15 weeks to go…

Hello All,

As usual it’s been a while BUT both of our youth camps (ALMA and VALOR) were a big success! Thank you to all who donated and who wanted to donate.

Other than camps I’ve been on vacation to Cusco, yes I went to see Machu Picchu, I prepared and went through my last site visit of my service, I took the GRE, got my scores back, and I’m basically finished with 5 graduate school applications, at this point I’m just waiting on one more recommendation letter for a few of them and 2 are actually fully completed. There are about 15 weeks left for me here, I’ll be on the first thing smoking out of Peru so I can get back and celebrate 35 years of Sisterhood, Scholarship, and Service on JMU’s campus for the Lambda Chi  chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. BUT I also need to get back to do all the last minute preparations for my WEDDING Smile 

I AM going to seriously try to finish out these last 15 weeks very strong, in terms of blog posting, but we’ll see how it all unfolds. I’m actually in my capital city for the weekend for the Peru Training Group 17 Going Away festivities…

What else has happened…Wedding planning, Working with youth (one of my youth promoters will be able to study English for free/reduced price at Chiclayo’s ICPNA with small thanks to moi), GRE studying (there’s a picture of ONE of my study walls of my room)..hmm what else what else….?

 

IMG_6305IMG_6309A McDonald’s in Cusco!IMG_6312IMG_6314IMG_6327IMG_6353Some of the sites we saw while on vacation!IMG_6429Playing in an old Inca doorwayIMG_6512Alpaca meat, DELICIOUSIMG_6516Bundled up on our way to Machu PicchuIMG_6578IMG_6586IMG_6601IMG_6602IMG_4785My Verbal Study Wall for the GREIMG_5792My girls and me at ALMAIMG_4786My MPH program comparison chart on my computerIMG_4787Our Save the Date SmileIMG_6232 Me and my boys at VALOR

VALOR=Value

Hello All!

Since the last time I posted, I´ve been to Brazil and Chincha. Black History Month with a spanish twist? YES

I´ve been busy pouring over webpages helping from afar to plan my own wedding as well as dreaming about my last days in Peru, all while looking at graduate schools, beginning the application process (so far I have 7 that I´m applying to!), and continuing work in my beloved Picsi (all those updates in my next post, I promise).

Anyone who talks to me at least twice a week KNOWS how frustrated I can get when it comes to being in Peru or some of the activities I do, but I will say one this-I´ve truly enjoyed working with the youth here. Which leads me to writing this post…

I´ve been fortunate enough to not have to write any grants for any of the activities I´ve had to do, a lot of volunteers aren´t able to say the same thing in terms of financial help from their municipal governments. BUT as a group of volunteers here in Lambayeque, we are reaching out for donations to help us with Camp V.A.L.O.R (¨valor¨ =value). This is a camp that is we hold annually in our department in order to help shape the lives of the young gentleman who will one day take over this country that we are serving in. We´re trying to create leaders who respect and value women, are cognizant of safe sexual practices, AND believe that they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up. They take vocational exams, talk about their dreams for their futures, receive educational sessions about proper condom usage and other forms of birth control, we work on self-esteem and teamwork, they meet professionals during the small career fair we hold, and they get to socialize with other young leaders from all over the department of Lambayeque. Since this year´s camp will have an environment friendly focus, the boys will also learn about trash management and recycling, planting and harvesting, and solar energy.  We´re doing all we can by also asking our municipal governments and community partners for whatever donations for prizes, technical assistance, etc..but we need just a little bit more.

Please, if you can, donate to the camp or pass along the information. We´re trying to celebrate and help create well rounded, respectful young men and every centavo, centimo, nickle, sheckle, and dime helps. On a personal note this will be my last camp like this, here, and I definitely want this to be one of the BEST we´ve had thus far.

https://donate.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=donate.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=13-527-019

Thank you so much for all your continued support. This lil PCV really appreciates it :o)

Weeks 33-72: The weeks I spent enjoying the NEW Peru…

After plenty of time away from the blog-o-sphere I.Am.Back!

I am in my last stretch as a PCV in my beloved Picsi…and once again I’m ready to go home, but at least this time it’s for different reasons.  I’ve had a wonderful time, for the most part, since switching sites, so much so that I haven’t posted because I’ve been out living and enjoying this new Peru of mine. The main struggle, that included my mental health and safety has led to my current progress, the small struggles I face everyday will lead to my future progress..basically I’m progressing and struggling but it’s nothing like it was before. Everyday is still a lesson learned and at the end of the day, I’m fairly thankful for this experience-even though I DO get frustrated BEYOND belief. So what have I been doing since week 33?

The Recap:

May: I moved to Picsi which is about 15 minutes from the capital city (Chiclayo) in the department of Lambayeque. The first day was filled with…normalcy. I was taken to my new host family’s house, my host mother answered the door with absolutely no semblance of a bra on, and I was welcomed home. They were delighted by the fact that I was a beautiful brown, I was delighted at the fact that my mother and I looked like we COULD actually be related, and we were all giddy to be with each other. I live in a house with strong black women.

I have my mother (Kika), my sisters Betty and Milca, Milca’s 2 daughters (Alexia and Maria Gracia), my sister Marcela, her 2 daughters (Heydi and Romina), and my sister Mirianela. I also have a brother who lives around the corner with his wife, children, and mother-in-law. There’s also my Aunt Chona with her daughter and her family, my Uncle Jorge, and my Uncle Lucho with his wife.

The first day my sister Milca and I actually cried together. She could see the pain that was in my heart and the weight on my shoulders-once she showed me to my room, she told me that I would be ok here, I don’t have to worry any more here, I’m safe here, I’m home here ,here I’m family…I’m safe and loved… The sleepless nights ended that day and I slept like I hadn’t been to sleep in years. From there, it was a lot of meeting and greeting and confusing people by telling them that I was the youngest daughter of Senora Kika (my HM’s nickname), and no I’m not from Peru. What confused them even more was that I could dance, so there was a lot of dancing from this point in May until … yesterday (haha!).

The very first week that I was in Picsi I went on a tour with my mayor and other dignitaries from the municipal government to hand out gifts to all the mother’s in the district for Mother’s Day (it’s HUGE here).

June: This was a bit of a blurrr…I do recall having a wonderful time at Camp VALOR (Varones Adolescentes Lideres Organizados y Responsables) which is one of the regional camps that Peace Corps Volunteers hold for teenage boys between 12-17. I brought two boys from Picsi and they had a ball!

July: This month was filled lots of vacations. At the first part of the month I went to visit my Bestie PCV Ashley in Tumbes with two of our other good friends Diamond (Cajamarca) and John (Salas, Lambayeque). We stayed in the beach town of Zorritos (which means “little foxes”) and enjoyed the beach, trekked to mud baths, and ate amazing seafood. We also posed like pirates on a ship (yay us!). From July to sometime in August there were school strikes so I wasn’t able to help out like I wanted with any of the schools in the district.

August: One of the things that stood out the most was when I went, with my sister Marcela and nieces Heydi and Romina, to the air force base in Chiclayo for a family fun day and air show. I also went to visit  John’s site when he invited everyone over to camp out for his birthday. This was the month that I officially started working more than “getting to know my community”/ hanging out. At the end of this month we welcomed a new group of volunteers (Group 19) and said goodbye to Group 15. I also discovered I love a cumbia group named Amaya Hermanos. Since I love to be in front at concerts, so as to have plenty of air and space, they noticed me and gave me lots of shout outs and free cds. Another thing to note was the beginning of WEDDING PLANNING!

September: After welcoming the new volunteers, I enjoyed a visit to Olmos to see newcomer Betty (Peru 19), Annie (Environment Volunteer Peru 18), and John. We danced the night away with one of my favorite groups, Amaya Hermanos (we even got to take pictures and give them hugs and kisses “We Love You Walter!!!”), had great fresh breakfasts in the morning and amazing chicken sandwiches at night, and even spoiled ourselves with a bacon, egg, and fried plaintain grand buffet style breakfast! This was also the month that I started working with the Obstetric nurse to train 9 teenagers in becoming Adolescent Health Promoters for the district of Picsi. We had 2 sessions a week and were able to finish in record time before the school year ended. We had another round of school strikes in this month but that didn’t stop us from putting on a very successful competition between the private and public school in the district about sexual health topics. The public school creamed the private school kids!

The last big thing I’ll mention about September was that my niece, Maria Gracia, invited me to her school (at this time she was in her last year at secondary) to see her grade dance. It was a huge cultural day with beautiful costumes, movements, and music. When it was her turn, I was so proud! She looked so beautiful :)

October: October was filled with lots of sessions with my amazing group of adolescent health promoters, meetings with my obstetric nurse partner (who is a good friend of mine now), and private English lessons (we covered topics from the solar system to fruits and veggies). For intercultural exchange: One Sunday, I made tacos for my nieces and they LOVED them.

November: In the first part of the month I was working hard to get things finished with my group of promoters. There was a final test, a condom demonstration, and a graduation. I was also fortunate enough to get my municipal governments to pay for my groups shirts so a lot of time was spent coordinating that. All in all the first phase of the health promoter project  ended well and the kids are excited for the future activities.

The second half of the month was spent in Ecuador with PCV Bestie Ashley. Best. Thanksgiving. Ever! On T-day we had all you can eat crabs and all you can drink beer. We went to the movies ($5 for both of our tickets), we strolled on the boardwalk, voyaged into an open iguana park, and trekked up 444 steps through a Whoville-like community. Ecuador was amazingly different than Peru. I loved Quito, I liked Guayaquil, and I LOVED this pork-in-a-bag concoction that we bought off the street. Pork in a bag- a great dinner for a dollar. It was a little baggie that the man filled with small potatoes, two types of corn, pork chunks, and a salty sauce. After that you were allowed to scoop in another type of salsa that he had on the side of the cart.  We got our pork in a bag meals and we ended up getting free Coconut Milk (sooo tasty) for free from a nice Afro-Ecuadorian named Orlando. That night was filled with discounts and free stuff. Aside from that  we enjoyed Korean food, bar-b-que, and the old world elegance of Quito…I can’t wait to go back!

December- This month went by so fast it almost made my head spin. Because I had been so happy back in site I didn’t realize how quickly it crept up on me and when it finally came around… :)

I went back to my site after my trip to Ecuador so I could do laundry and pack, within a few days I was back on a bus to go to Lima for our Mid-Service conference and medical check- ups. I received a clean bill of health, no cavities, no parasites, NOTHIN! After all the medical tests we spent 2 days with the Health Program staff to learn about the new changes to the project framework. From there I ran back to site, packed up my bags, had a great time at my “surprise” birthday party, and then ran back to Lima so I could catch my flight to the States.

I went to Las Vegas, Athens (GA), Newport News (VA), and Cherry Point (NC). That might have to be a post for another time!

January 2013:HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I returned to Peru, kicking and screaming, after having had such a wonderful time in America. Once I got back to site I had meetings on top of meetings. For the following year I’ll be working on Healthy Schools’ Projects, in February we’re starting the training for a new group of adolescent promoters (the old ones will be running the sessions!), I’m part of the training staff for the Community Agents, I’ll be doing lessons to reinforce the English classes that kids receive in school, hopefully there will be a mural project and a world map project in there somewhere this year, and I’ll be doing sessions with moms. Other than that I spent a good amount of time researching graduate programs (I’ve found 5 that I like and will pursue), looking at job opportunities in San Diego (since I’ll be moving there after my nuptials in November of this year), getting in contact with organizations to volunteer, and researching graduate chapters of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.

February 1: I have 5 more days until I leave for Brazil! I’ll be with John and Ashley to celebrate Carnaval, the Rio way :)

I’m ready to go home, but THIS TIME it’s because I’m ready to move to the next phase of my life- I have a lot to look forward to and I’m really excited. I’m planning on leaving October 25th, I have a wedding dress fitting on the 29th, and the day I’m most excited for (288 days from now) is on November 16th. Until it’s time to go, I’ll continue enjoying my friends and family.

As a closing:

Today marks the beginning of Black History Month. Celebrating the accomplishments, remembering the tragedies, and fighting for a better future.

Even though we were dispersed throughout the world and our names and religions were changed, we managed to maintain certain traditions and form new identities within our new geographical boundaries.

Each generation has done what they could to advance not only our communities, but in some cases whole nations. It wasn’t easy, because there’s no progress without struggle, but slowly and surely we are leaving positive footprints in this world-whether it be with inventions, music, sports, etc.

I’m celebrating this year by visiting Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Chincha, Ica AND by showcasing Afro-Latinos- our spanish speaking brothers and sisters.

(Check me out on Facebook, today’s person is Eva Ayllon!)

 

 

 

 

 

//

Weeks 28-32: …The Weeks I Came Out Of the Closet

Catchy title huh? But this is about my emotional wellness, not my sexuality (I hooked you, now continue reading lol!)

Oo Peace Corps, this is a job that can one day have you high on your mountain of feeling great and like you’re really contributing to the well-being of the planet and human development as a whole…and the next day it can pluck you from that fairly blissful state, chew you up, spit you out, roll over you with that combi that could catch fire at any moment, and then kick you off the side of the mountain that you were once perched on. The toughest job you’ll ever love? That’s what they tell me.

This last month really took me to my limit, or I should say it brought to light that I was parallel parking into my breaking point. I’ve been struggling internally since December BUT I’ve been too afraid, too guilty, too strong willed, too … ashamed to ask for real help and support until it was almost too late. I decided this post wouldn’t be filled with extremely cute stories that were written in an effort to convince myself that I’m at least 85% ok with where I am in life at this very moment, it wouldn’t be another effort to push out my very strong, very authentic, very…PCV universal feelings.(Don’t get me wrong I did have some good points but other stories I really had to dig deep to recognize the humor/ see the silver lining). I should’ve known I was headed down this path when I upped the ante from meditating once a day to 4 or 5 times a day and constantly (what felt like every hour) asking God to just get me through to the next day, while also plotting my escape in December if I could even make it that long. I wish I hadn’t waited so long to ask for help from the support systems that we have in Lima, but you live and you learn. I realized that this journey has become several small journeys in one BUT I didn’t know it’d break me down completely, turn around, and then have the nerve to tell me about myself. (lol) When I talked to that Fabulous mother of mine about the situation, finally and freely and I started the sentence off with, “don’t worry I’m fine” and she told me saying that to her was like saying, “I’m going to walk out in front of this moving car, but don’t worry I’ve got it, I’m ok, I’m invincible!” I realized that THAT was how I felt when it came down to it all. I felt like I was trying to work against something greater and faster than myself, while all the while telling myself and everyone else that “I’ve got it” and “I don’t need help, I’m good to go, I’ll be ok, I can make it, I’m invincible.” Moms have a way of connecting the dots for you when you can’t always verbalize what you really were trying to say.

[“One day at a time”]

I knew enough was enough and something needed to be done when I was at the PEPFAR workshop the second day and I had to excuse myself to go cry in the bathroom3 or 4 different times. Nothing memorable set off the episode but I knew it had to do with the fact that I was EXTREMELY unhappy in Sicchez. It was a combination of different things that led to the unhappiness that was slowly, but surely, eating away at me and affecting me work wise and socially. I was slowly changing into a woman that I didn’t like and whom I couldn’t recognize. Who was this imposter walking around in MY skin? Who was this low self-esteem havin’, sullen, anti-social, pessimistic, paranoid, sometimes angry, often times very sad, insomniac who stopped caring about her appearance and lost any semblance of a real appetite (therefore dangerously losing about 6 American sizes in a matter of 2 months); who had forgotten why she really joined the Peace Corps and even got on the plane to come to Peru; who could easily stay in bed for a whole week at a time each month because it was hard to get out and deal with the emotions that were conjured up with each passing moment she was outside of the safety of her bed; who had to work up the courage and the nerve every day to walk outside and endure the obscene amount of cat calls, whistles, blown kisses, professions of love, and attempted grabs by strange men (and having to physically reprimand a few); who, because of the previous, began to feel disgusting because of all the attention being received; who stopped standing her ground when people would blatantly disregard things that she said and talk to her counterpart as if the words came out of HER mouth on select occasions?? Who was THIS woman? Who was this same person who continually felt guilty and like a bad friend/sister/girlfriend/bestfriend/linesista for not being able to physically be present for all the huge events that friends and family members have experienced since September of 2011? [Sidenote: I believe they don’t put enough emphasis on how harassment can affect a PCVs service (male, female, whatever!). I heard more than enough times that you eventually get over it OR it’s no big deal OR it’s just the culture OR more often than not it’s harmless BUT in reality it does do some damage to the quality of service/ experience of the PCV.]

[“One day at a time Jade”]

She was the Jade that was becoming more and more depressed, beat down, hopeless, helpless, burnt out, exhausted, moody, and thinner as days dragged on. Just like when I didn’t have enough money to put more gas in my car, I was riding on FUMES (lol), except this time I didn’t see a payday coming any time soon. The sadness and frustration were like thieves in the night. BUT they kept coming back each night to take another piece of furniture out of my house while I was trying to pretend nothing had changed- until I tried to sit on the chair that was no longer there. I despised THAT Jade. SO when I finally broke down, after I hid it oh so well -_-, and finally realized that I wasn’t the same woman that walked into this country (and had my “oh hell no” moment), an unexpected friend hugged me, told me it would be alright, said he saw it coming (this was maybe my 3rd time seeing him in the months that I’d been living in Piura) and put the phone in my hands to dial the PCMO (Peace Corps Medical Officer). Thank you Kyle for not letting me hit the ground in that final fall, because I believe if I had returned to Sicchez after PEPFAR, I would’ve given myself another 1-3 months before finding myself sitting on someone’s couch, back in the States, looking for a job. BUT now I am continuing to push forward and LOOK forward to the next step in MY process: a new community. I know a new site isn’t the magic spell to make everything all better immediately, which is why I’ve made an action plan with the PC Peru staff. Our main concern is getting ME back to “best”.

[“No, really, one day at a time”]

As soon as I made the phone call, I was told to come to Lima and decompress and start the process that would change the course of my service. I finally was coming out of the closet about my true emotional wellbeing. I stopped hiding, I stopped stretching the truth about my level of happiness, I stopped trying to talk myself out of having the chutzpah to request a change, I stopped trying to “get through it.” I felt guilty, I felt ashamed, I felt weak, I felt helpless, I felt lost. I want to BE happy, I want to STAY in Peru, I want to SERVE, I want to be FREE. I’ve been told that I’m a strong woman for not only finally coming forward with all my feelings but also wanting to stay and still help others while recovering myself from a set of negative experiences. All I can say is one morning during meditation and prayer He told me. “I’m not done here yet… and neither are you.”[ Not only has this turned into a journey to sharpen/ gain work skills but it has separated itself into other journeys to cover: my “napturality”, renewed interest in artistic vision, my level of physical fitness, and above everything else my spirituality (or as I like to call it all my, “Hair, Herself, and Holies” Journeys)].

[ Side note: I’d really like for Ebony to do a piece on Peace Corps Volunteers of color, we have our own story to tell, our own challenges that we face, or own successes to showcase, and our own recruitment to promote.]

People keep telling me that this will serve as my “Eat. Pray. Love.” Well I don’t care about being published, BUT if I can help prevent THIS scary and potentially, soul sucking experience from happening to another PCV, now or in the future, then I know THIS experience served a purpose bigger than helping me to, “become stronger”. My words of wisdom: Shout for help if you’re becoming fatigued from treading these hostile waters before they completely take you under. I just want my real smile, my real laugh, my real happiness, my real motivation to be restored 2 fold and with the plan of action I’ve made with the PC Peru staff I think I’m on the right path back to my original gloriousness (yep I’m kissing my own butt right now).

[“Just one day…at a time”]

My chapter of Sicchez is closed, and as days pass, every day I’m taking back a piece of me that I thought was lost. I’m also becoming more comfortable with my decision to leave. You would think that it would be easy to leave a situation/ place that was making you unhappy especially when you don’t have any real ties-it wasn’t for me. Part of the reason I didn’t say anything sooner is because I kept talking myself out of it and saying I wasn’t doing enough, I felt guilty about not wanting to be there, I felt guilty about potentially leaving My Wonderful Sitemate, I felt guilty for potentially leaving behind the few people that were excited about working with me, I felt guilty about leaving my little Milagros Rubi, Retoben, and Crackers who I had become quickly attached to and vice versaàBut even when I honestly tried to make changes and do things differently I realized none of it was enough.

[“One more day, and then another”]

With all that being said, the PC Peru staff worked diligently to identify a new site for your favorite PCV. It was unofficial early this week but when I received a call from another PCV from Peru 18 about the fact that her PCVL clued her into the news that she’d be getting a neighbor close by from alto Piura and then I got more calls and texts from other PCVs saying that they were happy and excited for me I said to myself, “looks like I’m going to Lambayeque.” (Mind you this was before I even got official word about where I was going, so you see how news travels fast in our community lol-everyone else found out where I was going before I found out lol)

[“Don’t stop now, one more day, and then another”]

I AM the new Peace Corps Community Health Promotion volunteer that will be serving select communities in the district of Picsi (“Pixie” isn’t that cute!?), Lambayeque (“Lum-bye-eck-aye”). I REFUSE to let the negative experiences of Sicchez negatively impact this fresh start. I WILL try as best as I can to look at this community with fresh eyes. Since I already know what it takes to get a community diagnostic done (because I COMPLETELY finished the one for Sicchez), I BETTER work systematically to crank one out so I can get started on forming a work committee and beginning projects with the communities. [When I have more information about Picsi I’ll definitely share but right now all I know is: it’s flatter, has a good amount of greenery, they have a website designed by their municipality, the municipality and the inhabitants seem to be very active, I’m pretty close to the capital city- Chiclayo (“chick-lie-oh”), and pretty close to 3 other Peru 18 Volunteers.)] I’m taking it one day at a time and working on being flexible and realistic with any expectations.

[2nd time is a charm]

As far as contact information:

My phone number is still the same AND I’ve changed the outgoing message so it’s my voice rather than another woman telling you to leave a message in Spanish

Mail should be sent to:

Jade Hillery

Cuerpo de Paz

Casilla Postal 208

SERPOST Chiclayo

Lambayeque, Peru, South America

So that’s that for that. As far as other things:

I took my first vacation as a PCV in Mancora, Peru

Still studying for the GRE

I’ve signed up for the TEFL certification course and I’m waiting to receive the materials which will probably arrive in May

My next large purchase will be a guitar and some accessories because I AM going to learn how to play

I also plan on learning the Quena (kay-nuh) which is a wooden wind instrument (it looks like a basic little flute) as well as the Zampoña (zamponia) which is the original Peruvian pan flute

I’m becoming a mini mixologist to keep my hair moisturized and clean using natural remedies and methods to help my baby locs activate

I’ve become a pretty good source of work support/ an idea bank for my fellow PCVs

I’ll be starting the “Insanity” workouts Monday, April 30th

Stamped: Approved!

I just had to shout it from the roof tops, or via the internet, that I just received approval for my vacation in the States for December! :-)

Save the Dates:

December 20th-January6th

Weeks 23-28: …The weeks I Got My PCV Street Cred

SO…after I posted my last blog, which I didn’t realize was in January, I thought I was done with the “Indiana Jones” type hikes, I was very wrong with that assumption. These last few weeks, in an effort to get more surveys done and talk to more people, I’ve fallen in donkey poop, been nibbled by a sheep, drank peach flavored dirt, and chased by a pig. None of these things were funny at first, but a few weeks after the fact I can certainly laugh about it all. Also during the first part of these weeks we had more waterfalls spring up and the number of landslides increased significantly (making it harder to travel to and from site or even to other parts of the district by combi). But all in all, as usual, I had several adventures.

I didn’t realize that I had completely forgotten to blog in February so I’ll try to catch you up on everything, or maybe just the major events if I can remember them all (lol). I’ve done a significant amount of traveling, with a bit more to come very soon. In February some friends and I did end up going to Colán which is a little beach town in the department of Piura, maybe 45 minutes away from the city. To get there you can either take a taxi and go STRAIGHT there or take a taxi to the bus terminal and the first bus will take you to the town of Paita (Pie-Tuh) and from there you can take a car to Colán. We ended up using both methods (the taxi straight there and to return we used the car and combi). We ended up having a pretty nice time, it was definitely nice to see something other than Piura. That wasn’t really the mini adventure from that weekend though; going back to site was the real story. I bought my ticket ahead of time so that wasn’t the problem. I got on the bus, sat in my seat, read my book and everything was fine until we got to Oxahuay (Ox-uh-why), which is part of my district. So we got to Oxahuay and the bus stopped. I heard people chatting back and forth and then Don Arturo got up from the driver’s seat and announced to us that the bus wasn’t going to go any further because there was a derrumbe (landslide) and they hadn’t completely cleaned it up yet so they wouldn’t be going up to Sicchez until the next morning because they had to deliver some things to a few of the tiendas BUT at that moment they would NOT be going up to Sicchez. Like I said, Oxahuay is a part of the district but it’s not exactly that close to my house, I looked around and the women were all complaining and bargaining with him to try and get them a little bit closer. The one man we had left on the bus sat back down, put his rain boots on, and started to strap his bags to his body. I took that as a sign that I might not as well waste my time sitting on the bus complaining so I got up, got all my bags, and started walking. It took me about an hour and a half to get home and my bags were HEAVY because I had packed like I was going to be able to ride the bus all the way up, you know my usual. I didn’t have my rain boots, of course so by the time I got home my feet were soaked/ muddy/possibly poopy because there were plenty of muddy areas and several small washed out areas AND this huge waterfall area. With the big waterfall area I had attempted to walk through it so I didn’t have to use the “bridge” because I was afraid of toppling over thanks to all my stuff, so I started to walk through. When I got to the half-way point I noticed that the other side was stronger and deeper so I stood there for another 2 or 3 minutes weighing my options (lol kinda silly I know). A man was on the other side and he kept yelling for me to just use the bridge but when I looked over at it I didn’t see any railing what-so-ever and I wasn’t sure how to get up there. I finally trudged back to the starting point and managed to climb the rocks with all my things (I was amazed at this great feat). When I got to the “bridge” I immediately freaked out, the bridge was made of logs, some parts mossy, but they weren’t cut or manipulated to fit together in a better manner. One of the logs was a little lower than the rest of them so I nestled my left foot on that one and thought to myself “if I fall at least I’ll be caught by my ankle and the only damage done will be to my foot rather than my whole body.” I didn’t attempt to pick up my feet; I shuffled along until I was safely on the other side. Scariest thing I’ve done thus far (lol). But that was that and I’m safe and sound.

 

The beginning of March we had a regional meeting, but this time instead of staying in Piura for it we traveled to another volunteer’s site, Vice (Vee-say). Once again it was nice to see something other than Piura! We went out to the manglares and sat on the beach for a while and then we had our meeting and learned about other institutions that are able to fund projects and working in the schools. It was a good meeting and a nice little trip.

 

But what else happened….during these last few weeks I’ve had a few meetings with authorities and my health staff. Alison and I are supporting the municipality with a family gardens project. People keep treating it like it’s our project but we keep trying to push people to take charge. The first thing we did was try to help revise the project profile that the project head wrote, we gave suggestions on what needed to be changed, added, omitted, etc. He looked over it and only used one of the revision points -_-. He later said that he knew the other things we had suggested should be put in and it was all in his head, but of course we prefer it to be on paper. (But whatever, its his project, I’m sure he knows best). So he reprinted the “new” version and we went to meet with the mayor to propose it and put in our request for funds (or we thought we were requesting funds). We got to the mayor’s office and he immediately said “Don Porfirio look at what the señoritas have put together for you, they want to do a project with the moms of Vaso de Leche.” I wish you had been there to see my face, that’s all I can say. So we ended up pitching the project to the mayor because after the project head made that statement, he was quiet. Like I said we THOUGHT we were going there to request funds but we ended with the agreement that the municipality, or maybe the mayor himself, would buy the seeds for the gardens. So that turned out well. The next step was getting a few other people involved in the project, we already had the Area Tecnica and the coordinator for the Vaso de Leche program, (and Peace Corps of course), but we also wanted to add the health center and really make it a multi-sector coordination. Even though this was a project about adequate nutrition and improving the health of the district, they didn’t seem to enthused to have anything to do with it (or rather the person that had been elected to be a part of it wasn’t). We, more or less, got the different people together to have a first meeting about the project so we could have a work plan and dole out responsibilities, easy right? NO. We were in that meeting for two hours and it was basically, once again, like it was a Peace Corps project because the person who was supposed to be in charge wouldn’t talk. Then we had another man who was supposed to help with the project also, trying to take over the meeting, but he wasn’t really helping the situation, we also had people making faces at each other, one guy on the phone every 5 minutes, and one woman just …spacing out for lack of a better term, it also got to a point where they were trying to argue me down to include the Ambasal area in the project-I refused. The target group was already too big, I’d rather have a team in that area working on a project for their own people, and I didn’t want them meddling without any clear plan in my area. Even though it wasn’t our meeting we tried to get them back on task and get things moving but it was to no avail, and for some reason they didn’t see the need to make a work plan or figure out who was in charge of what tasks. SO 2 hours later we had decided on the next meeting, which will be the 25th. This meeting is to present the project to the presidents of each caserio that has Vaso de Leche in the district. (Alison and I had assumed that they had already presented the project to them BEFORE writing it and presenting it to the mayor but it turns out they hadn’t so we’ll see how this goes). We’ve been trying to get in touch with the project head to make sure he’s got his agenda together for the meeting on the 25th so he can actually run it rather than leaving it to us, like I said we’re only in the supporting role. We tried to talk to, who we thought should be second in command, but she was no help at all, I think her part in the project was just providing the moms that we’d, potentially, be working with. I don’t think they have a plan for this next meeting, or anything after that for that matter, but maybe it’ll come together. One thing I’m learning, and have heard several times before, “Every Peruvian is a procrastinator.” So who knows.—Update. It’s the 25th today and I did not attend any such meeting. When we got back Alison got in touch with the project head and they hadn’t made any plans for the meeting so it’s been pushed back to the 1st… -_-

Aside from that, I’m finishing up with my community diagnostic process, I actually gave an impromptu presentation to some of the authorities in the Ambasal area. I decided to have a meeting with the identified leaders in that area because I knew I’d be working with their populations the most, they could benefit more and other volunteers haven’t worked with them before so I thought I’d forge my own path in that manner. I sent out about 20 or 21 invitations and 5 people showed up, I was ECSTATIC. What made it even better was the fact that they gave me the knowledge and feedback of about 50 people and they’re excited to work with me, since other volunteers didn’t really work in those areas before. Other than that I’m making plans to work with the primaria in Ambasal to do an Escuelas Saludables project, a family gardens/ nutrition/ and maternal health project, follow up for the two caserios that the volunteer before me worked in for improved cook stoves (actually in the district of Sicchez), starting a more formal health promoter system, early childhood stimulation classes with the mothers of PIN in Ambasal, and working with the secundaria in Sicchez for sexual and environmental health. I’d also like to get kids more motivated to read outside of school so I’m thinking about, adding to the library that they already have in the Ambasal area and doing lots of reading promotion activities.

The week before last I had Early In-Service Training in Huanchaco (Juan-chalk-Oh) which is in the department of La Libertad, it’s a nice little beach town, I’ll definitely be visiting again since I didn’t really get to see it (lol). I took the usual bus down to Piura, spent the night in the city, and the next morning (Sunday) I took a bus down to Chiclayo, ate lunch, and then got on a bus to Trujillo ( I wish we had taken the direct route because the bus we ended up on took SEVERAL stops and it seemed like it took us forever to get there). Eventually we made it, and from Trujillo (which is another place I’ll be visiting so I can see the archeological sites) we took a 15-20 minute cab ride to Huanchaco. The hotel we stayed at was great and the staff was amazing (if anyone ever goes to Huanchaco stay at Hotel Bracamonte). Training wasn’t as tedious as I thought it would be and I even got to go out and have a few drinks after sessions ended one day, as shocking as this may seem to some of you I don’t really drink here so this was a major feat. One helpful thing I did learn about during training in Huanchaco was how to properly fill out the vacation request form, and I’m excited to say that my request for my trip back to the States in December has already been submitted- I waste NO time! Another helpful thing about this part of the training was when we had to present, basically a rough draft, of our community diagnostic findings and possible projects we are thinking about. I wrote the presentation in Spanish but actually presented it in English, a case of the lazies (lol). It went very well, I guess, since I didn’t receive a lot of comments from my APCD or anyone else for that matter. I’ll do some fine tuning before I have to present it to the actual communities that I’ll be working with the majority of the time, which I’ve decided on. Out of the 3 areas, or 6 sectors, of Ambasal I’m going to work in the area of Cuyas, the sectors of Cuyas La Loma, Cuyas El Porvenir, and La Selva. I know I’m going to be kicking myself later because the La Loma portion of Cuyas is very far, but I have identified that the children there, and hence the families, need the most work right now. I’m not completely leaving the other sectors out, I’ll just be reaching them in other ways, through the schools in Ambasal.

The second part of training, for the groups from Piura and Huancavelica, was in Cajamarca. So Wednesday night some of us got dinner at a vegetarian restaurant in Huanchaco (great falafels), and then we all got on an overnight bus to Cajamarca city. From there we spend maybe 30 minutes resting in the Peace Corps friendly hotel, then the regional coordinator came and picked us up, took us BACK to the bus station so we could buy our tickets home, and then we headed to San Antonio. I was already upset because I didn’t want to be there, the Piura group had already had extensive field based training during PST, but what made it even worse was that I wasn’t feeling so great. We slept most of the way in the car, all 9 of us packed into a cute little mini SUV thing, and when we arrived in San Antonio we immediately had to get out and plan an educational session. NOW I was pissed, because not only did I not want to be there but I wasn’t feeling good AND I just woke up and they wanted me to do things .. -_- By the time the session was over I had thrown up twice and felt a little better. The session was for moms of the kindergarten, basically, teaching them about safe water, poop in your mouth, and parasites, and at the end of the session we sold sample cups for them to fill to test them for parasites. The volunteers there said we must have done a good job because not only did the moms buy cups for their kids but also for other members of their family. (Yay us!) During the presentation my trio gave I could see the wheels starting to turn in some mom’s heads. We were teaching them the importance of treating their water before drinking it by showing them that they can’t always see parasites, they definitely can’t taste them, and we debunked their claim that they can taste the difference between crude and boiled water. They were shocked at the last one. After that we had very informal chats about projects and the volunteers gave us tips then we had lunch and planned for the next day’s session (which was a self- esteem workshop for kids training to be Peer Educators. This is where my PCV street cred story comes in at…

(The mountains of Cajamarca, Everybody sitting in the bus station, Playing pool at the bar, Jenga time, the site mate and I, Lunch in Huanchaco, The English teaching portion of training, 2 of the cathedrals in Cajamarca)

SO we ended the day and went to Bambamarca to stay the night in a hotel there. I felt ok for the most part. I went out to dinner with some of the other ladies and we had an hour long rant about Huancavelica and some of the failures we’ve noticed in terms of safety and security on the part of our administration. I went back to my room, showered, talked on the phone, and watched TV for a bit and I noticed I was kind of gassy (burpy). I didn’t think anything of it until I realized it tasted like sulfur. The next morning I packed up my things and kept burping sulfur so I was THE FIRST person on the phone with the medical officers. I gave Carmen my symptoms and she responded “parasitic infection” and less than a minute later she sent me a text message with the name and prescribed amount of medication that I needed to buy and take. I walked over to the pharmacy (sans written prescription) and purchased my medication (Tinidazol, 500 mg, 4 tablets, S/. 0.80 per tab). I called Carmen back during my breakfast with one of my new favorite PCVs (Brad) and she told me I should wait to take it until the evening when I’m ready to sleep because the side effects were something else. Well the rest of the day was a complete wash. I had diarrhea, I was puking, I was sleeping (without moving because that would’ve made me puke even more), and I was miserable. I think the parasite knew he was about to get the boot and that’s why he started acting the way he did. Eventually they finished their sessions with the Peer Educators and we split into groups to head up to Paccha, Brad’s site. I had 2 bags with me just in case, but I made it all the way without throwing up- if you had been in that car you would know how amazing that was. So I made it all the way there without vomiting but as soon as I sat on my bed it all came out (in my convenient little baggy of course). I immediately took my medication (around 7 pm Friday night) and laid down for the rest of the night. My PCVs brought me crackers, Sporade, and lots of water while I was sleeping and by Saturday evening I felt much better and was quite hungry. We began our journey back to Piura Sunday morning (a car to Bambamarca, a combi to Cajamarca, a bus to Chiclayo, a bus to Piura, a cab to the hotel, and Tuesday morning a bus back to Sicchez).

Since I returned I’ve been making plans and setting up meetings. I set up meetings with the schools to talk about my participation with them (in Ambasal and Sicchez) as well as taking 2 teachers to a PEPFAR training in April. I’ve also sent out invitations for my formal community diagnostic presentation meeting, where we’ll also hopefully form a project committee and I’ll be able to talk to the 5 health promoters that were already established (I’ll need them to help me with follow up with the families). My health post and I also set a date for our first Early Childhood Stimulation session (in April) and we’re ironing out the details to have one a month from now on. My agenda is quickly filling up for April, with all the traveling, vacation, trainings, and meetings. I won’t really be able to start anything until May, which gives me time to get copies made, as well as create worksheets, monitoring and evaluation sheets, folders for families and health promoters, and revise manuals to give to the schools for Escuelas Saludables and Pasos Adelantes. BUT I think that’s it for now..

Oh and if you’re wondering about Carneval, they decided to wait until March 4th to have it in Sicchez and I had a regional meeting to go to SO I’ll have to wait til next year to experience it. I don’t think it was that great because no one really gushed about it once I got back and I didn’t see any leftover evidence (unlike in Cajamarca where I could STILL see the spatters of paint all over the buildings and presents in the trees).

 

Upcoming Events:

April 5th-8th Vacation: Mancora

April 8th- 12th PEPFAR Training: Piura

April 15th- Community Diagnostic Presentation Meeting: Cuyas

April 19th: Early Childhood Stimulation Session

April 23rd-29th- PDM/ IST Training: La Union, Piura

 

 

Piura City from the roof of our hotel

Weeks 18-22: …the weeks I became Indiana Jones

So much, yet so little, has happened since I last posted. I’m never really sure what to write about so I always try to pick the MAJOR points about the weeks that my posts cover…but this time I don’t feel like anything major really happened.

Life here is very tranquilo, and I’m still not used to it. It’s not like I’m a big city girl or anything, but I need options, I need excitement from planned activities! Hopefully with this month being Carneval we can spice things up a bit. The Siccheños say they party hard during this time, but we’ll see -_-. These last few weeks I’ve more or less been experiencing the terrain and I can honestly say it’s been one unforeseen adventure after the other.

SO… by this time you all know I’m experiencing the rainy season here in Sicchez, but it (more or less) doesn’t stop my work. WELL I have two stories that are a testament to the fact that this rain can’t stop and won’t stop me from working. One Saturday in January I went to one of my caserios to survey some households. I talked with my socio ahead of time so she was able to set me up with one of the health promoters from the caserio to take me there when she was done with her children’s controls. She introduced us, I said hey to the kids, hey to the woman, and then we were off on our way. In the States I don’t think I would’ve ever trusted someone that easily to take me somewhere where I have no clue where we’re going, but here it’s different. We start walking and talking, of course I had to explain that I was from the States and of course she was confused because she’s never seen a black person from the States, but all in all it was a nice little conversation and we really got to know each other in the almost 2 hour walk to the caserio. Had I KNOWN ahead of time that it was so far and that I’d basically be hiking straight UP I definitely would’ve prepared in the following ways: (1) packed less items in my backpack (2) worn different shoes (3) had more water (4) brought a hat (5) put on sunscreen and (6) stretched. I had no idea what I was getting myself into before I left the health post that day, yes my socio told me it was far BUT I know sometimes they over exaggerate-that wasn’t the case at all this time and from now on I know what she means when she says FAR. I went over some rivers, definitely through some woods, and I climbed some hills…for about 2 hours. I fell several times, my boots got sucked in by the mud, I had to hold on to trees to pull myself up over little cliffs, etc. etc. By the time I made it to Cuyas ( the caserio I was surveying that day) I decided I never wanted to come back again THEREFORE I needed to get all my surveys for that area done THAT DAY and I was so sweaty and dirty it was disgusting. For them, I can already see I’ll need to do a lot on maintaining improved cooking stoves and treating their drinking water and washing their veggies properly but for now that’s neither here nor there. I, thankfully, was able to finish surveying the households that day and I thanked the health promoter many many times and decided, around 3 that it was time to go, especially since the rain would be starting at any minute. I decided not to take the shortcut that we had taken to get there, because I for sure would’ve gotten lost in the jungles of Ambasal if I had, so I took the main, and only, road. I began walking and everything was going pretty well, then the clouds came and it started to sprinkle, so I put on my rain jacket, but I kept it moving. Eventually it started to rain harder, so I put my rain pants on, and of course I already had my boots on- still kept a pretty good pace. Then it began to rain harder, but I didn’t let that get me down because I was covered with my rain gear. The rain wasn’t really what bothered me, the road was the problem (or in some cases the lack of road was my problem). There were spots where the road was basically washed out, I was able to navigate passed that. There were spots where the mud was so thick it was difficult to pick me feet up, but my calves got stronger because of that. BUT at one point in the road there was the side that I was standing on and large opening where there was a waterfall, and the other side of the road that I needed to get to. I wish I had taken a picture of it to show but unfortunately it was raining too hard and I didn’t want to sacrifice my camera just to get this photo. In order to get to the other side of the road to continue moving forward, there was a little bridge…actually it wasn’t even a real bridge. It was a plank of wood being held on both sides by some rocks. There was also a flimsy little hand rail attached to the plank of wood. I stepped on the plank so I could begin to cross and I could immediately tell it wasn’t secure. I scooted across that thing as FAST as I could because underneath that plank there was rocks and water- like I said there was the big opening in the area for the waterfall. Walking to and from this caserio… If I had had a hat and a whip you would’ve thought I was Indiana Jones. The only thing missing were the wild jungle cats (but apparently I’ll get to see those when I walk to another caserio… -_-). I eventually made it home after walking for 2 hours and my host mother was surprised at the fact that I went so far. Needless to say I was sore the next 2 days. What I didn’t realize until recently is that all my caserios are very far, and higher up-so I’ll be doing a lot of hiking/climbing and I can only imagine what those paths look like thanks to the rain.

(some of the things I encounter during my treks to caserios-waterfalls (this is a much much much smaller version of the one I had to cross heading back from Cuyas, the roads/lack thereof, rocks and altitude, and a pretty plant)

The other impromptu hiking adventure was Sicchezpampa. Again, I wasn’t prepared for this adventure because no one told me we were going by foot- last time we used the municipality’s truck. So I showed up that Monday morning, very chipper, and ready to go because even though I was still sore from the Saturday prior I just KNEW we were going to be using the truck this time. BUT, boy oh boy, was I very wrong. We started walking and I asked, “Where’s the truck?” I should’ve known I was going to be in trouble when they laughed. I thought the path to Cuyas was bad; nope the one to Sicchezpampa was even worse, the only thing it didn’t have was the waterfall. I didn’t think I was going to make it. I could say it was like walking on a fully inclined treadmill, but the incline was twice as steep, but imagine walking up that for 2.5 hours straight. At least during this time I wasn’t the only one feeling the effects of the climb. The doctora was having a hard time breathing and felt very nauseous, whereas for me it was my legs and my back. The other person that was with us from the health center staff managed to give me a big stick to help me walk, but that didn’t help at all and it just ended up being something else to carry- what I needed was a different pair of legs and twice the energy (lol). But just like with going to Cuyas, we eventually made it, and I was completely drenched in sweat. Once again needless to say I was very sore, so sore in fact that I was down for 2 days. When we did make it up to Sicchezpampa I surveyed a few houses and spent the rest of the time helping out the health staff (by passing out medication or assisting the Dentist with extractions). Before you start thinking it, no, I didn’t pull anyone’s teeth, I just held the flashlight for the Dentist. Holding the flashlight proved to be too much for me though! If you’ve never seen someone get their teeth pulled, you are in for a treat. He gave each patient some anesthetic and then went to yanking. I have yet to see him do any type of preventative work, like cleanings; he usually just pulls teeth when people say they hurt. I didn’t know mouths could bleed so much. When I was the designated lightholder I started to get squeamish. I wanted to look away, but it’s hard, you can’t help but look, but since I kept turning my head back and forth they eventually had to take the flashlight away from me because I was moving around too much (lol I got demoted from flashlight holder).This was another time where we all had a good laugh at my reactions (lol).

(Martín, the dentist, Patty, the doctora, and Morfi, the tecnica AFTER we all made it to Sicchezpampa).

Moving to the subject of my family though, they’re pretty wonderful, especially my Milagros Rubi. Rubi is more or less my little shadow when I’m at home, her and Retoben the dog- both for the same reason; they know I have treats (lol). The one thing I will say about Rubi is I’m not used to living with children so this has been a new experience for me in that aspect. I love her dearly but it’s a lot to get used to the yelling and laughing in the wee hours of the morning, I have to hear that on top of the donkies yelling; ON TOP of the stupid turkey-chickens (I’m never sure if it’s a chicken or a turkey screaming). But Rubi is a doll. She definitely is the life of the party here, she always has a song ready, or a dance, and not a day goes by where she doesn’t swing her hair to and fro and strike a pose for me. She’s usually my source of comic relief when I’ve been frustrated by the adults. She’s a good girl when she’s with me but she can be a little bit of a terror with her actual family (lol), but she knows her boundaries with me, thank goodness. She’s become my personal town crier though, every move I make the rest of the family knows about it, and I CAN NOT leave the house without saying goodbye to Rubi, she just won’t have it any other way (lol). I’m teaching her a few English words right now but when the school year starts we’re going to have full on private tutoring (there’s only a few weeks left til the beginning of the school year). The key is finding English words she’ll enjoy, for now. Like today we made cookies so she learned the English words for the ingredients so she could eventually eat her cookie (lol). She gets treats for her English words and Retoben gets doggie treats whenever he can complete a trick properly (so far I’ve taught him how “stay,” “sit,” and “up” –all in Spanish). Oh I should also mention I’ve adopted a doggie in the Ambasal region, I call her Crackers but that’s because I don’t know her real name yet (lol). The reason she got the name Crackers is because I was eating some [crackers] and I turned my head to write something down and she decided she wanted some too (and by some I mean the rest of the pack).

(Milagros Rubi, Crackers (when she was looking for more food to steal from me while we were sitting in the health post), and Retoben)

Other than the family and the hiking I’ve just been meeting with authority figures in the community, and some from the Peace Corps staff. Nothing terribly interesting these last few weeks. I will say this, it is HARD to catch up with the mayor. Alison, the wonderful site mate, went to drop something off from us to the mayor’s office and she happened to run into him while he was at his office so she asked him if it would be possible for us to stop by and interview him the next day. He said sure no problem, so we thought we were set. We got there the next day and he was in another part of the province and wouldn’t be back til the next day, supposedly. We showed up every day for the rest of that week and every day he was in a different place. I think the thing that tap danced on my last nerve the most was the fact that his secretary could’ve easily told us that he was going to be out for the rest of the week, but instead of saying that she told us to try again the next day. I’m not saying he’s not a busy man but his schedule HAS to be written down somewhere, and in this schedule YOU WOULD THINK he would have it written that certain weeks he’s going to be traveling. But that information wasn’t communicated to us, so instead of being able to go off and do other things we showed up to try and talk to the non-existent mayor. Eventually we were able to catch up with him, but I think what we’re going to start doing is showing up at his house, because he lives RIGHT down the road from me. I just don’t like to think my time is being wasted so he brought this on himself (lol). As far as the other authorities go, they are all more readily available. Alison and I are actually going to be working with two offices of the municipality to do a family gardens project with moms from this social program, Vaso de Leche. Yesterday we actually revised the project proposal that the two offices had put together. We’ll be meeting with them this upcoming Monday, but we’re not sure what time. I’m excited. People know we’re about to finish with the community diagnostic period so they’re already trying to get our attention for projects they want to start in March and April.

The thing I know I have to keep in mind is that culturally, their “Peruvian Hour” is something we don’t have in the States. Alison and I are still operating on U.S. time, but the Peruvian hour is what everyone else around us is on. By “Peruvian Hour” I mean, the meeting time is set for 3 p.m., for example, but people don’t show up for another 45 minutes to 1.5 hours later, anywhere in that range of time. I’m a fairly punctual person, so THIS drives me nuts. You might be thinking, “well Jade why don’t you just show up when you know other people will actually show up?” My answer is, for the same reason they don’t think to show up on time, that’s not how I was brought up and I don’t think I can ever break the habit of showing up on time (lol). I guess the last thing of interest, as far as Sicchez goes, is about our Reading and Geography classes. I don’t know how to talk about this without getting angry, especially for the Geography portion. I truly believe in educating the children to provide for a better future for the country, so poorly educating kids is a HUGE pet peeve of mine, and that’s in any country. Every Geography class we begin and end with a review of things they’ve learned, more recently we’ve only been reviewing the continents, because the children don’t know them. Every class, during the beginning and ending review, we have to explain that a continent is a group of countries, because the kids will usually just point to a country when we ask where a specific continent is, and also during every class they incorrectly label the continents. There was one class in particular where I was really taken aback. I projected a picture of the map on the wall and asked them to point out Europe, because we had learned about it during the class prior, and the kids pointed to South America. Right then and there I decided that I WILL be sitting in on a day or two of school to see how the professors teach and what they teach, because the kids not knowing the location of their own continent was like a little red flag. Other than that, the kids always seem really interested in the pictures we have to show them or the different topics we bring up about each area and they love the different activities we do each class. For Australia, since we discussed Kangaroos, they had a kangaroo (aka potato sack) race (lol), and when we did North America they learned how to play kickball. We originally started with about 12 kids but it’s dwindled down to 5 or 6, which is fine because the kids that wanted to learn something are the ones that stayed. They ARE a good group of kids and I’m glad we’ve made some new allies in Sicchez, we just have to work on continent locations.

(some of the kids from our reading class and the stories Alison and I wrote for that class-mine is the second)

As for my personal agenda while in Sicchez, I’ll definitely be doing the TESOL certification, registration for that opens up in March, and the other definite is for the GRE in August or September. Aside from the testing I’ll have visitors this year (yay) and within these next few months I’ll get the chance to see other departments of Perú, without having to use my precious vacation time (lol). As a matter of fact, here’s my traveling schedule for the next couple months:

February-

17th-19th- Colán/ Piura (the capital city)

 

March-

2nd-5th- Piura (regional meeting)- we’ll actually travel to another small city near the capital for this meeting

10th-18th- Trujillo/ Huanchacho/ Bambamarca (Early In Service Training)- I’ll get to see 2 different departments for this trip

 

April

3rd -9th- Mancora (Semana Santa vacation)- this is in the department of Piura

22nd-28th- Piura (In Service Training/ Project Design and Management Training)- we’ll be traveling to another small city in the department of Piura

 

I’m excited to travel and I know this will help time go by even faster. I can’t believe that next month will mark 6 months in country for me! Where did the time go?

BUT Until next time….

 

 

Weeks 16 and 17: I’ve Got Sunshine…

So… Just like I thought, with the beginning of this wonderful New Year my spirits lifted in respect to living in Sicchez! Although my spirits were lifted in regards to Sicchez my thoughts and prayers are definitely still going out to my family members, friends, and to the communities of JMU and Virginia Tech ( the period between September and this January seemed to be one trial after another for everyone.)

After my extended break in Piura I returned to Sicchez much better than when I went. Speaking of the return to Sicchez… that was an adventure in itself. Usually when Alison and I return to Sicchez we don’t buy bus tickets in advance because the bus isn’t crowded, or sold out the day of… USUALLY. Well, this last time returning home we did our usual, and didn’t buy tickets ahead of time, and when we got to the station we were told there weren’t any more tickets for either of the buses going back to Sicchez (mind you there are only 2 a day and they leave about an hour and a half within each other). If Alison hadn’t been with me, I would’ve GLADLY gone back to the hotel and enjoyed another day of internet, HBO, and hot water (lol). Luckily (-_-) we were given two other options to get us home, thanks to the bus company owners. The first option was riding on top of some truck and the other was riding in a car to a certain city on the bus route and then getting on the bus the rest of the way. The car option sounded great until I was reminded (once in the car) that Peruvians ride a little …differently (lol), but I’ll get to that. We chose the car option and the man loaded our stuff and explained to us and a few other people what we would be doing, you know just in case we didn’t get it the first time. After he briefed us on the “complexity” of the situation, we were then told to go across the street and wait for the car to pick us up there and we were reassured by some nosey little woman that he in fact would pick us up across the street but we needed to hurry. (Mind you we had already put our stuff in the back of the car. In my mind I was thinking, “I must have ‘Boo Boo the Fool’ written on my forehead for them to really think that I’m about to leave my stuff in this car and walk across the street so this man can drive off with my stuff”). We told everyone that we weren’t walking away from the car and we were going to wait exactly where we were standing. They tried to explain to us that we can’t stand next to the car because the police might see us and there were ramifications for whatever was occurring (so I thought to myself, “they can’t see us stand next to the car, but once we get in the car its ok?) Eventually we were allowed to get in the car, and like I said Peruvians ride a little differently, there were four of us in the back, two people sharing the passenger seat, and of course the driver. Even though we were crammed in there already, the driver continued offering for other people to ride with us-if we had had more space in the wagon part of the car then he could’ve put 4 or 5 more people back there. It really is a “no man left behind” type situation if you’re in Peru, they’ll find a way for everyone to fit in one standard sized sedan/ station wagon (lol). We did end up passing a police officer on the road, but HE didn’t actually stop us. The driver pulled over by himself when he saw the officer and he got out of the car with whatever paperwork and most likely some money to pay him off. After that, we continued on our way and I continually dozed off during the trip. We made a stop to drop someone off in Paimas and ask if there was any space on the first bus, which there wasn’t, so the driver told us to get on in Montero when they stop for lunch. We finally get to Montero, had lunch, and loaded our stuff on top of the bus, and that’s when we noticed that there wasn’t any room on the bus but they were going to pack us on there anyway. I can say this now, I WISH we had waited for the second bus because that’s the one we usually take since it’s bigger and more comfortable(lol). There was hardly any room to breathe let alone stand on the bus and people kept asking us why we didn’t take the second bus instead since we were going “all the way to Sicchez.” (Mind you, the bus we were on goes the SAME EXACT ROUTE as the second bus, meaning it also goes “all the way to Sicchez.” (-_-) ) We had to stand for the majority of the trip, as tired as we both were and as long as it took thanks to all the mud, and eventually we were able to sit down once we got closer to the district. Lesson learned, we’re always buying our tickets in advance (lol).

But nevertheless we made it back safely and immediately got back to work. We had a few meetings to attend for the environment, water and sanitation, and programming for the health establishments, and on Sunday I assisted with house visits to some of the elderly Siccheños. We also did some planning to finish editing our survey so that we could begin using them in the community as well as deciding who would be in charge of which class for the upcoming week (because we’re doing summer school classes for the center of town).

In regards to the house visits Sunday it brought up a few points that I wanted to share. Since we stepped off the bus, I have successfully turned down several proposals for marriage and for lovers. This ties in with the house visits because while I was with the doctora and the obstretriz on Sunday, I was approached by one of the sons of the people we were visitng. It always starts with, “are you married?” The response, “no, but I have someone in the States.” Then it moves to, “well you should also have a Peruvian boyfriend, Emily had one when she lived here!” ..SMH…So that’s the usual conversation about me choosing a Peruvian lover. Most recently I was proposed to while a man was supposed to be helping me up a small hill when I wasn’t feeling well, he more so used the opportunity to try and touch me inappropriately, tell me how much he’s never loved anyone else as much as he loves me, and then he proposed marriage (this was my first time EVER meeting this man (lol)). Another thing I have to deal with is the construction workers near my house, I have to walk by them just about every day when I go to the center of town and this last week when I walked by one of the guys complained, very loudly, about having chest pains. The other guys there were actually very concerned and asked what was wrong and he responded, “my heart, its beats so strongly for her.” (They sure can lay it on thick around here!) AND of course I’m still getting the cat calls whenever we do go into the city, except In Piura they don’t call me “Chincha,” here they call me, “La Morena” or “Morena Bonita,” (pretty dark skinned woman-more or less). They certainly do think black is beautiful here (I’ve gotten several requests/ pleas for me to bring my sisters, my brother [lost count on this one], my mother, and some of my other close friends to Sicchez because when I show pictures from home at least two people end up drooling and going on and on about how beautiful everyone is). Speaking of pictures- I recently had a conversation about having chemically relaxed hair vs. non- chemically relaxed hair and the different textures of African American hair- I wish I could find the Spanish version of that one movie Chris Rock made about black hair (lol). The people I had that conversation with found it VERY interesting, along with the fact that they saw just about every shade of black when I was showing them my pictures- with some of my friends and/or family members they assumed they were Peruvian or part Peruvian. [Yay for the cultural exchange!] The last thing about Sunday was the fact that I hung out with my new friends (Patty [la doctora] and Maria [la obstetriz]) for the majority of the day (the house visits and then a late lunch later (which was SO good)). I just can’t help but think, “What am I going to do when they leave in May?” (lol)

Other than that…this last week, my wonderful site mate (Alison) and I started our summer school activities (vacaciónes utiles) for the kids (Reading Club) and for anyone who’s interested (World Geography classes). Each Tuesday (for the next 7 weeks) we’re doing the reading club and we’ll have a different book each week and do an activity or two (that’ll surround a health topic [of course!]). This last Tuesday the book and the activity centered around nutrition and having a healthy plate so we all took turns reading the book, thanks to our shining star Luis, and then we talked about the different food groups. THEN I had them draw foods from each category of food so they could make their own healthy plate (the paper they drew on was sticker paper and they were REALLY excited once they realized they were making their own stickers to put on their plates). Thursdays we’re doing the world geography classes and this week’s focus was on North America, since we know that continent the best. We showed pictures, had examples of music, and had some fun facts. At the end of the session we taught the kids how to play kickball, which they LOVED! We plan on ending the series with South America so that our students can do that presentation and teach us some things about Perú. We’ve been asked countless times if we’re going to teach English, and we’ve responded countless times “no we aren’t going to TEACH, we’re going to support/teach the professors that teach English and possibly offer tutoring to make it more sustainable after we leave.” [I think I will however do private teaching for my little sister since she’s always around me when I’m home anyway and that can be our new and improved “play time.”] Aside from all the interaction with the kids here I’ve also started correspondence with about 4 classrooms back in the states, as part of the third general goal of Peace Corps.

SO…at the current moment I’m corresponding with students in the States, holding classes for the students in Sicchez, conducting interviews with authorities and focus groups with organizations, revving up to start my surveys, attending meetings, doing LOTS of walking, still meeting the general public, studying Spanish grammar, AND studying for the GRE. Since Sicchez is sooo tranquil (which is not what I expected after hearing all the stories about the other volunteers’ sites and how fiesta driven they can be) I have a lot of time in the evenings. Since it’s the rainy season, and when I say rainy season I MEAN rainy season, that’s even more reason to stay in during the evenings and curl up with some good study materials if I’m not talking with my family or creating activities for a class. Here, rainy season lasts until about April or May, the majority of the raining starts during the later afternoon and continues through the night, and there’s lots of mud. [If the mud didn’t also have so much animal fecal matter then everyone in the States would be able to take 3 mud baths a day for the next 6 or 7 years, that’s how much mud there is around here!!] My galoshes and I have become best friends since I returned from the city because there’s no point in even TRYING to wear my regular shoes when I go outside [I also always carry my rain suit in my back pack just in case.]

(the chart I made for reading club) (Dra. Patty) ( THE MUD!!) (The house visit) (The world map at my site done by previous volunteers)

(The kickball game)

Weeks 12-15: Out of the night…

These last few weeks have served as some eye openers, and if I didn’t know better I’d say they’re “designed,” to weed people out-we lost another person from our program. These weeks have been…rough…emotionally and physically. I hope this was the worst of my time being here because it almost pushed me to the brink of throwing my hands up and returning back to the States. I was way passed sad or homesick! I realized some of the reasons why I just…eh wasn’t in love with my site. I made a very long list of what I didn’t like but some of the top reasons were: that ‘m just not feeling my site yet, I don’t have any real friends there yet (and ya’ll know I’m a social person), there’s barely anything to do [what nightlife?], I miss the city and interacting with LOTS of people, the holidays were coming up, and I hadn’t really heard from my family. AND AND AND…As far as the holidays go, I only spent Christmas in my site, and since my family didn’t really do anything that day, it made my homesickness much worse…a good time was not had by all on that day (lol). As far as this blog post goes, I will say this… I had a much longer blog post written for this time around, but in the effort to…keep my job (lol) I figured I needed to do some severe editing and just leave those other thoughts for my personal diary.

The beginning of the month was pretty good. I went to the capital city for a day or two just to do some shopping for my room (pictures below) and pick up my new stamp and my first set of business cards. (I’m official ya’ll!) But… December, for the majority of it, was really…taxing. I spent more days in bed due to lack of energy, illness, and just plain frustration. It was on my way back from the city that changed the course of the remainder of the month…

On the way back I think I saw one of the most horrifying things I’ve ever seen in my real adult life. I was on the bus back to my site and I began reading, “The Help,” which I thoroughly enjoyed. While riding the bus we stopped, one of the usual 50 million we make, in this little town and that’s when I stared into the eyes of a dying child. The image of that little girl still haunts me… There were 3 or 4 women on a porch and about 4 or 5 kids with them, hanging onto their ankles and running amuck, and they all looked pretty scraggly- that didn’t surprise me. I was able to see inside the house, just a bit, and I noticed a very large television- that surprised me. BUT… one of the children on the porch took a step forward, and that’s when I REALLY saw her. She looked like she was about 3, but she was probably older than that and just appeared that way due to the severe malnutrition. Her hair, had large patches of orange, her skin was an ashy-gray instead of the light brown it should’ve been, her eyes were sunken and lifeless, her body… it looked like someone had draped skin over bones, and her stomach…she looked like she was about 4 or 5 months pregnant-because of the parasites that were robbing her of whatever nutrients she could’ve been getting. I looked at her, and all I could do was stare and then I cried. Up until that point I had never seen something like this little girl, besides on TV…but those commercials to “Feed the Children” don’t do this problem justice. She looked like she didn’t have much longer on this earth, maybe 2 or 3 weeks tops; she was basically starving to death in front of my very eyes. It was a haunting image and was a huge eye opener. I felt sad, angry, and guilty… As far as the children in my town go, I haven’t seen any THAT bad. It just frustrates me to see that. It’s enough to push someone to leave because they begin to question the sustainability and the effectiveness, BUT it’s also enough to motivate someone to stay-which is what I battled with the rest of the month and more than likely will continue to battle with during my time here. The children…they get you every time…

All the kids are shorter than they should be and definitely aren’t developing like they should because they aren’t getting the balanced meals they need and deserve. I sat in on two weighing and measuring sessions at my health post during the past month and got to meet the children. The children in the first session weren’t too bad, but I realized it’s more so because they live closer to the health post and the center of Sicchez for that matter. [I’d compare the center of Sicchez to Lima, if you live there you’re better off and you stand more of a chance, but if you’re too far out on the outskirts then …God Bless you.] But the kids from the second session had bigger bellies, thanks to the parasites. Both sets were, like I said shorter than they should’ve been, and both sessions gave me the opportunity to meet some of the teenagers. The girls, the ones I met were 14 and up, all liked like they were about 10 or 11. I only met one teenage boy, a 17 year old, that I TOWERED over (keep in mind that I’m only 5’2 please!) Other than the weighing and measuring the children also had the chance to see the doctor (for medication to get rid of the parasites) and/or the dentist (for extractions only). ALL of the kids from both sessions had to see the doctor and 7 out of 10 saw the dentist. [Looks like Jade will also be focusing on dental health while she’s here!] It’s just…amazing and confusing. When I think about how some of these children look, and I see the satellite dishes or the large TVs…I’ll just say it’s frustrating. For some families the priorities need to be shifted- you’ve got a pretty large TV and a dish in the same house that you have a latrine and your babies are infested with fleas or intestinal parasites…really?! It’s is enough to make me scream…

As far as my work right now…During the first three months we’re in site we are that the focus needs to be on our Community Diagnostic, which will basically give proof of what things we really need to work on in our sites for the remaining time here. I’m sticking to this and really trying to take this time to get to know my community and really pinpoint the problems or the holes that are present. A few people have tried to pressure my sweetheart of a site mate and I to devote our time to other things, which ARE important but can very well wait, OR they try to treat us like we’re not really doing ANYTHING and just passing the time in Sicchez-if only they knew how untrue that was (lol). Within the next two months we will be doing our surveys, conducting more interviews, attending more community meetings, and having focus groups. But I’ve already come to the conclusion that my town is going to get really tired of me saying no to them. I refuse to spread myself thin, especially since I plan on being here until November of 2013!

This passed month has just been full of ups and downs, frustrating and rewarding moments, healthy and ill times. After taking a MUCH needed break in the city I’m heading back tomorrow morning but… I wonder what next month has to offer. From now on I’ll be making more regular visits to the city (because this trip really helped mellow me out), every 2 weeks just about, and hopefully within the month of January I’ll have internet in my home so I won’t have such long periods of time between being able to talk to my friends and family, because that’s enough to drive a girl crazy! I think one of the happiest moments from December was when I heard my mother’s voice, followed by BOTH my nieces, and then later having a discussion with THE best big brother in the world, on my birthday, it truly meant the world to me J.

Speaking of birthdays, I would like to thank everyone who sent texts, Facebook posts and messages, cards, and GIFTS!

 

Weeks 9,10, and 11: You Don’t Gotta Go Home, But…

So… weeks 9, 10, and 11 were emotional for a variety of reasons.

Week 9: We lost another PCT,a very good friend of mine. I think his leaving made things even more real and it let me know that we are really coming into “game time.” It was hard to see him leave but he had an array of valid reasons after looking within himself and decided that right now, was not his moment to be here BUT he would better serve elsewhere- and I know he’s going to be great wherever he is and with whomever he works with. J

Every PCV has their individual challenge. Some people are already feeling like they aren’t really living that “Peace Corps Volunteer life” because their new host families have large houses, with all the amenities, and they live on the beach. Others already feel overwhelmed by the tasks ahead because where they’ve been placed is a large city. A few feel like they’re already going to have to change houses or sites because their host families simply aren’t ready for a volunteer or because they are TOOOOO isolated. My challenge is I don’t feel like I’m needed in Sicchez. My site mate, Alison, and I are the last installment of Peace Corps volunteers in Sicchez. We are there to close the cycle and hopefully by the end of our time there the area will be able to function on its own, in terms of health prevention and the other small projects we’re going to do. I know for the first 3 months I’m really going to see what the people need and other possible secondary projects I can do outside of the Health Program goals. But I still need to get over the initial hurdle of not feeling needed. They’ve, in reality, had 4 other sets of volunteers there, so I feel like I’m going to just be repeating lessons that they’ve already learned.

But back to week 9…I realized that I didn’t want to leave Lima (lol). It became another home to me and I got really comfortable.

Language interviews- I tested into Intermediate Mid for Spanish (I thought these levels were arbitrary at first until I spoke with a PCV who came back to Chaclacayo to do one final language interview because these are certified levels and it’s resume worthy-she started out as the lowest low in Spanish and left the country at Advanced Intermediate). Paperwork- I filled out so much paperwork it was coming out of my ears! Planning- I had lots of mini meetings and other discussions about week 10 events as far as Swearing In, the host family celebration, and the Thanksgiving lunch feast we had with the staff.

Week 10 : We did a day of simulations just to review things we had learned over the past 9 weeks. The simulations covered: Transportation (we had to pretend we were either in a combi or a taxi and we had to act accordingly and follow safety guidelines that we’d been taught); Insinuaciones (we were given a situation, or two, and we had to respond to the person who was hitting on us); Security Quiz and Peru Quiz; the Role of the PCV (given another situation we had to explain who we were and what we were there to do in terms of helping with development); Negotiating with the host family ( we were given a situation and we had to negotiate with our host family- my situation was that my host mother said I didn’t have to pay rent but just help with the food so I had to explain to her that I WAS going to pay rent because I’m a part of the family and I WANT to help with electricity and water costs as well); Dealing with the opposite sex (we were given a situation that centered around our community counterparts making passes at us). Everything except for the security quiz was in Spanish by the way lol.

We also had to present the small community diagnostic that we did on our Chaclacayo communities… Did I mention that all the simulations and the presentation were in Spanish? (lol).

On Thursday we had a very relaxed day. I was at the center by 6:45 to just be there for whatever I could possibly be needed for. Thursday afternoon we had a Thanksgiving lunch planned so people were in the kitchen for that, and even though I told them ahead of time that I DID NOT want to be in the kitchen (weird, right?) I ended up in the kitchen(lol). After the Thanksgiving, which the staff cooked all the food except for the few dishes that PCTs wanted to cook themselves, we had to start preparing for the Host Family Celebration. The host family celebration went very well, everyone had fun- there was a variety show, lots of food, and a few of us learned how to wobble (lol).

Friday we had to all be at the center by 7:45 so we could catch combis to the training center in Santa Eulalia, where we’d be swearing in and we just spent the majority of the day there until after swearing in and all the pictures. A majority of us ended up going to Lima to spend one last night out-which was gggrreeeaaattt. And on Saturday night most of us parted ways to go to our respective departments. Due to the strikes and other small uprisings and potential threats of violence in certain departments some volunteers are actually just now making it to their sites but everyone is safe (thank Goodness).

Week 11:

So this was the real week where we all parted ways to go to site. For the Piura group we spent 2-3 days in the capital city to get our bearings and buy lots of things to pimp or pads (lol) (I must say I’ve become a pro at haggling in Spanish). After all our buying and enjoying the last few moments of each other’s company, we all boarded our modes of transportation and headed to our new homes. Upon arrival to my new house, after unloading my many bags and brand new mattress, it began to rain and of course when you have lots of rain and dirt you get mud…so who fell down in the mud walking down the slope that leads to her new host family’s house?—This lil PCV did! I managed to catch myself with my hand but all my bags were muddy and thank goodness my mattress still had the plastic on it or else that would’ve been dirty too! But as soon as I could I popped up, shook the mud off my hand and gave a huge smile and goofy wave to my host granny and host mom…I’m wondering if this is just foreshadowing of what the next two years will hold for me in Sicchez (lol). But this was a week full of attending meetings, meeting new people, walking to new places, and children…lots and lots of children, who, now, all know my name and will yell it while they run towards me to try and cling to my limbs. I like my site for the most part so far, I did, however, shed a few tears because I miss, and want to go back to, Lima. Not even the States (lol) I want to go back to Lima! But I know I just need a little more time to adjust to my new surroundings and make some friends but other than that…. So far…so good!

BUT before I go I will say this…I tried cuy..and it wasn’t bad. I had to explain to my host grandmother that I’d never seen one dead and … plucked(?), and I’ve definitely never seen one on a plate because in the U.S. (as far as I know) the little critters are pets.

the cuy- my host granny just gave me a lil quarter piece to try.. I think that right there would be his knee (” The Waterboy” joke)

The luggage for 4 of the Piura girls (the people behind us in line couldn’t help but laugh at us and all our stuff (lol)). All of the Peru 18 training class.My little handy dandy hand-made calendario for the next two years. On the right I have things that have been accomplished for the month, the left (in red) are vocab words that I’ve learned in the month, and all the little activities at the bottom are color coded. I also have a section at the very top of the calendar (in blue) of my personal goals for that month. This is the kind of stuff you do late at night when you’re bored in your site and you can’t sleep! (lol).

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