Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Randoms before dia de Patrias

So this is just a random post before I head out on vacaciones (vacations) for a long weekend. Tomorrow starts Peru's Dia de Patrias, which is basically 2 days to celebrate their independence (Why do we only have one day? And who do I need to vote for to get two?).

My host family has invited me to a family wedding in Huancayo, a Serria town 5-6 hours away. I'm not sure what to expect, but my host parent's selling points were: to meet the rest of your family, dance huayno music (pronounced: Wine-o and according to Wiki: it's a combination of traditional rural folk music and popular urban dance music. High-pitched vocals are accompanied by a variety of instruments, including  flute, harp, panpine, accordion, saxophone, charango, lute, violin, guitar, and mandolin.) drinking, and eating eye (yep, ojo).

We received a talk from the embassy security person today, and he reminded us of a few things we need to be aware of for our own safety. All of it was pretty easy, and nothing guy who grew up up on the mean streets of Missoula can't handle; however, he reminded me of "Virtual Kidnapping". Basically, it's where someone hijacks your phone or contact information, and then calls your friends and family demanding money for their safe return (even though they don't really have the person). So, if you get a phone call at 3AM demanding money for me, hang up and go back to bed... then maybe check on me in the morning (odds are its just another dumb prank call coming from the stalls of the Rockin' R bathrooms).

Finally, this documentary that is now a nonstop commercial here in Peru. It's about Peru, Nebraska. Basically, it's shows how the people that live in Peru, Nebraska are really Peruvians that just don't know they are Peruvian. I've attached a youtube link to it, so if you have 15 minutes to kill, you should check it out (It may only be funny if you know all the Peruvian customs, but I enjoy it).

Marca Peru with Subtitles

Viva PERU (and the US too)!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Field Based Training

7-16 to 7-24 was my Field Based Training (FBT). This is where we are split up into groups and then sent to various departments to get to know that area and current volunteer's sites. There were three groups. One went to the mountains of Ancash (pretty jealous), another went the beaches of Piura (near Ecuador), and my group went to see both the Sierra and the coast of La Libertad.

FBT is a blast, not only do you get to escape from the training center to see some more of Peru, you also get a taste of what it's like to have a site, and live as a volunteer in the community for 2 years. We visited 5 sites, and each one had it's own specific vibe. Two of the sites were on the coast, Huanachaco and Puerto Malabrigo; two of the sites were more in land, Bello Horizonte and Proto; and one site was at 9'000ft in the Sierra (according to the volunteer), Otuzco. 

We took a night bus both times, so I don't know what the surroundings were like between Lima and Trujillo, La Libertad; however I do know that it was the nicest bus I've ever been on (see the link below). I just hope that there's a bus like this to Montana by August 2013.

Lujoso bus

Here's the break down of the the various sites we visited.

We arrived on Sunday morning, after an 8 hour bus ride, to meet Ian (my PC brother. He was the second of four volunteers to stay with my currently host family) and Kelsi at the bus station. Ian and Kelsi are current Youth Development Volunteers, and offered to be our group's FBT leaders for the week. They did a great job of planning out our visit, and made sure all 12 of us in the group got where we needed to be on time (in addition to this they acted guides, translators, event coordinators, and sources of constructive criticism during our various training activities).

Ian and I at the beach

A church in Trujillo near the Plaza de Armas.

Trujillo is the capital city of La Libertad, and is one of the biggest cities in Peru (2nd or 3rd). It also served as our hub for the first few days, as we stayed in the hostal and took combis (vans) out the various sites. Besides good street food (Anticuchos with pizza bread), there isn't much to say about Trujillo.

This was our first visit, and was more for us to see the coast of Peru, then really work. Huanchaco is 30 minutes away from town and is a local hot spot for tourist, beach goers, and good sea food. However, with it currently being winter, not too much was going on.

This place is also known for these boats made from reeds (called cabello de totora).
Caballo de totora

Puerto Malabrigo:
This place was cool, and was also the first place we got some work in. It too is a beach town, but it's more known for it's waves than anything else. Malabrigo is the home of the longest "lefter" (I think: a wave that cuts left) in South America. Its a mecca for lots of surfers and has that general beach town feel to it. While there, we got to meet the two Volunteers currently there (One working with small businesses and the other in Youth Development). We also got to see the YD volunteer in action and help her with one of her projects. First we watched a charla (informative talk) given by a dentist to pre-schoolers and their parents on brushing their teeth, and then we help the kids brush their teeth and administered so floride treatments.

Dentist Charla
Kids waiting to get floride treatment.

Amanda coating some floride gel on a girl's teeth.

Then we went to the special education school to meet the director and the students. We listened to a somewhat depressing speech from the director about the state of special education in Peru, and then helped the students with brushing their teeth. The students ranged from significantly Cognitively Impaired to not impaired at all (one girl was there due to being teased for her appearance).  Basically, I'm going to have to boil this part down to the "there is still a lot things to work on in special

After the sped school, we went for a walk on the beach and to see the surf school (a PC Volunteer's project) in action. It was great, minus the Argentine surfer who busted my chops about US bombing in Libya...(Not my fault Che). 
Me getting a good look at the beach.

Me at the beach, looking good.

Surf school.

Bello Horizonte:
This is Ian's site, and we made two different day trips here.

The first day trip was to the school to give a couple of charlas, and then visit the orphanage. My charlas were ok. The first one went well (teaching English to 3rd graders), but the second one (teaching middle schools how to communicate with their parents) was a struggle. However, I wasn't too disappointed as it was only my 2nd ever charla. Little did I know that the 3rd charla was going to be horrible (keep reading).

After the charlas, we went to the orphanage up the road to meet and play with the kids. This is not a true orphanage in the since that most of the kids have parents that are still alive, but they've been taken into custody due to mistreatment or abuse. These kids were great, a ton of fun, and full of energy; however, they were a little difficult to guide, and often didn't stay very long on any given activity.

Here's a video Miguel took (a kid at the orphanage) while we were there:

Orphanage Video

The next time we were in Bello Horizonte, it was on our last day, and it was kind of a relaxed schedule. We got there early to help Ian's youth group paint trash cans (for their community recycling program) and a murral promoting the environment. It was fun to pass the time with the kids as they got to paint and hang out.

Painting tachos

Supervising the mural

The whole crew.
After painting, Nick, Adrian and I decided on the last minute to climb the peak that overlooks Ian's site. It was a fun 2 hour hike up through an Archeology site to this saddle (see the picture below). Then we scampered up to two different peaks. This was also Nick's (from Ohio) first climb ever.
Nick on Nick's Peak

L to R: Adrian, Brice and Nick over looking the valley above Bello Horizonte from the saddle.

Adrian overlooking the town of Bello Horizonte

Proto is Kelsi's site, and it was pretty clear she had it made. Besides being a cute little town at the base of the Sierras, it also featured the following: a school full of excited and eager to learn children, a health post that is actively working with the youths to promote healthy lifestyles, a super nice host family, and all the fruit you can eat.

Just to give you an idea of how nice the people are, here are some examples.

1)We wanted bananas for breakfast one day, but the lady at the fruit stand didn't have any, so she sent Ian to her neighbor's house. The neighbor only had two banana. so she sent Ian to the next neighbor's house. There a little boy answered the door, and without hesitation gave Ian all the bananas he had (about 8) and wouldn't take any money.

2) I was buying fruit one morning and asked the lady where I could buy some cheese. Instead of pointing me to a nearby store, she invited me into her house, opened the refrigerator, and put a big block of cheese in a plastic bag... then refused any money I tried to offer her.

3) We gave health charlas to the middle school students. However, they knew we were coming, so they collected fruit from their chacras (farms) to give to us. We left the school carrying 3 huge nap sacks full of pineapples, bananas, avacado, and various other frutas (fruits) that I don't think exist in the English Language.

This class about the importance of future plans and goal setting went a lot better (I'm in the middle).

Me meeting some primaria (elementary) students.

Playing a with the kids.

This is a site that will forever be burned into my memory. Not because it was my first time seeing the Peruvian Sierras, or because of it's Virgin de la Puerta (wiki it), but because I got my lunch handed to me by a bunch of 6 year old demons while trying to give a "wash your hands" charla.

Picture this:  One gringo with mediocre Spanish skills starring at 56 six year olds set free in a classroom without a teacher in sight. Who do you think came out on top of that fight? Here's how this train wreck played out:

I entered the class confident in my classroom management skill (being a NASP member since 2006 and having listened to Dr. Randy Sprick a couple of times). The lesson plan was simple: do some interactive games to get the kids to realize how germs are passed, then show how to wash their hands (The kids had a different plan). Right after the school directer introduced me, and she the teacher left, I set my plan into action...

I reintroduced myself, smiled, and the then asked what are the class rules. No one responds. So, I say that I have a few rules (raise your hand, stay seated, and take turns) and that I'm going to write them on the board. The second I turned to write the rules on the board, 3 kids bolt out the class to the playground. I decide to ignore them, thinking that one crazy gringo playing games with the rest will be enough bait to bring them back. Nope. I have no idea what happened to those kids, but they missed out. They didn't miss any information, they just missed:

1. Smearing soap on the Gringo.
2. Jumping from desk to desk while the Gringo tried to stop them.
3. Tearing down the class decorations.
4. Playing with toys that they found in their desk (I saw one with a toy gun shooting at this neighbor)
5. Screaming in class
6. Having the Gringo scream at them in Spanish, English, and Spanglish (stop fighting, stop standing on their desks, no throwing stuff, etc).
7. Wrestling with whomever they felt like while the gringo acted like the ref.

Luckily I was being observed and was able to have the following pictures to remind me of the whole event; however, never in my life will I forget how helpless I felt as I stood looking up at the cute little kids in their uniforms, with their cute little puppy eyes, as they stood on their desks looking down at me smiling as they tried to tear the independence day decorations off of the ceiling.

Needless to say it was the longest 45 minutes of my life.

Me when I had control.

Me near my breaking point as the kids hopped from desk to desk.

Most of the houses are made from Adobe.
A flower in the Sierra, I bet it doesn't have a name.

Adrian and his pet goat. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bus Strike = Hike

Luckily there was a bus strike yesterday (Wed. 7/14) in Lima. Basically the mayor of Lima is pushing for newer and fewer buses in Lima, and the smaller bus drivers are saying that she's trying to drum up foreign business from the countries that make buses, and put them out of business. So the drivers went on strike. With past strikes turning ugly, the Peace Corps was worried that it too could turn ugly, so they didn't allow us to leave our host communities or go near the Carratera Central (making it impossible to travel to the training site). So that meant I got to go hiking!

Richard, Adrian and I headed out around 8:00am, and just hiked up the dry river bed that leads through town, until we hit the trail to the hieroglyphics. This trail also sube (goes up to) various illegal gold mines. We started in the clouds, but made it to the sun half way up the mountain. By 9:00, we were well aware of the heat, and tried to stop only in the shade.

Adrian passing the hard to see hieroglyphics.

Richard showing the way.
As you can see, it wasn't easy to find shade, and I was drenched.

 At about 9:45am, we were passed by a miner with a portable radio and tennis shoes (without socks). It was obvious that those shoes have probably climbed the mountain at least 900 times (judging by their condition). Needless to say, I felt kinda like a dork wearing my nice hiking boots and comfy hiking socks. At 10:15am we reached the summit and met this 4 characters. The one in the blue shirt was the one that passed us. 

 As with almost every Peruvian I've met, they competed for being the friendliest people I could ever imagine. Not what I'd expect from a miner (I guess I'm too use to those form Butte, America and not from Grassy Valley or Yanacoto). Anyway, they allowed us to interrumpir (interrupt) them during their morning coffee and coca leaf (chewed for more energy and appetite suppression) to hacer preguntas (ask them questions). Basically they shared that: 1. if you climb higher (i.e. 8 hours more) there are trees and small ponds. 2. There are animals (foxes, snakes, tranchulas, condors, and some bunny rabbit-type thing) but they either are really rare or usually only come out at night. 3. The guy on the far left sleeps there every night to gaurd their stash or cash rocks (bags seen behind the tent). 5. This crew digs a trench, but others dig holes. 6. The pile of rocks seen behind them are what they taken out of their 3' (W), 12' (L), 10' (D) trench (also behind them). 7. Its better to subir mas (climb higher/more) to see more and return to Yanacoto via a different ridge... so we did and we were able to make it down by 1pm.

I took the following videos (however, need to clear up two points from video #2):

Mine Hike Video 1

Mine Hike Video 2

1. I've cleaned my lens due to the obvious dirt.

2. I mention Pachamama (mother earth). This is a big deal in the Sierras. Many people believe in making offerings to Pachamama in all kinds of different ways. The most common way I've seen is the offerings made by miners (coca leaves, ciggerettes, wine, and/or flowers) before they try their luck... the other way I heard of is in a drinking circle (which will be covered in a future post).

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Water Wars

Every neighborhood has it's issues... but I don't remember the last time I saw a mob organized with picks and shovels walking down C st. Well that's what is currently happening here in Yanacoto, and its all because some people haven't been paying their water bill... kinda.

Of course it's always more complicated, and for the purpose of presenting truely "fair and balanced" reports, I must emphasize that I've only been getting my information from a handful of old ladies here in the barrio; however, with that said, I'm told that this has been a Yanacoto issues for a least 3 years. And that it all started when the directer of the water co-op was accused of stealing money to build his house. He was kicked out, and charged a penalty. However, he did not go silently into the night, and he organized a counter co-op with his neighbors. So, for the last 2 years he and his neighbors have thumbed their noses at the new president by not paying for the water they use.

So last Sunday the assemblies met, and fought in the streets until the police showed up. And then after that, the current co-op has been making hourly anouncements via the loudspeakers, that Sunday everyone was to meet with their shovels and forcefully cut off the water to the houses of those who haven't been paying. My host mother didn't want to go, but felt she had to, or otherwise she could be punished for not being present. I had to go, because I've to a pipe cutting party before... Needless to say I stood out a little while I was taking these photos and videos*:

This is neighborhood marching up the hill to the houses of those people who haven't paid.

This is a video that I took, until I got bored and went home for lunch:

water war part 1

* I not proud of my reporting skills. Its obvious that I'm not good at switching between Spanish and English (hence the use of the words "gritar" for yell, and "agua" water). Also I felt pretty weird being "that guy" who stands out (think tourist meets crappy reporter meets clueless gringo).

Keep in mind that the monthly water bill is 20S/. (about $7), and that the ex-president owes 500S/. (about $181).

Donde Estas? (Where are you?)

This is not a real question in my house, it's the name of my host-mother's loyal dog. Donde Estas? (Lit: Where are you?) is a mutt, that may have some Golden Retriever in him, and is a real character. In addition to climbing ladders and following my host-mother's every command, he also sports a pretty cool pair of shades (black glasses just like mine).

As you can probably tell, Donde Estas?'s glasses are not corrective, they are for pure style. And he gets a new pair everytime my host-mom dyes her hair. She hates to waste anything, and what else are you going to do with leftover dye?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

asi es Yanacoto (that's Yanacoto)

Life in Yanacoto is deffinately different than anything I've experienced before; however, it really hit me tonight (while I was eating a piece of a chicken, a piece I never knew was ediable.. the throat).

So things that really stood out for me tonight were:

1. The walk up the hill from the highway, dodging moto-taxis. These things can go 5 mph (tops) going up the the hill with 4 people. It's almost comical how much the motor strains to pull the weight, as the driver zig-zag their way around the pedestrians walking up the hill; however, on the way down the drivers play a crazy game of giant solom, with people walking up being the gates.

The racers lined up waiting for 3 people to fill the cab, before they start the ascent up the hill behind me.

One zooms by as I walk up the hill.

2. Passing under the sign that has the local Catholic parish's rules for the community (you don't see this too often walking into the Lower Rattlesnake).

Parish of Saint Nicolas:
1. Inhabitants of Yanacoto do not abandon the Catholic Church.
2. Do not be fooled/tricked by Evangelist.
3. Love Jesus with all of your heart.
4. Love Mary... (I can't read the rest).
5. Attend Sunday Mass.
6. Read and live the Catholic Bible.
7. Love your neighbor and be supportive.

3. Watching my host mom get up multiple times during our nightly telanovela (soap opra) to lean out the window and listen to the guy yelling into the paralante (loudspeaker).

You may be wondering why there is a paralante in my community, but the reason is too long to cover in this post. See my soon to come, highly detailed, post discussing the loudspeaker, and the water issues. However, for now, you just need to know that there is ALWAYS someone yelling into these speakers (morning, noon, and night) regardless of the day. In fact, I'm starting to recognize some of the voices, as if they are famous radio personalities (i.e. Al from "the Craig and Al show" has been replaced with the lady my host mother referres to as "la loca"/"the crazy one").

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Lima Trips

I've made multiple trips to Lima over the last week, and have had little down time to report on them individually, so decided to cram them all into one post. Basically, there are three parts. Our first PC training trip, my trip to with my host brother and his friend to pick up Luara (a current PC volunteer), and our training trip to La Victoria.

Part Uno (One):
So we went to Lima on Saturday to get to know the city. Really, it wasn't too exciting. Lima is a huge city and we just saw a fraction of what it has to offer, the city center (with the president's house) and Miraflores (the commerical district). Neither really stood out for me, and the weather was cloudy (as I guess it typically is). Miraflores was interesting to me because it reminded me of Miami. It's an upper class neighborhood with nice ocean view houses, every fast food and chain resturant Montana still doesn't have, and people who speak both Spanish and English.

Linked below is a video I took of the Plaza Mayor in the center of Lima. It's where the Presidental Palace is located there, and it's also where 32 of us had to practice asking questions about the community (where are the dangerous parts of town, what is there to see in this part of town, etc.). This place was neat, but was saturated with tourist and trainees. However, as usual, the Peruvians were very patient and tried to answer our questions.

Community Diagnositic Training in Lima

This is Alan Garcia's house (the president of Peru), the door to the right is where he comes out to make public addresses.

This is me with the crowd control cops in the city center. They work 24 hour shifts, let tourist hold their shields, and consistantly say "no" if you ask to hold their guns.

Part Dos (Two):
Sumarines and Water Foutains...

Wednesday was a national holiday for Saint Pedro and Pablo.

Laura (the volunteer before me) had just went on vacation to Chicago and when she returned, Frank, Danny (Frank's friend), and I went to see her in Lima. We picked her up at her friends house, and then drove to the ocean. We walked around a little, and then decided to go to the submarine meusum. The main attraction was a out of commision sub that you could go into for a tour. The tour was short, but interesting, and we got plenty of goofy fotos (photos):

Attacking a nearby resturant

The captian calmly calling the engine room.

The crew (L-R Danny, Fran, Laura)

After this, we went to the Parque de Aguas (Park of Water), where there are bout 20 different water fountains with lights, lazers and music. It a park that is run by the municipalidad (4S/.), but is really clean and safe. There were a ton of tourists from all over, and lots of couples making out.

One of the many water/laser displays.

Water tunnel

This was Fran and Danny's idea.


This was the grand finale with lazers, music, and of course... water.

Una vez una submarinista,Siempre una submarinista..... Once a submariner, always a submariner.

Part Tres (Three):
La Vicotria.

This was probably my most impactful trip to Lima, as the other ones were more for fun and pratice. No doubt, this one was more of an eye opener. La Victoria was one of those barrios (neighborhoods) that every one was told to stay away from during our first visit to Lima. It's a market section where you can find, or see anything. Its muudy, smells, and can only truly be discribed as caos. You're constantly being pushed to move along, as people call out to you to sell stuff. There is no clear orgnization to the stands, and there a venders "squatting" where ever there is an open space. You can't believe what you're seeing: Live frogs that get blended up into a "power smoothie", clouds of bees as you walk by the honeycomb sellers, massive snakes cut open and splayed out as a display for snake medicine, piles of rotting potatoes for sale (smelling horrible), etc.  In addition to this, there are gangs of theives eyeing the crowd for easy prey, people with horrible wounds/medical maladies begging for money, and ninos de la calle (street kids) working how ever they can.

The ninos de la calle were the reason we were there. PC had set up a meeting for us to see the "educadores del calle" (Street Educators) program that was set up by the government to help the street kids. Basically, its a drop in center for the street kids set up above the market. Its run by facilitators who are there to support the kids in their schooling.  However, this is a huge task. These people are easily the poorest people I've ever seen. The kids are coming from rough setting, and the families need them to work. A street kid works crazy hours (it wasn't uncommion for a 10 year old to be out working until 3:00 AM), doing crapy work (picking up potatoes that have fallen to resell, cleaning up the market looking for recyclables, etc). The hope of the program is to try to break this cycle of poverty, by supporting them in getting some form of education, possibly leading to a better life. Simple plan, but tough population to work with. Take for example this one little girl. Her mother sells CDs from kiosk (no bigger than 5'x5') on street corner illegally (They don't have a permit for that spot). So the stand is also their house (because if they left it, the police would come and take away their stuff). So each night they wrap the kiosk up in blue plastic tarps and all three of them sleep there, during the day, they sell whatever they can... pretty rough deal.

We were divided up into groups of 3-4. In the group of 3-4, we were lead around the market by one of the facilitators. They took us to the various stands, where their students worked, and showed us the ropes of the market (i.e. move to the right away from those guys, they are theives). I never felt very comfomtable, and I don't have any pictures of this place, as it was stressed that we were not allowed to bring anything other than the clothes on our backs. No camera, no wallet, no earing/rings/watches, etc. Nothing. Although I don't have any fotos (photos), it's really was one of those things that I know I'll be thinking about for awhile.