miércoles, 10 de marzo de 2010

Following a herd of sheep and a hot shower (02/09/2010)

Working here provokes a love hate relationship – there are days that are fantastic, where you are floating on cloud 9 and your outlook is gleaming, bright, and positive, and days where you want to dive off the deep end and disappear into the nebulous and retreat into your comfort zone. It’s hard to weigh in as to whether people really appreciate you, things, and interactions – here. I feel like some days I’m making an impact, making valuable connections and that it’s well, worthwhile, for me to be here. And other days, I feel like why do I even bother? I feel like everyone around me could care less, that I am not wanted here and am just wasting time. It’s like showing up to the health post, the municipality, or hosting a meeting in a community and they barely acknowledge you’re there. You start a conversation, and their attention is easily diverted, they give you the head turn, and away they go. In the meeting, they show up, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 50 minutes late, or not at all. And then they just sit there and stare, some bicker about the topic at hand, and then they go back and forth, not really deciding anything. Some kind of just sit there and laugh at the spectacle, or some just blankly stare, absent, with vacant on-looking eyes. However, then there can be a complete, or close to a complete, success, where there’s a meeting with health promoters that you have worked so hard to recruit from all your caseríos. We had 29 health promoters and mother leaders show up to training for this month’s theme – la gripe y infecciones respiratorias agudas (IRAs)/ the flu and respiratory infections. Así es.

As far as medical attention goes… it’s been a challenge to observe. Once coming into the health post, I witnessed a 7-year-old girl, with third-degree burns from cooking oil. Sitting naked on the exam table with a surrounding gawking audience of the health post personnel, she was bent over crying in agony, with loose flabs of skin hanging from her hip and several other boiled circles of skin on her stomach and legs. She was just sitting there crying with a lamp spotlight on her nudity and pain, and her audience scolding her callously for her crying. God just let her cry and give her some relief! I was on my way into the country side to visit some families in the neighboring caserío of Olaya, and I could do nothing for this girl.

Later that night, after coming back from Olaya, I ran into her and her mother shortly after they were departing from the health post. I was at least able to converse with her mother, perhaps consoling her to some extent, and comfort the little girl, giving her a bit of smile, and a most gentle embrace (avoiding the burns). After they headed off, I was en route to fulfill a guilty pleasure of a shower (thanks to the health post), where I could receive my therapy – to retreat from the world, be warm, and think – my means of putting myself back together.

Don’t let the bed bugs bite (02/06/2010)

So I had this conversation with Megan, where do you draw the line if you keep a blog – how much can you express without it becoming too personal, but then at the same time, express the experiences of a real person? Hmmm, that’s an interesting question… and also if you are ‘representing’ an entity, like the Peace Corps, how truthful can you be? I always like to be honest, straight-forward, forthright. Cut the crap and lay it out because then you can communicate most effectively, most efficiently, and I think, well for the most part, people appreciate your directness. If you have well-developed opinions and are honest about them, then shouldn’t they be appreciated?

It’s so hard living and working in a different culture when you can’t quite express the rapid fluidity of your thoughts, which is even difficult in your own native tongue. I can’t wait until the day I can tell off the alcalde, but in the most well-composed, professional way possible. Ha, that will be the day. At least while I’m doing my diagnostic with families, I have gained the ability to help them to relax by joking with them. Picking up on the campo language and playing with it, that makes a better day.

So when does this really turn into a diary or an account of events? Megan decided she didn’t want to keep a blog for fear of dispelling too much personal information. I’m thinking I’m just going to cut my losses.

A couple of honest accounts. My body is covered, I mean covered, with small bites coming from my bed. My fingers and toes are fat, my chest itches, waist, every place possible. So far I’m just dealing, but I need to drive out whatever bugs are infesting my bed. Oh, and I figured an abnormal GI tract was to come, with the adjustment period in a new place. But no, it’s continuing, and to the point I’ve pooped or ‘soiled’ my pants 3 times now. I never thought I would deal with this as an adult, thought that I could have complete control, but oh, as the horrible cliché says, never say never. Never should be eliminated from use in many contexts. I need to figure out what is plaguing my system, probably what plagues everyone’s system here. I can’t escape it. During training, they guaranteed everyone would suffer from diarrhea, and that a good majority would poop their pants at some point during their service. I’m putting the effort forward, practicing good hygienic practices – boiling the water, chlorinating the water, but I also need a water filter, since the water can get so turbid here when it rains. Clay water filters were only conveniently provided to water and sanitation volunteers, who have the water and sanitation training. Ironic. I mean I have some, but not to the extent they received. Poco a poco/little by little, I’m making small strides and learning the hard way. In a way, I guess you have to start with yourself – making your own self-improvements and having your lessons before moving outward. Understanding how other people live, truly, before being at all able, to perhaps, improve some aspects of their lives. Recently we came across a boy, 7-8 years old?, with half a fist full of worms in his liver, oh joy.

Como Gitana (02-03-2010)

After conversing with a friend who used to work on the carreterra/roadway (he no longer does, since he hasn’t received pay for over 2 months – asi es en el Perú/that’s how it is here in Peru), we decided that we are both gitanos, traveling from one place to the next. He was feeling a bit lonely, but that’s how the wandering life leads, sometimes you are surrounded by a plethora of people, and other times, very alone. But, you learn to enjoy, to love your alone time, and find it utmost productive, to regain your strength, and do the activities that you find fulfilling and most enlightening. I’ve learned to love my alone time, and can see a clear balance between knowing when alone time is needed and when socializing is necessary (too much alone time can also drive you crazy). Sometimes I definitely need to be in the company of others to gain perspective and not be so self-consumed in my own preoccupations and patterns of thinking.

If it makes you happy… (01/31/2010)

Some people just make you happy, just bring you pure bliss. And you can recognize this, when you meet them, there’s a natural connection, and it’s as if your kindred spirits just immediately become intertwined, like two dangling pieces of string. And you should just let it happen, not question it, and let it make you happy. I think American culture projects a lot of deprivation, a lot of self-denial, as if you didn’t deserve happiness, or you should always be looking for something more, something higher. I am learning the importance of appreciating every step of the way and that perhaps I don’t have to have such an ascetic attitude, even if I am in the Peace Corps.

I think one of the hardest aspects of life is focusing on the positive rather than the negative. It is so easy to dwell on the parts of life that aren’t playing out smoothly (which is usually out of your control anyway). So why not brood over what is going right? Why not be absolved with what is going beautifully? I have a terrible habit of focusing on what I perceive as my in competencies or my weaknesses. I need to let this go and be happy with what I have and appreciate what positive characteristics I can exude. On that note too, stepping back and enjoying life’s simple pleasures and not feeling guilty about it. It’s okay to occasionally dance, enjoy some music, eat something rich, buy something you desire, adorn your bedroom with something simple so you have comfortable surroundings … every once in awhile…

And with interactions with other people – it’s hard to decide. Should you just let go of those that constantly drain you? That constantly see things with a negative clarity and always see the glass half empty? I feel like you should always give them an opportunity, to try to show them the light, but make sure your light is burning strong enough so you don’t lose your light in the process. Perhaps make sure you are always still in touch with those that are also burning bright, your closest and dearest friends, that are also attempting to do the same. And constantly remind yourself of the following because it makes life so much more enjoyable.
There will always be some who will complain about what they get,
And others that will always be thankful,
Be the latter.

Dusk (01/26/2010)

I have to say, one of the most beautiful – one of the most impressive – times of day here are at dusk. Around 5 to 6 pm, an orange haze settles in, with the mystique of rising clouds through the valleys. In the early afternoon, usually following the rain, thick fog creeps in, to the point, at times, where you can’t see more than 15 feet in front of you. And with the incoming dusk, the fog lets up, and you can start to once again see the peaks of the mountains and be surrounded by this curious orange light. My first evening here I was absolutely intrigued and I continue to be intrigued every ensuing evening.
Another beautiful part of my surroundings is the garden Juliana has in our courtyard, filled with some flowers, in particular, some roses, hydrangeas, and lilies, and herbs. I have so much to learn – I’ve always wanted to learn more about different plants and any medicinal properties they might have. I recently connected with a ND/MD who is doing research out of Cusco. She’s trekking into some of the jungles to work with the aboriginal people to record medicinal plant use. I really hope to pay a visit, down south, soon in the future. Back to the garden – we also have a secret garden :) I love it. Exiting from a side door of the room found below mine, and walking down a sort of grassed ‘alley’, you can enter through another secret door entry way, behind our home, into a bit of a sanctuary. Protected by some eucalyptus trees, there’s a bit of a grass plain bordered with wild and planted flowers, and it’s beautiful. I’ve retreated here a couple times now to read, when the sun was shining bright, and to doze off in the sun’s warmth – my photosynthesis.
I recently received feedback from another volunteer who is about a few hours away about flaws in my character – a double-edged sword – good feedback to receive, but something that can be hurtful. She feels I am too stringent about my schedule (which I ironically wrote about recently) and feels this imposes on others, can lead to their under appreciation, and a projected over self-confidence. I sincerely appreciate frankness, feel sad she feels this away, perhaps along with others, and obviously have important components of character to work on.

Furious (01/22/2010)

Okay, I’m calmed down now, sort of, but I wasn’t beforehand. Perhaps the aspect I might be working on most here may not be so much salud/health, but just communication. Pure communication. It’s ironic because I was told by my brother, Derek, yesterday, that what I expected to accomplish here may not at all be what is actualized. I get so caught up with what I’m doing, allowing my emotions to intertwine with my work drive, that when what is at hand blows up in my face, my persona is also exploding. I’m not sure how much this is perceived from my exterior – I really wonder how much others perceive I am fuming or overwhelmed with despair.
I am sick of authority figures playing their cards of control and not leaking any of their motives to their citizens. They act as if they are doing a favor to their ciudadanos/citizens when their ciudadanos show up at the municipality (for example) to ask for support. The personnel from the municipality take their sweet time to attend to them and do it with a superior complex. No, it shouldn’t be that way. They should willingly serve them because that is their job. They are not there to reign and carry out what’s solely on their agendas, but rather, act on the behalf of their people, as representatives of their people, including them in the decisions they choose to carry out. Crazy, I know. But, I guess how many political figures actually do that? Good question. So sad.
I thought by working on a smaller level, with a smaller populace, and direct access to the municipality, communication would be a little bit better. Wrong. It still struggles, to be modest in speech. A simple attempt for coordination was asking support for the Vacaciones Útiles I am heading up (classes for kids during their winter break). It’s taking them weeks to get back to me. I have to beg and plead for something that’s good (well, at least what I think and many others think is good) for the kids of these caseríos. I wish the municipality could just give me a straight up answer – yes or no as to whether they want to support this effort. Simple. Instead, I have to wait weeks before they even look at the solicitude I personally submitted, and then have them tell me, almost half-way into teaching, that they want another list, a reduced list, of the materials I absolutely need. Ah no. What I submitted is what I need, and it’s their manner of waving me off again. If they don’t want to provide any support, okay, well, then I can’t purchase all the materials I would like to have. I’ll make do. But, please, just give a direct response. I’m done with passivity, the brush away with the hand. I am providing these classes for free and purchasing the materials currently and previously used on my behalf. And time and time again, I’m told I’m crazy, for being a volunteer, and providing free services – perhaps their not as valued as much?
And then, I’m asked by a regidora why don’t I charge the kids for the classes? Really? That’s an interesting question. I hoped she could answer that one for herself. A good fraction of the population can’t afford sufficient clothing and nutritious food, so how are they going to willingly give money for classes? It’s hard enough for some kids just to attend the classes since they are expected to attend to the animals, the chakra, and many live more than an hour way, up a mountain. There are some who are so separated from the people they are ‘representing’. I didn’t want the classes to cost anything because I didn’t want these classes to be exclusive to only those who could afford them.
Okay, so the alcalde still just shoves my list to the side of the desk while I overhear that cocinas mejoradas/improved kitchens, latrines, and biohuertos/vegetable gardens are being brought to the communities of Mache by an organization called Sembrando-great news! I know it is a program through a NGO that I had just begun starting to coordinate with, but they’re telling me it’s through the government. Anyway, I have to overhear this, from the other room, instead of them directly telling me this is going to happen. And they know these are some of my primary objectives for being here. It would help if they could communicate and coordinate this. Whenever I try to talk about work topics, or projects, the alcalde provides a very indirect response (like a flutter-of-a-hand response) and responds with stupid, disrespectful questions, like if my hair is naturally curly, if I have a boyfriend, how to pronounce a word in English… I humor him, respond to whatever question or comment with a laugh, converse about whatever unimportant topic for a moment, and then, try to return to my purpose of being there. And he’s still not receptive, puts me off, later, later, tomorrow, tomorrow, next week, next week. How does he get any work done, I don’t know. And, you know, it’s only kind of important that the health post is aware of the installation of these oh so crucial aspects of home life – improved kitchens, latrines, vegetable gardens – and I end up being the one to relay the message. Communication sucks. Separate identities/organizations carry on with whatever their doing without any coordination. How convenient.
Oh and then back to the list of supplies, finally, the alcalde pulls it up, after I was rather frank with him, to let him know that I wanted to know before this weekend, since I was returning to the civilization of Trujillo, and I could buy the materials there, and he proceeds to look at each item, and make a check next to an item, saying, “Supongo puedo comprar esto” – I suppose I could buy this (since he too, is going to Trujillo). But, really, I already bought a few of those things, and I need financial support, and the things I haven’t bought, he wouldn’t know how to buy because he doesn’t know what the specific projects call for. And, most likely, he won´t have or make time to personally buy those items when he is in Trujillo. So in the end, I convey this to him, and then he ends up giving a ¼ of what I asked for. And then, as if it’s a service, oh and give half of that to your friend in Lluin (Megan, the other health volunteer, about an hour away, who is also teaching and asking for support to buy materials). How indirect could he be. I appreciate frankness – just honesty – open communication, please.
Not sure how much I am negatively portrayed now in the municipality. I can’t stand fake smiling and sucking up to someone who clearly isn’t interested in what his job description entails.

The sensitivity of life (01/14/2010)

I am at a loss, with how so many lives could be taken away – and in the immediacy they can be taken – with the shifting of plates, manifesting in unaccountable destruction. And, the irony, of how more tragedy can strike already the most vulnerable and suffering. A journalist (Rocio Silva Santisteban) in Trujillo reemphasized the cliché of how conditions can always get worse – “es nuestro premio consuelo cada vez que nos encontramos en el penúltimo lugar de alguna citación terrible: ellos siempre estarán peor.” You think things couldn’t get worse, shouldn’t get worse, that plaguing a people couldn’t possibly happen even more, but that unfortunately isn’t the case. And to those who were working toward the betterment of those circumstances – also being lost in this earthquake. My prayers, thoughts, and efforts in the work I am pursuing are dedicated to those lost on both sides – some names of individuals: Molly Hightower, who was working with Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos, and Brenden Beck, working with USAID.

sábado, 23 de enero de 2010

My time (01/13/10)

I find I am very selfish with my time, and this stems from my over-zealous efforts to accomplish my monumental task lists. I am idealistic with my to-do list, always pouring out onto my list what would make me happy if I were to complete all these tasks. This disallows flexibility – taking what the day sometimes delivers as surprises and going with it. This also disallows patience, patience with others and myself. Time frames are good to some extent, to increase efficiency and productivity, but you have to allow for malfunctions – the unexpected. So, changing my attitude to accomplish a couple of priorities, perhaps 1-2 for the morning and then 1-2 for the afternoon, and seeing what falls into place next, may be best. And perhaps, making a ‘to do’ list, and seeing where each item can fall into place over the week, the next couple of weeks, month, or longer, depending on the circumstances placed upon by me and my environment may also be best. I am especially noticing with Peruvian culture you have to be that way, the Peruvian hour can get you if you let it. Or, you can take advantage of the time you are waiting, and see where a conversation goes with other companions, who, are also waiting, and achieve a whole other goal, an unexpected goal. The best in life can come unplanned.

I could not imagine having kids at this point in time because like I said, I am selfish with my time. I love being in the company of others, but I also absolutely love being alone. I love the freedom to sit in a garden eating a mango, soaking up some sun (my photosynthesis), and contemplating what comes to mind – working out some preoccupations, philosophical concepts, or letting my mind go afloat to what nature suggests. I love doing my yoga, drinking my tea, pursuing any art projects, if I can ever allocate time to do them. One difficult aspect of making friends here is that the majority of females my age already have 1, 2, 3… kids. Many settle with their first relationship, their first love, and haven’t had time to develop themselves before investing in a relationship – perhaps due to lack of education, the culture, and/or the freedom to express oneself and be independent, especially for women. People are so timid (of course this is a generalization of my perception thus far) and passive. I have the hardest time with this – I prefer honesty, above all. I don’t see a point to hiding true perceptions and feelings, unless they are extremely radical and would harm others, and therefore need revision/second thoughts.

Passivity and lack of expression is a form of suppression and prevention from living freely with enjoyment. It could be the hand of low levels of education playing here. Those who haven’t received secondary level and/or university/professional level degrees could be assuming they are powerless, incompetent, and incapable. When giving charlas, hosting meetings with different communities, or teaching classes – there’s a refractory time period until there is participation/any commentary from those present. You have to continually question and persist in having a dialogue because the audience is used to being talked at and being told what to do. They have to realize their thoughts are viable and worthwhile expressing, that they can engage in a movement to address the poor conditions they face. Unfortunately, male and woman roles are so bipolar. Men dominate and women have to be submissive to their upper hand. This isn’t the case for all, hence my host-mom being single, raising her son, conducting her business, attending to her animals, pasture, and a plethora of other tasks alone, but this is a most prevalent phenomenon amongst many. Abuse between pairs, also passed down to kids has a strong force here in the Sierra. With too many pressures of poverty, the youth of couples, lack of education, and the stereotypical roles men and women should take on – this fuels the fire. But, I think, I know it’s changing, it just takes time and effort.

Ironically, I feel those that are freest to express themselves are admired most and accomplish most in life. At first they are criticized, perhaps out of jealousy and/or because their ideas are most out-landish and… true. But, through perseverance and belief in one’s ability, are they able to manifest the connectivity of their ideas and how they make sense. If successful musicians and artists were to cordially subdue their stylistics to convention, they could never produce unique, impressive music.

I’m finding my identity and cultural roots, even though I thought American culture was such a hodge podge, and didn’t have a true, unique identity. By being in a completely different cultural context, I am recognizing how culturally different I am and how I do have my own cultural identity. Even in Peru, there are a plethora of cultures; erroneously, from the exterior, it seems there´s a more synonymous Peruvian culture. The people change between rural and urban communities, different altitudes, climates, departments – just straight up different locations – just like in the States. I am recognizing everywhere, the culture changes from one locality to another, even in smaller countries. I used to think how nice it would be to be from a distinct culture such as Peru, India, Thailand, etc., but that is a drastic misperception – you can be from a country, but that may have little to do with where you are really from, and who you really are. I was always afraid to say I was American because I was afraid to by typed, because the States are so different from one another, but this seems to hold true for every country. No one deserves to be typed and should be looked at for his/her individuality.

Pealing back the layers (12/26/09)

So a recent night, a few nights ago- it had a nice kick to it, or rather a strange kick to it…

We were to have a last hooray for the medical personnel of CLASS (Comité Local de los Servicios de Salud) Agallpampa - this is inclusive to the health post of our area, Mache. After the beginning of 2010, CLASS Agallpampa will become decentralized with the division into 4 new CLASSes (one in Mache where I live, and one in Carabamba, Agallpampa, and Salpo). Simply put, this signifies the medical management of the different posts will become more localized. Anyway, all the health post personnel gathered at this Christmas party in Agallpampa. However, we were late, because of a few medical emergencies, including a birth scare and an elderly woman running a high fever of 40oC. When she first came in, well, was carried in, she couldn’t speak, couldn’t move – nothing – she was just barely physically present. The nurse gave her a shot of… can’t remember what it was, and slowly, bit by bit, she started gaining her consciousness and movement back. It was rather incredible. Our health post was running late for this social engagement, so we climbed into the back of our ‘ambulance’ (a truck with a covered bed) to lower down to Agallpampa. We also were taking the elderly woman back home with her worried son and daughter-in-law, preferring that she stay at the health post to be monitored – although, the health personnel had decided to leave. She was hoisted into the back of the ambulance to lie on a mattress that’s always kept there, and really had no means to stabilize herself on the bumpy ride. She was rather filthy – her clothes, skin, and hair, and sadly, the first human response was to not want to touch her. But, ignoring this, I took her head in my lap, providing her some stability so she wouldn’t bounce around so much. Stroking her head, I could feel her fragility and uneven breathing. I felt a real comfort holding her in my lap and was hoping she would be able to recuperate. Dropping her off, an older man raised her onto his back to carry her home into the cold.

Being brought to this party, I had no idea what I was getting myself into – hmmm, sounds familiar. It really was awkward at the beginning. We just sat around these tables at the perimeter of the room, with a couple of cooked turkeys just sitting there, and we waited for other health post personnel, also late, because of some health emergencies they were also attending to. They ended up arriving around 11pm and we finally ‘started’ the party – they don’t start until everyone is there. We started with Secret Santa gifts – each of us were assigned a person (and a lot of us didn’t know each other), and one by one, there were over 70 of us, we had to announce and give our gifts. This took forever and again, was just awkward. We finally were served a little bit of turkey, Panetone (oh my gosh, I am so sick of Panetone), and sweetened hot chocolate for dinner. This was proceeded by another small gift that was given by CLASS Agallpampa to the health personnel – each person was listed, one by one, to receive this gift, even though it was the same gift bag. Ah, tedious. Coming into about 1:30, 2 am in the morning, Megan and I left to crash at another volunteer’s place (Pablo), who, thank goodness, lives in Agallpampa. Waking at 6 am, we returned to the ‘party’ to find that our ambulance driver was intoxicated and unable to drive, and was drinking with a few of the doctors. The health personnel of Mache (a couple of obstetrices and a nurse had crashed in the back of the ambulance). Megan and I said screw it, and we just started dancing with those left at the party. Finally, at 8:30-9 am, we were able to leave and ascend back up to Mache. What a party.

Buenas noches señorita, que tu sueñes con los angelitos (12/21/09)

Today was a very rewarding day, besides the notion of returning from Trujillo at 4 o’clock in the morning and only receiving one hour of sleep. At the spur of the moment, or rather, finally giving in, I went into Trujillo for the night to run some errands, withdraw desperately needed funds, and pay back our coordinator of La Libertad, who spotted me a chunk of soles to pay for the materials to lay concrete on my floor, or which will hopefully become my floor soon. I was accompanied by some carreterra/road workers, a couple of engineers, and to both to our surprise, another volunteer, the closest to myself, who is living in Lluin, Megan. It was a ridiculous, funny ensemble running around making purchases in urbanization, being accompanied by these engineers. The hilarity of circumstances I’ve been in doesn’t cease to surprise me. Only in Peru I guess. I feel like that just tends to be the case while traveling. Making it back up to the Sierra in the wee hours of the morning was a feat, as always, in the rainy season, getting stuck in the muckiest barro, jumping up and down on one side of the bed of a pickup to get uncaught in the other side… Nonetheless, I survived to attend a meeting of the mother leaders of Juntos, a program put in place by the government to provide aid to extremely poor mother and address the factors usually accompanying poverty (malnutrition, multiple unwanted pregnancies, easily treatable disease, etc.). Mothers are eligible to join Programa Juntos if they make, I believe, 150 soles or less a month (aka nothing), with kids, without a neighborhood store, etc.; they receive a monthly sum of 100 soles if they meet these criterium, attend monthly charlas, and are attended to by the health post on a monthly basis. Anyway, making it to this meeting, you could feel the empowerment that was taking place – education is so revolutionary. After this, and resting for 1 hour, I trekked down to a caserío called Leoncio Prado, down a valley and slightly up onto another mountainside, into the Salpo district. There I coordinated with an already established health promoter of the community, also serving as the teniente gobernador, to meet his community. Like the meeting I had in Olaya (another caserío), it went beautifully with the exchange that occurred. There was a drastic difference with the direction of the conversation. Olaya lacks any functioning latrines or improved kitchens, whereas Leoncio Prado, a very impoverished community, has established a latrine and improved kitchen in every home, thanks to the support of a NGO called Sembrando. Starting in June/July 2009, they already have made their mark in this community and capacitated those of Leoncio Prado with functional knowledge. People here are intelligible and they just needed to be afforded the opportunity of an education, like anywhere else in the world. Education drastically transforms communities, and it will definitely intrigue me to see the progress in the next two years, because there will be significant progress, I can feel it and I am working toward it.

Anyway, the direction of the conversation in Leoncio Prado in comparison to Olaya – instead of focusing on the basic necessities of improved kitchens and latrines – was centered around raising cuyes/guinea pigs and the production of their own gas, methane gas, from sources such as composting, lombriculturas, and biodigestors in general. It will be somewhat a feat to work across the caseríos and curtail charlas to meet their necessities when there are so many caseríos to coordinate with, but with the establishment of health promoters in each caserío, it’s possible. They are competent and willing to work and plant a seed toward progression. This makes me so excited.

I have shared so many valuable conversations already, and to gage the impact all these conversations will have on others and myself is enlightening. I thrive from sharing accordance in humanitarian efforts. There really are so many beautifully intrinsic people.

Afterward, I popped into the municipality and the scenery completely changed. Promoting active participation on behalf of the municipality is my goal – for them to see themselves as a source, or perhaps, the most prevailing source of social services. They should be providing infrastructure such as water systems, resources for individuals to improve their living circumstances, etc. I want active participation and coordination between all involved parties, such as the municipality, health post, NGO’s, religious institutions, and organizations in effect, so that optimal progress can be realized. I feel that each takes its own path and if there were more coordination, greater efficiency could and would take place. Hopefully I can temporarily serve as the intermediary between these identities and encourage others to take this front of collaboration.

We had a chocolatada following a novena (the novenas takes place every night at 8pm from the 15th of December until Christmas in Mache and also in many other communities). The novenas or posadas are hosted in different nooks of the community and serve as a gathering consisting of singing Christmas songs and discussing biblical passages. The chocolatada, more curtailed to kids, but inclusive to adults, is basically when hot chocolate is served, accompanied by a chunk of Panetone. I think after being here, I will never look at Panetone the same way – it is so popular/omnipresent here during Christmas. Anyway, the gathering was beautiful, which I think is normally the case for community gatherings.

I am excited my family was receptive to me throwing in some artichokes onto the dinner plate. Again, I neglected to really consider my host mom’s lack of molars, but she seemed to manage just fine. It’s deceiving because she does have her front teeth and she doesn’t really smile big, so you can’t tell she’s missing her molars. My brother actually enjoyed a vegetable which is such a challenge. We now have the nightly tradition of brushing our teeth together (he wouldn’t brush his teeth at night beforehand), and now, I am starting to incorporate flossing. It’s difficult teaching a kid to floss, but there will be a learning curve. I am wondering if my host mom just gave up on brushing her teeth altogether, I will need to figure that out…

It’s heart warming when people are receptive to you when you are from a different culture. And when you are preparing to go to bed, your host brother gives you a kiss on the cheek and tells you to dream with the angels. I have been blessed and will continue to keep my chin up and looking forward.

I am ridiculous (12/17/09)

So perhaps I haven’t lost my charm, if you want to call it that… Fortunately, I can con, or more positively put, “convince”, others in to helping, such as receiving support to transport materials. As cement layers were being laid for my bedroom floor, we fell short of arena gruesa (thick sand), an important constituent for leveling. In my frantic search to find more arena gruesa and a way to transport it, I came across some construction workers who came to my rescue after finding me distraught.

Mache currently is in an interesting disposition as a Sierra town since there are a significant number of construction workers and engineers contracted to construct a paved road. From the lower lying valley, they are attempting to connect these upper lying Sierra towns via a more established roadway. However, construction is nearly impossible now with the rainy season. Making headway with the roads is quickly reverted by Mother Nature – the torrential downpours destroy the pathways for the roads, forming ravines and thick mud, and causing landslides. So, now, efforts have been diverted to constructing some bridges until the rainy season lets up, perhaps in March? April? I have never witnessed so much barro/ mud. Boots are crucial. I have already made a fool of myself, which will come in various forms – guaranteed. I face planted after slipping in mud while climbing down a hillside and tangling my foot in some reeds. This happened while casually passing by a biohuerto (house garden) and deciding to stop and question the family about what they were planting, intending to see if they had vegetables (which they did not). I think I left a memorable impression…

Back to the ‘I am ridiculous bit’, or continuing with it – I really have been throwing myself out there. I have a hard time understanding Sierra Spanish, and especially the Spanish of adults that have up to a primary school education. I have a much easier time communicating with those that have a higher level of education. It will take some skill to develop the vocabulary and ways of expression used by those here in the rural areas. Instead of keeping silent when I don’t know the vocabulary I want to express, I just throw myself out there and try to finagle some words together to convey what I would like to express. I typically receive head-nods, smiles, and searching eyes, but am hoping for more dialogue in the future, especially if directing a meeting. I really wonder how much I communicate is understood and vice versa. I continually make a fool of myself, but in good humor, and therefore am hoping I am being well-received in one way or another.

With the cement bit, I ended up misunderstanding the urgency of the situation – or rather the concept of how much was needed and how it needed to be transported. I went above and beyond – I found the materials, which could have been transported by wheel barrow, although through much labor with many loads and a long distance to be traversed (it’s amazing what men smaller than me can carry and for what distance, unbelievable). Anyway, I convinced some construction workers to help me load their truck, bring it to where I am staying, and help unload. This request normally would have cost at least 50 soles, which I do not have, and it wouldn’t have been a request met if made by a local Peruvian. I guess it is nice to be a gringa (female and white) at times, but I felt ridiculous nonetheless, because I had no idea what I was doing, what I was requesting, and what the outcome was going to be. Hmmm, maybe that’s like everything I am doing. I just have to time and time again throw myself out there in good spirit and good intentions and hope for the best outcome… such as the vacaciones útiles I am trying to organize for the kids that will be around in the area during their 2 months off. I am trying to organize some classes/youth groups in order to interact with the youth, mixed in with all the more ‘adult’ activities I have been involved with. I have to keep in mind how much change can occur by working with youth, and how they can keep your outlook or perspective seemingly bright.

Amidst a plethora of meetings I had today, my host mom, Juliana, was apparently preparing a dinner for over 150 people – parents and family members of kindergarteners graduating from jardín/kindergarten. This extravagant ceremony was to include my little brother, Jean Carlos, who was serving as a pareja/companion of a girl who was graduating. Anyway, Juliana is a work horse, I mean, my gosh, rising around 4 or 5 in the morning to do hard, laborious work ALL day, and setting herself to sleep around 10 pm to midnight. She frantically was putting this dinner together with a couple of others, and I ended up scrambling to help serve all these people in the back corner of a building from the dirt floor. I am still learning her mannerisms, because at one point, it definitely seemed like she was yelling at me and was extremely impatient. After hurriedly and stressfully serving, worrying we wouldn’t have enough ¼ to ½ chickens to serve, or the rest of the chicken wouldn’t come in time, we finally finished, with hands greased and backs strained from bending over the dirt floor. We finally let up, and feasted on food left over – just enough to feed us. Juliana and I had a moment where we kicked back a coca cola (making an exception to my aversion to drinking pop), danced in the back freely and listened to the music playing for the eloquently dressed, dancing kids. Juliana and I have a hard time communicating in many ways, but I definitely appreciate letting loose and relish the times when someone who is so tight, hard, and focused can let loose. I petered out from the festive entourage around midnight – they continued until 3/4/5 in the morning – and came home to listen to recommended music by Jamiroquai and write. I look down at my tea cup, with 4 bugs at the bottom, 2 empty muffin papers (I still was pretty hungry to the point of taking them from Juliana’s store – will reimburse her tomorrow…), and think I have a long ways to go, but I can appreciate moments like these.