Tag Archives: puppies

laissez les bons temps rouler!

16 Mar

Now, I know the title is in French, and I am writing in English and living  in Spanish–  but when I decided to write a post on the Carnaval celebrations in Peru, this is the first phrase that came to mind.  The unofficial slogan of New Orleans’ Mardi Gras debauchery festivities, “laissez les bons temps rouler!” literally means “let the good times roll!”  Fitting, because every February, across continents, cultures, and languages, “good time” gals and guys partake in one of the most enduring traditions left behind by the ruthless, unforgiving Roman Catholic colonization of native civilizations–crazy parties, parades and general street revelry!!

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It may not have the butt-cheek-jiggling international recognition of Rio de Janeiro’s iconic event, or the deliciously Cajun spice of a Mardi Gras adventure, but Peru’s version of Carnaval it is still damn fun! Here’s why:

1. Water Balloon Guerrilla Warfare

In Olmos, every January 20th marks the official start of “Carnavales”, a month-long,  pueblo-wide water balloon offensive.  Anyone and everyone on the street is a potential target for rowdy teenagers who, after a year of waiting, have free reign to indiscriminately peg innocent bystanders with water balloons.  Usually docile and humble teenagers turn into wartime operation commanders in search for their next target.  Their version of military tanks: mototaxis.  Although I am part of the hunted, I strangely enjoy this temporary imbalance of power. For 30 glorious days, it is culturally and socially acceptable for teens to wreak (safe) havoc in our town, and even coax opponents into full fledged water fights. How fun!!! I somehow managed not to get hit this year, but I have had a few moments of panic when I hear the roar of the mototaxi coming up behind me and start furiously looking for last-minute shelter. Whew. Although I always managed to escape, others are not so lucky, like that one time my friend got drenched with a whole bucket full of water on her walk home.  Alls fair in Carnaval water wars!

2. The “Yunsa”

Katherine, a volunteer living in the outskirts of Olmos, in a town about half an hour away, invited me to her site to partake in a “Yunsa,” a Carnaval celebration.  Having never heard of it, I was curious as to what the party entailed.  All I needed to hear was “food, prizes and chopping a tree with a machete” and I was sold.

aplausos for Katherine, part of the decorating and organizing committee!

aplausos for Katherine, part of the decorating and organizing committee

And I have to say, the party delivered.  Here is the gist: organizers buy a tree and decorate it with streamers and prizes.  The tree is prominently placed in a large open space where the whole town will gather to drink and dance the night away.  As the festivities wind down, the padrino of the party — basically the person who fronted the money to pay for the presents on the tree– ceremoniously hacks at the tree base with a machete (or in our case, an ax).  The crowd sways and swells, hoping to guess where the tree will topple and snatch all the dangling prizes.  It’s just like a piñata, but no kids, plenty of alcohol..and an ax! I cautiously stayed far from the masses during the chopping, since I’d like to keep my limbs intact, but after the dust settled, I was able to scourge the remains and found a prize — a box of tea! Yunsa, the gift the keeps on giving.

timber!

timber!

3. El Carnaval de Cajamarca

The last weekend of February has thousands flocking to the the sierra city of Cajamarca, site of where the last Inca king, Atahualpa, was held captive and executed.  But no one is thinking of this grim page in history when there are street parties and one giant, all-day paint war to prepare for.  This year was the last opportunity for Peace Corps volunteers to attend Carnaval (new administrative policy strictly forbids it), so we took advantage and flocked there ourselves.  First order of business was to find a massive water gun, at a relatively low price.

check.

check.

Water guns, paint gallons, buckets, water balloons and maybe some safety goggles, are all part of the armament necessary for the biggest paint party in the continent (probably).  Powerful drumbeats reverberate in the streets while throngs of people roam around, spraying their guns, tossing balloons, chanting, drinking and singing the joys of Carnaval.  No one outside their home is safe, not the cops, babies, or even puppies.  A streak of paint here, a glob of shaving cream there, all signs that you were among the crowds, in the party. Fact: The time it takes to rub all the paint off your body in the shower is directly correlated to the amount of fun you had Carnaval weekend.

before the war

before the war

friendly fire

friendly fire

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come at me with some paint!

massive amounts of fun = hour long shower

 

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well, those clothes are ruined!

All-day paint wars and all-night block parties with some of my favorite people in Peru was the perfect way to celebrate my last Carnaval season as a volunteer.

Laissez les bons temps rouler, indeed.

 

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Summer on Smash!

9 Feb

‘Ya’ll know who got the summer on smash. We do!’

This is not only one of my favorite running songs off of Nas’ Life is Good CD but  it also describes the summer so far.  After a rocky start to 2013 that included broken laptops and having no money, among other misfortunes– things have taken a turn for the better.  My sitemates (Tina, environment, Peru 18 and Annie, environment, Peru 18) and I have basically been rockinnn’ all our summer projects.

Our biggest project has been teaching Vacaciones Utiles, a geography/environment summer school program, we’ve called Around the World in 8 Weeks. Starting the first days of January, we have been focusing on one particular country and environment theme per week.

So far, we’ve ‘traveled’ to and learned about:

Week 1: USA

Week 2: France/Recycling & Trash Management

Week 3: South Africa/Oceans & Plains

Week 4: Egypt & Saudi Arabia/Deserts

Week 5: Brazil/Jungles & Freshwater Ecosystems

Up next we have India, China and Australia.

The kids have no obligation to come to our summer school classes so we have to find a creative way to make learning fun, interactive and somehow more enticing than staying home and watching TV or surfing Facebook all day. The goal of VU is to communicate the beauty and vastness of the world and making it come alive for our students as they sit in dilapidated desks in a muggy auditorium. For example, aside from the lesson about the US, we also made hot dogs and taught the kids to play American football (they got it, sort of.  There’s no Tom Brady being recruited out of Olmos any time soon, you know what I mean?) For France, we made them crepes with Nutella and for Saudi Arabia, we talked about the different styles of dress and showed them how women wear the hijab. We also include movies in the curriculum, like showing Rio during Brazil week. When Annie taught them about deserts around the world, we had each student draw their own sand art landscape.  We then display their artwork around the classroom walls and give out prizes for the most creative, the most improved, etc.

hot dog line!

tina teaching eduardo the steps to wrapping the hijab.

tina teaching eduardo the steps to wrapping the hijab.

trash pick up!

Sand Art VU

spreading glue on their desert landscapes to later  add real sand.

the review game! a mix of jeopardy and tag. a fun way to go over what we’ve learned during the week.

After starting out with only 8 kids, then skyrocketing to 70 students at one point, right now we have a steady group of 30-35 kids (ages 8-14) that are genuinely interested and dedicated to the class.  We teach Monday through Thursday from 9am-12pm, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but trust me, it is.  We spend double that time putting together activities, gathering materials, downloading relevant videos and pictures from the internet and soliciting support from community businesses and institutions.  We can’t possibly provide markers, paper, paintbrushes, watercolors, etc., just from our own PC living allowance.  Several of the businesses we have contacted have been helpful enough so that we can continue our activities. We have 3 weeks of summer left and are planning to have a big ‘End-of-the-Summer’ party at the community pool at the end of February. All I want is for our students to look back on 2013 and think ‘that was the best summer everrrrrrr!‘ — Is that too much to ask?

Vacaciones Utiles 2013 Foto

Vacaciones Utiles 2013

Our other big project (and when I say ‘our’ I really mean Annie’s,  I just like to tag along and help her out because it’s so much fun and probably my favorite activity of the week) is a free women’s-only exercise class.  Annie and I both love running and working out and Lord knows the women in Olmos need something just for themselves that doesn’t include cooking, cleaning, childcare or working the family tienda. So about 3 weeks ago, we decided to give this class exercise class a try. Annie managed to reserve a community events hall every Tuesday and Thursday for 1.5 hours.  We were also able to advertise the class on the Municipality’s information channel and voila! About 30-40 women have been coming to every class. Some are a little skeptical and hesitant when they first arrive and some jump right in, as if they’ve been waiting for a free exercise class for a very long time. Being that Annie loves teaching this class AND we have an incredible turnout, I feel like this is one volunteer project that will be around for a long time.

get them sit-ups right, girrrrrrrrl

The other thing we are working on is building a mini-landfill at Tina’s house (she’s about half an hour outside of Olmos, in the campo.) A mini-landfill is a relatively easy and inexpensive option for families who are used to burning their trash (and inhaling toxic fumes).  We’re not done building yet, as there are few hours of the day when you won’t absolutely fry if you’re outside under the sun.  We hope to complete it by the end of the month. I am thinking this is only the first of several mini-landfills we will build around town.

landfill werkkk

whistle while you workkk

Other exciting things about the summer:

  • My host family brought a puppy home!

meet Princessa Preciosa Bonita.

  • I received two amazing care packages from two of the most wonderful and caring friends:
  1. Carlitaaaa sent me a huge box full of beautiful memories from our 13-year friendship and also jewelry from her recent trip to South Africa.  I am so proud of both of us, because we’ve managed to stay close since middle school, finishing high school and college together and then moving into the adventurous adult phase of our lives.  When I lived in Paris, she was in China. When I was in Miami, she was taking the NYC advertising world by storm but always managed to provide support and encouragement.  I am lucky to have a friend like her and I can’t wait to have her visit Peru.

my favorite were all the pictures she printed 🙂

  1. Dolly is by far the intellectual brainy friend I’ve always turned to when I want to talk about current events and political theory or watch a foreign film. There is no one in the world I love to ‘nerd out’ with more than Dolls, so it’s no wonder that her care package included a book on female leadership, a bookmark with a Winston Churchill quote and a stylish day planner.   I can’t wait to bore everyone else with our conversations when she visits Peru as well.

    there were more candies in the package but they were devoured almost immeadiately. woops!

Thank you guys so much! I can never fully express my gratitude for every care package I receive.  The time it takes you to put them together and mail them does not go unnoticed and I am forever in awe of your kindness and thoughtfulness.

  • I’ve decided to start training for the Lima Half-Marathon in May.  I want to continue challenging myself by running at least one half-marathon a year.  Lima is a beautiful city and I bet it’s even more special when you’re dragging your tired body across its captivating avenues and plazas. The biggest challenge so far is finding a time to run when the temperature is under a billion degrees.  No easy feat, but now I have to do it since I blogged about it. This is my way of motivating myself, so friends, please get on me about my training!

overlooking the pacific ocean in lima

  • Most importantly, my dad and Lucy are coming to visit! AHHH! I am beyond ecstatic.  I cannot wait to share my Peru life with my dad and show them why I’ve grown to love this dusty, sleepy, insanely hot little town.  It doesn’t hurt that they’re also bringing me tons of goodies from America!

This is definitely shaping up to be one of my best summers.