lately, i have been spending many of my mornings with the presidenta, vice-president, and my socio, from my youth volunteer group (ADEPZORT) traveling to the various caserios of my district in order for them to better understand what needs exist outside of the main pueblo. the culture and way of life in the campo is quite different than that of the pueblo. additionally, there are different needs for the youth and their communities. also, the campo makes up for most of the geography of my site, so at times we have found ourselves in the truck for 30 minutes to travel to these communities.
many of these communities are lacking water and electricity, and are the more impoverished pockets of my site. it has been a great reality check for the youth that have joined for the interviews, so they can better understand the realities of those they desire to serve. this weekend, the council is getting together to better form an outline of project ideas based off of the information they have collected by talking with school directors, health posts and community members of those caserios visited. i am quite excited to continue my work with these youth as throughout this process they have demonstrated an increase of passion of working with those in the rural areas of tucume. hooray!
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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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!
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:
the new junta directiva, the local alcaldes, and other community members that have offered their support to the new group
the reason why i came back to site early was to put on an event to jump start a youth group that i am starting with the PRE. we spent the couple weeks before preparing and promoting it. going to all the colegios in the caserios, as well as meeting with the neighboring district’s mayors. and guess what…IT TURNED OUT GREAT! i really needed a project to take off. in fact, it softened the blow that i had yet another socio leave my site, which put a halt to my earth day project…so that means within the last month 3 out of the 4 people i have been working with have left my town…lucky, me! but back to the event.
at the event, more than 90 people from the caserios showed up. my socio, myself, and the alcaldes all gave speeches on the importance of looking ahead, and that they can change their futures. generally speaking, living in the caserios insinuates that they live in poverty. many of the homes have dirt floors, are sometimes made of adobe, there is limited, and sometimes no electricity. running water is a luxury and a bathroom inside the house does not exist. these families work hard for the things they do have. the idea of this youth group, is to combine a group of students (both secundaria and university age) and young professionals to be leaders and mentors in their communities. they are from a variety of caserios, spanning across 4 districts. with this group, we will work to disseminate more knowledge to share with the members of the community to raise the standard of living. they will work to determine what those needs are (e.g. family planning, sewing lessons, cuy raising, job skill training, etc.), and myself and the other members of the community will work to help provide them with the knowledge and skill sets to better life in their caserio.
this is just the beginning of this project, so i am excited to see where it goes. i am also just as delighted to have found a member of the community who is extremely enthusiastic and motivated to work towards sustainable change. see, didn’t i tell you that i could sense the winds were changing direction????
a third project that we completed was making lamps. we used reclaimed wood that we found tossed aside nearby, and made the lampshades out of twine. the electrical cord and bulb were purchased at a local hardware store. so easy and so fun to make!
saraita working on sanding the base of the lamp.
nilton and shela working on making their lamp shades.
one of the lampshades collapsed so they made it into a ladybug lamp. so creative!
another project we did in the environment group, was the dust/dirt that is in abundance here, and mixed it with a little water, and made cement/clay quadritos with a mochikan art symbol on it. just like how the ancient mochikans did their artwork.
oh hi! long time no see! what have i been up to lately? well, that is a great question, indeed!
my environmental arts group ended. this is everyone with all their projects they completed.
this is my part of my world map painting group waiting for my socio to show up with the needed projector, and who didn’t show up for the second day in a row…
third time is a charm. after waiting for 2 hours on the third day, he finally showed. we had a blast drawing the map.
between my day planner and the random plastic bag i found in my bag, it was a pretty sturdy setup….
i hiked all 15k through the bosque de pomac, and it was a nice break from the usual distractions. this is the million year tree and is sacred to the incans who originally inhabited the area. also, the government is working on the reforestation of the bosque, since many of the trees were cut down to use the wood for pollo a la brasa.
a group of volunteers went camping. this is part of our group enjoying the sunset.
i celebrated carnaval in illimo and joined banda verde. this was my favorite verde float.
though the red team went all out in the decorations. carnaval in illimo is a big celebration. the day before there was a giant water fight in the town square between the two teams.
originally for international women’s day, i wanted to give a charla to the women of vaso de leche about the importance of being a woman. though, big surprise, my muni said no and wanted to do a parade instead. so, i worked with vaso de leche to organize the muni workers for a parade. this is everyone after.
after giving a little speech on gender equality, the band decided to play more more tunes, which resulted in a mini dance party. i was partnered with a regidor (equivalent to a city council member/officer).
ysabel and i after the parade, with the sign i made.
i finally gave my community diagnostic presentation. it was….interesting to say the least…but it happened and some positive things came out of it.
my family and i went for a night out on the town in chiclayo and dined on the finest pollo a la brasa. seriously. it was DELISH.
the artisans had a number of new products, and so i spent an afternoon taking more pictures for them.
and of course. samia and i are still keeping it real. school has started, so sometimes i help with her homework. or sometimes we just hang out and pretend to dance marenara.
the number of mosquitos in my site has increased significantly i now know what it feels like to get eaten alive. i go through insect repellent like it’s my job, but it doesn’t seem to keep them away. also of note, as seen in the pictures above, there are a lot of ups and downs. and that is exactly it. there have been a number of challenges i have been facing work-wise in site. sudden changes with my socia at the health post…i had been working with her for 3-4 months on the preparations for one project, and now she is no longer working there, and other health post employees are overloaded already. my municipality has been more of a challenge to work with than anything else. the school i normally work with cancelled it’s first week of classes, then during the next week, i went to coordinate my program with them, there were zero teachers in the classrooms with kids, and they had yet to make the schedule for the new year, and the schools are just handing out textbooks/curriculum this week. in fact, the official school schedule will not be ready until next week…that is 4 weeks after the school year has started…and even though i am little astonished by this, i can’t say i am anymore surprised by it. in fact, all of it seems pretty par for the course, in regards to the experiences that one has not only living in a developing country, but also it’s just part of the peace corps experience.
the important part is concentrate on the positives and learn from the things that don’t work out. and with that, i am concentrating on the goals and things that i want to get done in site, and if i keep that perspective, i really think some positive changes will happen. and the winds are slowly starting to change in my favor!
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.
so, since my event was canceled, i took my one beehive to the zone beehive/deacon activity today. i also brought my counselor, andrea. she was baptized just over a month ago. she’s 19 and has the cutest little one. my hope is helping her learn the reigns of the yw program, so that when i leave she will be able to continue the program with ease.
anyways, the zone includes all of the department of lambayeque. we had a delightful day of the kids performing sketches based on the values in the “for the strength of youth” manual.