Monday, April 19, 2010
My family came down in January. It was so nice to be reunited after a year and a half of separation. We went to cusco-machu picchu, Lima, and Cajamarca
My recent projects include a radio show with kids, English classes, computer classes, a mermelada small business, and nutrition charlas.
In March I traveled to Arequipa-the colca canyon (worlds deepest canyon), Puno-Lake Titicaca (worlds highest navigable lake), Bolivia (bolivian side of titicaca isla del sol, la paz, and salt flats--complete with colored lakes, desert, and flamingos, Chile (the atacama desert where i swam in a crater and a salt lake that has 7 time more salt than the ocean...impossible to sink). I also went to the Amazon for a week where I got to see all kinds of animals in the wildlife reserve like monkeys, macaws, an anaconda, crocodiles, a tarantula, etc and had many other adventures on the side (such as eating grubs, surving numerous landslides, and enduring an 18 hour canoe ride in a mixture of pouring rain and fierce sun)
I am currently in the process of applying for a 3rd year in Peace Corps. I am hoping to be able to work in the capital city of Cajamarca to be able to work with more NGOs and professional organizations. I will keep you updated as to what comes of the application process.
Life is good in Peru. I would love visitors, and I finally feel ready to go home for a visit. I cannot believe almost 2 years have already passed without being back to the States. It is scary how fast time flies. Blessings and hugs for everyone back home....missing you all like always.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Wrote this back in January and never posted it. If you're interested how I spent the holidays, read on....
What was Christmas like in the campo? In one word, it was modest; in several words, it was a relief, simple, special, hot, lonely, and austere. In the beginning of the month of December (summertime in La Grama), my hostmom, at my brother’s prodding, hung several simple paper decorations throughout the house. There was no tree, but we did string colored lights in our two windows. It was refreshing to see how excited my brother was for the holidays, being that I was rather apprehensive about the approaching date—would I be all right spending my first Christmas away from home?
Throughout the month, in preparation for the holiday, I was invited to several chocolotadas. These are events in which rich hot chocolate and paneton are served. The municipality, police, vocational school, etc all held chocolatadas in addition to private parties as well. The mine—which I haven’t talked about much in my blog, but has a huge presence in Peru (the second largest gold mine in the world is in Cajamarca)—came to town with candy, paneton, hot chocolate, and toys. Every student in the primary school received a toy truck, a doll, or a ball depending on age and gender. That week there was not a single little boy seen playing without his toy truck. Unfortunately, the mine had announced they were coming to give toys to children, without specifying students, so many children (and there are many who don’t attend school) were left crying at the door of the school, watching longingly as the other kids played with their shiny new toys.
The actual holiday was very tranquilo, after a great deal of build up to the date. On Christmas Eve, I’m afraid I was touched by a bit of the blues, despite my determination to stay positive. As it happened to fall on a Wednesday this year (the day the fishmonger passes through town) we were blessed to have fried fish and paneton for breakfast. I then attacked the mountain of laundry that I had been putting off for weeks. As the hours passed scrubbing, I became more and more glum. Thoughts whirled through my brain as I indulged in my despondency…”right now, Dad is out picking up the lasagna from Riccardi’s, buying ice, and calling Mom every 3 minutes to ask questions about the to-do list she assigned him….Mom is slaving away in the kitchen, praying that she estimated correctly how many people will be stopping by the house so as to have enough food for everyone…and Kathleen is making herself look beautiful for 4:30 mass, trying on various outfits though she undoubtedly bought new clothes for the occasion; no matter what she picks she will surely look gorgeous to the bewitchment of every male in church.” I imagined which decoration went where while I tried to remember what eggnog tastes like (I don’t even care for eggnog that much, it just doesn’t exist here and so I resented Peru for it). Reflecting back, 4 hours of scrubbing laundry would probably make anyone blue, and after our feast of a lunch (guinea pig, rice, potatoes, and salad), my mood began to lift.
In the afternoon, my host brother and I made a cake for my host mom while she took a nap. The 24th of December is her birthday, thus her name “natividad” or “nativity.” The cake was supposed to be a surprise, but Diego kept waking her up to ask to use ingredients and where they were located despite my insistence on buying our own ingredients and letting her sleep in peace---he doesn’t always listen so well.
Around 9:30 we headed to the mass that was supposed to start at 8. Outside the church, a herd of people was gathered in the plaza de armas. I worried there would no longer be space inside the church due to our tardiness. On the contrary, these people were just waiting in the plaza for mass to end so they could watch the shepherdess ceremony. My mom and I easily found a seat and listened to mass while dogs from the street wandered around at our feet. After the service, the people outside drifted in to await the shepherdesses. Little girls danced and sang to a squeaky fiddle and guitar for an hour. The ceremony was beautiful despite the disappearing act I had to perform halfway through. I’ll explain:
Peruvians love to elect godparents for everything imaginable—baptisms, school graduations, weddings, tape-cutting events, and even hazing events. Benefactor is probably a more appropriate word than godparent because it typically involves spending money on something or someone.
During the shepherdess ceremony it is customary to elect godparents for the following year. While the godparent is respected and honored, enthusiasm to fulfill the role is waning. It is a responsibility that entails purchasing props and costumes for all participants, contracting a band to play, leading and hosting rehearsals, feeding participants during rehearsals, etc. As money is tight and free-time scarce (after all, one cannot be expected to sacrifice time spent gossiping or watching telenovelas), few are keen to volunteer for the position. Therefore, on Christmas Eve, there is an election process that makes it very difficult to refuse the title if chosen. Someone stands at the lectern and calls out names of prominent members of the community—those that are believed to have money, are enthusiastic and participative, or those that will be too embarrassed to decline. If that person is present at the ceremony they must come forward and accept…it is seen as moderately humiliating to be present and not accept if called. (thus my reason for escaping…many people think I have lots of money because I’m a gringa and I did not want to be pressured into accepting this responsibility). Volunteers for the role of godparent are welcomed but rare—for the sake of preserving tradition, guilt-laden community members at times come forward of their own accord.
After we returned from church, we feasted on more paneton, hot chocolate, beet salad and chicken. My brother threw a fit because he was jealous of the attention my host mom was receiving for her birthday and because he didn’t want to listen to the Christmas music I asked to put on in the background. At midnight, however, he came around when it was time to exchange gifts. I gave him Monopoly in Spanish (which was really expensive, but my brother loves money so I figured a game centered around dinero would be appropriate) and he gifted me a photo of the two of us framed in popsicle sticks. My mom gave me a handkerchief to practice marinera (a graceful dance performed on the coast that I’m dying to learn) and a crochet purse. I made her a photo album with photos of her cakes to use as a portfolio for her business, as well as olives (she’s crazy about them and you can only find them in Cajamarca), and figurines to top her cakes.
Christmas day was very quiet. There was no mass because the nuns that say mass serve in many communities and had to split them between Christmas Eve and day. We ate stale paneton and napped.
While Christmas was a bit lonely away from home, I admit I was sort of relieved to escape the hustle and bustle of Christmas season in the States. It was very modest—I didn’t have to worry about buying presents for the whole world and could focus instead on my family here…the way Christmas ought to be. If only my family and friends back home had been here, it would have been perfect…Plus hot chocolate is way more delicious here!