Two weekends ago we had our Mini Field Based Tranings (FBTs). I went to Huancavelica, a department not far from (the department of) Lima, but a lot higher up and the poorest of Peru. We left at 6 in the morning to head to Lima, so we could catch vans to Huancavelica. We stopped about halfway through the 8 hour trip to stop at a site of a volunteer. While there, we split up into groups of 4 or 5 and went to do a check on the improved stoves that had been installed in houses within the community. (For more details on improved stoves, see Amanda´s contribution a few weeks back.) It was a little overwhelming, but the family was wonderfully gracious and welcoming. I also checked out a church that had been destroyed during the 2007 earthquake. Sad, but pretty cool looking too. We then had lunch at a restaurant at which I will never eat again. The food was great, but apparently not sanitary. After another four hours of travelling, during which I began feeling sicker and sicker (I assumed due to the altitude), I was ready to just crash. We got to the hotel at which we´d be staying for the next three nights, I ate some food at the restuarant there, played some Liar´s Dice with the volunteers with whom I was sharing a room, and thought I was feeling well refreshed... Then midnight came around and the next eight hours were just hell. I had to get up every 20 minutes, and didn´t sleep a single bit. The next day, I missed the planned activities, rested the majority of the time, ate 10 or 12 crackers, and drank as much water as I could stand (not much). The following day, I was cautious about what I ate, but seemed completely recovered, and I was able to participate in leading an early childhood stimulation sessions and help in building an improved stove. The session was hard because all the kids were different ages, and the activities planned just didn´t work at all for some of them. The stove was fun, but also frustrating because I saw a lot of further improvements I could make. The design was good, but every region has a different size standard for adobes, so I feel like our stove, although technically constructed according to plan, just didn´t have the structural integrity it could have had. Oh well. In site, I´ll have a lot more control over things like that. We had a few last sessions with the facilitators the next morning and headed back. Altogether a pretty good trip despite the one night.
So we got back, had a day off, then launched straight back into the rigorous daily routine to which we´ve now become accustomed. But there was a treat that Friday as well. We found out our departmental assignement, and we´re going to Ancash! Talk to most any Peruvian around here, and this is the most beautiful department by a strong majority. Many people I´ve talked to regularly vacation there. What more? Amanda will be working in Huascaran National Park, which means our host community will be nearby. Huascaran National Park is like the Rockies of Peru. It´s gorgeous. Just Google it. With Machu Picchu, the Nazca lines, and more ruins than probably will ever be documented, Peru has a lot of distinctly Peruvian things to offer in the way of tourism, but it has some simply incredible natural attractions as well. I´m incredibly excited. We officially find out our host community in one week, but, past the name, I don´t really know what will be gained by this. I know we´re living in a basin near one of the most incredible parks in the world, and not much else really matters.
Today we both gave presentations in classes in communities around where we live. I gave a session on autoestima to a class in our homepueblo and it went incredibly well (or so I think). The class liked my group´s activities, and I was reminded again just how at home I feel while standing at the front of a classroom. It´s nice to reaffirm that every once in a while. I threw in the wall of compliments thing we did on some of the Mississippi trips so they had something to leave up in their classroom to help them practice the things we talked about. I translated it into Bolsillos Llenos De Amor, and I could barely esape at the end, as they all rushed over to claim their pocket. (A quick note of explanation: Everyone has a pocket in which people can leave anonymous notes saying something about them that they like, a good deed they observed, or really just anything positive.) I also got a seat on the combi, had my second day of Quechua class - so much fun, and managed to snag the last alfajor for Menda from a local bakery. All in all, I had a superb day.
Also, Menda and I talked with a volunteer finishing up her service who started a program called Iron Man Iron Woman that is so remarkably close to Spring Initiative that we had to tell her about our friends in Mississippi and the incredible things they are doing. We brought up the possibility of her collaborating with Spring back in the states, and, go figure, she sounded very interested. I don´t know how we managed to become friends with so many exemplary people at our age, but we´ve definitely reached our fair share.
I´m out of time at the internet cafe. Until next time.