Thursday, May 7, 2015

Little Peru trips

Since I last wrote in February, I've mostly been working and hanging out in Lima, exploring various nooks & crannies of the city. But I've taken a few smaller trips to other parts of Peru too. 

The rest of February was mostly working and hanging out with Peruvian friends & volunteers, seeing parts of Lima like Huaca Pucllana (some pretty ruins in Miraflores) and going to a friend's birthday party.

Posing outside Erico's (which we lovingly call Carmen's for the woman who always takes our order) in Chaclacayo 

 Outside Huaca Pucllana in Miraflores

With some of the kiddos I teach library class to in Zone Z Los Alamos, Huaycán 

With some more of my kiddos after art class in Zone S - Linda (a participant) made this adorable piece of art with drawings of myself and one of the volunteers, Zach (whose name she adorably spells as "Isac") saying "The Light and Leadership Family" 

With friends at the parrillada

At Playa Pulpos 

With my friend Tamy at Barranco Beer Co.

March was characterized by going to a parrillada (BBQ) at a friend's club called El Bosque, which is near Chaclacayo, dancing in Barranco, seeing Playa Pulpos (a pretty, less populated beach south of Lima), going to our favorite burger place in Chaclacayo - Erico's - and (unfortunately) losing my iPod while running. I also got to experience Lima restaurant week and go to two amazing restaurants - amaZ and Maras. AND last but not least, I got to travel to Ayacucho in the last week of March for Semana Santa (holy week). There, we ate lots of amazing food at food festivals, explored Andean towns, shopped artisan wares, saw a bull run, went to a life-altering museum about the Shining Path, met new friends, and basically experienced what every vacation aspires to be. The following are my Ayacucho photos:

Muyuchi (sesame ice cream) with a dot of bright pink tuna (cactus fruit) syrup from the main square. I might have eaten a lot of these... 

Emblematic arch, "Arco del Triunfo" just off the main square. This was built in 1910 to commemorate victory in battle against the Spanish on May 2nd 1886. 

 A woman selling wawa sweet breads in the main Ayacucho market. The market was full of all kinds of goodies, like Ayacucho textiles, artisanal honey and chocolate, and a natural sugar (similar to Mexican piloncillo) called chancaca.

Artisans from whom I bought this beautiful, handmade quena (andean flute). Ayacucho was overflowing with gorgeous handmade goods like textiles and items made from "piedra de Huamanga" (Huamanga stone), a type of alabaster mined in nearby areas. 

Muyuchi sellers in traditional dress in the main square. 

During Semana Santa, many groups of people would create huge murals throughout the main square made of natural materials like ochre, flower petals, and leaves, which were stepped on at night by the parades carrying the figures of Mary and Jesus (among others) at night throughout the entire week. 

Local musicians playing serrano (mountain) music on the quena and guitar.

Doing yoga poses under an arch at the Wari ruins between Ayacucho and Quinoa

Clay figurine on a rooftop in Quinoa, a village famous for its artisans that is located near Ayacucho. 

A master potter making a clay piece half his size in Quinoa

Here's a gif I made of the master potter creating a piece.

An artisan's workshop in Quinoa 

The obelisk memorial at the Pampas de Ayacucho Historical Sanctuary. This was where one of the principle battles for independence from the Spanish took place on December 9th, 1824. 

Selling sweets made of figs, plums, peaches, quince, and the like in syrup at a food festival in Ayacucho. 

Chorizo!!! We had one plate and then immediately ordered another after tasting it. I don't need to say any more.... This was at a food festival called Mucho Gusto Ayacucho ("nice to meet you Ayacucho) at which we spent (ahem) 6 hours eating all sorts of awesome food like chancho al palo (bbq pork belly), passion fruit ice cream, honey pisco, and chicharrones with puca picante (fried pork belly with potatoes in peanut sauce).

Pachamanca - potatoes, meat, apples, and plantains slow cooked in an oven made in the ground filled with coals and superheated rocks. 

Traditional hats of Ayacuchanos waiting to see the running of the bulls on the day before Easter. 

An amazingly talented female musician, part of the all-female (which is extremely, extremely rare) traditional musical group, "Killa" 

Running of the bulls before Easter. This bull was dragging several men behind him on a rope like it was nothing. 

Cross just outside of the Museo de la Memoria (Museum of Memory) in Ayacucho, which says "no killing". This museum is the most impactful museum I have ever been to. What makes it different is that the families of victims and victims themselves own and run the museum. Our guide, Maribel, was a victim of torture for 6 months by the Peruvian government during the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) era, and everything she said was profoundly moving, educational, and thought provoking. If you ever go to Ayacucho, this should be the first place you go. Ayacucho was the birthplace of the Sendero Luminoso movement, and it saw the brunt of the deaths, disappearances, tortures, among other human rights violations during the 80s and 90s.

 One of the city's famous 33 churches. Each church supposedly represents one year of Jesus' life.

Playing the Wakra, or bull horn. These were played on the day of the bull run, and many people wore red that day in honor of the bulls like the scarves these men have on. 

A chicharrón restaurant gave us a traditional anise and sugar cane liqueur, which we were told is a Semana Santa tradition. 

Photo by my friend Tamy - Ayacucho city views from our hostel and enjoying the day with friends! We stayed at Hotel Samary, which was in a great location, clean, and had awesome views - definitely recommend it.

When we returned from Ayacucho in April, I celebrated my 25th birthday with my friends in Barranco. This month I also discovered the Centro Cultural Peruano-Japonés (Peruvian-Japanese Cultural Center), which is a large building full of 2 Japanese restaurants, a couple Japanese gardens, rooms for art and music classes, a store selling Japanese goods, a theater, a teahouse, and a museum on the history of the Japanese in Peru. What a wonderful little find!

Photo by my friend Bryan - being sung to in Spanish, English, Arabic, French, Finnish and Polish by friends from all over the world, and with my birthday crown my friend Jessica made me!

Ramen and green tea at the Pervian-Japanese cultural center

We also went to Churín, a small town 6.5 hours North of Lima where you can find lots of hot springs. We went to one complex called Mamahuarmi (whose hot springs, though they were beautiful and in a beautiful location, were not very hot) close to Churín, and another which was 1.5 hours away in a place called Huancahuasi (which was both hot AND beautiful!). I also bought lots of the great dairy products this town is known for. This was a beautiful, cheap vacation, the busfare was S/45, the hostel was S/15, the hot springs were S/18 for transportation to Huancahuasi and S/3-S/5 to get in, and the food was super affordable and really delicious. If you're in Lima, you should go. (photo credit for these photos and the Matucana photos to my friend Shelby, I didn't bring anything to take photos on either occasion).

At Mamahuarmi with our friend Saúl 

Hiking to Atankallo

Then we went on a small day hike to gorgeous Matucana, which is in a province neighboring Lima to the East called Huarochirí. We first went to Chosica, a 45 minute bus ride from Huaycán, and then it was another hour or so by bus to Matucana. We hiked to the Atankallo waterfall and back, a lovely 1-2 hours day hike. The woman who worked the entrance fee both commented that we had done the hike ¨so fast¨! 

So many adventures in the past few months! Coming up, running the Lima half marathon, going to a wedding and maybe traveling outside Peru (Bolivia perhaps?) in July! Till then, I'll leave you with one of my favorite photos from the last few months of me with the volunteers:

Friday, February 20, 2015

Nearly 4 months in

Hello everyone :)

My lovely friend Thomas just reminded me that I have not blogged in a while, so let me give you a quick update on life here in Huaycán.

These first couple months took me by storm, our volunteer count was pretty low so I was sharing volunteer coordination and teaching responsibilities with the ED and other volunteers. 

On top of this I have started in on my responsibilities as program director; so far I have been leading our journey to getting a Salesforce CRM (customer relationship management) system to manage our data, created and started administering baseline satisfaction surveys for all programs, created (and streamlined existing) volunteer guides, worked on improvement of the parent check-in and library programs, met and started collaborating with the executive director and Huaycán staff of another nonprofit called Ágape so we may refer any difficult family cases to their social workers, and designed the new math program, which we will be kicking off in April. Among assisting with other basic nonprofit maintenance. Whew!

I've moved into a new apartment as of the end of January (which is still very unfurnished, for which reason photos will come later). It's only blocks from the volunteer house, and the family who owns it has been AMAZING in that they have loaned me all sorts of furniture, utensils, and even a washing machine (the washing machine was a godsend - otherwise we wash our clothes by hand or give it to the volunteer house janitor Queta, which meant waiting several days to get it back - very difficult for the impatient American in me). The owner of the apartment's name is Irma, she is an elderly but feisty woman from Ayacucho who teaches literacy in the area and loves to speak Quechua (the Inkan language) to anyone and everyone. Also, for those of you in the states, you may not understand why this is something to point out, but the house has a hot water shower that I don't have to wait to heat up!! Remember that last time I lived in Peru I was in a rural area where we didn't have hot water and I had to heat my water on a stove for bucket baths ;)

Here are some photos our lovely (Boulderite!) volunteer Sally took of the housewarming party I had with Irma (the owner of the apartment), Queta (who found the apartment for me!), my Peruvian friends Jacki and Jose, and all the volunteers: 

Opening the champagne! 



In January we also went to a beach area called Punta Hermosa with Jacki, Jose, and a bunch of volunteers. After all this time in Lima since 2011, it was first time going to a Lima beach. It was a lot of fun - we ate ceviche, laid in the sand, went in the ocean once or twice, and enjoyed each other's company.

 Thumbs up to ceviche!

 Yoga on the beach!

Love these ladies :) Jacki, Jessica, myself, and Shelby

Taking photos of each other!

One last yoga pose at sunset

I also took a vacation with several other volunteers to Ica and Paracas, where I got to see a winery and Pisco distillery, romp around in a dune buggy (one of my favorite parts of the trip), sandboard down some huge dunes (bigger than the Colorado ones!), see the "poor-man's Galapagos" the Islas Ballestas, and generally hang out by the pool. I got some pretty bad bed bug bites from this trip, but I think the awesome things we did still makes up for this.

 Plaza in Ica

Islas Ballestas, Paracas

 The candelabra or cactus, a formation left by the Paracas culture from around 200 BCE

 Sea lion

 Sea lions under one of the many arches in the area. The islands are called "ballesta", related to the English word "ballista", meaning crossbow, as the arches look like the arch of a bow.

 My Ballestas partner, Marc from Germany!

 The witches of Cachiche park in Ica.

 One of the heads of a seven headed palm tree in Ica.

 All the piscos and wines I tried. Can't say I'm a big fan of any of them though, unfortunately, I think pisco and Peruvian wine may just be a couple of those things I just will never love.

 Pisco fermentors.

 Cross on sand dunes.

Used pisco fermentors - the top was broken off after fermentation finished to remove the pisco.

I've also just been hanging out with the Light and Leadership folks in and around Lima - climbing some of the mountains behind our house, doing BBQs, you know ;) I'll leave you all my miscellaneous photos from the past couple months:

 One of my favorite pastimes - playing ukulele and guitar together on the mountain at dusk with Luis and Zach.
 After climbing the mountain with volunteers and Huaycán friends!

 Giving a workshop on human trafficking prevention to women's program participants in Zone D.

Teaching yoga class to our teens (and some volunteers!)

 All the volunteers at the ED's house for a Peruvian-style BBQ!

 Lara (our ED) and her husband Carlos - aww!

 Coffee at my favorite coffee shop, Arabica

 Alpaca sausage & Peruvian goat cheese sandwich from my favorite shop probably ever, La Gastronoma

 Found Indian food in San Isidro at Food Fair! It was a mission our social media volunteer Pooja inspired me to take :) I have since made many a batch of Pooja Chai

 Irma's daughter made me a chicharron (fried pork belly) sandwich and a cafecito for Día de Amistad (friend's day aka Valentine's Day) :)

 Spent a lot of time with Jessica, our art volunteer! She is such an amazing new friend and I am so happy to have her here with to go on adventures with! I'm trying to convince her she has to stay in Lima with me.

 Vegetarian food at another amazing cafe in Pueblo Libre, Ecotidiana

 Got flowers as a present from one of our 8 year old participants named Linda in one of our poorest zones, Zone S, during art class. She told me "Miss, te quiero!", which means "I love you Miss!" and gave me a huge hug. I think this moment summarizes pretty well why I love my job :)

 Some of our participants working hard at resolving math problems at our Math Bowl

 A hummingbird in a garden near my house

Some of the many aloe plants in the area

 Our participants walking home

 Art from one of our loyal participants Franky

Volunteers Jessica and Sally relaxing in the outdoor cafe next to the Lima Civilization ruins in Miraflores called Huaca Pucllana