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.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Alane Famosa,

    You have painted with your words a great picture of your new home. You seem pleased at the setting, your family and farm experience, I'm happy for you! Soon you'll be over your cold/altitude adjustment and get settled in. I was surprised how much of an impact altitude had on me when I moved to the VI and then returned to Durango in the winter.

    The farm experience should be interesting. When I was in Junior High, I lived with my sister for two summers on their (pig) farm in Iowa. It definitely expanded my knowledge base of how people live and certainly, food sources.

    I think you're going to develop warm and wonderful experiences with the people you live and work with.

    Blessed Be!