So we´ve now been with our host family for almost two weeks, and they´re incredible. Ronald and Viviana are the most gracious, accepting, warm people we could have hoped for, and their kids Matias (10), Valentina (7), and Antonella (4) are already like family. The food is a lot of rice and potatos, as expected, but unlike some of the other volunteers, we´re loving the diet. We haven´t had any meals yet we didn´t want seconds, thirds, or more of. For the time being the living situation is still a bit basic (though potentially more developed than the place in which we´ll be living in a couple months). The modest house at the top of the hill in Yanacoto is built of concrete, brick, and tin. It has four floors though each floor gets smaller and smaller. It´s on a hill, so the bottom floor opens up to one street, and the top floor opens up to the next. Kind of cool. The walls don´t go all the way to the ceiling, the roof doesn´t go all the way to walls, and the stairs wrap around the outside of the house, but we couldn´t be happier. And starting this Sunday we´ll go from having one working sink (in the kitchen) to a functioning shower, toilet, and bathroom sink. Right now, we manually pour water into the toilet to flush it, and we take bucket baths with water we heat on the stove. We´ll also soon be some of the few volunteers with a washing machine.Vivi and Rona bought one before we arrived, and it´s getting installed the same time the plumbing is getting fixed. We´re pretty excited about the washing machine, but I think Vivi may be more excited yet. (As a side note, it´s getting harder and harder to pull up very basic English words. I wrote laundry machine instead of washing machine in the previous sentences, but I couldn´t tell what was wrong about it.) Also living at the house are Vivi´s parents (Jesus and Teresa) and brother (Josue, 22). Jesus is hysterical, greeting us with a loud "Good morning!" in every language he can come up with (about 5 or 6) regardless of time of day. Teresa exudes care, and Josue is like that Peruvian brother that speaks so fast we can´t understand him that neither of us ever had. His favorite movie is Rambo, and is more familiar with American pop culture of the 80s than I would ever expect. He´s a lot of fun and is incredibly patient with our constant questions.
The house is the highest up of all the Peace Corps volunteers, and we´re panting each day after our 15 minute hike up the steep hill, which would certainly be considered a mountain by Illinois standards. We attend class daily in Chaclacayo at the Peace Corps training center. It´s about a 10 minute ride on the combis, which, to put it nicely, are tiny 20 person buses that usually pack in at least 30 or 35. They all have horns that play songs or rapidly trill a few notes. Sometimes, if you´re lucky, they´ll have a strobe light and black light to accompany the overly loud music. They may even come to a full stop as you´re climbing in. The other favorite form of transportation is moto taxis -- motorcycles converted into little tiny cars (imagine a motorized rickshaw). We have class every day from 8:00 to 5:00. Classes are a mix of Spanish, techinical training, security, cultural, and Peace Corps policies education. It´s all still pretty basic stuff thus far, but we´re slowly delving into more and more of the details. The Spanish classes like to send us into the communities to ask random people random questions, usually resulting in a fairly confused and uncomfortable situation for all parties involved, but it´s definitely forcing us to step up our game.
Last weekend was absolutely nuts. We went to the wedding of Rona´s brother in Santa Clara (about 40 minutes away). We arrived at Rona´s mom´s house around 4, and I was an integral part of setting up. I put up at least 2 or 3 things. We have tons of pictures, but no way to get them online at the moment. Just take our word for it: it was decked out. The wedding was at 8:00 in a Catholic church in Santa Clara, and the doors were open in back to all of the (very loud) traffic going around the town square. I was in charge of taking pictures and felt slightly funny walking around photographing people I had never met. The reception continued after the ceremony, and there was lots of beer, Pisco sour, and some wine here and there (that I couldn´t manage to get my hands on). At this point we were very hungry, having not eaten since 1:00 or 2:00, but food wasn´t served until 12:45. It was really good, but we were ready to sleep afterward. In fact, we´d been dead tired since 9:30 or 10:00. However, Vivi wasn´t having it. She kept on dragging us to the dance floor, and by the end of the night we had several people complementing how well we´d picked up dancing. Really all we did was use their step and apply swing moves to them, but it looked all right. We were planning on staying up until the cake was served, but Vivi said it wouldn´t be served until we danced more. At 1:30 "La Hora Loca" started. It was 30 or 40 minutes of a clown, a sexy woman cop, and a salsa dancer with a mask from "The Mask" on dragging people to the dance floor, making them dance, distributing balloons, blowing whistles, and generally acting crazy. Amanda got a flower from one of them. We danced and drank until 3 at which point we finally went to bed cakeless (in an upstairs bedroom). The next day we got up, ate some soup, and sat around with the family. We´re pretty sure the chicken feet in our soup were from a chicken we met the afternoon before. Can´t get much more local than that. Around 11, the groom and his friends returned from a night out after the reception. I don´t know how they did it. Insane. There was a lot more sitting around, talking (in broken Spanish) to people (who in turn spoke in drunken Spanish) about a wide variety of topics which somehow always returned back to Coldplay. Go figure. At 3 we finally ate cake, and I think that´s where I´ll leave it off. There´s tons more to say, but our hour at the internet cafe is coming to a close. Feel free to drop questions in the comments, and whenever we get back online, I´ll try to answer them.
(Also, please excuse any spelling errors. The keyboard is different (and really frustrating), and every word is underlined in red unless I accidentally type something in Spanish.)