Sunday, August 25, 2013

Jeff Says Good-Bye

There are some posts that I can pump out in a split second, and there are others that I just can't put into words. It's easy to write about things that are unique to life in Peru; however, it's the things that are unique to life in Peace Corps I have a hard time explaining. Peace Corps is a sub-culture within a culture, a job like no other, and sometimes it just can't be expressed accurately. Therefore I've been putting off writing about Jeff's last days in site for a long time now (he left in late July), just because I didn't want to have to stretch my brain around it. However, now that my last day in site has come and gone too, I need to share Jeff's story first, before I can get to my own.  Here I go:

Jeff's last hours in-site included a best 2 out of 3 basketball game versus the Big Sky Bomber. Jeff in the past was a heavily recruited power forward, and played some simi-pro ball for a league in Battle Mountain, Nevada; however, now a few steps slower, he had his hands full getting shots off against me. But in the end, I let him win... it was his last day (see the video):

In addition to this, I followed Jeff around trying to snap as many pictures as possible with the idea that the more awkward I made things, the less sad this good-bye would be.  

Jeff's middle school basket ball stance. Look at those mountains in the background!

Although it was Jeff's last hours in Huaylas, where he had spent 24 months helping develop youth, he never stopped working. Here he is explaining to a young child where to seek career guidance after graduating high school. 

Jeff's last evening in the Huaylas Plaza looking towards the Cordillera Blanca.

Jeff's last minutes with his great host-family. Inez, his mom (far left and a very sweet lady), took Jeff's going away pretty hard. 

"Brian" slips into the far left for a picture (Jeff's host-dad reportedly would talk very fondly of "Brian" during family diners, as if he "Brian" were old Army buddies. Jeff and I didn't have the heart to tell him my name is Brice). 

Jeff, Valetin, Inez, and Milagros at the diner table were lots of stories were shared. 

Jeff makes one last stop at his health post to say good-bye. 

Jeff, Berta (his original host mom) and a nurse from the Health Post stand in front of the Ambulance. This picture is interesting because, Jeff's first ride up to his site was in this ambulance. The health workers were in Huaraz when we first arrived 2 years ago, and decided to drive him site; however, when they turned on the siren, they didn't know how to turn it off.  Meaning Jeff blew into his sleepy little site with the horns and lights blaring! Not subtle entrance. 

Jeff and the family outside his room right before he walks away with his life belonging in his 2 bags. It was tough to watch his mom cry, while Jeff and his host-dad exchange manly, and very broad generalized and open-ended good-byes.  

Valetin helps with Jeff's bike as Jeff heads to catch his combi*. Jeff headed from Hualays to Caraz, then to Huaraz, then to Lima, and is now in Las Vegas, NV (talk about a shocking change). 
For me it was tough to see my right-hand man in the Peace Corps leave for good. No longer did I have the comfort of knowing Jeff was only two hours away, or that I could call him to talk if, I needed to. Jeff and I shared some pretty notable ups and downs. I have fond memories of our times together (i.e. teaching Jeff the importance of always carrying a flashlight; sharing the meaning of integrity; eating ice cream while voicing our disbelief that we've been 'in-country' for a whole 7 months! (a personal record for me at the time); and, the night he ran down the last combi leaving Huaylas to arrive to Yuracoto to help me through a notable rough patch). We shared a lot.

*Unfortunately for Jeff, his last moments leaving site didn't leave him with the best taste in his mouth. During the ride down the mountain (see an upcoming 'insider special'), Jeff forgot his computer bag under the seat. And when he realized it, the bag was gone. Meaning he lost his computer, kindle, camera, and passports (less than a week before having to leave the country). Not the last thing you want to remember about your service.

"Human Knot" in the Chicharia

After two years in my site, I can honestly say there are some things that I will NEVER miss. One of them being the significant amount of drunks that wondered aimlessly up and down the highway, at all hours of the day. There were people that I'd see almost every day, for my two full years,  "cartoon drunk" (hiccuping, walking as if they are leaning into hurricane force winds, falling over, peeing themselves, sleeping in the middle of the road, yelling, crying, picking fights with passer-byes and then staring miles off into the distance mumbling to themselves). 

 Obviously, alcoholism is a huge challenge for this community; and loose mouthed, pushy drunks often tested my patience (being the resident Gringo made me a easy target). The main source of this pain was chicha (a fermented corn beer that could be bought for S/.1 ($0.36) per 2.5 liters), and the 3 plus chicharias (places that sell chicha) in my small site of 400 families. Added to this were the 7 plus other places you could buy liquor or beer (talk about over saturation). 

Therefore, to gain some passive aggressive revenge towards the end of my time there, Jeff and I decided to go into the biggest chicharia in town and teach a dynamica, one of the many non-formal educational games we learned in training. This particular dynamica is called the 'human knot', and is meant to be a ice-breaker that also promotes communication and team work... perfect fit for this situation.  Surprisingly, these guys did pretty good. Here's the video: 



Shout out to whoever sent me the baseballs (I think it was Uncle Pat). They were a huge novelty item when I first let the kids play with them, but after a few minutes, the excitement dipped a little, and the kids went back to playing soccer. Therefore, when Yeferson found them in the bottom of my toy bag, I was excited when he wanted to play. Obviously I didn't bust out my nasty slider on him, but we did get some fun games of  T-ball in during my last few days in site. Here are some videos:

Here's Yefer ready to blast one out of the park. Although I'll mention it soon in a future post, sharing American culture with host-country nationals is also part of a Peace Corps Volunteer's job. And what's more American than baseball? (Besides Chuck Norris, of course). 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Lima Driving Video

After awhile things that are very culturally different than you own, start to become normal to you. The dogs that live on the roof, the small moto-taxis, the different hand gestures ("come here" is a slow flap of one arm), etc. However, one thing I'll never adjust to is Lima traffic. It surprises everyone, that's why I was glad when I got passed this link of a professional trying to maneuver the mean streets of Lima.

If you have time, and your work doesn't block youtube, enjoy:

Don't Drive Here: Lima (Discovery TV show)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Let's Go Fly Kite (singing)

The winds in Yuracoto are consistent. Every day from 1-4pm, its a good sailing day. Therefore, I recently decided to try to make a kite out of dried corn stocks, plastic bags, packing tape, and yarn. Although the cometa (kite) looked good during and after production (see pictures) the wind and gravity gods did not approve. However, it was nice to see the host-family take a break from working in the chacra and spend some quality time watching the Gringo try to fly his kite. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Rata! (Rat!)

How do you win* a Pulitzer Prize in journalism? By keeping calm and collected under pressure, and making sure that the camera is always rolling.

I think I've found my calling. Need evidence? Just check out this video I 'shot' (journalist talk). It happened out of the blue, but I was ready. When Dina came out of the house yelling "rata!!!!", I jumped into action. While others were screaming at the top of their lungs (Cate), I was making sure I had the correct f scale ( I think that's camera talk) and exposure setting for such a tough lighting situation. I know what you're thinking;" he's a real life hero!" (**) But, please, I was just doing my job. 

Please note a few things: 
1. In the first ten seconds you can see the situation I was in. Dina checking her hair as if it were on fire, and Cate's screams being heard in the distance (Cate's screams were simultaneously funny, ridiculous, and hard to tolerate). 
2. At the 13 second mark I giggle as I see Yordan copying the adults.
3. 18 second mark, Cate demonstrates how this whole thing is going to play out. 
4. 30 seconds, Dina yells "Hit it hard Cate, so it dies!" (yeah right!)
5. 36 seconds, I enter to see Roger's dad doing an amazing job as he has the rat cornered. Shortly after, Yeferson yells "take the broom!" as he throws it through the window. 
6. 55 seconds. I show some skills as I film and pick up the broom at the same time. Cate, while at least 15 feet away from the rat, screams as Roger's dad grabs at it (meaning he's a lot closer than she was). 
7. 1 minute and 4 seconds, the rat climbs the TV cable. 
8. 1 minute and 10 seconds, Roger's dad turns and says something to me. I have no clue what he is saying, but I quickly assume it was something like "Gringo, get the gun! This is a big one!!".
9. 1 minute and 11 seconds, while processing the fact that I'm a PC volunteer and I'm not allowed to shoot guns, it dawns on me that Roger's dad was REALLY saying "Gringo, drop to the ground and play dead.  He's blood thirsty and charging you!". I decide that it's most likely a false bluff, and decide to take a swing at the rat. I miss. 
10. After the miss, my pride is hurt, and I decide to get serious. The rat, like a famous skunk, was good... but not that good. I shut the door, and decide that only one of us is getting out alive. 
11. 1 minute and 26 seconds, the rat taunts me from a chair. Cate and I both whiff with our brooms. 
12. 1 minute and 42 seconds. I scare Roger's dad by touching his hand with the broom. He probably thought it was another rat. 
13. 2 minutes and 9 seconds, I hand Cate the camera and show no-fear
14. 2 minutes and 29 seconds. Cate calmly alerts us to the rat's whereabouts. 
15. 2 minutes and 41 seconds. Cate claims "He's looking at me!!"
16. 2 minutes and 52 seconds. I bluff hit the wall, scaring the rat towards Cate. Great move. 
17. 2 minutes and 56 seconds. I trap the rat against the door with my broom. Cate calmly alerts the Roger's dad and keeps a steady hand on the camera. 
18. 3 minutes and 3 seconds. Roger's dad grabs the rat with a potato bag, turns and shows Cate while asking me: "What do we do now?" 
19. 3 minutes and 11 seconds. Cate sees the tail and looses her calm (she freaks).  
20. We go outside.

GORE ALERT: We do kill the rat. Dina wouldn't have it any other way. 

* having a good editor who knows how to spell correctly helps.
** Mr. Pachacamac was the real hero that day. Hats off to Papachi.

Family Movie Nights

This is a quick video showing a Pachacmac Family past-time: Movies on the Big Screen.

 I've been presenting movies, using my projector, to my family. Everyone seems to enjoy it, but Yeferson and Yordan are HUGE fans. We've been watching the Home Alone (Mi Pobre Angelito) series and Roger, Yeferson, and Yordan are hooked (Dina tends to fall asleep 10 minutes into the movie). Yeferson's giggles and Yordan making "rounds" every 5 minutes to ensure no one is sleeping, are added entertainment. 

The start of family movie night:

Remembering the Beard

BREAKING NEWS:  On August 15th Adam Corts shaved his beard. It has been confirmed that the long, food caked, facials hairs were found laying motionless in a sink in Western Montana. During it's 2 year lifespan, the beard took on a life of it's own, and rapidly gained international fame and scrutiny. Not since the the 1930's, has one person's facial achieved such infamy. Most notably, in April of 2013, when the beard was the focal point for a massive Interpol investigation in the city of Caraz, Peru for it's suspected involvement with a Chilean cult. However, after a rapid and highly professional investigation, the beard was later released to a US State Department representative. After this episode, the beard reportedly retreated to it's native lands of  Montana, where apparently it's final weeks were spent posting underwater bass videos on youtube and fighting forest fires. The World is now in collective mourning (except for my Mom*).

The beard in Cusco.

The beard treking in the MT wilderness, preaching the "poncho and a multi-vitamin" philosophy of lightweight backpacking. 

*Just kidding Mom! The beard lives!! Viva la barba!!!!

The real reason for this post, is to show this video staring my host-brothers with corn husks on their chins acting like my big brother. Adam made a pretty big splash with the people here in Peru when he arrived with his ZZ-Top look. Yordan, the 2 year, constantly asks about Adam, and I'm sure images of Adam's beard are the most vivid memories he has.

Adam and Yordi behind the house in Yuracoto during Adam's visit to Peru.