Sunday, January 5, 2014

PC Solutions in the First World

My mom, dog, and I are slowly making our way to Montana.  I'm beyond excited to get there, but we've been stymied by a series of weather events that have the Weather Channel in hysterics.  

Here's the next problem:

Delightful.  And this girl doesn't have anything to protect her feet.

My mom made a trip to Walmart to look for doggie booties.  They didn't have any, but she came back with these genius supplies.

Baby socks and duct tape.  Now, such high quality tape would be hard to find in my Peruvian town, but my mom demonstrates stellar PC volunteer qualities of creativity, resourcefulness, and willingness for something to look dumb if it functions well.

Stay tuned for more stateside posts in the coming weeks.  Cuidense!

Saturday, December 7, 2013


I sent Elka the dog to the states 2 weeks ahead of me so I didn't have to take her and move all my worldly possessions at the same time.  My lovely mom took great care of her.  We took this video when I first surprised Elka in the back yard.  She didn't recognize me for a second.  

It's good to be in America home.   

Chau chau

After some last weeks of scrambling to get cocinas mejoradas done (didn't fully succeed), saying goodbye to folks, and taking my replacement around town, it was time to leave.

On the last day, we went around to some of my favorite schools.  

Quilcacancha was first, and they did an adorable little presentation.

Then, all the kids lined up for hugs.  It was great. 

Hannah and I ambled over to San Francisco where there was a play about plants, a poetry reading, and a song.

 This little girl recited a poem that was a few minutes long.  Impressive.

They're singing "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" in Spanish.  I'm vaguely suspicious that they prepared it for another occasion.  

A teacher got up and sang a traditional Quechua song, so naturally, huayno had to be danced.

This time, instead of an orderly hug line, I was mobbed and knocked to the ground.

And it was actually pretty wonderful.

The hug line reformed, and Hannah, my replacement, got some squeezes as well.

I went home to pack up two years of a Peruvian life, play one last game of family poker, and get ready for the bus to Lima in the morning.

Everybody who was at the house came to walk Hannah and I to the bus station.  (Jenny took the picture)

There were lots of hugs and tears and I said goodbye to my wonderful second family.  I was impossibly lucky to have them and my service would'nt have happened without their kindness and hot tea to come home to every day.  

I got on the bus and had a fun few days with my Peace Corps family.  That's my third in this post, if you're counting.  We had ice cream for breakfast, haircuts, and lots of time hanging out, drinking beer, and chatting about life and how much we love each other.  We even got to see Jane Freaking Goodall speak!  

"About to see Jane Goodall" faces

Now I'm done.  I did it.  I'm in my America home.  The Peace Corps had me challenged, sad, lonely, vomiting, and occasionally murderous.  It was also full of gratefullness that I've never before experienced, friendship, and deep appreciation and joy for the smallest successes.  I've been a few places, and in every one, I've encountered an enormous amount of love that crosses backgrounds, ethnicity, and language.  I'm so lucky.

Monday, October 21, 2013


I had some extra money in a SPA grant, and asked the directora at escuela Quilcacancha if she had any more projects she wanted to do.  She immediately said that the school has been wanting to raise ducks for the longest time to improve the quality of the kids' school lunches, but they haven't had the money for the setup.  I was thrilled by the idea: not only do I love me some ducks, but the SPA grant is designed around climate change, and local, climatically appropriate food fits in with resilience and adaptation for the community.

First, I bought them the materials they'd need to build the ducks' corral.  I can't believe it all fit on a moto.

I sent the supplies to the school, and was busy with other projects, so I couldn't help them build.  The amazing thing was they had everything set up on the day they said they would!  Incredible!

I went to the Friday market and picked up a box of 12 ducks, 10 females and 2 males, and brought them to the school.

I wanted a nice photo of me, the ducks, and the kids, but naturally this is what happened the second I opened the box.  I'm saying, "no no, don't grab their necks!" 

Realizing my mistake, I let them go in their corral.

Which is actually a sweet setup.  When they get bigger, they'll be able to wander the ample grounds that even have a stream!

Everybody was excited.

We went about cutting ichu grass for their bed, and some pre-schoolers were sent into the duck house to plug up any holes where cold drafts could get in.  

Then it was time for a drink/bath!  Hopefully, having these ducks will improve the diets of the students and teach them how to care for animals. 

They will also be super cute!

Just Eat It

I've had some interesting food experiences lately.

1. Fish eyeballs are surprisingly tasty.  I found one floating in my soup and popped it in my mouth rather than passing it off to a host brother.  Pleasantly chewy.

2. A friend shared a pile of trashy magazines and one of the ads was for sex cereal, a breakfast cereal that supposedly ramps up your sex drive.  First, it seems inconvenient to be horny all day.  Secondly and most importantly, the main ingredient in the cereal is maca, apparently an aphrodisiac.  Just what I need all the campo ladies to be feeding me on the daily, thanks.  

3. I was bored one day and inventorying my things in preparation for my not-too-distant departure.  I have a box on top of my dresser where all things not immediately useful go.  Way back in the beginning, my college friends sent me a package that included silly condoms as a joke (though none of us could know how much of a joke).  I was rifling through them, wondering if they were still ok to save for the next volunteer or give away, when I came across a strawberry flavored one.  I'd never used a flavored condom before, and honestly it doesn't seem like something I'd want to be putting in my body.  But in my bored, 3pm with nothing to do state, I decided I had to see what it tasted like.  I opened the package and gave it a tiny lick.  It has a very artificial sweet, slighty berry-like flavor.  Probably better than plain latex, but I can't recommend them as a gum or snacking substitute.  

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Never Too Late for a First

I though I'd experienced all the possible Peace Corps mishaps after being in Peru for over two years, but I was gravely mistaken.  The idea reeks of hubris anyway.  Today, for the first time ever, I vomited blood.

I'm in Huancayo, our regional capital, after a meeting in the selva.  I came by to pick up some food and water attchments for Elka's crate.  I was walking about, started to feel strange, and went to the hostal to take a break.  Before I knew it, my breakfast was trying to escape from my body with great force, and by any outlet possible.  A popular phrase among volunteers is , "peeing out my butt."  It's graphic, but damn accurate for the situation.  I also vomited every 10 minutes for many hours, apparently bursting blood vessels in my stomach from the strain, hence the blood.  

I feel slightly better now.  If I sit completely still and take tiny sips of ginger ale, the nausea isn't overwhelming.  You probably would've been better off not reading about this (sorry bout that), but it can be comforting to share traumatic experiences.  

I'm just hoping that was the last new gastrointestinal experience I have in my remaining few weeks here. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

World Map

The World Map is a hallowed Peace Corps tradition.  Volunteers all over the planet are painting maps in their communities.  It seemed like an awesome, fun project that would spread the PC message, so I decided to do one during my second year of vacaciones utiles, or summer school.  It turned out that was ambitious.

I started with three high school classes.  We began with some basic geography and ecology lessons so they'd have a better understanding of what they were working on.  Initially, I had wanted to project an image of the map onto the wall to trace, but our equipment wasn't powerful enough.  We went to the tried and true, but much slower grid method.

Thankfully, I still had my highschoolers to set it up.  

Sadly, vacaciones utiles ended at that point, which makes it right on schedule for a PC project, so I needed to do the rest with the sixth graders that went to the school.  We started over with some more geography classes to learn the cardinal directions, how to read a map, and all that good stuff.  Then it was time to draw the map on the grid following print-outs.  Most of Peruvian primary education is based on rote memorization and copying, so I thought they'd be awesome at copying from the paper to the wall.  It turned out to be much more of a challenge than I thought.  After a few more white hairs, I was able to help my students figure out what they were up to.

Then it was time to paint!  

Aside from some difficulty staying inside the lines, this part was fun.  

After the main countries were painted, we needed to fill in all the tiny islands and territories, which quickly became the bane of my existence.  With the difficulty of correctly placing all the -nesias, the rainy season getting drunk and sticking around way after the party was over, and fiesta upon fiesta, we somehow made it to late September with work still to be done.  I needed to call in the heavy artillery.

My friends Laura and Nicole came to visit and I put them to work labeling the last countries.

The next week, a few kids and I cleaned up some borders and repainted the ocean, and we were done!

It's missing islands and some of the smaller European countries, but it's way better than no map at all and another good learning opportunity.  I had to let go of a lot of expectations, and as Voltaire would say, not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.