Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Field Based Training: Cajamarca

Im Back!  I haven't posted in a while because there is not much to say about training other than "I get up at 7, attend technical and language classes, and go to bed around 10."

The monotony finally broke when we headed to our Field Based Training.  My group headed to Cajamarca - the northern mountains of Peru.  There we travelled to various sites to see where current volunteers live and what kind of work they are doing.  We went everywhere from a huge district capital (Cajamarca City), to medium provincial capitals (Cajabamba and San Marcos), and a couple of small towns (La Grama and Cauday).

In each we had the opportunity to plan and teach classes to all kinds of different schools with lots of different ages and mixes of kids.  We taught classes on healthy lifestyles, leadership, community involvement, and job skills.  We also watched current volunteers give classes to students.  One of my favorites was a business class on entrepreneurial endeavors where the volunteers gave an inspiring and active talk about how to be creative and start your own business.  At one point the volunteer asked the class what would happen if they didn't show up for all the classes - in which he then ripped up a certificate of completion and threw it out at them... the class loved it.

My group of four gave several presentations (charlas) to lots of different classes.  I felt most of them were very successful.  One of the greatest things we learned was that things will rarely turn out how they were described to us or planned.  At one point we were told we would have 15 older students to do a leadership charla with.  It turned out to be 30 much younger kids and we had to change almost everything on the fly to make it work.  It was a bit of an adrenaline rush and gave me a lot of confidence in our abilities.

Playing the Human Knot in San Marcos
Teaching English in Cajamarca

Popularity Abounds

Some of these communities have never seen so many gringos in one spot and they get a bit crazy.  At one site they literally would not let us leave until we had put our autograph in all their notebooks.  At lots of other sites I found myself posing in a lot of photos with complete strangers.  And the kids love my arm hair oddly enough.  One time I was trying to talk to one of the teachers and looked down to find two kids, one on each arm, mesmerized by petting me.  I have been asked by a couple of adults if they can touch it too... wild.  At least I know I can make a quick buck if things get tough.

I sincerely hope my site ends up being in the mountains.  I am just a mountain kinda guy and I love cold weather... that and anyone who has ever seen a picture of Machu Picchu can understand my wish to live there.  Here are some photos of Cajamarca:
Cajamarca City is Gorgeous
Awesome right?

Who wouldn't want to live here?
One of our last activities while out in a small town called La Grama was a "mission impossible" where we had to run around the town and complete tasks for points.  Whoever gained the most points won.  The tasks were silly - like ride a donkey, wear a traditional outfit, or play soccer with kids - and led to one of the best days of my life.  My buddy Curtis (in the photo below) and I teamed up with some local kids who quickly invested themselves in our cause and led us all around town knocking on doors, talking to people, and taking photos of us completing tasks.  We ended up forgoing most of the other tasks to find a burro because Curtis wanted to ride one.  We finally found one! We were even gifted three huge pieces of sugar cane by the guy who let us ride it.  At the end of the day I really felt confident about going around and just meeting and talking with people - an invaluable skill for when I go to site.
We shared some refreshing beverages with our guides!
This was the culmination of our efforts...

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A little bit of this, a little bit of that, and a lotta laundry

Sorry for the long period of time in between posts.  I have been focusing all of my attention on my Human Trafficking paper so I can finally go out with my training teammates, spend time with my family, learn spanish... basically, be a Peace Corps volunteer.  As of tonight I have finally finished that paper!  If anyone would like to read and edit it for me, I will be forever in your debt.  I have one month to perfect it.

As for training, it has been dragging on a bit long.  I hear everyone has the same complaint around this time.  We sit through a lot of presentations, do a team building activity every 10 minutes, and find little time to ourselves.  Most of the material is over theoretical methodology.  For example, we did one of those long surveys to find out what kind of teaching style you prefer (what I deem as equivalent to astrology for the social sciences).  Most of my frustration is just my wish to get to site as soon as possible and get started doing some work.

Of course, it is not all frustrating.  I have been working with a couple of other volunteers to do some youth activities with some young children here in my town of Chacrasana.  Our first week we made bracelets with string and played some names games.  Last week we taught the kids how to make sorbet using bags, ice, salt, and fruit juice.  It didn't work as planned (too much juice and not enough ice) but we all had fun dancing to pop music while shaking the bags.  This week we intend to do a movie night, hopefully with the movie Pay It Forward if I can find it in spanish, and then discuss it afterwards.  The group practically doubled between week one and two so I hope, and expect, for more this week.  It feel great working with them.  Some of the children live in really sparse conditions in a makeshift town above Chacrasana - living in fiberboard housing without running water, electricity, or gas.

Last weekend we had the opportunity to head to Lima and check out the sites and sounds... We had fun and the best part was watching a world cup game while we had some pizza.  This weekend we visited a shelter close to Chosica and I had the opportunity to play soccer and tag with a bunch of kids.  I was having so much fun I actually missed meeting up with my group for another presentation.

Besides training and small group excursions, I have been spending an unusual amount of time doing laundry.  I think I will probably miss two things the most while here. 1) cold showers and 2) washers.  It is a ridiculously complicated process to wash your clothing by hand.  You have to make sure you don't wash socks in the same water as a towel (so you don't put your foor crud on your face) and you have to rinse everything twice, which involves draining and refilling the sink a million times.  My hands were raw and hurt the whole next day but I have clean clothes... I can say this... I am now wearing my clothes a lot lot longer than before!
 Until next time! Nos Vemos!