Sunday, August 28, 2011

Odds and Ends

Minor Quake During School:
During my second day at site, while the health post was giving an all day charla, there was a 6.6 earthquake in northern Peru. We felt the trembles, and all calmly walked outside to wait for a few minutes. It was interesting to see the school's reaction, and it gave me a moment to discuss planning for emergencies. No injuries, and just one small crack in the school's ceiling. No picture is  available due it it being a charla and kinda a serious deal. 

Walking to School with Jefferson
Jefferson has a hard time reading, writing and doing math; so needless to say, he also has a hard time going to school. However, he seems to like the attention he gets when he goes with his big brother. Here's Jefferson and I on our way to school. 

Cuy Being Born
When cuy are born there are two possible reactions (depending on your current hemisphere). Either it is: "Awe, look at the cute baby guinea pigs!", or "Yes, more food!". Due to my current location, these are future Cuy Picantes. Side note: My host mom is buying some rabbits this week. Ol' MacDonald has nothing on Dina.

Pasos Group
Shout out (again) to Christie for hooking me up with this group of kids and the school director. They are youths (hence the youth development program) that have completed a 3 month long after school course addressing sexual, physical, and mental health (ie. self-esteem, family planning, safe sex, effects of drugs, etc.). Now they are with me, and are health promoters ( they are going go into classes to talk to their peers about the same stuff). They are a bunch of characters who are fun to work with, and something most volunteers don't find until the end of their service. Another big huray for Christie (who is probably currently  dancing the tango and drinking mate with a underwear model/professional soccer player, as she travels for the next two and half months,seeing Argentina and Brazil. Christie, if you're reading this, remember what you learned while teaching Pasos). 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Going Pro

For a guy who found it nearly impossible to set up his office answering machines at work last year, it seems almost comical that I now have business cards AND a stamp! I'm more pumped about the stamp. Now when the mayor or the school director stamps some formal document for me, I can re-stamp it and yell "You can't triple stamp a double stamp!"
Side Note: The quote on the bottom is a 'tip of the hat' to Christie (the volunteer I'm replacing). It's a quote she painted on the bottom of her world map at the market in Caraz (painting a world map is must for all youth volunteers). Now, every time I go to the market, I see her map with this quote, and think about what she's done for me. She stuck around to show me the community before she left (not mandatory), and set me up REAL well. Thanks to her, I have a ton of work to do (a good thing), with a lot a involved people. 

Home Improvements with Roger

Roger is the life blood of my host-family, and I'm pretty sure he never sleeps. He is always the first one up, and the last one to bed. And besides possibly being a machine, he's great mix between Bob Vila and MacGyver. He scavenges and ensembles with the best I've seen. Pat and Jill better hope this Roger never moves on to C st, because they'd have some serious building competition (and Roger would just use the stuff from the 'free box')*.   Case in point the shower he built for the gringo (me), for under 10 dollars. The process is too complicated for me to describe (I just tried, but deleted it), but let me tell you the material list.
2 -6' tubes of 3/4'' PVC Pipe.
1 - On/Off Valve
1- Plastic rain spout for a gardening bucket
1- Old cement platform form a latrine
12- Bricks
5- Wooden poles
1- Long strip of plastic painter's tarp
1- Plastic presidential campaign banner (Kieko Fujimori, who lost earlier this spring)
2- Small pieces of metal roofing
1- Black cloth mesh used for building cuy and rabbit coops.

Here's a picture and a video will soon be made:

Additional Shower Notes:
Roger wants to use the metal roofing and more tubing to make it a solar shower. He's talking about installing a second valve connected to tubing, which will be snaked across the metal roofing material, and heated by the sun... should work.
Dina and Roger both took their first showers the day after he put it in. Jefferson is afraid of the falling water. They've never bathed this way before (they're use to doing the bucket bath thing), so it funny to hear them talk about the showering experience. I guess I've always taken that for granted.
Roger is talking about building me another shower closer to my door, so I don't have to walk the whole 25 feet across the drive way. Either he thinks I'm the laziest person ever, or he really enjoyed the project; you take your pick.

* The major inside joke for the Seeley Lakers is because the cabin has been on my mind since I'm missing Karen's Wedding. Good luck Karen and Dave.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Swearing In

Before anything, I have a new mailing address since I am now an official volunteer! See the updated page with the new mailing info.

So finally after 10 weeks of training, I'm now a Peace Corps Volunteer for Peru 17, and Peru 17 was the first group since Peru 4 (2004) to have all of the aspirantes (aspiring volunteer trainees) to make it to swearing in day.
The ceremonies were nice (one on Thursday to thank the host families, and one on Friday to actually swear in).

Friday was the big event, with the US Ambassador headlining. There were nice speeches and some formalities. But in the end it was a little sad, as it sunk in that you and your friends from training aren't going to be together any more, and that in less than 24 hours were all going to spread with the wind to random places all over the country (with some facing a 23 hour bus ride to their sites, mine is only 8 hours). It was also sad having to say good by to the Hinajosa Family. They treated me really well in Yanacoto, and I was hard to express my appreciation. My departing gift was 4 framed pictures of the 4 aspirantantes they had their homes, with a note from each thanking them. Gregoria loved it.

Now I'm off to Ancash for the next 730 days of my life.

Me with Gregoria and Gloria at Swearing In Day

Gregoria and I
The Oath of a Peace Corps Volunteer.
The families of Yanacoto saying good bye to their respective kids. I'm wearing a black cowboy hat that Don Poncho gave to me (For Black Beauty and when I dance at weddings).

(Also blog posts and emails may be less frequent for the next few weeks as I figure out my new site and where to find internet).

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Brice's 2011 Parade of Homes

Not counting tents, cars, and forest service cabins, I can still easily say that I've called 5 different places "home" this last year. Let's take a look back at the various roofs over my head:

Anchorage, Alaska:
 If Adam is ever able to fix up one of his few Honda 90s to be either amphibious, or capable of flight, it would take him nearly 6,200 miles (as the motorcycle flies) to get to the start of this parade of homes: Anchorage, AK.

The place in Anchorage was a great little apartment, with awesome Chinese landlords, and CrAzy neighbors. It was a steal of a deal for two good looking, outdoors orientated, (occasionally) dog loving, school district employees, in search of something close to work, and where they could stable a 1970's red tandem bicycle. It was also the epicenter of my feverish reading of Peace Corps blogs and PC application status checking.

Cowboy  and I sharing a meal.

Missoula, MT:
A place I haven't really thought of home for almost the last decade. However, it is my home town, and the place that I'm slated to return to in August 18, 2013 (barring any meltdowns related to 2012 Mayan Calendar). Zoo-town is a nice place, with an unbelievable reputation, and they might have a football team too.

I'm looking forward to seeing Missoula again one day (but it can wait).

Mom and Dad right before my last meal in Missoula.

My home.

Look at Mt. Jumbo from my house.

Seeley Lake, MT:
My preferred home. It's home to many great outdoor adventures, and other fun activities. This place is also home to countless fond memories and great people (notable memories including: boating, fishing trips, skunks, starting my Alaska journey, family time, games, and night time bike rides).

Ever since elementary school, at the end of every summer (usually in late September) I always found myself melancholy as I reflected on the summer as things were being stored for winter. This year was no different, except for summer was only a few days long, ended in June, and stuff was just being brought out (a bummer, that was quickly plowed over by the my trip to Peru).

The cabin with stuff still put away for winter.

Last photo taken by me from the cabin.

Yanacoto, Peru:
Not my first choice to live, but also not the worst place to live. A very arid community 30 K east of Lima, Peru. While not necessarily Club Med, it definitely has what I needed: a great Peruvian Family to help me acustombarme (get adjusted to/accustom to) Peru and the Peace Corps.

The Hinajosa Family is what makes Yanacoto. They've treated me like a long-lost memeber of the family since day one. And thanks to them, the culture shock and homesickness never sets in for too long. However, in addition to the Hinajosas, Yanacoto has sports the probably the highest amount of amazingly nice and tolerant people (per capita). A few examples: Andria's family (random kid wearing a Griz sweatshirt that gets hunted down, and interrupted during family lunch by a mumbling gringo with a camera), the multiple mototaxista that wave to me every time I walk up or down the hill; heck, even the little gangsters in the community are nice.

Here is a video of the mansion I've live in the last 10 weeks:

Yanacoto Home Video

Yurocoto, Peru:
The final resting point for that dart tossed at the map on March 25th, 2010 (see application time line). It's hard to think that Yurocoto is "the place". I think back to all that daydreaming I did after I submitted my PC application (will I be on some tropical island, or in the highlands of South East Asia, or Sub Saharan Africa...), and to think that I finally know what my home for the next two years looks like, is just mind blowing for me. To think that somewhere between Africa and Asia (all were possibilities since I put "Anywhere" on the application), I landed in Yurocoto, Peru; and finally know what it looks like.

It's too early for me to really describe it, since I was only there for 4 days, but here is a video of my home.

My home in Yurocoto

AND here are some pictures from my site visit:

9th week of Training: Site Visit

There surely will be more information to come with time.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fresh Clothes

Ever wonder what the Whirlpool washer does after you hit the start button? Me neither. But just in case you ever do, or ever want to go "back to basics", watch this video of Gregoria telling me how to hand wash my clothes.

Gregoria: "Brice are your going to wash your clothes?"

Unfortunately, my follow up video of me explaining the process in English refuses to upload, so you just have to imagine that she making sure I do it right. If you understand Spanish, or took Spanish in high school (Que hora es?!) then you probably caught the process: get the clothes wet, soap 'em up, scrub them if they are durable, rinse them 4 time until there is not soap or dirt in the water, hang them up inside out. That's the basics, but in reality, if Gregoria's watching you... you make you sure do it the way she taught you. Turn out the pockets, scrub the insides, shake out the wrinkles, etc; or else, she'll take the clothes from you and do it herself (kinda degrading).

Teaching gringos (first Peter, then Ian, then Laura, and now Brice), has been a time honored pass-time for Gregoria and her Peace Corps kids. She prides herself knowing that none of her kids are going to starve or look crusty when living in the campo (rural parts) of Peru. For me, it was a rite of passage to have my jeans pass the Gregoria test (they didn't smell like dirt or soap, and I remembered to hang them inside-out).

To sum it all up, hand washing clothes can be good. With it's mindless labor and nostalgic (shout out to Mariah) feel, I don't mind it. However, it is a pain to have to set aside one hour a week, and plan to not have certain clothes for 1-3 days (drying time depending on the sun). For now, it's too early to tell if this will be something I continue to do after Peace Corps, but don't be surprised if you see me at Vann's Appliances when I return. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

This bandwagon is out of control!

I was walking to the bus stop to catch a ride to Chosica to get my haircut (3.50 S/. = $1.20), when I saw this:

This is Andrias, a fellow resident of Yanacoto, and the president of the "Griz Nation-Peru". Fortunately his mom was nice enough to let me interrupt their family's lunch to hold this quick interview:

Here is the transcription:

Brice: "Hello, Andrias."
Andrias: "Hello."
B: "I'm here with Andrias, and he has a sweater for the Grizzlies, the University of Montana. And... How did you get that sweater?"
A: "My aunt brought it to me."
B: "Ah, your aunt. Are you a fan of the Grizzlies?"
A: "She just brought it to me."
B: "Do you know Marc Mariani?"
A: (Blank look)
B: "Well Marc Mariani is a player for the Grizzlies... and I met him before he was a Blue Pony. Do you know what a Blue Pony is?"
A: (Shakes his head no).
B: "Me neither, but he's famous. Thank you very much for showing me you sweater. Do you have any words for the people of the United States?"
A: "It's cool." (referring to the sweatshirt).
B: "Cool, thanks a lot. Good bye."

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Love in Yanacoto

Peace Corps has three broad goals, the last two have to do with an intercambio (exchange) of cultures (learning Peru's and sharing America's Culture/Sharing Peru's culture with America). So, when a kid in the neighborhood Felix (aka Cuervo = Crow) professed his love to Amanda* through the use of a giant mural, I was surprised that she didn't like it. I think I'd be flattered (a feeling a sense of accomplishment), but I guess could be a little embarrassing to have to walk past this everyday on your way to, and from, training.

* Amanda and Yanacoto is an interesting side story... There are 3 Amandas in our group, one has fluent Spanish, and this one had little to none. Typically the people who have higher language skills are placed in Yanacoto (being 45 minutes away from the training site), while those just starting to learn Spanish are more sheltered in Santa Eulalia (where the training site is). Due to a mix up, this Amanda (with little Spanish skills) was placed in Yanacoto and has done a pretty great job of fending for herself. (It must have been love that brought them together).

Huancayo, Peru

A wedding in Huancayo is like no other in Peru; unfortunately, I didn't get to see the it. However, I got to see the family reunion prior to the weeding and celebrate the Santiagos with the families... so I was happy.

Santiagos are specific only to Huancayo, and only at this time of year. They are best described as family parades around the city, set the music of a hired orchestra, to celebrate the farm animals. It seems to have everything that the people hold dear, all wrapped up into one package (Music, family, dancing, parades, beer, and paying respect to Pacha Mama or Mother Earth).

Basically, what happens is the family holds a family reunion (and party) for 2 or more families at a house. Each family dresses in the typical Sierra clothing, with the men of each family wearing a specific color of pants, hat, and tie. The families also each hire an orchestra. At the start of the party, the head of the each family presents each other family with a gift and gives a small speech (the gift to our family was a huge stack of beers).

Then after each family has received their gifts and given the speeches. The families take turns dancing. When the orchestra of one family is playing, that family dances. When the other orchestras are playing they sit, talk, and eat.

Then when the family is revved up and really excited (read into that statement), they take the show on the road, parading around the block as they dance to their orchestra marching behind them.

This is a family that was Santiago-ing when arrived into Huancayo.

Note the matching outfits sported by the men to show their family connections.

Family Reunion:
Having just missed the Neary Family Reunion in South Dakota, I felt a little sheepish walking into the Hinojosa Family Reunion and introducing myself as Brice Hinojosa Corts, but what can you do... you're in Peru. The whole deal started off like any other big family gathering, but then slowly picked up speed. However, to best describe this event, its best I lay down in two phases Day Time vs. Night Time. The change in the two phases was not due to the sun and the moon, it was more due to the drinking circles. Drinking circles? Allow me to explain:

----Side Bar On Drinking Circles----

In Peru, alcohol is very present and drinking (mainly beer) is a very common way to celebrate; however, with drinking, there are other factors involved. One aspect is alcohol as a gesture of respect or love. In the countryside, money and gifts are not common, but beer and food is. So, if you were to enter into a home, almost surely the woman will offer you a big plate of food. And and if your walking down the street or at a party, almost always a man will offer you some beer. To turn down the food or refuse the drink (no matter how full, sick, or tired you are) would be the equivalent to refusing to shake someone's hand when they offer it to you ( there always ways to say no... it's just something you can too often).

Drinking circles are custom here in Peru. If generally involves: a bunch of beers, one cup, and a circle of people standing around the beers. Everyone shares the same cup, and every one drinks the same beer until it's gone. Here's the basic set up: One person invites the other join the drinking circle (sign of respect) by offering them the bottle and the cup. That person opens the bottle and pours as much as he wants into the cup. Then he passes the bottle to next person in the circle. While that person holds the bottle, the first person drinks his cup of beer and the dumps out the foam on the ground. Then passes the cup to the person holding the bottle, starting the process over. The cup and bottle travels around the circle until all the beer is gone. It's pretty simple minus a few side rules... such as:

1. If a woman is to your side, you must serve her first, wait until she's done before you serve yourself. If there are more than one women to you side, you must serve them all before you drink. (Be a gentleman)
2. A women is never expected to hold the bottle (Don't pass her it).
3. It's insulting to pour another man a beer (because that's what you do for the ladies).

(I broke all the rules, but thankfully Frank was there to tell me what to do).

---- Back to the Phases of the Family Reunion ---

During the day, the reunion seemed pretty normal. The kids ran around, while the individual families mingled and ate outside (we ate Pachamanga). Each family was dressed in their specific colors and circled up to receive the presents form the other families. After the speeches, the family dug into the stack of beers while waiting for their orchestra to start playing. People were pretty curious about the big white guy with the camera (Gregoria's new son), but were generally too shy to approach me or make eye contact. However, one aunt did grab me before I could leave with Frank and Danny(we were going to walk around a little) to dance with the family.

Me Dancing

After my dance ("Nobody puts baby in the corner"), Frank, Danny and I left to see more of Huancayo.

When we came back, we observed the impact of the drinking circles and noted that the family sized had doubled. There was no timidly asking Gregoria who I was. It seems like I talked to everyone, and was even sung to by Gregoria and my host Aunt (some song about a guy being unfaithful and a liar. Go figure, because I requested Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline). I think videos speak for themselves.

Day Time Video Link

Night Time Video Link

The Wedding (which I didn't get to see):
 The Wedding was on Domingo (Sunday), so Frank, Danny, and I couldn't make it. We needed to return home that day, for work and school on the next. However, I know I missed a unique opportunity. Wedding in the Huancayo area are like no other, as they have their own traditions. Luckily my host-dad filmed it all and I was able it at home (and maybe someday upload the film here). What makes it so unique, is the gift giving process. Here's how it works. After all of the normal wedding stuff we are use to in the states, and everyone gets a chance to dance with the bride and groom, then the gift giving process starts. The bride and groom sit at a table and everyone leave. Then the orchestra starts playing music, the bride's family (about 30-40 people) parades in (just like above during the Santiagos) carrying gifts of food. Tons of fruits, cheese, and few pigs and chickens (live). Then the grooms family (30-40 people) comes in doing the same. Then they all dance. Then the process starts over, with everyone leaving, but the brides family parades in carrying furniture and other household items (Beds, tables, pots, pans, etc.). Then the groom's family does the same with their gifts. Then they all dance. Then they leave, and the next parade session, is the crazy one. The families march in with money in their hats (tucked in the bands of their hats) as gifts. The people go crazy for this and there is all kinds of yelling and excitement (this couple received 8,400 S/.). Then they all dance. Then the last parade, everyone carries in beer. Lots and lots of beer, too much to describe (Gregoria kept repeating how "there was SO much beer that each person got his or her OWN bottle, AND there was still beer left over". Getting you own bottle is kinda rare here... see the drinking circle section above). 

Just to recap, because there are a lot words above:
2 Parades, one with each family. 4 categories (Food, Furniture, Cash, and Beers).

Finally, I know this was along post, but I've also included a link to a picture album. There are few stories that I didn't mention (scenic drive over, having to dance on the tour bus) that kinda covered in the captions. Enjoy.

Huancayo Fotos

This is also just a random video I took in Huancayo. 

Video of the kids catching the ducks.

Where is Brice going to live for the next two years???

Drum Roll Please....

Yurocoto, Ancash, Peru!!!!!
(I'm going from Yanacoto to Yurocoto).

If I got to pick any department in the country of Peru to live, it would without a doubt be the the department I was assigned to on Wednesday. Some volunteers wanted beaches, or hot climates, or big towns with universities nearby; I just said give me somewhere cold, in the mountains, and preferably small... And  true to their track record with me, Peace Corps hooked it up. My site has everything I asked for, and more.

Mountains: Think Alaska meets south America (The mountains in Ancash are the number one tourist attraction, think "Touching the Void"... and if you haven't seen that movie recently, or ever, stop reading, go watch it on instant Netflix, and then come back and to read the rest of this blog).

Cold: My town will be at about 8,000 feet. I'll be looking at snow year round.

Small: 400 people. LSH (my high school) was equal to over half of this town's population.

Bonuses: Mountain lakes and rivers (think fishing), great other volunteers, Quechua speakers, and more!

I'm going there this Monday to see the site. I be there a week to meet my new host family*, and determine what I need to buy (I know I'm going to need to buy a bed because they don't have one for me). Until I can get there (8 hours by bus from Lima) and return, join me in my daydreaming by checking out this link to Wiki and this to Google image search:

Wiki Link to Ancash Info

Images of Ancash

* My host family here in Yanacoto (the Hinojosa Family) are super happy for me, but we're all sad I have to leave. When I came home Wednesday night Gregoria, Francini, and Don Poncho were waiting for me. After I told them where I was placed, Don Poncho got up and gave me a hug (which was great, but caught me off guard as was thinking he was coming in for a handshake). I'll be sad to leave these guys in 2 weeks, because they've treated me real well, and I know I've had it pretty easy with them. But as with all my other Peace Corps siblings (Peter from Ohio in Peace Corps 14, Ian from Wisconsin in Peace Corps 15, and Laura from Illinois in Peace Corps 16) I'll stay in touch.