Finally, a blog entry that´s not pushed for time with a grant deadline. I struggled with how to formulate this one, with so much that´s gone on, and decided to just follow the pictures like we´ve done before. More fun for all of us, no?
Before I even left for my brother´s wedding (got married August 10th!), we had a huge celebration in town called Fiestas Patrias. That´s the Peruvian independence day, officially on July 28th. There were lots of flags, music by the high school band, and tons of marching by students and teachers alike. Perú has a very military-influenced history – as you can see in the two pictures above. That´s my host dad Dimas with little Daida, whose pre-school class dressed up as military commandos. The kid with the painted face (those are the colors of the Peruvian flag) is also wearing a commando hat. While it was a bit abrasive at first to see all the military style and simulated weapons, I´ve come to appreciate the history and cultural pride behind it all. These are people who are proud of their country.
The next two pictures jump to after-vacation time, when the local high school was celebrating its anniversary. That´s a very big thing in Perú. The marching band was there again, along with Catholic masses and coffee to celebrate its patron saint Augustine; sports competitions; the crowning of a “queen” for the year (much like we do at homecoming); and other dress-ups, parades, and competitions. The first picture is a beautiful nighttime parade of “faroles,” paper-machete figures that are hoisted up on bamboo sticks, lit by candles/lights from within, and walked around the plaza. There were judges for the best farol present. The second picture was the next day, when students from each section dressed up in different outfits and walked around the plaza to show them off. Some of the outfits were traditional, but as the second picture shows, others were decidedly more modern.
A week or two later, I finally got a break from all the grant work, after we finalized and submitted the two grant proposal formats. (Fingers crossed. We should hear back from the nonprofit, World Connect, by the end of September or sometime in October.) The timing was right, so I went up to nearby Montevideo that weekend and had a great time with my friends Andrew and Tina. Tina was on vacation and hanging out up there too, to our good fortune. She helped us cook some awesome Mexican food – guacamole, homemade flour tortillas, pico de gallo, Spanish rice, refried beans… – and who cares that she said it tasted different here? We were in heaven. We took a hike up to Cerro Olán, some nearby ruins that are now invaded with overgrowth and interspersed with farm plots. The first picture is of our walk up there – it was about an hour or so to the ruins. But we stopped along the way in the town of Pedro Ruiz, where I got to peek into this church as it was being cleaned. I love old, meaningful places like that. I saw some beautiful flowers on the rest of the way up, and the view from the hilltop was spectacular. Those are the start of the ruins in the foreground, with trees and shaded valleys behind. It´s always kind of surreal to walk through a place that was once the home of another people. We saw the traditional, round structures that are the collapsed walls of houses; came across human bones tucked into cavities in the stonework; and crouched inside a low tunnel that still burrowed through the hillside. It was impressive, in a silent, forgotten way. (And there were plenty of photo opps, as the last two pictures show.)
The unexpected happened on the way back to Leyme – the front wheel of my bike came completely off, right as I was leaving Montevideo. Yaaay endos! (For those that aren´t bike savvy, endos are the spectacular type of crash where you fly over your handlebars.) I landed in a heap in the road, and the bike slid to a stop on top of me. The best part, along with my scrapes and bruises, was four broken spokes on the detached front wheel. It seems the bumps and shifts in Monte´s rocky, dirt road were enough to jolt the quick release loose – then all it took was the next dip for the wheel to bounce out. I ended up walking the bike down to the highway on a sore knee, which later swelled up to the size of a softball, and after a couple of hours of waiting I was able to get a ride home. I took this picture of my hand once I got there. A week after the accident, thankfully, the scrapes are healing and nothing´s broken. (I do know the public hospital system a bit better now, thanks to a rather delayed process of getting an X-Ray of my wrist. But it did get me some stronger anti-inflammatories than Ibuprofen, so it was all right in the end.)
I took this final picture yesterday, when the family celebrated our abuelita´s birthday. Isabel is 72 years old now, which is definitely something to celebrate! It was small, but nice – Elvia and Dimas brought a cake back from Chachapoyas, and we all gathered around to sing her happy birthday that afternoon. (The song is cumpleaños feliz in Spanish, and I sang the English version for her too.) But with a three year-old in the house, every celebration´s gotta be shared. Daida said it was “her birthday” and “her cake” – by some miracle, she must have several birthdays a year – so everyone let her blow out the candle before we relit it and it was Isabel´s turn. I caught one of her many tries to blow out the flame. That´s hard work!