se. I guess with any luck I'll find out. I'm not done exploring, groping with new languages or living with new people. I hope that my older, more professional self will always keep these two years in mind and that my time as a peruvian peacecordian will affect what I do para siempre.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A New School Year

Hola a todos!

Sooooo.... it's March and that means it's the start of the school year once again in good ol' Shilla. And what that means is that the teachers take awhile to get their stuff together... meaning.. that after 2 weeks after the technical first dia of school all the teachers are still not showing up, class time is kind of a joke and I still haven't entered the aula yet (although I will next week.. whew!). So, March tends to be a time of "What am I doing here? Should I really be watching 5 hours of The Wire every day?" Some days in March are pretty depressing for me. After vacaciones when things were so go go go and productive it's sort of a let down to have poco to do and just be in the planning stages of things. I guess it's sort of like an accountant after April 17th.

But hoy was mejor. And it started out with a hummingbird no mas. A huge BLACK hummingbird. I took it as a good sign and went to being productive the whole dia. The best thing to happen was the trip to a caserio (tiny part of the district of Shilla that you walk uphill to) called Llipta to check out the elementary school there. There are only four teachers and about 60 students (including the preschool)... it is so quaint and beautiful and since no volunteer has ever worked there before they seem very interested and excited to work with me on some small projects to help out with mainly sex ed for the older students, some self esteem booster activities, etc. etc. I am purdy excited to start fresh a bit.

It's weird to think that Peru 13 only has 6 months left! What is happening?? That can't be right! We are still the newbies I swear. So far the realization is hitting a lot stronger than even when I graduated from college. What am I going to do with my life? Where to next? So many big scary questions. A ver. I wish Peace Corps lasted 10 years. :)

Anywho. I hope things back in the casa are all good. I hope to write in a couple weeks to give more updates on vida. Cuidense!

Abrazos fuertes,

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Let it be known to all. I just witnessed a guinea pig birth. Welcome, Larry, Hairy and Mo.