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!
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,