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!
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.
So as I mentioned in my post, Christmas in Caraz, from last year, Christmas is a very popular here in Perú, notably due to the fact the majority of the population is Catholic. Now, one of the Christmas traditions I noticed this year, but failed to appreciate last year, is the abundance of nacimientos, or Nativities.
For me, a Nativity scene typically consists of a wooden frame (resembling a small barn), with an assortment of people, straw, and animals underneath. You know, the typical image of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus depicted around the holiday season in the U.S. Well, here in Perú, nativity scenes (nacimientos) are done a bit differently, and in fact don’t much resemble the nativity scenes of which I am familiar.
You see, at least here in the sierra of Áncash, nativity scenes are usually created using a mixture of colored paper (usually brown, green, or grey), rocks, native plants from high up in the mountains, little figurines, sand, and whatever else seems to be available. The paper is usually used to create some sort of landscape (mountains, deserts, etc.) over which the rocks, plants, and figurines are placed to create a pretty scene. In some location of the nacimiento will usually go the typical manger with an image of Mary, Joseph, and on Christmas day, baby Jesus. These nacimientos can be tiny enough to fit on a small table, or large enough to fill up an entire corner of a room. Regardless of the size, the important factor is that almost EVERY public institution makes nacimientos: the schools, the hospitals, the UGELs, the market, etc.
Now for about a month or so, my office in the Provincial Municipality has been planning to do a Christmas exposition of recycled products/furniture/art in the Plaza de Armas (Town Square) to get the community of Caraz thinking more about trash and how it can be repurposed. While the exposition hasn’t begun yet, one component has already been completed: a nacimiento made of traditional and recycled materials. Over the past 1.5 weeks, my office has been hard at work creating a fairly LARGE nativity scene in one of the gardens of the town square. Naturally, being partnered with the Municipality, I was also involved in the creation of the Nativity scene.
Check out some pictures of the entire process below!
It all started on Tuesday, December 6th when I walked into my office to see my desk surrounded by plants from the puna (high mountain plains).
I had a great time helping out my office in the municipality, and I think the final product turned out great! I am quite sad though that they uprooted so many plants from the puna just to make a nacimiento that will last a little over a month; perhaps they will return the plants, but I am doubtful. We’ll have to have a talk when I return from vacation about why taking the plants isn’t really that great for protecting the environment, but poco a poco.
Well, I hope you enjoyed some brief insight into another interesting Peruvian holiday tradition.
As I mentioned in my first Trash Talking post a few weeks ago, one of Perú’s biggest challenges at the moment is trash management. While the biggest barrier to advancements in trash management here in Perú is probably lack of infrastructure and technical experience, another important one is a general lack of environmental awareness. Simply put, many people just don’t know the consequences of pollution or how to properly manage this waste. Consequently, a LOT of my work revolves around sensibilizando la gente sobre los residuos sólidos (raising awareness about solid waste) via various means; charlas (presentations), conversaciones informales (informal conversations), programas de radio (radio programs), y eventos (events).
Oftentimes, teaching about trash management and raising awareness can be extremely fun, as is the case with the event I am highlighting today. A few weeks ago, I participated in a super fun event that I coordinated with the Provincial Municipality and the Environmental Youth Group (Club Verde) with which I work; a recycled costume contest.
You see, we wanted to engage the creativity of the schools in the city and at the same time celebrate trash management, and this is what was born. We invited all of the schools of Caraz to participate in the event, and had four categories: pre-school, primary school, secondary school, and post-secondary education. The rules were simple; design a Halloween costume using only recycled materials (wrappers, newspaper, plastic bottles, old trash bags, old wire, etc.). Each school was allowed 2 participants, and in total we had over 10 schools participate with over 40 students showing up in their “recycled” costume.
Like most Peruvian events, we started off with a parade around the town square to show off all of the hard work by the students!
The kids with all their costumes
My boss and one of the public cleaning workers
Pre-schoolers with some killer costumes
Afterwards, we headed into the Coliseo Cerrado for the actual contest. Here are some photos of the amazing competitors, photos courtesy of one of my counterparts, the Municipalidad Provincial de Huaylas.
Students from Yuracoto, one of the schools I work in.
Robot and Megazord from Cullashpampa.
Dresses crocheted from plastic bags from Easy Way
The two witches from I.E. Nueva Victoria
Lucifer and a witch from the CETPRO
All of the participants.
Students from Yuracoto and the CETPRO.
My students from Cullashpampa.
The winners from Pre-School: little red riding hood and the big bad wolf.
Two high school students from Yuracoto in costumes made of plastic bags
Two pre-school students from Cullashpampa
I’m hoping that this event was just the first installment of something that will continue and evolve año tras año (year after year).
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.
So why did we decide to start an Ultimate Frisbee Club? Well, we have several motivations.
Because Ultimate Frisbee is fun and is not a widely known sport here in Perú.
Because Goal 2 of Peace Corps involves teaching Peruvians about U.S. culture and what better way than sharing a treasured sport.
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.
To promote gender equality among the young people of Caraz.
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.
To introduce the concept of Co-Ed sports.
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.
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.
This past Sunday as I was with my family in the Caraz market selling fruit, I decided to head down to the Plaza de Armas to try and get some money out of the bank. As I was walking down to the Plaza, I noticed that the streets to the plaza had been blocked off and that large masses of people had gathered. Curious, I walked closer and discovered that the main streets around the central plaza were covered with alfombras, or rugs. However, these were not typical rugs made out of fabric, but rather temporary “rugs” made out of dyed and dampened sawdust.
As I began to make my way around the various works of art, someone called out my name, and looking around I found a group of students from my local school in Yuracoto. Now, another school in town is in the midst of their 111th Anniversary celebrations, so I naturally assumed that the alfombra contest was just one of the many activities the school had organized. However, one of my students filled me in, telling me that the “competition” was in honor of a religious holiday during which they celebrate many Catholic Saints, and therefore independent of the school anniversary. Students from all over Caraz and the campiña organized into groups to design and create their alfombras. I spent a while talking with my seniors from Yuracoto about their alfombra and the whole process they went through to make it. They explained to me how everyone chipped in for the materials (4 bags of sawdust at S/. 4 each, lots of dye, and transportation), and then how they all met up in Yuracoto on Saturday to dye the sawdust into the proper colors; many of them still had green and red hands come Sunday morning. On Sunday, they all met up in the Plaza at 6am to begin construction of their alfombra, which first involved drawing out the design with chalk, and then painstakingly placing the damp sawdust overtop. My student said it took about 3.5 hours to finish the whole thing; I was impressed with the commitment given there wasn’t even a prize or anything.
So what is the point of making the alfombras? Well, the alfombras seemed to have served as a way to show of artistic talents, to contribute to the religious holiday, and to maybe show up your rival schools to some degree. However, like many things in life and nature, the alfombras were ephemeral, and after having been displayed for a mere 2 hours, the beautiful alfombras were quickly disfigured by a large procession of Saints who emerged from the church to continue with the religious celebration. At least the rugs wasted away doing what they were meant to do: getting walked on.
And then, as soon as the procession had passed, what remained of the alfombras were swept up into colorful piles of sawdust, a poor vestige of what they had been only minutes before.
I am hoping that the students in Yuracoto will give me a heads up for next year’s celebration, so that I can get in on the Alfombra-making. I would love to get some experience making an alfombra here in Perú (maybe the Peace Corps logo???), because I think it would be a fun concept to bring back to the US. It could also be a great Goal 3 project for those working in the World Wise Schools Program.
Well, what started off as a normal Sunday in the market turned into an awesome cultural surprise, and reminded me once more why I love my Peace Corps experience.
Well, with the conclusion of the work day Monday, I have officially completed my first week in site as a Peace Corps Volunteer! So what did I accomplish? Well, lots of random things, to be honest. This past week (July 26th-August 1) was Fiestas Patrias, a celebration of Perú’s independence, which meant that the schools were out for winter vacation, events were going on everywhere, and the municipality and many other offices were closed. So, I hung out with my amazing host-family and did a bunch of cool stuff, and did eventually find my way to the municipality office. Some memories of the week:
Helped around the house
Played basketball in Caraz with my host half-brother
Visited one of my family’s beautiful chacras (fields), which was just a short walk down the street.
My host brother, Junior, with our pregnant dog, Negra.
A lizard I found in our chacra. I will be catching some eventually.
Re-used some plastic bottles to do some crafts with my host-sister
A Tippy-Tap I made with my host-sister Cielo. Basically a make-shift handwashing device I learned how to make from some WASH volunteers.
A tooth brush holder we made out of a plastic bottle.
Our attempt at a vertical garden from plastic bottles. So far the seeds have not sprouted, but we can always try again!
Met my half-host-sister Leslie and played lots of “voley” in the backyard
Visited the “cementerio” which is a cemetery on some ruins called Inca Wayin (House of the Incas in Quechua). Only a 5 minute walk in my backyard, and gorgeous! Plus, pottery shards!
Pottery shards my host-dad picked up and showed me. There are supposedly Pre-Incan, and I did NOT take them with me.
The view from the ruins. Quite a beautiful panorama.
Dinner in Caraz at my family’s favorite Chifa (Chinese food) place
Celebrated my host half-brother’s 21st Birthday with his family in Caraz. I finally tried some Pachamanca, and then enjoyed some cake which was coated in what can only be described as Pez icing. It tasted just like Pez.
Brief visit to the municipality to set up a meeting for the following week.
Visited the Inca Wayin ruins on the OTHER side of the street.
Watered our chacra by diverting water flow using giant rocks.
Practiced tying some knots. There will eventually be a blog post about all of the knots I’ve learned.
Moved lots of bricks and vomited a lot (I’m better now)
Market day! On Sundays, my host mom sells fruits in the huge market in Caraz. I took the opportunity to put my settling-in allowance to good use and bought some things to furnish my room; a mirror, a trashcan, a laundry bag, a hanger, a radio, some nice rope, a spring mattress, and a BUNK BED! First one ever, so now there is no excuse for people not to visit!
Somehow we managed to fit two bunk-bed bundles and 3 mattresses on one moto-taxi. I wish I had taken a picture, because it was a sight to see.
I spent the entire day reading the 140 page PIGARS (waste management report for the city of Caraz) that my municipality put together. This document is vital to all of our waste/trash management work for the next 2 years.
Other random notes:
Everyone wants to learn English.
I had a very successful pillow fight with my host-siblings
Feeding pigs slop is fun but strange
One of our dogs is pregnant, and I might get to keep a puppy
The icecream and raspadillas (think snow cones but with ice from a mountain) are delicious here.
I can see thousand of stars and the Milky Way every night (before the moon comes out), for the first time in my life, and it is incredible.
I constantly feel like Pig Pen from Charlie Brown because it is pretty dusty here during the winter.
In contrast to week 1, week 2 was incredibly busy, with me going to the municipality to work every day. Overall though, life is going well here in Caraz.