Carnaval Huaylino 2017

As I stated in my Carnaval post from last year, Carnaval is a huge celebration, likened to Mardi Gras, which celebrates the beginning of the Lenten season.

Once again, I was involved in the Carnaval festivities in Caraz this year! In addition to dancing in the big Carnaval parade, I also got to help out with the Shumaq Shipash competition, which is essentially a beauty pageant-type contest. For the contest, my role was simple; dress up in a suit and escort the contestants to the judge’s table. I was basically eye-candy, most likely have been selected due to being the resident “gringo”. Regardless, the contest and the parade were great fun, just as Carnaval always is. Rather than bore you all with another long Carnaval post, just enjoy some photos from this year’s festivities below!

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Decorating my municipal office’s tablada so we can dance with style in the parade.
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The wawas (bread babies) all got dressed up and labeled with names of workers in my office. Fortunately, I was spared.
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Transferring the tablada via moto-car up to the start of the parade! It weighs a TON.
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Some of the other groups waiting for the parade to start!
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The ladies of limpieza with our Municipal Office banner. A must-have for all Peruvian parades!
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Enjoying the parade, this time without my rented Peruvian sombrero.
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Some of my co-workers in traditional Sierra attire from the region. We go all out for Carnaval!
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This neighborhood went all out with their multi-sided tablada.

And that’s all she wrote for Carnaval Huaylino 2017. If my municipality makes a summary video like they did last year, I will be sure to add it to this post.

Until next time,

MGB

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Gastronomical Exchange: Gingerbread House

As I mentioned in my recent post, when I returned to Peru after my brief vacation in the U.S., I made sure to bring back a LOT of goodies. Notably, I brought lots of candy and my cremas (Ketchup, BBQ sauce, & Ranch), but I also brought some gifts & knick-knacks for my host-family.

One of these presents was a Gingerbread House kit. Now, I’ve made a few Gingerbread houses in my day, but for my host-siblings this was their first one ever. At first, they weren’t too sure how to put it all together, but once I arranged the basic frame and cemented it in place with the icing, they took it from there.

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A few minutes later, I returned to find this beauty sitting on our kitchen table.

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I think they did a pretty good job for their first ever Gingerbread house.

Unfortunately, in the days following its creation, the house was slowly devoured, never to be put to use by a little Gingerbread family.

Until next time,

MGB

3rd Goal Presentations

Goal 3 of the Peace Corps Mission is,

To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

This goal can be accomplished in many ways, one of which being through blogging, such as  whatI am currently doing to share my unique experience here in Perú.

Additionally, when many Volunteers return to the U.S. for holidays, or after completing their service, it is quite common to give 3rd Goal Presentations, or in other words presentations about their Host-Country and the work that they do in their host-communities. Directly sharing one’s Peace Corps experience with an audience of attentive ears is perhaps the best way to share the Peace Corps message, and to foster intercultural understanding. Therefore, when I returned to the U.S. for Christmas, I made sure to schedule as many 3rd Goal Presentations as possible. Why you may ask? Well for one, so that I would have something to do during my vacation (I always like being busy), then two, so that I could get 3 days of vacation given back, and three, so that I could share my amazing host-country with friends, family & strangers (and maybe even inspire someone to join the Peace Corps). With the help of friends and family I was able to give about 11 different presentations, to a whole variety of groups: Spanish classes in my old high school, my grandfather’s Rotary Club, a college class, & even a brief T.V. interview with my fellow PCV Ella McDougall.

So here are some photos from my several different 3rd Goal Presentations.

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Presenting to students at Millersville University

Presenting at my Grandfather’s Rotary Club.

I even got to go back to my old high school and give presentations about Perú to about 5 different Spanish classes. The coolest part was that I was able to give some presentations in Spanish; after only a few days in the U.S. I was already beginning to miss speaking Spanish on a daily basis.

Sharing my love for Perú with people back in the U.S. was quite a memorable experience, and I can only hope to be able to share more once I finally finish my Peace Corps service in Perú.

Oh, and before I forget, a fellow PCV from Perú who also happens to be from Pennsylvania was home at the same time I was and we got to do a cool T.V. interview for a local television station. Check out the video below!

Until next time,

MGB

Gastronomical Exchange: Quesadillas

Once I realized the salad was a big success, I dared to dream even further. This time with my host-family, we embarked into the great world of Mexican food. Although, given that I am not Mexican, nor have I ever learned to cook authentic Mexican food, we made the best impression of Mexican food that we could.

Fortunately in Caraz, we have a wonderful supermarket called “Comercio Trujillo” where one can buy anything from pasta sauce to oreos, from pizza crust to “Mozzarella cheese”, and for some reason, flour tortillas. Now, way back in November I purchased a pack of flour tortillas and some Mozzarella cheese but due to vacation & the end of the school year, they were quickly forgotten about in the upstairs fridge. That is until, upon returning to Perú, that I happened to go upstairs and rediscover my purchase.

So, after months of waiting (and forgetting), I finally gathered my host-family one evening to make our quesadillas. Now, I wasn’t going to just make cheese quesadillas, if we were going to make them, we were going all out. And so, we bought some chicken, Peruvian cheese (it wasn’t a lot of mozzarella), and the necessary supplies to make guacamole; palta (avocado), tomate (tomato), culantro (cilantro) & lime (limón).

With all of the ingredients assembled, we set to work.

First, we ripped open the bag of tortillas and carefully laid them out on the table.

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Once the tortillas were assembled on the table, we began the process of cutting the cheese.

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Left: mozzarella cheese                      Right: queso fresco (fresh Peruvian cheese)

We shredded the cheese to the best of our ability on top of the tortillas, and then added some shredded, boiled chicken which my host-mom had previously prepared. Then to top it off, we added a dash of taco seasoning from a care packing from long ago.

Since we don’t have a “press”, we settled to pan-fry the quesadillas with a little butter in a frying pan, to great success if I do say so myself.

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Now, after teaching my host-family the general process of quesadilla preparation, I set to work making the important accompaniment; guacamole. Honestly, this was my first time ever making guacamole, but I think it turned out quite splendidly.

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Once all of the quesadillas had been properly cooked, we were finally able to eat.

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Overall, quesadilla night was a HUGE success. The only criticism of the night was that of the Mozzarella cheese; my host-sister was not a fan. However, when she tried one with only Peruvian queso fresco, I got a clear “this is the best thing I have ever eaten” response. Success!

Apart from eating the quesadillas, my favorite memory of the experience was when my host-mom offered a quesadilla to one of our neighbors, however placing it inside a roll of delicious Peruvian bread. I couldn’t help myself but chuckle seeing a quesadilla being eaten inside bread like a sandwich.

Until next time,

MGB

Kutu: the Cat-mom

So when I left in December for my vacation in the U.S., we had 5 dogs at my house; Scooby, Negra, Fido, Chase, and Kutu. Scooby lives with the pigs, Negra chases the chickens, Chase a small, dachshund-sized white dog picks on Fido, the larger male dog with a crooked smile and submissive tendencies, and Kutu is the matriarch of the bunch.

Kutu is about 5 years old and she is the boss. Whenever strange people come to the house, she warns us of their presence with her strange yodel-yelping woofs. Whenever other dogs come nearby, she fearlessly runs out to scare them away and show who’s in charge. Whenever Negra comes into heat, Kutu snarls at her for bringing all the boys to the yard. Kutu is the boss, the “Alpha-female”, the Presidente, and all the household dogs know it.

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Here’s the fierce beast curled up asleep inside a cubeta. Kutu means tailless in Quechua.

So call me surprised when I return to Perú to find out my family has gotten three kittens, and that mean, tough, dominating Kutu, has adopted them as if they were her own puppies. I didn’t believe it until I saw them huddled up sleeping together on several occasions. But the most unbelievable part is that not only does Kutu sleep with the kittens, she also suckles them. Perhaps Kutu has adopted the kittens and feeds them because she can’t have any puppies of her own, I’m not sure, but all I know is that every time I see the kittens suckling, my heart warms and I chuckle a little.

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Live long & prosper, Kutu.

Until next time,

MGB

Gastronomical Exchange: The Whole Ensalada

Returning from my brief holiday stint in the U.S., I made a decision to be more active in sharing U.S. culture with my host-family. So, in January after seamlessly readjusting to my life here in Perú, I decided the easiest way to share some more U.S. culture was through food. Perhaps my cravings for more  U.S. dishes also played a part in my decision to focus on gastronomical exchange.

Now, like any good Peace Corps Volunteer, I didn’t return to Perú empty handed; my luggage was absolutely full of candy and other food stuffs. One of the prized possessions I brought with me to Perú was Ranch Dressing, my favorite salad dressing.

Consequently, the first U.S. “food” I prepared for my host-family was a salad, or ensalada. Now, they do eat salads in Perú, BUT the difference being that salads are not a regular component of one’s day to day diet. In fact, at least here in the sierra, the day-to-day diet mostly involves rice, potatoes, and occasionally vegetables cooked to death in the daily soup. If anything, salads are a side, and would never be considered a legitimate meal. And at least in my house, the term ensalada refers to sliced avocado, red onion, & tomato with lemon juice (still tasty, but missing some of my favorite veggies). Well, I decided that I wanted to eat more vegetables and I wanted my host-family to do so as well, and so shortly after returning, we made a simple salad of lettuce, onion, tomato, and carrots.

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Dicing the carrots
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The washed lettuce
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The finished salad (just missing its Ranch)
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Lunch with my fresh salad

While I don’t think I convinced them that a salad can be a meal, I at least got everyone to try it, and everyone, except my 5 year-old host-brother, really enjoyed it, especially with the Ranch Dressing. I wasn’t too upset my host-brother hated the salad, because what 5 year-old really enjoys vegetables anyways.

Here’s to more gastronomical exchange in the near future!

Until next time,

MGB