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).
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