Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mother's Day Shout Out

I'd like to give a heartfelt early Mother's Day shout to all the moms in my life, especially 'Big Lou' . The list is too long to include everyone here, but I'm sure you know who you are. You're the wise ladies that have taught me everything I know, cared for me and, of course, set me straight whenever I needed it. Although only "My real Mom" (As we say here in Peace Corps to distinguish between our PC Moms and our biological mothers) is the one who brought me into this world, you've all gaven me so much. Thanks. You're on a very special list for me.

 And on this note, I'd like to give a shout out to the newest mother I know, (drum roll)..... Mar..., oops, I mean DINA!!

She was dealt a tough hand with her oldest son. Just last August she met him for the first time. He showed up with two large backpacks, and a permanent look of either shock or confusion. He's a goofy looking kid, that did (still does) weird things that she couldn't help to laugh at on a regular basis. Although she doesn't laugh at him as much as before,  she still cracks up whenever he refers to her as mom (understandable, since we're both the same age; and I definitively look a little different than rest of the kids). Anyway, I'm lucky to have all of you super women in my life, Dina included. And to celebrate her introduction to the club I got her the following gift:

Here are some extra Dina pics:

Monday, May 7, 2012

Rondas Campasinos/Neighborhood Watch Groups.

First off, I had heard about Rondas during training. We watched a Peruvian movie (Paper Doves. An interesting movie about a campo kid in Peru during the time of terrorism in the 80's... available on netfix... recommended if it's something that interests you). Then I heard a few interesting stories from my host-family when I got to site (Vigilantes in the isolated communities that would meme or kill for lesser crimes like theft). So when a meeting time I had hoped to schedule with mayor was taken by what his secretary told me was "a training for the local Rondas", I told myself I had to dust off the ol' "gringo all access card" and check it out (the GAAC: a maneuver where you act like you belong there, and if someone confronts you, you act like you don't understand what is going on. It almost never fails) .   

Second, "neighborhood watch groups", is probably the worst translation I've given on this blog*, but due to a lack of a succinct phrase to describe these people, let me explain their most recent history, and allow you to compose your own definition. 

Buckle up, because it goes... There have been many "positive" advancements in campo life in Peru in the last three decades (electricity to communities, motorized transportation becoming more common, sanitation project, paved highways, etc), but Sierra campo life in Peru also was shaped by negative aspects in the last 30 years. Specifically, by the presence of home grown terrorism groups (e.g. the Sendero Luminoso/Shinning Path). Although the effects of terror groups appeared to have crescendo in the late 80's/early 90's, there still are residual effects from this period (Sendero Luminoso is still technically present; however, they appear to similar to FARC in Columbia, in that they have lost their ideological foundations, along with their footholds in many communities).

Just like any successful terror group, violence was the go to tool, and the marginalized people from low soccio-economic/low education populations were the fodder. Terrorist stayed in camps away from villages, planning and training for their next terrorist attacks.  They would then raid the villages looking for government supporters, rations for their comrades, and sometimes kidnapping children as recruits. To combat them, the villages used their current neighbor hood watch groups, the Rondas, (which in my area have been around since the 1920's) to fight violence with more violence. The government supported the Ronda Campasinos as a type of ad-hoc paramilitary group, and as typical to any vigilante type mob, lots of bloodshed ensued.

With terrorism waning, the Rondas are still a group of neighborhood men who volunteer to patrol the barrio, who are still supported the government, and still tend towards violence for justice, but the new typical crimes are far less news worthy. Adulterous spouses, drunken fights, and an animal thefts are the new public executions, kidnappings, and other atrocities that were more common in the time of the terrorist.

Here's video I took during the training that I attended. I can assure you I was the only outsider in the place, which is always kinda of awkward, but it was pretty interesting. This video clip is a training of how your Ronda should deal with someone who has been caught stealing cuy in your barrio. In the skit, the Ronda are the simi-ninja looking guys who dole out the lashings at the end. Enjoy (For some reason the video won't upload to my blog, so please follow the link to my youtube account):

*I hope none of you are reading this blog in hopes of improving your Spanish skills. If so, I apologize to you and any native speaker you try to converse with...  I feel like my skills have taken a significant nose dive since arriving to sight (for various reason, a major one being too lazy to crack open my language books).

Day hike outside the capital city

Jess is a 3rd year volunteer who works with the national park here and is a wealth of information for every thing related to the ecology of the park. She's an environmental volunteer and she loves her job, the park, and Peru so much that she's signed up for a fourth year of service in a new jungle providence (Amazonas/ not Ancash) that Peace Corps Peru just opened. With that little piece of back ground information, it should be no wonder that she was a great person to ask about hikes around town. I mentioned that I'd like to go scout out so possible fishing spots, and she offered to show me where she had seen the "biggest Peruvian trout of her service" (not a the kind of person you want knowin' your secret fishing holes, but she sure is a good guide). So early Saturday we met in Huaraz, and headed to the spot.

Our goal was a quebrada (canyon) an hour away, with ruins at the base. We quickly toured the ruins and then headed straight up the quebrada. If we had time, we could have hiked 8 hours to a lake at the base of the nevado, but we didn't and had to settle for just going half way up and turning around at large pampa (meadow) that had some pretty cool boulders. I saw a few trout and a couple of campo guys fishing (without luck), but didn't really dedicate too much time with my own fly rod. Its a tightly overgrown stream, with crystal clear water, making the fish very spooky and difficult to figure out, also it was a JUST a scouting trip so... well enough excuses, I didn't catch a thing. However, I'm definitely going back to try again. Enjoy the pictures.

This is the view from Ben (the bike guy) and Katie's (Ben's wife) site. We stopped by on our way into and out of the quebrada. 

Me with the stray dog we named "foxy" at the ruins. 

A gin clear stream that reminded me of a few places back home. 

Jess dropping a few nature knowledge bombs on me.

Most of the hike was through this pretty cool forest. 

Hard to tell with angle, bot this boulder was about 6 meters tall and really framed the stretch of the trail.  Look at the trees in the background. 

This boulder was my favorite, easily the size of house. 

Jess and I in the upper pompa. 

Trying my luck at the base of this waterfall. 

The sun setting after we emerged from the quebrada. 

Looking back a my new favorite spot. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Dia del Trabajador (Workers Day/Labor Day)

MAY 2nd was Peru's version of Labor day. It fell on a Tuesday, so everyone had a four day weekend. That meant two things: I had a little free time, and Roger had to get ready for the onslaught pachamanca (underground BBQ) orders from the costumers at the restaurant. So with this, and mother's day coming up, he needed to go out and pick leaves (used to wrap the meat, as well as cover the cooking pits) while there was still time. So one Wednesday (April 25th) we got up with the sun (5:30ish) and went to his favorite spot near the Rio Santa (the river behind my site). By 7:00am we were headed back to the house with a full bag of fresh leaves, hungry, and wet form the rain soaked vegetation.  Here are some visuals:

Looking towards Caraz that morning.

Roger's secret stash.

The haul. 

Long road home. 

Cordillera Blanca in the back ground. 

Special Education School Update

Dia de Caraz Parade:
April 16th was the Dia de Caraz Parade, and I marched through the town center with the Special Education School. Peru loves it's dias de... so I'm getting very accustomed to the hoopla of that comes with the each parade. So without further ado here are a few shots of the parade:

Jaime, a graduate of the school, came back dressed in his best military suit ready to lead.

Since it was a big town celebration, a lot of people came down from the alturas (highlands). I found this image of the these Sierra women in typical dress waiting for the ATM too interesting not to take the picture. I did it sneakily, as to not embarrass anyone, explaining the lack of a tighter shot. 

Every school's color guard was present. 

The big flag being marched through square by the town big-wigs. 

The Yuracoto color guard. 

Yesenia and Jaimi lead us. 

We (the Special Ed School) marched in a single file line and I brought up the rear while snapping photos. Here is us passing the military band. 

The town big wigs. The mayor (Dr.Fidel) is the in the red ribbon, next to the guy in the red sash. I'm not sure who the rest are, but should probably give a shout out to them for helping pay for paint used in my world map project.  

Gelatina (jello) is the hot new item at the special education school. We have a fully stocked kitchen, and I've been working on teaching the kids the basic of how to use it, and while doing so we've graduated from making chicha morada (a juice drink) to gelatina. The kids love it, the parents report that their kids want to make it at home, and I find myself almost as excited about jello as when I was in college.

Student Birthdays:
So we had three kids have birthdays the same week. So to celebrate the santos (birthday kids) Paula, Kenny, and Pilar, we threw a little bash. I made Gelatina. 

Jaimi showed up in his dancing shoes. 

Profesora Vio made chicha morada. 

The kids. 

Tid bits

So the following blurbs didn't warrant their own posts, but are noteworthy so please enjoy the following glimpses of what is my current daily life:

1. Stick bugs "wrestling".
I know they probably aren't really wrestling, but since this blog is public, and I don't control who reads it, lets just say that's what these two creatures were doing outside my room when I was on my way to work.

2. Huaripampa Baby Eggs.
My site mate, Sara Jane, and I are teaching a sexual health class to a class of kids in a town that is about an hour taxi ride from my site every Thursday. The class is 12 sessions long and hits topics like self-esteem, family planing, STD, pregnancy, and goal setting. For our pregnancy class, Sara gave each kid an egg with the assignment to treat it like a real baby. The kids had to bring it to school every day, take it to the health post and talk to the nurses about sexual health/pregnancy, and more importantly not break the egg. Four of the 12 eggs didn't make it. Two eggs had knitted hats at the end of the week.

3. Ben the bike master.
I mentioned Ben before, but he deserves another shout out for the following. He's building a bamboo bike! This guy is a real bike nut, which is cool because in his short time in being here, he has infected a lot of people with bike fever. I definitely have it, but more importantly, the people in his community have it too. He has started a bike maintenance trend in his site, where kids and community members can use his house and tools to learn how to repair their own bikes. He reports that it has been huge success, with 10-30 kids showing up on a regular bases to learn how to maintain their bikes. Here are pictures of his bamboo bike frame, and a piece of "bike art" he made using a old clock.