The Northern Coast

The Northern Coast
The Northern Coast--photo by Zack Thieman

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

I'm on my knees, beggin' you please!

Holy cow, guys! Almost 2 months until I go back to the USA!

But that doesn't mean my job is done yet, oh no, there is still so much to do. Like this weekend we are having our annual ALMA all-girl leadership camp. It's an awesome three-day camp with a focus on integral health (mind, body, spirit) and caring for the environment. It's going to be awesome, because Lambayeque volunteers are awesome and all of the girls being brought are some of the best and brightest from volunteer communities.

However, we still have one issue-- the all-boys camp, VALOR, which is scheduled for the end of June is still not fully funded!

(Want to check out the donation page? CLICK HERE!!)

I am really lucky to have awesome friends and family who have donated to all of the camps I have done over the past two years, and I already know of so many who have donated to this camp and have promoted it to other family members and friends. To all of you beautiful people (you know who you are), you have made such a huge difference by helping make this camp happen, and I am eternally grateful for the support you have given.

So this isn't a call to all of my same friends and family who are always donating to my things. No, this is a call out to the depths of the internet, the end of the universe and back. We are so close to being funded, just $370 away, but if we don't get all the funds by next week we will have to re-budget the camp and make cuts. That could mean less participants, less resources for workshops, etc. That amount of money can make a huge difference in these camps!

For a refresher on what Camp VALOR is, here is a little summary of camp from last year:

Our theme last year (and this year) is "Iron Man" and the boys participated in different activities to promote the lifestyle of a true Iron Man, which we described as being physically and spiritually healthy, studious, intelligent, respectful, tolerant, caring for the environment, honest, a good listener, hard working, loyal, respectful of women, and responsive to the needs of their community. In other words, a well-rounded, successful individual who doesn't subscribe to machismo or bigotry.

Some activities from last year that will be repeated (and even made better) were:

  • Career assessment exams/Career fair with Peruvian men invited from different volunteers’ sites. 
  • How to make a solar oven and how it works 
  • The nutritious power of sweet potatoes and yams (grown at the farm) and different ways to utilize them in cooking and baking. 
  • Arts and crafts/painting small figurines. 
  • Two-day futbol (soccer) tournament amongst all the teams. 
  • Presentation on Sex and Gender/Gender equality 
  • Round Robin sessions on goal setting, pro-active lifestyles, team building, empathy, and finding your ideal partner. 
  • Organic farming/ composting/ recycling 
  • In-depth session run by a health professional on Sex, STD’s, Abstinence, Fidelity, and the infamous Condom Race. 
  • Campfire with s’mores and scary stories (a very U.S. American tradition we introduced to them), one of my personal favorites. 
  • Even more stuff than I can even begin to talk about!
Iron Man camp t-shirt design (by yours truly!)

Solar oven session and learning about renewable energy

Composting session

Harvesting sweet potatoes for session on nutrition

Sex and Gender workshop

Love and relationships talk 

Scary camp stories and s'mores

All the awesome atributes of an Iron Man!

Futbol tournament

Team Morado!
"Cuerpo de Pasión" telanovela style skit

Everyone together!

This upcoming Camp VALOR will be my absolute last camp as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Last year this camp was so great and the boys I brought had an absolute blast! They ended up being some of my best students in my teen health promoters club, and they have continued on in their studies to be some of the best in the class with dreams and goals for the future. They are very bright students with bright futures, and I know part of the reason they feel empowered and capable to do these things is this camp and support shown by all the volunteers and guest speakers.

Please forward this on to friends, copy it on to your facebook and twitter and whatever other fandangled social networks have been created in my absence, and help us fully fund our all-boys camp!
Every bit makes the difference, I promise! It's tax deductible, and every penny you donate goes directly to the camp.

Much love!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Why yes, I am going insane; An update on my life in Peace Corps

Hello, hello,  hello!

The lack of communication on my blog is just embarrassing, especially since my days left as a PCV are numbered. That's right, pretty soon this blog will become nothing more than stories from a time in the past when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer, because ladies and gentlemen, I have been to my Close of Service conference and chosen my final day.

I am COS'ing on July 24th, putting me back on US soil for the first time in 2+ years on July 25th.

I currently have 73 days left in Peru.

If there were words, or a meme, or some stupid GIF I could post to express the chest crushing, completely contradictory and complex feelings I have about this, I would post it. But there aren't, so instead I'll just continue on both feeling excited to see family and friends, and utterly depressed and panicky about leaving Peru behind.

As promised, here is a quick update on what I've been up to recently:

The Foot Growth
So, this is kind of a long story, but Imma make it real short: I had this weird growth on my foot called a "granuloma" which is defined as being "a tiny collection of immune cells known as macrophages..[which] form when the immune system attempts to wall off substances that it perceives as foreign but is unable to eliminate" - Wikipedia
So, I had this weird growth on my foot which started because I went digging for something (a bug? a splinter? a piece of glass?) in my foot with a knife. Then it never healed and got all weird looking. I went to the doctor and they had to cut it out, stitch me up, and I wasn't allowed to walk really (but I did with a cane), and I missed my last vacation as a PCV. I'd put pictures up, but you really don't want to see that.

It rained, a lot. 

My town can't handle rain. We're all dirt streets and desert and despite the fact that it rains every summer, we're still not prepared for it. There were a lot of mosquitos during this time, and cases of dengue raised. 

Nicole visited!
When I first got to Lambayeque I think I would've floundered a whole lot more than I did if it hadn't been for my PCVL, Nicole. She finished her four year service (yeah, FOUR YEARS) last July and it was terribly sad to not have her around. She came to visit for Semana Santa and I was able to spend some time with her in her old site (now Zack's site). Miss you sister!

Peace Corps Prom!
I love my dear sweet department of Lambayeque, and the reason I love it is because the volunteers who serve here are awesome, dedicated, and inspiring. They are also very fun to be around, and we had our first-ever department prom, which included rented dresses, and voting for prom king, queen and best dressed.

US Embassy English Teaching Workshop in Lima
My host mom is an English teacher for the high school, so when there was an opportunity to attend a workshop held by US Embassy English instructors in Lima, I signed her up. My host mom is great with the "book smarts" of English, pretty much having perfect grammar and a vast knowledge of vocabulary, but she never practices actually speaking. All of her instructors in Peru have been Peruvians, and even their pronunciation isn't great. Speaking with natives and practicing conversational English isn't something she gets a lot of opportunities to do. You'd think with me living in the house that wouldn't be a problem, but apparently I'm really hard to understand and she often feels too embarrassed to try. However when we went to the workshop in Lima she did great! She was speaking very well and we learned a lot of awesome games and ways to introduce topics to students to get them interested and more involved in their language learning. It was a great week and I'm glad I got to spend it with my host mom.

COS Conference
COS, or Close of Service, is a time for all of us from the same training group (Peru 17!) to get together to talk about what comes next; finishing things up in site, preparing to say goodbye to all of the people and places that have become so important to us over the past two years, and get ready for returning home. It was so good to see everyone in the same place at once and to look back over the past two years and how much we've all grown. And to say the least, it was stressful to think about all of this coming to an end. 
During our Swearing In Ceremony Chris, Faith, Zack, and Jon all played "El Condor Pasa," so it was only right that things should come full circle for our COS conference

Receiving my Peace Corps Completion certificate from my APCD
My pin! Peace Corps Peru

My Town Anniversary
After an emotional week of saying goodbye to friends, I came straight back to site for anniversary festivities. In Peru you don't just celebrate the anniversary of a town with a single day, oh no. It is at least a week, if not 10 days. So there was a lot going on every day, like music, dancing, a mass civil matrimony where 22 couples got married, various contests, and Zack came to my site and helped me put on a "ginkana" which is like corny games you play with kids on the 4th of July.

Mass Civil Matrimony
The folklorica band Zack plays with came to perform in my town

settin down the rhythm

one of the little devils from a typical dance

the "desfile" or march

What's to come?
Well, with only 2 1/2 months left there isn't a lot of time to do much, but that doesn't mean I won't try! I am restarting my Health Promoters group so that we can get more sex education classes in the high school. I'm also hopefully starting vocational orientation classes with the older students. Next weekend is our highly anticipated annual all-girls leadership camp, ALMA, and in 6 weeks we have our all-boys leadership camp, VALOR. 

We actually haven't been fully funded for VALOR yet, so, shameless plug, please help support our camp! This is your opportunity to help us directly with a projects, and this will be my last camp as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Without all the funding we won't be able to have the camp, and this is an incredible opportunity for boys from PCV communities to learn about leadership, communication, vocational orientation, gender and equality, sex education, y mucho mucho mas! Please click on the link to get to our funding website, which is a safe site (and everything is tax deductible!) Camp Valor Lambayeque 2013

The next couple months are going to be pretty crazy, filled with a lot of emotions and hopefully good times. I will take more time later to delve into stuff like that, but this update will have to do as I already have to get back out the door to continue with work and preparing for the weeks to come.

Much love!