Vida y Existencia en el Perú

VEP, a medium where Miguel M explores the dimensions of global volunteer service in the context of ongoing dialogues with culture, nature, ideas, sounds, environs. While the possibility of a unified matrix of thought is here obviated by unspoken limits, VEP offers a glimpse of my volunteer experience and travels in South America.* This is NOT an official blog of the US Peace Corps nor Peruvian government, contents strictly my own *

Sunday, February 25, 2007


25. Febrero. 2007. 7:20 a.m.

"¡Cangrejos! ¡Cangrejos! ¡Can-can-can-grejos!" shouted the street vendor as I approached the house after my morning run. He was carrying straw baskets filled to capacity with the purple-electric orange-colored sea crabs, most of whom were still alive, tied up into neat bundles and ready for sale. They were probably caught in the pre-dawn Pacific this morning and brought fresh into town. After a near sleepless night (malaria meds?), I somehow found the energy to embark on my first early morning run since I´ve been here, which offered me another new glimpse of the town where I live. It is peaceful to be up before the rest of the town, finding few passerbys on the street or in the plaza, and the majority of the vicious street dogs still laying harmlessly in doorways and on heaps of dirty fertilizer sacks and gravel. In a few hours my friend Lauren (PCV from a nearby town) will come by to teach me how to do PowerPoint (cringe!) so that we can prepare for an upcoming 3-month review of our work in site, to be presented in Trujillo. 3 months in-site! Time marches forward.

This month presented another set of challenges: nearing completion and mainting student motivation for the World Map Project at a local high school (pictured), more consults and referrals at my health post for mental health needs in our underserved community, putting together the data from the community health diagnostic in January, two radio interviews on the local wave and a montón of birthdays that I missed stateside, among friends and family... (¡Feliz Días Rybz, Bri, Dad!)

Some new ideas I´ve had include helping to organize efforts around building a shelter in or around my community for women suffering from the effects of violencia familiar and abuse. Most other departments (states) here already have Casitas de Refugio while in the north we seem to be behind the curve when it comes to some basic social support services and networks. There are grants and funding (national and international) that can be utilized with the proper coordination. I have had some good collaborations of late, meeting two psychologists in my area who are helping to familiarize me with the Peruvian system amidst extremely busy schedules. One psychologist has already secured the funds and resources from the regional health headquaters and a cooperating Spanish government agency for a two-day capacity-building workshop on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse- Best Treatment Practices... which I have agreed to help organize and carry out. Vamos a ver. Some other activities with my health post have included visiting the tiendas and kioskos in a nearby town to check expiration dates on the food being sold. I am also getting alot of pressure to start an English class (realistically,March or April) and am starting to begin some planning and coordination with local schools for health talks and courses during the upcoming school year amidst the challenges of differences in local politics and challenges in organization and communication between organizations and different institutions. I also started to teach a one person class on basic internet skills, aprovechando the plethora of internet cabinas in my little town.

As the temperature continues to climb here (90s instead of 80s) I look forward to a trip to my "reconnect" next month which is an opportunity to reunite and present our work with other volunteers from the same volunteer cycle after 3 months of service. The trip will give everyone a breather from their sites and in my case, a relief from the heat.

Carnival is still in full swing through February and I´ve been soaked a number of times over the past few weeks by girls armed with water balloons or huge buckets of water. My "host cousin" dunked me in a baby pool last Sunday, destroying my Sunday Edition of El Comercio... Ergh. The mototaxistas get it alot worse than I do though-- I feel for them, but then I remember how many times I´ve almost been hit trying to cross the street here due to their crazy driving! Other fun stuff has been making a spaghetti dinner with garlic bread for my host brothers while watching episodes of The Simpson´s and Alf, both of which are favorites on the television here. In closing, a short quote from the legendary British singer-songwriter,

"I wanted to be the one with road dust on my boots. And a single silver earring and a suitcase full of notes." -- Vashti Bunyan, Lookaftering

Can you say Lord Stanley Cup?

I Love You,

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The New Year

Just over one month in-site! 686 days left, but whose counting! The holidays have just passed here, though there are still a number of fiestas coming up, among them the anniversary of my town and also the 168th anniversary of the department of Tumbes, which is today. The weather is getting hotter, and with February being the hottest month, temperatures are climbing toward 100 F also with more rains. Neighbors tell me that the streets flood in the rainy season and some roads become washed out. Hopefully things stay pretty tranquilo and I'll still be able to get to the capital, as I´ve become used to looking for things there that I can´t get in town or at least for a banana juice with milk. Alot of talk of these mosquitos too, but nothing yet. Everyone hopes there won't be a strong El Niño which would damage the local economy which depends heavily on fishing. Seeing the abundance of fishing boats and pescaderos while cruising along this part of the PanAmericana or visiting the fish market in Tumbes is allows you an estimation of how badly the economy could be hurt (as it had been in the past, e.g., 1990) if the cooler water temperatures pull the fish further off the coast and north.

Still developing my role as a health volunteer at my post, I've decided to fill the role of community psychologist- at least part time, starting in a couple of months. This decision has come after some deliberation and hesitation, due to my long-term hope that the projects that I can help develop here are sustainable, long-lasting efforts to improve the overall health and development of the community (e.g., stuff that will stick around when I´m gone). In reality, the manager of the health post had already decided that "psychologist" would be my role, most notably when I allowed him to snap digital photos of me having an awkwardly staged consultation with a youth in my community which was later presented PowerPoint style at an important regional service provider review! Although taking this role is not "sustainable" in the formal sense, I can likely build in some workshops or training sessions around mental health in the community with health promoters or at my health post while utilizing and building my own experience in the field. I have decided that since the need exists in the community and the current structure of the Ministry of Health does not include paying for a full-time psychologist, then, as a volunteer, I ought to take the opportunity, while advocating insofar as this is possible, for the permanent addition of a Peruvian from the mental health field to be salaried and positioned in this role. The majority of work in mental health here focuses on prevention, reduction and elimination of "violencia familiar" (domestic violence), alcoholism and depression. There is an overall lack of trained psychologists here as well as services available for people suffering from mental illness.

Other work continued to be house visits with the Malaria-Dengue prevention team, a total of 95 visits in December walking out to houses in 10 of the 12 surrounding barrios to drop larvicides and provide basic education on the prevention of dengue through their the use. I met at least one family, new to the area, who was altogether too skeptical of the prevention efforts to let us in the door although the vast majority are responsive to the efforts of the health post. I am inspired when I do the house visits. My first goal here was to get to know the communities which this allows me to do, plus it sheds some light first hand on the living conditions of each family. I was also inspired by an article about Paul Farmer, a North American doctor and founder of the NGO Partners in Health, who works in Haiti (and also here and in Russia) doing 6 or 7 hour hikes out to remote houses to help treat TB and other transmitable and non-transmitable diseases. Even though the process takes awhile sometimes, the alternative is not reaching people, not doing anything. I think back to my supervisor at the mental health clinic in the states who helped me learn the importance of calling clients (or sometimes even visiting) who had not shown up for counseling and her attitude of resislience and toughness. I think that same attitude is important in development work, accompanied by the openness required for seeing things done in ways you are not used to seeing.

I continue to work on organizing for my World Map Project in the tecnical high school here. I´m soliciting materials for the project, hoping to get as much community investment as possible, despite a changing local government (including a massive loss of jobs from the previous government due to, according to my understanding, either illegally made contracts which promised positions well into the new term of the incoming administration and/or nepotism on the part of the new administration !). I have also scheduled some radio time here with a local station run out of a neighbors house, both to help promote the Map Project and to continue to get the word out about my being here and how I am not here to proselytize Mormonism!

A major life challenge also continues to be the different conception of time here and the resulting felt-sense of "inefficiency" which is salient coming from my own culture where time can feel like a "perpetual present... a succession of episodes hygienically insulated from their past as well as their future," (Bauman, Globilization) and where people are perpetually "short of time." I often find it particularly difficult to organize even informal meetings; a person won't show up when s/he said, but five or six hours later (or a week later!) and the person will, without hesitation, assume that you are ready, willing and available to drop whatever activity you might then be doing, in order to finally do what was originally agreed upon. Ahh! I could go on...

Wrapping up, some highlights of the New Year so far have included my first taste of the Pacific, in Zorritos, where we found the warmest waters on the Peruvian coast, a nearly full moon, and fish directly from the sea to the plate in the form of heaping piles of ceviche (the regional speciality of raw white fish and/or calamari, shrimp, crab, octupus served with onions, sweet potato, fried plantains) and chicharron de pescado (fried fish) doused in ají and limón. Although the beautiful Andes are at least a days trip away by bus, us Tumbesinos have the sea at our front door...

(Above) A muñeco burning tradition for New Year´s Eve, symbolizing the exit of all misfortunes of the past year; Plaza Chilimasa in my site; Centro de Salud (Health Post).

Go Sabres!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Under the Sun


Well, I have been here in my site in Northern Peru for nearly three weeks now and in Perú for about 3 months. What can I say about my experience so far? Have I learned anything? Everyday I still ask myself the million dollar question: What am I doing here? Will this question haunt my every morning as I peel out of bed and descend from my mosquitero? I hope not, but these questions are among the many struggles I face at this early stage in my service. Peace Corps jargon calls this part, "Defining the role of the volunteer," which for me translates into something like, "Justify your existence in this country, gringo!"

Frankly speaking, this continues to be a rollercoaster ride -
montaña rusa- which I know is the Peace Corps cliché. I thought I was going to come up with a new metaphor for this experience, but to date nothing. So below are some fragmentary offerings for now, more free association than anything else. For those of you who prefer carefully balanced writing and coherency this in not the post for you. Here goes.

Hiking in Nueva Esperanza means getting burnt through your t-shirt. Cacti everywhere. My guide Guillermo tells me of the spirits living inside the cacti. These are the grounds where ChiliMasa, the Incan guerrero, resisted the Spanish and sent Pizarro back to sea. Next day, Monday, I'm out with my health post monitoring the use of abate, tiny bags of chemicals (larvacides), which can kill mosquito larvae and curb the tropical diseases Dengue and Malaria. Most people use the system and know about the importance of abate in their water barrels. We toss the abate in old tires too or other places where mosquitos lay eggs. Still wearing off the effects of my first Peruvian wedding this weekend. A wedding cake at 2:30 a.m. in the taxi from the capital. To make Peruvian wedding: Add salsa, merengue, raggaetón, cumbia (lots), sharing a big bottle of beer, and everyone showing up late. Subtract Electric Slide, Billy Joel, Chicken Dance, Individual beers, punctuality.

Writing in leather journal, thanks Timmy B. Always thinking of home, wanting a freak snow storm south of the equator. Electronic instruments collecting dust in the states. A Rolling Stone magazine sitting on my desk here, also collecting dust, the cover is Bob Dylan´s aged leather face and pencil-thin bigote staring at me curiously . A magazine bought a couple of months ago in Lima for the equivalent of a MDs days work in my new town. I read that Kanye West was disappointed with the sound at Lollapalooza in his native Chicago.

Dropping off a copy of my health survey at the Ministerio de Salud headquarters in the capital for more copies. Need to start with two hundred family health questionnaires within the next couple of weeks for my community health diagnostic in the zonas (barrios). Back on that walk, my new friend Guillermo points out that Crack exists here and reluctantly stops to talk with an emaciated addict that had recognized him as a vecino, neighbor. I have a flashback to anti-crack therapy, my mental health career in the US. I stop for some shade, which people describe as something delicious here (¡Que rica la sombra!) and I can understand why. I forgot how white I was until I came here and got burnt a few times. "Bien blanco," as they say (very white). My feet truly remain ghost-like in appearance.

I got my eye poked playing basketball the other day, the result being a bloody eye. But I can see. Called my doctor in Lima. Looks like I´ll be fine. I look like a grisled pirate with my new sombrero, new beard and new bloody eye. Now I get even stranger looks walking down the street!

Tomorrow, helping assess whether people in the Campo (rural Perú) are using a water purification system known as SODIS, initiated by an NGO of the same name. I am becoming a liason through my health post between Peace Corps, the Peruvian Ministry of Health and the NGO. The idea is to convince people to reuse 2 and 3 liter pop bottles by filling them with canal water, putting them on your metal roof, and lastly letting the sun do the rest by killing off harmful bacteria with the result being clean drinking water. Believe it or not there is research to support this seemingly crazy idea! It will be interesting to see if people are actually putting this to work. The cañazo (corn alcohol) selling business seems to have cornerned the market for the old pop bottles in town. "Who actually buys that stuff?" I asked myself as I cruised through town in a 70s-era Dodge taxi today. I never see anyone drink it yet it is sold on every corner in dirty bottles and canisters.

Frustrations of yesterday. My host brother was bombarded with English homework and I helped for two hours. I hear that the teacher has given the students double-homework because of a religious/state holiday last week. All Junior wants to do is turn in the exercises while I try to faciliate some sort of learning process. In this moment I glimpse the tip of the iceberg in a different educational system which still carries the remnants of an ostensibly rote learning system. I have come to appreciate how my parents never did my homework for me as I´ve seen happen here a number of times and when I was living outside of Lima. Yet at the same time, I wish I could bottle and export to the US the energy and enthusiasm for learning that the students have here. Such potential.

Host family here is a family of five including me. I'm the oldest, brothers are 15, 12. Extended family lives next door on both sides and across the street. Parents are high school teachers. I live in an urban area with some resources on hand, including this internet cabina, but within a block or two it is pueblo joven. My host fathers´father worked with a Peace Corps Agriculture Development volunteer in '65 before Ex-President Velasco asked us to leave. The guy´s name was Peter and he left a positive impression with my family. But I am kind of walking in these Peace Corps footsteps of forty years ago when everything was different which is also a challenge in its own way.

In closing, I will retreat to the sidewalk to partake in the most popular activity in my town, ¨Tomando aire sin vaso," or literally, "drinking the aire without a glass." Usually my host father and I sit there for a few hours translating spanish and english or talking cultural differences. Sometimes he smokes and I read Daniel Alarcón in silence while mototaxis howl past.

As in previous and future posts, some names are changed where appropriate.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Images and review of these months

San Juan de Virgen (R). This is a semi-urban community about 10 minutes from Tumbes and 15 minutes from my site. Site of another volunteer from Peru 8 (Hey Lauren!) whom I will collaborate with and hang out with when times are tough! Both of us are Salud Comuntaria volunteers but we work at different health centers. We are talking about making radio appearances and spots for health promotion issues among other ideas that we can share.
Above (L) is Rio Tumbes. Home sweet home for the next two years.

(L) A community near our training facility and about an hour outside of Lima. Part of training included organizing and involving a sector of the community (which consisted of roughly 10,000 residents) in a project. My group did a charla (small workshop) and reclaimed a dump site/lot with a high school class. We did our best at promoting the idea of long term responsibility for the care and maintence of this spot. The students were really into this project and when I went back a few days later to take this picture, the garden was freshly watered. A good start! We worked at a local vivero (nursery) to solicit a donation of 72 plants for the project.

Lima, Peru. (L) Three blocks away from the Plaza de Armas.

I exist! Plaza de Armas. Lima. (L) Celebrated my final language exam by going to the Centro and by finding an Irish Pub in Miraflores!

Another angle of the reclaimed (in process!) lot. One of the students kept finding "Intis" which were the currency of Peru until inflation became so high that on July 1 1991 the Inti was replaced with an exchange rate of 1,000,000 : 1 for the the new currency "Nuevo Sol" (New Sun).

These past few months have allowed me the opportunity to explore some of the political, ecological, economic, public health and cultural dimensions of life here. A representative that I heard speak from the NGO Pathways (which partners with Peace Corps as well as USAID) provided a salient metaphor for these social dimensions as representing different sides of a rubix cube. Moving one side affects the compostion and appearance of the others. All are interrelated, therefore all dimensions must be taken into account with every maneuver.

In this vein, the following is a very brief synopsis of information gathered from my own training materials, the USAID June 2005 Country Report, World Health Organization, El Comercio, Etiqueta Negra and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (

Population: 27,544,305 (2004)
% Urban: 73.5% (2002)
Life Expectancy: 69.2 (2004)
Physicians per 1000: 0.93 (World Bank, 1997)
Adult Literacy Rate: 85%; Women-80.3%; Men 91.3%
Access to Improved Water Source (rural): 62% (2000)
Access to Improved Water Source (urban): 87% (2000)
Access to Improved Sanitation facilities (rural): 49%
Access to Improved Sanitation facilities (urban): 79%
Women ages 20-24 who gave birth before age 20: 30.1%
Estimated number of people living with HIV (adults, children): 82,000 (2003)
TB: 54,164 cases (2002), Detection rate: 84%

Computers. According to the National Statistics and Information Institute (Instituto Nacional de Estatidistica e Informacion) in 2005 6.8% of households had computers, up from 4.4% in 2004. Telefonica, a Peruvian phone and technology company reported that at the end of 2005, 20% of internet users reported having a personal computer, while the remaing 80% used internet cabinas (The Economist, "Global Technology forum," Growth of E-Commerce in Peru).

Alcohol abuse and dependency is identified as a major health problem. According to the 2004 WHO world alcohol consumption report, 28.8% of Peruvian adolescents (ages 12-19) drink either daily or once a week. The rate for adults of alcohol dependency is 10.6%; 17.8% of men and 4.3% of women compared to 7.3% of adults in the US (SAMSA, 2004).

Poverty Indicators. 50% of Peruvians live in poverty which is the equivalent of $58/Mo., while 20% live in extreme poverty which is $32/Mo. Nearly 80% of adults in socioeconomic levels D, E (pobreza, pobreza extrema) have not either not begun or completed secondary education in the greater Lima area.

Economy. International Monetary Fund (IMF) states that in 2005, Peru had the lowest rate of inflation in Latin America, at 1.8%. Peru's economic growth rate has been 6% for the past 6 years. U.S. growth rate is 3.2% for 2005, according to the CIA world fact book. U.S. trade with Peru represents 1% of our trade. Peruvian trade with the U.S. is represented by 26% of their trade.

Congress is currently debating the approval of the TLC (Tratado de Libre Comercial) between the U.S. and Peru which aims to bolster private investment, ease of trade, secure democratic relations in Latin America, diminish narcotrafficking and stimulate markets. Risks include lack of regulation and monitoring of child labor abuses in Peru; economic benefits not reaching and/or not being distributed adequately among the poor; exacerbated or worsened management of labor conditions in Peru; impact on small farmers of accessibility of agricultural corporations and business. Potential benefits include opening of new markets in Peru and for Peru/U.S. ; furthering of economic growth, heightened standards of labor and production assuming regulations, training where appropriate and responsible practices are implemented and monitored on the ground; the documented improvements in quality of life associated with strong economies and markets. Discourse often surrounds the issue of asymetry between the U.S. economy and Peruvian economy along the lines of the aforementioned disparities in levels of trade.

Sunday, November 12, 2006



Well reality has finally set in. After anxiously waiting the initial 8 weeks of training, our official sites have been assigned. It´s strange the way you have preconceptions of a place before you get there. Before coming to Peru, I thought I´d be in the mountains working in a small village of possibly Quechua- speaking Andeans. Instead, at an altitude of 74 feet, a population of over 20,000 and just 3 degrees from the equator, I find myself in Tumbes, Peru, surrounded by banana and mango trees, rice fields and also the amenities of semi-urban life, including internet cabinas, a market 2 minutes away and even a "virtual library." I´m 20 hours north of Lima which makes me the most northern volunteer in Peru (luckily my friends and Peru 8 volunteers Lauren and Kate are also assigned relatively nearby...) There are 7 PCVs in total in the department of Tumbes (of 38 in the class Peru 8, around 150 total in Peru, of around 7,800 in the world for the stats people...)

My site visit here was an absolutely exhausting week of meeting and giving speeches to local municipality members, mayors, teachers, health center staff and new neighbors. Peruvian culture is very formal in that meetings and public events are a big deal with formalities and the like. All of this, plus the bus rides back and forth from Tumbes to Lima (totaling around 35 hours) make me wonder how it is--and why?-- that I am typing right now. One of the toughest weeks of my life to date. I fell asleep, sweating, exhausted by 8 pm almost everynight. I ate raw fish, Ceviche, literally everyday at my site visit, twice for breakfast. What will become of my stomach? The average temperature here is between 32 and 38 degrees celsius, which I think is pretty hot.

I am back in Santa Eulalia near the training center for the final (finally) two weeks of training and the swearing in ceremony. I´ve had so many moments so far -- on crowded buses, uneven beds, dreams, sick, walking to spanish class, eating rice in the cold mountains during field based training -- where I have seriously doubted my ability and willingness to do this for two years. I continue to reassure myself that things will be fine once I am able to establish a routine and some decent projects with my community. Actually meeting my counterpart (she´s an obstetriz at my health post -- super amicable) and next host family in Tumbes was satisfying in that it helped me put some context to what will be my life for the next two years. I have ideas for working in a adolescent-youth program at our health center, checking out the mental health system, and doing some public art projects. The first three months in-site are for doing community diagnostic work, which is fancy public health jargon for talking to people to find out what areas need improvement in the community and who would be responsible and interested in realizing the corresponding ideas or projected health goals.

Some other things. My new host family seems nice. Two brothers, 12 and 14. One flies a kite and the other does soccer. Parents both high school teachers. My room is decent and my bed comfortable, though I´ll need to get a pillow. I have a toilet and electricity and thanks to a water conservation tank on our roof, water 24-7 (so far). I am thinking of coming-out as a vegeterian again. I´ve tried eating meat during the 2 and a half months of training here but I feel I want to go to my site as a vegeterian for health reasons and to avoid getting worms.

Tourist stuff: I went to a place called Cabeza de La Vaca or "Cow Head" which is a right near my new house. This neigborhood was being built until a pre-Incan ruin site was discovered there recently. All further housing construction (all adobe and wood) has been prohibited. There is a sacrifical site here where virgens were sacrificed to the sun, Spanish Pizzarro (was there a non-Spanish Pizzarro?) was resisted, and cow heads had lined the settlements, marking the land of the Tumpis.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Half Way to the Beginning


Half way through training! This weekend we are breaking up into smaller training groups to do some field based training in different parts of Peru. We'll get to see more of the coast and some of us, including myself, will also spend time in the Andes at about 3,000 metros (9,000 feet). I am excited, as are many other trainees, to have more hands on training like latrine building and "cocinas mejoradas," which is a project designed to assist communities in building safer ventiliation systems for wood-burning kitchens. All volunteers will be finding out their permenant site locations within the next week and a half which is also exciting. I'm under the impression that I might be placed in a larger community, possibly semi-urban, and likely splitting my time between a larger urban health clinic and a smaller rural clinic, doing something related to mental health. I'm still torn between wanting to be rural Andean for two years versus having the relative structure of something more familiar. Of course this decision is not in my hands at this point so I'm preparing myself for a host of different scenarios.

Aside from the field based training coming up, my routine continues to be structured by technical sessions and language courses. Spanish is coming along -- I'm advanced enough to be sworn in as a PCV-- but much work needs to be done on my part when it comes to comprehension and conversation and especially where slang is involved. I also continue to work on developing charlas for local health posts with other volunteers to better my spanish and to improve my understanding of the workings of the health system here. Also, I have been helping out with the Peruvian National Campaign against Rubella here at a local health post, along with others from our group. The campaign goals include vaccinating those between ages 2-39 and promoting and educating the public of the benefits of receiving the one-time vaccine. According to El Comercio approximately 12 million people have been vaccinatated thus far, representing 80% of the target.

In other news, I've had the opportunity to visit Lima a few times recently which seems pretty much like other cities in that it has the dynamic of organized-chaos and excitement all in one. There are sections of the city that are Exurban mall, USA in Spanish instead of English. In other areas, as in the US, there is the sharp juxtaposition of extreme urban poverty and dirth of resources and services. Here however, as it is in Europe and other places, the suburban areas are often the most strained economically and have the greatest social needs, for example in a pueblo joven named San Juan de Miraflores which I visited. The outer rural areas are where many volunteers will be working for the next two years. In general, there has been an influx of people from the sierra coming to the larger cities looking for work and opportunity, but often they find scarce resources, strained health care services and limited infrastructure and amenities such as water and electricity.

In closing, I've been really happy to be receiving mail here, whether they be newspaper clippings, letters, etc. It really helps when I'm getting caught up in all the work and training here. I'm also relieved that the snow at home is melted and that the Sabres were 6-0 last time I checked. Hope to talk to you soon...

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Pachamanca, Purple Cauliflower, Music

Yesterday was the second in a series of bio-gardening workshops at Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina in Lima. It was a mix of lecture about the variety plants, herbs and vegetables available here and then practical work like soil, planting, seeding and transplant techniques. There are purple cauliflowers here which I thought was fantastic. I decided I want to try grow Curry too when I get to my site. I was thinking of that Beach Boys song "Vegetables" yesterday and was humming it inside, until I realized we were already onto talking about Choclo, an unsweet, starchy corn and all the rest, many of which I was unfamiliar with in English let alone Spanish.
Earlier in the week our health group was also in Lima for a presentation on "Violencia Familiar y Sexual" presented by MIMDES (Ministerio de la Mujer y Desarollo Social/Min. for Women and Social Development). For all the scheduling and stress involved in training, the positive is that we are exposed to many different aspects of work training and familiarization with social services and resources here. I´m giving an informal talk (charla) on Drugs and Alcohol later this week at a health post and a small group of us are working on a garbage collection survey which is the beginning of a project which we hope results in a clean up day or other awareness event in a local community here. These activities are also a part of training, but are preparation for the kinds of projects we need to be able to facilitate once we get to our permenant sites.
I read yesterday in El Comercio that meteorologists are expecting a weak form of El Niño to affect Northern Peru in 06-07 which is likely the area most of us will be placed later on. I´m not sure how serious the effects will be (could hurt fishing industry due to fish migrating into cooler water, flooding, etc.) or whether the article was accurate though.
Music. I´m glad I brought alot of music here. I´ve also been playing guitar a little more. The other day I played "Ain´t Goin´Nowhere" with a friend who remembered most of the words. I found that she likes Gram Parsons too. I might try to learn "Brass Buttons" later. All the music reminds me of home and different places and people which is beautiful and sad. As for the music here, I hope you like 80s, early 90s (Guns-N-Roses, Aerosmith) and definitely Shakira. I hear that song "Hips don´t lie" a million times a day and I want to make a folk version. It´s unfortunate that "Hotel California" here is such a smash hit as I am not an Eagles fan. But all the great Peruvian music outweighs the bad American stuff. I´m listening to Musica Criolla, which is Afro-Peruvian stuff from the coast and of course the obligitory dance stuff and raggaeton.
My family went to my brothers' soccer game in Lima today so I am solo. There is a big festival in town for Panchamanca, which is comida tipica consisting of a bunch of meat stuffed inside some leaves and cooked underground in brick ovens. Tourists haven´t come as they have in past years because of fear this year of this mosquito which carries veruga peruana (Bartenollosis) and which bit someone last month. It´s mostly serious, in fact deadly, without early detection. My host mom went to Lima though to protest media coverage of the whole mosquito scare on the grounds that the negative coverage was exaggerated and that it was hurting the economy here during tourist season.

All for now... Happy Octoberfest... Go Sabres