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.


  1. I love the picture book style of these posts! It sounds to me like you're really starting to enjoy yourself, (in between working hard). How is the weather? Are you starting to make some friends with other PC volunteers? Family members? Townspeople?

    I think of you often.

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  3. Photos are wonderful. Thanks for taking the time to share with us! :)