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

Foto Friday: El Hombre Araña

My apologies for this being 1 day late, but I was on a little vacation with some friends visiting from the US and could not update my blog. A post on my vacation and consequent visit to one of the Wonders of the World will be forthcoming.

Anyways, this week’s Foto Friday features a very special individual, widely renowned for his humor, wit, intelligence, acrobatics, and arachnid qualities. If you didn’t guess it, this week’s foto Friday is about the Amazing Spiderman.

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Junior in his Spider-Man costume.

Ok, so maybe not the real Amazing Spiderman, but the closest thing to him that I’ve got is my host-brother, Junior. Junior is a 5 year old with a lot of energy, sass, and spunk, and a huge, I mean enormous, interest in superheroes. His favorite superhero, in case you didn’t guess, is Spiderman or as they say in Spanish, El Hombre Araña. A few weeks ago in March when my friend visited from the US, I had him bring a few things along for my host-family. Since my host-brother junior and my sister Sarah have a shared passion for the web-slinger, Sarah got a few Spiderman things for Junior, including his awesome Spiderman outfit he is wearing in the photo.

Now, I must be clear. My host-brother wore this outfit nearly exclusively for about 3 days straight after receiving it. He wore it to bed, he wore it to breakfast, and he even hid it in his backpack so he could put it on in secret when we worked in the market one Sunday. While he doesn’t wear the Spiderman outfit as much anymore, he still pulls it out on occasion and anytime I have to leave for vacation or training, he asks me to bring him back some Telarañas (spiderwebs). I still have yet to find some place that can sell me reliable spider-webbing, but I’m sure it is only a matter of time before my host-brother is back to busting up crime in the campo with his costume and spider-powers.

Ok, so many he won’t be stopping any crimes, but he will be having a good time at the very least. So why did I share this photo? Because an important part of the Peace Corps experience is the host-family living situation. Your host-family can become another family for the Volunteer, a family that supports the Volunteer through the ups and downs of service, a family that makes you tea when you are sick, a family that helps you navigate the complex cultural norms in your new life abroad. In my case, Junior brings me a lot of joy with his crazy antics, and helps keep me positive throughout this whole experience.

Until next time,

MGB

Foto Friday

So this is the second of the weekly themes that I am now incorporating into my blog, the other having been Martes de Música.

On Foto Fridays, I will post a photo I’ve taken here in Perú, along with a brief explanation of the story behind the photo, or its significance.

For the first installment, we have a photo of my host-brother during his 5th birthday this past February.

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So right off the bat, I’m sure you notice that his face is covered with icing, and in my opinion giving him the appearance of a cat or a raccoon. Now maybe you are thinking the explanation for his icing-face is that he is a little kid and just couldn’t wait to try some of that sweet, sweet cake. However, you would be mistaken with that line of thinking.

In Perú, there is the widespread tradition of the birthday boy or girl taking a bite out of their cake. However, what usually happens is they go in for the bite, and someone else either pushes the cake into their face, or their face into the cake. I’ve personally witnessed this happen at least 5 different times, and have no doubt that when my birthday rolls around next month, I will meet the same fate as my host-brother.

Again, this is another tradition that I think we should adopt back in the US. What could be better to liven up a birthday party than a face full of cake?

Let me know if you try it out at your next relative’s cumpleaños.

MGB

Peace Corps Pup

So about 2 weeks ago I decided to join the long line of Peace Corps Volunteers before me by getting a pet, in my case a puppy.

When I got back from my great Lake Hopping adventure at Laguna Parón with some other Peace Corps Volunteers in Áncash, I headed straight home to my host family.  I was pretty tired, so I ate some food in our kitchen before going up to our tienda to just relax a bit.  When I was up in the tienda, a few of the neighborhood kids came into the store to buy some food; eggs, tuna, oil, limes, tomatoes, gum, candy, etc.  One little girl was holding an adorable brown puppy, but despite my questions, she shyly avoided telling me its name or even where she had found it.  My host-mother eventually came up the tienda (store) and got the little girl to talk, and found out they had just found the puppy on the street, presumably abandoned because she was an hembra (female).

Then, surprisingly, the little girl thrust the puppy in my host-mom’s arms and said “Tómala, mi mamá no la quiere” (take her, my mom doesn’t want her around).  My host-mom turned to me, handed me the puppy, and said “Mira, acá está tu perra” (Look, here is your dog!).  I had been wanting a puppy for sometime, so I was thrilled by this unexpected turn of events.  The funniest part of this moment however was when my host-mom decided to regalar a la chica (give to the girl) a huge bag of mangos; I got a puppy in exchange for mangos.  Only in the Peace Corps would something so odd and funny happy haha.

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First night with a new family.

She was very shy for the first few days, skittering away at any noise or sudden movement, but over the next few evenings I would sit outside reading my Kindle with her on my lap to try and get her accustomed to my presence.  She was a shy little girl, but in time she began to come out of her shell.

When I first saw her, I was just drawing blanks about what I would call her.  She looks like a chocolate lab mix, so I wanted to avoid all of the chocolate lab cliché names like chocolate, hershey, mocha, etc., but I couldn’t think of something that seemed to fit.  Finally, after about 3 days of thought, I settled on a name for my new pup: Hazel Leia (had to get a nerd reference in somewhere with her).

Now almost 2 weeks later she is quite well adjusted and no longer runs at every noise and sudden movement.  For the first 2 weeks, her diet consisted of food scraps/bread, but she is now making the transition to real dog food, despite the questioning glances of my host-family.  I fed her the dog food for the first time last night and she immediately ate it without hesitation; she was extremely hungry.  She is a little underweight and seems to have some fleas, so as soon as she puts on some weight, I will be off to find a vet and some anti-flea shampoo in Caraz so I can get her happy and healthy.

I plan to document her growth over the next 18 months on this blog to the best of my ability.  But in the meantime, I plan to just get her healthy and properly trained.

Until next time,

MGB

 

The Clay Dinosaur

If you were expecting a blog post about a clay-mation adaptation of “The Good Dinosaur”, then you have come to the wrong place.  If you came without expectations, then you are right where you belong.

My host dad makes bricks, but he’s not alone. In my neighborhood, there are approximately 15 brick factories, or ladrillerías. Now you might be asking, “Why are there so many brick factories in one neighborhood? Wouldn’t they just be saturating the market or something? Why don’t they spread themselves out a bit more?”. All good questions, which are quickly resolved with two words: clay deposits. The soil in my neighborhood here in Perú has a ton of clay, and I mean a TON, and it just so happens that clay is a vital ingredient to making the adobe/mud bricks that are ever so abundant here in Áncash. Coincidentally, the vast clay deposits were likely the reason some Pre-Incan societies inhabited the area: they used the clay to make pottery and other ceramics.

While this clay is of huge economic importance to my site, it can also be used to satisfy more artistic needs. One day, my host-siblings and I collected some clay and set to work making some figurines. I decided to go with an prehistoric animal theme, sculpting a long-neck first.

Second up was a sharp-tooth, followed by car and late some dinosaur eggs, made by my host-sister.

I haven’t played with clay in quite a long time (probably since middle school), but all of the little tricks/tips I learned in art class slowly came back to me as I worked on my dinosaur friends. I’m hoping to improve my clay-sculpting abilities over the next 2 years, but we’ll see how that goes.

Until next time,

MGB

Batalla de Agua (Water Battle)

When I joined the Peace Corps, I certainly had no ideas or expectations for what my living situation would be like, although I will admit my first thoughts went to a small  hut in a forest where I would have to walk long distances to find water to bathe, cook, etc. While I think I could have lived in such a situation, I am very fortunate to be living with a wonderful host family in a nice house that has running water, electricity, etc.

Now, even though we have running water, being an Environmental Volunteer, I don’t really like putting water (or really anything) to waste. However, one day, at the prompting of my host siblings, I made an exception. On that day, the third of December of 2015, I engaged my host siblings in an epic water balloon/water battle.

My poor siblings had no idea what they were getting themselves into, because the threat of imminent drenching awakened my immense competitive spirit, leading me to “borrow” the first water balloons that my host sister had made prior to lunch. Post-lunch, the fun began with my host-sister convincing my host-brother to join forces with her to take me down, only to have the tides turned against her when I convinced my brother to join forces with me instead for the promise of sweet, sweet, American candy (thanks Mom!). Promptly, with the help of my host-brother, my host-sister was drenched, and myself only slightly damp. When the balloon supply ran out, we switched to plastic cups and buckets.  Honestly, plastic cups and buckets are much more effective than water balloons.

My host-sister had taken control of the outdoor sink and plastic cup supply and the situation looked dire, but with the threat of drenching her with the dirty pig-water (which I never would have done), I gained control over the precious sink resource, which turned the tide of the battle in my favor. Subsequently, the battle was fairly one sided with my host-sister emerging from the encounter as wet as a melting snowman, and myself emerging only as wet as a Shamwow. When the battle was good and won, and I had claimed my victory for all to see, my host siblings decided they weren’t wet enough and willingly drenched themselves in water while I documented the entire occasion, shutter-shot style.

While I did feel bad about using so much water for no other purpose than fun, I think it was worth it.

MGB

Thanksgiving in Perú

Peruvians don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. Seeing that Thanksgiving is an American holiday, I really shouldn’t have been too surprised at its absence and honestly, in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, I had forgot it was even approaching. Consequently, I didn’t really make a big deal about it here, or make much of an effort to share the holiday tradition with my host-family. I won’t be making the same mistake next year.

Most of Thanksgiving Day, I spent in my room watching movies, trying to cope with the sadness of not being home for the holiday. However, around dinnertime, my host-sister came and knocked on my door and asked if I wanted to come help make cachangas, a type of fried bread that tastes similar to a funnel cake. I decided to acabar with my moping, and spent the next hour making and eating these bread patties with my family. While it wasn’t a Thanksgiving feast, it was appreciated, and left me happy as I settled down for the evening.

Now, just because I missed out on a Thanksgiving feast with my host-family, don’t think that I didn’t get to enjoy my turkey, potatoes, casseroles, and pies. On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, we had a Volunteer Thanksgiving in our regional capital, Huaráz, where we were able to share our US tradition with some Peruvian friends. Oh my, and what a Thanksgiving it was. We had wayyyyy too much food (as is required), and in fact food of all varieties: turkey, chicken, bacon-green bean casserole, pies, potatoes, roasted vegetables, ice cream cake, stuffing, french fries, etc.

By the end of the evening, I was happily drifting into a food coma, still recalling all of the wonderful things that I had consumed. Dish of the night has to go to Nathan who made the Green Bean Casserole with bacon. I couldn’t stop eating it. I didn’t realize how much I had missed bacon until I took my first bite of that glorious, crispy, meat.

Overall, Volunteer Thanksgiving was a huge success, but I need to work on host-family Thanksgiving for 2016.

MGB

First Week as a Volunteer

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:

Monday:

  • Helped around the house
  • Played basketball in Caraz with my host half-brother
The clouds were beautiful my first day back in site.
The clouds were beautiful my first day back in site.

Tuesday:

  • Visited one of my family’s beautiful chacras (fields), which was just a  short walk down the street.
  • Re-used some plastic bottles to do some crafts with my host-sister

Wednesday:

  • 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!
  • Dinner in Caraz at my family’s favorite Chifa (Chinese food) place

Thursday:

  • 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.
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My office is in a soccer stadium, and we have a pretty incredible view just outside. I am working in the Gerencia de Servicios a la Ciudad y Gestion Ambiental (Office of Services to the City and Environmental Management).

Friday:

  • Visited the Inca Wayin ruins on the OTHER side of the street.
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A wall is most of what remains of the Inca Wayin ruins.
  • 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.

Saturday:

  • Moved lots of bricks and vomited a lot (I’m better now)

Sunday:

  • 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.
My beautiful bunk-bed (camarote)
My beautiful bunk-bed (camarote)

Monday:

  • 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.

Mark

Officially a Volunteer

So Friday was a big day for me and all my fellow Peace Corps Perú 25 trainees.  Friday was swearing-in day, the day we took our official oaths of service and became fully-fledged Peace Corps Volunteers.  It was certainly an emotional day for me and all of the other trainees.

We started off with a few short wrap-up activities in the training center before gathering all of our belongings, packing them into some combis, and shipping off to Lima to the Peace Corps Office.  When we arrived in Lima, we had some time to say hi to some staff and grab a bite to eat before we hopped on a different bus to head to the U.S. Ambassador to Perú’s house.  For lunch, my good friends Jamie, Wes, Morgan, and I grabbed food at Subway; after 3+ months, a meatball sub with pickles and onions never tasted so good.

On the bus ride over to the Ambassador’s house, the emotions were slowly, but steadily rising.  When we finally arrived, we popped inside and assumed on seats on stage as the audience began to fill with Peace Corps staff, NGO workers, current Peace Corps volunteers, and of course members of our amazing host families.  Before the ceremony began, I was able to hop on over to the bathroom, and I must say that it was the nicest bathroom I have ever seen in Perú.

Once the ceremony began, the anticipation among the volunteers was tangible as we drew closer and closer to the big moment.  The ceremony kicked off with the singing of the Peruvian National Anthem and the Star Spangled Banner, and I’m ashamed to say we all messed up our National Anthem, mostly because we didn’t realize there was no introductory music, and it just started right away.

During the ceremony, we heard speeches from our incredible Training Manager, Enrique Liñan, a representative of the training host families, the US Ambassador, Bryan Nichols, and the Peace Corps Perú Country Director, Parmer Heacox.  They shared words of wisdom, and advice, and after the speeches we were officially sworn in by the Ambassador and Parmer, who later gave us our official Peace Corps Volunteer certificates.

After all of this, the big moment came, the moment in which I, the President of Perú 25, had to give a speech to my friends and now fellow volunteers, and all those in attendance.  My speech is below, but it’s in Spanish, so sorry to all of my English-only followers.

Swearing-In Day Speech

While my speech marked the end of the Swearing-In ceremony, it also marked the beginning of the tears.  The following 45 minutes or so were wonderful and emotional.  I hugged my host-mother several times, took lots of photos, received lots of compliments on my speech from staff/fellow volunteers, chatted with a volunteer who served in Perú way back in 1965, and enjoyed lots of snacks (water, chocolate chip cookies, taquitos, ceviches, causa, etc.).  It was hard to say goodbye to my host-mom, and though I didn’t tear up as much as some of my fellow volunteers, it was still an emotional experience nonetheless.

The bus ride back to the Peace Corps office was heavy, but we did our best to enjoy the time together.  We had some great games of “Would you rather…” and “Would you marry someone who is perfect in every way except…”, I shared my Swedish Fish, and I enjoyed some final face-to-face conversation with my boy Jamie.  When we got to the Peace Corps office, there were more tears, lots of hugs, lots of photos, and lots of goodbyes.  I’m going to miss my training group so much, and I wish I had had more time to say goodbye, but I’m looking forward to visiting them, especially my Amazonas amigos, over the next 2 years.

From the Peace Corps office, I headed to my hostel with few other Volunteers who also weren’t leaving that night, and then went out with two volunteers from Ancash who were in for the week.  We went to an amazing burrito place in Miraflores (Lima) called Burrito Bar, Barranco Beer Company, and then Wong (a Target-like store), where my fellow Ancashino Kevin and I bought some stuff we would need at site.  Within Wong, I found something amazing: Turkey Hill Ice cream.  I have absolutely no idea how or why there is Turkey Hill Ice cream in Perú, but all I can say is I bought myself a quart of Cookies n’ Cream and it was absolutely the same as what I know from the States.

All in all, swearing in was an emotional day, and I’m definitely going to miss my friends (who I hope will call me frequently), but I’m also very excited to get to my site and begin to work in my community.

Since I haven’t quite figured out the wifi situation in my site yet, it might be a while before my next post.  Also, I’ll eventually update this post with some photos once I get them from other volunteers and Peace Corps staff.

MGB

Ancash: they say it’s blue.

So unless you speak Quechua, you probably didn’t catch the significance of my title.  In Quechua, Anqa = blue, and adding “sh” to the ends of words adds the meaning “they say” or “se dice”, so Ancash (or Anqash) literally means “they say it’s blue” in Quechua.

So why kick this post off with a Quechua lesson?  Because Ancash in the departmento (state) of Perú in which I’ll be living for the next 2 years, and they speak Quechua in Ancash.  Specifically, as noted in my previous post, I’ll be living just outside the city of Caraz, in the Callejón de Huaylas.

So this past week was Site Visit week for all of the trainees of Peace Corps Perú 25, which means that we all got to spend a week at our future sites, to which we will be moving after we officially swear in as Peace Corps Volunteers in just 2 weeks.

For the Ancash volunteers, we got on a bus in Lima at 11pm on Saturday, July 4th, and arrived in the incredible city of Huaráz, which is the capital of Ancash, at about 6:30am on Sunday.  Upon arrival, we were greeted by 3 amazing Ancash Volunteers who took us to the Peace Corps approved hostel in the city.

After dropping off our stuff, we headed out to an amazing breakfast place called Café California, which is owned by an American from California, which means that they had US BREAKFAST FOOD!!!!!  I had my first pancakes in over 2 months and they were delicious.  In general, Ancash receives a lot of international tourists who come for the gorgeous hikes and mountaineering, which means there are a lot of expats, which means there are a lot of great international food places.

Café California
Café California

After breakfast, we headed out on a scavenger hunt throughout the city which involved finding some locations that would be useful to us as volunteers, whether to nourish our stomachs or actually provide support in some other capacity.  One of the stops was the Huaráz market, to which I returned later to prepare a canasta (basket) as a gift to my new host family, who I would be meeting on Tuesday morning.

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The rest of the day was spent exploring the city on our own, and chilling in our hostel which has free wifi and HOT SHOWERS!  It is the best.

The view from the roof of our Hostel.  Mt. Huascarán is the tallest mountain in Perú.
The view from the roof of our hostel. Mt. Huascarán is the tallest mountain in Perú.

Monday was an important day, because it was Socio day, or the first interaction we would have with our future host-country counterparts.  I had two socios come, Edwin, a CTA (science-technology-environment) teacher in the school down the road from my new home, and Miguel, the jefe de Ecología y Medio Ambiente de la Municipalidad de Caraz (boss of ecology and environment in the Caraz municipality).  They both were great, and we spent the majority of the morning going over Peace Corps policies, the role of a volunteer in the community, and other such things.

Tuesday was the more important day, in my opinion, because that was the day we met our new host families, the people who would be housing us, feeding us, and forming our new Peruvian family for the next 2 years of our lives.  My host-parents are named Edwin and Elli, and we hit it off right from the get-go.  They are both incredibly nice, and not only do they speak Spanish, but they also speak Quechua, so I will have lots of time to practice all the Quechua I have been learning when I’m permanently in site.  Edwin makes and sells bricks, used to drive transportation trucks, and is the president of our neighborhood of about 450 families (I quickly learned that he seems to know everyone, and he is even good friends with the mayor of the town).  Elli works around the house cooking, tending the chakra (farm/fields), and also sells fruits once a week in the large market in Caraz.  Based on my observations throughout the week, they seem to have a great relationship and divide the household labor fairly evenly, which isn’t always a common sight in Peru.

After we finished family orientation, we hopped on a colectivo (van) and began the ~1.5 hour journey from Huaráz to Caraz.  The journey was incredibly scenic, with giant snowcapped mountains to my right, and imposing mountains to my left.  When we arrived in Caraz, and eventually to my house, I knew I was in the right spot.  The climate is perfect (warm during the day, not too cold at night, and the water from the faucet is naturally warm).  When we got to my new house, I met the rest of the family which consists of a 9 year-old sister named Cielo, and a 4 year-old brother also named Edwin, who we just call Junior.  I was also happily surprised to discover that my host-dad had four children from a previous marriage who ranged from 21 to 28 years of age: more friends!

My host-brother, Edwin, in our backyard.
My host-brother, Edwin, in our backyard.

The rest of Tuesday was spent settling into my freshly painted room, meeting our 6+ dogs and various farm animals, and enjoying some wonderful food as I got to know my new family.  I hit it off with Cielo and Junior right away, and from the first meeting I knew that we were going to have a fun 2 years together.

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On Wednesday, the work began.  The purpose of the site visit wasn’t only to meet our new host-family, but also to start to get to know our community, which means doing lots of presentations.  My Wednesday morning kicked off with a visit to the Caraz Municipality, where I thought I was just going to be introduced one-by-one to some of the important directors.  Boy was I wrong!  When I arrived, I was guided into a room full of municipality workers, and given a seat at the table in the front of the room.  After a few minutes, a vey formal presentation began, during which I was asked to give a speech about Peace Corps, my role as a volunteer, and what I hoped to accomplish.  It was a tad overwhelming, and the whole thing was filmed/photographed, so there very well might be an article published about me sometime soon in Caraz.  However, I think it went over very well and the workers seemed to resonate with my words.

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View from my room; bricks, mountains, and all.

After that, the rest of the week ran rather smoothly.  I visited 3 local schools, of which 2 seemed very receptive to working with me on environmental education.  I also quickly realized that everyone, and I mean everyone, wants me to teach English. The schools, the municipality, my host-dad, etc.  I am happy to help out with English classes when I can, and to work with the English teachers to improve their pronunciation, but I made it very clear that I was not a teacher, and that my environmental goals take priority.

In addition to visiting schools, I visited the Health Post in my community of Yuracoto, where I met the doctor in charge and offered my support for any work they might do in the schools, such as with sex ed, promoting self-esteem, or environmental education.  I also met the director of the UGEL, which is an organization responsible for overseeing the schools in each community within Perú.

Some other highlights of the week were:

  • Sharing meals with my host family.
  • Eating Manjar Blanco, an incredibly delicious milk-based cream spread.
  • Watching Ben-10 with my host-brother and Combate with my whole family.
  • Feeding our chickens and ducks.
  • Eating ice cream and a snow-cone equivalent in town.
  • Visiting the municipality’s vivero (tree nursery) at which I hope to plant lots of trees (hopefully with students).
  • Visiting the municipality’s “zoo” which has ostriches, a monkey, and some farm animals.
  • Seeing my office space in the Office of Services to the City which happens to be in the town’s soccer stadium.
  • Seeing the stars and the Milky Way every night.
  • Learning some new Quechua words from my host-parents.
  • Visiting some ruins within Caraz and seeing some ways to spruce them up a bit.
  • Picking up my host-sister from school and meeting her friends, who kept asking me how to say certain things in English.
  • Finding a great potential new socia who is an English teacher in my host-sister’s school, and who already has a TON of ideas about how to make the school much more environmentally conscious.  Plus, she has a son who runs a tourism-by-bike business in Caraz, which I want to check out.
  • Finding toad eggs & tadpoles in my backyard, and teaching my 4 year-old host-brother about the life cycle of a toad.  I’m hoping we can raise some in the house when I get back, and possibly use them for a school project.

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Overall, Caraz is absolutely beautiful and I’m really looking forward to my tranquil lifestyle on the outskirts of town.  I really have a wonderful set-up in my site, because there are SO many opportunities for work, both in the city and in the surrounding rural areas.  The municipality needs a lot of support in promoting their environmental programs, the schools need a lot of support, and there is a lot to be done to promote environmental advocacy and eco-tourism.  I’m really excited to get back to my site in two weeks, so I can finally get started with my work.  There is still a lot to learn about my site, and still a lot of preparations to complete before getting started, but I know now that I’m ready for this, and that this is what I’m supposed to be doing.

-Mark

P.S. I expect lots of people to come visit me, because Ancash is gorgeous.