Sunday, December 16, 2012

Huaripampa's Lucha Contra SIDA (Fight against AIDS)

To keep you from thinking that Sara and I only goofed around and floated ditches in Cashapampa and Huaripampa this last month, I feel obligated to submit the following video evidence of our successful Pasos Adelante youth group, which ended on the 3rd of this month with a graduation ceremony and a march through town in honor of Worlds AIDS Day (December 1st). The march also focused on  promoting awareness of AIDS prevention, and discrimination of those people living with HIV/AIDS. The video, made by Sara, is 7 plus minutes and shows us teaching, the kids acting out skits (effects of alcohol), the kids receiving eggs (as mock children for a week so they had to go get to know the health post, as well as learn the responsibility of having an egg), a tree planting session Sara did with them, and finally our graduation and town march. 

This short video is basically all of our Huaripampa work starting in April and ending in December (wow, it's kinda depressing when I think about it like that). At about five minutes in, you'll see signs the kids made for their march through town. They did this on their own, and think they deserve credit for the time and thought they put into them; however, I know that about 369,584 of my 100,000+ followers don't actually speak/read Spanish very well, so check out my little video guide at the bottom of the post.

The songs used in video are copy written, so I'm not sure what youtube will do about this. Hope this works:

Peace Corps Pasos Adelante and World AIDS day in Huaripamapa, Ancash, Peru.

Video Guide:
0:00 - 0:25 Skits showing the effects of booze (physically, psychologically, and behaviorally).

0:25 - 0:45 Me acting like Mr.Cool Teacher (sometimes it's tough to watch yourself on video) during a game the kids played where they needed to kick people out of a 'life-raft', based on their specific roles, age, gender, and sexual orientation (i.e. 100 year old nun vs. a pregnant 15 year old girl with AIDS vs. the 45 year old ship captain who is gay).

0:45-0:58 The girls and boys working in groups listing the ideal traits that they'd like their future partners to have. This is a good way to talk about abstinence, as well as machismo.

0:58 - 1:03 Me, probably confusing the heck out of them.

1:03 - 1:26 Playing a game where the students need to place specific traits as either being a male characteristic, a female characteristic, or something both sexes/genders have (who... cries? is strong? sings? has a long hair? has a penis? etc.)

1:26 - 1:40 The day Emily (our former PCV Leader), Sara, and I gave the kids their eggs to take care of for a week. Note how two of the kids came back at the end of the week with clothing made for their eggs.

1:46 - 2:15 Seeing what the kids knew about HIV and AIDS before teaching them. This was our way of seeing what myths existed and what they already knew.

2:15 - 2:30 Sara explaining how the body looses white blood cells (nature's bodyguards). Then me explaining the latency period of HIV after contact/risky behaviors.

2:30 - 3:09 More alcohol skits.

3:10 - 3:30 The student making their posters to present to the rest of the school during a class lead school presentation about the AIDS and the need to protect yourself.

3:30 - 3:50 Our class presenting their posters and video to the 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders.

3:50 - 4:55 Sara and the kids getting outside and planting some trees around the school.

4:55 - 5:06 Sara and I closing the class with a graduation ceremony.

5:05 The start of the some of the signs the kids made for the World AIDS day march.

5:06 "I protect myself from HIV/AIDS by practicing the ABCs"

5:10 "Alert! Peru is one of the countries with the most AIDS carriers"(let's put an asterisk next to this)

5:15 "International Fight Against AIDS Day... Prevent HIV... Test Yourself... It's free"

5:19 "When you give a kiss, there is a 0% chance of getting AIDS"

5:23 "Preventing AIDS is in your hands, take the HIV test"

5:27 - 5:38 The students receiving their certificates.

5:39  The start of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders World AIDS Day March.

5:58 Me showing a little showing a little frustration on how long it took for the teachers to get the kids lined up and walking.

6:09 The march arriving to the plaza de armas (town center) in Huaripampa. Peach and Sara leading the way.

6:26 Sara shaking the Mayor's hand after he came out to give the kids a short speech and buy everyone a soda and some crackers.

6:29 The Mayor's speech.

6:35 The Huaripampa Health Post Personnel giving a talk to the kids about AIDS, and AIDS prevention.

6:39 The health post personnel and Maximo (far left) at the end of the march. Maximo was a super star teacher all year, and deserves a ton of thanks from Sara and I.

6:40 - 7:01 Shots from the march and finally our whole class.


Saturday, December 15, 2012


My last residence was in Alaska, hence I do not consider myself an expert on produce. Most of the fruit in AK almost always came off a barge, and never was too exotic, or too fresh for that matter. Therefore, this is one of the things I love about my site. It's generally has some sort of fruit in season, and since it's at only 7,200+ feet in elevation, I often have fruits that other volunteers near me don't (since some volunteers are well over 9,000 feet up). The fruit in season now is Lucuma. I don't know if that something we have at the Albertsons or Safeways back home, but right now here in Yuracoto, they're everywhere.

Lucuma isn't a very typical fruit. It's green on the outside, and has a orange-ish colored, dry, powdery meat. It isn't juicy, nor does it have citrus bite. Lucuma isn't very good by itself; however, if made into a juice with a little milk, or even into an ice cream lucuma, has a pretty delicious, sweet taste.

Since Dina and Roger have hearts of gold, but not much to give away, whenever I go somewhere  they always encourage me to pick some fruit as gifts for whomever. Here's Cate, Yeferson, and I picking some lucuma for Cate to take to Lima (Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of the actual fruit, but google it. It's worth the click).

Bon Voyage Sarita!!

So by now Sara Jane and Peach are long gone. As I type this, they're probably settled in (on her parent's couch) in Indiana counting the days down to Christmas, checking their emails for job offers, and wondering how big of a snow man they're going to make today. It's a little intimidating  how quick things can change. One day you're speaking short sentences of Quechua that took you two years to learn, harvesting peas, and pining for home; and then a few days later you're in a pine forest (of maybe some corn field), stuffing your face with Christmas cookies, and giving long drawn out speeches about about the last two years of your life. Transitions can be tough (as you'll see in the next paragraph). 

To help ease the transition, Sara made a small 'bucket-list' of things she wanted to get done before leaving site. I won't bore you with how many libraries built, trees planted, or environmental issues solved were on that list, but I will share the last line on the checklist: Float the Asequia (Ditch). 

That's right, before her last good-byes in site, Sara needed to make good on one last personal goal. Float the giant ditch the runs through her town, behind her house and past the school; and of course I had to see how it turned out.

Luckily for you (and me), Sara is great at making videos on her computer. So to save you the dirty details about the effects of cold water, the still vivid feel of scraping of our butts along the cement bottom, and the "you crazy gringos" looks we got from her neighbors, you guys can just watch this great trailer Sara made for the big adventure:

Finally, I'd like to share these last two pictures of from the end of the float. We floated from Sara's house, down past the school, and ended at Flor's house. Flor is Sara soccio (she works in the municipality) and Sara best friends ever. Unfortunately, Flor wasn't home on our arrival, but fortunately for us,  her adorable mother was. Flor's mom is a great person that obviously loves life and anyone she meets. So, when two wet and cold gringos appeared on her lawn she was more than happy to allow us to take a seat and warm up on her patio. In addition to never calling us idiots, she was also more than obliging to pose for the following two pictures, of which are now two of my favorite pictures of my entire service, up to this point. Take a look at this pictures and ask yourself two things: do you think this lady has every considered floating in an inner tube? And, what would you do if two complete foreigners washednup soaking wet in your back yard, and then asked you in horrible English to pose with them for a photo? I guess you never know until it happens. Enjoy:

Saturday, December 1, 2012

By the Way...

Besides coming into the capital to help out with World AIDS Days activities, use the internet, and do some work, I be lying if I said I'm not excited about seeing the MSU Bobcats play their first night football playoff game in history. However, for those of you who could care less about the the Stony Brook vs. Montana State game, here's a picture of the the nevado (snow capped mountain) I took from the bus stop in Yungay last night on my way in. In my opinion, this should make up for having to read about something you don't care about.

World AIDS Day 2012

I came into Huaraz yesterday to help Keren, Ali, and Katy with their World AIDS Day (Dec. 1) Project. All three live in the same valley, although in different communities, and decided to work together for a valley-wide event.

As much as I like to say that I was a key figure in their project's success, I have to admit, I did almost nothing. They were the one's that got their health posts, municipalities, and schools all organized and ready for the celebration in the district's capital. The only thing I had to do, was show up and be a guest judge for the class skits the students presented.

There were 12 skits in all, with each class competing for prizes. Third Place got a cool AIDS poster for their classroom, Second Place got a Monopoly board game, and First Place got, drum roll please.... a Peru themed Monopoly game (I think the municipality payed for these prizes). The skits lasted between 5 and 20 minutes each, included both Quechua and Spanish, and touched on a variety of themes: Family Values, Communication, the ABCs of AIDS Prevention, and Discrimination. In the end I was glad I got to participate, and walked away with a slight sun burn (we sat at the judges table in the sun from 9am to 1pm). Here are a few pictures:
The kids parading with their banners. 

The judges: Katy, the Health Post Doctor, and myself. Keren was also a judge, but isn't in this shot. 

That's a fake mustache on that police officer. 

In fact there were two fake mustaches in this play. Interestingly enough, the skit was about a step-father violating his step-daughter. A little off the point of the celebration, but a currently appropriate topic for this particular community.

This sign says "The decision is always yours. Protect yourself".  
Here's me getting distracted, acting like I'm taking a picture of the skit, but really focusing on the mountain. Maybe I shouldn't have been a judge. 

Here's a better shot of the mountain. 

Ancash Thanksgiving 2012

This year's Thanksgiving was pretty nondescript. In fact Thanksgiving Thursday was really boring. Due to some shoulder pain, I spent most of the day hanging around the clinic in Huaraz. Don't worry, it's nothing serious, just a little discomfort as I was diagnosed with Level 5 Awesomeness with a severe deficiency in humbleness.

So with my Thursday shot, I was excited to get out on Friday and do a little hiking. There were a lot of  Peace Corps volunteers passing through for the holidays, and Ben and Katy (Peru 18ers) organized a nice hike for us, above their site. The hike, as with most hikes I've done around here, was spectacular. We climbed for 3 hours up one of the canyons behind their house to a couple of mountain lakes. Besides the fact that we went well above 4,000 meters and all 15+ volunteers made it (impressive considering the Turkey Day Celebration didn't end for most until 5:00am that morning), I am very happy to report on the following: I caught my first Southern Hemisphere fish!!!

Boy, I'm happy I brought my fly rod to Peru. That's right, a nice 12-14'' rainbow on a small beadhead fly quickly made up for all the embarrassming times I had to explain what the green tube on my backpack was since leaving for the Peace Corps in June 2011 from Washington, D.C. ("No it isn't a gun, golf club, flute, yoga mat or whatever else; its a fly rod").  Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of my trout, as I was trying to release it back into the water as fast as possible. However, I did get a picture of Nico's trout that he caught (using my fly rod... so I get half the credit). Here are some pictures and videos from the hike:

The Crew before leaving Ben and Katy's site. 

Huascaran in the distance.

One of Ben and Katy's neighbors out for a stroll. 

We headed up the canyon to the right.

David and I. We're both bothers from training as we both lived with the Hinajosa Family. He's in Peru 18. This is a shot for our training Mom. 

Leaders of the pack. L to R: Jamie (Peru 19), Conner (Peru 19), Ben (Peru 18), and David (Peru 18). 

Snow capped mountains are a must in Ancash. 

This huge rock wall was for the sheep was pretty impressive.  


Last break before pushing to the lake. 

Resting and looking at the first lake after finally making it. 

Me fishing at the first lake after my quick Naked Lake Jump. After this weekend, I now have 9 NLJs. 

Conner trying his hand at fly fishing. 

Nico's (Peru 19) monster.
Arrived back at the base of the valley for dusk.

The last picture before dark.