Today, May 7th, 2017, marks 2 years since officially landing on Peruvian soil (I think our plane touched down at like 10-11pm). While I haven’t officially reached 2 years in my site of Caraz, Áncash (gotta wait until July 25th, 2017), to commemorate this occasion enjoy some of my favorite photos of scenery that I have taken in my beautiful department of Áncash.
Enjoy the photos!
I live in a very beautiful region of the world and I am extremely grateful for the wonderful experiences I have enjoyed during my Peace Corps service. Here’s to one more year!
Last weekend, I organized a trip among some other Ancash Volunteers to Laguna Parón, a huge glacial lake about 1.5 hours from my site. This lake is quite important to my site because it provides all of our drinking water. However, this lake is also famous internationally because it is home to the mountain of the Paramount Pictures Logo.
The mountain from the logo is called Artesonraju, and unfortunately, due to cloudy weather and some trail closures, we were unable to get a glimpse of the famous peak. However, at least now I can respond “Sí” (yes) whenever I am asked “¿Conoces Laguna Parón?” (Have you been to Laguna Parón) in site.
Below, you can find a photo series documenting the beautiful trek.
Perú is gorgeous (at least Áncash) and I’m so lucky to be living here for 2 years.
This past Wednesday was a huge day in Peace Corps world, well at least in the world of Peace Corps Perú 25 trainees.This past Wednesday was the day we received our site assignments, or in other words, the location in which we would be living and working for the next 2 years of our lives.This day has been long awaited by everyone in my training group, and I must say that it was definitely the happiest and most energetic day of training thus far.
We kicked off the morning with a little stalling for time from the training staff, since all of the regional coordinators (they will be our first line of staff support at site) were running a little late.However, the stalling was appreciated because we watched this hilarious video about Peruvians bringing their culture to Perú, Nebraska, and the hilarity that ensues.
Now, on to the good stuff.So around 8:40, all of the regional coordinators arrived and we finally were able to get started, of course going alphabetically by departamento name.First up was Amazonas, followed by Ancash (where I knew I was going), then Cajamarca, Junín/Lima, La Libertad, Lambayeque, and Piura.
If you can’t tell from the photo of my Anca$h crew, I was super happy.After the excitement of finding out who was going to Ancash with me, I managed to calm down and glance through the dossier of my future site, which is…..
Caraz is the capital city of the province of Huaylas (think county), and is located in what is known as the Callejon de Huaylas, or the Huaylas Valley, which is a valley formed between the two mountain ranges that divide Ancash: the Cordillera Negra to the west, and the Cordillera Blanca, to the east.Ancash is an incredibly beautiful departamento and well renowned for it’s snow capped peaks, glacial lakes, and absolutely incredible hiking and trekking.Also, Ancash is coincidentally the first province to ever host Peace Corps Volunteers in Perú, way back in 1962.But, I’ll talk more about Ancash in a future blog post.
My site, Caraz, is known as Caraz Dulzura by most Ancashinos (people of Ancash) because it is well renowned for its sweets and ice-cream (music to my ears!).The city has about 28,000 people, with about half living within the city itself and the other half in the surrounding rural areas.The weather is fairly mild compared to other Ancash sierra sites because it lies in a valley, and is only at ~2200 meters of altitude, but there is still a strong rainy season that lasts from about November to April.
In terms of my job, I will primarily be working with the Municipality in Caraz to help implement a solid waste management program that they just recently started.They have a location designated for a landfill, but still need to improve the facility as well as launch a city-wide trash separation campaign to educate people about how to separate their trash (recyclables, organics, waste, etc.).The municipality even has it’s own radio and tv channel, so I hope to eventually hit the air (in Quechua and Spanish) to teach people how to segregate trash.In addition to working with the municipality, it seems likely I will be working with some of the local schools in areas of environmental education, tree planting, and maybe even teaching some English.With my site, it seems like the possibilities are endless right now, but I’m sure I’ll have a much better idea of what I want to do, and what I can do, once I move out there in a few weeks and get started.
Now, while my work will center around Caraz, I will actually be living in a smaller community about 15 minutes away by bike with a host family.While I haven’t met my family yet (I will in about 2 weeks), I do know that I have a mom, dad, little sister (9), and little brother (4).I was really excited to find out that I would have little siblings because I brought Play Doh and bubbles with me from the states, but haven’t had anyone to give them to yet.I’m hoping that my host family will speak both Quechua and Spanish so that I can continue to practice both in site, but I guess I’ll have to wait a few more weeks to find out!
If you have any questions about my site, leave them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them based on the information I have!
Look out for blog posts in the future about my site/Ancash once I actually arrive, and until then.
P.S. I hope you guys caught the Peace/Peace Corps pun.
So this past week, all of the trainees went off to various parts of Perú for Field Based Training. All of the MAC volunteers, myself included, left the overcast and dusty skies of Chaclacayo to head to the fresh, clear skies of the city of Jauja, in the province of Junín.
We left early Monday morning on the swankiest bus I have ever been on, to start our ~7 hour journey to Jauja.
There is only one road from Lima to Jauja, and it is a steep, windy one that curves its way up one side of a mountain range and then down the other. At its summit, the road is the highest in all of Perú, meaning altitude sickness is a definitive concern, but also that you get a close-up of some gorgeous snow-capped peaks.
Fortunately, the altitude didn’t give me any problems during the journey (or for the rest of the week, for that matter), and we arrived safely and without incident around 3pm. Upon arrival we checked into our hostel, and then I went out to grab a snack with some volunteers; we got a giant avocado and 7 pieces of bread to share for the equivalent of $0.66.
The next day was when the fun began, because we kicked off the day by going to a nearby school to teach a 30 minute class about some environmental theme. I had a fantastic group of third graders to whom I taught the life cycle of a frog. They were surprisingly attentive, and got me very excited to work in the schools when I eventually get to my site.
After class, I played soccer with a bunch of the kids during their recreo (recess) and showed them how my waterproof camera worked (they were pretty amazed). After classes, we headed over to a PCV’s house for a delicious lunch, after which we met up with his local Club Ambiental (environmental club) to go plant some TREES! I paired up with an awesome kid named Luis (who happened to be the PCV’s host-cousin), and we planted 3 trees up on the hill. We were a killer tree planting team, and we named each of our trees after different Avengers (Hulk, Captain America, y Iron Man).
After tree planting, we headed back to Jauja where we went out on the street for dinner. A few of us found a great pizza place where I shared a delicious Napolitana Pizza with another trainee.
We started off the next day exploring the local Feria, which is basically a giant market that happens every Wednesday and Sunday. I talked with a few vendors and some kids to learn a bit more about Jauja, bought some fruit, and also bought a trompo, which is basically a wooden top that all the kids play with.
Later in the morning, we headed to the pueblo of Sincos to listen to a presentation about compost and then help another PCV with a compost/vivero (tree nursery) project in a local school. Our group worked to make a box for the compost as well as to prepare two camas (beds) for the future trees. It was hard work, tearing out grass and picking the soil, but it was super fun to be doing some manual labor. After we finished, we lunched at the volunteers house before heading out to the town of Tunanmarca to visit a small museum and some pre-Incan ruins.
Getting to the ruins involved a short bus ride up a small hill, and then a short hike up to the entrance. In order to enter the ruins, our guide had to perform a really cool ceremony where he asked permission from Mama Patsa y Tayta Inti (Mother Earth and Father Sun, in Quechua) to enter the ruins. After the ceremony, we all had to deposit a stone that we brought up the mountain with us in a small pile.
The ruins themselves were gorgeous, and the view from the hilltop was incredible. It was amazing to walk around and touch the stone houses that had been built stone by stone several thousand years earlier.
The ruins were truly incredible, and you could feel nothing but peace walking through them, with beautiful scenery all around. My time up there, among the history, will be something to cherish.
The next morning we all headed out to a nearby town called Concepción, to visit their “Relleno Sanitario”, aka a landfill. One of Perú’s biggest challenges is solid waste management, and so it was nice to visit one of the few sanitary landfills in all of Perú, that will hopefully eventually serve as a model for other towns and cities across the nation. The landfill serves about 25,000 people in the area, and is remarkable in that they separate organic and inorganic materials. Organic materials are used to make compost on the premises which is either sold to local farmers or used to fertilize the áreas verdes (green areas) of the town, while inorganic materials are either recycled or buried.
After we finished touring the landfill, we returned to Jauja where we had lunch together with some other MAC volunteers from Jauja. One of the volunteers was actually from Lancaster, so it was cool chatting him a bit about Pennsylvania stuff. I actually sat next to his socio (in-country partner) Oscar, who was a guardaparque (park guard) with SERNANP (think USFW) in the Reserva Nacional de Junín. I talked with him in-depth about my research experience with invasive species in college, and then talked with him at length about SERNANP’s efforts with the Lake Junín Giant Frog, which is in-danger of extinction. I had heard about the frog when I first found out I was going to Perú, so it was amazing to be able to talk with someone who worked directly with them. I’m hoping I’ll be able to make my way over to the reserve at some point during service to help out with the project a bit.
After lunch, and a brief presentation by Oscar about all of their projects in the Junín National Reserve, we headed to a nearby Lake to do some bird watching (there were flamingos, irises, and many other avifauna). While everyone else was walking around looking at birds, I hung out on the shore to talk with the PCV from PA about his work with the Lake Junín Giant Frog, since I still had a ton of questions. While this was going on, a few trainees and facilitators decided to cross a small land-bridge across a portion of the lake. Not everyone made it across safely, as the lake claimed 3 victims (you can see the aftermath of one fall in the picture below).
When everyone had safely reunited, we took our first group photo with all of the MAC staff (we look pretty good). And before heading out, being the good little environmental guardian that I am, I picked up a few plastic bottles that were lying around on the ground.
For my last night in Jauja, I ate lots and lots and lots of food and sweets, since it would be a while since I would find them so cheap. On our last morning in Jauja, we went to the municipality for a presentation on solid waste management by the Director of the Environment for Jauja. It was really interesting, since they were implementing their first ever recycling program that very Monday, and so the information he shared could be really helpful for starting up recycling efforts in site.
All in all, FBT in Jauja was absolutely incredible, and it was very nice to get away for a few days and see a different part of Perú. After this short trip, I’m extremely excited to get to my site in a few months time and get started (we find out our sites this coming Wednesday morning!). The return journey was fun, and filled with lots of word games since our touchscreens were not functioning. I was sad to leave Jauja only to return to little old Chaclacayo, but we were gifted with a surpise snow squall on the drive home that made everything cooler (literally and figuratively).
Until later this week (when I’ll be updating with a post about my PCV site)!