Thursday, July 29, 2010

Field Based Training!

On Sunday, we returned from the most exciting of training events: Field Based Training. For one week, the youth development crew (all 35 of us) split into three different groups and traveled to three different departments in Peru. My group traveled to Piura, which is the second northernmost department. It was absolutely amazing and you should check out some of the pictures here:

The whole week was action-packed and we usually returned to our hostel around 8 absolutely exhausted. So instead of trying to write it all up, I’ll provide some highlights and encourage you to look at the pictures here:

- I spent the day in Lima with three other trainees, Kelsi, Mario, and John William. We had a great time and had some of the best cerviche in the world. Piura is supposed to have the best cerviche in Peru but we were jaded after the cerviche at Punto Azul and nothing we ate lived up to it.

- The fifteen hour bus trip to Piura wasn’t too bad - our bus was a “sofa-cama” which means that the seats were larger than average and reclined a lot farther than a normal seat. It was definitely superior to any airplane I’ve ever been on.

- A pretty chill day exploring Piura City

- We visited the desert site of a Peace Corps volunteer, Jen. We were able to teach lessons to the kids at a school that she works with and I had a small victory when I was able to explain an activity in Spanish.

- I experienced the magic of Carbon Burger for the first time on Monday night. Just imagine, fresh made hamburgers on toasted buns, with a fried egg and crispy fries on top, with lettuce, aji, ketchup, and mayonnaise. And all for less than a dollar. Amazing.

- We took a rather perilous bus trip to the site of another Peace Corps volunteer, Glenn. If I could choose a place to live for the next two years it would be Glenn’s site. It was absolutely beautiful, small, and Glenn’s counterpart was very motivated. Unfortunately, Glenn’s site is not open for a new volunteer. Though I did try to convince the Peace Corps otherwise.

- We took a hike down to a waterfall and river and went swimming for part of the afternoon. It was amazing and the kind of thing that people pay hundreds of dollars to do. Another reason that I want to move to Glenn’s site.

- Glenn’s site was celebrating the opening of his computer lab. We were served the most amazingly simple meal of tea, sweet rolls, and cheese and then went to the school where we expected to watch a ceremony. But when we walked into the school, the whole audience gave us a standing ovation and then we had to sit in the front of the room as part of the panel. If that wasn’t uncomfortable enough, they made us all dance for part of the ceremony. Awkward, circle dancing.

- Juliane and I gave an English lesson to groups of kids at the school at Glenn’s site. It went really well. We also taught each group of kids how to play the game “Chief”, or “Jefe” in Spanish. At the end of the lesson time, we played one game with all eighty kids. It was pretty awesome.

- We visited the Special Ed school where another Voluteer, Suze, works. The best part was playing soccer with some of the boys who go to the school.

- That afternoon we went to the afterschool program that Suze works at. We played field games, like capture the flag, relay races, and a penalty kick tournament. It was excellent and the highlight of the whole trip.

- We visited the site of another volunteer, Jess, and performed two plays about health lifestyles and a HIV/AIDs charla.

- We spent the afternoon at the beach. It was pretty cold and windy there but it was still amazing to spend the afternoon sitting and walking by the Pacific. It was absolutely gorgeous and a great end to FBT.

- We visited an artisanal market fifteen minutes from Piura City that had beautiful jewelry. I practiced a lot of restraint by not buying everything I saw.

In short, Field Based Training was a lot of fun. I promise to schedule just as much fun if you come to visit.

In other news, we receive our site assignments next week Tuesday and I’ll finally know where I’m going to be living for the next two years. The next five days are going to be rough.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Futbol in Peru

Or soccer for the gringos reading this. (Also, I don't know why the first section of this is underlined and I don't have the patience to try to figure it out...)

Before you start reading this you need to do a few things for me. First, download the songs "Wake Waka" and "Wavin' Flag" and put them on repeat. These are the official songs of the World Cup and are played constantly here. Second, you need to declare allegiance with one of the futbol teams that play out of Lima. Either Universatario, or "La U", or Alianza. Choose now, and choose wisely, because this will determine your friends and whether or not you can walk down certain streets.

For the record: Go Alianza.

Saturday afternoon, we embarked on a potentially dangerous endeavor. A group of PCTs headed to Lima to watch "The Classic" between La U and Alianza. This is the biggest rivalry and is comparable to the Packers and Vikings or Brewers and Cubs... but with soccer hooligans.

A lot of people in our group were proudly wearing jerseys for La U and while we were walking to the game a concerned shop owner came out and told the fans of La U to cover up their jerseys and change our route. At that moment, a huge group of Alianza fans started marching down the street, yelling and singing team songs followed by armored police vehicles. The fans of La U promptly covered their jerseys and we took a different route.

Entering the stadium, the Alianza and La U fans were split by two fences, a ditch, and hundreds of police officers. The pre-game celebration was insane. Our group had seats in La U's section and they were also the home crowd. Before the game, there was confetti, streamers, smoke cannons, and balloons. The field and the Alianza goal were covered in streamers and no one even tried to clean it up. Very different then in the States.

The game was alright, though the reason why Peru didn't have a World Cup team was apparent.

When I arrived home my family was celebrating the Alianza win. I headed to bed at 10:30 but the party continued until two.

Part of our group of gringos before the game
The pre-game celebration
Huge, dusty La U banners were passed back and forth

On Sunday, a group of PCTs gathered to watch the World Cup final. Peruvians (and PCTs) were overwhelmingly in support of Spain but I followed my roots and cheered for Holland. Unfortunately, this did not work out too well.

Supporters of the "Orange Machine" before the game!

Team Holland after the game.

After the devastating loss, we headed back to Chacrasana for a friendly game of soccer. While we were warming up, a group of Peruvian guys came up to the field and we challenged them to a game. The gringos did okay and only lost 3 to 1 when the game was called due to darkness.

Futbol is as big in Peru as you probably expect. When we asked our youth group what they would like to do they all said that they wanted to play soccer. We were able to develop a game that combined soccer and geography and they loved it.

Youth Group

I hope you've enjoyed "Waka Waka" and "Wavin' Flag". And for those of you who decided to support La U - we may need to re-evaluate our friendship.

And if you're supporting Alianza - we're now friends for life.

Friday, July 9, 2010


It is very strange to live somewhere when you only understand 60% of what is happening around you at any given time. And, actually, 60% may be pushing it somewhat. I think a more reasonable estimation would be 45%...

And I speak some Spanish. But the longer I’m here the more I realize that I need to learn. And even the words that I know, the words I say or hear hundreds of times each day, even these words have the nasty habit of slipping out of my head when I need them most.

A few weeks ago, my mom had told me that we were going to have a relaxing Sunday afternoon.She said that I could rest, catch up on homework, sleep all day, that we had absolutely no plans.So imagine my surprise when she came into my room and, in rapid Spanish, told me something to the effect of “Bess… need to wear pants… leaving… thirty minutes… are you coming?” She shared a lot more details with me but the only thing I understood was that we were leaving and I needed to wear pants.

I reluctantly changed out of my comfortable, Sunday shorts and got ready to leave the house.When it was time to leave, we packed into the car and drove to… a gas station. I correctly guessed that this wasn’t our final destination but was concerned as I watched my mom, sister, and niece climb out of the car I was in and get into a car with my brother-in-law. I was now driving “somewhere” in a car full of family members I did not know.

And we drove. And drove. Into the sierra. Around hairpin curves. Passing cars constantly.Speeding up. Slowing down. Through switchbacks. Playing chicken with the other cars.

Remember when you first got your driver’s license? And you thought you were invincible and accidents were impossible. So you drove a little faster than you should have and took curves a little quicker than you should have. That’s how Peruvians drive… all the time.

So we drove. For to two hours. We drove into the beautiful, sunny mountains and arrived in a tiny puebla. I didn’t know where we were, I didn’t know why we were there, and I didn’t know what we were going to do. I took some pictures in the main plaza with the people I didn’t know while we waited for my family to show up.

We then checked out a few restaurants looking for… something. We even sat down at one restaurant but then left that restaurant too, apparently unhappy. I soon found what we were looking for when we sat down by a street vender who was selling cuy.

Cuy is guinea pig. There isn’t a lot of meat on a guinea pig. The meat is pretty slippery and it’s difficult to get off of the bone. It’s pretty good, though. I don’t think I’ll ever be craving cuy but it’s not the worst thing I’ve ever eaten.

After lunch, I met some of my brother-in-law’s family. It turns out that the town we were in was the home of most of his family. Who knew? Actually, I probably would have known earlier if I actually understood Spanish.

Then we left for a hike. Well, I thought we were going for a hike but instead we drove to a cemetery. We walked around the cemetery for awhile (my favorite way to spend a Sunday afternoon) and then took a seat on some benches. And then my uncle and brother-in-law bought some beer from a guy in the cemetery and started a drinking circle (an intense and ritualistic practice in Peru that deserves a whole separate entry). So we hung out in the cemetery, talking, listening to music, and – in the case of my family – drinking.

Why? I will probably never know.

Right before we left the cemetery, I asked my sister how old my half-brother was (20 it turns out). She told me to just ask him myself… in English. So I did and he answers back in perfect English. Because he lived in the United States for five years. He speaks English.

I had spent the whole day in absolute confusion. Following my family around like a sad, lost puppy just hoping that someone would feed me and then bring me home to bed. I had absolutely no idea what was going on. All day. And the whole time, Omar spoke English…

In more recent news, I'm currently getting over an upper respiratory infection that kept me in my bed for two days. The PC doctors were great and hoooked me up with some antibiotics as soon as I called them. Also, next Friday my group of 10 PCTs will be going to Piura for a week of Field Based Training. So that's what I'm looking forward to right now.

Some pictures:

Me and my sister at the cemetary
My host neice
The mystery town
Some of our training materials
Melissa, me, and Kim at Norky's a broasted chicken restraunt... delicious

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Day In The Life

I’m sure you’re wondering what an average day here is like… What exactly does a Peace Corps trainee (PCT) do? How does Beth spend her day? After 2.5 weeks (Has it been that long already? Has it only been that long?), I have some idea of what my normal routine is. So here it is, an exciting day in the life of a PCT…

6:45 – Wake up and do the normal get ready stuff. I say a little prayer that the showerhead water heater is working and I don’t have to freeze through my morning shower.

7:45 – Breakfast with the family usually consists of bread with avocado, cream cheese, or jam and a cup of coffee.

8:15 – I have Spanish class in the home of one of my classmates. Luckily, my whole class lives in the same town as I do so I don’t have to brave the combi this early! Spanish class is usually a lot of fun, my group is really easy going and my prof always has some good Spanish music to share.

11:45 – Spanish class finally concludes (I like it but 3+ hours is a lot of Spanish). I drop my backpack off in my bedroom and go read on the front porch until it is time for lunch.

12:00 – I eat lunch by myself – the rest of the family eats later – but my host mom usually sits with me. Lunch almost always consists of rice, potatoes, and some sort of meat, often chicken. When I’m really lucky my mom serves “salad” also… cucumbers and onions marinated in lime juice.

12:15 – When I finish eating lunch, I head back to the front porch for some more reading time. Since I live on the main road, I often see some other PCTs wander by and it’s nice to have some extra English time during my day.

12:30 – I meet up with some other PCTs to head to brave the combis and go to training classes.

1:00 – Training classes commence. These consist of interesting topics such as: The Role of a Youth Development Peace Corps Volunteer, Safety and Security, Nutrition, Parasites, Stages of Group Development, etc.

5:00 – Classes finish and we disperse to other activities – Ultimate Frisbee on Tuesdays, Yoga on Wednesday and Fridays, and snacks or Frisbee after classes most other days.

Starting on Thursday, I’ll also have a youth group with some other PCTs. One of our assignments is to start a youth group to last the remaining six weeks we’ll be in training. I’m pretty excited for this to start and I’m sure I’ll have more information about it soon.

7:30 – Supper time with the family. We usually have coffee/tea/a rice-milk drink with bread and avocado. I love avocado. I could eat it for every meal. Luckily, I get to eat it for two most days.

8:00 – After supper I usually play some Uno with my parents, work on homework, write e-mails, or meet up with some other volunteers. There never seems to be enough time at night for everything I want to get done (which is why I’m over a week behind on my e-mail writing!).

11:00 – I try to get to bed by 11 (all the Spanish is exhausting) but I’m reading a really good book right now so I’m up late sometimes… I guess some things never change.

Well, there you have it… life as a PCT is always an adventure. The activities may sound normal but the Spanish and cultural barriers make everything much more exciting. Life as a PCT is never dull.

And, some pictures...
A typical Peruvian meal (though there's usually rice too!)
Got to love the combis - this was taken on a two hour ride home from Lima
My Spanish class is Lima - Dhyvia, Megan, Curtis, my prof Ivan, and me
Fireworks: Peruvian style
The new bus system in Lima is supposed to be "less Combi-like and more civilized". I'll let you judge how it's working out...