Archive | September, 2012


21 Sep

I’ve been wanting to write a blog post about Yanacoto, the neighborhood I lived in during training, for quite some time now. I didn’t realize how much I loved the place until it hit me we’d only have a few days between Site Visits and Swearing-In to spend in our host communities.

Yanacoto is a dusty, sandy mountain-side town on the outskirts of Lima.  The entrance to the town is a long, long, looooong sloping (annoyingly stupid and exhausting) hill that curves and rises until you get to what is known as the ‘first zone.’ There are a total of five zones, each zone higher than the one before. I was lucky to live in the very first level of the first zone (shout out to Leland, Jackie and Sam who lived so far up, I’m sure the oxygen was thinner. Ok maybe it wasn’t that high up, but after trekking the hilly road at the entrance, to then have to continue upwards about another 15 minutes in order to get home—wow—you guys were my heroes).

from the first zone, looking up

from the first zone, looking up. (also, that red and white vehicle is a mototaxi…)

Y-City, as we came to call it, was seriously an amazing place. Although, at first glance that’s not necessarily how one would describe it. On a scale from A to E, where A represents the most luxurious neighborhoods in Miraflores, and E being the most poverty-stricken areas in Lima, Yanacoto was about a low C, high D. It is rough. It is rugged. There are no paved roads within the neighborhood.  MotoTaxis (think glorified motorized tricycles) zoom around recklessly, kicking up a cloud of dust in their wake. You can’t decide what’s worse, rabid MotoTaxi drivers or the rabid dogs protecting their turf, waiting for unsuspecting Americans to mistakenly trespass.  Colmillo (his name literally means fang in Spanish) pretty much terrorized every single one of my walks home. I love dogs, but this poor thing was blind and paranoid, meaning any sudden human movement warranted hellacious barking and maybe being chased down the street. Obviously, I learned to bypass Colmillo every day with the stealth of a Navy Seal.

After I moved past all those scary things (took me a few weeks), the mountain really started to feel like home. One of my favorite things about Yanacoto was my host family—Mamita Elena in particular. She is funny, smart, sassy and a little bit out of her mind (sounds like someone I know). She’s also an incredible example of a hardworking woman.  She wakes up every morning at 5am to prepare breakfast and get the family ready for the day. Then, as the janitor at the local school, she starts cleaning classrooms at 7am and doesn’t finish ‘til 1pm, when its time to head home, whip up lunch and get started on dinner.  She still finds the energy to play with her grandkids, worry about the dogs and babysit pesky Peace Corps volunteers. Mamita Elena always had crazy stories to share, my favorite being the time she got kicked out of the convent her father sent her to. Sixteen-year old Mamita Elena did not take her punishments from the nuns well and eventually gave them a piece of her mind.  Obviously she was out of there that same day.  I said “So you were supposed to be a nun?” and she responded “Yea, but I would have been a bad one” with a laugh that showed she’s very much enjoyed her secular lifestyle. I found it remarkable to have this strange familial bond with someone who came from such different and difficult circumstances.

The other great thing about Yanacoto was the tight knit group of volunteers who lived there. I loved having the girls come over for nail night, going to Emily’s to work on training stuff or going to Jackie’s for a feast prepared by her host family. Then there were the movie nights at Steven’s, soccer games at ‘la cancha’ and racing down the hill in the mornings, trying to make it to training on time with Kendra, Carlhey and Casey (and his dogs, Negro and Doggie). I got used to accompanying Mamita Elena on her nightly chore of feeding local stray dogs and loved chatting up the old ladies who worked in the ‘tiendas’ by my house. I even went as far as to try to incorporate that awful, winding hill into my exercise routine–and then ruined it all by finding a woman who sold the most delicious homemade ‘arroz con leche’ just steps from the soccer field.

nature walk

All of Yanacoto’s shortcomings fade away when I think about how it served as the backdrop to so many of my first memories in Peru. Its got a special place in my heart.

That hill still sucks though.


Here’s the mail, it never fails…

20 Sep

I received this wonderful little piece of lovin’ from my favorite bunnydove back home:

thank you, hekaaaa

thank you, hekaaaa

In case you missed it, I received:

  • baby wipes
  • a card with laughing zebras aptly named ‘cristi, heka and betty’
  • a frame with a picture of heka dressed up as marie antoinette at mardi gras ’11

I love you Angelica!!