¡A Dios! it’s been a LONG time, and I apologize. Guess we all know of a good new year’s resolution for me… Anyways, here comes a long succession of blogs based on events of the past three months (eek! I really am a slacker!)
To begin where I left off, I guess I’ll touch on the highlights of November…
Thanksgiving might have been one of the tougher holidays here in Peru for me had I not traveled with some of the volunteers to Ancash to celebrate…The Peru 15 volunteers in Ancash planned a wonderful Thanksgiving for us all, and I know that I was grateful for all of their hard work. While it was not the same as spending the holiday with my family stateside, it was probably one of the most memorable Thanksgivings that I have ever had!
We arrived in Huaraz, Ancash on Thanksgiving morning and immediately ate the most wonderful, American-inspired breakfast (waffles and real coffee) at a cafe called California. I feel that I must note that I very much enjoyed their American, hippy music as well (was rocking out to Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers there–happy). Since I am used to living at sea-level, I then proceeded to take the day kind of easy, attempting to get the internet on my computer to work so that I could skype with family in the states and drinking tons of water to battle the effects of the change in altitude (over 3,000 meters). While we did not have a traditional Thanksgiving meal on the day of, we did make a very American (albeit slightly unhealthy) meal of pizza, mac & cheese, fruit salad and brownies–yeah, be jealous!
The Friday following Día de Acción de Gracias (such a mouthful in Spanish!) we spent a majority of the day planning and buying ingredients for the Thanksgiving extravaganza that we were to throw the following day in John William’s site, Jangas, Ancash. I bought a ridiculous amount (had a slight miscalculation to the metric system) of a squash called zapallo to make a pumpkin pie substitute, and spent the rest of the afternoon messing around with it to figure out an effective recipe. Mad shout out to my amazing, rock star of a mother for all the years of preparation making “punkie pies” from scratch–you are thanked from all the volunteers who were there for our celebration!
Early Saturday morning we headed (large pot of cooked zapallo in hand) to Jangas to partake in a Turkey Trot organized by John William and Beth. Since, as many of you know, I’m not much of a land animal, and especially not a runner, I opted to walk this event and enjoy the beautiful scenery and mountains of Ancash, Peru as well as some time to catch up with my fellow walker, Analise Doyle. We were the designated pack mules of the bunch due to our lack of desire to run, and thus we took our sweet time. For awhile, embarrassingly enough, the ambulance appointed to the race drove on our heels (I think they were worried we might over exert ourselves at such a strenuous pace! Haha!). We felt extremely awkward in this scenario, so Annalise finally convinced them to go on ahead of us (only moments afterward did we wonder if we made the proper decision, two gringas walking along a busy road in Peru alone…No worries, though, as they came back for us once everyone else had finished the race since we were moving at such a snail pace! Haha! Oh well, never been all that competitive…)
When Annalise and I finally made our way to the town plaza (we actually took a shortcut and still arrive at least 15 minutes after everyone else) the awards ceremony was in full swing. Following the awards ceremony, we headed to John William’s home to begin our cooking fest. All in all we spent over nine hours cooking a feast for 30 Peruvians and ourselves (about 50 in all). It was quite the spread: 2 turkeys, roasted camote, homemade apple sauce, a variety of steamed veggies, fruit salad, the largest pot of garlic rosemary mashed potatoes you have ever seen, stuffing, 2 zapallo pies, 2 apple pies, and banana pudding complete with hand-whipped whipped cream. A-MA-ZING! We pulled all this off with a few untraditional techniques such as: using a Nalgene bottle weighted with a bit of water as a rolling-pin, using everything from lasagna pans to metal skillets as pie plates, hand crushing cloves for the zapallo pies (Erin, Brian and John William rocked out this horribly monotonous task–thanks!!) and cooking multiple dishes in a huge adobe wood-burning oven at the local bakery. It was slightly stressful, but so fun cooking this massive amount of food and figuring out innovative methods when typical tools and ingredients were unavailable. Afterall, what are Peace Corps volunteers if not flexible and resourceful?
Although it was anything but typical, I believe that Thanksgiving 2010 will be a memory to last a lifetime. It was such a wonderful experience to be able to share the traditions and typical food of the EE.UU with Peruvians, and definitely memorable preparing it all. While I know we were all incredibly happy to partake of traditional holiday food as a manner of feeling more at home, I believe that the best part of the whole Thanksgiving extravaganza in Jangas was compartiring with Peruvians. The general feeling of peace and thankfulness in the dining hall that evening was uplifting and perfection for the meaning of the holiday.
Early In-Service Training
Immediately following our three-day Thanksgiving break, all of the volunteers of Peru 15 Youth Development reunited in Yunguay, Ancash for a week of in-service training. We stayed at a beautiful center in the middle of nowhere, Yunguay with some amazing views of Huascaràn on clear days. Breathtaking.
During this week I was fortunate enough to partake in two paseos to Caraz, Ancash where there is a Peru 13 special education volunteer. On the first paseo we took part in a desfile for World Aids Day–I mean, what else would we do in Peru for such an event?! We had fun making signs for this, though some were definitely not understood quite well as Peruvian slang and American slang are two very different things. I proudly bore a sign declaring “Sin preservativo, no amor conmigo” (basically kind of like saying ‘no glove, no love’), however, I must admit that I couldn’t help but feel like a gringa advertising myself for sex–safe sex–but sex nonetheless…We had one sign of with a smiling condom man, and had worried about how such a drawing would go over, that is, until we saw some of the signs from the local students with boxing-man and superman condoms fighting off sperm (great visual, though kind of the opposite of how condoms work…). It was a fun event, and I made good friends with a boy named Luis, one of the students at the special ed. school in Caraz, who, quite honestly needs to be in an inclusion program–if only accessibility wasn’t such an issue…It’s too bad that something like a wheelchair can be allowed to limit someone’s life so much here…
On my second paseo to Caraz, we visited the special ed. school itself to learn about Christie’s recycled paper program. They are making some amazing crafts out of the recycled paper there, and have a very efficient system. The students have such pride and ownership in the project, and it was great to learn from and share in the project with them! They use all natural ingredients: herbs, flowers and vegetables for coloring; as well as coffee, seeds and leaves for decorations.
During this visit, we also got to met with the Caraz representative for OMAPED (municipality representative organization for inclusion programs in Peru). He and the director of the special ed. school then took us to the see the construction site of the new school. This is a project five years in the making and has not only classrooms, but a kitchen, a bakery for work project, and a therapy center with a small pool. Such an amazing achievement! Sadly, the dream has been realized a bit late to be taken full advantage of, as the push for inclusion will greatly lessen the number of students in the school. Hopefully the bakery project can still be taken advantage of in the afternoons for older children…In any case, it was exciting to see such an accomplishment, and the director was very proud to finally see his dream realized. Great to be able to share in their joy.
On the whole, E-IST was a great opportunity to catch up with my fellow 15ers as well as a rejuvenating break that left us all energized and full of ideas to bring back to site. Now onto our projects and work to achieve sustainable social programs in Peru! It will be a long road–poco a poco–to be sure, but I look forward to the rest of my time here in Peru and the possibilities of work and change that can be made.