Friday, February 24, 2012

Cajamarca Carnaval

Cajamarca City is sleepy capital city 6 hours away from Trujillo, that has many great tourist sites, just minutes from town (Hot springs, rock forests, major Incan historical sites, etc.); However,  the main reason I went was: Carnavales!!! I'm sure you've heard of Carnaval in Brasil, or Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but I wonder how many have heard of the great celebration in Cajamarca City, Cajamarca, Peru. Its a blast! Water balloon fights, paint fights and parades that last for hours. This city really knows how to wake up.

I went for the tail end of the festivities, and just caught the paint fight and the never ending parade, all while being under a constant bombardment of water balloons. This is one of those trips that I'm planning on doing again. Unlike my trip to the beach for New Years, I feel like this one must be repeated. Here's why:

The Paint and Water Fights:
From 8am to dark, if you are on the streets, you free game to be pelted with water and paint. There is no mercy and it comes from all directions. Everyone gets to act like they are fun loving kids. People in cars driving by with squirt guns, old women on roof tops with buckets, and bands of teenagers armed to the teeth marching to the beat of drummers and waving flags, are all normal sites. The pictures tell the story best. However, one quick note on the band of teenagers: the first band that approached me (I was walking one way down the street, they were coming from the other way), caught me smiling when I was engulfed by them. A few seconds later I made it through the back of the band past the drummer,covered in paint, and understanding that smiling at a band of kids with paint only leaves you with mouth full of paint (which I spent the rest of the day spitting out). 
I was well painted no less than 10 minutes after leaving our hostel. 

Me with my new look in front of the city plaza.

I decided I needed to arm myself. Squirt gun 15 soles, two buckets of paint 6 soles. 

Some fellow PCVs in the plaza getting ready to do some painting. 

I didn't get breakfast that day, so luckily this restaurant let Gisel and I in for a quick lunch. When we asked if we could come in, they just simply said "Asi son los carnavales." (That's carnaval). 

I add every shade possible. 

The crowd eventually gathered at this side plaza for some live music. 

Even a few of the police got painted, obviously not too bad. 

A few PCVs at the concert.

The Parades That Never End:
These were easily the best parades I've ever seen (sorry Seeley Lake 4th July Parade with the town dump truck). They go from 9 am to 4 pm and with no breaks in the action. It's waves of dancing groups, folklore displays, and bands marching through town. Cheered on by two solid walls of people, who throw water at anyone walking by not actually in the parade. Not even the rain stopped them. And when it finally does end, every one stands in the plaza banging drums, dancing, and of course drinking. Hopefully the pictures help.
Each group generally represented their specific region. 

The news camera to the bottom right prevented people from throwing water balloons at us during the parade. There appeared to be unwritten rules that cameras and old people were off limits. However, sometimes the rules were broken. 

A very solid turn out for the parade. 

Notice the water marks on the pavement where water balloons missed their targets. 

Peru's Political History 

The parade continues despite the last two hours of rain. 

Powering through the rain. 

The Tourist Attractions Close to Town:
I didn't get to visit many sights in Cajamarca, but I did see the ones in town or on the public buss routes. The Mirador has a great overlook of the whole town and the Ventanillas ("Windows") are Incan grave sites carved into a cliff near town. Both very cool, but not my favorites. My two favorites were the Ransom Room and the Incan Baths.

The Incan Baths are hot springs where the Incan leader Atahualpa was camped when he first heard that the Spanish conquistadors were coming. He was camped there preparing to take control of Cusco and all of the Incan empire, when Pizzaro interrupted. What happen next is what leads to the story of the Ransom Room.

Atahualpa and his warriors numbered in the thousands, while the Spaniards had less than 200 men. Fearful of the Incan numbers, the conquistadors decided to capture Atahualpa in a trick meeting in the city plaza. The ambush worked surprisingly well thanks to the help of fear inducing horses and canons, something unseen by the Incans. After Atahualpa was captured he was held in a large room where his ransom was negotiated. The Ransom: A line was drawn in the room at the level of man reaching arm straight over his head. Then the room was to be filled to this line once with gold and twice with silver. The Incans did so by bringing all their decorative items made from silver and gold, which was then melted down by the Spaniards. Then still fearing Alahualpa, the conquistadors sentenced him to be burned at the stake. Luckily for Atahualpa, he decided at the last minute to be a baptized Christian, and he was just hung to death instead... phew, what a lucky duck.

Gisel and Bri (Ancash 16ers) at the Mirador in Cajamarca. 

Bri at the ventanillas
Lots of caves where ceramic pots with the human remains were placed. 

The Ransom Room (in this picture you can only see about half the room)

Kyle (Peru 17 Piura) and Gisel (Peru 16 Ancash) at the baths.

Me in the exact spot where Atahualpa was standing when he heard about the Spanish coming... or so I'd like to think.

The water behind me is said to be 160 degrees Fahrenheit. I'm not sure, I didn't test it.  

I caught an Impala

Sometimes I see a car that seems out of place here in Peru. The first one was a Toyota Prius. The last was this Chevy Impala. Usually when I think of old cars and fluent Spanish Speakers I think of either Cuba or the Corts Home in Missoula, not the plaza in Caraz.

This is for the dogs.

Let's take a look at three dogs I know here in Peru, but before we do that, a quick note on cultural differences:

Culture is often a blend of many aspects of a person's life, and isn't specific to a person's ethnicity, language, or country. These aspects often determine a group's laws, norms, rules, and a person's point of view on various subjects. So when one group's norms are not observed by another, it can lead to some interesting situations. Cultural differences can lead to: Humor (My host mom thinking Jeff is a clown because he likes to wear flip-flops around my site), entertainment (the Gringo being asked to be part of the local beauty queen contests), long discussions ("Why are there beautifully written laws that are never enforced or followed in Peru?"); or conflict. Now with that said, let's take a look at three dogs through my point of view as a dog lover from the United States:

Jeff's Dog:

This is Jeff's new pup, to my knowledge she doesn't have a name yet. He bought her for S/. 60 from a guy standing on a street corner in Huaraz, and is now a over concerned padre (dad). He guesses she's a little over a month old, with a mix between a golden retriever and husky. And when I met him on the 2nd day of having her, Jeff told me stories of her being really sick and hungry, drinking mop water at the hostel, whining on the 2 hour combi ride, and not being sure what would be the best thing to feed her in site (store bought dog food, tuna, milk, and rice were all discussed).

I found this all interesting after I tried to explain exactly the above paragraph to my host-mom. Judging from Dina's comments she found the following interesting: Jeff paid money for a street dog; The dog has identifiable breeds in it; The dog got to ride on the combi with Jeff; He wasn't sure what foods to give the dog; and the kicker... this dog will most likely be going back to the United States with Jeff after he finishes his service. It's pretty clear that there two different cultural lens looking at the same perro (dog).

Gisel's Dog Toby:

The perfect couple.

Puppy love. 

Toby in Gisel's house helping cook.

Ever see a dog and their human have such a connection that you can't help to think that those two were made for each other, or were in love. That's the only way to describe Gisel (A Peru 16 Health Volunteer who is the biggest animal lover I've ever met) and Toby. With Gisel, Toby was assured plentiful food, kisses, tummy and ear scratches, and a safe place to stay. Gisel on the other hand had a loyal companion that would follow her to the ends of the Earth. He was known to go into the municipality with here for meetings, wait for her outside a local hotel while she called her parents, comforted her after those phone calls made her homesick, and even do a 12 mile hike with her while he had a hurt leg. Together they shared a lot, including fleas (Toby and her often enjoy a movie nights together in her bed). They were a great couple.

They were so great that Gisel decided two weeks ago at the regional meeting, right after Jeff bought his puppy, to take Toby home with her. She had been unsure of the idea, as she knew Toby was a campo dog and loved his freedom, and may not adjust well to island life (she's from Puerto Rico), but in the end she and her host family agreed that Toby would surely die of a broken heart if they got split up. So Toby got the green light for a puppy green card. Unfortunately though, no less than a hour after Gisel made up her mind that Toby was going home with her, she got a call from her host sister saying that Toby had been killed (poisoned) and that they were saving his body until she came home to bury it.

Dogs in Peru, and especially in the campo, have very few advocates, and if they cross someone the usual solution to kill them. It's not uncommon to hear stories of people purposefully poisoning a dog, hanging a dog or drowning a dog. Things that are not typically accepted back home and are really hard to hear or see. In the case of Toby, his neighbors did him in. As the story goes: a new litter of 4 month old puppies had been running around Gisel and Toby's neighborhood, and one day a few of the puppies showed up to Gisel's house with their bellies stuffed and faces covered in blood. Toby saw this, and slipped a away to return in a half an hour with blood on his paws. Gisel didn't think much of it, as she figure some one might have killed a pig or sheep, and the dogs were cleaning up. However, later that night her neighbor confronted her, saying that Toby had killed 12 of her cuy (guinea pigs). Gisel tried to explain that it wasn't all Toby's fault, and that it was most likely due to the other dogs. The lady didn't care to listen, and bluntly said, "I going to have my bother poison your dog" (imagine saying that to your neighbor), and true to her word Toby was killed. Crying (and understandably upset with her neighbors and Peru), Gisel took the next bus home to bury Toby in her front yard, on Valentines Day. *  ** ***

* When it rains it pours: Gisel returned home to bury her dog, to also find that her host family's donkey had given birth to a still-born in her front yard. While she buried Toby, the burro was licking and kicking the dead foal trying to get it to wake up. The host-family's solution to the dead donkey: leave it there and let the street dogs take it away in the middle of the night (with the mother still tied up next to it).

**I wasn't going to tell this story, partly because it isn't my story to tell, and because it is hard to write it in a way that isn't me venting on Peru. However, Gisel asked me to blog about Toby saying "please talk about Toby and how dogs can be treating here"... so here you go.

*** When my host-aunt heard this story, she simply said that Toby died from "mal ojo" (lit: bad eye), which she went on to explain as dogs die if you care about them too much... maybe she didn't catch the whole poison part of the story.

Negrita the Family Dog:
A couple of months ago, I had a week of horrible sleep due to Negra being in heat and the local dogs flocking to her. My nights were spent listing to yelps and barks as  dogs from all corners came out to court Negra. It wasn't too much fun. However, I'm now seen the end results: 9 new Negritas (I counted eight, my host-father counted ten).

The process involved Negrita looking like she was going to explode, as she could barely walk or sit. Then about two weeks ago she just disappeared. I was concerned, but my host family wasn't. They've seen it two times before. Apparently Negra has a favorite stump in the chacra where she always gives birth, and apparently she always has ten pups (so this last litter included her 30th offspring). I only mention the 30th pup point as it was my center piece in my discussion on spaying and nurturing (shout out to Bob Barker). Of course my host family thought that was a silly (and overly expensive) Gringo thing ( I guess I can't blame them). They then stated they just wish that most the pups (specifically all the females) don't make it out of the stump, so they have less dogs to "deal with". The good news is Gisel family want's one!

Negra in the stump with her pups and cold soup... kinda hard to see. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

World Map Part 2

As I write this I have a pounding headache from paint fumes and too much sun, but I'm proud to say that my vacaciones utiles class and I made a major dent in our World Map Project. We painted the counties (on Tuesday) and did the ocean today. Now I just need to label the countries. Here are a few photos from this week:
To paint the countries we worked in groups of 2 to 3. Each group had a color, and was responsible for painting their specific countries. Here you see the Purples (L to R: Yoselina, Fernando, and Susy) working alongside the Blues (L to R: Keven and Jefery).

Jacki and Fatima observe Keven and Jefery at work.

Me on Tuesday next to all the painted countries. I started getting everything ready at 7:30am, kids worked from 9:00 to 12:00, and I was done touching up at 2:00 pm. A solid day.

We did the ocean in two waves (I guess there's a pun there). Girls did the delicate painting around the edges, and then the boys did the big stuff with the bigger brushes. 

The boys hitting the big stuff. 

This is half the crew from today next to our obra (work of art). The other half were too shy to have their pictures taken. 

I Count Too?!

So the census people came around my neighborhood on Monday to take a count and interview everyone who lives in the barrio of Yuracoto. I think the lady doing the survey was pretty surprised to see a gringo come to the door when she was standing in the driveway calling "Senior o Seniora!!"; however, I think I was more surprised when she said that she need to interview me too. Apparently after 6 months I'm a resident as well. Here's a picture of the lady asking me questions. None of which were too tough (how do you cook? do you have electricity?), but we did get in a little argument over my age (after telling her my birth date, she wrote down age 27. I brought the error to her attention and then she changed to 26. Then she refused to change it when I explained that 28 is right, but even 27 would be closer.), I guess she won that one.

Getting counted.

The proof on my door I was counted.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Package Love

Due to various reasons, I haven't been able to pick up my mail in the capital city since the 1st week of January, so when I was getting reports from my fellow volunteers that I had a lot of packages waiting for me, I was pumped. Four in total!!! I just had to listen to the, generally very nice, mail lady chew me out because I took so long to pick them up.

All the packages were great, but the one from my mom with the various gifts from Uncle Pat was the biggest hit with my fellow volunteers. We always share our goods, and they loved the random items that graced my birthday box, specifically the baseball team hats. Jeff and Nico, both big Angles fans were probably the happiest.

Jeff is the one not saluting like a big dork. 

One last note on volunteers sharing mailed goods (read: strong hint here): We've heard that it's Girl Scout Cookies season back home, and it's pretty comical how we spend time either debating which is the "Best Girl Scout Cookie Ever" or fantasizing about how cool it would be to see a girl scout walking around one of our communities looking for a motivated buyer (such as ourselves).  So, I just ask that you take time to appreciate the luxuries that we sometimes take for granted back home. Support a local troop, buy a box, and enjoy the taste of knowing that you are helping one of the largest girl-ran businesses in the country; and you happen to have a spare box of Samoas or Thin Mints laying around, I know a few people that would love to help you out with them (here's the mailing address for you convenience: Lost Cookies Shelter  ).

Friday, February 10, 2012

Great day hike.

I took a real nice day hike up this deadend quebrada (canyon) that held a few livestock, a nice stream, a young stand of young planted Quinual trees, an older stand of Quinuales, and a great waterfall. I guess there's a lake above the waterfall that is said to be amazing, but due to the rain and last stretch of cliffs, the lake was not seen. As always the pictures don't do it justice, but let's give it a shot.