Usually when I don’t update for a while it’s because there is nothing much to report. A lot of the same old routine, book reading, and simple living. This time, the time lapse comes from quite the opposite. June was insane. Insanely busy, insanely productive, insanely fulfilling.
To start, two of the weeks of the month were spent out of site doing a tech exchange with the volunteers in Ancash. All of the volunteers from the reserve went to Ancash for the first week of June. We saw a few gorgeous parts of Parque Nacional Huascaran, saw some volunteers’ sites, and met with the SERNANP authorities of the region to evaluate areas in need of improvement and get some tips on working better with SERNANP in our sites. Except for getting violently ill and pooping and puking all over the mountain, it was a rousing success.
Passing back through Lima on my way back to site, I was presented with the opportunity to attend an embassy meet and greet with Hillary Clinton. I stayed a few extra days in Lima and took full advantage of the opportunity. Needless to say, she and I didn’t become best buds or anything, but I got a picture with her and that’s pretty awesome.
I also got to meet with the archaeologist that was going to come to my site to work on the museum. She is really nice and I got all kinds of excited about the project.
After the Hill-dawg meet and greet I got back to site with just enough time to unpack, repack, and plan a game for the kids during their juegos escolares (something like inter-scholastic olympics – basketball, volleyball, and soccer). Another volunteer and I basically set up a table in a high traffic area and offered out candy to people who could answer environmentally themed questions correctly. I feel like people really learned a lot, and it was the most I was going to be able to do with the school since there were no classes.
A few days later, the Ancash volunteers arrived to the reserve. We visited all of our sites, did a few really cool hikes, went horseback riding up to one of the lagoons in my site, and also had the obligatory meeting with our SERNANP. It is always refreshing to see your site through someone elses’ eyes. It really got me thinking about doing a third year (more on that later).
When the volunteers left, the archaeologists, along with a Response volunteer working with the Red Cross arrived. The response volunteer and I let a fairly successful First Aid Training course for the community. The rest of that time was spent with the museum project. We went through article by article, photographing and filling out forms for every single item in the museum. These forms will then be turned in to the Instituto Nacional de Cultura as part of an application to make it a nationally recognized museum. We went on an awesome five and a half hour hike, which involved rappelling and climbing up the mountain to see where the mummies were found back in the 1920s.
The archaeologists are coming back in a few weeks to start the process of restoration, after which we take more photos (before and after shots) and turn them in as part of the application to the INC. It’s all around ridiculously exciting and fascinating work.
In the meantime, I’ve been working on a project to put in public trash cans in three key locations throughout the town. It’s been like pulling teeth, and admittedly I’m doing most of the work myself, but once they’re installed, as long as people are using them properly, I have no problem thinking of it as a sustainable project. We are maybe 2 full days of work away from being completely finished.
In addition to all of this, I’ve been meeting with our mayor and the mayor of another town working on a contract to get them to help with the development of sustainable tourism in our town. We took a trip up to our annex where I was able to participate in a town meeting discussing whether or not to allow a mine to operate there. Angry spanish is apparently my forte – having argued the shortsightedness of allowing a mine in a natural reserve, the environmental side effects, etc., most of the people seemed convinced, for now – there are more meetings to come.
All work in town was interrupted on the 24th, however, due to the town’s fiesta patronal. It is the annual fiesta of San Juan Bautista. On the 23rd, around 9pm, I get called over the loudspeaker to go to the municipality building. It’s rare for anyone to be called that late at night, so I immediately start freaking out – thinking some kind of emergency back home is happening. I frantically arrive at the municipality only to discover that what they really want, is to con me into leading the fiesta. “All you have to do is dance with this man for a few days – no problem”. Little did I know that the party started at 3am every day for three days and went on until 10pm. I would also be required to wear a traditional dress and play a game called “avoid the women whose sole job it is to get you wasted”. I lost this game on the first day, leading me to fall on the cobblestone street, in front of the town, twisting my ankle and messing up my knee. But my middle name is Rally, so I made it through all three days, dancing in the middle of circles, fending off beyond wasted Peruvian men – the usual party scene. And let me tell you – there is no single activity better for fostering community integration.
So we’re in July. A man from Washington D.C. is coming to the reserve to evaluate the success of the environment program in Peru. It’s pretty stressful. I’m looking forward to the restoration process of the museum, working in the school a little bit again now that there is time, finishing the trash can project, starting construction of the landfill, continuing my nutrition classes, and working with the tourism committee.
Although I have no yet made a final decision, I am seriously considering staying for a third year. It feels good to finally be busy and integrated. It seems wasteful to leave just a few months after having made this much progress. I want the real PC experience that everyone else got – two years in one community. I only have one. Plus, if I stay, I will also be able to have PCVL (Peace Corps Volunteer Leader) responsibilities for the new volunteers coming into the reserve, which will help to stave off boredom in the inevitable down times. On the other hand, I miss my family, I miss my friends, I miss taco bell and I’m getting a little tired of being single. I also recognize that Peru is still Peru – dangerous and machista, but breathtakingly gorgeous. Grad school will still be there in a year. I don’t know. When I’m 80, will I be happy I stayed?
Until the next time I have a second to breath, sleep, and write,