Tuesday, June 28, 2011

El Clasico

It looked like the highlight for Sunday was going to get my haircut at the local market (4S/. = $2). Which was cool experence in itself, but luckily there was more happening. The "U" (short for the Universitario) is a local Lima team that is beloved in my community, and had earned a spot in the championship game for the Copa de Sur America, agaist Boca (of Argentina). Peru loves soccer, but they don't generally do that well at it, having to play so many other powerhouses (i.e. Brazil and Argentina). So when Adrian and I  found out they were playing the championship game in Lima, we had to go see it.

 Adrian, Adrian's host brother, and Me (I'm the white guy on the left)

However just going to see the game isn't as easy as going to across the footbridge, or walking down Kagy Blvd, or finding parking at the Wells Fargo, it was a process. First we had to beg our host mothers to let us go (they generally worry about their gringos in large crowds, and this place was going to be crowded). Then we needed to find someone (a Peruvian) to go with us. Luckily Adrian's two host brothers were up for it. So from Yanacoto we hopped on a combi to Lima (1 hour, 1.5S/.) and arrived at the Stadium. This place was huge.

We got there 30 minutes before the game started and needed to buy tickets. We ran from the buss stop to one end of the stadium (The more rowdy north end, seen in my videos), but there weren't any tickets. Then we ran to the south end to find people charging rediculous amounts for tickets (Revendadores/Scalpers buy the tickets in bulk, then run up the prices). We ended up buy 5S/. tickets for 40S/. It was a big mark up, but totally worth it.

After buying the tickets, we lined up. There were cops on horse back there telling everyone what to do. "Don't cut", "Stay against the wall", "Remove you belt", etc. Yes, we were to leave our belts outside the stadium, because they were banned due to people whipping them. I did not leave my belt, and stuffed it in my underwear. With the belt in my drawers, combined with the cash and keys I had hid in my socks, coupled with my hands in my pockets covering my camera and wallet, it was nearly impossible to run, when cops told us to do so. We had to run from the entrance gate to the ticket booth, and then squeeze our way through a cattle counter. Needless to say, I wish I would have had my belt on and my hands free, but I made it.

Inside, the energy of the fans was amazing. Songs and clapping, and everyone cheering. In addition to this the visuals of people jumping in unison, the banners hung up, the mountains in the background, and the flags waving made it well worth the stress. As always the videos and photos never do it justice, but here are a few videos of el clasico.

*They aren't the best quality, because was constantly being bumped and jostled. And as a side note, I thought about not bringing my camera because it could have been stolen, but I decided to risk it. I'm happy to report that I still have the camera, and I didn't have to find my videos on some one else's youtube page.



Monday, June 27, 2011

School Visit

So we took our first trip to a Pervian public school on Thursday. The idea was that we'd be in groups of 2-3 and observe how classes are taught and managed, compare it to the US public school system,  and then maybe play a few "ice breaker" type games.

As you can see, the school is has a great vista (view), and believe it or not, the elementary school has an even better view. However, among politics and the weather, complaining about the public school system seems to be pretty common. Take your pick of any problem you can think of, but the ones most mentioned seem to be over-crowding, poor home environments, unmotivated teachers, or underpaid teachers.

Now this being the first school I've observed, there were a few things that stood out to me. First, all the kids wear uniforms. Second, the walls are pretty much bare. No colorful displays or bright colors, just bland, chipping paint. Thrid, the director (principal) was nowhere in sight, even though 15 gringos just charged into the school (apparently it had been planned for a few weeks, but they were still surprised). Four, the lack of enthusiasm form the teacher, and the excitement from the kids.

We arrived at the school and were sent into different classrooms as groups of 3-4 to observe. As we waited for the teacher to show up, we killed time introducing ourselves, and playing a few ice breakers. Then after about 30 minutes, the teeacher still hadn't appeared. Apparently, he had seen us in the classroom, and assumed that he could leave. Our trainer, had to get him to stop sending phone texts, to join the class. When he did, he just sat at his desk and didn't try to teach. So then again our trainner had to explain that we were to observe him teach, so we could ask a few questions later. He explained that the class was about to end, but got up and had the kids copy notes off the board (for no more than 3 minutes) before the bell rang (Needless to say, this is a good example of a bad teacher, but isn't representative of all teachers. Other volunteers reported observing very good teachers, making the most of what little they had).

After his class was over, we sat down to talk to him for a few minutes, untill he got bored and gave us strong non-verbal signals that he was done. Basically he shared that: the kids are hard to teach because they come from difficult homes, the teachers a mandated to teach certain things and have to have their lesson plans reviewed daily by the director, the teachers have to pay for any materials they use in their classroom, and that kids that don't get the lessons are generally have a low intellect therefore are only given half the assignment.

The kids on the other hand were a real treat. At first, the boys were rowdy and the girls were shy. However, within a few minutes, they were very attentive and followed our lead very well. We played a game where they needed to tell us two truths and one lie (with other trying to guess the lie), and a team building game where they needed to work as a team to untie themselves from "the human knot". After these games we went into a little exchange where they shared about their culture and schooling, while asking us about the USA and ourselves. They seemed real interested in me knowning how to ski, but they  where more interested in break dancing. 

Here I am in the class. Notice the uniforms and them minimal amount of materials in the classroom. These kids were between 12 and 14 years old, and it seemed like a far cry from what I've been use to seeing in the US public schools. 

This is the only art work I saw on the wall. Interestingly enough, it was addressing the issue of global warming.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Pie (pee a) grande vs. construction

Three things you need to know before reading this post:

First, Pie Grande en Ingles is Big Foot. Yes, the same creature that may, or may not, live in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.

Second, My host family are all carptenters and they are all working on remodeling the second floor of my house. My host father is a master mason and does some pretty good work with cement and ceramic tiles.

Third, I use to roof with a master roofer, who once accused a fellow co-worker of being "Big Foot" after he got too comfortable on a roof while cutting up ridge shingles and scuffed up a new roof pretty bad (Belt MT, HUD Houses, 2005ish).

Anyway, after about a week of my host family remodling, I came home to an almost finished second floor. Just before I could start rambling greetings and praise for hard work, my host dad told me not to step where I was currently stepping. Yep, planted my foot right into some nicely molded, wet cement. Of course I felt bad, and apoligized for not looking before I stepped, and of course he was courtious in accepting my apology. However, I had to laugh when he said "Esta bein Pie Grande, esta bein" (Its fine Big Foot, it's fine).

Who knew Big Foot also terrorizes construction sites in Peru? That thing really needs to be found and brought to justice.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


So let me finish off that last post (see Not My Typical Saturday) with saying that it really set in when I found myself sitting around the kitchen table with my host brother Fran and his buddy Danny, drinking beer and listening to country music (thanks to KYSS FM from Missoula having a good website). Never in my life did I imagine that I'd be enjoying a cold one with two Peruvians while trying to translate songs like "A Contry Boy Will Survive". Needless to say that song didn't come out very well, and I had to precident it with it's bien country (it's SUPER country).

Anyway, down to the Pachamanga. The day started out with my host mom and I going to the market to buy all of the ingredients. This in itself could be a whole post, but I'll boil it down to the highlights.  My host mom and I left for the market in Chosica (the bigger town near by) at 7:00. She use to work there when she was younger (24) and so I met all of her old market friends. I've always enjoyed markets for the variety of colors and smells (some good and some bad), but I always just wondered through with out a purpose. Gregoria on the other hand had a plan. By 9:00  we (she) had managed to say 'hi' to everyone, eat a "pan cake" breakfast (which is actually closer to fry bread), bargin to the lowest possible price on every item, and buy a weeks worth of food for a full family (and one gringo). Gregoia did 99% of the work, but I had to carry the 2 huge bags fruits, veggies, and raw meat (each bag weighing near 40lbs) through the market and up to the bus stop.

When we got home the family was up and excited for the process of making Pachamanga. Apparently it's a family tradition to do so with all the PC volunteers that they have. It truely was a process, and tried I to document it the best I could (see the following link); however, it began around 10:00 AM and the food wasn't ready until about 4:30 PM (which included a 45 minute family soccer game at the local soccer field, while the food was burried), so there are a few lags in my doctumentation:


It was fun to see the family all working towards the meal. It reminded me of a big Thanksgiving-type dinner. Also, I found it interesting that they enjoyed watching the bonfire as much as any other family I know. Somthing about a campfire just make people stand around and stare, regardless of the culture.

And just in case my day wasn't full enough, a previous PC volunteer that the family hosted decided to show up, as she was one her way to Lima (she was going to Lima to catch a flight to Chicago, to vist friends and family). Her name is Laura, and has been the only girl volunteer my host family has ever had. She's easily Gregoria's favorite daughter, as I've heard non-stop Laura stories since I've arived (It almost reminds of how Marc Mariani is my mom's favorite son; except that Laura doesn't... well there's too many things to list here when comparing Laura to an NFL superstar). So after a few hours of chatting, Fran and I accompanied Laura to Lima (1h 45m by bus) and meet up with Danny. Danny drove us to the airport, where we enjoyed a coffee and wiated for Laura's flight to be posted. Once Laura was gone, Danny drove Fran and I to the taxi stop, and we paid 8S/. each to get back home (where I crashed into my bed around 1:00AM).

Anyway the Pachamange experience was great; however, I didn't realize howmuch food we had made until I found myself eating Pachamanga for the next four meals (lack of consistent refridgeration causes families to eat any leftovers before making more food).

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Not my typical Saturday.

Today I had one of those days where you think, "I'm not in Montana anymore". It started with my usual waking routine around 6:00 to the sounds of dogs and roosters. Then I went upstairs to do my laundry. It took me about an hour to hand wash: 2 pairs of jeans, 2 polo shirts, 3 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of underwear, and a pair of shorts. I'm not sure if it was the novelty of it, the sunrise, or the fact that my host mom kept a close eye on me (and made me re-wash my jeans), but I kinda enjoyed it.

Yanacoto 7:00am 6/18/2011

After breakfast, I met up with some other volunteers in training for a hike up the mountain to see some Inca hyroglifics. There were four Peace Corps people, Amanda, Jeff, Adrian, and myself; along with a guy from the barrio (neighborhood) that agreed to show us where they were (Ranaldo). It was a quick hike up and back, but it was pretty steep the whole way, with no shade. However, it was totally worth it to look down and see the giant drawings. Although the pictures don't do it justice:

After the hike down and a huge lunch of rice, potatoes, chicken, chicken soup with rice and potatoes, and bread (they like their carbs), I went with my host mom to meet her sister and stepmother (here biological mother died when she was 3). It was cool beacuse the stepmother (my host step-grandma) was 83 years old and spoke mostly in Quechua (the native language). They would switch back in forth between Spanish and Quechua, while  I sat there trying to figure out the Spanish portion. As a side note, we stopped by a corner store and a bar before going in so we could give the grandma a gift. The gift contained juice, cookies, and a bag of coca leafs (something PC volunteers are forbiden from trying).  My host aunt was very welcoming and gave me a plate of rice and chicken. During our conversation, she explained how and why, Peruvians are so nice and welcoming, unlike the Argentinians. Basically, it boiled down to the culture of family and the fact that Peruvians have roots in Spain, while the Argentinians have German and French roots. Who knows if that is true, but I do know for a fact that Pervians have been very kind to me and the other volunteers.

After a couple of hours, we returened home and my host mom asked if I'll go to the market with her tomorrow morning to buy the ingredients for Pachamanga, a particular dish that I've been hinting around since I got here. It's a food typcial of the region, and that many people of Lima come out to have. I don't really understand it, but from what they tell me, it's some sort of underground barbeque. They bury meat, potatoes, vegetables, and hot rocks, and then it comes out cooked and super rica (tasty). Vamos a ver (We'll see) how it turns out.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


So it has taken awhile for me to get my barings and wrap my head around everythingm, I'm finally getting my settled in. So let me awnser a few questions

Where am I?
This is a tough one to answer. The quick response is 30K East of Lima. But there is more to it. I go to the training site in Santa Eulalia 6 days a week, and live with a host family in Yanacoto the rest of the time. both towns appear to be a suburb of Chosico, which is a suburb of Lima. The training center is in Santa Eulalia, a 30 minute combi (van/bus) ride from my host family's house (which cost 1S/.). I don't know much about the town of Santa Eulalia, since I spend most of my time inside the walls of the training compound, but I assume it is simaliar to Yanacoto.

Yanacoto is a relatively new town build high up on a super arid hill/mountain. The houses are generally new, or just being built, and are definately homes for the working class. The town is devided by a dry river ravine. On one side of the ravine, the houses have had running water for the last ten years, on the otherside the houses do not hae water. I only mention this, becuase every morning,afternoon, and night, there is a lady on a loudspeaker addressing the town concerning the need for change in the local government, for everyone to recieve water in their houses (asi es Sur America/That's South America).

In addition to this, there is a church (catholic obviously) and a soccer field in the middle of the town. A huge cross on the side of the hill over looking the town, and a trail that leads up to the cross and beyond. My host family tells me that if I take the trail to the top of the mountain, you can look down the other side and see some Inca drawings. I plan doing this soon.

I live here with 6 other volunteers. Each volunteer has their own unique host family and living situation.

See my future post with a house tour and family fotos (photos).


How is your host family?
Awsome! The mother is how I'd imagine my grandmother Verda, if grandma Verda was a short little lady from the highlands of Sierras who spoke Spanish and was 30 years younger. Her name is Gregoria. She has 6 sons, not including me, and 3 of them live at home. My host father, Fansico, is the jefe (boss/head) of the family and works construction in Lima. He and Gregoria have been married for 32 years. The 6 sons range from 32 to 16, and each carry some part of thier father's name (Fran, Franis, Franini, Frank, etc.) Needless to say it's a little hard to remember their specific names, but if I mumble and go with some variation of Franisco, they generaly let me pass.

Back to my mom though. She is the true spirit of the family. In addition to all of cooking, cleaning, laundry, and other house chores, she also sells ropa (clothes) in front of the church in the evening. I interact most with her, as she is constantly fussing over me (cooking for me, asking how my day is going, asking me what I want to eat, how my lunch was, teaching me Spanish, etc). However, I'm not the only one. It seems that all of the volunteers have a mother who fuss over them. For example, on the first day of training. Each volunteer was taken to training by their mother, to show them the way. Not a big deal, but it was funny to see 30 plus adults being walked to the same building by their mothers, carrying lunchs made by mom.

The volunteers getting walked to school/tranning

My mom is on the right (Gregoria)

Just a few of the lunch boxes that each of the volunteers brought their lunches in. Mine is the green one on the left.

What am I doing?
Right now I am not a Volunteer. I'm a Trainnie. Therefore, I spend 8  hours a day learning about the Peace Corps, how to be an affective Youth Development Volunteer, how to stay safe and healthy in Peru, and about the culture and language. Each session is broken into 2 hour sessions, with a one hour lunch. In late August I may get to swear in as a Volunteer, and then be placed in a community (alone).

How is your Spanish?
I'm doing alright. It's all coming back to me, and I'm learning at a pretty good clip. I just need to start speaking more to work out the kinks. As far as formal level of Spanish, Peace Corps, I believe, has 8 levels: Basic 1,2, and 3, Intermidiate 1,2, and 3, Advanced and Native. I am currently in the Intermidiate 3 level, which I think is very accruate. Informally, I hold can hold either great conversations or really poor ones. It varies depending on my fatigue level, knowledge of the subject, and various other factors. Peruvian youths are almost impossible for me to understand. They use so much slang that 'mI lost shortly after hello.

How is your group?
Its great. Peru 17 (that's us) is a fun loving crew.  Of the 51 who came, no one has quit. 32 of them are Youth volunteers (like me), and the rest are in small business development. The 32 Youth people are training at a different site than the business people, and all are getting along real well. The Peace Corps seems to attract a certian type of person, so it seems that I've found a pretty good group of people to spend time with.

What things are difficult to get used to?
The constant smog/dusty air, the noise,constantly worrying about getting something stolen, cold showers, having potatoes every meal, not being able to drink the water, seeing the night sky upside down (the dippers are flipped), trash in the streets, etc.

Do you like it?
I love it.

Morning sounds of Peru

Hey, This is just a quick check-in. I've been crazy busy. I met my host family yesterday afternoon. We at lunch, talked, and then they took me to the market (to buys keys, dog food, and watch my brother get his haircut), after that we went out to dinner and a movie (Los Piratas del Caribe/Priates of the Carribian)... and didn't return home until 1:30 in the AM. It was great and they are SUPER nice; however, I had to wake up for training today at 5:30. Needless to say I'm spent.

The file attached, if it works, is a recording of the noises I wake up (at 5:00 in the AM) and will probably go to bed to.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Staging to Training (DC to outside of Chaclacayo, Peru)

Wow! Can't believe I'm here. In fact,  I'm pretty sure I giggled myself to sleep last night due to the excitement. However, before we discuss my current location, here are a few pics of our (51 Americans, ages 21-32) transition to Peru:
Regan Airport Leaving for Training

Waiting for our flight to Miami

My ticket

Me at customs with my bags.

We arrived at the airport and was welcomed by the Peace Corps (PC) staff prior to imagrations. The PC staff had arranged for us to use the diplomatic lane and also cleared us to quickly pass through customs, making outhe Lima airport a breeze.  There were 2 busses waiting for us, and a super welcoming PC staff. Everyone was in good spirits and we drove for an hour (30 Kilometers) east to our current retreat site (outside of Chaclacayo).

The retreat place is NICE, but I didn't realize it until the morning. My site my roomate is Kyle, from Georgia, and everyone seems excited to be here. The following is a video shot later in the 6/11/2011 ( after the morning fog had kinda cleared).

Later in the day

Basically, it seems that we're here to meet the PC staff, while they begin to see the makeup of our group, Peru 17, and size up the individual members. In addition to introductions, we've had trainings in: Safety and Security, Survival Spanish, Basic Assignment Training (broken up by groups: Youth or Small Business) , Medical Information, and various other logistical activities (getting paid and being setup with a host family in the nearby community for the next two months).

We'll get to meet our first family tomorrow, so I'm not sure what to expect. During the brief interview I said I don't mind pets, have no alergies, speak Spanish, don't have any food concerns, and have lived successfully with a hispanic host family before. In addition to this, I nominated myself to take the interviewer's "most difficult" family. That may have been a little to ambitious, but what the heck, I'm in PERU! It can't be that bad.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Staging in Washington, D.C. 6/9/2011

Staging is a 7 hour info session to break-the-ice and introduce the Peace Corps' core expectations. It allows the future volunteers to introduce themselves and discuss their anxieties and aspirations. In my groupo there are 51 of us, with most being in the area of "Youth and Community Development" and rest in "Small Business Development".

What I took away from staging was:

Anxities: My limited espanol, wondering if I brought too much stuff, getting stuck in a site that isn't a good fit for me (i.e. far from the mountains).

Aspirations: Improving mi espanol, meeting some good people, experiencing things that few people have.

3 Core Goals of Peace Corps:
   1. Promote world peace and friendship through providing trained manpower
   2. Promote a better understanding of the American people around the world.
   3. Better the American people's understanding of other cultures.

Brief Version of the Peace Corps Mission:
"Promote world peaceand friendship overseas while making a difference in people's lives through genersity, civic pride, a strong work ethic, and commitment to service".

It hasn't been all business. My roommate, Adrian from Southern California (and with roots in San Luis Potosi, Mexico) did walk down to the monuments and White House.

FYI... It's 90 (plus) degrees and humid.