you guys. i know. i know. it’s been a while. i’m sorry. i wish i could say it was all because i was busy, which is probably about ¾ true, however it is also finding the time and patience to upload photos.
overall life is good. and busy. but good. i have been spending most of my free time working on my community diagnostic, which will ultimately be a very lengthy document about my community, which i will have written in spanish. needless to say, it takes up most of my energy and time. especially processing and analyzing all of my surveys. translation: a lot of tedious paperwork.
but here are some pictures and anecdotes about what filled my time when i wasn’t working on my diagnostic:
i attended peru 16’s despedida (a goodbye party for peru 16…to put into context i am peru 19). it was a lot of fun. we all learned the gangnam style dance and went around chiclayo and performed the dance.
practicing for our big debut.
dancing in the parque principal in the center of town in font of a crowd of people.
we went all around town and ended up getting a huge crowd and following. after, we went to ICPNA (the english school that is partnered with the us embassy) and there was a break dancing group that performed for us. after, we all got pizza, hung out at the hostel and then went out to a club and just danced the night away and into the morning. i have never been a going out person, but i have since found it to be quite a release of mounted up energy from being in site all the time.
hanging out at the hostel.
artesanos de tucume.
my friend, cinthia, asked me to help her take pictures of her and the other artisan’s products at the museum in lambayeque. their products are quite impressive and all made by hand and out of organic material. the materials are dyed using local, natural, organic resources and the women turn the organic cotton into the thread that is used to make the products. they are an incredible group of women who take their craft very seriously and i am so excited to be working with them and to learn more about all that they hope to achieve while i am here and help them realize their potential. i also helped them set up a facebook page, check it out here!!!!! (also, don’t forget to like it!) i am also grateful for the friendship of cinthia.
just an example of their style/color palette of their products.
an example of the silver working as well. also all made by hand.
getting around town.
i finally got it. i have my own cruiser…a mountain bike that is. and to that end i am grateful. it has cut my travel time to the museum in half, and it is nice to get out and about and see more of the rural parts of tucume. i had my site visit today with my supervisors and people repeatedly made commentary about me and my bike…i guess they now know that i make good use of it…
my family got a kick out of me, my bike, my helmet and my camelback. samia seriously took an entire photo shoot of me on my bike.
speaking of samia and bicycles…in true bff form, as soon as i started speeding around town on my bike, samia decided that she wanted to start using her bike as well. i carried her bike all the way across town and to the outskirts to the grifo to use their air machine to fill her bike’s tires. then i carried it all the way home. we then spent the afternoon at the park, where i taught her to ride the bike. there is still training wheels, as i am teaching her how to pedal (she likes to pedal forward once and then pedal backwards a lot).
watch out tucume!
fact, my second favorite holiday is halloween. luckily, my friend, casey, had a halloween parade and party planned with the youth leadership group in his site, patapo. i dressed as cat, and made ears out of my hair and drew a nose and whiskers on my face. little did i realize that this would ultimately result in me drawing cat nose and whiskers on 30+ teenage girls’ faces as well. needless to say, i am professional cat whisker drawer….don’t worry, i will be adding that to my resume.
all of the volunteers with the mayor of patapo.
stephen and i on the back of mototaxi. riding through town shouting happy halloween to everyone.
michelle and i at the halloween party. i was so exhausted that i am pretty sure i was passed out shortly after this photo was taken.
all of the volunteers at the party!
the day after.
the day following halloween was dio de los muertos for peru, which meant a federal holiday here. this meant that most of our families ventured to the cemeteries to pay homage to their lost loved ones. this also meant that none of us had anything really going on in our sites. so we decided to go up to changoyape and visit stephen and tina.
changoyape is right on the border of cajamarca and kind of where the sierra region begins. stephen gave us the grand tour and it was just breathtakingly beautiful there.
the volunteers visiting changoyape.
while we were getting the grand tour, i found an odd spiky looking fruit growing. so i did what any normal person would do, which was to break it open. i still couldn’t decide if it was edible or not, so i did the next most sensible thing: i walked over to the old man pulling guava from his tree and asked him if i could eat the fruit in my hands. while he was explaining that i should not eat the new found fruit, i realized that he was pulling guava for his pet monkey. let me repeat that for you: his pet MONKEY. needless to say i won the award for best find of the day.
dreams coming true!
oh you know. best friends just hanging out and being natural, you know.
before we left, the old man was super kind and took a long reed pole and pulled down some guava for us to take on the road with us.
starting to enjoy the fruits of our labor
for those of you who have never actually seen real guava. it looks like a giant pea pod, and you stick the giant seeds in your mouth, but you only eat the white part. then you spit the seeds, which are a little bigger than the size of a quarter.
i am still going on caserio visits with vaso de leche, but now i am trying to work with the ladies on making tippy taps for their homes. water is not readily accessible and with tippy taps it will help them save and have accessible clean water to wash their hands. these are made by using household items that they already have lying around. a HUGE challenge with this is getting the ladies to bring their plastic bottles. but the good news is that plenty of cute kids still come!
i just love my mujeres jovenes. thursday nights we have our activity nights. every month has a value theme and the first week of every month we work on a personal progress experience within that value, and the other weeks we do fun activities. i only have 3 young women, but i hope that it slowly expands. right now the three that i do have are so incredible and have such amazing testimonies.
for the month of november, we are concentrating on knowledge. for last week’s activity, i brought a bag full of ingredients for a dessert. i turned it into an object lesson for the importance of directions and following those directions and seeking out knowledge and direction as well. then we made homemade whipped cream with strawberries. it was their first time to try whipped cream. it was an obvious success.
enjoying the fruits of their labor (budunching!)…
as soon as their mom’s heard i was teaching them a dessert to make, they were quick to join as well. it’s true, food really is the way to the heart here.
not mentioned above but of note, is that i have been working on getting my world map realized for the past 6 weeks. it has been an exhausting going to the muni daily to follow-up in order to get things done. last monday ended with a frustrated erin in the park crying (a normal peace corps response…honest), and an equally frustrating one that i am currently addressing.
i have been working on the iñikuk pageant that is going on tonight. this has included multiple meetings and rehearsals for the girls.
i had my site visit today, and overall it was just fine. i just need to keep on trucking on with my diagnostic. guhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
i have started to work with the museum, and i am working on an environment club for this summer.
i am busy in the colegio doing charlas. i have done a number on self-esteem, including a fun activity with balloons. apparently it was a hit with the kids, as i was asked to come back to do the sex ed charlas. (read the sex ed charla to learn more on the outcome of this).
i voted. and then watched election night with all of the volunteers. it was a lot of fun and involved a lot chips and guacamole.
i think this more or less brings us up to date. hopefully i can keep up with this. whew. glad we made it through that one.
oh hey! long time no see! sorry for the hiatus, especially after such a bleak one. i suppose i should update you on the activities that i have been up to. though up until last week, my work had been slow, i was still going out daily and working on charlas and encuestas with the ladies at vaso de leche.
doing my diagnostic in cruz blanca.
more encuestas being completed!
i also went to mocupe to help another volunteer with an event she planned with her school: an english singing competition! it was great. all the kids had planned a song to sing as a group and even choreographed and coordinated matching clothes. it made for a delightful afternoon. after which, i stopped into to chiclayo for some dinner on my way back, where i learned that there is a place that serves RIBS! obviously, it didn’t beat texas, but it will hold me over when i have my real red meat cravings.
phil, hallie and i served as the judges panel. too much pressure if you ask me. who wants to crush a child’s dream?
these girls were performing “wake me up when september ends” by green day. they even had a group of fans with balloons and posters.
my weekends here somehow always end up being way busier than the weekdays, which goes to show that peace corps really is a 24/7 job. a couple of weekends ago i was invited to a friend’s grandfather’s 80th birthday out in la ramada, which is a caserio in the sierra for salas. it was my first time to the sierra since being in peru, and it was breathtakingly beautiful. peruvians are marathoners of parties. this party started at 7:30 am and was still happening when we left at 8:30 pm. needless to say, that by the end of the day of eating, hiking, dehydrating, dancing and speaking only in spanish all day…i was exhausted!
la ramada, salas.
we went on a couple of hikes through miguel’s family’s land, which led us to a couple of rivers. while hiking through the lush, dense land we happened upon a lot of beautiful flowers, fruits and more.
this is the plant that they use to create the reed islands and kayaks.
this is when i felt like i was on an episode of LOST.
while hiking i tried a lemon dulce from its tree. it looked just like a lemon and smelled like one too. i thought my friend was trying to prank me, but instead it was just pure deliciousness. it seriously tasted like lemonade in whole-fruit form.
a view from one of points of the river we hiked to.
an ancient moche lunar calendar we happened upon while hiking.
the birthday boy. eighty years young!
this guy was great. he would come up say every single word he knew in english to me in one breath. i then realized what i sounded like when i spoke spanish. but really, he was just a hoot.
i also helped with a nationwide fundraiser in my town, called teleton, where my town had a 2-day event in the central park. the schools all performed different traditional dances, with some kids performing some solo numbers. it was quite a treat! and quite an eight-hour work day!
a performance and our booth in front of the muni.
i also took a much needed break and met up with some friends for some karaoke. if you know me, this is the best form of self-therapy (after bowling of course) for me, and turns out the place we went to had tons of country! i am not just talking about pop-country, but i mean REAL country (george strait, waylon jennings)!!!! needless to say, my fellow texan and i performed plenty of country songs with a number of “yee-haw’s!” to boot. we were far from the karaoke bars favorite customers, but at least we felt a little piece of home here in peru.
as i had hoped/predicted the eighth week was much busier. the huelga with the schools lifted, so now the kids are in school six days a week to make up for the lost time. my socia at the health post is back from her month-long vacation and people in my town are finally starting to recognize the only gringa in town. i forgot to have my camera with me to prove my activities, but i was back with partnering with the health post on charlas. i did a fun self-esteem one with balloons. it was a hit.
i also did a mini intro-session/charla of the peace corps to some business-owner friends. i have started to do some initial stages of planning with the police. i met with an artisan and plan on working with her artisan group and help them establish an internet presence and other marketing ideas. i went to an event out in morrope the other day with another volunteer, terrace. we hitched a ride back from the caserios in an enormous dump truck. while the fellow was out of the truck trying to take care of something, we replaced his cumbia cd with a cd that terrace made of herself singing environmental verses in spanish to the tunes of hit american pop songs. all i can say, is that he will be delightfully surprised when he next turns on his stereo. i mailed my early-voting ballot in. i have been eating CHIPS AND SALSA…chips and salsa, people!!!! i attended another wedding last night and took my place as the token gringa dancing the night away with all the old men.
of course there are still plenty of challenges to come: por ejemplo, my socia at the health post is going on an indefinite huelga starting this wednesday. but i will take a week full of positives for now.
sangre. an important word that i should have known. a word that because i didn’t know, left me feeling ill. a word that proved that sometimes what you eat really is mind over matter.
vaso de leche had a training meeting for the chapter presidents who also do commodores populares (a small-scale soup kitchen-esque type program). they were teaching a great/easy/tasty/healthy snacks for kids and adults, with the key ingredient being sangre. again. the keyword that i did not know.
i arrived, and the meeting started 2 ½ hours late. when i walked in, i glanced over at the table and saw a paint bucket full of red liquid. it looked like watered-down red paint, and i thought to myself, “wow, i guess peruvians really do add water to their paint.” (my host mom and i had a discussion about this last week).
then later, once we started the activity, they poured the red liquid into a blender. again, i didn’t think to much of it. peruvians are quite resourceful with their items, and so i figured they needed to further blend this new fruit/veggie that i had never heard of. this is also plausible, because there are a number of foods here that are entirely new here, and are not served in their natural form (e.g. maracuya).
the part the stuck out as weird was that we then boiled this liquid, which in my mind really confirmed that this must be a liquefied vegetable. the part that was truly strange was that the red vegetable turned brown once cooked. we then cut up more veggies and fried them in pattie form for croquettes, which were quite tasty. i was taking a lot of notes, because it seemed like a dish that i could refine and make back in the states.
after, we took the left over cooked sangre that was not used for the croquettes, and put it in the blender with vanilla, cookies and, of course, sugar, and made a really tasty mousse. i was about 2/3 of the way through my mousse, savoring ever bite, when i finally asked what the significance for sangre was…biggest mistake i could have made that day.
it was then explained to me that it cow blood, and very nutritious and helps with anemia. well, there went my appetite. it truly was an occasion, where not knowing would have been in my best interest. my stomach did not settle well for the rest of the night, purely because my brain was freaked out. in fact, it still gets a little tussled with the thought.
but seriously, who makes a dessert with cow blood?
oh well, peace corps, right?
ps. did i mention that i picked out a live maggot out of my salad this week? don’t worry, i didn’t eat it…at least that one…
i have been in site for a month, and i have been able to make plenty of friends, and some unwelcomed acquaintances (still avoiding those never-ceasing phone calls), but i have been lucky to find a partner is crime. meet samia:
samia. my 4-year-old host niece. this is after i got her to calm down about traumatically meeting mickey and pooh.
as she is learning her colors and numbers in spanish, i am working at teaching her all the english words. i also play other ridiculous games with her, and we know all of our likes and dislikes.
everyday, she comes home from school and runs into my room to say hello. then 30 minutes later she returns to ask if i will eat lunch with her. and everyday i respond with an excited, “of course i will eat lunch with you!!!” she also just acquired a miniature tea cup and saucer just like mine. my host mom told me that when she saw it at the store, she just kept saying “like, erin! like, erin!” needless to say, we are pretty fond of each other.
samia at lunch the other day.
speaking of lunch, i had the most incredible lunch the other day:
notice the absence of rice??? and look at all those COLORS!!!!!!
fact. i love anticuchos (beef heart). a lot. however, every single time i eat them, i never fail to get incredibly sick. you would think this would stop me, but somehow i always forget about the whole getting sick part when i eat them.
the ladies group i help out with in town, asked me to help them with their fundraiser where they were selling anticuchos to raise money to buy christmas gifts for underprivileged youth in town. of course, i agreed. and of course, while selling them, i ate them. it was another busy night in my town as a cumbia band, agua marina, was their performing to close out the weekend of festivities in town.
these were by far the best anticuchos i have had. anticuchos are a common street food. think nyc and their hot dog stands, and that is peru with their anticuchos. even though i ate my fair share, i still sold plenty, and hopefully some cute kids will have at least a tiny christmas.
i did it. on friday, i became a real, true peace corps volunteer. we were lucky enough to have our swearing-in ceremony hosted at the ambassador’s house, which was beautiful and ornate. we all were able to mee the ambassador, as well as the mayor of lima (which is he south american equivalent of meeting the mayor of nyc), as well as other mayors from nearby municipalities. i also got to meet with old pcv’s from the 60’s in which one of them told me about all of the dysentery he experienced during his time in peru. talk about words of wisdom.
overall the ceremony was beautiful. the part wear we stated the oath was really incredible. it made this entire process worth it. saying goodbye to my host mom was the hardest part. it was such a mix of emotions. as well as saying goodbye to the training staff. they were such an important part of my support system here that it was hard to go, but it is because of their support and determination for all of us that i even feel ready to go and concur. so thank you for that.
my host mom and i ready to head to the ambassador’s house.
michelle and i at the training center.
peru 19. our last and first official photo.
we should all be taken very seriously. (and who knew my mouth was that huge???)
we couldn’t bring our camera’s to the ambassador’s house for obvious security reasons, but there was an official photographer there. maybe one day i will receive the pictures from it…after our ceremony, our country director threw peru 19 a welcoming reception at his house. it was fantastic! there was a small fire pit, buffalo chicken wings, anticuchos (beef heart on skewers) and a dance floor. it was a blast!
a couple of weeks ago, the new lambayeque crew and i headed to lambayeque for the week to learn about our capitol city and also visit our sites, where we will be living for the next two years. we took an overnight bus to chiclayo, our capitol city, and we were a little surprised to have no one meet us at the bus station. but we had the address to our hotel, so we just all got cabs to our hotel. they swindled us, as really we just needed to go around the corner. then when we showed up to our hotel, and they did not have reservations for us until the next day. (as it turns out, all the volunteers/our regional coordinator thought we were not to arrive the next day, and had planned a greeting party for us…ha). after we dropped our bags in a room, we then went and explored the city. as it turns out it was chiclayo’s anniversary and there was a huge promenade in the plaza.
i liked the mayor’s shades.
marching to their own beat.
we then explored the rest of the plaza, including the municipality.
so many vultures here.
we also explored the mercado and priced out furniture. i found the best pizza since being here in peru…though it is still not great. we also found a great burger place, with bananas and pineapple on them. it’s pretty awesome. and to stay on this food train, we found a place with chicken empanadas that taste like chicken pot pies. yum! also, chiclayo had a lot of other great things to offer, but for whatever reason food is what sticks out in my memory…ha. typical.
my family and i had the pleasure of celebrating claudia’s 18th birthday. it was a delight. all of it was great. however, the party did not start until 9:30 or so. this resulted in a very tired erin. all the family was over. we conversed. we ate some delicious orange chicken and then ate the best cake i have had since being in peru: chocolate tres leches. seriously. heaven on earth in your mouth. happy birthday claudia!!!!