Thursday, April 12, 2012

29th Birthday/Semana Santa (Holy Week)

To celebrate my 29th, I organized a camping trip to take advantage of our vacation days that are given to us for Semana Santa (Easter Week/Pass Over). It started off as a simple trip with a few of the guys, but quickly spiraled into a circus of 14 of us, most of whom had little to no backpacking experience trying to get over a 15,000ft pass. Talk about a lot of unwanted stress landing on the birthday boy.

Fortunately, I can say the trip was a success (10 of 14 campers made it out alive, that's 100% of 10... which in my book is great). In reality everyone made it out alive, but we weren't able to go over the pass. Weather, lack of preparedness and stamina, and being content at our first camp prevented me from pushing us to go over the pass. I'm sure a forced march of 2,100 more feet in elevation, would have broke most of us, and painted me a cruel task-master (significantly impacting the amount of birthday drinks bought for me later in the week... I'm always thinking of others).

I was happy with the overall trip. We made it to the town of Yanama (a spectacular drive) and hiked a solid 3 hours up to near 13,000 feet. We slept in tents in a cow pasture near two glacial lakes, and were continuously entertained by the sights and sounds of a nearby glacier calving across the valley. As always, the pictures don't do it justice, but let me try:

The Fearful Leader getting the crew from our first combi, to our next combi.

All our gear piled onto the second combi.
Jeff taking advantage of "shotgun" during our drive to Yanama. 

The crew taking a pit stop to look over the Llanganuco Valley. 

Our combi at the pitstop.
Entering Parque Huascaran
Zack chasing cows in the park.

Chris on the rocky stretch. 

L to R: Nick, Jeff, and Kyle taking a breather. 

My pack next to a gate where we rested. 

L to R: Me, Keren, Kerry, and Jeff in the tents, out of the rain. 

Our Peace Corps Peru 17 Blue Grass Band: Big Bean and the Belly Button Band. L to R: Keren, Jeff, Kyle (Big Bean), Zack, and Matt. 

Me walking through and old growth Quinal stand. 

This guy and his partner came up to cut ice off the glacier to sell for shaved ice drinks. He asked me to boil him some water, which I did and gave it to him in my water bottle... which when he returned reeked of booze. I guess you gotta stay warm some how. 

Looking down onto our camp. 

My tentmates and I; Nick (from Ohio) and Amanda (from Oregon/Idaho). 

Big Bean and the Belly Button Band gives a live concert in front of the lake. 

Looking up at the glacier... the camera has a good zoom, I wasn't this close. 

The lower lake. Hard to get to, but very pretty.

Me next to a fallen giant. 

Katie on the trail home. 

They gave me a "birthday mango" on the morning of my big day. 

Me, Ali, and Keren after they did a "naked puddle squat"... a less popular version of a naked lake jump.

Artistic shot through a window of an abandoned campo house. 

We made it!!! This is when I began to deny all responsibility. 
And when we made it back to the capital, we rightfully went out to celebrate. I've got great friends here, and they treated me like a king. As proof take a look of this video of a birthday song the Belly Button Band sang me in the bar (one of the best birthday gifts ever, and very catchy):

Monday, April 9, 2012

CEBE Caraz (Special Education School in Caraz)

The start of the year has me seeing much more kid time, especially at the special education school in Caraz. I'm working there two times a week (Wednesday and Friday), and I'm in charge of the kitchen. The volunteer before me (Christie) established a great kitchen/cafeteria that is fully loaded, so now I'm trying to use it to teach the older kids how to cook, clean, and eventually sell basic food. We've started with juice, and will soon be graduating up to Jello. Little by little we are teaching the kids basics of food and kitchen safety, how to clean, wash their hands, and prepare food. It can be stressful, but I like having constant work scheduled in the work week.

L to R: Diana, Yesi, and Ludy enjoy their juice.

Aprons, one of the first step to making kitchen masterpieces. 

Boiling water.

Aida greeting some street kids.

Me presenting for the parents.  

This was our first "escuela de padres", titled "Cuanto tiempo tiene por mi" ("How much time do you have for me?"), touching on time constraints related to having a child with disabilities, and how to prioritize to improve the student's education. 

Me with the teachers, aides, physical therapist, and director after our "escuela de padres". 

Bike Ride

Peace Corps gives us access to basic Trek mountain bikes, and we a have a bike guru (Ben, Peru 18) here in Ancash that radiates a bicycling enthusiasm that can be very contagious. So one Sunday, a couple weeks ago, I took a 36 mile ride around the mountains near my site, and stopped by my site-mate's house, just to say how tired I was. It was roughly 4-5 hours of climbing, and involved me arriving at the zenith of my climb in the verge of tears, out of food, and without water. Needless to say a small tienda (store) owner in a small town I passed was glad to see me crawl in to buy nearly 20S/. of water and junk food. Judging by the dust on all the items, it was the best day of business she's had in the last decade. Here's some pics:
I woke up to a light dusting of snow in the Cordillera Negra. 

I was hoping to fish here. It looked good on the map, but due to landslide last month, the river was toast. 

Can't fish, might as well keep peddling. 

Headed down the Canon de Pato, but stopped after a few tunnels due to the traffic.

The first tunnel of the Canon de Pato. 

The otherside. 

On the way back up the valley, I caught this guying taking a cable car. 

A high up chacra. 

My stead after the second flat tire (had three in total this day). 

Taking a break on a rock... roughly 1/3rd through my ride. 

A furry buddy joined me at my rock. 

He was tied up, but at least he a had a view. 

Papas/Potatoes (I think) as far as you could see. This was a very well kept chacra. 

It started to rain on my return, luckily I was on the way down. 

This landslide had me a little creeped out, but made me glad I was on the bike and not trusting a combi driver in a hurry.