Why hello there! Glad to see I´m keeping up with my tradition of punctuality, with these blog updates. It´s been, what, a month? There´s so much, and yet so little, to say.
As far as work goes, I´ve been busier doing chess classes than any water and sanitation work. They´re mostly for elementary school kids, which can get interesting with their short attention spans and squirminess in general. (Squirminess… Is that a word? We´ll just say it is.) But they actually do pay attention, and seem to like it, at least until they see checkers or the other game on the board (it´s called Ludo in Spanish) and want to play that instead. Two teachers just came to me and asked if we could do once-a-week sessions for their entire second and third grade classes. Oof. We´ll be starting those in December, and get a few weeks to try it out before the school year ends.
The reason I haven´t done much health and hygiene work is the same as before – Waiting. I started back in July with trying to put together a hand washing project in rural schools. Yep, that was four months ago. Come August I started coordinating with a Nurse in the Health Center, and the schools project was combined with water, hygiene, and sanitation work with mothers and families in one of our annexes. So we planned the project, got the commitment of people and authorities to contribute to it, and turned in a grant proposal to a United-Statesian nonprofit to fund the other half of project costs. (You like that term? We say “Estadounidense” in Spanish, and I like it so much better than “American.” So I´m bringing it back.) And then we waited! We heard in early October that they wanted a bit more clarification on the project plan and monitoring details, so we responded with that info by October 31st. (Also known as Halloween, and the Peruvian Day of Creole Music.) Now we´re in the consolation round of their grant considerations, and you´ll never guess what we´re doing now…. Waiting some more! I´ve spent the last two weeks teaching chess; going to our Volunteer meetings and doing whatever work I could actually do; and otherwise twiddling my thumbs while we wait to hear back with a response. It was a welcome change to help a Spanish doctor talk about hand washing and tooth brushing in some local schools; that helped fill up some of my time in October. But there´s no such something here in November, and I don´t want to commit myself to any other big project until we hear Yea or Nay on this one.
I must confess – these past few days I´ve become a minor Solitaire addict. It´s kinda fun, helps pass the time, and it´s a lot harder with a three card draw. That has a good message, ironically enough. You can play your best and do everything possible to make it turn out, but a lot of times the cards just aren´t stacked right. And you have to work with what you´re dealt. So if it doesn´t happen… it doesn´t happen. There might be something you can learn from it, but so much of it´s up to chance that you can´t take it personally for long. You just shuffle the deck and start again.
There have been some really fun moments here too, and I think I´ll show em with the usual photo diary.
First off – Halloween! There are six Volunteers in Amazonas right now, including a coordinator who´s been in Peru for 3 years, and five of us were able to get together for that night of pranks and dressing up. There weren´t a lot of kids and adults with costumes in Chachapoyas, but there were some. It was cute and funny to see the kids walking with their parents, holding hands on one side and clutching a plastic pumpkin with the other. When they got to an open store or restaurant (they give out the candy here), they´d rush inside and say, “Halloween!” Which is code for Trick or Treat, of course. Our group rose to the occasion with costumes of our own – Brian with a stab wound, Sarah as a gypsy, Chris as the toilet paper mummy, me with a rainbow mask from Cusco, and Jessica as a Hipster. And then we took to the streets. Everyone stared, and the mummy chased some confused-looking high school students. It was good fun.
Our group went hiking one day to some nearby ruins, about half an hour from Leyme by car. But that´s before you start to climb. The Chachapoya civilization was here years before the Inca, and many of their mausoleums are tucked into cliff faces at the tops of valleys. They would paint and dig out the cliffs, construct little buildings, and place their mummies inside. Revash is one of those sites. (Sorry if I´ve already talked about it, but it´s worth it to mention it again and show you these photos.) We hiked up from the river´s edge to the top of the valley – that´s about 9 kilometers, one way – and just chilled out by the ruins for a bit and took in the views. They were spectacular.
Now our family is gonna grow! We´ve been in site for almost a year (woot woot!), and it´s that time that new Water, Environment, and Health trainees come through Lima and get their site assignments. We have 10 new Volunteers joining us in Amazonas – that´s quite a jump, from 6 to 16 all told. I got to be there at the bus station at six-thirty in the morning, when most of them rolled in. (There were eight – the other two had come in the day before and were still sleeping in the hotel.) Then we had a throwback to last year, and the whole group went on a hike to the Gocta Waterfall like we´d done on our first day in Amazonas. It was beautiful as always, and nice to get to know everyone better. This is gonna be a good group. (Apparently there´s a hand signal with this group of Water/Sanitation/Hygiene folks – they were throwing out “W20,” because they´re WASH program Volunteers for the 20th group to serve here in Peru. We oldies are the 18th group to serve in country. Brian, Chris and I tried to put up some kind of “W” for WatSan, which is what the program was called when we first got here. You can see how well that worked.) We wrapped up the night in a meeting with everyone, including our Country Director, Regional Coordinator, and the boss of the Water/Sanitation/Hygiene program. The newbies went on site visits for the first time the next day, and as I load this up, they´re on the bus back to Lima for a few more weeks of training before coming up here for good.
Some of the best times I´ve had recently are those spontaneous moments when I see our abuelita sitting outside and taking in the day, and I decide to join her. There´s something beautiful about just doing nothing, and being with someone else because you enjoy their company. Mayhaps I´ll get to do it again today.