Sunday, December 23, 2012

One month since swearing-in

Just a month ago, Peru training group 20 had our ceremony to swear in as Peace Corps volunteers. Our ceremony was at the home of the US ambassador to Peru, in Lima, the capital city. 57 of us took the oath.

I had the honor of giving the speech on behalf of our training class, in Spanish, of course. Here it is. A month later, I find it a useful reminder of why I'm here.



Día de Juramento, Perú 20
Discurso de los Voluntarios
Alane Brown
Noviembre 23, 2012

Buenas tardes Embajadora Rose Likins, Director de Cuerpo de Paz Perú Sanjay Mathur, Directora de Capacitación y programación Wendy Van Damme, distinguidos invitados del gobierno, Directora de Capacitación Kathleen Hickey, personal de capacitación y administración, queridas familias anfitrionas y su representante Viviana Cruz, e invitados todos, gracias por estar aquí con nosotros.
Este es un momento inolvidable.  Estamos muy emocionados de estar finalmente aquí y es difícil creer que este día ha llegado. En los Estados Unidos, la mayoría de nosotros ha pasado un año o más en superar un desafío tras otro para convertirnos en aspirantes de Cuerpo de Paz. Había solicitudes y entrevistas y formularios médicos y legales. Habían arreglos de viaje y arreglos financieros. Lo más difícil de todo fueran las despedidas. Nos despedimos de  los seres queridos. Algunos de ellos nos apoyaron en nuestra decisión de venir a servir en el Perú, y algunos no. Pero todos nosotros vinimos. Recuerdo la alegría que sentimos cuando nuestro avión descendió. Aplaudimos cuando aterrizamos en el Perú.
Nos encontramos con una nueva serie de desafíos cuando comenzamos la capacitación. Afortunadamente, tuvimos el apoyo que necesitábamos para tener éxito. Nuestras familias anfitrionas nos han dado una buena base. Es difícil expresar cuánto significa para mí cuando mi madre anfitriona me llama “hija”. Nuestras familias anfitrionas han tocado el corazón a cada uno de nosotros. El recuerdo más dulce de una de mis amigas, un aspirante de Perú veinte, fue el día cuando ella se sentía tan triste que entró a su habitación y empezó a llorar. ¿Quién le dio su apoyo cuando más lo necesitaba? Su hermanita anfitriona, de cuatro años. Ella llegó y la abrazó y le dio una estrella de su torta de cumpleaños para animarla. Nunca sabes dónde aparecerá el cariño. Pronto iremos a nuevas comunidades con nuevas familias anfitrionas. Estoy segura de que el corazón generoso y amoroso del pueblo peruano, nos demostrará su cariño y nos darán estrellas cuando lo necesitemos.
La administración de Cuerpo de Paz en el Perú y nuestros dedicados facilitadores de idioma y facilitadores técnicos han hecho posible que lleguemos a este momento y que estemos listos para comenzar nuestro servicio. Les agradecemos por todo lo que han hecho por nosotros. Ustedes nos han enseñado a mantenernos sanos y salvos. Nos han ayudado a adquirir las habilidades lingüísticas necesarias para comenzar a solicitar dinero de nuestros municipalidades para nos proyectos. Nos han demostrado cómo plantar árboles, convencer a los niños a lavarse las manos y como hablar con los adolescentes acerca del SIDA. En muchos aspectos ha sido para nosotros como ser un niño otra vez, aprender a hablar, aprender como portarse, aprender como cruzar la calle sin ser atropellado por una combi. Cada uno de nosotros ha encontrado un amigo en uno de los miembros del personal, alguien que era amable, que ofreció una estrella de ánimo cuando el estrés se hizo intenso.
Por supuesto, al hablar de nuestra gratitud a quienes nos han ayudado a prepararnos para los dos años de inmersión en la cultura peruana, la apoya más profunda es la que nos hemos dado el uno al otro. Recuerdo un día cuando yo estaba vencida por la nostalgia, y recibí muchos abrazos de mis compañeros. Hemos estado juntos en la capacitación durante diez intensas semanas. Conocemos las fortalezas y debilidades del otro. Los lazos entre nosotros seguirán siendo fuertes en los dos años que serviremos, en diferentes partes del Perú. Perú veinte es un grupo de personas maravillosa. Me siento orgullosa de estar aquí representándolos.
Sabemos que como voluntarios del Cuerpo de Paz, vamos a aprender más de lo que enseñaremos. Estamos ansiosos de conocer una nueva cultura, de ser fluidos en español, de explorar este hermoso país y de desarrollar habilidades que nos ayudarán en trabajos futuros. Todas estas cosas nos ayudarán a permanecer motivados durante nuestro servicio, a pesar de los inevitables problemas que experimentaremos. Pero, para quedarnos aquí los dos años completos, necesitaremos más. Las cosas que nos llevarán hacia adelante son nuestros generosos y amorosos corazones. Querido Perú, estamos aquí para ofrecerte dos años de nuestras vidas. Hoy juramos servirte. Representamos la generosidad del pueblo estadounidense, que brinda el apoyo necesario para traernos aquí. Te brindamos nuestro conocimiento, nuestras espaldas fuertes y nuestra persistencia. Dentro de nuestras nuevas comunidades, ayudaremos a lograr las metas establecidas por las mismas comunidades. Y les daremos estrellas cuando ellos los necesiten.
Perú veinte, nuestros sueños son ahora la realidad. Somos voluntarios de Cuerpo de Paz. ¡Adelante!
                                                                               

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

World-wise school post number 2: my site


As I mentioned in a previous post, I am corresponding with a 3rd-grade class in New Mexico. My first letter to them is posted on this blog, on September 23rd. The students in the class wrote letters to me. I meant to write back to each of the kids, but got stalled by the size of that task. Finally, their teacher told me to just write to the class as a whole. Here's the letter I wrote to them. It duplicates some of what I've already posted on my blog, but there is some new content. Also, it's interesting to see what third-graders want to know about Peace Corps service in Peru. Enjoy!

Dear class,

Thank you for your letters. I apologize for taking so long to reply. I am all done with Peace Corps training school and now I have moved to the place where I’ll live for the next 2 years, serving as a Peace Corps volunteer. I will miss the family I lived with all fall, in Yanacoto. I said goodbye to my host mother and father, my sisters, brothers, nephews, and Benjy and Kaiser the dogs. Now I start a new phase of my time in Peru.


Now I live in the state of Junin. My village is called Marco and it’s close to the city of Jauja. The GPS coordinates are South: 11 degrees, 44.762 minutes, and West: 75 degrees, 33.506 minutes. I am east of you, in the same time zone as New York. I live high in the Andes mountain range now. The elevation of my house is 11,423 feet. 


My new family has fewer people but a lot more animals. My new host mother is Fabiana, and my father is Moises. I have one sister, Katia, who is married to Roberto. They live in Jauja. They have a son, Nicolas, who is 2 years old. He is at our house a lot. He and his grandparents have a very close relationship. Here in Peru, many children call both their mother and grandmother “mami” and both their father and grandfather “papi”.



There are so many animals at our house! We have 6 cattle, 5 sheep, 20 chickens, 2 turkeys, 30 guinea pigs, a beehive of bees, 2 dogs and a cat. All the farm animals live in our compound, in sheds attached to the house.

 
 Every morning, my family takes the cows and sheep to the pasture in the valley, and every night they bring them home before dark.


Now I’ll answer some of the questions you asked me. Several of you asked what I do in Peru. I help the people in my village to take care of their natural environment. We are growing trees to plant on the hillsides where people cut down all the trees long ago when Spain controlled Peru. I also will teach English and nature science to the children in the village schools. In the coming months, I will help improve trash management in our town. I hope to start an environment club and go hiking with the kids. I know you went hiking in the Sandia mountains. Was that fun? What did you learn? Maybe you can send me some pictures.

A few of you asked if I like sports. I like to ski. I also like to go hiking, like many of you. On Sunday I went hiking with some of my new friends here. We visited an archeological site on top of a mountain at 13,300 feet in altitude. It was an observatory in ancient times. The people who lived here before the time of the Inca Empire used it to keep track of the seasons.


I was glad to hear that several of you like to read. I like to read, too. Right now I’m reading “The Lord of the Rings”. We have a TV, and of course all the shows are in Spanish. I like reading better than TV. I like music. I play Native American flute. Last week I got to play a duet with a Peruvian man who played a Peruvian flute. Maybe Mister Klein can play you some Andean flute music so you can hear what it’s like. Try to imagine what we sounded like, blending the flute styles from two continents!

You wanted to know what we eat. Here in the Andes, they eat a lot of potatoes and beans because they grow well here and are easy to buy at the market. They also eat chicken, pork, beef and Guinea pig. My family has a big meal at lunch, and soup for dinner. However, my favorite food is pizza, which is hard to find here.

 
Several of you asked about my dogs, but I live with different dogs now. It sounds like many of you have pets; dogs, cats, fish and birds. Like in my old house, the dogs here are working dogs. They help herd the cows and sheep to and from the pasture and they guard the house at night. Even the cat works: she catches the mice in the attics. Sometimes at night I can hear her above my ceiling, chasing the mice.

Although it is summer here, it is rainy season, so it is often cool, between 45 and 65 degrees. And it is very muddy! This is what my street looks like after a rain.


You asked me about Halloween. Yes, they do celebrate it in Peru. In the cities, there is some trick-or-treating. Out here in the countryside, they don’t follow that custom as much. Instead, they visit the cemetery and have a party there to remember their departed relatives. Now it is almost Christmas. There is a nativity scene in the town square in Jauja, but a lot fewer decorations than in the USA. Also, not everyone gives presents. Instead, there is a family dinner at midnight on Christmas Eve.

In response to the questions about me, I am a grownup like Mister Klein. I have a daughter who is 19. She lives in Japan, where she is studying at a university in Tokyo. I am Anglo with a little Native ancestry but not enough to be an enrolled tribal member. I speak English like my parents. They live in Albuquerque. I knew some Spanish before I came to Peru. Now I speak Spanish every day and I’m getting more fluent quickly. My birthday is April 13. My favorite color is blue. I was a college teacher in Colorado, but now I am taking a few years to serve in the Peace Corps. It is hard work, but I like it. It is fun to get to know the people of Peru.

Well, I hope that gives you some idea of what my new home is like. I’m sorry I can’t answer each of you individually. I am very busy settling in and starting my new job. Next time, I’ll tell you some more about Peru and answer the questions you send me.

I hope you and your families have a happy holiday season.

Best wishes from Peru,

Alane



Monday, December 10, 2012

First week in my site

I’m now in my site, my new home where I’ll live for the 2 years of Peace Corps service.

Here’s the view  coming up my road.

This was taken on a dry day, but when it rains, like it’s doing right now, it’s Very Muddy. Here’s more of my street.

Here we are, inside our courtyard.

The cows come right through the courtyard to their barn beside the kitchen.

We have turkeys

And chickens

And a beehive.
and sheep.
 

Another Peace Corps volunteer, Kristi, lives on the other side of the valley. Yesterday, we went for a walk to the cemetery. The views were beautiful.

And the cemetery was—interesting. I think someone wanted to include this person in sending sacred smoke during a funeral.

We say ‘buenos dias’ to everyone we pass. These kids exchanged greetings with us from their window.

We also visited one of Kristi's schools to get to know the teachers better. It’s a very ecologically minded school, and each class has its own garden.

Later, I walked back across the valley to my own town. We have a lot of eucalyptus from the 1940s reforestation projects.

I went to the market, where my host mom sells grains. I took a few pictures while I watched her stall for a while for her when she went on an errand.

It’s been an interesting first week. Sometimes I feel like I’m falling in love with my site. Other times I feel terribly out of place and off-balance. I’ve been able to meet with my mayor and discovered several local projects I can hop right into. I’ve been to my first Peruvian funeral, which was a very intense experience. I’m getting to know my host family better. I like walking around my town, soaking up the atmosphere. Other times I just curl up in my sleeping bag and read or watch tv shows on my computer. I’ve made a lot of progress on a practical level, like buying bedding. I now have a yummy warm alpaca wool blanket, a fleece sheet-blanket and a mattress cover with lions and tigers on it. I found a tailor who sewed my Peace Corps patch on my cap and fixed the zipper on my backpack, all the while having a jolly conversation about relatives in America. I cooked my first dish in my host mom’s kitchen. I bought rubber boots to wear in the barnyard. I figured out my systems for personal hygiene (hint: chamber pot). I have mastered the public transportation from my town to the nearby city. I acquired internet service, which sometimes works.
I am beginning to shift my attitude. Things here happen organically. People may or may not do what they said they would do (that includes me!). So much depends on factors that are outside of our control. I think I know what’s happening, but then it turns out completely differently. All plans are subject to change, and I don’t understand the rules. I’m adjusting to this, testing out a relaxed response to this new reality. It’ll all work out.
p.s. Wrote this post a week ago, but just now got access to enough bandwidth to upload it. Week 2 was also packed with experiences. Will report when I get the time.

Friday, November 30, 2012

I have a new mailing address:
Alane Brown
Correo Central Jauja
Apartado 126
Junin - PERU
As soon as I nail down better internet access, I'll post and tell about my new home in Junin.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Impressions of Junin


     I´ve traveled around the department (state) of Junin where I´ll be living for the next two years. It´s been a busy week and a half. I´ve had a profoundly awful cold the entire time, which made adjustment to the altitude and cold pretty miserable. I´ve never had trouble with altutude before, but this time I had headache, and when the frequent coughing fits erupted, it felt like my head was exploding. Medicine got it all somewhat under control, and the headache went away. Now I´m in the long trailing end of the upper respitory infection. Cough, sniffle, hack some more. That´s been the downside.
     But enough complaining. The upside is that Junin is beautiful. The terrain varies, but the theme is always mountains. Sometimes they are stark and rugged, sometimes verdant. The signs of the Inca are everywhere, their terraces carved up and down the steep slopes like ridges on a washboard.
    The first half of this trip was Field-Based Training. A group of us from the environment program practiced teaching in the schools, buying recycled materials from women on their weekly buying day, planting trees and working on a tree nursery, visiting a protected area and an eco-tourism site and interviewing local people about trash and recycling.
     After that, I traveled to my site. There was a welcome ceremony with a speech by the mayor and a presentation by our program director on Peace Corps. I made a short speech to thank them for their welcome. A group of students from the elementary school were there as well as teachers from the junior college and some people from the town hall. The presentation was covered on the radio, and in the subsequent days, several people I met told me they´d heard about me on the radio.
     When I get to a computer that will allow me to upload pictures more easily, I´ll post pictures of my new home. It´s very, very rural. The house is adobe with Spanish roof tiles. It´s a small compound. Two sides are storage and barns, another is a building with bedrooms and a sitting room. The 4th side is the kitchen. In the middle of the courtyard, there is the pen for the chickens and turkeys. In the barn area, there are several dozen guinea pigs. At night, the 4 cows and the calf and the 4 sheep and 2 lambs sleep there. Every morning, my host parents take them out to the field to graze, then bring them home in the evening. There is also a beehive and 2 dogs and a cat. My host parents are a kind older couple. I´m really happy to be living with farmers. It´s an interesting new experience, plus it is already giving me insight into the reality of the lifestyle of the community I´m serving.
     During the 3 days I was in site, I talked with the directors of the kindergarden, primary school, girls´ high school, boys´ high school, and junior college. They were universally warm and welcoming, and seemed happy at the prospect of me teaching environment lessons in the schools. I also began talking with officials about a town trash and recylcing program. I will have no trouble keeping busy.
     Another volunteer, Kristi, is only a kilometer away. We´ve enjoyed exploring the nearby small city of Jaujau. It has lots of stores, so we can get most of what we need. Unfortuneately, there is no post office, so I still have no mailing address. I´ll post an address once that gets resolved, probably by getting a PO Box in a bigger city (Huancayo) an hour away. Jauja is a mix of 16th century Spanish buildings, modern buildings and everything in between. It´s busy but relatively small, safe, and easy to figure out. It´s a nice balance to my village, and only a half hour away.
     Now I´m back in Lima. We have one more week of training and testing, then the swearing-in ceremony. That´s when we go from being trainees to being official Peace Corps Volunteers. After that, I´ll be back up in the Andes, settling into my site and working on my diagnostic report on my community and the projects I want to focus on.
     It´s been intense, often uncomfortable, but definitely positive overall. Vague imaginings have finally been replaced by solid knowledge of what my new home looks, smells and feels like. My site is Deep Peru, and I´m glad.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Department assignment: Junin

I found out the general area where I'll be living for 2 years, beginning at the end of November. It's the department (state) of Junin. It's very high in the central Andes. My best guess from the descriptions I've been given is that I'll be in the Mantaro Valley, near the city of Jauja. That puts me at 3,400 meters altitude, or a little over 11,000 feet. Temperature ranges from 32 to 62 degrees. I haven't been there, but here's a picture from the internet.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Some field training adventures



The past two weeks have been busy. I’m amazed by how much I’ve learned. I’m so grateful for my host family, who feed me
 meals like this:




And eat with me,
and keep me amused
There are 17 of us living in our village, a 20-minute commute to the town where our training school is. Last week we celebrated Amanda’s birthday. 


She and her husband Charles are great dancers.


One of my favorite days was last week when we went to a village to the south and built a mud stove for a family. They were doing all their cooking over a wood fire. The women are prone to respatory disease from leaning over the smoke all day. 

The new stove began with a base of mud.

Then we built up a base

After that, we added layers of adobe bricks stuck together with mud.
we worked hard
Once the oven part was complete, we added a stovetop that had been made of cement a few days earlier.


At the end we added a chimney. 

A volunteer who lives in that area will finish off the stove and the family can cover it with a layer of mud and paint it for a finished product. We had a great day helping the family.


Our next field trip lasted five days. We went to Chancay, which is a few hours to the north, on the coast. We stayed in a hostel that had actual hot water. I had my first hot showers since coming to Peru. I loved visiting the marketplace and exploring the town. This is a shrine I discovered one evening.

We visited a loma, which is a tall hill near the ocean that captures the fog. Most of the coast is very, dry, with few living things, very desolate. But the physics of the lomas create a lush island of vegetation. 

We learned about reforestation in the ecosystem.

We also learned about their environmental education program: making planters from trash

And teaching lessons with puppets. I got to perform a spontaneous puppet show for a bunch of children in the park, but I don't have pictures of that. This is the owl puppet I used.

I was especially interested in the way they used the “authority of the resource” strategy in their signage.

We enjoyed a hike through the park.

We also visited a dump to learn about solid waste management and a former dump-turned-wildlife refuge. Our guide was a community leader working on environmental issues, an amazing visionary. 

The difficulties of land restoration are huge. There isn’t enough money for meaningful enforcement, so people continue to use the wildlife refuge as a dump. For example, in this area, a meat factory dumps pig bones and leaves them to dry in the sun.

Then they burn the bones, creating an ash that is fed back to the pigs to return minerals like phosphorus to the system. It’s a smart nutrient recycling strategy, but doing it within the refuge isn’t healthy for the water there.

In this trip, I got to eat ceviche is a seaside restaurant.

 I didn’t get sick!

Our group visited the water treatment plant

We also visited a castle. That's the neighboring fishmeal factory in the background.


The castle was built by an eccentric wealthy woman in the 1940s.

It had a variety of art

And taxidermy

And a collection of pre-Incan artifacts and mummies that we weren’t allowed to photograph. It was interesting to see how a tourist attraction is managed here.

In pairs, we taught lessons on the environment at a local school. Kati and I did ours on trash in the ocean. 

We played games with them, which was a little chaotic.


They liked our puppets.

The best part was hanging out with the kids during recess.

They were fascinated with us, and insisted on getting our autographs.

These months of training are intense. There’s an enormous amount to absorb. I’m starting to feel more comfortable here. I know my language skills are getting better, bit by bit. But I’m trying to do more difficult things in Spanish as we go along, so my skills are always inadequate for what I’m trying to do. It takes a lot on energy. The good news is that I’m sleeping better than I have in many years. The blessings of exhaustion!

I miss everyone at home. I have received zero snail-mail, which is ever so sad. My address is:
Alane Brown
c/o Cuerpo de Paz
Calle Via Lactea 132
Urb.Los Ganados
Lima 33, PERU

 I would love to receive a card or letter. Email is great, but actual paper mail is valued here in ways you might not understand unless you’ve served in the military, Peace Corps, or the like. It’s not like being on vacation; it's full of ups and downs. For example, last week, I found a scorpion in my room. I drowned it in the wash basin.

On the other hand, we had a big fiesta on our block. Guys danced around in these bull costumes, which were covered in fireworks. They spun and shot off sparks. They were gorgeous and dangerous and very, very Peruvian. I hope I'll get to see many Toros Locos during my time here.