Monthly Archives: August 2013

chaparri!

a couple of weeks ago, i received a last minute phone call from my friend, tina, who asked ali and i to join the ministerio de turismo at chaparri…all expenses paid. of course i knew better than to say no, and freely offered my help as they were looking for gringos to use in new promotional materials they are making for the ministerio de turismo.

chaparri is a nature reserve about 90 minutes from chiclayo and generally speaking is quite expensive to reach because of its remoteness. however, the reserve is famous to bird watchers and animal lovers around the world. it has partnerships with zoos in france and london, and pumas, foxes, wild hogs and the endangered spectacled bear…and of course countless species of birds. here are some of my favorite shots from the day:

letting us know we were headed in the right direction.

letting us know we were headed in the right direction.

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tree sap.

tree sap.

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enjoying the scenery!

enjoying the scenery!

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we thought we heard a cat...surprise!

we thought we heard a cat…surprise!

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the osos!!!

the osos!!!

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the photographer and bear getting personal.

the photographer and bear getting personal.

scratching his back (or) striking a pose? you decide.

scratching his back (or) striking a pose? you decide.

the bears were checking out the aerial camera.

the bears were checking out the aerial camera.

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ali getting photographed.

ali getting photographed.

just hanging out with a cobra...nbd...

just hanging out with a cobra…nbd…

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stepping inside the shaman's office.

stepping inside the shaman’s office.

the whole crew!

the whole crew!

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una noche en el campo.

dinner by candlelight.

dinner by candlelight.

a couple of weeks ago, i had the opportunity to have a sleepover with one of my lambaybesties in the campo. she lives in a caserio outside of changoyape. the next day i was going to head to chaparri, and her site is the last place before the reserve, plus we got to have some quality time!!! we ate some veggies and watched the count of monte cristo, and basically were just cracking ourselves up about how gross it is to be a peace corps volunteer sometimes…don’t worry, i will spare you the details. but it was such a fun night!

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welp.

today is the first day back to school after the two week mid-year break!!! woohoo! oh wait, there’s a swine flu outbreak? so school should be canceled for the entire week? okay. if you say so.

am i surprised? nope. at least i still have a few other meetings and projects happening at the same moment…

also, i think it should be noted that i think it shows how integrated i am as a volunteer that i am quite excited for the count of monte cristo to finish downloading. not just because of the movie, but because it’s my monday night plans that i have made for myself…and i am super excited to watch this movie for the first time, especially since i just finished the book last week!

ps. the book is awesome! it is a must-read!

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camp access.

(or) the time my face and arms got covered by bed bug bites.

the campers and their fearless volunteer leaders!

the campers and their fearless volunteer leaders!

this past week, i spent all week at el tambo with icpna and 4 other volunteers participating in camp access, an english immersion camp for 40 scholarship-sponsored students from cajamarca, trujillo and chiclayo, which is put together with partnership with the us embassy in lima. though it was quite a surprise for us to arrive thinking we were only going to be teaching a few classes, but instead were expected to run the whole camp. but we are peace corps volunteers, so not much surprises us anymore.

we had workshops ranging from english grammar, american culture, all the way to personal and professional development. we also had a number of other “american” activities, such as a talent show, kickball tournament, singing beside a bonfire, watching harry potter, and learned to dance the electric slide.

needless to say it was a lot of fun!

…minus the bed bug bites…minor detail…

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fiestas patrias.

the desfile in town.

the desfile in town, while my students were marching.

july 28th and 29th were peru’s two days celebrating its independence from spain. sunday was filled with parades and defiles (a marching competition between all the schools in town). the desfile competitions always draw a large crowd. on the 29th i went to monsefu and explored their feria where i ate every peruvian fried food imaginable…which is not many…but it was still a lot of fun! viva el peru!

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dia del logro.

fireworks...of course...

fireworks…of course…

the last day of school for the semester ended with a dia del logro celebration at the school. all the classes showcased their accomplishments and achievements throughout the semester. each subject took an hour to showcase what each and every class (6 classes to each grade…and their are 5 grades…so 30 classes) took time to share what they learned in each subject. honestly, it’s a great idea, and it was fun to see what each class had learned!

the setup.

the setup.

more of the setup.

more of the setup.

of course, we need to highlight the virgen. always.

of course, we need to highlight the virgen. always.

danza de los diablicos.

danza de los diablicos.

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my students highlighting what they have learned in their speech class.

my students highlighting what they have learned in their speech class.

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showing off what they have learned in math...it was...riveting...

showing off what they have learned in math…it was…riveting…

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fbt.

the new 21er's, their trainers and me!

the new 21er’s, their trainers and me!

a few weeks ago, i had the pleasure of hosting 8 of the new 21er’s that just arrived to peru in june! if you recall, i also endured my on field based training, which is a week-long intensive training of language, culture and giving practicums. it is not for the weary. the days are long, and you end the day collapsing onto your bed, only to wake up feeling as though you had just closed your eyes. part of my hosting the trainees, was coordinating the entire schedule for the entire week, which included numerous site visits of other volunteers, which was lot of work…i know better understand the amount of coordination that goes into any training, and my goodness, it is A LOT! during the week, i stayed with the trainees, and basically served as a mentor for the newbies throughout the week. many have never been in a classroom before peru, and so i was there to help with generating classroom activities and ideas for them, and also help them with their spanish. i also was sort of a cultural liaison, to help them understand the cultural differences they were experiencing and seeing first hand. here are some highlights of the week:

we visited olmos!

we visited olmos!

the land of the limon! i loved being able to see all the other volunteers' great projects as well!

the land of the limon! i loved being able to see all the other volunteers’ great projects as well!

i got to see milagros! another highlight for me was seeing all of the youth that i have worked with from our camps!

i got to see milagros! another highlight for me was seeing all of the youth that i have worked with from our camps!

we visited the afro peruano museum in zana!

we visited the afro peruano museum in zana!

isabel getting into the music!

isabel getting into the music!

ana maria and the trainees enjoying some good ol' american food!

ana maria and the trainees enjoying some good ol’ american food!

the english activity with students at icpna!

the english activity with students at icpna!

trainees working with teachers at icpna!

trainees working with teachers at icpna!

the entire group of trainees were fantastic and stayed so positive through their grueling work week! i kept stressing to them that service is nothing like this, but they were always so eager and determined which was awesome! i am so excited for the four that are headed to lambayeque! they are a great group! though, it should be noted that it took me two full days of sleeping to recover…but that may also be from the gripe i caught during the week….

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chau. for now.

the 17ers in true form.

the 17ers in true form.

in peace corps peru, the volunteers arrive in the country on a rotating schedule. so, like clockwork, volunteers come and go from peru. a few weeks ago, we gave a proper despedida to the 17ers in lambayeque. for the despedidas, we normally dress a little crazy, and maybe go a little crazy too. but we have fun, and we make sure to fill the night with recapturing memories during their service, and of course joking about what they will be remembered for.

my "site mate," phil, and me. this photo pretty much accurately sums us up both individually and perfectly captures our friendship. i already miss this old fool.

my “site mate,” phil, and me. this photo pretty much accurately sums us up both individually and perfectly captures our friendship. i already miss this old fool.

i became close friends with some of these volunteers, and a couple of them i can call long-term friends. but the good news is that with long-term friends, it means that it’s only a short bit until i am reunited with them again. though, the next group has some big shoes to fill.

well, i still have at least one lambaybestie to go crazy with me.

well, i still have at least one lambaybestie to go crazy with me.

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what it’s like.

i’ve been wanting to do a post like this for a while, which probably means it’s overdue…probably because it’s so personal, but at least now it’s happening? for those who have found this blog, and have yet to have a chance to acquaint myself further with, a piece of information that makes my experience in the peace corps even more unique is that i am lds (also referred to as mormon). this has been apparent in some of the other small activities that i have posted about in the past, so perhaps, as a whole, it’s not even a surprise.

a common question that i receive from people in general (from home and here) is what is it like to be a mormon in the the peace corps? well, that is a great question. it’s an adventure, just as how it is for every other person who embarks on this journey. but really, i feel blessed for the new layer of the gospel that has been laid for me here. i have had the opportunity to leave much of the culture that exists in mormonism in the us, and arrive to take part in a newly started branch in a small town next to mine. there are only 25 members on record, with 9-10 of those members being adults, all being converts and have been practicing for various lengths of time. for some, especially those whose age is within the young single adult range, this could be discouraging, as there is not a program that caters to those needs. but there is a group of people, who have the largest hearts of anyone else i could ever know, and they are ready to make you a part of their family. i also love that i have the opportunity to get back to the rudimentary elements of the gospel, and what our purpose is on the earth. back in the states, i found myself at times getting caught up on other thoughts within the gospel or even within mormon culture that took away from what is the purpose of having this everlasting gospel on the earth today. the past year in my branch, i have been continually reminded of gospel basics, which is what i needed. with my various callings, i have had a chance to be inspired by the youth in my small branch, and particularly by the young women. i have been able to work with them on internalizing why the gospel is important. and more importantly, i feel as though during this journey together, we have all grown within the gospel together. and today, as i sat in a stranger’s front room of her bodega, with the elders and branch president, as they began the first ever sacrament meeting for tucume, which will one day have a branch of its own, i was filled with emotion during such a simple, beautiful moment. i was seeing the gospel grow before my eyes. and i was reminded again of my hope to maintain a pure and earnest heart,  like the people i was accompanied by today.

though, i should also mention that amongst comradery with my fellow volunteers, with whom i find comfort for we share the same culture, it can be a little lonely. i miss having those hours long gospel discussions with my friends. but the volunteers are just as open-minded with me and my beliefs as i am with them and their cultural backgrounds. for many, i was the one who broke their already made stereotype of what a mormon is, or really their first friend with someone with the beliefs i have. and it’s through learning from each other and sharing those things that are personal and true to each person that we have created great friendships.

so back to the common question: what’s it like to be mormon and in the peace corps? i don’t know if there is answer to that question, but i do know it’s everything between the letters a and z, and much more. and that i, personally, feel as though i am blessed to have two transformative experiences here in peru: one that we all receive here as volunteers, living in a foreign country and serving others, and the other being a much deeper, more personal transformation of the soul that perhaps i will never be able to articulate.

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la gran experiencia!

the fancy hotel room that lan put us in when our first delayed flight caused us to miss our connecting one.

the fancy hotel room that lan put us in when our first delayed flight caused us to miss our connecting one.

my gran came to visit!!!! hold on. i am going to repeat that for you, so it can sink in: MY GRAN CAME TO VISIT!!!!!!! and my goodness, did she have quite the experience! before coming to visit me, she spent 2 weeks traveling with another tour group that went to cusco, machu picchu, puno, and bolivia! then she headed up north to the coastal desert, where we hung out. she attended my classes and meetings with me. in fact, i think she got as close as one can get to having the “peace corps experience.” we stayed at my house, and she slept in my bed, and i made use of the tile floor. we hung out with my family and friends, and she became the local celebrity. we also took the time to see some of the local sites out here, since my region is rich in history and filled with archeological sites.

enjoying her first ceviche!

enjoying her first ceviche!

breakfast with mi familia.

breakfast with mi familia.

 

enjoying the pyramid ruins in tucume.

enjoying the pyramid ruins in tucume.

another cute photo with my family.

another cute photo with my family.

loving the museo de tumbes reales.

loving the museo de tumbes reales.

we then took a day trip to trujillo, where we visited the ruins of chan chan and also, took time to walk around the city and, of course, ate delicious food!

enjoying the ruins at chan chan.

enjoying the ruins at chan chan.

the view of the plaza.

the view of the plaza.

just a couple of gals taking over trujillo!

just a couple of gals taking over trujillo!

after taking over the coast, we then traveled to a region in the south eastern part of the country, madre de dios. we stayed at a couple of lodges on the rio tambopata in the amazon rainforest basin. we were just tucked away in one of the few untouched parts of the amazon rainforest, and we were just a stone’s throw from puno and bolivia. needless to say, it was one of the most incredible vacations i have ever been on. we saw more than 70+ species while we were there, and saw various types of ecosystems. if you ever have a chance to travel there, i highly recommend it!

gran is all ready for the 3 hour boat ride to our first lodge!

gran is all ready for the 3 hour boat ride to our first lodge!

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enjoying our boat ride!

enjoying our boat ride!

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our incredible room at refugio. it was extremely relaxing, so much so that i ended up reading 4 books while on vacation! yes, please.

our incredible room at refugio. it was extremely relaxing, so much so that i ended up reading 4 books while on vacation! yes, please.

birdwatching with our guide.

birdwatching with our guide.

oxbow lake.

oxbow lake.

a log covered in bats.

a log covered in bats.

with a kepok tree.

with a kepok tree.

i used a machete to break open a brazilian nut and it only took me 3 tries!!!

i used a machete to break open a brazilian nut and it only took me 3 tries!!!

i love this picture. i asked our guide what a certain fruit was and before he even finished to say whether or not it was edible, gran decided to go ahead and pop a seed into her mouth. the seeds are actually used for dyes and paint because of it's brilliant color. gran is modeling it on her lips.

i love this picture. i asked our guide what a certain fruit was and before he even finished to say whether or not it was edible, gran decided to go ahead and pop a seed into her mouth. the seeds are actually used for dyes and paint because of it’s brilliant color. gran is modeling it on her lips.

the fruit in question.

the fruit in question.

we eventually headed 4 more hours down the river to stay at the tambopata research center. it was one of the most incredible places i have been to. it was so tranquil and beautiful. on our boat ride there, there was quite the rain storm brewing.

we eventually headed 4 more hours down the river to stay at the tambopata research center. it was one of the most incredible places i have been to. it was so tranquil and beautiful. on our boat ride there, there was quite the rain storm brewing.

our room at the research center.

our room at the research center.

the research center focuses its studies on the macaws, specifically the macaw clay licks. in the amazon, much of the wildlife feeds off the clay, which is unique to only this region. when the center first started, they handfed some macaws that were abandoned by their mothers. as a result, many of those macaws still visit and pass time at the center.

the research center focuses its studies on the macaws, specifically the macaw clay licks. in the amazon, much of the wildlife feeds off the clay, which is unique to only this region. when the center first started, they handfed some macaws that were abandoned by their mothers. as a result, many of those macaws still visit and pass time at the center.

enjoying a muddy hike!

enjoying a muddy hike!

parrots and macaws feeding on the clay.

parrots and macaws feeding on the clay.

fashion queen! but seriously.

fashion queen! but seriously.

enjoying the view of puno.

enjoying the view of puno.

honestly. the best part of the entire vacation was getting to spend time with my gran. she is incredible and vivacious and i hope that i have inherited her good health. but really. i have always had a close relationship with my gran, so i am so glad that we were able to have a chance to share this time together, and also that she was able to see the life that i have forged for myself here. love her. and miss her.

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