"Somehow you'll escape
all the waiting and staying.
You'll find the bright places
where the Boom Bands are playing."
- Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You'll Go!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

July: ‘Tis the season for a Fiesta

So while all of you in the states are enjoying the summer months. (Or possibly not enjoying, I heard about the heat. Ouch!); we in Peru are enjoying what I call Fiesta Season. In my little corner of the country we are rapidly approaching a two month string of town, school and what-ever-other-reason fiestas. On one hand this is fun, there will be lots of dancing, parades, sports tournaments and big lunches. On the other hand, we will be missing some or all classes almost every week. Also the kids have started to practice their dances and their marching in the afternoons, which means most of my afternoon classes are pretty much done for. Blah. Oh well, got get on the local level right? My projects are still going, they are just going slowly. So bring on the huayno, serve up the pollada and light the castillo……I’m game. 

Chicharon party…..that’s a “chunks of bacon” party to you.

            The party was part of a low key Sunday in site, but I suspect that it’s going to be one of those simple days that sticks in my memory.
 We went up to an annex of my town called Apachico to have lunch with some relative. Though I’ll be honest, I have no idea how they are actually related to me. Anyway, an older Tio in my family decided it was time to kill his pig and wanted the whole family to come partake in chicharon. As the title tells you, that means little chunks of pork fried in their own fat…….. or as I like to think of it – YUM. But I’ll get back to that.  When we first got up to the house lunch wasn’t quite ready so I went walking with a group of kids down to the river. The weather was BEAUTIFUL so we played on the river bank and searched for rocks that made different colored marks to draw with. Then we sat in the shade to eat the oranges someone had brought from their garden. Tasty!
 When we got back to Tio’s house it was time to eat. Lunch was a plate of fried pork bits on a pile of camote, which is something in the corn family. I had the distinct pleasure of sitting next to a delightful little old Quechua lady during lunch. She spoke very little Spanish but there was another woman on her other side who spoke both Spanish and Quechua, so the three of us got a long fine. Doña Mary won my affections by realizing that I might like to know what parts of the pig I happened to have on my plate……turns out tripe works in three languages so long as you change the accent a little. When Doña Mary finished her lunch she showed me how to use the pot full of onion, herbs and pig’s blood (that had been at her feet for all of lunch) to stuff pig intestines and make “relleno” or blood sausage. Strangely enough I wasn’t as grossed out as some part of my brain seems to think I should be. She was a super interesting lady and the fact that she was up to her elbows in pig’s blood didn’t change that. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Oh, the Places You'll Go at Burning Man! (OFFICIAL)

In honor of the blog…..

              So as you might have noticed by now, the title of my blog is “Find the Bright Places,” a line from Dr. Seuss’s OH the Places You’ll Go. Now I have always been a fan of Mr. Geisel’s works; but this book is hands down my favorite. I love the point of the story, I love that it has become a traditional graduation gift and I love that it can be a lesson for young and old alike.                
                I think that’s enough literary analysis for right now, how about a video? I found this while Facebook stalking a friend :-P Burning Man is a music festival that is quite famous for its colorful attendants…..and now a colorful rendition of one of my favorite books.

Friendly warning, this was at Burning Man. Bear in mind that not all costumes are quite as child friendly as the book’s original drawings.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Because some stories just need to be told……

                Paola, the little one, is finally old enough to start school this year. Which means Fabiola, her mom, had decided to finish studying to be a nurse technician. Like with most medically related programs in the world, here in Peru you have to do “practicante” (practicum) hours to qualify as a nurse technician. Basically she has to work every day for three months and then she’ll be done. I am SO excited for her to get back to it. She seems super excited and I think it’s great that she has her eye set on a job. In fact I am grinning ear to ear at the thought…….but we’re going to set that aside for a second as I tell you about the night before her third day of work.
                Fabiola finally had time to go by her nurse’s uniform, complete with the white shoes. When I came into the dining room for dinner she, Senora Norka and Aldo were having a discussion about said shoes. Turns out they weren’t quite the right size; just a little too small and they were talking about ways to make them fit better. I couldn’t really figure out why Aldo was so adamant that Fabiola “use just the newspaper” to try to stretch the shoes until my host mom chimed back in with her idea again. Apparently she had heard that if you covered shoes in “piche” you could then stretch them out. “Piche” is Quechua child speak for pee. She actually tried to send Jean Paul out of the house to pee on his mom’s shoes.
         I just ate my dinner in silence…….silent laughter that is :P 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

April: the month I will spell wrong for the rest of my life……

                No really, it’s true. April in English and Abril in Spanish…..which is really just april with the “p” flipped over. What’s a girl to do?
                April kicked off with a bang. And by bang I mean headache, fatigue and dizziness…….but the views were AMAZING. Plus, now we know that I need to prepare for high altitude activities. A huge group of us went hiking for our Semana Santa holiday. Since we were already in Ancash for training we decided to stay-cation around here. Things didn’t really go according to plan so instead of hiking up and over a mountain pass we hiked to our first planned camp site and stayed for two nights. There were a number of us dealing with altitude sickness and the weather got pretty rough, so it just seemed like the safer choice. I was one of the sick ones, so I can’t say it was the most relaxing vacation I have ever taken; but it was BEAUTIFUL and I always have fun hanging out with the other 17-ers. Even altitude sickness and freezing rain can’t change that. After three days in the mountains we headed back to Huaraz and just generally goofed around. It was Brice’s birthday so we celebrated that in style, including an original song written in his honor (Brice you know we love you, Brice you know we care, but if you get too drunk tonight we’re going to shave of all your hair……). We also went to a dance party and had a family potluck……not at the same time, don’t worry. By the time it was all said and done I was about ready to get back to site. A week of training and then 5 days of vacation really cuts into the campo sleep schedule I’ve gotten used to; which is lots!
                The rest of April was spent doing two things, getting my after school classes started and trying to get external hard drive number 2 fixed. The class thing always takes a little while getting everyone on board, but it finally fell into place. I have started my Pasos Adelantes class with the 4th and 5th grade of my secundaria school. PA is a personal health focused class. The idea is the kids are going to or have already started making adult decisions and we want to give them all the pertinent information in the hope that those decisions will be made in an informed manner. (Mejor dicho: safe sex- do it like the cool kids!) I am also starting back with my English club to give the kids chances to practice speaking and ask any questions they might have about their regular English homework. It’s still really early on with both classes but I have high hopes. I can already see the difference between this school year and the end of last school year. The kids have had more time to get to know me.
                As for the hard drive, it crashed. It wasn’t a pretty moment in my Peace Corps career. I’m not proud of it, but I cried like a little girl when I thought I had lost all of my photos……like a tiny, little girl. Fortunately three trips to Huaraz, 5 tech guys and a few hundred soles later all is well. I have all my documents back, a hard drive the works again (surprisingly) and a new favorite tech guru.  
                The last day of April I went into Huaraz to go to dinner with Ali’s parents! They had been off traveling around Peru and came back to Huaraz for the last leg of their trip so a group of us came into town to hang out. Ali’s parents were wonderful to me and brought down the new hard drive I had ordered when I thought my other one couldn’t be fixed. Then they topped the whole thing off by bringing a bag of my favorite potato chips. Thanks so much Mr. and Mrs. Foley!

March: They’re Ba-ack….

              So the primary bit of excitement in March was school starting back. It’s a bit of a continual process around here. Classes started around the 5th but the meeting to plan most of the classes wasn’t until the next week. Also kids were still enrolling for the first three weeks or something like that. Needless to say it’s a more chaotic beginning then we’re used to in the states. I finally got the chance to enter a classroom regularly though! In the schools here they have something called tutoria. It’s sort of like a study hall, each grade has an hour a week with a professor where they talk about things that are important but don’t exactly fall into the curriculum of the other classes. I started working with the tutoria professor for first grade of secundaria (12-13 years old). I am doing a series of classes that focus in self-esteem and getting the kids to think about what is special in their own lives. So far it’s been going well. The classes are really big, but the kids seem interested and entertained. 
                In the month of March I also went into the secundaria with the staff from my health post to do a health campaign with the kids. It’s an attempt to do an overall health exam with as many of the youth in Mancos as we can. The kids got their teeth and eyes looked at and got a physical from the doctor. My task was to oversee a survey they needed the kids to fill out, but I also ended up serving as the child wrangler / source of entertainment while the kids had to wait. I’m not sure how long this campaign will keep going, but I was happy to see it start. We got a new obstetrician at the health post and she had this whole thing running within her first three weeks, so I have high hopes for working with her.
In other news I bought shelves for my room. This may not seem exciting to you but I was thrilled. I found them nearby in Yungay and then spent the afternoon organizing them. They make my room seem way less cluttered and I’ll leave them as a gift for my host family when I leave,
                We celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with a potluck at California Café. There were actually people from a bunch of the different volunteer organizations around Huaraz, it’s always nice to see the other foreigners, you never know who you’ll run into…..for instance, another former OYP-er. Crazy, but true. I was standing in Cali eating some food and this guy wanders past, says “hey Kelly” and then keeps walking. Naturally I put a stop to that. I honestly was having trouble recognizing him until he told me he had been an orphan in Oliver. Since most of you don’t have my theater career memorized (don’t worry, you’re forgiven :-P) Oliver was 10th grade for me. Considering that this kid is only 20 or so now he was about 13 the last time I saw him and now here he is teaching English in Huaraz. It’s a small world sometimes.
                It’s fortunate that there was a potluck to distract me, because the same weekend as St. Patty’s was the one year anniversary of Nat and Mark’s accident. Nat and Mark threw a party to celebrate their recovery, complete with truck shaped piñata and I would’ve loved to have been home to celebrate with them. That was not an option for me though so I made Natalie carry around her Iphone so we could talk on FaceTime  during the party! Nat and Mark, I love you guys and I am so glad that my biggest concern was not being able to make it home to your party. Y’all are two lucky duckies.
                March rounded out with the beginning of another training, Plan Design Management / In Service Training (PDM/IST). For this training we each brought a socio from our sites. The idea is that we workshop a project that we’re planning on starting in our town.  There were mixed reviews afterwards, but I actually really enjoyed the chance to work through the planning steps while our trainers were around. And of course it’s always great to see the rest of our group at trainings. By the end I think our brains were a little fried from the amount of information we had received, luckily for us it was time for vacation!

February: I think some other things happened, but mostly there was this paint fight….

               Summer vacation continued through February so my English classes did as well. The last week of summer classes there was a little closing ceremony where all the classes performed a traditional dance and a mission group gave school supplies out as gifts. The dances were adorable and the kids were soooo excited about their gifts.
                We also had another costume party in Huaraz, a 1920s murder mystery! One of the other volunteers bought one of those murder mystery kits so we all had parts to act out and secrets to keep. The piano bar let us use their space and we organized a dinner. It was fabulous! Everybody got into their characters and their costumes, it was fabulous…. Did I already say that? I even got mom to mail down my flapper costume! The dress was even more fun because I ended up doing a dance routine with my friend David. During college David was part of a swing dancing group at his school so he taught me how to Charleston and we put together a number….complete with a flip!
                The true crowning glory of February however was my trip to Cajamarca for Carnival weekend. In keeping with the ridiculousness of the weekend, we spent about as much time traveling as we did in the city, but it was so worth it. We left Huaraz on Thursday night and finally got to Cajamarca City about 7 on Friday.  We arrived with plans of showering before going out, but rumors of Pizza Hut being delivered to the bar where everyone was meeting quickly changed our minds. Our hostel was on the corner of the main plaza which fills up every year with drummers, hundreds of drummers and the groups of people dancing around them. So we danced our way through the plaza and then off to meet everyone. Carnival is a pretty big event for the PCVs so it was great to see everyone and meet new volunteers. Saturday morning we got up, found breakfast and started preparing for the main event…..the paint war. We bought water guns, water balloons and two bags of paint. We spent a little while throwing water off the balcony, but by mid-morning there was just a general sense that is was time to go. We went out into the streets armed with paint and water and joined in on the parade through the town. It was about 4 hours of walking down the roads throwing paint and water at anyone you felt like. There were also people on the roofs of houses throwing paint and water down at us. It was AMAZING! We finally got back to the plaza for what I’ll call half time. We got a snack, washed the paint out of our eyes and head out to the concert. At the concert my friend Giselle brought out her last bag of blue paint which we emptied into a bucket and then used to paint our entire group blue. Then we stared painting the strangers around us. On the walk back from the hostel people were actually stopping us to take photos because we looked so silly :P Unfortunately so many people at the hostel were involved in the paint fight that there was not a drop of hot water when I got back. I took a few turns in the cold water to get the majority of the paint off and then decided I wasn’t really worried about the rest (read: there was still some paint in my hair when I got back to Huaraz ha ha). Saturday night continued with more dancing and concerts and Sunday was a parade and a party in our hostel. By the time Monday morning rolled around it was time for us to go……cue 17 hours back to Huaraz. At least we had a few hours to kill at the mall between our buses in Trujillo. We ate lots of pizza and played bumper cars J There is a generally accepted practice among PCVs of not using our vacation days on the same trip more than once, but I’m pretty sure most of us will be back next year.
                My Carnival adventure was truly rounded out when I returned to Mancos. I had just enough time to set down my bags and jump in the shower before I was hustled off to mass with my family. Then there was the parade back with the family cross, where I got a bucket of ditch water poured on me on the way (it’s a bit of a risk leaving you house for the two weeks of Carnival). When we got back to the house I helped my host mom serve lunch to 40 people and then we had a band in our living room for the next 7 hours. All this after two 17 hour bus rides in 5 days and less sleep then most would deem reasonable. Ali tells me I earned a Peace Corps merit badge that day. I’m expecting it in the mail any day now……..