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

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Foto Friday: Frisbee

So after 2.5 months of planning and pestering, my site-mate and I finally have an approved Plan de Trabajo (Work Plan) to create an Ultimate Frisbee Club here in Caraz. This week, we have begun the advertising process for the new sport by visiting some of the local schools and handing out some awesome flyers made by my very own sister back in the U.S.

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So why did we decide to start an Ultimate Frisbee Club? Well, we have several motivations.

  1. Because Ultimate Frisbee is fun and is not a widely known sport here in Perú.
  2. Because Goal 2 of Peace Corps involves teaching Peruvians about U.S. culture and what better way than sharing a treasured sport.
  3. To provide healthy activities to pursue in one’s free time so kids don’t just go home and watch T.V. or play video games in an Internet Cabina.
  4. To promote gender equality among the young people of Caraz.
    1. Perú is home to a lot of machismo, which is the belief that by nature men are superior to women. We hope to incorporate educational sessions and activities within the Frisbee classes to tackle machismo, gender inequality, low self-esteem, and other issues present in the youth of Caraz.
  5. To introduce the concept of Co-Ed sports.
    1. In Caraz, boys play soccer and girls play volleyball, and there isn’t much overlap. We are planning to present Ultimate Frisbee as a co-ed sport to foster positive interactions among young boys and girls, positive interactions that will hopefully be transmitted to friends, classmates, etc.
  6. To make sure the young people of Caraz know they are called Frisbees and not “platillos voladores” (flying plates).

The first class in on Monday, August 1st. Who knows how many will sign up? Who knows how many will show up? At this point, it is all in the air, but at least we are moving forward. Look forward to an update about the first day of classes in a few weeks time.

Until next time,

MGB

Peace Corps Perú: Airing the Dirty Laundry

When you read my blog, and learn about my experiences, you are only getting a small glimpse of Perú. My experience here in Caraz, Áncash is not universal to all of Perú, just like my experience living in Pennsylvania cannot define what it is like to live anywhere in the United States. As Peace Corps Volunteers, we each have our own reality, our own experiences, and for me, Perú will be what I experience in Caraz, in Áncash. My Peace Corps experience, therefore, will be different and unique from that of every other Peace Corps Perú Volunteer. To highlight a little of this diversity of Peace Corps sites and the diversity of Perú, I have decided in this blog to highlight a mundane task, something we probably take for granted in the U.S.; doing the laundry.

Washing ones clothes is a nearly universal activity. Most everyone has clothes, most everyone eventually gets them dirty (especially Peace Corps Volunteers), and most everyone then has the need to get them clean again. So in today’s post, we are going to take a brief look at 4 different Peace Corps Perú Laundry situation, starting with my own.


Volunteer: Mark Goldy-Brown

Program: Community Based Environmental Management

Site: Yuracoto, Caraz, Áncash

My site is very dusty, and so I find that I am constantly in need of washing my clothes. However, the frequency of washing varies, usually depending on when I find a free 2 hours to dedicate myself to the task. Right now, I would say I wash my clothes every 3-4 weeks, sometimes longer, sometimes less.

Personally, I enjoy my clothes washing set-up. We have  a large cement sink, where I can easily pile all my clothes, and soak them for 30 minutes in nice cold water + detergent. After they soak, I grab each piece of clothing and rub them vigorously to remove dirt and to build up some suds. Because of all of the dust, my socks are usually a nice shade of brown and so I have to rub them with a bar of soap to get them nice and bright. (Sometimes if I’m in a hurry, I skip the soap and just let them stay a little brown. They’re socks after all, who is going to see them?).

After the rub down, next comes the cold rinse. I usually rinse each item furiously, wring it out thoroughly (I’m going to have great forearms at the end of service), and then smell it too see if all of the detergent has been removed.

Once rinsed, I pile all of my clothes in a large bin and hang them up on our clothes line. Since my site is sunny and hot most days, generally my clothes are nice and dry within 2-3 hours.

While at first I wasn’t a big fan of washing my clothes by-hand, I now rather enjoy the process; it is quite relaxing and gives me time to listen to music or a good podcast.


Volunteer: Emily Clark

Program: Community Economic Development

Site: Eten, Lambayeque

Emily lives on the beach, so it is even hotter there than in my site in Áncash. Here is a brief story from her about her first experience washing clothes in site.

“On the 3rd floor of my house the first time I washed clothes I got a ridiculous sunburn, like lobster style. I have a huge red balde/Tina that I filled up with water and not nearly enough detergent and threw everything in, with my music playing to make the task a bit better and bearable. Sloshed everything around and wrung out what I could after rinsing and threw it up on the clothes line. Two hours later I had finished with sore wrists from wringing stuff out. Definitely didn’t wash out all the soap nor have I since – some clothes will not last long I can tell. I caved when my room got a case of fleas and took everything to Chiclayo to the laundromat.”

So for Emily, she also manages with hand-washing, but has the opportunity to use a laundromat or her aunt’s washing machine from time to time. Coming from a sierra site, for me, water is quite abundant. However, living on the coast, there is often a shortage of water, and so many families have tanks such as the one in the picture above which serves as a water storage, generally for bathing. My host family during training also had one of these water containers which usually held the water to be used during showers, and every so often, a truck would come to refill it. Emily tells me that from time to time she and other Volunteers in Lambayeque take advantage of the abundant laundromats to get their clothes nice and clean.

To hear more about Emily’s Peace Corps experience, check out her blog: lahoraperuana.wordpress.com


Volunteer: Brooklyn Adelman

Program: Community Economic Development

Site: Contumazá, Cajamarca

Brooklyn is a Volunteer working in the Department of Cajamarca, which is another mountainous Sierra site like Áncash, but further north. Her clothes washing set-up is quite similar to my own; she’s got a cement sink to hand-wash her clothes & a wire clothesline to let them air dry.

Brooklyn’s set up is fairly typical of many homes in the sierra, but another common practice is taking the laundry down to the river or the water canal to clean it out. I have seen countless mothers in Áncash who bring a bucket of laundry to the water canal, where they slowly go through the motions of cleaning and washing, bit by bit.

To learn more about Brooklyn and her Peace Corps experience, check out her fantastic blog at: https://nosleeptillpeace.com/


So there you have it; 3 Volunteers and 3 slightly different realities for cleaning the dirty laundry here in Perú.

When reading my blog, and really when reading any Peace Corps Volunteer’s blog, it is important to remember that you are only seeing 1 person’s perspective, and that 1 perspective cannot capture the diversity of an entire country. As people, I feel like we have the tendency to make generalizations, maybe because they are easy to make or maybe because they seem to make the world simpler, easier to understand. But, we can’t let ourselves fall into that trap. Besides, how boring would the world be if an entire country could be summarized into a few loose generalizations. Serving in the Peace Corps has only reinforced my belief in the importance of learning about, embracing, discussing, and celebrating diversity in order to achieve a better future.

I hope you enjoyed a brief insight to the mundane tasks of Peace Corps Perú Volunteers, and that perhaps you gained a little insight into the diversity of experiences we have in our country of service.

Until next time (aka tomorrow),

MGB

P.S. I would like to wish a very Happy Birthday to the best mother in the world!

A Friend Comes to Visit

Last March, I was lucky enough to have a friend from the U.S. come visit me here in Perú. We spent about 1 week together, hanging out in my site, Caraz, and getting to know some other sites and scenes here in Áncash. So, in order to get a different perspective about Perú, here is a guest blog post from my friend Nish about his time here in Áncash. Since Nish is incredibly busy with Medical School, I made the Guest Blog easy on him by writing up a few interview questions to answer. I hope you all enjoy!

1)   What’s your name and what’s your current job? 

Nish Pandya and  Medical Student at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College.

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Budding Doctor Nish, overlooking the Río Santa behind my house.

2)   How do you know the PCV?

(I’m guessing this means Peace Corps Volunteer). Despite graduating from rival high schools, Mark and I both met as freshmen at Penn State University. We were both heavily involved in a service organization and were roommates during our senior year. 

3)   What did you know about Perú before your visit?

My greatest exposure to Peru before the visit must have been from watching The Emperors’s New Groove. Through high school Spanish courses we had learned countries and capitals, so I could locate it on a map but not much else.

4)   What did you learn about Perú from your visit?

Mark had mentioned this, but life really did seem to move a step slower in Peru. As a “Northeasterner” at heart, it was a stark difference that stood out. The views and natural beauty of the Ancash region I had the opportunity to see made me wonder if stock photos for “awesome sights” are taken in Peru.

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Nish at Laguna Querococha on our way to the Chavín Arqueological Site

5) What was your favorite dish you tried?

Whenever I travel, my goal is to try something I probably will not have the chance to eat again. This made me excited to try guinea pig for the first time.

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Trying cuy (guinea pig) for the first time

6)   What do you think of the PCV’s work in his site?

It didn’t surprise me after having known Mark for 5 years, but Mark seemed to have a positive and friendly relationship with so many people he came across at his site. He was continually running into people he knew and it really helped me see how much Mark had tried to become part of the community. I enjoyed listening to the many plans Mark was continually balancing and trying to execute, which really showed the impact he wanted to make with a multi-pronged approach. 

7)   What is your favorite memory from the trip?

Another Peace Corps Volunteer gave us an oral history of the avalanche at Yungay while walking through the area it affected. Hearing that story at its site was a really memorable part of my trip.

8)   What did you know about Peace Corps before your visit? What did you learn about Peace Corps from your visit?

The camaraderie between the Peace Corps Volunteers was really wonderful to see. In theory, each volunteer has a different background but shares the desire to make a positive impact on the people and community they live with. Seeing the power of a shared goal bring people together was powerful to see.

9)   What is your favorite breakfast cereal?

Honey Bunches of Oats

10)  If you could be any Pokémon, which would you be and why?

I would be Farfetch’d because few people would believe I was a Pokemon.

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Farfetch’d, the Wild Duck Pokémon (http://vignette1.wikia.nocookie.net/es.pokemon/images/b/b5/Farfetch’d.png/revision/latest?cb=20080908162845)

11)  Is there anything else you would like to share?

Nah i’m good.

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I hope you enjoyed hearing a friend’s perspective on his time in Perú. Look out for another guest blog post in the next few weeks about a few more friends who came to visit in May.

Until next time,

MGB

 

Presidential Elections: Peruvian Style

As a Peace Corps Volunteer, we are not allowed to become involved in local politics of the countries in which we work. However, in the interest of sharing Peruvian culture with my readers, I have decided to share a bit about how the Peruvian election system works. Please remember that the contents of this blog are my own, and are not representative of the opinions of Peace Corps nor the U.S. government. Anyways, in an as un-biased manner as possible, I present a summary of the Peruvian Presidential election system.

While most of my U.S. readers have probably been preoccupied with all of the election action going on right now in the U.S., what you might not have known is that for the past year or so, Perú has been in the midst of their own Presidential election cycle. Now, Peruvian Presidential elections differ from U.S. Presidential elections in several ways, and I will do my best to highlight these differences in the following post.

Political Parties & Candidates

In the U.S. we have two principal political parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, each of which goes through a long voting process to elect the candidate to represent them.  Essentially, each party presents several Presidential candidates, and through a series of mostly popular votes by State (primaries), each party narrows down to one candidate who will be the party’s primary candidate for the President election in November. Currently, the Republican Party will be represented by Donald Trump in the Presidential race, while the Democratic Party will be represented by either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

In Perú, there are not two dominant political parties, and in fact congress consists of many different parties, each of which’s strength and power seem to vary from election to election. Consequently, Peru does not employ primaries, and each political party just proposes their own candidate. Consequently, at the start of campaigns in 2015, there were about 16 different Presidential candidates, and throughout time this array was narrowed down to only a handful as some dropped out of the race, or some were removed for unethical campaigning strategies. Apparently in the past, it was perfectly legal to garner votes by handing out money or other items like cars, but for this election cycle, this was changed, but many candidates had trouble dropping old habits.

Campaigning

In the U.S., generally each candidate launches a big marketing campaign during the primaries, when they have a logo, slogan, and employ press events, speeches, and public debates to present their ideas to the public, and garner favor among voters. Generally everything is quite standard, with candidates both putting out media to spotlight themselves as well as media to denigrate other candidates. Although, from what I gather, it seems that some of the U.S. Presidential candidates have been using some unconventional campaign strategies.

Here in Perú, the campaigning process is quite similar, although there are some noted differences. Like in the U.S., Presidential candidates usually create a logo, but this logo is not just for identifying the candidate, but also integral for the actual voting process. You see, when election day comes around, rather than just voting by name, each candidate’s name is presented along with the candidates symbol, and in order to cast a vote, you cross off the symbol of the candidate you wish to support. Consequently, a LOT is done to spread the symbols across all of Perú, whether it be driving around with the symbol on your car, or painting the side of your house with your candidate’s logo. But in addition to logos, candidates do realize public debates from time to time, travel to different sites in Perú to make speeches, and some even have catchy songs to spread their name far and wide. However, there are some unique strategies employed by candidates, such as holding free public concerts with famous Peruvian celebrities, as one Peruvian candidate did in preparation for the first round of elections. Could you imagine a U.S. candidate holding a concert/political rally with, say, Kanye West, to garner votes? While it might sound strange to us from the U.S., or at least it is strange for me, it is perfectly acceptable here in Perú.

Length of Office

In the U.S., the length of the Presidential Term of Office is 4 years, with the option for immediate re-election, and so in total, a person can serve as President for a 8 years maximum.

In Perú, the length of the Presidential Term of Office is 5 years, without the option of immediate re-election. If a former President wishes to be re-elected, he must wait 5 years before he can run again, however, there is NO cap on the number of times a person can be President. And so, a person could potentially be president for 15 or more non-consecutive years, as long as they took time off between terms. In fact, one of the early candidates from this past election cycle had already served 2 terms in office.

Voting

In the U.S., all United States citizens are allowed to vote in the Presidential election, but they are not obligated. The first round of voting is realized via primaries done State by State as I mentioned earlier with the purpose of deciding which candidate will represent each political party in the Presidential Election. Voting day for the Presidential election takes place in November, on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of the month; this year, it will be November 8th, 2016. On this voting day, and this voting day alone, the new President of the United States will be decided.

In Perú, all Peruvian citizens are allowed to vote in the Presidential election, but they ARE obligated to vote. If a Peruvian fails to vote in the election, he or she is fined, and until the fine is paid, they may have trouble processing certain government documents or using certain services like the bank. Now, as I mentioned earlier, there are no primaries in Perú because each of the different political parties just select their own candidate, or, a candidate just creates his or her own political party for the purposes of the election. However, rather than having a one-and-done voting system like in the U.S., here in Perú, there are two rounds of Presidential votes. During the first vote, which took place on April 10th, 2016, the two candidates who garner the most votes, pass onto the second round of elections, while for the rest, their election hopes end. However, if a candidate manages to win >50% of the vote during the first round of elections, then he or she becomes the President, and no second round of voting is needed. Based on the vote in April, 3 candidates surged to the top of the polls: Keiko Fujimori (39.85%), Pablo Kuczinski (21.01%), Veronika Mendoza (18.78%). Keiko Fujimori and Pablo Kuczinski, having been the frontrunner of the popular vote in the first round of elections, both passed onto the second round of elections which took place yesterday, on Sunday, June 5th. Yesterday, Peruvians across the country returned to their registered voting locations, which for many is the town of their birth, and cast their votes for either Fujimori or Kuczinski, and we are now awaiting the results to see who will become the next President of Perú.


Now, there is one more important thing you should know about Peruvian elections before I conclude this post, and that is the Ley Seca (the Dry Law).

Here in Perú, ALL sale of alcohol is banned on the day before and the day of elections. So that means from 12:00am on the Saturday before election days, to 12:00am on Sunday night of elections, all businesses are NOT allowed to serve or sell alcohol under penalty of fines and other consequences. Now, why does this law exist? Because the Peruvian government wants to ensure that the citizens voting in the election are doing so in a sober, clear-minded state. While it might be a bit radical, I think the Ley Seca is a good idea.

While I personally think some aspects of how elections operate in Perú are quite strange, there are many aspects that I think are quite novel and should be considered for implementation in the U.S. For example, in Perú, voting takes place on Sundays, meaning that people have the time to go and vote because there are no other obligations such as work. I still do not understand why if Election Day in the U.S. is on a Tuesday, we have not made it a national holiday; shouldn’t we be doing everything in our power to ensure people who want to vote are able to vote? But I digress…

So, now you have it, probably more than you ever wanted to know about how Presidential Elections operate here in Perú. If you have any questions about the political scene, leave me a comment below.

In the meantime, check out this document that Peace Corps Perú made for Volunteers about the Presidential Elections to get some further information on some topics I didn’t touch on in this post.

El Guachiman volumen 38 Elecciones v2

Until next time,

MGB

 

 

 

Martes de Música: “Combate”

Friendships can be forged or shattered here in Perú with one divisive question: Combate or EEG?

Combate & EEG
Image from: tinyurl.com/jxznwjk

 

Melodramatics aside, Perú has two incredibly popular and quite similar reality shows called Combate and Esto Es Guerra (This is war). These reality shows use a combination of athletic and intellectual competitions to pit two teams clad in bright, but small clothing against each other across several weeks, with the ultimate goal of crowning one of the teams a winner of the competition. Personally, I am a fan of Combate because that is the show my host-family from Lima would regularly watch, and when I say regularly, I mean regularly since it is aired every night, Monday through Friday, and sometimes on Saturdays.

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A few of the Combate participants.Image from: tinyurl.com/z6h4khh

So why am I describing these shows to you all? Because these shows are staples for many families in Perú, and the show members are much more than just competitors, they become cherished icons and celebrities. One of the better-known Combatientes (Combate participants) is Mario Hart, who appeared on several seasons of Combate due to his popularity with the show’s fans. In fact, in his latest runs, he was even the Captain for his team, further demonstrating his popularity in the show. While he was revered for his competitive nature on the show, his popularity also helped him to launch a singing career, which had its start with the release of his catchy single, “Yo No Fui” (It wasn’t me) with two of his fellow Combatientes.

So, without further ado, I present to you “Yo No Fui” from Mario Hart.

Hope you enjoy the music,

MGB

Christmas in Caraz

Ok, so Christmas was a long time ago, but better late than never, right?

Perú is a very religious country, with the predominant religion being Catholicism. An estimated 85% of Perú’s citizens self-identify as Catholic, and Catholicism is even directly mentioned in the Peruvian Constitution as having been an important component to the country’s development. Consequently, Christmas, or Navidad as it is known here, is quite a big deal, although not in the overtly commercialized sense that it is celebrated in the US.

Christmastime here in Caraz is characterized by lots of masses and religious celebrations, family time, and the ever so popular  Chocolatada. So, what is a chocolatada? Well, my best translation would be a “Hot Chocolate Party”, but in reality those words fail to summarize the occasions.

Essentially a chocolatada in an event where people from the community come to drink “hot chocolate”, eat Panetón (essentially fruit-cake, but not the bad brick-like monstrosity we have in the States), and socialize, all while enjoying some kind of strange Holiday-themed show which tends to involve people in Santa Claus costumes dancing and engaging kids in strange contests. If you are a student, mother, municipality worker, essentially anyone really, you will probably attend anywhere from 3-4 chocolatadas between November and Christmas Day. I think I ended up attending around 6 this past year, not regretting having attended a single one.

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The chocolatada entertainment

Apart from the Chocolatadas, many people receive Christmas baskets from their employers or from government programs such as Vaso de Leche. Since I work with the municipality, I got a HUGE basket full of random things like sugar and milk, that I ended up just donating to my host-family, because what am I going to do with a few kilos of sugar?

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My Christmas canasta (basket), complete with Panetón (the bread thing)

But, chocolatadas are only one aspect of Christmas festivities here in Perú. While decorating houses with trees and lights in the fashion we do in the States is not the norm, my Municipality did adorn our wonderful plaza with some lights and Christmas figurines which definitely reminded me of home. But personally, the best part of the Christmas season for me is the celebration with my host-family. Here in Áncash and most of Perú, Christmas is celebrated differently than in the US. While for most Christmas-celebrating US citizens, the primary day of activities is Dec. 25th, in Perú most of the celebrating is actually done on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24th.

So how did I celebrate Christmas Eve? Well, I worked with my family in the chacra in the morning, helped to feed our animals, and then just kind of hung around the house. Around late afternoon, the festivities began to pick up with relatives coming over to the house to chat and drink, and my host-mom and aunt starting to prepare chicharrón de chancho from the meat of our Christmas pig. Meanwhile, I was upstairs talking to some relatives about American music, how we celebrate Christmas in the USA, and politely refusing beer offered to me every 15 minutes or so. Around 11:00pm however, we all gathered in the kitchen to eat our chicharrón de chanco with choclo (basically corn-on-the-cob).

Not surprisingly,  people started to get tired after the meal. While my host-mom/dad/brother decided to go to sleep, my host-sister and I stayed up for a while because the tradition here is to stay awake until midnight and then do the gift exchange. The gift exchange had to wait until Christmas morning (because of sleeping), but I’m glad I stayed awake because as soon as 12:00am arrived, the neighborhood came to life with the sounds of fireworks bursting and cracking in the night. It was so different from how I would celebrate in the US, but it was wonderful, and I definitely think Christmas Eve fireworks should become a thing back home.

Christmas Day itself was quite tame, with the gift exchange happening late in the morning. I got some candy and a motorcycle clock from my host-family, and gave them various tiny gifts.

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Unwrapping presents. He got a laser gun.

The best part, was receiving a phone call from my family in the US, and being able to talk not only with my mom, dad, and sisters, but also my grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles. The rest of the day was quite calm, but as night approached, my host-dad revealed a surprise; chispitas! (sparklers). My host-siblings had never used them before, so I had to show them the ropes. While my brother was afraid at first, after about 5 minutes he was sold, and began pretending he was Harry Potter casting spells. He subsequently told me dad, “tienes que comprar estos todos los días”, or “you have to buy these every day”. While Christmas in Caraz was different, it was nice, and I enjoyed experiencing a shared holiday in a new manner.

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Pretending to be Harry Potter.

Oh, and a few weeks later, Christmas presents arrived from my friends and family, so that was a great late Christmas surprise.

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The haul from my family in the U.S.

While Christmas in Perú was definitely different from Christmas in the U.S., I had a great time and am glad to have been able to experience the holiday from a different perspective.

MGB