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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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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rio leche.

the rio.

the rio.

my almost daily 15-mile bike rides in and out of the caserios for a couple of the schools i have begun to work with, has had me crossing the rio leche. the rio is a legend of sorts here since the ancient days, in that it was what brought life to this desert valley. the water comes from the highlands, and has been quite high for the last month or so. now with irrigation for their fields, farmers aren’t quite as reliant, but many of the families that live in the caserios still rely on it for water in their household, washing clothes, cooking, etc. it also makes for a nice halfway/rest point during my rides.

one of the many birds that are feeding off the harvested rice fields.

one of the many birds that are feeding off the harvested rice fields.

 

a group of the students from the primaria that my youth group and i have started to work with.

a group of the students from the primaria that my youth group and i have started to work with.

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in the know.

talking to a school director in tucume viejo.

talking to a school director in tucume viejo.

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!

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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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international environment day.

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a teacher that i have worked closely with at the main colegio in town asked me to help him in planning and executing a school-wide activity for international environment day (june 5). we had a flood of ideas, but the biggest difficulty that was presented was engaging more than 700 students at the same time. as the main event, we had all the students come to the school in the morning and cleaned the entire school grounds. this was inspired by a “chiclayo limpio” activity on earth day, where all the schools in chiclayo took to cleaning their school, which really meant, cleaning all the miscellaneous trash that covered the school grounds. the kids really enjoyed this, as we had music playing, and we were able to actively and continuously engage the kids with the realization that when they throw their trash on the ground, no one will pick it up but them. that is a part of the culture that runs rampant here, is the blatancy of littering…willie nelson would be so disappointed. the additional problem is that the trash just builds up, until there is enough dirt that you are practically chipping trash out of the ground.

sweeping dirt. or really getting trash that has been built up in the dirt.

sweeping dirt. or really getting trash that has been built up in the dirt.

it wouldn’t be a real event in my site, if there was no pasacalle, so of course, after we filled trash bin upon trash bin, we got the school together to march through the streets with the municipality. hooray for the environment!

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