What has Mark been up to in Perú?

So it has been quite some time since my last blog post, so I figured a general recap of my work over the last 2 months was long overdue, but unfortunately I’ll only be recapping what I did in September, because otherwise this post would be incredibly long.

Sports:

I have been playing a lot of soccer and volleyball as of late, and most specifically with the Vaso de Leche group from my neighborhood. Vaso de Leche is a Perú-wide organization in which mothers of children under the age of 6 can receive free milk and Quaker from the Peruvian Government. Vaso de Leche is incredibly important because it helps to ensure that growing children recieve proper nutrition. In order to foster camaraderie among the various Vaso de Leche groups in my provincia (think county), the Municipality of Caraz organized a huge 3-part soccer/volleyball tournament. Being the local gringo, I was of course selected to help train my neighborhoods Vaso de Leche group, and so for quite a few weeks I was playing volleyball/soccer quite regularly with a group of 10-20 moms.

Playing soccer with the moms of Inca Huaín
Playing soccer with the moms of Inca Huaín

Despite all of our training, we didn’t rank in either Volleyball nor Soccer, so we’ll just have to train harder for next year.

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The moms of Inca Huaín on the soccer pitch.

English Classes

As a way to get to know people in my host community of Inca Huaín/Yuracoto, I started English classes in my house each Saturday afternoon. While the first one or two lessons resulted in about 10-11 students, over the weeks the number of devoted students has dwindled to just 4. With these four students, all girls, we have learned Greetings/goodbyes, colors, animales, numbers, and just this weekend, fruits. These girls, including my host-sister, are really excited to learn, and their enthusiasm has really helped to keep me motivated. In fact, one of my proudest moments as a Peace Corps Volunteer came from a moment in which my 4 students took on the role of teachers, sharing their newfound English knowledge with some other children who showed up at my house with their parents for some sort of political event.

I got to practice my drawing skills when we learned about animals in English.
I got to practice my drawing skills when we learned about animals in English.

Apart from the English lessons in my house, I have taught English a few times in the local school where we have covered Greetings/goodbyes and a personal favorite, parts of the body, which of course includes Head-Shoulders-Knees-Toes. The kids really enjoy learning songs which is perfect for me since I love to sing songs. During one of the English classes, I gave the students some free time to ask me questions which of course led to questions about my family, my pets, my travels, where I live, etc. The diagram of our conversation can be seen in the image below.

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Fishing:

 One Sunday, I went fishing in the Río Santa with my host-dad and two local kids. Although I never got the opportunity to cast the net, I did help collect the fish out of the nets and of course, document the entire experience.   The experience was quite fun, and I enjoyed seeing some new scenery (and finding some toads).

One of my neighbors casting the net.
One of my neighbors casting the net.

With all of the fish we caught, we had a lovely fish fry for dinner, and breakfast, and lunch, and dinner again, and breakfast once more, and maybe another lunch.

Trash Management Education:

One of the biggest environmental problems in Perú at the moment is trash management, and consequently, a lot of my work with the Municipality of Caraz has focused on this theme. Coincidentally, trash management is also the third goal of my Peace Corps Program, Community Based Environmental Management. Therefore, I have given some charlas (presentations) to local schools/students about how to conserve/protect the environment and how to properly manage trash. In these presentations, I talked about Climate Change, Environmental Contamination, the 3Rs (Reducir, Reutilizar, Reciclar), and how to properly segregate (organics, inorganics, reciclables, dangerous, etc.) and store trash for proper disposition. These two presentations were my first big presentations for students here in Perú, and I’m really looking forward to continue working with schools during the next 2 years.

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Community Clean-ups

During two Saturdays in September, the Municipality organized two community clean-ups, focusing on a different barrio (neighborhood) within Caraz each weekend. The clean ups started bright and early at 6am each morning, and continued until about 11-11:30am, involving mostly just workers from the municipality (although more community members participated in the second event). We cleaned up everything from trash to food waste, and construction waste to the pounds and pounds of dust that abide in Caraz due to the unfinished roads in the upper sections of the city. I successfully managed to break the broom given to me for the clean-up, which happened to be the third broom I have broken in less than 2 months. Oh, and I was also interviewed during the first clean-up event and the footage was shown on the Municipality’s TV cannel.

Faena de Limpieza (Clean-up)
Faena de Limpieza (Clean-up)

Peace Parade

September 21st was the International Day of Peace, and so to celebrate, my Municipality put together a big parade, which is the #1 way to celebrate any event in Perú. I got an awesome white shirt, got to hold a sign for my Gerencia of the Municipality, and was also on TV again (although only in passing this time). How fitting that a Peace Corps Volunteer got to march in a Peace parade?

Doves being released to celebrate the Day of Peace.
Doves being released to celebrate the Day of Peace.

As you can probably see, I have been very, very busy the last few months.  I have learned a lot, started working on a lot of different projects, and this has only been the briefest of glimpses into my activities thus far.  As some of my projects develop further, I will be detailing them up here on my blog.

Un abrazo,

Mark G-B

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Safe and Sound

In case you didn’t know, I arrived safely to Peru.  Departure day started bright and early with a 7am check out from the hotel; with our matching Peace Corps t-shirts and mounds of luggage, we definitely overwhelmed the lobby.

Peace Corps takes over the lobby
Peace Corps takes over the lobby

When we finally arrived at Reagan Airport in DC to begin our travels, we had a chance encounter with the current director of the Peace Corps, Carrie Hessler-Radelet.  It was definitely a star-struck moment for me, and I think many other of the volunteers.

Carrole shaking hands with the Peace Corps director, Carrie Hessler-Radelet
Carrole shaking hands with the Peace Corps director, Carrie Hessler-Radelet.

Finally, around 12:30pm we were off, and after hours of travel, malfunctioning video screens on our Houston-Lima flight, and a final “American” meal of pizza and Panda Express, we finally landed in Peru around 11:30pm Thursday evening (May 7th).  After disembarking the plane, we found two Peace Corps Peru staff members with signs who took us through immigration via the Diplomat line (I guess they pulled a few strings) and helped us to locate our luggage.  For a few of us, the elite “Grupo 60”, it seems that there was some confusion with processing our immigration papers; while we should have received a stamp for 160 days, we only were given 60.  The lucky 25 or so of us that were members of Grupo 60 had to wait about 30 minutes in the baggage area while a PC staff member went to get the forms corrected.

Finally, after lots of waiting and anticipation, we were able to pass through customs and go out to meet the other volunteers.  As I cross the threshold of the door to join the other volunteers, I suddenly saw a bunch of people cheering and waving signs, and I think to myself, “Oh wow, I wonder who they are so excited about?”.  About half a second later, I realized they were all Peace Corps staff and volunteers who had come to welcome us to the country.  I was floored; what an incredible way to be greeted in a country that will be my home for the next 2 years.  I hope that I will be able to greet new trainees when I am further along in my Peace Corps experience. 

Once everyone had emerged, we began our 1.5 hr bus ride to the retreat center; please note that it was already about 1am by the time we got to the busses.  Needless to say, everyone was exhausted after a full day of traveling, and looking forward to a full night’s sleep.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get to bed until 3:30am and retreat activities started bright and early at 8am, so a full night’s sleep wasn’t in the cards.  At this point, the significance of landing in Peru and arriving at the training center hasn’t set in, but I’m sure the reality of it all will slowly begin to sink in as training begins.

MGB