3.23.2006

Coming Home

Mar. 22
I've definitely been slacking on my journaling. OK, you have me, I've hardly journaled at all in the last couple of months. Maybe it's because I have 44 days left in country. I remember sitting at my desk in the Family Connection office counting down from 64 days until I leave for Peru. Now, here I am counting the days until I come home.

March 20 marked my two year anniversary. The day went by like any other, but I did take the time to congratulate myself and a couple others. I also took the time to reflect on my two years here. I've really done this. Looking back over two years, it's not the change I see in Peru or my Peruvian counterparts that I really appreciate, but the change I see in myself. I'm so much more aware of who I really am. I've learned that Peace Corps is about character development of the volunteer; the projects in sites become secondary. I've learned how to take care of myself. I see that it's good to take from others who are different from you and use their good qualities to improve yourself. I'm proud to be small town Southerner. What a blessing it truly is to be from a culture where belief in God thrives and genuine hospitality, not only to your neighbor but any stranger, is not only expected by taken for granted.

I'm ready to go home. Before now, I wasn't. I often thought that I was ready. Oh, I was so homesick, believing I was never going to make it to the end of two years. But looking back, I wasn't. I wasn't ready on the inside. Now, it's the Lindsey that accepts her strengths and shortcomings, that appreciates what makes her, well, Lindsey that is coming home.

Feb. 27
I keep envisioning myself working in New England for the summer, doing things I've only wished I could do in the past, especially sea kayaking, sailing. It's kind of like my Peace Corps service, but shorter and with kids that actually speak my language. And unlike Peace Corps, they're actually going to be paying me!

I've just returned from COSing in Lima, that's Close of Service in PC lingo. I'm officially done! I have the certificate and pin to prove it. It really is an awesome feeling to know that I made it the two full years, not to mention, I'm practically a different person having learned so much.

I had some friends from home visiting for a couple of days. They were such troopers! Barely speaking any Spanish, they made it to Huaraz to hang out with me, then on to Cuzco to see Machu Picchu. It was a fun week.

Feb. 10
Today was Ultimate day and it was a fun time. We had to share the field with literally hundreds of kids that evidently were on some kind of field day. We nestled away our little bit of space and ended up playing a good game of five on five. I twisted my left ankle (the only healthy one I had left), but fortunately it was not too severe and I was able to continue playing. One of my buddies got busted in the lip with the disc, so I consider myself pretty lucky, since I didn't shed any blood.

The best news for what's going on with me is that I was offered a job as an adventure travel leader with a company in Nyack, NY. I had an intense 1+ hour web cam interview. I'll be leading groups of high schoolers on adventure and/or service learning trips for 15-20 day trips this summer in Maine, New York, and possibly Colorado and Wyoming. The adventure aspect they throw in is hiking, sailing, climbing, swimming, kayaking, biking, and horse back riding. They are even going to certify me in First Aid, CPR, and Life guarding. I'm so excited.

Feb. 5
It hit me in the face that I really only have a couple of months to go. With such a tight schedule my days are filled with various projects that I'm trying to complete:

The Youth Development "Best Practices" project is going well. I have been put in charge of interviewing in person nearly all of the current Youth Development PCVs. That means actually going to their sites and questioning them (with a great new digital video camera). Logistically speaking, it's been a lot of work to coordinate with the PCVs to be in their sights when they actually have work going on. For me on a personal level, it's really inspiring to see what good work we are doing with kids in this country. I've actually copied a project, "¿Quien Soy Yo?", and have implemented my own version in the orphanage.

I'm visiting the orphanage around 3-4 times a week. We've made earrings, started the new self-identification workshop, and just generally had a good time. It's overwhelming at times since I have almost 40 kids I'm working with each visit.

The Gringos Saludables theater group starts up again on Tuesday. We've been broad casted on the radio and TV even. Supposedly, the mayor and all the political big-wigs are coming to our next performance. I'll have to make sure my campesina gear is in tip-top form.

The book club is still a big hit. We'll be discussing "Memoirs of a Geisha" come next Saturday. Right now, I'm submersing myself in "The Book of Ruth", a fiction piece written from the perspective of a developmentally challenged girl. It's quite fantastic.

I'm right in the middle of editing our most recent edition of "Pasa La Voz", the PCV Newsletter. It's always fun to read what other PCVs experience and how they then put it down on paper.
My newest project is a Christian Diversity Group retreat coming up weekend after next.

Diversity groups were put into place for PCVs who felt in order to support one another in their similar differences (if that makes sense) and that they might actually meet together and "deal". There is a Jewish group, LBGT group, Minorities group, and several others. The Christian group which I've recently picked up the ball on, is planning on attending an English language interdenominational church service in Lima, then chatting about issues on the beach for a couple of days. It will be nice to be around other Christians and get their views on life as a PCV.

I'm still stressing about what to do with LIFE AFTER PC, as I keep sending in my applications for grad schools and jobs. I'll just have to see when it gets here.

Jan. 17
Life is Peru really never ceases to amaze me. I'm floating, it seems, through my days, nothing really of any importance to do, yet time is flying by and I feel so occupied. I head to Lima tomorrow for an "all-important" work session with my boss and by the time I return to Huaraz, it will be February. February, the month where I officially end my Peace Corps service during our Close of Service ceremony. Where has all my time gone? It seems like yesterday that I returned home from my Christmas vacation to the states.

On Sunday, I took a magnificent hike with some PCV pals. We hiked straight up and toward Huascaran, the highest peak. I can't really describe the feeling I had when we crested the last pass between us and "The Majesty" of the Andes. I felt like I could reach out, wrap my arms around the peak, and touch the snow. The hike exhausted me as we didn't really know our route and ended up following the river back to the main road. Resting for lunch and to chat with some barefoot Quechua women, it can be marked as another fantastic day.

3.04.2006


Turquoise water of Lake Llanganuco

12.12.2005

Oasis Fun

Dec. 10
I've heard that it has been super cold at home lately. For this reason, I won't be able to bring Kanela home with me just yet. The airlines won't fly animals if the temps are below 45 degrees. Mom says she might come back to Peru in May, so we can travel a few weeks together through Argentina and Chile. She'll then take Kanela back to the states with her and I'll travel north through Colombia with my friend, Victoria.

My plans to leave in March are quickly being pushed farther and farther back. I just have so many things to get done, it seems like. I still want to do the Huayhuash, a 10 day trek, here in Ancash. Since the rains are here, I'll have to wait til April to get it in my schedule. Plus a group of PCVs from my group are planning a last hoorah for then as well. I can't be missing out on that.

My ankle is still weak and blue, but doing much better. I thought I would try to run a bit tomorrow to see if I'll be OK for the 8K on Sunday.

My tutoring classes with the comedor have come to a close because the kids are on summer break. The orphanage has me lined up to do all kinds of interesting things in the new year. I'm pretty pumped about it all. They're interested in a relaxation workshop for the house mothers. I was thinking maybe classes on meditation and massage would be helpful for them. Then for the four infants in the house, they would like me to do something with early stimulation. Seems they have poor reflexes and motor skills. Sadly, the house mothers just don't have time to work with them. Plus, I'll be doing my standard self-esteem and leadership work with the adolescents.

I'm feeling the anxiety of wanting to get on that plane. I've been picking up random Christmas gifts this morning and buying my bus tickets into Lima. Just another week, if I can make it.

Dec. 8
We've done eight theater shows since Sunday. Hiking in and out of communities, doing two or three shows a day, plus my boss from Lima is here on an extended site visit, so I have crawled into bed exhausted at night.

Being productive and staying busy has its own rewards. Since I only have 12 more days till I get home, I prefer to have my days filled as to not spend so much time wishing time would speed up so I can get on a plane.

I’ve been asked by my boss to help with a new project plan for our group, Youth Development. I really am excited. It's quite an honor. I will be traveling to all of the Youth Development PCVs sites after the New Year. "Best Practices" is the theme and it will be my responsibility to interview and document such activities for the upcoming training and new project plan. The work will allow me to release some of my responsibilities in the orphanage and comedor.

I haven't had much time to prep for going home. I've bought a few things that I've seen in the market that I thought would make good Christmas gifts and that is about it. My host mom left last night to spend the holidays with her family in Lima. I already miss her. She is such a sweetie.

Dec. 3
Ultimate was so fun yesterday! I was on fire chasing down the long tosses. I made a miraculous back-handed catch after diving into the in-zone. All was great until I hit a hole and twisted my ankle. There was a big crack and I crumbled in pain. Fortunately, it has only swollen up a bit and is now a nice purple color. I put ice on it right afterwards and took some ibuprofen, that seemed to help. What is it with me? I evidently don't feel right if I don't have some nasty bruising somewhere. We had our book club meeting this morning and it was a blast. Cafe Andino outdid themselves with free drinks and appetizers. We had juice, coffee, guacamole, taquitos, and french toast. All that for just showing up! The discussions didn't become so heated, but it was neat to see what others' impressions and interpretations of certain themes turned out to be. Our next selection is Wicked. A novel somewhat about the Wizard of Oz but told from the Wicked Witch's view.

Nov. 30
Since it's not like me to break tradition, I have spent most of the day in bed. This altitude readjustment is no fun. Maybe I should ask about altitude medicine. Or on second thought, it does make for a good excuse to be lazy, read, and drink tea all day long. Last night's bus ride was most eventful. There's an unusual cold front in the mountains, so I just about froze my buns off plus we broke down midway. We had to wait a couple of hours on another bus to pick us up.
My new glasses are super sharp. I almost forgot to pick them up last night and had to make a mad dash to the store before going to catch my bus. I think I'll stock up on glasses while I am here. They are so cheap, as in cost efficient. Here's to hoping that they hold up.

I caught an episode of the Amazing Race before I left. It looks like they are playing in teams of three or more now. Plus, I saw the latest Survivor episode. I could so do that. Maybe I’ll apply.

Nov. 28
I did indeed run my 45 minutes this morning, or close to an hour. Actually, I'm not really sure. I thought I started my watch, ran for what felt like about 25 minutes, then looked down to realize it still said 00:00. At that point, I turned it on for real and ran 35 more minutes. It was a hot, sunny day and it felt good to stretch my legs. I do have exactly three weeks to prepare for the 8K, but I think I have it whipped.

In the afternoon, I headed to the mall and ordered myself a new pair of glasses, a smart new pair of rimless ones. Then enjoyed a Starbucks and shopping with another PCV pal. Tonight, unfortunately, I'm the only PCV left at the embassy family's house. Everyone else has returned to their sites. It will be nice to see some reality TV since all the guys have been monopolizing the tube all weekend with football.

The book that was chosen for the book club is Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. I have read it and loved it, not only because it's very southern but because it has some great social issues that contradict that time period in the south.

Nov. 27
Today has been spent lazily, like most of my Sundays in this country. We got back to Lima around 4:00 AM and went to the PC office, as not to disturb the embassy family so early. I immediately crashed on the floor and found four more hours of sleep, while my comrades got in some Internet time. After we made it back to our host's house, I bummed around the house, doing laundry and watching TV. I only made it back outdoors this afternoon to go to the cinema to see Zorro. An entertaining film, that was somewhat comical in a cheesy way.

The 8K has been postponed for December 18. Someone was looking out for me, because I couldn't have asked for a better change. That gives me two full weeks to prepare, starting tomorrow. I was thinking of getting up and going for a long run, probably around 40-45 minutes. I haven't ran since Thanksgiving day and my body is itching to be active again.

I have already started my personal Christmas shopping from here. I've ordered new Chacos. This could get addictive.

Nov. 26
I can't even hardly begin to describe my day. It really has been, if not one of the best then, at least one of the most exciting days I have had so far in this country.

Our day started out super early, around 6:00 AM, we were picked up and taken to Pisco, a town about an hour from Ica. From there, we boarded a boat to tour the Ballestas Islands. I really had no idea what we were going to experience. When we saw the first sea lion, I honestly felt like I had stepped onto the pages of National Geographic. To hear them roar and just to see literally thousands of majestic animals playing and swimming, it almost took my breath away. We were treated to views of fantastic rock formations jutting out of the ocean and even saw a family of penguins, not to mention, thousands of near extinct birds swarming over head.

From the islands, we headed back to Ica for a tour of the local vineyards. Ica is mostly famous for the wine and liquor that they make locally. At this point, I felt like I had stepped onto the movie "A Walk in the Clouds" with Keanu Reeves where he works on a vineyard in Mexico. We, of course, indulged in tastings and ended up with several bottles to take home. My favorite was a Pisco Cream, kind of like Baileys.

From there, we headed to Huacachina, a literal oasis in the middle of a desert. After huge dunes of pure sand and desert, we encountered this tiny town around a little lake. In the dunes, we loaded our sand boards and boarded dune buggies for one crazy, exhilarating ride over the desert. I had no idea such extreme adventure existed. The drivers climb then race down the dunes, while we were screaming our lungs out.

The sand boarding was done on our stomachs. While we could have sand boarded standing up, for us it became more like bobsledding. Supposedly, we reached speeds of 100 kilometers per hour. I honestly don't doubt it. Everything was going well and we were high on life from the craziness of the day, until my PCV pal went down the last dune and somehow flew off her board and rolled the rest of the way to the bottom. She immediately said her wrist was broken. From other passengers in our buggy, we then heard that accidents were quite frequent and that even deaths in the last couple of months have been reported. By the time we made it back to Ica, thankfully she reported her arm was doing better. I'm sure that had to do with the fact that she swallowed three ibuprofen. I'm just glad we made it back out alive.

Nov. 25
You can find me tonight in Ica, oasis of the desert, about five hours south of Lima. Ica is famous for its wine and Afro-Peruvian heritage. Today's traveling has been pretty tranquilo. We found a decent hostel and set ourselves up with a tour of the sand dunes and islands for tomorrow. Supposedly, it's the "Poor man's Galapogos" and I'll get a view of penguins, sea lions, and dolphins.

I called my brother, parents, grandparents, and cousins to bid them a Happy Turkey Day yesterday. It's great to catch up, I should do it more than just on the major holidays.

Visiting with the marines was interesting and informative. It's a little crazy to think that we're all about the same age, in the same country, working for the same government, yet from different perspectives on how to "make the world a better place." I think it was good for us to share our realities. In the end, I think that the marines probably just consider us a bunch of granola tree huggers.

Nov. 23
Just as I suspected it would, being in Lima around other PCVs that I've missed, is making my Thanksgiving break a happy and relaxing one. We're currently just chilling in the PC office listening to some good tunes and enjoying vanilla macadamia nut coffee. When our comrades from Northern Peru get here, we'll be off to the embassy hosts for Turkey Day preparations.

The self-esteem workshop went off without a hitch. Over 20 adolescents showed up and seemed to enjoy the activities. We drew our "personal flags" and made a "strength tree" with leaves describing our strengths as individuals. My favorite part was the ice-breaker game of musical chairs, played to the tune of Gwen Stefani's Holla Back.

Nov. 22
I've been busy this morning preparing for a little self-esteem workshop for some kiddies in Anta, a PCV friend's site, that I'll be doing this afternoon. Hopefully, the kids show up.

Last night, I had a small "break down" after calling home. I probably shouldn't mention such nonsense, since I usually try to stay upbeat and positive when I write, as to continue with the perception that things are always hunky-dory with me here. But the truth of it is, some days just suck being away from home. I know it's that I'm anxious to start Thanksgiving vacation, but even those thoughts become heavy if I dwell on them too long. My family's yearly traditions with the turkey, black-eyed peas, mashed potatoes, watching ball games on TV, playing board games, and snoozing in the recliner just sound so great.

Today is much sunnier as I prepare to leave on a bus tonight for Lima with another PCV. The Fargo's are having a huge Thanksgiving meal and nine other PCVs will be there with me to celebrate. Then I'll get to enjoy a few vacation days in Ica and Nazca. In just 27 days, I can enjoy the holidays and America for real.

Nov. 20
The honey harvest celebration was painfully exciting. I was stung 3,000 times. OK, only 8 times, but it feels like thousands. Let's just say that the honey harvesting got a little bit out of control. A group of us went to Vicos last night, so we could hike up to the beehives super early this morning. I slept on a dirty floor and noticed just as the light was turned off that we had a couple of rats for bed buddies. The wheat bread and barley water they called coffee was hardly enough for energy to hike two hours straight up the mountain.

The harvesting had already begun when we arrived. We helped with scraping the gum off the comb, then spinning it in the harvester. All was great until another PCV had a small panic attack from all the bees and started running around with his arms flailing. This only managed to entice the bees further, getting them stirred up and crazy. Kanela and I headed for the hills (literally) but got some battle wounds, nonetheless.

With Thanksgiving coming up next week, we had our last theater practice yesterday. Our next performances are during the first week of December. Our big boss from Lima will be making the trip to see it. We'll be dancing this time to "Eye of the Tiger" and making grand fools of ourselves.

Nov. 18
I worked the moss off my buns today. Ultimate was, as usual, a whole lot of fun. My team won the first game then we got beat 9-11 in the second. I was the only gal on the field. To top off my exhaustion, I ran the 40 minutes back to town.

Tomorrow, I'm going to be busy in the morning with the theater group. We're preparing the dance scene for our gender equality skit. Then in the afternoon, I head to Vicos, the little town where my family and I stayed during their visit. With the money we paid them for our stay, they bought a honey harvester. I've been especially invited to join in on the first batch.

Nov. 17
It's already below freezing at home. It's warming up here. In fact, I slept with my bedroom door open to catch a breeze last night and made Kanela keep to her side of the bed.

I worked at my desk all day on an essay for grad school, due on November 20. I'm applying to a program called the Mississippi Teachers Corps. The MTC was founded by a Returned PCV and places recipients in poor Mississippi public schools as teachers while providing salary, 100% tuition, and absolutely all costs toward a Masters in Education at Ole Miss.

All of the jobs that I've found online within the non-profit, social work arena have administrators with Masters in Education degrees. Plus, I've often thought I might want to teach at the college level or at least be involved in Student Affairs. The MTC program sounds like a good starting point, especially with all the financial benefits.

Today, I did visit another volunteer and we took a short hike to see the devil rock just outside of town. Legend goes that after the devil drained a huge lake there, in its stead he left an image of himself on a boulder. I'm a bit skeptical. Nov. 16
My new "assistant" showed up for class again today. Before I become to cynical, I have to admit class did go a lot smoother than normal. He was able to help the older kids with their more complicated homework, while I focused on the little tykes. Then after everyone finished homework, we did another drawing activity. The class lasted almost two hours and I didn't feel like pulling my hair out even once. Then afterwards, he asked if I could help him with his English. It's a give and take, so I assured him I could before any scheduled class. I was called gringa twice on my trip to the market this afternoon. I guess I didn't go brown enough.

Nov. 15
My kiddies love the idea of sending things through the mail. It's even more exciting when I bring in something written or drawn especially for them from the states. They talk about every little aspect. It's so enduring.
I rode my bike to Anta today. It was a gorgeous day with fragrant flowers blooming and clear views of the mountains. I got there faster than I thought at exactly 90 minutes. The wind at times was difficult to manage but it was mostly downhill, with a couple of short climbs.

I'm so excited about my Thanksgiving plans. I'm going with three other gals from my training group to Lima for a huge traditional meal at the Fargo's, my favorite embassy family. Then we're all heading to Ica, south of Lima to see the Nazca Lines. (Those designs in the desert that can only be seen from a plane that have no explanation how they got there.) We're also going to ride dune-buggies and go sand boarding. We might even get to Arequipa, second largest city in Peru.

Of course, nothing can substitute a Thanksgiving day with my family at home. At least, I'll be there for Christmas.

Nov. 14
I had an interesting development in my classes today. Not five minutes into my lesson on colors/numbers, the lady in charge of the comedor tells me that we have a new teacher who will be helping with math and reading. Great, I think, who's this invading my class? He sat at the end of the table and made comments while I explained the lesson. After class, he said that he was studying English and maybe I might could help him after class. Then it all started to click. He even pulled out a tape recorder and wanted to interview me for his research. Maybe I am just too jaded, but I'm thinking I'm over this part of PC too.

Kanela and I both have new hair dos. In honor of my 26th year, I dyed my hair brown. Had I known what a relief it would be not to hear gringa all the time, I would have done it sooner. And Kanela looks like a skint rat, I cut off all her curls.

Nov. 13
I think I have milked this birthday for all it's worth. The hike today was so great! We headed out early this morning, packs full of food and three dogs in tow. Kanela got in major trouble when she decided to chase some chickens, but she loved swimming in the river. We saw ruins, a gorgeous valley, and two sets of waterfalls. Plus we tossed the Frisbee and chilled in the sun. I just got back and I'm pretty sun burnt and exhausted, but it's a great feeling.
"Oh, it's just a chicken" would never be uttered by a campesino here. They immediately take advantage of the situation and demand some ridiculous price for their doomed animal. I've seen other PCVs dog's coral sheep and kill them. It was a scary sight. I don't think Kanela is quite as vicious. She just wants to prove to the chicken that she can drive it crazy, I think.
I unexpectedly got landed as tour guide for the newest group of PC trainees here in Huaraz. I've been showing them around town and explaining the ins/outs of being a PCV. It was fun last round, now I'm kinda over it. Of course, the newbies got the "always on the ball, enthusiastic, helpful, positive Lindsey" during their visit. I couldn't let them see what it's really like being an almost done, lackadaisical, some-what jaded PCV.
That's the secret to a happy and successful PCV, avoid boredom at all costs. Pack your schedule full of activity, even it that means organizing your sock drawer by color and style, keeping a journal with a log of books read, or conducting a trip to the market like it's an investigation in culture.

Nov. 12
I've been celebrating my 26th birthday since yesterday and it's not even until tomorrow. Yesterday for lunch, my friends treated me to a delicious ceviche and another group took me out for dinner and drinks. So, I'm letting yet another group take me out tonight for Chinese. Then tomorrow, I'm hiking/picnicking to "officially" mark the entrance into my late twenties. I should feel guilty, I guess, but I think it's just that PCVs love a reason to get together.
Nov. 10
I had to cancel my normal class with the kiddies because I had a site visit with the South American Safety and Security Director. I was more than nervous because he's a big wig in all of Peace Corps. Fortunately, he was super cool even swearing and talking as if his PC service just happened yesterday. I told him my thoughts on how to make our Youth Development Program more effective and my impression on PC as a whole. He frankly discussed what he saw as problems and strengths in our region. He saw a real problem with too many volunteers congregating in Huaraz, the regional capital. What I found surprising was that he didn't so much place blame on PCVs but on administration. He called it "lazy site development" and that the directors should put PCVs more in the back country so it's harder to just cruise into the capital city when you're bored. He praised my work and initiative and that of other PCVs. We also visited with my host family and he won them over. Reyda, my host mom, has been raving about the Gringo with the excellent Spanish since he left.

Nov. 6
The race was fantastic. Lima really surprised me and pulled out all stops. There were bands at every kilometer, supporters, water, port-a-potties, and even garbage cans. My favorite part was just at the end after a bit of a climb, I crested the hill to see a huge yoga group in position all clad in orange with the Pacific Ocean as their background. It was a powerful sight. I finished right at 63 minutes. Looks like high altitude training paid off, that's much better than my last race.

I'm such an already addicted running glutton. I've decided I want to do a half marathon and of course a duathalon. There's the Peachtree Roadrace in Atlanta in July. How cool would it be to travel around the states and participate in races.
Last night was movie night and I was suckered into a horror/suspense film called Skeleton Key with Kate Hudson. Surprisingly, it was really good and I recommend it. It's set in the South and the old lady's accent made me happy. My PCV buddies asked me to translate. Meanies.
Nov. 4
Today was Ultimate and I'm wore-out. I have much more of a competitive nature that I give myself credit. I hate losing! The craziest thing happened during the game. Some campesinos tied a cow to a pole by his horns. Then to our surprise, they began stabbing it right in it's spine to slaughter it! I have seen animals killed here but this one affected me like no other. It was so horrific. Honestly, I see why people are vegetarians, vegan, animal rights activists. The cow's suffering brought tears to my eyes.

I realize that slaughtering animals is a necessity in life in the campo. In the states, we get our steaks and chicken breasts all neatly packaged in the supermarket and don't really have to think about what was done to the cow or chicken. It was a good, but harsh, lesson for me. And one, I won't soon forget.

After the game, a running buddy wanted to jog back to town and I had to oblige. I've probably worked harder today than I should have considering I'm racing in just a couple of days. At least, I'll sleep on the bus.
After doing a small online survey, I started thinking about what I consider my biggest accomplishment. My first thought went to just last year when I worked in the landfill in Trujillo. When I did my first site visit and realized how challenging my job was going to be, I literally fell apart. I had honestly never encountered a situation where I truly didn't think I had it in me to do. Having challenged myself to stay, live, and work in such an environment, is definitely my biggest tangible accomplishment.

I began to look at the question in a different light. What about me, my persona, do I consider my biggest accomplishment? It would have to be that I had the courage to challenge the expected life in my small town and in the end challenge myself. I "got out", studied, traveled, and became an individual.

Nov. 3
My kiddies had a fantastic time watching our skit today. I don't think they expected us to break out the dance moves and they even called for an encore. Hard to call it work, when we have so much fun. It's the first time they saw me out of my serious teacher mode.

I try not to think too hard about coming home, so I don't get too excited too soon. Although, I have started a countdown - 47 days to go. I can't wait to see all my loved ones and get a taste of America. Plus, I'm looking forward to catching a few high school basketball games.

Nov. 2
I'm always searching online for job ideas and things I can do when I finish up with Peace Corps. I ran across what looks like to be a cool summer job working as a "Youth Adventure Leader" with AAVE Teen Adventure Summer Camps. They hire Returned PCVs to be a tour guides/chaperons for highschoolers on 8 week trips to Africa, Alaska, Australia, Ecuador, Thailand, Spain, etc. All expenses paid plus salary and benefits. The only thing I lack on the job requirements is certification as a Wilderness First Responder. I emailed some friends at home to see where they got their certifications and it looks like the place to be trained is in at Landmark in Cullowhee, NC.

Along with the Adventure Youth Leader application, I've investigated a Crew Leader position with the Vermont Conservation Corps, a non-profit youth, conservation, and education organization that works in state park management, trail maintenance, and backcountry construction. I would be leading groups of youth in adventure service projects.

My grad school applications are moving right along as well, but I did have an epiphany today. Why pay for grad school when there are programs out there that pay your way as you make a real salary? DFCS in Georgia has a similar program with Social Work at UGA and Ole Miss has one in Education. So, my search continues and I am just applying to them all. I'll decide which one to take when the time rolls around.

I bought my ticket home for Christmas today! It hardly seems real that I haven't been on US soil in a complete year. I bet I bug out when I get off the plane.

Nov. 1
Today is a huge holiday here, Day of the Dead. There have been lots of Peruvians eating and partying in the grave yards.

Halloween was a ton of fun last night. Rules were that you had to dress up like something Peruvian. We had all kinds of crazy costumes in attendance -- a market bag, an ice cream cone, Tupac Amaru (the revolutionist), a host dad, and even Miss World, this year's pageant queen from Trujillo, Peru. I, of course, was a hit in my campesina outfit. Walking to dinner, I got even more attention than the usual. I think they really thought I was a fair, as in light skinned, campesina. Men were staring and calling me, Blanca, not the usual Gringa.
Oct. 30I'm excited about the 10K. I can't believe it's a week from tomorrow. Looks like I'll have a couple of PCVs running with me, plus my favorite Embassy host dad. I thought I would get a Peru T-shirt and show some pride.

Some good news is that the book club I'm trying to get off the ground has it's first official meeting on Tuesday morning. I even talked our favorite cafe owner into giving a free round of coffee to all those that attend. It's the free stuff that reels 'em in.

Oct. 28
My running motivation is where it should be. I did the 50 minutes yesterday along my new track. Today's Ultimate was awesome. We had tons of new players show up, four guys from Lima, a couple more Aussies, a gal from Belgium, and our normal motley crew. The opposite team gave me a nickname, Atlanta Ghost, because I kept sneaking away and sprinting for the long toss.

Oct. 26
I made it back to Huaraz yesterday morning and have been busy since I put my bags down. My theater group headed to a small town, Mato, about three hours from Huaraz to spend the night (too far to get there this morning) and to perform for a health fair. Surviving on bread and water as we camped out in the floor of another volunteer's host family. Then this morning bright and early, we were welcomed in grand style at the local school. I worked the tooth brushing booth, while my comrades worked with exercise, hand washing, and nutrition. We were treated to so much food, including guinea pig. We performed our skit, enjoyed special dancing and poem reading. It's probably the only time in my life, I'll ever feel like a celebrity.

Oct. 24
I happened to catch a music video the other day of Tim McGraw and Nelly signing a duet. I was overjoyed. Two of my favorite music genres (country and hip hop) have finally converged. I felt sillywhen I wrote another country music lover PCV and she said I was way behind and that I should check out Yahoo Music. Since then, I've been streaming all the big hits and new music that's out. Sheryl Crow has dropped a new album. I'm going to see if I can find a pirated version. In the late afternoon, I went downtown to change my bus ticket. I thought I would go to the black market. Big mistake! After being warned, by two separate guys on the street that I should be careful, I figured it best to head back to the better side of town. So, I treated myself to a Frappuccino and some unneeded things at the mall.

Oct. 23
So, it's officially getting cold at home. I think this is probably the time of year that both Georgia and Peru somewhat have the same type of weather. For me, I'm enjoying a typical Peruvian Sunday. The country literally stops for this day of rest. It's so easy to do nothing and relax. The host family is working out very well. They are extremely laid-back and act like I'm one of the family. Having told me to make myself at home, I made a salad for lunch and washed my clothes intheir bonafide washer and dryer. Their book collection is to die for, well, in my opinion. It's a jumble of contemporary fiction and best-sellers.
Oct. 22
My mom actually just emailed me a list of things she "forgot" to buy while she was here, so it looks like I'll begin a painting, scarf, and pottery search. They finally found me a host family, one that hasn't hosted volunteers before. Their house is fantastic, of course, but the first round of pleasantries are a little stiff when you are trying to figure out what to do with someone, in this case, me, the PCV.

Peace Corps is so good at teaching a person how to fit in with any group of people. You really learn how to read situations and people and what to do to alleviate any discomfort. Yet anotherlesson I’ve learned from this experience.
There is something weird going on with all these hurricanes in the world. They just don't stop. My host mother was actually mentioning it to me when I was at home in Huaraz. She is evangelical as opposed to the majority who are Catholic and thinks it's God "taking care" of the world and it's wicked ways. I imagine that thought runs through the minds of the people in my hometown as well.
Lima folk tend to believe that pets get cold in this climate, so they have these little fleece sweaters they put on all the dogs. PC is always saying for us to "integrate" into life here, so appropriately I bought Kanela a red and yellow ruffled fleece, for those extra chilly morning walks. Kanela (and probably all my PCV pals) are going to kill me.

Oct. 21
I ran for a solid 60 minutes yesterday afternoon and it was the best thing that I could have done. Not only did it give me time to think, pray, and laugh at myself, but also it exerted my body. I even found somewhat of a "track" just up from my house in the nice section of town. It's paved, about a 10 minute loop with little traffic. To boot, I decided that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing and I'll just see about the rest as it becomes necessary to deal with it.

I made it to Lima around 5:00 this morning and things are going well. The weather isn't quite a sunny as Huaraz, but nonetheless a beautiful day. My dentist appointment didn't shed too much light. They took x-rays to begin a baseline to track any damage. In three months, I'll need another one to make sure they are healing properly. If not, something as severe as a root canal might be in order.

The big city has lots to offer for the weekend. I've already done some shopping for sandals and pants. Also, a PCV friend is in for medical checks as well, so we've already made plans for dinner and a movie. They haven't found me a host family (seems all the Embassy employees took vacations at the same time) as of yet, so I might be in a hotel. Either way, sounds like it will be a nice setup.

Oct. 20
I'm still driving myself crazy with worrying about grad school and my plans for after PC. I wish I could do like some people and just live for today in today, but I can't help but think about what I want to do and where I want to be or if anything I am doing today is what I should be doing.

It's like I have been walking around with a dark cloud over my head since Monday. Work is good, and I would like to say that it's that I'm bored, which could very well be it, but maybe it's more. OK, so I am going to think on it more and maybe come to a conclusion or at least a temporary one I can live with.

Oct. 19
My classes today were hectic. I had a crowd! We continued with our same lesson from Monday. The same little boy, who called me on the pencil sharpener incident, brought me a pencil after class that he had collected from a classmate who was taking it home with him. Maybe I didn't mess up too bad.

I really like the idea of facilitating adoptions and hope to get into the field back home in the states. It's challenging, of course, seeing so many little kids who need good parents, but rewarding in the end when you can make a match. I decided not to brave the clinic again today. Something about how the secretary said he would be in today, told me he really wasn't going to be. So, I decided instead to write to the PC doctor in Lima and hopefully get an appointment there. I'm a bit skeptical about the quality of care here in rural Huaraz anyway.

As for my teeth, three of them are completely numb and have been since the accident. I'm a bit worried. Especially after another volunteer told me about his friend who had a mouth injury where his teeth "died" and eventually fell out.

Oct. 18
In the afternoon, I was supposed to have a doctor's appointment to see about any lasting damage from my fall. I'm a bit worried since my teeth are still numb. So, I showed up at my scheduled appointment time of 4:00. I was told that the doctor was in surgery and could I please return in an hour. I did just that and waited another half hour to go to the third floor where I was told he would be another hour. I returned after the allotted time to have the secretary tell me he's not going to make it to the office at all. Oh, the joys of doctors and inefficiency. I'm trying it again tomorrow.

Yesterday with the kids of the community kitchen we worked on our numbers and colors in English, then drew a picture about ourselves. They each took their turn explaining their drawings.

I made somewhat of a boo-boo during class and I am still feeling guilty. It's not unusual for my kiddies to 'borrow' the supplies I bring to class and not return them. When my pencil sharpener went missing, I immediately asked who had taken it. I even ensued with a pocket search. When one of the kids told me I had taken it back and put in my pouch, I disagreed. Later in class, I went for my pen and what did I find but the pencil sharpener. I apologized to the entire class. I still feel bad.

In the late afternoon, I made it up to the orphanage where I played with the kiddies, showed off my battle wounds, and helped with dinner preparations. If I were in a different stage in my life, I wouldn't hesitate to adopt a little four-year-old girl named Luna. Instead, I have a friend at home that is actively trying to adopt internationally and hopes to do it in Peru, mostly because I'm here and can help out. Unfortunately, the orphanage has had some bad press lately about claims that they are selling children to foreigners. There were five different local TV stations knocking on the door in hopes of an interview with the director. I hope this doesn't impede any progress I can make for my friend.

Oct. 17
Today was my first day back to my tutoring classes with the community kitchen kids. With my family visiting, then my accident, I've felt all turned around. There's something very comforting about getting back to my normal routine.

I had a really good conversation with a PCV friend this morning. She stopped by just to sponge some lunch and coffee. We discussed how our lives here are so normal and that we are pretty darn lucky. With our return looming closer by the day, we talked about the things we take for granted that will be missed. Like today, taking a couple of hours to chat over coffee and visit with me, to hiking for hours with no real destination, to reading a good book just because we want, to perusing the market on a whim's notice.

In the states, in the same situation, we would, of course, have work and responsibilities. We might stop by a friend's house to chat, but we'd be rushed to the next place, job, etc. Which brought us to our responsibilities as people. Is it to be productive, work, make money? or is it to be happy, self-serving, caring, or to help others? Of course, I don't think these qualities are mutually exclusive. It's been important for me to see that it's a balance, one I hope I take home with me.
Oct. 16
Today has been a very productive day. It feels good to get something done. I woke up early and ran my 30 minutes. I had a 'first' happen today on my run. I'm on a downhill, cruising right along, when I notice a van stopped on my side of the highway. I see that a guy is standing behind the van. As I pass by, to my dismay he was, ummm, shall we say, exposing himself. Geez, the things people will do.

Around lunch time, my theater group met for our next production. It looks like we're going to do a rendition of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Peruvian style in Layman's term Spanish. I'm the mother and really excited about dressing up like a campesina, complete with layered shirts, hat, and shawl. I've been needing a reason to buy a traditional outfit.

The book club I'm trying to get off the ground has decided on a first selection, The Time Traveller's Wife, and our first official meeting is at the end of the month. I didn't even pick the selection, a nontraditional love story.

Oct. 15
Today and yesterday we have had beautiful weather as well. I should have headed on a trek. You just never know with this climate. The skies have been clear, lots of great sunshine, then in the evenings it chills off enough that a fleece feels perfect. While I didn't run today, I did take a long hike with Kanela. I even contemplated going by the scene of the manhole accident, but the thought kinda freaked me out. Someone via email asked me what would I do if I only had a year to live. Here are my thoughts --First, I would return from Peru and spend about a month with my family and friends. Just doing normal things like shopping, eating out, cooking in, cleaning up around the house, reminiscing, and visiting.

Then, I would plan a huge around-the-world trip. I would invite my mom and brother to go with me to Europe. We would spend weeks exploring hot spots like Paris, London, Madrid, Berlin, and Venice. We would visit museums, backpack, drink great wine, and dance in the streets. I would want to spend at least a week in some castle by the sea. Where we could ride horses, hike, and take walks on the beach. Also, I'd like to spend a couple of weeks in the Swiss Alps skiing and being a snow bunny. From Europe, I would go (in no particular order) to Nepal, to Thailand, stop off in South Africa, then head for a couple of weeks to the Australian Outback. Finally making my way back to the United States, I would take my best girl friends and we would do NYC. We'd shop, see shows, and take walks through Central Park.

My dad, step-mom, step-sister, and I would take a motor home road trip. We'd see the Midwest, the Grand Canyon, and end up in Colorado where we'd spend a couple of weeks exploring the West. My mom and I would fly to California to see Hollywood, LA, and the Bay area. Finally, I would have a huge cookout, with a live band and all my favorite foods and drinks, and invite everyone I know. I would tell them all how much I appreciate and love them.

Oct. 14
I pulled myself out of bed this morning to make it up the hill to Ultimate. Of course, I was bombarded with "Oh my gosh, what happened to you?" I think I win the award for most creative black eye story. I could definitely tell my body had taken a beating and that I been pretty much sedentary all week. It was good to get the blood pumping again.

Oct. 13
I'm recuperating and feel okay, just a bit sore and tired. I look like I've been in a good fist fight. I can only imagine what people are thinking when I find them staring. My left eye is purple and swollen plus I have a cut just under my brow.

When my family was here we shopped all over Lima. I used a public restroom in one of the department stores and mistakenly left a new pair of shoes (that my brother had bought me) hanging on the door. Of course, when I went back to get them they were not there. And although my brother assured me something like that could happen anywhere, I still just wished I was at home in comfortable Georgia. I experienced the same emotion when I fell. I guess it's natural when things are going badly or you have a stroke of bad luck to wish you were at home.

Thankfully, I am in much better spirits and even laugh when my buddies tell me to watch out for manholes. Oh, the jokes I've endured!

10.12.2005

Manholes!

October 12, 2005
Today is recoup day. I’ve slept in and my host mom brought my medicine and offered to entertain Kanela on the patio. My teeth are still numb and my eye, even more purple. I took off all the bandaging and cleaned it all very well with alcohol pads. The cut right below my eyebrow, which lines up perfectly with a scar from my childhood, is about an inch in length. One end is very thin, the other is open and red. I imagine if I had been anywhere but the Andes of Peru, they could have put me back together again, a little more esthetically pleasing.

October 11, 2005
Watch out for manholes, especially those without a cover! I took Kanela on our usual walk this morning while simultaneously looking for the Way Inn. Since our trek had been cancelled for rain, my friends and I thought we would go to the Way Inn Lodge about an hour from Huaraz and get in some day hikes to the lakes there.

I’m looking toward the tops of the buildings, trying to locate this hostel, and the next thing I know I’m being pulled from a huge hole by a little Quechua woman. She’s insisting that I stand up and all I want to do is sit down. I saw that my shirt was covered with blood and my face felt like it had been hit with a sledge hammer. Four other Peruvian men came to my aid and insisted that I go to the hospital. I saw my reflection in the car’s window and tried not to overreact; blood was escaping from every orifice. I had them take me to my house instead, but my host mother wasn’t there. I called my closest PCV buddy and while I waited for him to arrive, I sat and cried and wished with all my heart that I was at home in Georgia.

Thinking I might want to pull myself together, I washed the blood from my face, arms, and legs to examine the damage. My face obviously took the brunt of my fall. I had a cut below my eyebrow that was deep and bleeding profusely, plus nasty scrapes on both legs and arms. Two of my friends arrived and helped me to the hospital where I was examined by a “neurosurgeon” and x-rayed. They pressed on my face, checked my vitals, and glued my cut together, without so much as an Advil. Nothing a little makeup can’t cover, the doctor assures me as he hands me a pack of pain pills and cream on my way out the door.

I knew I wouldn’t leave this country without a permanent reminder of my experience.

October 10, 2005
Our trek is cancelled for rain, plus my cronies are sick. It just doesn’t seem like I am meant to go on a trek. First a cancellation on the Huayhuash, then this cancellation for the Santa Cruz, it just doesn’t seem to be in my stars.

October 9, 2005
I’m on a mad hunt for rain pants. I’m heading out with a couple other PCVs on the Santa Cruz trek, a four day hiking and camping venture. I splurged on a new fleece and socks at the Tattoo store. My search for pants ended with a pair of bamba or fake ones found on the second floor of a rickety building in downtown. I stock up on dried fruits, nuts, and granola. My backpack is as efficiently and concisely packed as I could manage.

October 8, 2205
Huari, the site of another PCV, is having its annual Cat Festival this weekend. Thinking it would be fun to head there to eat some feline, a group of PCVs and I headed to the Callejon de Canchucos. The five hour ride ended up taking close to ten after a huge tractor trailer stalled and blocked the road. We entertained ourselves with word games, work conversations, and stories of our pasts. I was wishing that I had stayed in Huaraz when I became ill.

We finally pull into Huari around midnight to see crazy-drunk Peruvian men dancing around the town plaza. Huge floats with religious structures and statues were set up on the periphery and tall totems with streamers loomed the skyline. Since I was rather sick, I found my bed and quickly dozed away my bug.

In the morning, we found a hole-in-the-wall place for breakfast and I emailed the PC doctor. He reasoned that I had bacteria in my belly and said I should start on Cipro immediately. For the day’s excitement, we rented two taxis to take us to a lake just above town. Our taxi overheated and we chilled the car and ourselves on the dirt road for a while, eventually making it to the lake. Quite gorgeous and very pristine, we walked around and took a few photos.

At 3:00 pm, we boarded the same bus to take us back to Huaraz. The ride went much smoother until our bus began smoking from the underside. Stopping to examine the problems, we discovered the mountains covered in snow. The Gringos entertained the rest of the folks on the bus by building a snowman.

October 1, 2005
For the last week, I have been entertaining my friends and family from home. It’s been a remarkably entertaining time for both me and for them, I think. We started out the week with a couple of days in Lima, where we visited the historic downtown. There we saw the Presidential Palace and the Cathedral. My brother was most impressed with the inexpensive prices and proceeded to do some abundant shopping. Mom was on a mad hunt for silver jewelry. In the right place since this country prides itself on the gold and silver mining; she made quite a dent in the supply. We ate at McDonald’s for lunch and then met my favorite Embassy host family for dinner.

The bus ride to Huaraz and to my site was just less than comfortable. Mom said that my house “isn’t as nice as your place in Trujillo.” After meeting my host mother, she saw that some things are more important than modern amenities. My two moms found that although they didn’t speak the same language, that they were alike in their love and concern for their daughters.

Wanting to show my guests a true Peruvian experience, I planned a night’s stay in little town of Vicos. The two hour hike up to our host’s house almost did-in everyone. In Vicos, after we settled into our little humble lodge and inspected the latrine and lack of electricity, we learned to bake bread and make Pachamanca. There were plenty of laughs and surprises as we watched the lives of campesino Peruvians. We drank fresh corn juice, sampled sweet squash pudding and enjoyed our own wheat bread. The hike down was almost more treacherous than the ascent, but the views of the nevadas were incredible.

We splurged on a taxi into Huaraz and quickly crashed at my little apartment. My brother was literally shocked in the shower; I forgot to mention not to touch the wires around the showerhead. We readied ourselves and enjoyed apple bombas before our trip back to Lima.

In Lima, we did even more shopping and were treated to a VIP trip to the US Embassy. We visited the Peace Corps artisan fair where my family met my bosses and colleagues. The new Long Horn Steakhouse at the mall provided us with a spectacular meal of divine steaks and iced Coca-Cola’s.

The send-off was less difficult than I anticipated it would be, maybe because I didn’t go to the airport with them. My taxi ride to my host family was lonely and I couldn’t believe how fast the trip had gone. I was, however, comforted by the knowledge that I would be home in time for Christmas.

September 11, 2005
An anniversary, quite depressingly traumatic in its remembrance, is going on at home. There’s nothing much going on here in Huaraz, on a lazy Sunday morning except cleaning up and organizing. I did go for a bike ride that was quite wonderful in its intensity, nothing like the burn of exertion.

It hit me today that I feel so “normal” here. I no longer feel as if I’m in another country in another culture. I’m the Gringa living in a small Peruvian mountain town and it almost feels like I have been here forever. When we were in training, they told us this would happen in our last year. It’s so true. I can see now how the transition home is going to be hard. To get used to American culture, the efficiency, the rat race. It’s really kind of scary. I see why there are so many ex-pats that have settled here in Huaraz to make their homes. There is something about this little town, I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I like it.

September 10, 2005
Standing in line the other day at the bus station, I almost got my rear beat up by a couple of Europeans. They asked a thousand questions to the attendant and while they were conferring between themselves, I quickly handed my sheet of paper with my family’s passport numbers to the attendant. A total of ten bus tickets, at a couple of minutes a piece, meant that the attendant was occupied with me for quite a while. The European rudely said to me, “If you were buying so many tickets, why did you skip line?” In the states and in Europe I am sure that my actions were worthy of his comments, but here forming a line and waiting patiently just doesn’t happen. I realized I had done something so completely Peruvian. I held myself back from saying “When in Rome…”

September 8, 2005
I visited another PCV’s site today in a little town called Vicos. As a business volunteer, he is working on a Cultural Tourism project where tourists go to the campo and work and live like a traditional farming Peruvian. I found his host family to be very welcoming and conversational. They invited me to help sort through thousands of corn kernels that they were going to be planted on the next day. His host family is going to be my family’s hosts for a night when they visit in a couple of weeks. Since we’ve already been to Machupicchu, I thought that a typical mountain experience was next on their adventure list.

September 6, 2005
Let’s pray my new hair do comes out ok. Except for that purple sheen, I’m emotionally renewed. There’s just nothing like going to a salon and having your hair done.

September 3, 2005
Along with a couple of Aussies, three Brits, an Israeli, some Ex-Pat Americans, and four others PCVs, I headed to a field just outside of town for a game of Ultimate Frisbee. It was magnificent with the Andes behind us, the valley of Huaraz below us, and the sun bright above. Sprinting and chasing a flying disc never felt so good.

September 1, 2005
I am waiting for my dog-sitter/PC friend in her site of Buenos Aires with a thousand eyes on me, the neighbors, the chickens, and the pigs. Kanela has had a campo experience and seems to have loved it. We hiked out and enjoyed the mountains scenes, the river, and the sunshine.

August 27, 2005
I had my first big introduction and presentation at a new orphanage. First thing they wanted me to do was sing for them the song from Titanic and later our national anthem. They were extremely welcoming and I spoke at length about my role and my background. We played volleyball and I answered the normal questions.

I am now performing with five other PCVs in a Gringos Saludables or Healthy Gringos socio-drama about self-esteem. We had a working lunch where we joked and laughed and actually got a first-rate script drafted. It is so great to have opportunities to work with other PCVs. I never had these opportunities in Trujillo.

August 26, 2005
*Things I really miss from home…
*Shopping for cutesy, trendy things I don’t need
*Driving in my car across Unicoi with the window down and the music blaring
*Enjoying drinks at the Haufbrau house with Mom and her friends
*Playing summer softball at the Park and Rec
*Strolling through Helen like a tourist
*Browsing my favorite sections at the public library and walking out with an armful of books on CD
*Mexican cheese dip, Texas fajitas, and a tall Margarita on the rocks
*Family Dollar, Dollar Tree, Fred’s, and Everything’s Just a Dollar
*Going down every aisle at Wal-Mart
*Huddle House’s bottomless coffee
*Zaxby’s wimpy sauce
*Angela’s sweet tea
*Watching high school basketball games
*Darla’s low-lights, high-lights, and a trim
*Catching the late movie
*Scavenging for treasures in thrift stores
*Old Navy and Gap sales racks
*Starbuck’s decaf, low-fat, sugar-free French Vanilla Cappuccino
*Victoria’s Secret
*Zoey
*Mom, Chad, Daddy & Sherry, Coley, all of my family
*Bryant’s prime rib
*Crossroad’s fried shrimp
*Daniel’s fried chicken and mashed potatoes
*Driving through town and waving at least five people I know
*The $2 store
*Vickie’s biscuits and gravy
*Bathtubs, lots of hot water, a good razor, and a romance novel
*Linda’s pot roast
*Mayfield whole milk by the gallon jug
*Splenda and low-carb everything
*Mall of Georgia
*Riding down GA 400
*O’Charlies’ fresh buttered yeast rolls
*Oreo McFlurries
*Visiting my buddies, chilling, and doing absolutely nothing
*Sitting on Grandmama’s front porch or at the kitchen table
*Piling together in Ma’s living room
*Chatting like sisters with Keisha
*Baby-sitting my little cousins
*Hanging in comfortable silence with my little brother
*Talking about everything with Amy and Cynthia
*Shanghai with Sherry and our friends and family
*Having a cell phone that works
*Washing my clothes in a washer and dryer with Tide and Snuggle
*Sitting on Mom’s front deck, eating a meal prepared from what we found in the fridge
*Sleeping with the heat on, sleeping with the AC on
*Running the washer, the dryer, the heat, the dish washer, the TV, the computer, the curling iron, the air freshener, three lamps, the porch light, the refrigerator, and the microwave all at the same time.
*Parking my car, basking in sunlight, and just soaking up life
*Watching fireworks in Helen
*Grilling steaks, baking potatoes, and tossing fresh salad with Ranch dressing
*Riding on the lake with Daddy
*Midnight trips to Wal-Mart with Sherry
*Watching a good teenaged movie with Coley
*Dinner with Mom and Chad at a nice restaurant
*Nacoochee Grill Birthday Bashes
*Spending the night with Mandy, just like old times
*Shopping or hanging by the pool with Selena
*Locker-room peps talks during a hard, close game
*Sitting on the bed with Grandmama
*Riding to Blue Ridge with Gina
*Going to lunch with Amy, Cynthia, and Jim
*Jim Wood in concert
*Diet Mt. Dew, Diet Dr. Pepper, and Diet Cherry Coke
*Running steps at the Fair Grounds
*Using my debit card to pay for everything
*Driving around Bell Creek in the summertime
*Bell Scene, Shoal Creek, and Cornerstone Baptist Church
*The view of the valley just as you crest over Young Harris Mountain
*Strolling down Airline Road or Red Fox Farm Road
*Walking barefoot in the house
*Plugging something in and not seeing sparks nor getting shocked
*Making a real salary
*Watching the newest episodes of reality TV
*Daily showers with lots of great bath products from which to choose
*CMT, VH1, and MTV
*Knowing that I can visit whomever I choose when the urge hits

August 23, 2005
Kanela had a close call when a dog attacked her on our hike, then she ran in front of a car trying to get away.

I’m cold turkey on caffeine and not doing so well.

8.22.2005

Jungle Trip

August 20, 2005
Kanela and I took a long hike this morning then I headed to Café Andino for a game of scrabble with another PCV. I had my usual scrabbled egg whites and broccoli with tofu and my first Chia tea. It was a spectacular breakfast.

I’ve been thinking for days that I would try my hand at some homemade veggie soup. With it being cold here at night and fresh vegetables at my fingertips, there’s no reason not to. After tossing in every bean, vegetable, and spice that I could find in the kitchen and 3 good hours on the stove, I have to say it was quite tasty. I invited some other PCVs over to enjoy and we all sat around in my host family’s kitchen eating soup and drinking wine. It was a really great time.

August 17, 2005
I just spent 3 days in Lima working on the PCV newsletter; we found the previous file corrupted, so that means we are starting from scratch. We’ll have to come back into Lima in a couple of weeks to finish it all up. I stayed with a really neat Embassy family. Having been PCVs in the Dominican Republic, they understood exactly the experience that I have here in Peru.

August 12, 2005
The trainees and I decided it would be nice to get out of Huaraz for a while, so we rented a taxi and drove up the Callejon (valley) to Carhuaz and Campo Santo. In Carhuaz, we sampled the famous ice cream. It does hold its own. It was very tasty, just like the homemade stuff I remember at home in Georgia. We visited Campo Santo, a site that is now essentially a grave yard in memory of the old town of Jungay that was totally destroyed by an earthquake and avalanche 30 years ago. They only thing that survived the natural disaster was the statue of Jesus and a church. You can see partial houses sticking out of the ground and demolished buses on their sides. Many families have placed markers of their lost ones; it has the most eerie feeling as you walk the grounds.

August 11, 2005
With my trainees, we headed to Canchacuta. Seems the community is getting used to gringos. I think the trainees had some problems with the altitude on the hike in and out of the community. We were lucky on our way out this time and found a car heading into Huaraz, so we had a relatively comfortable ride back into town.

August 10, 2005
I was up at 4:30 this morning to welcome the new trainees to Huaraz. There will be 9 new volunteers placed here in September and they’ve made their way here to see what being a volunteer in all about. I will have 2 trainees shadowing me for a couple of days.

August 4, 2005
I finally made it back to Huaraz all in one piece, with several mosquito bites and a pretty good tan. This was quite possibly the best vacation I have even taken.

August 1, 2005
Wanting to see what the region had to offer, we flagged down what we thought was a taxi in hopes of getting a ride to some waterfalls. What we found was a Lima guy on vacation who agreed to give us a ride if we could pick up his cousin (the local) first. The guys proved to be like all Peruvians and were full of questions and flirts for the girls.

We found the waterfalls to be spectacular. We even jumped from the cliff into the lagoon below. It felt like I reading some travel documentary, but in actuality it was me experiencing it all for myself. I had never imagined myself swimming in a river in the heart of the Amazon Jungle.

The Peruvians were pretty excited to show us more of Tarapoto, so we headed to a lake where we could relax in the water on old tire enter tubes, as monkeys and sloths hung out on the banks. I even jumped off of the old rickety wooden ‘diving’ board.

To finish off a spectacular day, we decided to see what the dance scenes had to offer. Meeting back up with our tour guides, we danced salsa and meringue until the wee hours.

July 31, 2005
We got a ride to Pedro Luis, 2 hours from Chachapoyas, where we found a taxi that would take us all the way to Moyabamba, 5 hours away. So, all 7 of us piled into a station wagon and entered the lushness of the Amazonian Jungle. Finally, we had found sweltering heat, greenery, and sunshine. In Moyabamba, we got on yet another bus, 3 hours this time to bring us to our final destination of Tarapoto.

Oh, Tarapoto, what a marvelous town! The streets were zooming with moto-taxis and motorcycles. All of the locals walked around in their shorts, tanks, and flip-flops. We settled into a cute little hostel and met up with some other PCVs that had taken the easy way to Tarapoto, a 24-hour-one-bus route. I still think our way had been much more fun.

July 30, 2005
Arrival in Tingo was at 3:00 am in the morning. We didn’t have a clue where to stay so we started out aimlessly down the dirt road. Finding a police station, the sleeping cop pointed us to a hostel. After pounding on the door for what I know was 30 minutes, the señora sleepily let us in and we found a bed, if not too clean nor warm, at least sleepable. All this commotion just to see the famous ruins of Kuelap. After 4 hours of sleep, we crawled out of the hostel to get a free ride (3 hour day bus) halfway up to Kuelap. We were let out at a cute little house and were welcomed in by a tobacco-chewing Virginian. Having worked supporting tourism in Kuelap during his summer breaks for over 30 years, he was a wealth of information. We hitchhiked the rest of the way by waving down a university group on tour from Chachapoyas. They were a whole lot of fun and we ended up staying with them for the rest of the day and trip. They even gave us a ride into the next city on our route, Chachapoyas. In Chachapoyas, again we crashed in a cheap hostel and had the best fried chicken I’ve found in Peru on a terrace restaurant just off the plaza.

July 29, 2005
We bussed another 22 hours to Tingo. What can I say? It was pretty miserable -- a tiny bus, lots of dust, from hot to cold, to cold to hot, filled with a hodgepodge of travelers. We had two flat tires along the way, but it was a nice break from the uncomfortable seats and we could stretch our legs. I slept, listened to music, and prayed the bus would stay on the donkey trail of a road. It might have been the best scenery of my life. You could see lush mountains and deep gorges that stretched into a horizon that looks like it could go on forever.

July 28, 2005
Seven of us in total, boarded a bus to Celedin (6 hour day bus) at 9:00 am. What an awful road! The driver even had to ask the local farmers for directions. The views were terrific.

Celedin was nice, quaint, and friendly. We had some pretty bad food and stayed in a sad, little hostel. There were fireworks in honor of Peru’s Independence Day. A bit dangerous, since they set them off so close to the crowds, but fun, and a different taste of life in the Andes Mountains. If I really sit and think about it, we are so far removed from life, as I usually know it. I am over 24 hours away from Lima, the closest city of “civilization”, and 8 more hours by plane, to my home country. This trip has certainly helped me to clear my mind of some of the negativity I had been picking up of late in Huaraz. It’s reminded me of some of the reasons I joined PC in the first place – to travel, to see the world, learn more about others. I am definitely doing that right now. It seems so surreal, when I think back to my life at home and what my friends and family are doing there. I am so far from their realities. It’s also been great for me to share stories with my travel mates as well. Even if we are from all over the states, I find we are really all cut from the same mold.

July 27, 2005
In Cajamarca, we have met up with several other PCVs. This is the first time I have traveled with this many people. I had forgotten how it can get hairy at times when you travel together. You see other’s quirks unlike you see them when you just hang out together.

I am definitely glad to be out of Huaraz. I had needed this break. It feels good to be traveling with just a backpack, not worried about appearance, cleanliness, just having a good time. I can’t believe I didn’t bring my hairdryer or makeup. I have one pair of shoes and one pair of flip-flops. I have to do this more – see more of what Peru really has to offer. It’s so easy to just go, to hop on a bus, to see something new.

I am always such a sucker for woven hand bags. I had to buy a couple and order a ‘special-made’ one to pick up tomorrow. They were great; shopping always makes me happy.

We went to the famous Baños del Inca just outside of Cajamarca this afternoon, the site where the Inca himself bathed centuries ago. It was a worthwhile experience. I bathed in natural hot springs that are channeled into to small, personal pools. I also treated myself to a half-hour massage. The baths are cool because you can see the water boiling right out of the ground at 71 degrees Celsius.

July 25, 2005
Today was the beginning of my much anticipated “Jungle Trip”. Two other PCVs and I traveled to Trujillo (an 8 hour night bus), since the next bus to Cajamarca wasn’t until later that night, we just hung out in town for the day. It was odd to be back in my old stomping grounds. I got that lonely/nervous feeling in my gut, the one I used to have daily and it was a good reminder that Huaraz is so much better for me. However, I have missed the amenities of the city, my bike club, my host family, and the grocery stores.

Ok, so now it’s time for another night bus to Cajamarca. We have 2 nights in a row on buses, no bathing. My clothes still look suitably clean.

8.16.2005

New Look

I have made some recent changes to the look of my blog. I hope you enjoy. Peace.

7.03.2005

A True Adventure

July 2, 2005
Last night was unexpectedly a lot of fun. I went to the orphanage as usual in the afternoon and found the oldest girls of the house fretting about what to wear to one of their friend's 15th birthday party. Turning 15 is no small feat for a teen here. Her Quinceañera is the equivalent of a coming out party and everyone attends dressed to the nines. So, I helped the girls decide on shoes and dresses and then before I knew it, they were sure I just had to go with them. I tried to dissuade them with my lack of proper attire, but Rosie, the oldest girl of the house, assured me if she went with me to my closet, she could find something appropriate. In my room, Rosie proposed that I wear a pair of red pants, my red knitted poncho, and black heels. Now, I would not have been caught dead in the States in this outfit for I felt like a she-devil headed to a prayer meeting, but here in Peru it did somehow seem appropriate.

Back at the house, I put all the girls' hair in up-does. Seems my long-lost hobby of doing hair was once again coming in handy. In all, I did 7 girls' hair and makeup, plus my own. Around 10:00, we were off. I succumbed to the girls' pressure of taking a taxi so we could all arrive in style. I guess we did make quite a stunning entrance to the party, an entourage of pretty, dark haired young ladies in long gowns and a tall Gringa dressed from head to toe in fire-engine red.

The church where the party was held was very prettily decorated with a big cake, flowers, and streamers. The girls giggled the entire night and worried over the boys, like in any culture, I presume. I actually met some new people, ate corn kernels and cheese on a toothpick, and found myself having a very delightful time.

July 1, 2005
I am trying to get back into the swing of things here in Huaraz after a weekend in Lima. I didn't do so much just finished up my cavity-filling fun, hung out with my boss a bit, and met the new group of trainees. It's so crazy to see how far I have come since my days in Santa Eulalia, when I was a scared to death novice. To think that I am considered a knowledgeable volunteer these days. It seems almost impossible that I have made it this far.

With only 10 months left in my service and many of my months filling up with activities it really makes me consider what I will get myself into after PC. I have been looking into English teaching programs in Spain . Looks like for free room and board you teach English for 3, 6, or 12 months to the children of a host family. You are guaranteed 3 days off a week. This seems like a good way for me to make it to Europe, work a bit, and travel a bit. After a couple of months in Europe , I will eventually make it home to the good ole USA for a career and graduate school.

I have a host-grandmother that lives here with us. She is the sweetest lady. It's interesting to me how she lives in a very modern house (by Peruvian standards) and still holds to some of her campo traditions. This morning, I saw her get a bucket full of cold water and go to the patio to wash her hair, face, and hands. It was like she was still in the countryside where sinks and showers didn't exist. She washed up, blew her nose into the suds on the ground, and dried with a scrap of material. I thought to myself that a sink and running water simply isn't reason enough to change what she has probably been doing for 70 years or more.

June 28, 2005
I read online at the White County News Telegraph (my hometown paper) an opinion piece about Mexicans that really struck a raw nerve. I felt it necessary to reply with an article of my own. I am sure it will probably ruffle some feathers and most won't agree, but I felt it was part of my responsibility as a PCV to share some of what I have learned abroad.

Here's what the article said -

Could it happen in other places? If you are ready for the adventure of a lifetime, try this.-Enter Mexico illegally. Never mind immigration quotas, visas, international law or any of that nonsense.
-Once there, demand that the local government provide free medical care for you and your entire family.
-Demand bilingual nurses and doctors.
-Demand free bilingual local government forms, bulletins, etc.
-Keep your American identity strong.
-Fly Old Glory from your rooftop or proudly display it in your front window or on your car bumper.
-Speak only English at home and in public and insist that your children do also.
-Demand classes in American culture in the Mexican school system.
-Demand a local Mexican driver's license. This will afford other legal rights and will go far to legitimize your unauthorized, illegal presence in Mexico.
-Drive around with no liability insurance and ignore local traffic laws.
-Insist that local Mexican law enforcement teach English to all its officers.Good luck. You will be demanding for the rest of your life because it will never happen. It will not happen in Mexico or any other country in the world except right here in the United States. Land of the naive.

Hopefully, my article will show up in the next edition in White Co. Here's what I replied –

A True Adventure

Over a year and a half ago, I chose an adventure to move to a different land, to learn about another people, and to challenge myself to grow as an individual. I joined the United States Peace Corps. I moved out of my apartment, resigned from my job, sold my car, packed two duffle bags, told my friends and family goodbye, and I moved south of the equator to Peru .

As a volunteer in the Youth Development sector of Peru's Peace Corps Program, I have had the opportunity to teach in small public schools in tiny rural towns where electricity and hot water are unheard of luxuries. I have worked in youth centers in large, urban cites where internet cafes and cell phones are used by most everyone. I have held sick, crying orphans while pressing cold rags to the fevered bodies when no medicine was available. I have mucked out a latrine to provide a healthier sanitation system to a community center. I have fed live stock and moved animals to grassier pastures. I have taught teenagers how to brush their teeth and the importance of personal cleanliness. I have walked through a garbage dump to the home of a grieving widow hoping to give solace and a little hope to her and her six malnourished children.

There have been days when I could not have imagined myself any where else in the world. There have been other days when I have just prayed for guidance and strength to complete my commitment to a community that doesn't seem to need or want my assistance. I carry a note in my journal that was given to me during my first week of service. I pull it out when I have had a particularly stressful day. The note, written in a child's unpracticed hand reads, "Please help me make my parents proud of me." Most days, it's enough to rekindle my motivation to serve.

Many people continue to ask me, "Why did you join the Peace Corps?" My answer doesn't change. I joined the Peace Corps to help others, to learn more about the world, and to better understand myself. What I have come to realize is that I will always be learning these lessons for rest of my life. Had I never decided to leave the safe surroundings of my home town in rural, northeast Georgia , I would never know what poverty, what riches, what lessons, what heartaches the world has to offer. I would never be able to appreciate the wealth of life that I have been able to enjoy as an American.

I entered Peru legally. I have my passport, visa, and green carnet that state my affiliation with the United States Embassy. Gaining the documents was relatively easy for me, as it is for any American citizen to travel. I simply filled out the necessary paper work, attached my birth certificate, paid the $60 application fee, and gave the packet to the clerk at the county court house. A month later I was ready to head to overseas.

For citizens of other countries, it's not as easy and simple. In fact, it is practically impossible to gain the proper documentation to travel unless you are a wealthy, influential citizen; even then it is hardly certain you will be granted permission. With the majority of the country's population being unemployed, living in poverty, making little to no money, a passport to travel is only a dream. Yet, that doesn't stop many people from seeking a better future in a different culture for their children.

As a person who sought for me a better future, as an alien in another country, I understand all too well the strife of foreigners that live in the United States . Even after becoming fluent in Spanish, being sensitive to cultural differences, and living in a community where I try everyday to integrate, I still feel as if I am an outsider. I believe that is something that never changes, no matter how long you reside in a place that is not your home.

On several occasions, I have had the unfortunate luck to become sick, ill from bacteria, parasites, or food contamination. I have found myself in the hospital, doctor's office, or at the dentist and what a relief it is to find a nurse or doctor that speaks my native language. There is just nothing like being sick and trying to think through the pain to a language that even after years of speaking fluently won't quite role off the tongue.

I may continue to live in Peru, I may choose to travel to other countries when I finish my service here, for whatever motive, if it's to visit, to work, or to make my home, I will always be an American in my heart. It's a sense of self and pride to hold strong to your personally allegiances.

I have a Peace Corps, an Old Glory, and the Peruvian flag proudly patched on the backpack I carry everywhere. I am guilty of speaking English when I am in my Peruvian host family's home. I talk to my parents and friends in English on crowded public pay phones. My Peace Corps volunteer friends visit and we sit around and chat in English. What's more, when I am with another English speaker, I speak English in the post office, in elevators, in stores, and in taxi cabs. I take the English tour or brochure when it's offered.
My hope in writing this article is to share some of the lessons I have learned by being a stranger in a foreign country. By being guilty of some of the same transgressions that anger those in my hometown, I hope to show the other side of the situation.

My goal is to share that tolerance and acceptance is something we should all strive to obtain in our lives. Just because someone is different from you, speaks an unusual language, or comes from another country doesn't mean they deserve to be disrespected. Many Peruvians could argue that the Peace Corps isn't needed or wanted in Peru . They could demand that I abandon my work or they could write weekly propaganda proclaiming the injustices done to the Peruvian people by foreigners.

So, I thank the Lord every time a Peruvian lends me a kind word or favor, offers me a meal, and opens the door, not only to their humble housing, but to their hearts.

If you are really ready for an adventure of a lifetime, befriend a foreigner, adopt an orphan from a poverty-stricken land, travel, sign up for a language class, or join the United States Peace Corps.

God Bless America, Land of the Free.

June 23, 2005
Today I got up early to go with my one of my counterparts to a small rural community called Canchacuta. We boarded the combi and followed a small dirt road for over two hours. Then we hiked another 45 minutes over rolling hills to a small collection of adobe, thatched-roof houses. Having come to teach the kindergarten class that my counterparts had formed, we were surprised when no children arrived to class. Thinking it was best to go door to door, searching for the students, I was certainly surprised when one brave man told us that the mothers are scared that I will steal the children. It seems that there is an old-wives tale that Gringos come from afar to abduct children from rural communities. Having never seen a fair-haired person before, they could only assume that I was there to take all the children away. My counterpart quickly explained that I was a new teacher and that I would be helping in the classes; for the mother's not to worry, that all of their children would return safely after school.

Rounding up all the students, we finally started class with around 12 little ones. One student even brought his pet lamb. Since most of the conversations were in Quechua, I understood little. We played the equivalent of duck-duck-goose, had a snack of bananas, and then settled into the lesson for the day. Very few of the children spoke to me, but all gave me curious stares. My counterpart told me after class that it is good for me to visit to quail some of their long held fears of foreigners.

As we were hiking out, a man with a bucket of yellowish liquid called to us from across the field. He wanted to invite us to drink some of his chicha, a sweet corn juice. A little apprehensive, my counterpart said we should visit so that we would be welcomed in the future. We ventured over and 10 or 12 other men swaddled over as well. They bombarded me with questions and I answered them all with ease, before we knew it, we were invited behind the house to meet the ladies. What a sight! As I rounded the home, I came upon 20 or more women dressed in their traditional finest. Huge skirts of brilliant colors, sweaters and blouses with elaborate embroidery, wide brim white hats decked in cloths to block the bright sunshine. All with toothless grins and smiling eyes. We were immediately welcomed and invited to sit in the soft grass with other community members. We had happened on a celebration for Dia del Campesino. We were handed huge portions of soup still boiling in their gourd bowls. Imagine their surprise, when I tore right into my portion of guinea pig complete with claws and eye balls. Which I found to be delicious! After I had taken a turn sitting by each little lady, eaten my fill, I left with a promise to return and learn the ways of their people. Which I fully intend to do.

June 19, 2005
Today is Father's Day and it has been a good day, even if a little bitter sweet because I wasn't with my real family in Georgia. I went this morning with my host mother to a small Christian church. It was an interesting experience. The service was in both Spanish and Quechua, but strangely reminded me of the services I attended so many years ago in at home at Bell Scene. We sang "Power in the Blood" in Spanish, then there was the Sunday School report, and messages from the Pastor before he started his sermon. He preached in both Quechua and Spanish, so at times I was a little lost but it was nice to able to worship in a way that was familiar to me.

The finest part of the experience was that I was able to meet a most peculiar woman. At 95 years old, she royally sat in her wheel chair in native dress. Her silver hair was articulately done in braids that circled her head. Imagine my surprise, when she spoke to me in American English. Having been born to American missionaries living in Ecuador, she has spent the majority of her life in South America. Married to a Peruvian, with four children, she has called Peru home since 1928. She was excited to see me, a fellow American, and entertained me with stories of wars, earthquakes, and life in small Quechua communities.

June 16, 2005
I have spent a week in Lima with the rest of my Peru 3 group for our Mid-service medical exams. I have been fortunate to be a guest at the Ambassador's Residence, the local equivalent of the White House. Seems that the Ambassador wanted to also host a PCV during a visit to Lima and I was the lucky one chosen to be the first. The residence itself was spectacular and surrounded on all sides by Secret Service and Peruvian security. I was welcomed in by the 16 year old son, Peter, and was given the grand tour. Mrs. Bush, the First Lady, had just stayed in the VIP Suite a couple of weeks before my visit, complete with a personal office, kitchen, bathroom, living room, and bed room. Since I lack such political power, I was put in the last bedroom down the last hall way. Decked out in pink and flowers, definitely a girly room, I enjoyed a private bathroom and sitting area. It was quite exciting when I figured out that I could call the kitchen from the phone on my bedside table and they would bring me most anything. My food would arrive by way of a butler clad in a black and white tux. He would sit the tray on the bed or the table, wherever I preferred. The tray was finished with a personal silver carafe of coffee, Splenda in a crystal bowl, and my food on a plate embossed with the United States Emblem with a periphery of gold stars. I was able to converse with the family, use Internet, and watch TV (satellite channels straight from the USA) in their personal quarters upstairs. Downstairs beheld the George Washington Room with a painting of his likeness, a library filled with Pre-Incan artifacts, the formal dining room with chairs fit for kings, and a patio and pool area that boasted two pet rabbits.

May 23, 2005
I am definitely staying busy here. I think I could spend every waking hour at the orphanage and I would never get bored nor would all the work get done. Kanela as well is having a ball with the kids. I think her first day with all 25 kids was a bit overwhelming, but now she is just another part of the orphanage community.

Last Saturday, I undertook co-responsibility for taking the kids to the circus. Boy, what a day.

May 17, 2005
Yesterday was my first official day of work. Around 11:00 a.m. I started out by going to the comedor or community kitchen that is supported by the Rainbow House Association. It is located just a few blocks from my house inside the Christian Alliance Church. There I found three women preparing the day's lunch, in a comfortable lengthy way, they chopped cabbage for the salad and added potatoes to the beef stew. And like most moms, they were discussing issues they were having with their children. They welcomed me, gave me a chair, and I asked a few questions of my own. Around 12:30 children of the city started trickling in for their meal. All of the children are street workers: shoe shiners, vendors, or beggars. Most were dirty and unkempt but all had a huge smile on their face. A few mothers brought in babies and toddlers for what is probably the only meal they will receive for the day. I got the usual questions from the children. Are your eyes real? Do you dye your hair? How did you learn to speak Spanish? I noticed that not one crumb was left on the plates of the children. Most of them said a prayer before they started to eat, all had good table manners, and ate quietly. With a "See you tomorrow", they went back to work on the streets of Huaraz.

I had lunch at a Chinese Restaurant, chicken with vegetables. I then headed back to my house to chill out for about an hour. Kanela is doing well here. She was fast friends with the other dog in the house and is able to step right out the front door to do her business.

Around 5:00, I headed up the hill to the Rainbow House. I could hear the children making racket from outside the gate. I was welcomed in by a harried house mother and was immediately invited to sit at a table with two little girls. They were practicing reading aloud; I just stepped right in as tutor and helped with their pronunciation. The children are on a tight routine, they do the same things every single day. At 5:30, bath time and all the kids returned to the living room in their sweet-smelling clean pajamas. Some of the girls needed their hair combed and the rest settled in on the wrap- around couch for an hour of TV. I settled myself down with 3 toddlers, one on each leg and the other tucked under my arm. I noticed immediately, that although the kids have many creature comforts like a nice home, clean clothes, hot water, healthy food, they are starved for love and attention. The house mother is so busy taking care of the basics, like washing clothes, cleaning rooms, preparing food, that it's difficult for her to sit and chat or hug all of the children. All of the children at one time or another climbed up on my lap or gave me a hug.

There are two small babies in the home. I picked up the four month old from his cradle and the house mother warned me not to hold him for long because 'he will get used to it'. I was a little startled by her declaration. She said that it would be soon anyway that the babies would be adopted. Having studied a bit of psychology, I know that holding a baby is integral for proper development. If a child isn't held and nurtured, many problems can ensue. So, I held the baby for a couple of minutes then returned him to his cradle. In my mind, I rationalized that the house mother can't spend all of her time holding and caring for two babies, when there are 23 other mouths to feed. It's in my heart to incorporate a better system for the babies.

Dinnertime started around 7:30 and the children were served a sort of porridge with a piece of bread. The smallest toddlers were given a sippy cup but all had to feed themselves. I took pity on one little girl that was struggling with her spoon and helped her eat. She ate every drop without a whimper. I thought of all the two year olds I know at home in the states that fuss and complain about eating or make a mess in their chairs. In this house, they have never heard of the 'terrible twos' time period for children.

After dinner, everyone ran up the stairs to brush their teeth. I helped the smallest ones with their brushing and rinsing. Then it was back downstairs to the living room for the nightly prayer and devotional. The house mother chose four children to pray and we all bowed our heads. We sang three songs then it was off to bed and to sleep. I gave and received hugs and kisses and headed home.

Some of the things I noticed about the Rainbow House is how the oldest ones (from necessity) take care of the younger ones. For example, there are 8-year-olds changing diapers and 13-year-olds holding crying 8-year-olds. The children have to fend well for themselves and for the other children in the house.

May 4, 2005
Boy, what a day! I arrived to Huaraz around 6:45 a.m. this morning and was so wired that I couldn't sleep. I just couldn't wait to find my new host family and counter part. I met my APCD for breakfast at 8:30 a.m. and she put me in charge of finding me a place to live here in the city. I don't even know a thing about the city, much less where to look for a place to live. So, I just headed to down town and asked random people on the street. They suggested I look at the advisory wall. There is a section of the wall in down town where everyone just tapes up hand-written notices. Some are for employment and a few were for room rentals. Not knowing any street names, I just thought I would set out. I soon encountered a few houses that had a sign in the window saying they rented rooms, but no luck. Along the way, I couldn't help but take in all the sights, smells, and sounds of my new home. The majority of the people was speaking Quechua and was dressed in very traditionally clothing -- brightly colored skirts, hand woven sweaters, and white straw hats were everywhere. I made it to an old hostel that had been turned into something of a boarding house. They didn't have anything that I considered appropriate, but the daughter of the family (around my age) said she would show me some places that she knows about. She ended up showing me around town for 2 hours and we finally found the perfect home. It's a two story house, just off the main plaza. I have my own entrance to my room from the road, my own bathroom with hot water, and a small patio. The lady of the house was so sweet! She said I could use the kitchen and the house as if it were my own. They even have a refrigerator and a microwave. The best part is they have a little dog named Lucky and Kanela is welcome too! I couldn't believe my luck. A great place to live, a really sweet family, in a nice part of town, and at a cheap price – all found by me within my first day in my new site.

Huaraz feels a lot different than Trujillo. In Huaraz, the people seem more trusting and genuine. In Trujillo , the people seemed jaded. It's also a lot smaller. I walked from one end of town to the other and that would have been only the distance to the market in Trujillo. I can't wait to get my bike and explore the city even more. I am hoping that I can ride to visit volunteers who live relatively close to Huaraz. There are around 25 volunteers in this area.

Tomorrow we visit an orphanage, translated The Rainbow House in English, for a possible work site and countepart. Such a coincidence, I worked with a shelter in Dahlonega with the same name. I think it's a sign. I hope everything works out. I need a good job to do here.