Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Camp ALMA- 2013 Cajamarca

Camp ALMA are a girls camps that Peace Corps puts on in all of it's departments here in Peru. The camps are focused on supporting and training young female leaders from rural communities to go back to their community to perform mini-projects. It's three day camp that teaches leadership skills, problem solving, career and college planning, and health topics to teenage girls that have been identified as leaders in their communities. I've been apart of a few of these camps since joining Peace Corps (we do a boy's camp each year as well), and they're always a lot of work but very rewarding. This year's camp was different though, as the Peace Corps volunteers didn't go at it alone. To promote project sustainability, Peace Corps invited various local organizations and branches of government to participate. This made it a lot more work in the organization aspect, but also allowed us to grow the camp from the typical 20 girls to 40 girls, and insure the host-country's involvement, making it much more likely to be sustainable. Here are a few highlights from the camp:

The sunset on our first night at the camp. 

Our lodge was right next to the Banos del Inca Hot springs.

Brad welcoming the girls as they arrive. 

Campfire night with s'mores. 

First time s'more eater. 

Brad, Dylan and I bought that wood for 6 soles. 

Studies show that marshmallow blobs in you wilderness beard reduces your manliness by almost 100%.

One of the last charlas after 3 days of camp. 
Two girls taking a thank you picture for their local municipality in front of Inca Statue.  Their municipality paid for their transportation cost. In previous camps, volunteers paid these expenses, now other organizations are stepping up. 

Old Sol

A country's currency is a great historical storyteller that shows the various influences on country, and it's economic strength, during its history. Here's a little read on Peru's money (Peruvian Money History)*.

The current Peruvian currency is El Nuevo Sol (Literally translated as: The New Sun) as of yesterday, it's traded here in Cajamarca as 2.79 soles per US dollar. It was adopted in 1991 to replace "the inti" and to help solve Peru's hyperinflation at the time, and before the Inti,  they used the the Sol. 

So, there have been 3 different coins since 1985. The Sol, then the Inti, then the Nuevo Sol. Therefore, I was impressed when a volunteer showed me some Soles (the original type) that his host-family had given to him. One had the date of 1945. It was neat because, although finding a 1945 penny might not be tough for us, finding a currency that has been twice replaced, in a developing country I think would be a little harder. Here are the coins:

* When I was in Ecuador, I always found their story of switching to the US Dollar after a "perfect storm" of bad economic events very interesting. Asking around people told me about a debilitating combination of the El Nino weather event, a plague hitting the shrimp farms, and debts being called in to other nations, and other things... all happening at the same time. 

Welcoming the Peru 22ers to Cajamarca.

You know when you walk into the ACE Hardware in the Eastgate Shopping Center in Missoula and they have free popcorn for you as a welcome gift... We started doing something similar in Cajamarca when the new volunteers arrive. Only instead of popcorn we give them each a live chicken in the Plaza de Armas of Cajamarca.
Usually a current Cajamarca volunteer gives a short speech (i.e. "let this chicken symbolizes the winds freedom you'll feel under your own wings during your service") as the new volunteer receives the chicken. 

Then they stand there hoping the chicken doesn't poop or escape while the rest receive their birds for the group shot. 

Cajamarca's Peru - 22ers: (L to R) Marc Anthony, Matt, Hannah, and Jeff. 

It's a fun ice breaker that caps off a day of a scavenger hunt around town (find 3 places with Wifi, find Brice's Appt., Find where to buy a cuy, etc.) and a group breakfast. It's also a great welcoming gift for them to share with their new host-families, as these health volunteers are generally placed in a very rural area where protein consumption isn't as common as it should be and families are of very humble resources.

Site Visits to San Miguel

Apologies for the lack of updates. Life has been a little crazy lately, and I needed to enjoy the ride; but , I'm back in the blogging saddle, so look out. Anyways, let's get started:

Being a Peace Corps Volunteer Leader demands that I split my work evenly between community projects and supporting the volunteers in my region. Both aspects of the job has his perks, but I think getting out and seeing the volunteers in their sites is one of my favorite things. Yesterday's trip to San Miguel was to see Brad and Taneesha in San Miguel. Brad is a Peru 19- Small Business volunteer, and Taneesha is one of newer volunteers, as she belongs to Peru-21 Youth Development.

San Miguel is a mountain town 3 hours west of Cajamarca City*, and was Brad's kingdom for the first year of his service; However, since Taneesha's arrival in late August, these two have been working next to each other in this cute little town of 2,500 people.

When I visit a site, usually meet a volunteer's host family and share a meal with them, then I see the volunteer's living conditions, and take a tour of their town and check on any work projects. Volunteers are generally excited to show of their town, host family, or work (sometimes all three), and it's fun to either share in their excitement or help try to problem solve any road blocks they may be having. Both Brad and Taneesha seems to be safe, happy, healthy and productive; thus, making my trip a breeze.

Voluntters feeling "alone" in site is very common. And having a site-mate is something that I'm sure that all volunteers desire at least once during their service. Feeling lonely can wear on you, and the quick fix solution is to have another volunteer there with you to share your experiences. But, as with most quick fixes, this isn't always the best thing. Sometimes it's just best to learn to be alone, but also sometime site-mates clash and step on each other's toes. I'm very glad to report that I saw no problems in San Miguel.

Taneesha is adjusting very well to her new site, seems to have a great connection with her host-family, and has very concrete, meaningful, and achievable goals for her service**. Meanwhile, Brad is probably more popular than anyone in the history of San Miguel, except for maybe last years "Miss San Miguel" winner (who, if Brad plays his cards right, could be the second half of a pretty impressive San Miguel Power couple. Think Beyonce/Jay Z or Tom Brady/Gisele). Everyone waves to him, the moto-taxi drivers stop to shake his hand, and the people in the municipality refer to him as "the Man from San Francisco" (almost reverently). However, even while being the most popular person in town, he still suffers from the chronic mispronunciation of his name, and it was very common to hear "BRAK" yelled from passer-byes at a very constant rate.

These two volunteers are making their marks in their community, but not crowding each other out. And I was surprised to hear that these two gringo neighbors (their houses literally share a wall) only meet-up once a week, every Thursday, for breakfast at the local juice spot (Pretty cool that they have that discipline).

*6 hours on a combi yesterday. Only one puker, a lady who had a BIG breakfast on the way up.

** Taneesha asked not to have her picture taken. She's shy***.

*** Brad on the other hand is a huge HAM.

Brad and the San Miguel Church, which is rumored to be the tallest adobe built church in Peru. We both want to fact check that before saying too loud. 

Your hero in front of the newly built San Miguel Mercado. Taneesha and Brad both avoid this place on market day as they hate the non stop stares they receive from the far away campo people that come in for market day, and aren't use to seeing people that look different from their normal. Imagine something like the Filling Station and Vani but all day, every Sunday. 

Brad with his artisan women in the municipality. Brad helped organize them for sales, classes, and business charlas. 

An Artisan working on a new bag to sell. 

Brad at his desk in the Municipality. 

An authorization for "Brak" to use the copy machine. 

The church had this sign painted on it. It reads: Prohibited to urinate on the house of God. Respect it. (Meant for: Town drunks and fiestas, I'm betting)

The view from San Miguel 

Brak only has 8 more months until this is just a fond memory. Crazy.