This week felt especially productive. Diamond and I started writing a grant to fund a boys leadership camp in May, we got permission from the UGEL (Unidad de Gestion Educativa Local = United Administration Education Local) to teach sexual education classes in several high schools in our district, we went to a community meeting in El Naranjo one of the places we have been looking at for one of us to work, and I scheduled 2 more meetings in El Naranjo (sexual health with the ronderos and older adult health).
My extended host family is still here so there is a house full of people at all times. I am lucky that I have such a kind host family. Rosa’s brother and sister have both invited me to go visit their homes. And they tease me when I say ‘yes’, but explain that I don’t know if I will be able to get vacation time. It would be especially interesting to go visit Rosa’s sister Elva, because she lives in the amazon jungle. Plus, now I’m pretty close with her kids. Still it really bothered me that they made such a big deal that I gave them what I like to call a 'peruvian yes', because I have to deal with that all the time. Everyday people promise me they will show up to one of my meetings or work with me on something and then just completely flake out. I have come to expect it at this point-so why where they so shocked?
Since it is vacations the kids (and adults) around town have been playing a lot of carnivales, which is an excuse to soak innocent neighbors and friends. I don’t mind playing carnivales with water guns, but the water balloons hurt. And since anyone at any time could be playing I am constantly on the lookout for water balloons. The kids hide in the balconies and throw their ammunition like snipers. It’s fun, but it’s also a little stressful to constantly be looking over your shoulder. Plus, Diamond and I pose as extra fun targets, so we get hit a lot.
This week I went to what I think would best be described as a Peruvian wake. A woman in a nearby community died of cancer, Rosa and her sister Elva were close to her and we went to her family’s house out in the country. I did not know what to expect, but it really wasn’t very different from any event state side. The woman’s family cooked a huge meal so they could be prepared to feed anyone who came to show their respects. Only they cooked over small fires. There were flies everywhere, probably because of the quantity of raw meat that was processed by hand by a group of women that plopped pieces of flesh into a large plastic tub and tossed the bone and fat aside.
The smoke and the heat made me really tired and my eyes teary. Every guest was invited in groups of 6 or so to sit at the kitchen table and eat a big plate of food. The food was good, but we had just eaten lunch back at the house. I didn’t know we were going unlike Rosa and her sister who didn’t eat lunch in preparation; I had to wolf down second lunch. The quantity of food you are given is a reflection of how respected or loved you are by a Peruvian woman (at least that is my theory), and if you don’t finish your plate that is a sign of disrespect. No matter what excuse you make or how much to tell a Peruvian momma you love her food, if you don’t eat your whole plate you can bet she’s going to hold a little grudge.
Also during carnival is a special tradition called a yunsa tree. During this carnival celebration; which seems to go from New Year to Easter from what I can gather (not exactly the catholic Lent I know), the yunsa tree is moved week to week between different neighborhoods or communities. The tree is filled with prizes. The one that I saw last weekend in Tacabamba had shirts, brooms, big drums of cooking oil, toys, and lots of other stuff. At the end of the yunsa tree weekly traveling parties people take turns trying to cut it down. When you take your swing at the tree anything that falls out is yours to keep, but if you are the one to cut the tree down on your turn you are obligated to purchase all the prizes for the next tree.
I went with my visiting host aunt Elva and a family friend Manuel to the yunsa dance on Saturday night. I had fun dancing. I'm not such a big fan of the drinking circles, but at one point in the night I was being included in 3 independent circles. Drinking circles are the just the way that people drink beer at parties. Everyone in the circle shares a cup and a bottle of beer, it goes around person by person. I think of it as doing beer shots...warm beer shots, yum right? Not so much, but you get used to it after a couple parties.
The music at the yunsa tree party was so loud that I couldn't hear anyone. Even when a very intoxicated older gentleman shouted into my ear (he spit quite a bit on my face) I still couldn't understand what he was saying. It may or may not have been worsened by the fact that in December I ruptured my ear drum on my right side. The next day I was having a lot of ear pain and ringing on one side, but it went away by that Monday.
This week Diamond and I started our aerobics classes. Our first class was kind of a flop. Only 3 people showed up; we calculated our BMIs and did 30 minutes of cardio. However, we have high hopes for the future. Tomorrow I am scheduled to do a hygiene charla in a nearby community. I was invited by one of our community health promoters. It makes me feel really happy that these promoters that we helped to train are doing their own classes in their communities. I'm excited to see how she does. Plus, I'm doing the 'ano, mano, boca' or 'butt, hand, mouth' talk about how if you don't wash your hands you are basically eating your poop, thus giving yourself and your family parasites or diarrhea. That one is always a fun one.
Chau for now, thanks for reading.
|first weekend back in Peru Marta invited Diamond and I to her family's home in Chota for lunch. Marta works for a Peruvian NGO and she is one of my favorite people in Tacabamba. The is me with her niece Tatiana.|
|Tatiana playing the princess game with me|
|she's making me beautiful like a princess she told me|
|now it's my turn|
|she was so friendly. She asked Diamond and I if we are sisters.|
|Diamond and I with Marta's parents. I had a good one with Marta too, but it's not uploading right now. I'll put it up next time.|