Friday, February 24, 2012

Just Run

I hate running. When I try to run, my body just starts yelling at me. "Stop that!" it says. "We don't run. We bike. We hike. We dance. We do NOT run."

I hate running. But I hate feeling stressed and angry even more. And, more often then not, that's exactly how I've been feeling lately. Stressed and angry.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend passed me a pdf of "Th Complete Idiot's Guide to Running and Jogging" circa 1998. This treasure of a book includes a couch to 30 minutes of running in 30 days plan and I quickly decided to go for it, despite my hatred of running. I can't bke, hikng is just a part of my daily life, and my daily dance parties just aren't cutting it. I would have to run.

In the beginning, I loved my runs. Bill Rodgers, author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide..." instructed me to run 4 times a week and I would feel antsy on the days couldn't run. I loved going out ono my trail, jumping over holes, and concentrating to no tumble off the narrow ledges. Gulliver would run behind me and, frankly, look extra adorable with his ears flying behind him.

And then disaster struck. On Wednesday, I went out for my run and there was just nothing in me. No energy. No motivation. Nothing. A common problem I'm sure. So I skipped my run yesterday. And today. But tomorrow I need to somehow find the motivation to get out there and just run.

That's where you come in, dear Blog Reader. I'm telling you thisso you can hold me accountable. My goal is to do a 10K when I return home. So, please, hold me accountable, bug me until I run, and tell me that all of my excuses are totally bogus. Or, even better, come run with me. We'll hold each other accountable and celebrate my return to America by torturing our bodies in pursuit of a runner's high. I've already roped one person into this insanity with me... let me know if you're willing to join us.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Today, I bring you a lesson on the amount of perseverance it takes to be a Peace Corps volunteer. I woke this morning with plans of staying in bed all day in order to read the fifth Game of Thrones book. Then John William called and asked if he could bring his health promoters youth group to my site to give charlas to the kids here. Once I realized that I would have to spend my day being a functioning part of society I decided to make the best of it.

I got out of bed, got ready for the day, and decided to try to fix my electric oven. I bought my oven a year ago and had a few glorious months of cooking (cake! cookies! pizza!) before it stopped working. I used the screwdriver on my Swiss army knife to open up the part of the cord that plugs into the oven and saw that the wires had burned through. I shaved off the plastic coating on the cord to expose the wires and twisted it back around the screws. I plugged the oven into my extension cord and was overjoyed when it heated up.

A few weeks ago, a friend delivered me homemade chocolate cookies with caramel frosting. They were delicious and I decided to try to recreate them. I mixed up chocolate cookie dough and dropped a couple of cookies onto my baking sheet. I placed them in the oven and started looking for a frosting recipe that doesn't require powdered sugar.

A few minutes later, I went to check on the oven and saw that it was no longer working. I looked at the outlet and saw that the plug had melted the outlet. Despite my best efforts, I could not save the oven and officially had to call it a loss. I also realized that my extension cord was no longer working so I also preformed emergency surgery on that (which led to one pretty gnarly electric shock when I forgot that I had plugged it back in and had to fix it again).

So I now was faced with a big bowl of chocolate cookie dough and no way to cook it. I was pretty frustrated because I had been super excited about making cookies (and had let myself dream of homemade pizza for supper). I was also a little afraid because I knew I would eat that whole bowl of cookie dough it remained in my presence and would probably die.

At this point, I didn't even really want the cookies anymore. I had attempted to fix my oven twice. I had shocked myself while fixing my extension cord. I had lost my dreams of pizzas and other baked deliciousness. I was discouraged. I was tired.

I was determined.

It was time to pull out the big guns. I put on my old, disintegrating UW-Whitewater sweatshirt (it turns seven this year) and turned on “The Devil Wears Prada”. And then I used my trusty Kindle to Google ways to cook cookies on a stove top. Google failed me.

But an idea did come to me. I put my stove on the lowest flame possible and buttered and floured my skillet. I added more flour to the dough to make it thicker and spread the dough into the skillet. I put the cookie sheet on top of the skillet and crossed my fingers.

Amazingly, it worked! The bottom burned a little bit but I was able to bake one big skillet sized chocolate cookie bar of deliciousness. I topped my cookie with a tasty buttercream frosting. I probably should have stopped there but I still wanted to make caramel. This ended as a bit of a disaster and left me with a burned finger, a ruined pot, and caramel all over my shoe.

Despite my disastrous attempt at candy making, I’m pretty proud of the outcome. Sure they took four hours to make and left my room a complete mess. Yeah I ate so much cookie dough in the process that I don't even want to look at the actual cookies right now. But I didn't give up.

I mostly write this for any employers who read this blog. If someone comes into your office with “Peace Corps volunteer” on their resume, you should understand what that means. Peace Corps volunteers are master problem solvers. No milk? Use the evaporated stuff. No plates? Use a Frisbee. No shower? Use baby wipes.

So, Employers of America, hire the Peace Corps volunteer. Trust that, no matter the situation, they'll be able to McGyver something to fix it.

Hire the Peace Corps volunteer. (Especially if that Peace Corps volunteer is me.)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Beth's Peace Corps Cookbook

“I want to eat like a Peace Corps volunteer!” you say. (“No. You don't.” I say.) Well, I can't speak for all Peace Corps volunteers but I’ll happily share some of my favorite recipes with you. And by “favorite” I mean the foods I eat day in and day out and hope to not see for months and months after leaving the Peru.

Apples and Peanut Butter
Okay, we're starting off with a pretty special meal. Good apples are difficult to find in my area, peanut butter is expensive, and chocolate chips are non-existent. But when the perfect storm of conditions occur (ie a recent trip to America), this is my favorite breakfast.

1) Rub apple clean on your shirt.
2) Using a spoon, scoop peanut butter out of the jar
3) Take a bite of apple.
4) Take a bite of peanut butter.
5) Toss a couple of chocolate chips into your mouth.
6) Repeat.

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
1) Light a fire on your gas stove (try to not blow up the house).
2) Heat skillet.
3) Slice the dry bread bought at your local tienda (obviously not the Piggly Wiggly because their bread is not disgusting).
4) Butter the outside of slices. Apply ample amounts of garlic salt. Make a sandwich with the cheese inside.
5) Grill sandwich in the skillet. Flip when each side is browned.
Best served with: Tomato Cup of Soup

Rice and Fried Eggs
1) Make rice. If available, I prefer Chicken and Broccoli Rice Sides (available in the USA) - make sure to add plenty of butter. If you only have white rice, add soy sauce.
2) Heat skillet. Melt some butter.
3) Fry up your eggs. Sprinkle with garlic salt and pepper.
4) When rice is finished, add some Parmesan cheese for extra deliciousness.
Serve with the eggs on top of the rice.

Beth's Delicious Oatmeal
1) Boil water. Make sure it boils for at least three minutes to kill all of the germs and parasites.
2) Pour dry oatmeal into a bowl. Add a few tablespoons of powdered soy milk (because for some reason the grocery store in Huaraz always has powdered soy milk and not powdered regular milk).
3) Add a sufficient amount of boiled water to the oatmeal/powdered soy milk. Start with a small amount – you can always add more.
4) Add some butter.
5) Mix in brown sugar. I prefer enough to make my oatmeal change color because, let's be honest, oatmeal is kind of disgusting without a ton of sugar.
6) Liberally sprinkle with cinnamon.
If available add: banana slices, diced apples, chocolate chips, vanilla, peanut butter, dried fruit, raisins, craisins, flavored instant coffee, more sugar...

The Best Way to Eat Nutella
1) Open jar of Nutella.
2) Using a spoon, take out a big scoop of Nutella.
3) Bring spoon to mouth.
4) Eat all of the Nutella on your spoon.
5) Repeat.

1) Boil water in a small pot.
2) Add pasta. I prefer the large elbows (also, they are cheapest).
3) Once pasta is cooked, drain and pour in a bowl.
4) Top with packaged tomato or huancaina sauce which you purchased at the closest grocery store (only a forty minute walk and thirty minute combi ride away). If no sauces are available, make butter noodles (ie add some butter).
5) Add salt, pepper, basil, garlic, onion, and aji (a spicy sauce).

Mashed Potatoes
I may live in the birthplace of potatoes but the concept of mashed potatoes has yet to reach Peruvians. Absurd.
1) Boil potatoes. Or go down the newly opened stand down the street which sells grilled chicken feet and boiled potatoes for one sol (about 35 cents) and ask just for potatoes.
2) Mix powdered soy milk and clean water in a mug. Be sure to make a little extra for your tea that night.
3) Pour the “milk” onto your potatoes.
4) Mash with a fork. Put some muscle into it!
5) When the potatoes are pretty well mashed, add some butter.
6) Once the potatoes are mashed and fluffy, add garlic salt and pepper. Feel free to add more butter.

Well, there you have it - some of my favorite things to eat day in and day out. I also eat pancakes, french toast, and cookie dough pretty religiously. My cooking philosophy is pretty simple: butter, garlic salt, and bacon make almost any savory dish better and peanut butter and Nutella are God's gifts to humanity. (Yes, I know there isn't any evidence of bacon in these dishes. This can be blamed on not having a refrigerator in site but when I’m in a regular kitchen in the city I find any excuse to make food with bacon: bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches, bacon tator tots fried in bacon grease, potato salad with bacon, mashed potatoes with bacon and chives, mac and cheese with bacon, bacon cheeseburgers, spinach salad with bacon and hard boiled eggs, pizza with bacon... I think you get the picture.)

Let me know if you try out any of these delicious dishes. Don't be insulted if I call you crazy for eating any of this nonsense when you have access to grocery stores, refrigerators, and modern appliances.