Friday, June 14, 2013

despedidas are hard

A couple weeks ago I resigned from Peace Corps.  My close of service date is June 21st and I will be on a flight that night for the U.S.  I waited to write about it, because it was a difficult and complicated decision.  I have been unhappy in my project work for a while now, but I would always tell myself that if I just kept trying I would be able to make something happen.  Then one day I was walking around my community looking for women on a list of names I received from the health center of moms with children under 1 year old.  I was trying to find moms to work with in an early childhood stimulation project.  I was wandering the streets of my town asking people ‘do you know this woman?’ and ‘do you know where this woman lives?’  If I found an eligible mom in her house I asked her if she was interested in working with me.  I just thought to myself that I didn’t want to do this anymore. 

And it felt like that decision was selfish and there is this embarrassment I feel for being a quitter.  However, having spent a lot of time thinking about the decision I know it is the right one for me.  Leaving Peru is difficult, but the prospect of staying here for 4 months longer just to stay doesn’t seem worth it.  When I talked with the director of Peace Corps Peru I told him I felt ‘defeated’ and that I just didn’t feel like I could start over from nothing again.  Going back to school and going home certainly factored into my decision too.  I just want to feel happy with my work again and I don’t think things will change in the next 4 months here. 

I just spent my last week in Tacabamba.  It hasn’t really sunk in that I probably will never see this place or these people again.  I went to go visit my first host family recently.  I didn’t stay for long, because it was too hard.  When I first got to Peru I was helpless; I couldn’t express myself, I didn’t know how things worked, I got sick all the time, I was scared and lonely, but that family took care of me.  Those people opened not only their home, but their family to me and I got to be a part of their lives for my time here.  I had been dreading going to visit them for a while-since I made the call to my boss in Lima.  I had to go thank my family for including me in their lives, loving me, and also make it clear that we may never see each other again. 

I had prepared these little speeches to tell each family member how much they mean to me.  I told my host brother and little cousin that they are important, intelligent, and that I am sure that they will achieve whatever they set their minds to in the future.  People don’t really say those things so much here and I felt like it was important for them to hear it from me.  I told them I was proud to be their sister, daughter, niece, and friend.  We all cried. 

I arrived on a Friday afternoon.  Witman, Eduar, and I awkwardly hung around not talking about my leaving playing Frisbee and helping carry baskets of bread from the host grandparent’s adobe oven.  We wanted to bake a cake, but the electric oven wasn’t working and the wood oven had cooled.  We all ate dinner and after we watched the Peru vs. Ecuador soccer game.  The next morning I taught my host mom how to make pancakes.  And then I tried to leave, because I knew the longer I stayed the more difficult it would be.  I gave my little speeches at my host family’s house, my host aunt and uncle’s house, and my host grandparent’s house (they all live close on the same little block) I kept getting choked up.  The worst part was after all the goodbye’s there were no cars to leave.  So I just sat waiting with my host aunt my eyes all red and wiping snot from myself.  My host brother gave me a piece of bread while I was waiting and I asked him if he wanted to sit with me.  He told me ‘no, it’s too difficult,’ and walked away. 
I think part of the reason-and I don’t want to diminish the relationship formed with my host family- that the bonds are so strong is that when a volunteer arrives they are in such a completely vulnerable place.  These deep connections are formed out of a basic necessity for human relationships.  And yes, my host family would annoy me because we would have the same conversations over and over again.  There wasn’t a whole lot we had in common so we had to work with what we could share; it was often jokes with us.  We laughed a lot and every night after dinner my host mom Dalila and I would dance outside in the dark.  Dalila has a huge crazy inappropriate made up vocabulary, her own personal ‘jerga’ or ‘slang’ she calls it. 
I was really careful to use my subjunctive tense grammar to express that I don’t know when or if I will be able to visit.  That was the question they asked me again and again ‘you’re not going to forget us are you, when are you going to visit?’  My host grandfather got very defensive, because last year a previous volunteer that lived with them promised to visit and he was unable to follow through on the promise.  They were crushed.  Although now that I have been thinking about the whole scenario I’m not so sure that is exactly what happened.  I did not ever really confirm that this guy did promise to visit; I just heard it second hand from them.  And things can easily get lost in translation.
This last week in site I spent a lot of time hiding.  It wears you down to tell people over and over that you are leaving to be met with questions such as; ‘you won’t forget us will you?’ ‘why don’t you just stay here,’ and ‘what was your job here anyways?’  There is this snap opportunity for you to make the last impression on the people here; they will either remember me as the girl who left early because A) she wasn’t acostumbrada (accustomed), B) she doesn’t like us/this place/ and/or she is only here for money (I think they think I make money at this job), C) she worked here and liked living here/us/our country.  It’s a lot of pressure. 
Also I get a lot of demands.  People complain to me about how they haven’t heard from the previous volunteer since she left in November.  WHAT???  Why would she keep in contact with every acquaintance she made here?  And yet that is the expectation that people have sometimes.  I think because we (volunteers) are seen as having the ability to be mobile there is this idea that we can just travel back to rural northern Peru whenever we want to just to come visit.  And no matter how many times I repeat how expensive the flights are, or how long and hard it is to travel so far, or how I hope to have a job/be a home owner/have a family the impression is burned into everyone’s minds that if I don’t visit them in their future it is because I forgot them. 

I can’t exactly explain why that is such a painful thing for me to imagine.  The idea of leaving family, neighbors, friends, colleagues, acquaintances behind all believing that I just forgot them or that I didn’t care about them stresses me out.  So sorry for being a drama queen, but moving internationally is a little emotionally exhausting, bah!

When I started giving my things away I decided to give what I like to call my ‘big ticket items’; my dresser, book shelf, water heater, the basins I use to wash laundry, to the women that work in my host family’s restaurant.  I figured they don’t have as much as my family and they could really use the stuff.  They took everything I laid out, including some socks and underwear that I personally considered unsalvageable and was planning to throw away.  However, when my host mom found out that I was giving my dresser and bookcase away to Dena and Miguelina she was kind of upset. She came by my room to ask me what I was doing with my dresser and before I could answers she said ‘I thought that was for my Yossy, I wanted her to have it for her room,’ and I had to tell her I had already promised to give it to her employees.  She sort of lingered outside my door for a while.  I felt very uncomfortable and proceeded to try to call any volunteer friend I could think of.  Finally one picked up and I thought maybe I would appear to be busy so my host mom would walk away.

The weird part of all this is that I felt strangely guilty as if I owed my host family that stuff.  Even Migue and Dena when they were going through my stuff where all sneaky about it and wanted to hide it from Rosa.  So I caused a lot of drama between my host mom and her employees.  I found out later that Dena told Rosa off when Rosa asked them about my giving them the furniture.  Also that Rosa told Miguelina; who is a 20 year old girl from a small town with no electricity 4 hours walking distance whose mother has epilepsy and cannot work so Miguelina never finished high school because she left to make money to support her younger siblings and is now doing a correspondence class to get her high school diploma while she works all day at the restaurant, that she should pay for a ‘going away/goodbye’ or despedida for me since she would make money off my dresser.  So Miguelina was too nervous to come to the party that Rosa and my host sister Yanet put on for me, because she was worried they would ask her to pay for the food or drinks. 

I just feel really sad that my host mom treated these women like that.  Why does she need to bully a 20 year old girl when she has a successful restaurant, store, her own home, 2 of her kids went to college and work as professionals.  I think that because Miguelina is uneducated and she is from a small community in the campo she is considered to be less than someone from town.  I know my host mom is not a monster; in fact she is a generally nice lady.  I guess I cannot please everyone-no matter how hard I try someone’s feelings are going to get hurt in all this leaving business.

I feel so lucky that I have such a loving wonderful Peruvian family as well as my American one.  They helped me to cope with the loneliness and the difficulties of find my way in a foreign world.  On some level that is what Peace Corps is all about; forming relationships.  So at least I did well at that part of the job.  I am happy to be on my way back to the USA and sad for leaving my host country.  The guilt hold of being an ‘early terminating’ (i.e. quitter) volunteer is slowing falling away. 

See everyone soon.  Thanks for reading and chau for now,

This is my host uncle, cousin, and brother snuggled up to watch the futbol game when I visited my old site last week.

With my host mom Rosa and sister Yossy at the despedida party they threw for me

host dad Sergio and Manuel bought the first caja of beer of the night

Diamonte dancing with my host sis Janne

with my host bro

dancing up a storm

I love the circle dancing at parties-I'm totally bringing that back to the US

with my best Tacabambino friend Manuel!

he was probably telling me a joke

my host brother took this one while I was starting to fall asleep in my chair

Friday, May 31, 2013

Pictures from the youth leadership camp

Thank you for all your generous donations!  Here are some photos of camp VALOR 2013.

Fabian and I, even though he is only 12 he did great at the camp

hanging out in the back of the auditorium during the lectures

not sure who's kid this guy was but he asked for a picture with a bunch of us holding his certificate

Gabby and I gave a session on how to defend yourself from peer pressure

this is a picture from part of the tour of the university

at the inca baths

I taught everyone how to play the snorting game-it's a troop 41999 favorite

we got ice cream one of the days

we had a fogata or bonfire on the last night

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Thank goodness for small successes!

This weekend was the leadership camp for boys in Cajamarca.  Diamond and I along with the other volunteers in our training group were supposed to be ‘in charge’.  It mostly felt like I was running around with my trying to fix problems that kept coming up.  However, the best part of working with Peace Corps volunteers is that they are good creative problem solvers. 

These leadership camps are fun events for the kids and volunteers.  This time I felt more relieved for the camp to be over than I have at other camps, probably because I was supposed to be running the event.  I brought 4 boys from Tacabamba; 2 boys I already knew and 2 I had never met.  I made an announcement at the high school that I wanted interested boys to fill out applications and bring them to my house.  Out of the entire high school only 5 kids filled out the applications.  My plan had been to only bring 2 boys, but at the last minute (since Diamond and I were the points of contact for the event) we got calls from other volunteers that boys were canceling and backing out. The night before camp I went out and basically trolled for teenage boys to take to this event. 

When we finally got to camp (it is about a 7 hour car ride from Tacabamba to Cajamarca) we were all pretty tired, but being around all the other volunteers sort of gave me some extra energy.  After dinner we played a bunch of ‘dinamicas’ or team building group games.  A lot of the games that I like to lead are tried and true from my time as a Girl Scout; train wreck, honey if you love me, the snorting game that Jenni Glysson taught me is one of my favorites. 

The second day of camp we took the boys to the Cajamarca national university (Peruvian equivalent to state school).  The tour was pretty boring, but I hope that just seeing the campus and meeting some of the administrators might make the university seem less intimidating for the boys.  The third day we had field games in the morning, a career panel in the afternoon, and a bonfire with smores at night.  The last day the boys had debates on topics that they had been preparing in groups throughout the camp, we did prizes and certificates, and it was time to travel back up north. 

Overall, the camp was a big success.  The grant stuff is almost over, now Diamond and I have some more paperwork to do to close it out-so that is a relief.  And I believe that the boys got something out of it all.  They might not be ready to step in an denounce all forms of sexism they see in their communities, but they’ll probably notice it more and think twice about joining in with their friends cat calling a woman in the street.  I hope that in the least their actions that reflect gender equality will be an example to their peers. 

One of the most frustrating parts of having a job that revolves around behavior change is that you seldom get to see the outcomes of all your work.  Often I just have to have faith that my time and energy has contributed at least on some small level a change of thought or behavior in someone.  And volunteers have to find a way to be satisfied not seeing those results and knowing that they may have only affected one person in their time. 

This is so difficult for us as Americans, because we judge ourselves based on numbers and results.  In behavior change it is sort of impossible.  We can measure knowledge learned on a pre and post-test, but that does not indicate whether or not someone has actually formed a new habit of boiling their water or washing their hands.  At this point my hope lies more in the personal relationships that I have formed.  I know that the kids in my sexual health education classes learned some new things, but the kids that came to camp or participated in my youth group I know that they are going to act differently.  My host brother in San Juan  will read books for fun, my host mom will make more salads, maybe the Peruvian women who have been in my life might want to be more independent after meeting me. 

I like to tell the kids in my English classes or youth group that they are intelligent.  I tell their parents too and they always react with a little bit of surprise, because people don’t say that here.  I think it is important for kids to know that they are intelligent and important-so I tell them.  Maybe just hearing that from someone will help them to be encouraged to study and want more for themselves. 

Yesterday Diamond, Nate (D’s boyfriend visiting Peru from the U.S.), and I went to El Condac with our youth group.  El condac is a local waterfall, that people like to say is a tourist attraction.  The waterfall is a 2 hour hike outside of Tacabamba.  The trail especially when you get to the climb down to the waterfall is in bad condition.  It was beautiful and the views on the walk down were incredible.  I felt like we were at the end of the earth.  I brought my peanut butter and jelly to have the kids all try a typical American food (which I thought was very generous of myself since peanut butter is kind of like gold to a PCV).  The kids swam for a little while and we hiked back.

I have 2 funny stories of the week;

1)      I figured out that my dog will only come when I call her for a walk if I am wearing this big floppy sun hat.  Since I always put it on when I am going out for a walk with her she suspects foul play when I call for her without the hat; either a bath, flea medicine, or eye drops.  I’ve never had a dog before, so I guess I didn’t expect them to be so clever or silly.

2)      Diamond called me one day this week to ask me if I could go by the preschool where she is doing a classroom exchange (she visits the school here in Peru and talks about the US, while also communicating with an American school to teach them about Peru).  She was supposed to be going by for a presentation and wanted to double check that they were still expecting her.  I live only a block away so I walked over.  It turned out that that day they were knocking down the adobe building-probably they are going to rebuild with cement or brick.  However, no one from the preschool bothered to tell Diamond that they were tearing the school down the day that she had scheduled with them to do her presentation. 

Below I have pictures from the waterfall excursion and the photos of the leadership camp still to come.  Thanks again for all the donations and moral support! 

Chau for now and thanks for reading,


with my host grandpa and at the bottom is my dog Lulu

with the whole gang

Nate and Diamond

Nate making his way down this terrible rock path.  Everyone was slipping and falling all over the place.

Diamond and Nate in front of the waterfall

Diamond and I



Tuesday, May 14, 2013

a world where nobody likes to say 'no'

Diamond and I are currently leading a teen group at the high school in Tacabamba.  The group is made up of kids that want to be peer educators.  It has been kind of a nightmare trying to get the permission we need to have the kids in our club teach sex-ed in the high school.  Plus, the kids are definitely not dedicated enough in showing up on time or participating during meetings for me to feel too guilty about it not happening for them.  Instead we have compromised and made the group kind of an extracurricular health promotion group.  Last year we painted a mural in the health center and held a movie night for the entire student body.

This year the kids in our youth group had a big idea; a school wide soccer/volleyball/chess tournament.  We invited each section (kind of like homeroom, except that they just spend their entire day with the same classmates-everyone does the same electives on the same schedule) to form teams.  The idea for this event was from the kids in our group and in theory they were supposed to help us organize the whole thing.  They did help a little, but Diamond and I ended up doing most of the work. 

So for the past couple weeks we have been doing all the preparations.  And for the past two Saturdays Diamond and I spent the whole day at the tournament.  Not one kid ever said ‘thanks’ to me.  Instead I got a lot of kids showing up late, arguing with me or whining about how they didn’t get to play more games, and I was particularly upset when the kids couldn’t bother to stay for a short announcement I was making at the end of the tournament to thank the other adults that helped.  I admit I shouted after the kids while they left that they were being ‘rude turds,’ but I shouted it in English just to make myself feel better. 

I guess technically the event was a success, kids showed up, a couple adults came through for us, and our peer educator group was on display for the school.  However, I feel so frustrated at how the students treated me and the other adults that showed up.  I feel really frustrated that the Municipality promised to give prizes to the winners and they are so disorganized that they can’t get around to doing anything.  I also feel really frustrated that the kids won’t participate in a free soccer/volley ball tournament unless there are cash prizes available-that was so surprising to me.  When I suggested we buy the winning teams ice cream cones or chocolate bars I was laughed out of the room by my peer educators.  They were adamant that kids wouldn’t show up unless there were cash prizes (and they were totally right).

After the tournament wrapped up on Saturday, Diamond and I helped decorate the church for her host sister’s wedding.  The party that night was really fun.  It started  late because of the rain.   Diamond, Ellie, and I were basically cater waiters for the event.  Since we didn’t start serving the food until late and the house was so crowded the dinner wasn’t served until around 10:30pm.  The drinks were being served earlier on empty stomachs, so by the time we were weaving through the crowd with trays of food everyone was pretty drunk. 

There was a lot of dancing.  Although my experience has been that people from Cajamarca do not hug a whole lot, with the alcohol flowing I got a lot of hugs from Diamond’s host family members and some of my host family members that were guests.  Ellie and I stayed until 1:30am and walked back to my host family’s house.  Diamond told us that the party went on until 4:30am and that her host family woke up to make breakfast at around 8am.  I don’t   envy Diamond not being able to fall asleep until 4:30am because of the loud music and dancing outside her door.

The next day; Mother’s Day, there were a lot of celebrations.  The funny thing about the celebrations for Mother’s Day was that most of them involved a group of men sitting around and getting really drunk.  On the corner near my house my adult host brother Ivan and a group of neighbors were camped out most of the afternoon.  Every time I left my house the would call me over and I would do the Peruvian finger wag ‘no’.  I baked my host mom Rosa a banana bread and magically we became best friends.  I really need to bake more often-my host family likes me a whole lot more when I make them cakes. 

I also tested out a theory about making excuses to avoid undesirable social situations on Sunday evening.  Sunday night there was a kind of a block party near my house for Mother’s Day.  They were blasting loud music in the street and drinking.  I knew I did not want to dance or drink again, but I also knew that everyone would try to pressure me to do so.  I have been watching The Mindy Project and in one episode a character says that someone has diarrhea to get them out of an unwanted social situation.  So when the waves of ‘come one, just come to the dance for a little while,’ ‘just drink a little bit with us,’ started rolling in I simply said I couldn’t because I had diarrhea. 

My excuse didn’t shut down the invitations as fast as I would have imagined.  I had to fend off questions like: ‘why don’t you just take some medicine?’ or ‘how bad is it really?’  Eventually though I successfully employed the theory of shutting it down with diarrhea.  Who says that TV isn’t good for you?  It applied to my real life!!!

Sorry for being gross.  Also sorry for being so complaining lately…I am trying really hard to be more positive.  There are so many great things about Peru the country and it’s people, but I always catch myself focusing on the negative stuff.

For example who’s to say that the whole nobody says ‘no’ here thing is bad?  Those men on the street inviting me to drink or my host family pressuring me to come out dancing with them are just examples of the social practice of nobody-ever-says-‘no’.  They have to keep inviting (or in my perspective pressuring), because you can’t say ‘no’ or take ‘no’ for an answer.  You have to have an excuse or you have to say ‘I’ll come by later’ and then just not do it.  That is how things work here.  As much as it annoys me when it happens in the context of no one showing up to a meeting I called, it is a relief to know that when I flake out on other people that they will not be offended since that is just the way things are here.

Anyhow, thanks for reading and chau for now,

here are some action shots of the tournament

my host dad taking his typical afternoon nap

picture of the kitchen at the home I live in now in Tacabamba

pictures from a visit to my previous site San Jaun

this is a typical kitchen, big difference huh?

showing off all the food we made

sometimes I can't believe that I lived in a place like my first site

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

feeling introspective this week

This weekend I went into Chota for one of my allotted regional capital visits every month.  Chota is not very big, but it does have a Serpost and good internet.  Chota is a 2 hour van ride away from Tacabamba.  The roads are pretty bad, but I don’t notice as much as I used to when I first got here.

It was a nice visit this week, because several other volunteers were also in town and we were able to spend time together.  On Saturday morning at our favorite cheap breakfast place it felt like we were being continuously accosted.  First there was an elderly women begging for money from all of the people eating in the restaurant.  We shook our heads no and kept up our conversation in English.  She lingered for quite a while and made her way back to us saying a phrase that every volunteer I know hates, ‘no seas malita,’ or ‘don’t be bad’ (*in the dictionary to call someone ‘mal’ that way it translates to ‘evil’- so maybe possibly it means ‘don’t be evil’).

I hate when people say this phrase to me and it is always when they want me to do something that I don’t want to do.  When that lady came back for the final word to us ‘no sean malitas,’ I guess I overreacted a little, because I told her it wasn’t necessary to call us ‘malas’ and that we in fact were not ‘malas.’  I probably should have just let her have that last word. 

The next person to accost us was a man who apparently had a sign reading that he was deaf, but I did not notice his sign at the time. He approached us and put small cards on the table in front of each of us.  2 of the other volunteers warned me not to look too much or touch the card, because if I did this man would expect me to pay for the card.  Inside the cards there might be jokes or puzzles, but if you look at them you have to pay the man.  So we all avoided looking at the cards in case he would mistake it for interest in buying them.  The man waited for a few minutes and then made his way around picking up all the cards off the tables before he walked out.  Only he forgot one of the cards on our table, so I shouted after him to let him know he forgot his card. 

Those other people at the restaurant probably thought I was such a jerk; first telling that lady off and then yelling at a deaf man.  When the third and final person came around to beg from us I just shook my head no and tried not to think about how I told that poor old lady off before.  It felt like I had been pretty harsh.

This week a lot of drama unfolded with my sexual education class in a small town 2 hours walking distance from Tacabamba.  When I first went to this town to ask for permission from the APAFA (parent association) of the high school, they were very suspicious that I worked for the mines.  We spent about 30 minutes talking about what Peace Corps is, who pays me, why am I in Peru anyway, and why do I want to teach their kids.  At the end of the grilling they decided that they would give me permission to teach their kids on Monday afternoons.

A couple weeks ago when another obligation came up on Mondays I thought nothing of asking the kids from my class in El Naranjo to just meet on Tuesdays instead.  My logic was; in a community with no electricity and no running water what other activities/obligations where these kids going to have.  As it turned out when the parents realized that I had changed the day of the week of my class without asking their permission they were very offended. 

I received a phone call from the director of the high school informing me that the APAFA was unhappy with me and wanted a copy of my contract with the Municipality.  I don’t have a contract with the Municipality I work for the U.S. government, but either way that didn’t sound so good for my classes continuing.  My friend Ellie helped me brainstorm how I could find a solution that would make everyone happy-I don’t know what I would do without other volunteer’s help in these situations.  So I typed up a schedule for the rest of my classes and dropped them off at the director’s house so that he could pass them out to the kids and they in turn could show their parents. 

I only received one more angry phone call from a parent, but I was able to explain that it was a misunderstanding and that it was not my intention to offend anyone.  I think that everything is all cleared up, but I guess I won’t know for sure until next week.  It is frustrating when people are so uncommunicative with me, but expect me to be super communicative with them.  The situation is not ideal.  Normally a Peace Corps volunteer works in the community where they live, the people know and trust them, and they are able to receive community support for whatever activities they are doing.  In El Naranjo the people may or may not still think I am a spy for the American mining companies and I do not know anyone (except for the 22 teens in my classes and the male nurse who is never available to work with me).

It is not fair for me to march into this town and expect for them to just get on board with some stranger teaching their kids.  It is not reasonable for me to expect that the people from El Naranjo are going to understand how I have structured my classes or why I want to work with their kids in the first place.   I had imagined after living here as long as I have that I would be fluent in the Peruvian world view, but sadly I still am not.  A lot of the time I can anticipate how people will react, but I don’t understand their logic still.  It is funny how deep our American way of thinking is engrained. 

We are taught from a young age in the U.S. that if you work hard you can achieve anything, we should strive to leave our country better for the next generation, and we are personally responsible for our success or failures.  Here in Peru; I imagine from generations of struggling to survive in extreme poverty, the ideas above are unknown.  When Diamond and I worked on developing a latrines project for 3 months only to have the Municipality tell us they would not be funding the project (after they strung us along, everyone month they would tell us come back next month we’ll let you know about the budget) the reaction of the families in our project was: ‘the Muni misled us again,’ and ‘remember how last time they said they would do a project and they never did.’  They weren’t even all that surprised and they certainly did not appear to be as angry or frustrated as I was-or at least they did not express it in a way I would recognize as anger.  It seemed more like complacence. 

Things are fine the way they are, why should we change?  This is how things have always been and it was good enough before so why not now?  When promises of change are made they often are not kept by the people that make them.  One really important thing I have figured out is that I cannot want it more than the people I want it for- or rather people have to want to change or else I am just smacking my head against the wall and feeling like a failure. 

Whew, that got kinda serious, huh?

Thanks for reading and chau for now,


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Youth Camp coming up: Imagine a Peru without Machismo!

Howdy everyone,

While I miss home (*read double ply toilet paper, hot showers, cold milk and cereal, just kidding) and have been thinking about all of you a lot, I have been doing well here in Peru. I have had the fortune to be involved in many different projects and events that have made me feel proud to be in the Peace Corps.
Most recently, my sitemate Diamond and I wrote a grant for the annual youth camp with all the other volunteers in the department of Cajamarca. The event, called camp VALOR (value), is a three day event where we will do workshops over self-esteem, leadership, healthing life-habits, and vocational orientation for high school boys from all over the region (we also do one for the girls ). We will also be doing team building games and even have a panel of local professionals present their careers. For many of these kids, they have never even left their home towns, let alone attend any kind of leadership conference or camp. In the past this has been one of Peace Corps Peru's most successful annual programs for youth.
However, the only way we are able to run the camp is to get donations from both local communities and family and friends back home. The idea is that if we can get at least 40% of the money/materials necessary from local counterparts, then we will do our best to find the rest from other sources to make it all happen.
If every volunteer does their part then the amount I need to raise is minimal. So here is where I humbly ask for your help in making this camp a success and to give these youth leaders an opportunity of a lifetime; an opportunity that could lead them to a better future.  This year we picked the theme of the camp to be 'Imagining a Peru without Machismo' (sexism).
If you would like to donate (even a tiny bit helps us get there) please simply follow This LINK to an official United States Peace Corps web site where you can not only donate but see our progress to our goal as well as read more about camp VALOR.
I can't thank you all enough for the support you have already given me during my service and I thank you in advance for your continued support.

Sincerely with gratitude,

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Cusco vacation

It has been a while since I wrote blog post and a lot has happened.  My family came for a visit during their spring break.  We went to Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu.  It felt amazing to spend so much time with my family.  Although I will admit I was a little bit stressed about money during the vacation.  It’s one of those annoying little things about vacations, but also about living in Peru.  There is this constant presence of this awareness of people trying to rip you off.  Sometimes it is small things; like a taxi driver charging more for gringas than he would for Peruvians, but other times it feels bigger.  Through Peace Corps I have official Peruvian residency and there are a lot of times when there are 2 prices for archaeological sites or even plane tickets. 

There were a lot of hiccups, but overall it was a great visit.  Some of the highlights include: a llama spitting in my face (you always hear about it happening-and it did, it was gross but really funny), crazy tour guides whose ‘factoids’ proved to be a less than true when we googled them after the fact (one lady told us that the stones that made up Machu Picchu were partially held together by magnetism…that was a big fat made up fact), almost losing the expensive somewhat irreplaceable train tickets (but we found the electronic versions on my email), and the race to see who could hold out the longest without getting sick. 

I am embarrassed to admit that although I was not the first one to get sick I did get pretty sick and before it happened I may have been doing a lot of trash talking.  ‘I’ve lived here for a year and 7 months street food doesn’t scare me, and yeah, I’ll eat that salad off your plate, I can’t believe you are worrying about those ice cubes’ I was tossing around a lot of talk, but then I got super sick.  ***Thank you Debbie for the Immodium***

Machu Picchu was probably the most beautiful place I have been to in my life.  It gave me that feeling that the Grand Canyon gives you-it is just so beautiful that you cannot believe it is real.  Except that Machu Picchu is manmade so it is different.  Those crazy Incas were some determined and hard-working engineers, because it seems that they could not have chosen a more difficult place to build a city.  And tour guide Edith was wrong-those blocks were not even a little bit held together by magnetism.

Anyway, now it’s back to site and back to work.  I got permission from the director of the elementary school to do some cute activities with the kids in 5th and 6th grade about self-esteem and peer pressure.  I am going to work with the health center in Tacabamba on a project about Early Childhood Stimulation.  I am going to focus on moms with babies under 1 year.  The youth health promoter group that Diamond and I are doing together is doing really well.  And the sex-ed class that I am doing at the high school in El Naranjo (the town 2 hours walking distance with no electricity) is kind of rocky.  I am planning on attempting to bribe them into participating with candy.

So things are going well right now.  Hopefully I’ll have some silly cross-cultural anecdotes to write about next time.  The best one I had this week was having to eat 3 ears of corn on a house visit so as not to offend the woman who invited me food.  That was rough-thank goodness we only eat corn at 2 out of the 3 meals a day (just kidding).  Thanks for reading.

Chau for now,