Sunday, January 13, 2013

New Years in the White City

The end of 2012 was wasted double checking the Mayan's math, trying to figure out where they screwed up. With no luck, I decided to leave it in the "oops" column, get out of my bunker, and jump on a bus to Arequipa (8 hours to Lima, 14 hours to Arequipa... my butt still hurts).

Arequipa, is the farthest south in Peru where Peace Corps stations volunteers, and is a very impressive department. Ancash has some pretty cool stuff, but Arequipa doesn't lack at all. They have nice beaches, great food, very interesting historical and cultural spots (I got to see 'Juanita the Mummy' , no photos were allowed), the Colca Canyon (the world's deepest canyon,, twice as deep as the Grand Canyon), and cool adventure sports, like climbing and whitewater rafting.

My time was mainly spent in two areas: the sea-side city of Camana (Richard and Kim, Peru 17ers site), and in Arequipa city (3-4 hours inland). My time in Camana had one main purpose, hit the beach. Which I did; however, the ocean was kind of cold, and there was a noticeable undertow, making swimming a little challenging. It was a good time, as volunteer friends from all over the country arrived and we celebrate the start of 2013 correctly. The following are a few pictures and videos of the beach.

Matt (17er from Ica) shows off his new look that he got while playing beach football. Who knew a broken pinky toe gets you a full cast (side note: he went to the local hospital and had to pay as he went. Meaning before they put the cast on him, he need to go buy the cast materials first... how's that work for an emergency surgery?)

Kerry and Ryan teaching me how to play it cool. 

Group shot. 

Camana beach

This bird was doing the same thing we were. Sun bathing. 

Ali shows no fear of bird flu.

Keren and the bird. 

As for the videos, one video is in Spanish for Roger and Dina, but it shows how packed the beach was. The fishing video shows my gear that I bought in the town's market (some fishermen I met earlier that day told me where to buy it, and how to fish in the ocean, so I gave it a shot... but didn't catch a thing).

Arequipa City was my last stop before returning home to Ancash. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to completely see the area (I missed the Colca Canyon, condors, and climbing), but I plan on returning some day to see it right. I did have time to see the other 'Sarita', Juanita's (see the above link) replacement while she is being re-frozen for 4 months out of the year. i also toured a famous monastery in the middle of the city near our hotel.

The monastery was once considered a party monastery. The Spanish would send their 2nd born off to serve the church, and this was the place in the New World were the rich girls would go to live it up. They were known to sneak in booze, throw parties, and have their own servants. This lasted until a head nun for the Dominican Republic cracked down in the late 1800s. The monastery is still in operation, and was forced by the city government to start giving tour in the '70s. We went on the night tour, which was really pretty, but not too many of my photos turned out.

Besides these two tours and whitewater rafting (which impressively ended in the middle of town, 4 blocks away from our hostel./No pictures take to due to camera safety concerns), I just spent the rest of my time taking in the sites, people watching (this is part of the 'gringo trail' - Cusco, Puno, Arequipa- so there were tons of tourist to observe) and eating great food. Now for the pictures:

The Plaza de Arma of Arequipa. Said to be one of the most beautiful plazas in Peru. Puede ser/ Could be.

Kyle, Matt and Kerry making the plaza more beautiful. 
Night shot of the plaza. L to R: Brice, Kyle, KCM (Peru 18ers), Kerry, and Ryan.

Kerry in the outside courtyard of the monastery. 

Entering the monastery, one word says it all. Silence. 

It was pretty cool seeing the monastery at night.

L to R: Kerry, Brice, Kyle, Ryan, and Matt.

Our attempt at Shiva.

Sunset over Arequipa.

Brice, Arequipa, and a sunset.
The nevados above the city in the late afternoon sun. 

The monastery in the sunset.

Another sunset.

This is the the arco iris/rainbow that showed up my last night in Arequipa. All of these are taken from the roof of our hostel.

Me and the rainbow.

It was pretty impressive, but who would have thought that the pot of gold was that close!

"Peace Corps Makes You Do *Messed* Up Stuff."

 ...A former volunteer who was very prone to over-dramatics, once said this to me with a straight face, while taking a drag from his cigarette and using much stronger language; like he was living in a war zone or something. Obviously I feel like he momentarily lost sight of where he really was, but his line does come to mind every once in awhile. The following being a good example:

I couldn't help to think 'Man, this is messed up', as I walked around Lima (a city of 8 million people) with my backpack... full of my own urine. Yep, due to a specific medical check-up, the Peace Corps doctors asked me to come to Lima for some tests, one of which involved me collecting 24 hours of my own pee. Gross. Here's a picture, double gross:

As I did my medical duty, I the following two things came to mind: 1, I like the convenience of having your bathroom on your back. This makes any street corner a reasonable solution to nature's call; and 2, I was really hoping someone would try to rob me. I imagined myself happily handing over my backpack, trying to stifle my giggles. 

Anyway, the end results were encouraging, and my non-medical analysis of this 24 hour test determined that my urine is warm, generally yellowish, and surprisingly heavy. Now you know. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Cate's Contract

It's summer vacation here, and Yeferson is out of school; however, the learning isn't going to stop. He and I will be doing "Coquitos" (a popular, kid friendly, learn to read, textbook) for the next 6+ weeks. And to motivate him, Cate made a deal with him. If he studies hard everyday, she'll take him to Lima, show him the beach, and teach him to surf. It's a pretty sweet deal.

 For those of you learning, and/or practicing Spanish, here's the video Cate made for Yeferson announcing her proposal (basically she tells him that if he studies hard every day and learns to read he'll get to go to this playa/beach in Lima and see the ocean for the first time in his life... then I talk and don't make much sense).

Christmas in Yuracoto 2013

Christmas, again, has come and gone in Yuracoto, Peru. True to form, it was pretty under whelming. Christmas Eve Day, Roger worked, Dina cleaned, and Cate, Yordan, Yeferson, and I hung out waiting for Roger to come back so we could eat paneton (kinda like fruit cake), drink hot chocolate, and feast on potato salad. Besides Cate falling the ditch, the biggest thing that happened was a short power-outage due to a pretty impressive thunderstorm.

Dina tending the fire as she makes a large pot of hot chocolate. 

Dina peeling the potatoes for the salad.

Cate and I had pooled our resources and went in together on some gifts for the family. Santa brought Dina a blender, Roger got a set of hand tools, Yeferson got a puzzle and watch, and Yordan got an alphabet train that lights up (I think the train the blender were the biggest hits).

Santa and the family. It's not a real beard, I made it out of paper, glue, tape, and cotton balls. 

Cate and the family. 

Side shot of Santa.

Yordi get his train. 

Santa is happy with the gift giving. 

Roger and Santa show off the new tools. 

One happy family. 

Merry Christmas!

Yefer tries his hand at being Santa

Yordan and the train

Dina's family also came over to share the food, drink and dance with us*. After stuffing ourselves until about 10:30 in the kitchen, we moved the party into the bedroom/living room area and drank and danced to huayno music until the wee horas (hours). I retired at about 3:00am when Roger went to go buy more beer, Cate protested (even after falling into a ditch), but also retired soon after. And according to Dina, her and Roger ended the party as they danced and drank until the beer was gone (5:00am). Then Roger went to work again (he's a machine).

Roger putting his waiter skills to work serving the wine. 

L to R: Mercides (Dina's niece), Dina's brother-in-law, Dina's sister Anna, Dina, Dina's brother, and Dinas's sister-in-law. 

The aftermath. 

Cate with Dina's hat. 

Anna with two of her three daughters, her new baby grandson. 

Please note Cate's pose. This is shortly before the ditch got her. 

Roger and Dina.

The dancers.

A huayno Christmas. 

*This is the one time every year that I drink in my site. My host family loves it, and I'd be lying if I said I don't enjoy it too. Too bad alcohol abuse is the norm in town, otherwise I'm sure it would be easier for me to enjoy a beer in site.

Blog Updates and other chores.

So I received a polite letter from Google informing me that I've been nominated for the world's laziest blogger for my lack of updates. Instead of a substantial cash award, they told me to get my act together because my "mother is worried sick about me." So let me start this epic updating session with a theme: chores.

Chore 1: Ditch Digging:

Here's the municipality of Huaripampa putting in a water/sewage system. Sarita is our narrator for this video, but its windy so it may be hard to hear. Basically you should note how uniform and deep this hand dug ditch is; and think, how is this going to hold up in the next 6 months of hard rains? (let's be honest, I doubt the project will be finished before the start, OR the end, of the rainy season).

Chore 2: Gathering Wood:

Dina cooks on wood. I eat the food. So when she asked me to come back from Caraz early on day to help Roger and his brother cut and haul wood from the river bottom, obviously I said "Claro! Estare alli!!! (Of course, I'll be there!!). The rim of the river valley is about a 10 minute walk from our house, and then from there its a steep 300 foot drop to the river. On this day we went down 2/3rds of the way to a lush gully to cut our wood. Roger chopped, his brother stacked, and Yeferson and I hauled it up to the top of the rim, where Dina and Yordan were waiting. I over loaded myself the first trip and almost died of a heart attack on the way up, but but by the last trip I finally figured out that burn branches can be bundled high, while fresh logs were a lot heavier... live and learn. Here's a few videos and pictures:
Dina and Yordi waiting at the top in this cool carved out rock.

Yefer and Negra coming up with a piece of wood

Yefer and Roger at the wood stash. 

Roger using a super blunt ax to cut the wood.

The trail back to the top.

Yefer standing on Dina and Yordi's rock as the sun sets. 

The lumberjacks. I'm the one holding the log in the background. 

Chore 3: Holy Frijoles:

I returned from New Years vacation in Arequipa to find that Roger and Dina had harvested and dried the beans they had grown in their chacra. After drying the beans, they beat the shells with large sticks and stomped on them. After the bean beat-down, the shells are scooped away leaving just the bean and a few leafs and broken shells. This was then gathered up in buckets and dumped into the wind over a tarp. The heavy beans fall to the tarp, and the rest was blown away with the wind. Luckily we did this before the rains came, and had the help of Dina's brother*, Roger's dad, and Dina's sister (and two of her kids).
The beating of the beans.

This was easily Yeferson's favorite part.

More bean beating.

After the smack-down, the whole crew got busy picking up the individual beans. 

Collecting the beans.

It was a lot of work for the end results.

*Dina's brother had a baby boy the day before and the family was asking me for names in English**. I pushed hard for Brice Patrick, but they weren't buying it. At the end of the video you'll see a list of names that they were considering.

** It's pretty typical that people ask for common or famous English names. Unfortunately, there is a lack of individual research, or a few too many mean pranksters, as volunteers in the area often report having a child in their classes with horrible names, like Hitler or Stalin. Fortunately, there has been at least one reported John F. Kennedy running around the Ancash area.