Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Huaylas's Bloodless Bull Fighting

Rodeo weekend hit in Jeff's site, so I had to go. To mix things up a little, we'll start with a few pictures, and then move into the details. Enjoy. 

The idea is drunk people go out to wrestle the scarf off the bull, and then they get to keep it (the scarf, not the bull) as a momento. 

Bands and spectators for the Rodeo.

Drunk guy shuttles a caja (box) of beer through the ring for his buddies. 

The Huaylas Plaza de Armas in the background.  

Classic ole.

Rodeo clown strutting his stuff in the bull ring. 


Jeff's site is pretty much in fiesta-mode for most of July and August, with the last big blowout being the corrida (bull fight). However, the only difference between the Huaylas event and a traditional bull fight (which they have in other parts of Ancash and Latin America), the Hauylinos (people form Huaylas) don't kill the bull. No swords, no knives, no blood; except for maybe for the blood shed by any drunk by-standers foolish enough to want to try to stand down a bull. See video:

This event reminded me a lot of the Rodeos in Montana.  You saw local people (shout out to Ryan) getting cheered on by local people (shout out to the Elliots), while riding/competing with local animals (shout out to the giant cow near Stoney's Flea Mart at Clearwater Junction). Just here the bulls seem smaller, there were at least three of the five marching bands playing huayno music at all times, and there was no prize money. The 'bull fighters' mainly played for self-pride and barrio pride. However, I do have to tip my hat to  the rodeo clowns here. I saw three, all mockingly dressed as women (obviously they haven't met a real western rodeo queen) who did some pretty cool tricks (there were no barrels to hide behind). My favorite trick was pole vaulting themselves over the charging bull using two sticks like handheld stilts, and then performing the splits at the perfect time to elude the horns. It was pretty impressive; unfortunately, I wasn't able to capture this specific act on film. But here's a short video of some the antics:

Get Well Soon Marc

I'd like to take a few seconds to give a shout out to Montana's favorite son,and the NFL's nicest guy: Marc Mariani. Google him if you don't know him. Marc was significantly injured in a recent game and now has some work of ahead of him to make his come back. I, like the rest of Montana, will definitely be rooting for him,  and here's one specific reason why: The guy is an amazing underdog (Go Twins) who always caries himself with an unbelievable amount of class. For proof of this, look no further than the last sentence of this article I found online:

"Mariani was injured while being tackled on a punt return. He was immediately tended to on the field by trainers, who put his leg in an air cast. Mariani was taken off the field on a cart. He waved to fans as he went through the tunnel to the locker room"

The guy broke his leg! Yet, showed enough grace to wave to the fans!!! Tough and classy at the same time, that's the Marc we all know. Shoot, if it were me, they'd have to censor the whole T.V. screen, shut down the jumbotron and throw a blanket over me until the tranquilizers kicked in. Not Marc. Way to keep it classy. You've always done us proud (I just wish you would have done us "less proud" when you played the Cats, but I forgive you). Good luck on the comeback.

Not related to Marc's comeback or injury, but more related to him being a class act, I'd like to dedicate this song to him. A song that will forever remind me of that one time in the bunkhouse (and a song I'd like to think he sings to himself, whenever he breaks free on a punt or kick off return):

Marc's Song

1-Year Closet Review

I'm fortunate to have a copious amount of fans back in the States who keep me well supplied down here in Peru (In fact, I doubt I've ever eaten so many Girl Scout cookies in one year as I did this last year. Anit-shout out to Tony Horton). Thanks. You guys keep me well stocked in everything, but especially my clothing. I'm not sure if people are slowly trying to change my style (probably for the better), or they just fear that I'm naked down here, but I had to make the following video (Shout out to Jeff for his "help") to show off the wardrobe that I now have, but didn't bring with me. Enjoy:

Friday, August 10, 2012

It's Now a Home

Coming back from vacations, I found Roger had done some remodeling in the kitchen. The rock had a new colorful table covering on it, the wall was painted white, and the pans were hung nicely on the wall by the sink. They now jokingly call it a Gringo Kitchen, assuming that this is how our kitchen must look like in the US*.

Also Casper the Pig (I named her... didn't know she was her when I named her) had 7 piglets. My host mom was SUPER excited about this news.

* Please send me pictures of your homes inside and out. My host family is really curious to what our homes look like, and I'd like to not show them stereotypes from magazines or the web (Mar-anner that means you as well).

Fiestas Patrias Vacation

July 28th is Peru's Fiestas Patrias, which is basically the equivalent to our 4th of July. As a Peace Corps volunteer we get 4 days of vacation, so with the kids on vacation I decided to head to the northern coast and catch some beach time. It was a great trip, and exactly what I needed at this point in my service. The two main highlights of the trip were a shaman cleansing session in  Alta Piura (the Sierra part of the "state" of Piura) and bio-luminescent algae bloom of the coast in Tumbes.

First, I was lucky to get to see Kyle's (a Peru 17er buddy) site. Volunteers generally do go to others' site (not counting site mates), especially during vacation. So when it worked out that I could crash a Kyle's site, meet his host-family, and see the work he was doing, I jumped at the chance. Kyle is doing great work, and I saw just how different it is to serve in the coast. Besides being a lot hotter, the people, music and culture have a completely different flare to it.

Kyle's world map.

The sunset was very impressive. 

Where moto taxis and mules are common in my site, this setup was more common in Kyle's site. 

Now the shaman. I know, I know my years logged at St. Joes and Loyola Sacred Heart told me I was flirting with the devil, but let me tell you it was fun and interesting. We went to Huancabamba in the Sierras of Piura, a town known for it's shamans and traditional/alternative medicine practices. Not to many gringos pass through there, but it is very popular for Peruvians who want to see a shaman.

B chance we got hooked into the cleansing ceremony. We (myself and about 7 other volunteers) were hiking to a lake, when we caught up to a family going up on horses to see a shaman. We struck up a conversation, where they told us that their sister was sick, and they wanted the shaman to help them focus/pray/cure her. They were very nice, and excited to have foreigners interested in this part of their culture. So excited, that they encouraged us to take picture. The shaman did them one better, and invited  us to join the cleansing ceremony.

The ceremony is a interesting mixture of this shaman chanting, speaking rapidly, and shaking a rattle towards the lake. Meanwhile, the participants stand behind him and observe, pretty normal stuff. Then the shaman faces the people (us) and hands out sea shells to each person. The shell is then filled with a liquid tobacco juice. The shaman prays some more, and has the people focus on releasing the negative, and focusing on what they want. Then the participants snort the juice through their left nostril (it burns worse than a pixie stick... so I've heard). Then the process is repeated with everyone snorting more chew juice through their right nostril (much harder to be enthusiastic about this while still feeling the burn from the other side). Then with blurry, red eyes, and ever present smell of tobacco, the group is separated, and each person get one-on-one time with the shaman. This one-on-one time involves more focusing on the positive things you want, more rattles, the shaman spitting alcohol on you, and you exhaling forcefully in all four cardinal directions (kinda grunt hard breath combination).

Then the coup de grace (shout out to Claire), the shaman prescribes a certain many of dips in the freezing cold lake (kinda like finding out how many Hail Marys you've racked up since your last confession). Seven was the determined number for me. It was COLD, and I did 3 solid, "no fear" dunks, but I have to admit numbers four through seven were preformed like a house cat going for a swim, and that Sienfield episode about shrinkage came flooding back to my memory.

The cleansing ceremony typically leads to the shaman assisting the people in a 'vision quest' which is aided by a hallucinogenic tea made from a local cactus call San Pedro. We didn't stick around for this, so I'm not sure if the family did this, but that's purpose of the whole cleansing process so I assume they did.

Here are a few pictures:

Kyle checking out the cloud forest on our way to Huancabamba.

Hard to  see but there is a slight rainbow to the bottom left. 

The lake. 

Phil holds his tobacco filled shell. 

Starting to take my seven dips. 

Nothing to see here, just a few guys doing guy things.

The shaman at work.

 After the Sierra portion, we headed north to the beach. This was the most important part for me, as I needed some beach time to tan my fanny. We headed to Tumbes where we enjoy a campfire on the beach and mud baths in the day. The campfire alone was great, but it was made even better by a bio-luminescent algae bloom that appeared around 3:00am, making the waves look electric blue when they crashed on the shore. Unfortunately pictures of the bloom didn't turnout, but I'll always remember swimming in the electric blue ocean that night. Pretty cool.
Kyle getting clean. 

The mud bath. 

Cone head. 

Huinchu Puya de Raimundi

A S/.100 taxi (we split it four ways) up the Cordillera Negra site takes you to a curve in the road call Huinchu. Huinchu is a bosque (forest) of a unique type of tree, the Puya de Raimundi, and breathtaking (I don't ever use this word unless it is truly deserved) panoramic views of the whole Cordillera Blanca. You can also see the Pacific Ocean from here too. The pictures are the only way to truly describe it. 

Paula looking out at the sheep. 

The drop off point.

Jeff and Nico. 

Currently taking applications. 

The Cordillera Blanca

Nevado Santa Cruz. The peak you can see from my site. 

There's the road we came up on. 

The Puya de Raimundi trees. 

Special Olympics Update

While on vacation I received a phone call from the Special Education School Director saying the Special Olympics in Huaraz have been canceled. The reason: it's canceled. Pretty frustrating, but not a deal breaker. We've got plenty of other things to focus on.

Keeping up with the Jones.

Roger's return home from working at the isla brought a big change to the house. It's very similar to what we called in the Anchorage School District "Disneyland Dad Syndrome" (referring to when a military parent would return from deployment and spoil the kids and spend money like crazy). In Roger's case, he bought a satellite T.V. subscription. Not a huge deal, but deserves a slight rant (keep in mind I'm and outsider, invited to live in their home). Here we go:

There wasn't money (S/.9) for Yeferson to buy his school uniform, but the cable T.V. cost S/.60 per month.

Yefer is now late to school every day as he watches cartoons instead of eating breakfast.

After school, Yefer wiggles his way around homework to watch T.V. instead.

The T.V. was shut off after 5 days, due to non-payment. Instead of 40+ channels, a billing notice popped up, covering each channel. Dina, not knowing how to read, made me read the same warning over and over again, as she flipped through the blocked channels.

Even with 40+ channels, Dina and Roger still only watch the programs that were available free through the bunny ears.

Anyway, this isn't meant to be over critical of my host-parents or T.V. in general. It's just a few observations I've made. Also noteworthy, was how it was really nice to see how proud Roger was to show it off to any one who came by. Also, neat to think about how something that is so often taken for granted, is a real luxury for some.

For those you wondering, the T.V. bill has been paid (and I do find myself catching a few of the Olympic events when I can).

Fiesta in Huaylas

Last month Jeff's site, Huaylas, went on complete shut down while everyone in the valley prepared for his town's fiesta. Huaylas is usually the sleepiest town in the valley; however, for about one week a year it wakes up and goes nuts. 

There are 7 barrios, and each one competes to out do the other in the daily activities. Activities include, street dances, marches, costumes, fireworks, and a boat/float competition. Yes, boats at 9,000 feet above sea level.

The people are super friendly, and they all love Jeff (the gringo del barrio Yacup). They are also proud of their history and traditions. As the tale goes, when Pizarro marched up the Sierras in search of  Inca gold, he married a woman from Huaylas a long the way. This marriage solidified a the following two things: 1)The Spanish didn't sack the village, and treated the town very well. Leaving the town with a very distinct colonial feel (which was severely damaged in the 1970 earthquake); and 2, Jeff is always asked when he's going to marry a Huaylina (woman from Huaylas), with the argument of "Pizarro did, so why don't you". (Remember kids, just because Pizarro did it, doesn't mean you should too... I'm more talking about wiping out a whole culture, instead of marrying a Huaylina). 

This town history of being significantly influenced by the Spanish was the catalyst for the boats and the costumes seen at the fiesta. The boats are giant floats that resemble the ships the Spanish arrived on. They are very elaborate and usually hold a large cargo of fireworks and as many as 2 full grown men dressed like sailors. More impressively, they are carried by 10-20 SUPER DRUNK volunteers. The drunk boat carriers wobble and ram their way through the town plaza to the pounding beat of each neighborhoods marching band. But don't worry, each neighborhood also elects a person to yell at the boat carriers, and try to prevent them from running anyone down (safety is always paramount here in Peru). Jeff was asked to take this role, but he wisely declined. 

My final thought before the pictures is that: this was an amazing experience that you'd never read about in a guide book. And if it was in a guidebook, it would still be a tough to summarize in a couple sentences. There was only one other extranjero (foreigner) in town, a older gentleman from Holland that volunteers here in the 70's after the earthquake, and married a huaylina (I guess he followed the Pizarro-logic).

Arriving at the plaza.

This is the boat for Jeff's 'hood. We showed a ton of neighborhood pride, and yelled "Viva Yacup" most the night. 

Building one of the many "castillas", platforms used to shoot of tons of fireworks. 

The plaza at dusk. 

Here comes our boat. 

Jeff's host dad and host sisters.

Jeff gently stole his host dad's hat. His host mom is the back enjoying being with her gringo son.

Casitlla were set off at 1:30am, instead of the scheduled 11:00pm time.


Jeff tries on the traditional costume. He's holding a whip, which I'm not sure where that tradition came from,.

The Roach Brothers came down from the US to visit Ryan (far right). They were lucky to catch this event. 

Last shot of the Plaza as it slowly returns to the lazy town Jeff loves and knows.