Saturday, September 17, 2011

Kids Love Motos

This is my host bros on their respective rides. The last time I was this close to a motorcycle gang, I was dressed like Indiana Jones at the Buckaroo Club when there happened to be a Hells Angles meeting. Needless to say, I feel a little more comfortable in this situation.

Yeferson and his (dad's) moto.

Yordan posing on his ride.

New Kicks

When is the last time you re-soled your shoes??? For me the answer is never. So I found it interesting when Roger spent the evening re-soling his shoes. For 10 S/. (roughly $3.50) you can buy soles to sew on to your old shoes. For 20S/. (you do the math), the guy in the market will sew them on for you. It seems to me that this is great way to stretch you money and get more miles from you shoes.

The underbelly of standardized testing.

When I think of the "black market", the picture that comes to mind is generally some vague vision of a Somali pirate port, half a world away, where to you can find great bargains for all your illicit needs. What doesn't come to mind, is a school psychologist. In fact, even the most hardcore school psych I know, shout out to Dr. Coffee, (who is probably currently rolling through the inner-city streets of Chicago, thumping the bassline of NPR's Fresh Air in her Prius), doesn't come to mind with I think of someone dealing in the illegal trade of a controlled commodity.  So when my psych friend here in Peru showed me the pirated tests that she uses here in the schools, I had to laugh.

Apparently, sixty dollars at the the local university can get you a pirated version any of the major tests that are typically highly controlled, and higher priced, in the US. Here's the Standford Benet LM (definitely not the latest version), that I borrowed to look over.

Futbol Cub follow-up video.

Here's a quick follow-up video of my kids playing soccer at our Thursday Night Futbol Club. Enjoy.

Thursday Night Soccer Video

Friday, September 16, 2011

Yurocoto Randoms

This is the window I mentioned before in my previous post (see: Labor Day Week in Caraz part 2). I went to the welder on Friday, paid my money, and picked it up on Saturday morning. By 11:0Oam, I was back at the house, and began digging into the adobe/caster wall to place my new window. By 2:00pm the window was cemented in, and I was ready to eat soup that would later give me food poisoning (again see the before mentioned post).

This is frog I found outside my room one night. My host-family saw me taking pictures and came over to see what was so interesting. When Dina (my host-mom) saw that it was a frog, she demanded that Roger sweep it up and toss it into the bushes. She then explained to me that she doesn’t like frogs because they suck blood (She may be misinformed about frogs). When asked what other animals she doesn’t like (Expecting to hear about spiders, scorpions, or snakes... animals on my personal list), she mentioned butterflies and moths. Go figure.  

This is my newest, and cheapest, addition to my room. It’s a book case!!! Or in the real world, 4 fruit boxes stacked on top of each other. 2 S/. in total was the final price (50 centimos each box).

Laguna Pampacocha

The rainy season is fast approaching, which dawned on me when I woke up on Friday to see fresh snow on the higher peaks (we’ve also had rain fall almost every afternoon this last week). It lit a fire under me to get out and see some country while the weather was still good (despite that I have a nagging head cold). So I readied my pack, checked my topo map, and chose to walk up the hill to Laguna Pampacocha, the nearest sizable body of water (minus the Rio Santo behind my house).
The hike, was more of hike for hiking sake, than a method to get somewhere. I say this because: 1, there is a road all the way up (with taxis); and 2, I wasn’t really going anywhere to do something, I was just going on a hike to see “stuff”. With that said, it was a day well spent, and can be summarized by the following points.

I hiked the farm trails leading up from my house and gained 1,000 feet in about 4 hours (slowly walking, taking my time to talk to everyone (explaining that I'm not a lost gringo, but just a curious gringo). They don't see to many backpackers.
 I passed this simple little farm, and it struck me how basic this particular family lives, and I decided to take the following video:

 While hiking up to the lake, I met this lady while she was milking her cow. She didn't really want her picture taken (stating that she was dirty, and that I should return some other day), but I begged, and she relented. I took these pictures and this video:

Then when I was leaving, she asked me when she will get her pictures. I promised* "soon".  But as I was walking away I realized that I had little to no chance of remembering how to get back to her house... To remedy this, I took the following video to help me find her house again (in hindsight, I could have been a little more specific): 

And finally, I arrived to Laguna Pampacocha. It wasn't like any other lake I know at 9,000 feet (I was hoping for more of a high mountain lake look), but I relaxed anyways, and took this video before returning home:

Then to save time, and get home for lunch, I took a taxi (S/. 4). But as the taxi flew down a sttep hill without power steering, on hairpin curves, I seriously thought about getting out of the van and walking. However, when "Highway to the Danger Zone" began being played, I decided it was too perfect, and I needed to document this "pucker" inducing ride. As is typical with my experiences in South America, there is always music playing, and sometimes it more than appropriate (It seems like there is always a soundtrack to my life, and this time it was too perfect).
Here's a short video (that doesn't quite capture the feeling of my life flashing before my eyes with Maverick and Goose by my side):

*I will return to give this lady her pictures.

Claire's Care Package

Shout out to Claire for the care package(s), and my apologies to anyone in the greater Seattle-Tacoma area in search of sugarless gum. Claire beat you to it. But since she just moved across the country to the east coast, you can expect Costco will be back in-stock with your favorite brands soon.
I can’t wait for her next care package with a real Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich (I’d like the works). In exchange for the sandwich, you will receive one free snow removal service*.

* Offer only valid August 2013, and lasting to September 2013.     

Pancakes: the new apple pie.

Later I will write more about Sra. Betty at “El Gordo” (the restaurant where Roger works), but for now the key point is that Sra. Betty runs the restaurant, always offers me food, is well respected in the community and willing to help me (or any other person in need) whenever she can. So, when she asked me what I liked to eat in the United States, I was surprised when I heard myself blurt out “pancakes!”. Of all the dishes, that’s the first, and only, that came to mind at that very second. Sorry mom: somehow your prime rib didn't come to mind…. But it might have been for the better, as Betty and the wait staff had never heard of pancakes (or pan-kay-kays as they are translated to here). So I offered to make them for them.   We scheduled a Thursday night (mornings weren’t an option), and I went to Caraz that day to buy the ingredients (including bananas and chocolate). Then after the Thursday night football club, I showed up at the restaurant to show them how to make pancakes. I made a banana/pineapple syrup, and whipped out a big bowl of batter. As they typically are, the first few weren’t the best, but once I got the skillet right they came out pretty good. Peruvian’s are always super nice, but I think it’s safe to say the pancakes were a big hit. Not to be out done, Betty offered to make me a few after watching what I did, and it was soon obvious that she knows how to cook. Basically, she adapted what I was doing and made them into a folded stuffed pancake type dish. So the end result (which I ate 3 plates of), was a thinner pancaked that was cooked with a lid on until almost cooked through, then she’d add the chocolate, bananas, and syrup and fold the pancake over on itself, omelet-style. It was delicious.  There are no pictures of this event, as I had allowed the health post to barrow my camera for a couple of days; however, I’m sure there will be other pancake parties in the near future (and pictures will be taken).

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Labor Day Week in Caraz (Part one)

It has been a mellow, but interesting week for me. Not my typical Labor Day week/weekend where I shake off the shock that another school year has started, and that summer has pretty much come to an end. Honestly, it doesn't even feel like I've had a summer this year (Something I didn't realize until I met up with a fellow volunteer who just returned from a wedding at Holland Lake Lodge in Montana, meaning she drove by my cabin/family... I could still smell the pine trees on her). Anyway, today is a vacation day for us volunteers (Labor Day), and I needed to come to the capital city, so I figured it would be a good time to update the ol' blog.

Soccer Game:
Entertainment and sporting events are few and far between in Yurocoto, so when there was soccer tourney (winners taking 1,000 S/.) held in town on Sunday, it wasn't surprising that Dina loaded up the kids (Jeferson, Jordan, and Brice) and took them to the game (just like any other soccer mom, minus the mini-van that has multiple DVD players). The games were kinda boring, as most of the players weren't very good; however, the walk home proved to be pretty scenic.

The soccer field.

Dina holding Jordan, with Jefferson.

Walking home from the game.

Jefferson running out ahead of us. Nevada Santa Cruz to the upper left.

Nevada Santa Cruz as seen from Yurocoto.


Visit to Casha Pampa:
Monday was a free day from school because Tuesday was a holiday ("Santa Rosa de Lima Day"). So I "aprovechar-ed" (took advantage of) the day to visit the 2 volunteers closest to me (Ali and Sara Jane). Both are environment volunteers, and both have super cool, small town sites. Sara Jane's site is the entrance to the Santa Cruz Trek (a popular 3-7 day through hike among the nevadas of the Corridellera Blanca). She works with the National Park, and has her own forest!!! In reality, she's in charge of planting 500 trees each year, and working on improving the park's management. I didn't get to see her trees, but I have time. In her spare moments, she works with the park guards (trying to teach them English), and started the hobby of weather tracking. Her family is super nice, which I confirmed through the following tests:

1: They were cooking and needed firewood for the fire, so being the manly man I think I am, I took the axe from her mom, and offered the cut the piece of wood she has started on. Little did I realize that Peruvian axes are little more than a glorified sledge hammers, and that Sara Jane's mom made chopping wood look easy. My first swing the axe bounced off the wood, and the wood rolled down the hill into the ditch (making the firewood significantly harder to light). I promptly gave the axe back to Sara Jane mom, and walked off in shame.

2: At 4:00PM I began waiting for a cab back down to Yurocoto  (6S/.). At 5:30PM I felt like I was reliving the scene from the movie "The Jerk" where Steve Martin tries to hitch hike out of town to start his life in the real world. By 7:00 PM, I gave up all hope as every car I stopped was just heading to their home, no mas. 8:00 PM I found myself in Sara Jane's kitchen as they fed me, and we discussed the impending sleeping arrangements (Sara Jane was going to to sleep with her little host brother in his bed), luckily, a van drove by that was going to Caraz, and they were willing to take me with them. So I grunted and mumbled my thanks to the family, as ran out the door with my backpack.

Sara Jane's host mother preparing a cuy for lunch.

My first chop, and the start of the race to save the log from the ditch
Me proudly walking back with the log I saved from the ditch.

The sunset I caught while waiting for a cab.

The canyon over my head is the entrance to the park, and the start of the Santa Cruz trek.

To be continued...

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day Week in Caraz (Part 2)

The Workfront:
Work was kinda slowed by school vacaciones (vacations) and government visits; however, I have had some successes. If you're ever in my neck of the woods on Thursdays at 4:00 PM, you'd be more than welcome to join the soccer club at the colegio in Yurocoto; however, be prepared to be smoked by little kids half your size, and a third your age. If soccer isn't your thing (I'm looking at those of you coming from 326 S. 20th), you might be able to join our Paso Adelante/Health Promoters group (Wednesdays and Fridays from 3-5). This is a group motivated kids looking to promote healthy life-styles in their community. On Friday we elected a junta directiva (group government), Alicia is our fearless president, and we held our first "Noche de Cine"/"Movie Night" this Sunday. The "Noche de Cine" featured a short Discovery film on climate change, and earned the group  S/. 5.20 towards future activities.

Director Florencio swearing in the Junta.

Cecilia receiving her certificate left by Christie.

Movie night.

"The toughest job you'll ever love" :
This is the recruiting slogan that is often thrown around by the Peace Corps, and I have to say that in some aspects, it is very true. Case in point: The time I spend trying teach Jefferson his letters and numbers (possibly the longest part of my day). He's high energy, seven years old, and knows how avoid doing work. Academically, he can correctly identify 3 of the 30 letters in the Spanish alphabet and his ability to recall number values is almost non-existent (however, he does have "A,E,I,O,U" and "1-10" memorized, but he doesn't know what they mean).

It's pretty frustrating when he comes home with homework requiring him to do multiple digit subtraction/addition, or reading comprehension questions, when he still needs to learn the basics. It's also frustrating when I try to teach him, and Dina (my host-mother) sits in the background trumpeting his "inability to learn" (she's too is just beginning to learn how to read). However, slowly but surely, it's starting to click. He's learning to spell his name*, and it's getting more popular (at least with the cousins) to spend time teaching Jefferson. One of my personal goals to have him reading by the end of my service (August 2013 doesn't seem like enough time).

Kathy, our cousin, reading to Jefferson in-front of my room.

* Jefferson and I started our educational journey together in the wrong direction. I spent good hour teaching him "J". We drew it, made it with our bodies, used a garden hose to walk the letter, and went on a scavenger hunt to find words that have the letter "J". Then when Roger come home from work, I boasted that Jefferson had learned the first letter of his name. Roger looked at me blankly and said, "Se escribe con Y"... yep, the kid spells it "Yeferson" (pronounced Jefferson). Oops, I guess "J" is just a bonus letter that we had to learn it sooner or later.

Trips to Caraz.
 With the school vacations, I was able to use the downtime to make a few trips to Caraz to make some copies, have a window made (63S/. including the metal, glass, and cement), and met up with the other Peru 17ers. All the trips were pretty uneventful, expect for the trip to the copy store, where I scared the life out of myself, 2 old ladies, and the young girl working at the store.

The short story is: when I pulled my leather binder from my backpack (which had been sitting on my bedroom floor), I found a scorpion staring up at me. I stifled a scream typical of a 3 year old girl, and threw the binder with the arthropod across the room, scaring the old ladies (who I assume figured the gringo was nuts or had more scorpions with him). Once I regained my composure, I calmly walked across the room, stepped on it, and then turned to the girl and ask for 20 copies (costing 50 centimos). However, no one else was ready to continue with the day, until they lectured me on the various poisonous animals in Peru, and how I need to be more careful since I live in the campo. Almost a half an hour later, the lesson was learned (I now check my shoes on 15 minute intervals). There are no scorpion pics, but here are some of the 17ers.

Peru 17 (Ancash) together on my turf of Caraz.

Peru 17 Ancash.

The heads of  Peru 17 Ancash.

Food poisoning
Speaking of poisonous things, stay away from my host-mom's soup. This is something that dawned on me as I spend Saturday night performing an ab workout that would make Tony Horton cry. Those of you looking to get your beach body in 8 hours, and feel like crap, just do what I did.

Eat bad soup for both lunch and dinner, then wake up 10:00PM and hold an inner-debate with yourself about whether or not you want to make a night-time trip to the latrine. 10:15 PM perform your first wind sprint to the latrine. Then every hour after that, re-run your sprint to the driveway, lunge into the puking position on all fours, heave, and then crawl up the hill to the latrine, hoping the whole way that: a) there is still toilet paper left; b) there are no spiders or scorpions laying in you path; and c) Some higher power will smite you and end the misery. Continue this until you finally fall asleep at 6:30am, to be soon awoken by Huanyo music being blared by your host-father at 7:00am. (I also awoke expecting to share similar war stories with the family, but the only thing they told me was that my body needs to become accustom to the food here in Peru. Not what I was looking for).

There's always an upside, and in my illness induced haze, I do remember thinking two positive things: 1) Usually volunteers want to quit the most when they are sick; however, it barely crossed my mind (minus missing a flushing toilet and a cold ceramic floor to pass out on); and 2, At 3:00am in the campo there are copious amounts of (bastante) stars, making me real glad I was still alive (well, barely alive).

Shower Video

So as promised, here is a follow up video of the shower Roger made using recycled materials. The key features being the latrine platform and the Keiko for President banner. Imagine having John McCain grinning at you every time you showered.

I promise this video is "G" rated:

Shower Video