Happy Tuesday everyone, though by the time I get this up it´ll probably be tomorrow. Internet´s super slow here tonight.
It´s been a packed couple of weeks. (Or has it been a month since I last wrote? I can´t remember.) There hasn´t been much development on the project side of things – still waiting on word from the nonprofit about the grant request – but I´ve had a lot of fun on the social side. The first event of note – two of my host siblings got baptized! The family is Catholic, so the baptism was in the Church in the plaza, by the sprinkling of water on top of their heads. Baptism´s a really big deal here in Perú. Of course there are the religious preparations for it – those baptized go to confirmation classes first – but there are plenty of other things to do, too. Like choosing the padrinos, or Godparents. They too should be of the Catholic faith; will probably be related to the family or be very good friends; and will be tasked with mentoring their godchildren´s spiritual growth. Deinner and Dánae each had their own set of padrinos, who sat on either side of them at the ceremony. Elvia, Dimas, and Daida sat just to the side, also at the front of the church so they could participate in the ceremony.
The padrinos aren´t the only relatives or friends that come in for a baptism – pretty much the entire family comes. We had some fifteen or twenty relatives show up the day of the ceremony, including grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and so on. It was a test of endurance for my family to be in touch with all of them, set up rooms for them to spend the night, and get ready for the party afterwards. They repainted the walls in the courtyard, among other things, and Daida and her vaquita brought the moral support.
What a fiesta we had! The family invited everyone at the ceremony to the house afterwards, to celebrate the baptism and spend some moments among friends. With the additional friends that were invited, we had at least 150 people show up. They were all seated around the courtyard and served appetizers, cocktail (for a toast), dinner (rice, beef, and tamale), and drinks to wash it down (coffee / soda). We had a dedicated group of señoras behind the scenes to serve it all, after spending two days to cook and prepare the food. Take a look at the size of those pots.
There was a magician for entertainment while the food was being served – Deinner loves magic right now, and got to be part of the show – and clowns afterward to continue the fun. For those of you who don´t know, this part of the night is called hora loca, or “the crazy hour.” We passed out whistles, noisemakers, balloons, light-up noses, leis, glasses, and fake dress ties, and cranked that music uuupp. Most of Peru has no problem with being noisy, and neighbors understand when a party´s thumping ´til the early morning. Pretty soon everyone was dancing – clown on stilts included – and enjoying a few beers among friends. I had to get up for a 5AM combi the next morning to go into Chachapoyas, and when I left, the party was still hopping.
The second big event, and the reason I left the baptism so abruptly, was Peace Corps training down in Lima. We´ve been in Peru for over a year now – woot woot! – and there´s a new group of trainees fresh in from the States. Peru 20, which is the 20th group of Volunteers to arrive since Peace Corps first got here. They´re in the same programs we were – health, environment, and water/sanitation/hygiene – and though they´re wide-eyed and still getting used to everything, you can see they want to be here. I was asked to go down and help for one week of their 2 ½ month training, specifically to talk about my experience with getting to know the community. It was a nice trip, in spite of how tiring it was to get there. (The bus trip from Chachapoyas to Lima is 22 hours, straight through.) I got to meet ´em, answer their questions about Peace Corps service as I know it, and hang out a bit along the way. Pretty much a mini-vacation! But I didn´t work up the nerve to practice my “Thriller” moves with them.
I was able to stay with my old host family from training for that week down in Lima, and it was absolutely wonderful. They welcomed me in like there was nothing to it, saying “sure, you can stay!” before they even knew the dates I would be there. I was at home. We shared breakfast in the morning and most dinners in the evening. I got to show them pictures of Amazonas. They took me out to dinner again on my last night there, and an aunt and little cousin said I was like another member of the family. I love that feeling.
The warmth of families, and feeling comfortable and accepted with them, is one of the best parts of my time here.