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.