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Jan. 1st, 2005 06:06 pm Recent News for the New Year

Friends, American, people who have all (most?) of your teeth!
How is everyone? Down here in the southern hemisphere things are fantastic. I spent the last 3 months in a little town outside of Lima (Peru) called Chosica where I had training 6, sometimes 7 days a week. Intensive Spanish classes, theoretical classes, cultural classes, policy classes, safety and security classes, medical classes, etc... After all of that time waiting, I finally arrived in my site 2 weeks ago, today, and had to hit the ground running.
My town is called Jahua (ha-wa), and has 487 people, 488 with me, and is situated 3000 meters up in the Andes on the Cordilla Negra with a spectacular view of the Cordillera Blanca, including Huascaran, the tallest mountain in the world in the tropical belt. It is located in the department (state) of Ancash (which means Blue in Quechua). Huaraz, the capital of Ancash, is an 8 hour bus ride north from Lima, and my site is another 30 minute combi (van) ride from there and then a 40 minute hike up hill. Quechua is the native language of the Andes, and everyone in my town speaks it. All of the men also speak (usually poor) spanish as well, but many women don't speak any. Thus, one of my first jobs is to learn this new language and get in tight with the folks. I live in a room in this one guy's house that he used to use for storage, but we have since plastered, put plastic on the floor and ceiling, and installed 2 electrical outlets. I have the biggest bed in town (Ania, the volunteer who I am replacing) has the second biggest bed, but mine is also infinately more comfy. Food is ... eh. Breakfast right now is my least favorite part of the day. It's either french fries and rice, or this mixture of wheat flour and lena flour, toasted, that just sticks to every part of your mouth and fills you up, but then leaves you hungry 20 minutes later. Lunch and dinner aren't so bad. Usually potatoes or french fries and/ or rice with a soup and sometimes some meat. For special ocasions we'll eat a guniea pig (cuy in spanish, Jaca in Quechua) or rabbit, and maybe have some nature of cake or other treat. With Christmas rapidly aproaching, there will be lots of rodents dying very soon.
I am super excited about my work here. Aside from having to learn Quechua, I will be organizing and coaching child and adult soccer teams for the tournaments in May, women's volleyball teams, learning how to use this weaving machine that the town has so that I can teach them how to use it and they can sell the goods, teaching english, organizing a youth group to promote self esteem, growing a garden, complete with compost and worm farm, to teach about nutrition, classes on ecology, recycling, water sanitation, a theater group with other volunteers to promote hygiene, and if I end up buying a projector, weekly movie nights, too! There is a hot spring nearby with a 25 meter pool where I may teach swim lessons in some manner, but the water is way hot, and that gets uncomfortable. At any rate, I will probably be swimming there about twice a week, and going another time each week to clean myself off, since there are not shower facilities in my site, and I don't exactly enjoy bucket bathing with the chickens and pigs and guninea pigs and at times townspeople watching on.
This is the point where I realize that I could just keep going on and on about how cool things have been so far and what's gonna happen soon, but I should save that for later. I'm gonna use one of the walls in my room to re-paint this picture from Dr. Seuss' "Mr. McElliot's Pool" That I painted last summer at the pool where I worked as my reminder of home. Another will be a panoramic view of about 50 photos put together of the mountains around me, and a third will likely be a community map of my town in Dr. Seussian style. I have a ton of photos online now, and if you'd like to check them out, just to go www.ofoto.com and put aquatic_revelry@yahoo.com for the user name and "believe" for the password. I'd love to hear what ya'll are up to, but until then, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!


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Nov. 16th, 2004 09:56 pm My site!!!

So, the last 7 weeks have just FLOWN by! The days are long, language class tends to suck, I stay out all together too late on the weekends, dance my butt off in the club, and have gone back and forth between Matucana for my Community Based Training every other week and Santa Eulalia for my regular training inbetween. Then, friday the 5th, I finally got my site placement!! I am in a city called Jahau, with some beautiful views of the Cordillera blanca, the highest mountains in the tropical belt in the world. Here's the site description as given to me by my Associate Peace Corps Director, Ken:

Host Agencies and Supervisors:
Microred de Salud de Monterrey - Dra. Noemí Soto Espinoza, Directora
Puesto de Salud de Jangas - Katherine Garcia, Obstetriz

Official Counterpart:
Zenon Grandos Barreto, Regidor de la Municipalidad de Jangas y Técnico del puesto do Salud de Jangas

Primary Project Opportunities:
Youth Development
Sanitation and Hygiene Education
Training Health Education Service Providers in Jahua and Surrounding Communities
School and Family Gardens and Nutrition Promotion
Supporting the community Comite de Salud
Latrine Construction and Maintenance
Gringos Saludables and "Arriba ACS" (G.S. is a health volunteer theater group that goes around to different towns and schools and puts on little plays about washing hands and brushing teeth and what not, FYI)

Secondary Project Possibilities:
There will be plenty of secondary activities you will be able to develop with your community. Supporting education is an option in Jahua, where there is a village school. It would also be possible to participate in English teaching and computer skills training for youth and adults. You could get involved with some agriculture work, such as helping people in their fields and helping women with their animals. Other PCVs and NGOs such as CARE and PRISMA, work in income generation (agribusiness, artesania, and ecotourism) in the region, and you could support their work. As with all secondary projects in any small rural village, they will be numerous, but will depend on your own initiaive and patience.

Site Description:
Jahua is a small Quechua community located in the Callejon de Huaylas of the Ancash department. Of the sites where PC/Peru will be working for Peru 4, it is the most traditional Quechua village. Besides a school, there are two health promoters and a Puesto De Salud, but it is rarely operational due to budget limitations of MINSA. Jahua is rich in active community groups such as the Comedor Popular, a Club de Madres and a Vaso de Leche Organization. The town is famous in the region for being an organized village with much community participation, evidenced by their well-attended, and bright and early (5:00 a.m.) general assemblies. Water is available 7 days a week and there is electricity. Sanitation services in Jahua are mostly latrines, and occasionally non-existent. Cell phone service reaches Jahua, so you may be issued a cell phone, the easiest form of communication. Ania Jankowski, a Peru 1 Volunteer, has served in Jahua and will remain in the community until the end of January 2005. She has established an incredible relationship with the town, but both she and the residents have requested a male PCV as a replacement, in order to increase PC/Peru's impact in the village.

You arrive to Jahua from Jangas, a town where Amanda Wong from Peru 2 is currently serving. There will be another Peru 4 PCV, Emily Hillman, located close to you in the town of Paltay, although you are off the main highway on a dirt road that leads up into the Andes. Additionally, Greg Boquet from Peru 2, and David Sparkman, Dan Martino, Jamie Brancato from Peru 1 are all within a two hour hike from Jahua. However, you will only see other PCVs when you choose to do so. You can arrive to Jahua by taxi (5-10 soles from Jangas), but most locals walk (45 minutes). The closest city is Huaraz, which is located 18 kilometers from Jangas on a paved road. There is constant transport in "combi" to Huaraz at all hours during the day. Huaraz is a bustling city which will offer you any comforts of the developed world including internet, telephones for international long distance, and lots of restaurants. Huaraz is also the base of tourism in the Callejon de Huaylas, so you will need to be aware that many people's impressions of foreigners are based on tourists.

The climate in Jahua is dry and crisp. Temperatures depend mostly on sunlight because of the elevation (3025 meters above sea level). Daytime temperatures are pleasant and often in the 70s, while the nights can be quite chilly, dipping below freezing on occasion. Located in a tight valley climbing towards the peaks of the Cordillera Negra, the village is surrounded by the highest mountains in the world located in the tropical belt. Houses are made mostly of adobe, and all residents are Quechua speakers. They do speak Spanish as well, although between themselves they will speak Quechua. Villagers survive through the production of potatoes, corn, wheat, and some small animal raising.

Due to the closeness of the Barrick gold mine, there are mixed feelings about how the mine affects the environment and brings investment to the area. This is a hot topic, and an issue for some residents in the Jahua community. PC/Peru explains to the community and the local leaders that PCVs have no role whatsoever with Barrick. Ania is the best source of information about this relationship, its impact in the region, and how a PCV should approach discussions about the mine.

Initial housing is being coordinated by Ania Jankowski and village leaders.

Helpful contact persons:
-Zenon Granados Barrato, your counterpart. I met Zenon almost 3 years ago when I first began site development for Peru 1. He traveled with me to Jahua and several other Quechua communities to help facilitate my community meetings and to provide me with a bit of legitimacy amongst community members. He and Ania have been quite a team and Ania felt he was the most appropriate person to assume the role of counterpart. He is a busy person with lots of activities in the Jangas Municipal Government as well as the Puesto de Salud de Jangas. Despite that, he has been very available for supporting PCVs in the region.
-Mercedes Cano, Representative from the Barrick Mine working in community projects in the area. "Mechi" is a fluent Quechua speaker who has been very helpful to all our PCVs in the area. This is the one person within the Barrick Mine community with whom PCVs have had consistently poitive interatcions.
-Ania Jankowski, Dan Martino, David Sparkman, and Jaime Brancato. This is a top-notch crowd of PCVs we are losing. Make sure to spend some itme with each of them before they go to solicit suggestions, lessons learned, and any insight. Culturally, these are all PCVs who have excelledin Quechua communities.
-Gregorio Huamaliano, Alcalde
-Juana Chinchay, Promotora de Salud. Juana is Wild!
-Gregorio Quiroz, Promotor de Salud. Gregorio was a key contact for getting PC started in Jahua.
-Victor Rosales, Teniente Gobernador
-Alejandro Rosales, Secretaria del Comité de Salud, Presidente del Comedor Popular
-Carmen Cuera, Presidente de Vaso de Leche
-Catalina Obispo, Secretaria de Vaso de Leche
-Don Esteban. I am not sure of his full name, but Esteban is a friend of Ania'a who is a former community leader. He is an impressive gentleman who knows alot about the town, its history, its culture, and can help you integrate.

Why you?
Jahua is our one and only "super rural" Quechua site where we will work with Peru 4, which requires patience and more flexibility in working with the community, the counterparts, and the host agency staff to define the role of a PCV and develop the appropriate work plan. Additionally, Jahua requires a PCV capable of living in extremely rustic conditions, being largely self-sufficient, and capable of doing lots of hiking, both to surrounding communities for work, as well as to Jangas to catch public transportation and to visit your closest PCV neighbor. Replacing Ania Jankowski will not be easy, but allows a great opportunity to build on two solid years.
Pretty early in the interview process, this felt like the best fit for you and for the residents of Jahua. This is a site that PC/Peru has had a great relationship in, and while that comes with some expectations, you seem like the correct person to serve this community.

I will have some photos of this in a matter of weeks. I only got to spend 5 days or so there, but I will be back in about 3 weeks after I get sworn in on the 3rd of December. Ania is super cool, but I am scared of all the drunk men in town. They drink Chicha de Jorra, which is basically this corn drink, that tradionally they would ferment by spitting in it, but they are too cheap for that, so they just add copious amounts of rubbing alcohol. During my visit there was a funeral, which aparently is as good an excuse to party it up Quechua style as any, so I was treated to the site of a little 3 year old boy crying as his dad made a fool of himself while the other kids looked on and watched.

But all in all, the place is great. Amazing views, the weather really isn't THAT cold, I will get to wear a cool hat, it will be totally self-directed, I like the other people I'm in Ancash with alot, I get to learn a third language, I am close to a big city, there is hiking, biking, rock climbing, swimming, camping, skiing, all close by, and it is about the closest site (8 hours) from lima. I am stoked! More to come....

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Sep. 28th, 2004 02:02 am Taking the "R U" out of both How are You and Peru

¡Welcome to Peru conmigo! MY first week and a half here have been fantastic! I am living for the next 2 months in the annex of Vista Alegre in the town of Santa Eulalia outside of the city of Chosica which is about 40 minutes west of Lima. My family is great! It's my mom, Edith, and my 2 brothers, Ronald (19) and Heisenberg (12). Edith is a psychology and art teacher in a college in Lima, and we live in a really nice house less than a hundred meters from the training facility where I have most of my classes. Classes are about half and half split between Spanish and a combination of cultural/technical/team building/acclimatization classes. This Wednesday I we leave for various other satellite sites for 5 days that we will visit 3 times to begin practicing putting into action some of the theories we have learned about community based action and integrating into a community. I will be making contacts who are involved in some nature of health or nutrition work and assessing the community's needs and goals related to health in the local provincial capital of Matucana, about an hour away. I have been really happy with how well my spanish is and how easily I have been able to convey most ideas. I still have several key grammar areas to work on, much vocab to catch up on, and tons of idioms, but I'm definitely in the upper middle part of the group (including the 10 or so of the 40 of us who are fluent) and can get along pretty well most of the time. Aside from official PC activities, I go running every morning, play basketball, check my email, have taught a swim lesson to 7 kids, climbed the local mountain range, gone out dancing, gone to about 5 other fiestas, meet the neighbors and other nearby peoples, and chill with my PC compatriots. I haven't eaten cuy yet, but I am looking forward to it. Here are some links to photos I have taken during my time in Washington, D.C., during the first week of training, and on my mountain hike. Enjoy!

First Week:

Mountain Views:


Current Mood: excitedexcited
Current Music: Postal Service

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Sep. 13th, 2004 09:43 pm Peru, here I come!

Tomorrow morning I board a 7:00 am flight to DC, stopping over in Dallas/ Fort Worth. I'm bringing with a 26" Samsonite suitcase full of 60 lbs of clothes, my backpack full of another 35 lbs of electronics, knives, shoes, and first aid equipment, and my day pack with books, papers, and my cd player. Wednesday at noon I begin my staging event, during which time I'll get six (6) shots innoculating me against Hepititis A, polio, rabies, tetanus, yellow fever, and typhoid. Then, Friday morning, I jump on another plane aimed over Hurricane Ivan towards Lima, Peru. There I will spend the next 3 months living with a host family and taking language lessons 4-5 hours a day 6 days a week, and spending another 3 hours of service area (health work) training. So it begins. I am excited, and every time I try to get scared, I fail, because after all, it is just life, and you can't do anything but live it one day at a time, minute by minute.

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Jul. 18th, 2004 04:23 pm Testing, 1...2...3

There remains a month and a day until I depart for Costa Rica and just under two months until I head out for the Peace Corps, so I figure I'll take this oportunity to check and see if I can figure out how to use LJ. Does this work...?

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