Category Archives: happiness

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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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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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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una descansa.

obviamente there has been some lack of blogging. sorry about that. life has been aflutter, which will soon be documented. in other news, i think it’s about this landmark when all things start to fall apart:

  • my ankle
  • my kindle
  • my glasses
  • my shoes
  • my phone

….and perhaps soon my mind? just kidding…at least on the mind part. honestly, i have never been happier in my service. things have hit a steady pace, and projects are coming to full fruition and relationships have hit a steady pace. life is life and it is good.

anyways, massive updates will come soon…as in the next week. school’s out for vacacciones! wooooohooooo!!!! which means triple the work to get people to show to your meetings, but positive thinking leads to positive work which leads to positive outcomes.

see you soon!

xoxox.

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camp VALOR.

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this last weekend we had our second camp of the year for our the adolescent boys in our department: camp VALOR!!! just like for ALMA, all 25 volunteers worked together to plan a 3-day, 2-night camp for boys ages 13-18 years old. each volunteer brought 2-3 kids from their site, and for 3 days, all participated in a number of charlas that went along with our “Iron Man” theme, including:

  • beekeeping
  • financial planning

    equipo verrrrrrrrde!!!

    equipo verrrrrrrrde!!!

  • gender equality
  • addressing “machismo”
  • team-building exercises
  • hearing from a local success story from a chiclayo business owner…a volunteer favorite…kango cafeIMG_3922
  • soccer tournament
  • self-esteem
  • future planning/vocational testing
  • job fair

    with our first mvp of the camp!

    with our first mvp of the camp!

  • cuy/duck farming
  • campfire with s’mores and singing until 1am
  • sex-ed charla with our pc doctor from lima, where they had the opportunity to ask extremely candid questions with a highly-qualified professional
  • trust falls

    team leaders enjoying our kids' soccer tournament.

    team leaders enjoying our kids’ soccer tournament.

  • a socio-drama about applying the knowledge they learned
  • human pryamids galore!
  • and of course….a condom race!!!IMG_3995

my team was the smallest of the groups, but what we lacked in number, we certainly made up for team spirit. one thing i really liked about my team, was the diversity in the personalities. half were extremely outgoing, and it was easy to see that they are given regular opportunities to lead and serve and their communities, and there are others who this was their first chance to gain these skills and were more reserved. there were a couple that no longer live with their families for a number of reasons, and had to overcome a number of obstacles in their lifetime that many of us never even have to worry about, yet they still came forward as strong independent leaders, and were given the opportunity to get know other boys like them, and others who have similar goals as them. that is the beauty of this camp. empowering these young men to rise to the opportunity ahead of them, and provide them with the skills to do so!

after a tough tie-breaker, verde won third overall in the camp!!!! wooo!!!

after a tough tie-breaker, verde won third overall in the camp!!!! wooo!!!

los tucumanos.

los tucumanos.

thank you again to all that donated and made this camp possible!

the lovely lambayeque ladies.

the lovely lambayeque ladies.

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home. +1.

peru on our world map.

peru on our world map.

well. this month marks my one year mark of living in peru. i did it! but really, to live and adapt and integrate into a foreign country is not a cake walk, but it has also been one of the most enriching experiences. i arrived to peru, well….exhausted…, but completely open minded to the experiences that awaited. i also arrived only being able to reply with “si.” and by the second day, i was able to say the word “claro.” and i only hoped that i wasn’t agreeing to anything too absurd.

after learning enough language to survive, and receiving a full library’s worth of manuals and books, i was sent off to a pueblo in the middle of the peruvian northern coastal desert. this pueblo has slowly but surely become my home. i have built a strong relationship with a family that has become my own. i have built friendships with people who have never shorted me with their patience, their positivity and love….and of course, food.

traditional mochican wall carving.

traditional mochican wall carving.

their passion for their immense cultural history here has captured me, and as i explore and discover new parts of my site’s more rural parts, i relish in the fact that i am experiencing a living history.

i have discovered that in order to truly grow to love a place and people and culture, you have to endure the hardships as well as relish in the great things. throughout my time in site thus far, i have had some key socios move or have a change in career, a month long school strike, accumulative to a month’s strike from the health post, a school that started more than a month late, have spent hours upon hours waiting for people to show for meetings, and so much more. another challenge for me, in particular, was breaking the social barriers that existed in my municipality because of my being a female and a foreigner. so, when i was asked to raise my district’s flag with my mayor during my town’s celebratory flag ceremony for bolognesi, which happened to share the same date of arrival to peru, my heart was overwhelmed…because for me, this was a sign of how far i had come, and how far my site and i have come together. the truth is, everyone’s site is completely different. and some come with more difficulties than others, and sometimes i found myself wishing for an easier service. but, at the end of the day, it was through those challenges, that have come to call my site home. that it is. home. with one more year + a couple of months. i’m home. and i love it here.

getting ready to walk the flag through town before the flag raising ceremony.

getting ready to walk the flag through town before the flag raising ceremony.

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the great may escape.

goodness gracious. my, oh, my how time has escaped us…or really just me.

after celebrating the most incredible peruvian birthday, i hopped on a plane to visit friends and family in the us. i was overwhelmed in general, but also by the love of those closest to me. bu seriously, i was pretty overwhelmed culturally as well. being in the peace corps, you get so used to a certain pace of life, a very slow one, and also that about 90% of your time is spent independent of all other americans and in solitude in your country’s culture. another 5% is spent with any volunteer that may be near you, who you may see with varying frequency (once a week or once every month or so depending on schedules). and the final 5% is with other volunteers once or twice month, who are all living the same life of solitude as you, so really we are pretty not self-aware of  how strangely awkward we have become. so, to put me in a situation where i was constantly interacting with people, by the end of the 3rd day in a row, i slept for almost a full 24 hours to catch up. though, i am not complaining. it was so wonderful to see all of my family. and i am so blessed that my brother and close friend both flew in from nyc to see me.

it was especially nice to get to spend time with mp, who was my main reason to visit the us. when mp last left, we went to cusco and lima, and now it was my turn to pay him a visit. though, he kept me quite busy and even gave me a second birthday surprise! he coordinated with a local animal sanctuary to do an at-home visit with a SLOTH and FENNEC FOX!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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i think it should also be noted that i got my hair cut for the first time in almost a year, and saw it straightened and cleaned, and i felt like a new woman. but obviously with the animals above i was on another level of excitement that was out of this world. eventually all good (read: great) things have to come to an end, and a very reluctant to leave girl was pushed on to her plane by an amazing mp to return to peru.

i arrived back to peru in one piece, and had a few days in site to remind everyone that i was still here and wanting to work, and also coordinate and prepare for our PEPFAR (president’s emergency plan for aids relief) training. with this training, my socia and i were able to take away a number of great new resources and statistics to share with our community, and now have the opportunity to receive aid money for our project.

doris and i after she received her certificate of completion!

doris and i after she received her certificate of completion!

the following week, we jump started our 6 classes of our sex ed leadership training program, but unfortunately later that week, she received news that she was being transfered to another post far from my site, so now i am still spearheading this training, but more so solo-style, since my health post is dramatically understaffed, and have them help out when it needed. but if anything, this motivates me even more to get my youth promoters trained, so they then can be doing this part and alleviate some of the stress from the health post as well.

i have been terrible about using my camera lately, so i will succinctly describe the other activities that have been keeping me quite busy:

  • i have been giving business charlas to the artisans, and helping them figure out what the costs of their products are and how to determine what they should be setting as their prices. and goodness, they were in need of this. one artisan had been selling these beautifully embroidered bread covers for only 10 soles, when the cost alone to make them was 35 soles.
  • 6 classes of pasos a week keeps a girl busy. let’s just leave it at that.
  • i have been working with my youth leadership council (ADEPZORT) on helping them with their community diagnostic. we have been visiting the most rural caserios and my goodness, you never get used to seeing the amount of poverty that exists in this country, or in any country, but you can’t help but want to give so many more opportunities to these people.
  • celebrated dia internacional de los museos with other volunteers, and finally visited my museum’s pyramids.
  • weekly youth group meetings with my mochumi young women’s group.
  • coordinating a 5-pueblo job fair for september
  • coordinating an environmental awareness event with my colegio for next week.
  • working on a website for the artisans
  • working on a video for the museum
  • and of course, camp ALMA!!!!!!!!!!! (which will be covered in it’s own post)

so i have been busy, busy girl and for that i am grateful. i have also been able to watch all of the new arrested development…superb! as a parting gift, here is a picture from the top of one of my pyramids:

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taking over the sierra.

beautiful huascaran.

beautiful huascaran.

or really, it would have been that the sierra took over me, since i spent the entire time there with a terrible cold that i am just now really getting over. in fact, it took two days after we came down from the mountainous city for my ear to finally pop…it was pretty tragic.

anyways, i headed to the beautiful department of ancash and stayed in huaraz, which is the department’s capital city nestled up in the andes, for a few days for a peace corps training for project design and management (pdm), and followed that training with my in-service training (ist). at pdm, we each brought a community partner that we work with, and introduce them to basic project design and management 101. it’s extremely rich in information and also follows an american schedule, which of course exhausted all the socios, as they are not used to working a 8a-6p schedule without a siesta in the middle of the day. it was also a lot of work to reiterate a lot of the principles that were being taught, but it was great to get to know my socio better, and we have become even better friends as a result!

half of our pdm group w/ socios!

half of our pdm group w/ socios!

me explaining some of the concepts with my socio, berardo.

me explaining some of the concepts with my socio, berardo.

after our long days of training, we went to the main city for water and just to take time to look around. this is me and some of my favorite fellow pcperu 19 ladies.

after our long days of training, we went to the main city for water and just to take time to look around. this is me and some of my favorite fellow pcperu 19 ladies.

and i totally decided to fall for the tourist trap of posing with an alpaca because why not???

and i totally decided to fall for the tourist trap of posing with an alpaca because why not???

while there, in between being sick and at trainings, some ladies and i took the time to see a few other places in ancash.

beautiful yanguy. the original town was destroyed by a landslide, and rebuilt itself in a new location.

beautiful yanguy. the original town was destroyed by a landslide, and rebuilt itself in a new location.

the domineering huascaran.

the domineering huascaran.

the beautiful, turquoise glacier made lake, laguna llanganuco.

the beautiful, turquoise glacier made lake, laguna llanganuco.

as you can see i was unable to contain my excitement.

as you can see i was unable to contain my excitement.

the awesome-looking bark on the trees.

the awesome-looking bark on the trees.

on our way to see pastoruri.

on our way to see pastoruri.

some wild horses.

some wild horses.

one of a kind cacti.

one of a kind cacti.

to get to the glacier, first you go by horseback and then hike for about another mile. this is me and my horse, ol' smokey.

to get to the glacier, first you go by horseback and then hike for about another mile. this is me and my horse, ol’ smokey.

carlhey and i on our horses.

carlhey and i on our horses.

the view on our hike.

the view on our hike.

i made it!!!!

i made it!!!!

the glacier is an excellent example of the dramatic effects of global warming. so much of the glacier has changed just within even the last year!

the glacier is an excellent example of the dramatic effects of global warming. so much of the glacier has changed just within even the last year!

another example of the melting glacier.

another example of the melting glacier.

brrrrrrr!

brrrrrrr!

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1/4.

approximately 6 months ago, i raised my right hand and swore-in as a peace corps volunteer. at the time, i only had a slight idea of what was to come, as we are always told “it depends.” and my goodness is that true. when i think about all the things these last 6 months have brought, and all the emotions and frustrations it brought as well, BUT i can say that it has been worth it.

my site is in the desert. you will not find my department featured on a brochure for peru. but it is the REAL peru. and even though i have been brought to tears a couple of times (out of frustration and happiness), i have an INCREDIBLE site with INCREDIBLE people. just seeing small changes in the lives of others has already made it worth it. and you learn that even the smallest things sometimes go the longest way.

how poetic that today my socio at the muni, who is one of my kindest socios but not the easiest to work with, paused our conversation this morning to tell me how much better my spanish is. of course, he emphasized how terrible my spanish was when i first got to site, BUT to hear that i have made great improvements sent me over the moon. or that my socia at the health post is so excited about our plans to work together this year, and how lucky she feels to be able to have a cultural exchange with me and share ideas. those moments remind me why i am here and doing what i am doing. and the filler moments of dancing marinera in my house with samia or dancing the night away at birthday parties, those are the times that i will forever hold in my heart.

so, i am officially 1/4 of the way done with my service. i can’t believe it. the time has flown by, which makes me a little nervous, because i still feel like i have so much to do. i now truly understand why our service is at least 2 years. there is no way that sustainable projects can be achieved in a shorter time frame. also, to celebrate i am going to FINALLY get to do my world map…it has only been 5 months in the making…and finally, i am excited and anxious about what the next 18 months have to bring and have ZERO idea of what comes after the fact…but i am grateful for this time that i have right now to learn about myself…the good and the bad and hopefully make me better and help me become the person i dream of becoming. FINGERS CROSSED!

so thanks for everyone. for reading. for being a great support system. and all of the above. six months could not have happened without you.

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