First an apology.
Sorry I haven’t written in a while. The last time I wrote, I believe I was still washing my face regularly and emptying my pee-pot when necessary, before creatures had time to both be born and die in it. I’ve gotten so busy recently, I’ve had to give up those frivolous pastimes. Now, I just roll straight out of bed and into a classroom, where I teach children about personal hygiene. It’s gotten so bad, I’ve even contaminated my room with my aura of chaos. Of course, since my floor is dirt, I’ve had to invent a brand-new way of being messy, consisting of tightly concentrated pockets of mess limited to my rug, desk, and bed, so that nothing is actually touching the floor. It would make an interesting installation. But since I took an accidental 2 hour nap this afternoon, I’m finding it difficult to fall asleep at my customary 8:30, and so it’s finally time to write! Apology over.
Some of you, my widespread readership (my mom, dad, and Beefy) may be wondering: “just what is that girl doing down there anyway?” I know this because you have asked me. I appreciate the curiosity, but isn’t it obvious? Why, I’m developing the youth, of course.
I understand that it may be less obvious to the uninitiated who haven’t spent hundreds of hours figuring out what exactly that means, through the incredibly efficient learning technique of playing Chicken in the Henhouse and doing Trust Falls. Actually, these techniques seem to have done the trick, because, 10 months ago, I wouldn’t be able to tell “Youth Development” from a hole in the ground, and now I develop the youth daily! The youth here are developing at an alarming pace! So much development is happening, youth-wise. Nope, still no clue what it means.
So I thought, instead of sticking a label on it, or going through the “Peace Corps is an agency of the gobierno of the Estados Unidos que se dedica a sustainable development. Tenemos three goals…” shtick that I slog through about 5 times a day and could (and have) reel off in my sleep in a variety of languages (still working on the Quechua version, which is difficult, since I’m finding it impossible to count past two in Quechua) I would tell you what I’m actually up to, work-wise. 8 months into site, I’m finally getting pretty busy, and I actually just got a solicitud (a fancy document that, when given to you, is quite official and important, but when given by you, means absolutely nothing, and may be used as toilet paper later) from the mayor and the school teachers asking me to do something! I still spend most of my time bugging people, but I think we’ve reached a point where they fear my bugging, and if they can’t hide before I show up, will just have to work with me. I’m pretty proud of this development.
So here is what I do all day! Disclaimer: I do not do this all in one day. What with eating snacks, running in the rain, tickling my host sisters, finagling rides up the hill on things that are not motorcycles (but can be giant tractors, or flat-bed moto-taxis full of buckets of rice pudding), and making noises at babies, there just isn’t enough daylight!
Talk to teenagers about sex: I do this a lot, though not as much as I wish. I hope to ramp up the sex-talk soon, though, and make it a full-time thing around here. With my Youth Health Promoters group starting next week, I see myself talking about sex to teenagers for at least 7 hours weekly. The Youth Health Promoters are a group of 3rd, 4th, and 5th year secondary school students, hand-selected by their teachers as leaders for their peers, and top-of-the-class sex talkers. I hope to soon have them talking about sex professionally, models for their classmates and community of only the highest quality of sex-related talking. But this is a serious issue, talking about sex being something so fraught with verguenza (shame) here that even mothers will giggle at the mention of “pregnancy,” as in the phrase “20% of the pregnancies last year were of girls under 18.” Clearly, someone should be talking to the teenagers about sex, and it should not be the man who told me that condoms have a liquid in them that stings your “pee-pee like a pepper.” While I never imagined myself as a prophet of safe sex, it’s obviously an incredibly pressing issue here, not only to lower teen pregnancy and STDs, but to just give the teens someone to talk to, and ask their gross questions to. Yuck. Besides the Youth Health Promoters, I’m currently talking about sex to 5 different classes in two different high schools, during their tutoria class (think homeroom + health class + study hall + time for the teacher to leave and eat snacks).
Talk to teenagers about life/work: Related to talking about sex, but with many more team-building exercises. I’ve just started a half-baked Vocational Orientation course with 4 classes, to hopefully touch on goal-setting, decision-making, team-work, resume-writing, and all sorts of other buzzwords. I’m excited about it, especially the part next week where we get to the play the Marshmallow Challenge game. Beyond that, the plan is fuzzy.
Read with small children: I read with my cadre of children aged 3-9 ½ every Friday. This age group, especially in the small boy category, is the source of my very most devoted fans. An elite platoon of 8-year old boys participates in just about every afterschool activity I run. This is just only slightly frustrating, because the official “Youth” ages are 10-24, but since I myself fall squarely within this range, I’ve decided to go ahead with the 8-year-olds and just count myself as an effected youth. The reading is something else I’d really like to focus on, since I heard a rumor that reading comprehension is crazily low, a rumor confirmed whenever my host brother reads for me, and speedily reads things like “We sat together on the duckling,” or “they brought the enchanted boy to the notebook,” without batting an eye. Also, after months of begging and whining and freezing my butt to the chair at boring meetings, I’ve managed to get my clammy hands on the keys to the library here, which has been closed since it was invented, mostly because the majority books inside are Readers Digests from the 50s. It’s an awesome place, and I can’t get enough of the looks on the littlest kids’ faces when we read fun picture books, something they never do at home, and rarely at school. I hope to, very slowly, get people other than the 8-year-olds into the library, and get someone else to open it a couple days a week, and books donated, and stuff.
Talk Moms into Talking to their Daughters: I’ve just started a new project (“just” being a relative term. I think I started it in February. Also the term “new,” is misleading. It’s my first project. Also the word “project” is a good descriptor. Oh well), aimed at improving communication between mothers and their adolescent daughters. I’ve only had two preliminary meetings, but they went pretty well! It should be a fun thing, we’re planning mother-daughter activities like cooking and yoga and crafts, ideally all at once. My aim is to make it as adorable as possible. We’ll also be talking to the mothers about sex, of course.
Teach English: Although I teach English 6 hours a week, I like to think of it as a secondary project; but it really is the most requested service. Ever since I took the advice of my incredibly wise site-mates, and separated the classes by age and gender (I had to re-separate the 8-year-old boys class into 2 classes, since there were 10 of them), teaching English has become a way more pleasant experience. It’s pretty fun. So far, my kids can say they are good, tell you their favorite color and count to a trillion. I’d say, they’re ready to go.
Busy Myself with Assorted Odds and Ends: Including but not limited to: planning and hopefully running training events for the teachers, trainings and meetings for the Community Health Promoters, helping to hand out foodstuffs at many food-stuffs-handing-out-events, running school events for special days like Earth Day, helping out at Escuela de Padres get-togethers, Ultimate Frisbee, movie watching on Friday afternoons (this started out being held in my bed, with a participation count of me, but today we had 7 small children and word is getting out) and a pen-pal project with kids from the states. Plus, I actually got some of the teachers I’m working with to want to help plan lessons, so there’s that too. WHEW.
OK, so that’s what I do! Sort of, minus the tying of corn-husks into fun little bows, the bringing of hard-candy gifts to the municipality workers, and the other stuff. But after months of very purposeful wanderings, and getting deeply hurt when people in my site would innocently ask/tell me if I was just “pasear”ing (“NO. I’m very busy and important.”) its nice to be busy.
Exciting Bonus Feature!
To fill you in somewhat more on my thoughts and happenings during the 2 or so months of my radio silence, I’d like to share some of the more topical entries I’ve found in my journal. It’ll be fun!
March 1: Ate about a tazon full of Israeli salad because I made it, it was delicious, and no one else even pretended to like it. When I told Cashi (my host mom) that my dad eats Israeli salad every night she said, “so that’s why he’s so fat.”
March 4: The fact that the herbs in the tea tonight were named “Cola de Caballo Macho” (Tail of a Male Horse) and “Pata de Perro” (Dog’s Paw) didn’t make dinner any more pleasant. On the plus side, I’ve just invented the Peanut Butter Cinnamon
March 5: Just a thought: I don’t think I’ve seen a bathtub in 9 months. On a related note, I think I have fleas again.
March 11: The best thing that happened to me yesterday was I found out that the two horrible awful white terrier devil dogs are dead! I feel released from a curse, and also, like I’m turning into a psychopath.
March 14: Virginia (my host sister) got mad at the school principal on my behalf today because she thinks I shouldn’t be made to cry in a foreign country. While I appreciate the sentiment, I think that crying in a foreign country may secretly be Peace Corps Goal number 4.
March 20: One thing I learned from watching Olympic Gymnastics is you can, and should, do anything on an ankle if you tape it up forcefully. So I ran a really fast 3 miles today.
March 23: Dear Smug Peruvian Man: I have diarrhea and a swollen ankle. Today is not the day to tell me I’m running slowly.
April 17: Finally won an argument with the school principal, just by sticking to my guns, and not crying! But then, I did have the upper hand, because she was wearing a slanket. Then, she chewed me out in front of my class, but I couldn’t take her seriously because, again, the slanket.
April 19: Soli lost her first tooth today and I explained about the tooth fairy. She asked me if the tooth fairy came from Brazil, and if she ever gave fake coins. Yes, and yes.