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!)
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.
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.)
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.
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.