Countdown — 14 de octubre del 2013.

i´m nearing a strange part of my Peace Corps service – the countdown. There´s a certain insanity to it. I have about 1 month left in site before I head down to Lima for paperwork; I´m saying goodbye to some of my good friends here in Amazonas as they finish their service and leave for home; I´ve said goodbye to my old host family from training, and will say my farewells to all of Leymebamba soon enough. Yet again, from start to finish, Peace Corps seems like a long series of goodbyes. (And ridiculously high moments, and persistent loneliness, feeling amazingly fulfilled, and so much more.)

I´m becoming slightly restless and nervous, wanting to finish up my time and work as best as I can here, make time to spend with everyone in site before I go, and stock up on the best memories I can while I still can. At least I can prep for the change ahead of time; it´s not like it´s a complete blindside. Then there´s the job search for back home, which I should really be getting onto now, and paperwork to close everything out; packing all my things, and receiving the new Volunteer in Leyme right before I go. It´s nice knowing the work will be continued once I go, and that I was able to set down the ground work here in Leyme. Now I can relax and leave it in other hands.

There are lots of emotions going on – excitement, sadness, trepidation, slight fear, and resolution with the process that´s marching its way forward. I have about 5 weeks left in Perú, this place that now holds a spot in my life and my heart. I´ve had plenty of great experiences (see the photos below for some of the more recent ones), and I´ll get to have more before I leave. My Spanish has greatly improved, and will be part of my work (fingers crossed) from here on out. I´m more confident, more patient, maybe, more grateful for the little things, and better able to feel where i´m at. I´ve made some great friends, and now have two more families. It´s been hellish at times, but it´s been good to me too.

Laguna Siérpecocha - Atuen

Another look at the “Serpent Lagoon” in Atuen, one of our more rural annexes. It´s literally shaped like a serpent, and some people say it was hand-made by the Incas. See one of my earlier posts for an aerial shot.

Laguna de los Cóndores

Our Laguna de los Cóndores (Lagoon of the Condors), Leymebamba´s well-known lagoon where 219 mummies were discovered in mausoleums set into the cliff´s edge. They say it´s 1 km wide by 2 km long. Took this photo from an inflatable boat we got to row across.

Climbing to the ruins

Mausoleums - Laguna de los Cóndores

It was a small hike up to the mausoleums, up muddy slopes, ladders, and some slippery rocks, but amazingly beautiful once we got there. The set-in cliff site overlooks the lagoon, and water falls lightly from the overhang on the outer edge. It´s one of the most majestic and peaceful places I´ve been to here.

ALMA Young womens leadership camp

I got to help out with a young women´s leadership camp here in Amazonas, put on by our Volunteers and health-based work counterparts. It was good fun, and two participants got to come from Leyme. (see below)

Camp ALMA 2

Birth control fashion show

…And there was a birth control fashion show.

New WASH training group

Breakfast with host family - Lima

Went down to Lima for the better part of a week to help out with training for the new group of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Volunteers – we were Peru 18, and their group is Peru 22 (numbered by when they entered into the country — they´re the 22nd group so far). One of them´s hopefully coming to Leyme! I got to stay with my old host family in that time, and snapped that shot of them at breakfast the day we parted ways.

Goodbye dinner - missing one

We had an official “despedida” (goodbye celebration) two nights ago in Chachapoyas, and some of the newer Volunteers surprised us with a cake. From left to right, that´s Sarah, Brian, Jessica, me, and Chris. (We were one short for the night – Andrew was spending his last weekend in site with his host family.) Love em all.

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Updates, Winding down – 20 julio 2013

i´m not really a blogger at heart – very rarely do I sit down and think, “well, I guess I should jot down all my thoughts for the world to read.” It´s a strange medium, too, throwing something up on the Internet and hoping someone who´s interested will see it. What the hell do I write? What if it´s too dry, too long? I prefer conversations. But I started this blog for my Peace Corps service, and hopefully it´s good for somethin´. (Keeping me busy at times, if nothing else.) It´s nice to know some of you might like it, and more than the whole ´it´s-your-peace-corps-duty-to-tell-people-about-your-host-country´ thing, it can help me feel more connected to home. And with plenty of photos, of course, because that´s what I like the most.

I´m on the way out here, in a good way. There are four months left in my service! That´s definitely exciting. As my friend Chris said a month back, I´m not tallying up the days now as much as I´m counting them down. There have been plenty of wonderful experiences lately, including going to Cusco and Machu Picchu with my sister when she came with a study group, and an English camp for youth in Tarapoto (a jungle city about 6 hours away) with an Embassy-sponsored language school and my Volunteer friends from Amazonas. (Sorry, these pictures are robbed from facebook – I don´t have the files here on my camera anymore.) And as an update apart, I´ve switched host families, only because the previous ones rent their house and the owner wants to sell it. My new family is great too.

Me at Machu Picchu

Laurel Aguas Calientes

Tarapoto English camp

In more recent news, I´ve just come back from a week-and-a-half long vacation to the States. It was lovely. I spent time with family (even if it was short), caught up with a few friends, went to the beach, and stuffed down all kinds of delicious food. (Seriously, that´s one of the things that can make a volunteer giddy. Breaded catfish, quiche, chips and queso, hummus, fried okra, lasagna, garlic bread, cheese enchiladas, salmon, beer, wine, margaritas, crab cakes, barbecue, cole slaw, mac and cheese, homemade apple pie, chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream – it was great. I ate way too much.) And spent lots of time with my fiancée, Ariel. That´s the most important part of these trips for me, because of how little we see each other. 4-5 weeks all told, out of a 2-year service, isn´t much.

Grandma, Mom, Jerry

Jacob, Grandma, Grandpa

Dad, Laurel, Jacob & crew

Ariel

Beach!

Apple pie!

Work here is going very well, in that almost all of the hard stuff is finished and the project looks like it will finish will. (Don´t know if I`ve already said that on this blog.) That´s a wonderful change, compared to spending a lot of time fretting about things. I have a few dedicated health professionals working with me, and in two days we get to talk with the whole Health Center about teaching hand washing to kids. The school kids are participating in hand washing activities and lessons and hopefully think about it more now, and most of the teachers are enthusiastic about the effort. They´re the reason that part of the project even works. The families in Ishpingo / Pomacochas (one of our annexes) have long since finished their hygiene awareness sessions, and most of them should have constructed their improved latrines by now. We´ll be visiting them again on Wednesday to see how it stands. (After the sessions each family got a concrete latrine seat, ventilation pipe and cap, and sheets of corrugated tin for the roof; and it was up to them to dig out the pit, set up the floor and the walls, and put the whole thing together.) It´s been wonderful to pass through and see a little girl meticulously wash her hands, and have a family call me over to ask questions about a latrine-in-process, and see the finished products of each household. Those little successes, and friendships and moments with the people, are what make my service feel worthwhile. It´s up to hope that there´s been some sort of difference for these folks, and that their health will be better in the future.

Feli & Joseph

Hand washing memory game

Improved latrine Ishpingo

So I´m counting down the days! There are plenty of things to distract me, including our Patron Saint festival for the Vírgen del Carmen (just finished on the 16th) and Peruvian Independence celebrations on the 28th and 29th. A new group of Spaniards is arriving for their volunteer work with the University of Sevilla, and I´m getting a site mate soon too! Another Volunteer´s coming to town to work with youth, more or less at the end of August. It´ll be a change, sharing Leyme with someone else – I think I´ve gotten used to being alone!

Raymipampa

Rainy Raymipampa

Castillo in the plaza

Fireworks

I have to update my resume and do a job search soon, to get ready for life back in the States. Oh, and we´ll be planning a wedding, too. :c)

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Easter Vacation and site update — 20 de abril del 2013

It´s been a while since I´ve written, which gives me more to update you on!

I got to take a great Easter vacation to Ayacucho, a small but lively city in the mountains of central Perú. (look it up on a map if you want to know exactly where.) It´s not very close to Amazonas – 1 ½ days of bus rides! I´d spent three weeks there with a study abroad program in 2010, so it was nice to go back and see it again. I also got to see the host family I´d stayed with over two years ago, which was best of all. They´re amazing, warm, genuine people. Here´s the only picture I have with all of them – I´m the floating head in the back of the crowd. :) There are only two of them that live in that house (on the right, sitting down), and the rest are sons and aunts and uncles, etc., that were visiting for the holiday.

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Like the rest of Peru, Ayacucho has a notably heavy Catholic history. That history and influence came from Spain’s conquest of much of South America, which began in Peru in 1532. Where before there had been indigenous cultures and the very large Incan Empire, the Spanish imposed their language, politics and religious beliefs, erecting churches and crosses in the people’s sacred places. While it’s a difficult legacy, it helped shape the rich Peruvian culture that exists today.

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When we talk tourism, Ayacucho is known for at least two things. It has more than 40 Catholic temples and chapels, and is home to the largest Semana Santa (Easter Holy Week) celebration in Peru. I wanted to check that out! The entire week, from Palm Sunday (one week before Easter) through Holy Friday to Easter morning, is one long series of celebrations. There are plenty of religious processions like the ones you see here.

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The one at night is on Holy Friday, when Jesus is said to have died, been taken off the cross, and followed by his grieving mother (the Virgin of Sorrows). They were walking a pathway of beautiful designs, laid out in the street from simple materials like colored sawdust, flowers, and salt. The daytime one you see is right after the Easter sunrise – they paraded the resurrected Jesus around the plaza on top of a mountain of white candles, and had Easter mass on the steps of the Cathedral. That final “mountain” is enormous – it takes somewhere between 400 and 600 people to lift it on their shoulders!

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Religious processions aren’t the only thing going on with a big Peruvian celebration – there were also plenty of fireworks, small human towers built by standing on each others’ shoulders, and a running of the bulls! The bull run is actually called Jalatoro, or “pull-a-bull”, because they literally tie bulls behind horses and run them through the streets. The crowd then rushes up behind them, trying to touch the bull from behind. It was a fun experience, but I’m also glad I was watching and not running!

On a bit of an unfortunate note, I got sick from eating street food and wasn´t there for the main festivities on Holy Saturday night! Instead, I was laid up in bed at the hostel, trying to get better. I finally walked out into fresh air at 6:00 Easter morning, when my friends returned from watching in the Plaza and sent me on to the family´s house. I walked out, not feeling the best, to find a gray and cloudy sky; cool morning air; silence; and then a rocket explosion that echoed through the valley. It was a bit surreal, almost like an expectant, withheld breath. Certainly worthy of an Easter morning. I was well enough to go to the Plaza and see the end of that huge procession, and then start of the Easter mass that followed on the Cathedral steps. People were watching the mass; selling sandwiches; launching homemade hot air balloons; and otherwise going about their business – a strange and wonderful sight that is Easter morning in Ayacucho. It struck me for a moment, how much we know the Easter story. (I´m talking about Christians here.) We know exactly what´s going to happen, year in and year out – Jesus is given up, put on the cross, dies for us, and comes back to life. That´s hard enough to grasp, but when you add the familiarity to it, it can become just another thing. Just another yearly event that passes by, that we notice with a sandwich in our hand or as a side event to everything else we´re doing. It can become commonplace, and if we want it to be otherwise – if we want it to be something we feel in our soul and celebrate to large proportions, no matter where we are in our lives – then it´s up to us to discover it anew. That was just a passing thought I had, and an interesting reflection (for me) among the whole vacation experience.

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Things are doing well on this end. I feel as integrated as ever in Leyme, not as an outsider, but more as someone who lives here. I know the town and the people who live here. (I know I´ve said that before, and I may keep saying it. It´s definitely a process.) And the projects are going well. We´re finishing up our meetings with families and they´re starting to construct / improve the latrines for their homes – here´s a picture of the last meeting we had, on how to try for a more balanced diet. And the hand washing in schools is just recently starting up. There are plenty of snags and delays, but we´re getting through them and making it work.

Relationships, projects, and making it work. I think that´s what this Peace Corps service is about.

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Chicken. Carnaval. Projects. — 23 febrero 2013

Happy February, folks. I figure the one of the best things I can do this time is another photo essay – it´s a good look at what goes on in the day to day. (And I get to use some of the same descriptions I´ve sent to the middle school class I´m in touch with in the States. Here´s to efficiency!)

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A few weekends ago I got to go to Plazapampa – one of the annexes, or smaller towns in our District – with some of the Health team. They attended to patients while I helped out here, with the pollada. For those of you that don´t understand Peruvian Spanish, that´s a fried chicken fundraiser! The ladies of the town fried up a good 400 pieces of chicken, complete with rice, potatoes, a green cheese-based sauce, and lettuce to go with it. Then they sold it to everyone who came. Plazapampa´s a small place, but people also came from two other nearby towns, Gollón and Illabamba. (Yeah, we have some interesting place names here.) They enjoyed their chicken, sodas, and beer – I collected money for the first two – and then moved on to another Peruvian pastime. Sports! They were playing volleyball in the small elementary school courtyard when we left, audience and all, and were going to play fútbol a bit later. I even got to join in on a game of voley with some others from the Health Center. We lost, but it was a lot of fun, and they set me up for some really good spikes. The audience cheered at that – I think they liked to see the gringo jump. :)

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The 12th of February, for those of you that don´t know, was the day of Carnaval – the rowdy party right before Ash Wednesday and Lent begin. Carnaval is one of the big yearly events in our town. We had a nice little parade, with costumes and everything – the queen was a professor dressed in drag, and I got to ride a unicycle! – and ended up in the Plaza dancing around the Yunza (the Carnaval tree). The town stood it in the middle of the plaza and decorated it with balloons, t-shirts, and different kinds of prizes. Then they played music and danced around the tree, with water still flying all over (water balloons, buckets of water.. you name it). I had to leave at that point, but soon after everyone started taking turns chopping at it with an axe. (When the tree´s finally knocked down, everyone rushes for the prizes, and I think the last person that does the chopping has to host the party for next year.)

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I´ve been doing some classes for local kids during their school vacations, before classes officially start up again in March. The classes are twice a week, and cover a smattering of topics – chess, checkers, ludo, (very) basic English, and so on. We have about 12 kids that come regularly, so it´s a nice group. Not to mention energetic! That can be one of the more difficult parts of the class. This past Monday I got to throw in some hand washing for them. They read a story created by folks in Peace Corps Guatemala, and then acted it out, each of them playing different roles. It was a bit scattered, but definitely fun to watch them and see what they did. Then we all went and did the requisite hand washing practice.

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Aaand, I have plenty of work nowadays with that hygiene project I wrote about last time. We´ve now had two awareness-building classes with the families up in Ishpingo/Pomacochas (that annex), and will start on the hand washing in schools in about two weeks or so. This past families session was about trash segregation – especially using the organics to feed plants or animals, and disposing of harmful inorganic things in the right way – and home water treatment. So we separated some trash, and practiced chlorinating some water. But nobody liked the taste of the bleach – if there´s any hope that they´ll treat their water more, it´s through boiling. And they voted on five local mothers and fathers to be project leaders – our representatives in the community. That´s a very good thing, so we can start getting them more involved in the planning and presentation of the sessions.

I´m glad that everything´s moving now with the project, though right now I feel like I´ve been doing a lot of the work to plan and get it going – like it´s being taken for granted that I´ll come up with the ideas, say when the next thing needs to be done, carry a lot of the main activities, and pull together the loose ends. That´s tiring and frustrating. So the next goal is to step back a little on it all, and explain that it can´t just be me – get a little more teamwork and local investment on it all. Here´s hoping that goes well, and I can keep my sanity a bit more along the way.

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Reflections — 27 Enero 2013

Happy Sunday, everyone. For me that means a day to relax, do laundry and other chores, and try to gear up for the week to come (so long as I’m in site and not travelling to Chachapoyas or something like that). Just finished washing my socks, actually – it’s strange to think I’ve been doing some of my laundry by hand for a good year and a half now. I got some good time to think while I was at it, too.

I have such a strange life here. I live in Perú, for one – not a whole lot of United-Statesians can say that. I look out our courtyard in the morning and see fluffy, white clouds’ hanging over the hillside, like mist. I use a phone booth that works by satellite to call the countryside every now and then. (No big deal, right?) I try to convince the people that I’m here to do work with them, and advertise the few classes I have by nailing or taping up posters around town. I’ve done each of those things in the last week or two. Oh, and my schedule hardly ever stays the same. It changes from day to day depending on what needs to get done (which I call the shots on anyways).

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say I’ll probably never have a situation like this again.

But hey, I have work now! I’ve mentioned it before – I’ll be spending the next 9 months with our Health Center, working with families on water treatment, hand washing, latrines, and other healthy practices in the home. 7 of those months will also go to hand washing with kids in rural schools.

Yesterday I actually felt like I was getting something done. I went up to one of our annexes, Ishpingo, with four ladies from the Health Center. (The people were expecting us – we’d had a meeting with them the week before explaining the project and seeing who wanted to sign up. There’s a picture of that below, snapped by the other Coordinator Leily when it was my turn to talk to everyone.) Our little group of 5 canvassed nearly all the participating homes in the area, seeing the conditions in-house and interviewing the families about their current knowledge of healthy practices in the home. It’s our first round of house visits. I was hoping we’d get to about 15 houses at the most, and I think we talked to about 20 – in both neighborhoods! It was an unexpected surprise. I actually got to speak to very few households on this trip, because I ended up walking 30 minutes uphill to search out the farthest homes in town. But I did find two families to speak to, and got an amazing view of the valley and Leymebamba below.

There are still about 4 to 6 houses to visit before we start up the trainings/ workshops next month – we need to plan for those – and I need to sort through the surveys soon to see if they’re complete. But that’ll all come with time.

Talking at a meeting

The crew  (Called themselves Las Cuatro Maravillas)

Walking with the crew

View of the valley

It’s really nice, I think, to have something on-task to occupy my time and energy here. I hope it helps the days go by well, and fast, and gives some kind of progression to it all. Otherwise I end up roughly the same, at the end of the day and the end of each week – trying to collect my thoughts on it all, feeling glad it went by well, and trying to hold on to things I enjoy that make life good outside of the work. I feel loneliness with the down time.

Yesterday evening was really nice – before going to bed at about one in the morning (yeah, yeah, sometimes I’m a night owl), I walked out into the courtyard and just took in the night. Slightly cool out; the edges of the hills blurred by clouds; and a full moon shining through, with the sounds of crickets and randomly crowing roosters in the background. It was just still. I can’t wait to get back home to my fiancée in November, but I can still appreciate moments like that. The question crossed my mind, too, if knowing pain helps us appreciate the beauty around us. So many parts of this service are a fight for me – the distance from her; trying to actually do good work; and knowing what to do next and just finding motivation sometimes.

But I don’t doubt the beauty. I get to be around wonderful people, and enjoy their presence with such simple things as passing by each other in the house, or talking in the restaurant each day. And the other Volunteers are great too, for sharing an omelet, stalking endangered species of hummingbirds, or just calling and hanging out.

Omelets!

Yeah. I’ll probably never experience something like this again.

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The big question.. 12 enero 2013

Really, this blog should be dated the 27th of December, ´cause that´s what I´m writing about.  But oh well — I´ll just slide by with an incorrect date, and very little that´s actually written by me.  How´s that for laziness?

I had a really, really nice Christmas and New Years vacation with the folks and my girlfriend.  But by the time I came back here to Perú, I didn´t have a girlfriend anymore.  I had a fiancée!  (Novia´s the word in Peru.)

I popped the question to her a day after Christmas, after months of careful planning with a ring maker and her roommates.  It turned out beautifully, and we walked around in a daze for the week we had left together, trying to get used to the idea that we´d actually be marrying each other.  We´d always talked about it, sure, but it´s a huge step closer.  (The date´s set for Fall 2014 — we want time together in the same country after I get back from Peru!  So far we´ve had about 5 1/2 months together, and something like 15 on separate continents.  That number´s only gonna get bigger.)  It was even harder, I think, coming back to Peru after a milestone like that.  But at the same time, there´s an added comfort and excitement we didn´t have before — we have something huge to look forward to.

I´ll let Ariel tell you in her own words and pictures, put up about a day after the proposal.  I think she was pretty excited.

And me?  I´m incredibly happy myself.
-JRL

engagement 1So we didn’t take any pictures of US, so we’ve filled in the blanks! Here’s what happened:

engagement 2We were driving back to Abilene from our marathon of family Christmases. It was pretty late, and Joseph (strangely) would not let me fall asleep!

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When we finally arrived at my house, I was very very cold, and rushed inside. Joseph kept trying to stop me…he needed to get something out of the car first. TOO BAD! I ran inside anyway. (Joseph felt it was very important to include my red pea-coat in the story. So here it is.)

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I stepped inside and saw these photos. “Oh dear… Run back outside and pretend you saw nothing!!” I immediately thought.

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Joseph finally caught up, after retrieving his mysterious ‘something’ and we went inside, following the trail of pictures.

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Joseph claims that I “blew through” all the photos, but I was on a mission! If I had stopped, I would never have retained what little emotional stability I had at midnight.

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Honestly, I didn’t even notice the beautiful yellow lilies in the kitchen!

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He made me wait outside my bedroom door for a moment, and when I walked in, there were ridiculously elaborate paper snowflakes hanging from my ceiling!

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Before Joseph and I ever thought of dating, we were at a Christmas party together, and he made me an amazing snowflake. These were even better!

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On one of our first dates, I told Joseph that I was very high maintenance. If he were to ever propose, he would have to whisk me off to a distant land, plan an elaborate scavenger hunt, and hide the ring in a nest of sleeping baby hedgehogs! Guess what I found all over my bedroom floor!

engagement 11So I started freaking out and crying, and Joseph made a little speech about love, and then he got down on one knee and pulled out THE box. At this point, all I could do was cry and nod. I finally realized I should probably say, ‘Yes’…

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And it was the most beautiful ring in the world! (I love sapphires–they’re my birthstone.) He had it custom-made by sending the San Antonio jeweler drawings from Peru! Overachiever.

engagement 13When we were both quite sure he had asked and I had said yes, we collapsed into an overwhelmed heap on the couch and stayed there until we felt less… crazy.

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Finally our adrenaline reached a manageable level, and we could drift around happily in our engagement bubble, calling friends and family at completely inappropriate hours of the night/morning.

engagement 15YAY LOVE!
(Joseph wants you all to know that that is not the actual size of my ring. It is an artistic rendering. So now you know.)

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That´s a month — 18 Diciembre 2012

I´m sitting at the computer now, trying to write something for the blog I haven´t updated in forever, and I´m so close to leaving for Christmas vacations!  Ah, and I have a fever.  What is it with me and getting sick right before important trips and events?  It´s happened various times now.  But I have today, and then two days of travelling to get better.  Hopefully that´ll be enough.

Remember that project I wrote about, with hand washing in schools and water / sanitation / hygiene habits with rural families?  It finally came through.  I´m stoked for it — I have work for the rest of my service, for the next 11 months — and at the same time, we have to deal with a 2-month delay in receiving project funding.  That changes things a little bit.  We´ve done what little work we could, asking teachers to observe their students and letting the families know about the project.  And the rest will wait til January.  Even though she keeps super busy, I´m glad my Nurse counterpart seems to be motivated about the project.  And hey, it´s even better for us that she´s getting a Master´s in project management.  Hopefully that means she´ll be even more involved and in the game, through all 9 months of this.

Well, here are some photos to update you with:

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Two weeks ago, I got to walk along a non-functional water pipeline with an engineer and some handymen from our local government.  That took us through the beautiful scenery you see above — all 12 kilometers of it!  (Almost 8 miles.)  We went over hillsides, down and up ravines, through a lot of overgrown vegetation, beside a rotten ladder, and along some cliff edges.  At one of those crossings the Engineer looked back at me and said, “Well, if we fall, at least we´ll fall alive.”  It might have been risky and exhausting at some points, but it was also amazing.  I got to appreciate those hills in a new way.

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Last night we celebrated my host sister´s 15th birthday party — that was great.  The family all gathered in their living room to read a Bible verse, play some songs and say a prayer, and to give a toast to our señorita.  In due time the family asked Daida, the 4 year-old, if she had anything to add to the prayer to God, Jesus, and Mary.  She looked at us for a moment, trying to think, and finally rambled something like, “For Mary… because she forgot her purse.”  (Daida just got her first Barbie purse about 2 weeks back.)  Almost everyone burst out laughing, of course, which made Daida think they were laughing at her and go crying to her daddy´s arms.  It was cute all the same.

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We had our first meeting with the posse in Chachapoyas last Friday – I still can´t get over the fact that there are 16 of us.  It was some good hang-out time, though I think it´ll be harder to get the whole group together than it was when there were just 6 of us.  And we finally got some group pictures!

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It´s starting to be Christmas time around Leymebamba, which means plenty of hot chocolate and Panetón, and manger scenes too.  Those are called nacimientos.  The bigger one is in our Health Center, and the smaller one´s at the community meeting place where I´ve done chess classes for the kiddos.

In the wake of vacations and not thinking about anything for a solid two weeks, I´ll leave you with a celebratory self portrait.  The host siblings weren´t too fond of it… they can be weird sometimes.

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