Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Stitch In Time Saves Your Toe

This post will probably be one of our last as our time here in Peru is rather quickly coming to a close. Since the last post in April not a whole lot has happened or changed, but I'll try to get a good idea across to you of what the last 6 months of Peace Corps service looks like.

I'd often heard that the last several months are the most productive. Given the usual attitudes of those in my community, I wasn't expecting much, but it does seem now that since April my projects have taken off. I finished up the 12 week “Steps Forward” sexual education course with three different groups and took one of the best students to a regional conference of which I was part of the planning committee. I finally got a handful of house visits done with three different mothers who have kids under one year of age, though that's come to an abrupt stop; more on that later. As part of the English Teaching Committee, I went and talked to the new training group in Lima about, you guessed it, teaching English. And Amanda and I have expanded the classes we'd already been teaching in Jinua, an annex of our community, to reading as well, which have been a joy and a success.

Amanda's projects got started quite a bit sooner than mine did, so her last few months have been more about wrapping up than getting off the ground. But even then her workload has increased since summer vacation (January and February here). She's been to every meeting she can in order to talk to as many people as possible about climate change and how it relates to garbage management. In the space of a few months, she's spoken to several hundred people, which means she can close out her grant on her garbage cans project and send in the final report. Also, this past week a group from Peru 22, the training group a year after ours, came to visit for IST (In-Service Training) so they could learn from Amanda's experiences in both municipal garbage management and GLOBE, the climate change monitoring program mentioned in previous posts. She did a bang up job, and I could not have been prouder as she received recognition for her efforts from both the volunteers and her boss.

Throughout the two years there have been many activities we were planning on doing and never got around to for lack of time, money, or unforeseen obligations. Now, as we're running out of time, we've decided to make sure we get to see and do what we've wanted to see and do. Unfortunately, the list will have to stop past the first two, as I've injured myself in a way that will incapacitate me for at lease the next few weeks.

First, some thermal baths that live up to the hype. In a little known town above Carhuaz, next to an idyllic river, and looking out over the beautiful Ancash scenery of adobe houses with tiled roofs built on rolling hills of green, there is a small hot spring that churns out scalding hot water that you can barely dip a foot into. Next to it, however, is its slightly cooler sister spring that is perfect for sitting, relaxing, and, if we're to deduce from the empty shampoo packets lying around, taking a bath. Small amounts of garbage aside, it was perfect: isolated, no crowds of people, gorgeous surroundings, and pleasantly hot water flowing around you. If you ever make it to Ancash, avoid Monterrey and Chancos, the usual destinations for those seeking a relaxing afternoon. Head to Carhuaz instead, grab the colectivo that heads up to the smaller communities above, and ask to get off at the baños. You won't regret it.

Next up, Laguna 69. Often referred to as the most beautiful lake the Ancash region has to offer, the trail head to Laguna 69 is right up past Laguna Llanganuco, probably the most frequented lake we have due to both its beauty and accessibility. However, we'd already been past Llanganuco twice, once just to see it and the other time as we were finishing up the Santa Cruz trek last year. Thus, we'd avoided Laguna 69, because we'd have to take that same route a third time, and there are still so many things we've yet to see in other parts. Then again, it's supposed to be absurdly beautiful, so in the end we booked it last week and on Friday made the three hour hike up to the lake. First, the good news: it was completely worth it. I'd say it's my top activity in all of Ancash. You get a real taste of what a longer several day trip looks like without having to sleep outside in absolutely freezing temperatures, you get to see a truly stunning lake, and you have the comradery of a sizable but not too sizable group of tourists from all over the world, most of whom are incredibly friendly and interested in getting to know one another. Now, onto the injury.

I've mentioned in past posts the competition among Ancash volunteers to jump into more glacial lakes than anyone else. I did seven in my first several months and then didn't do any for over a year. I decided I'd do one last one and call it enough, and so I stripped down, dove into the very cold water, and upon scrambling into the relatively warmer (but still kind of cold) air cut my foot on a rock. I say cut, but it's more like sliced open an inch long section of my toe and then shoved up as hard as I could so it looked like a large triangular section of my toe had just been removed. And then there was the blood. Amanda ripped up my under shirt, wrapped up the toe, and tied it off with the another strip from the shirt, and the bleeding stopped pretty soon afterward. But then I had to walk down another two hours to the bus... and wait another two hours for everyone from our group to arrive... and then another two hours to arrive in Huaraz where I could get to the emergency room. The bad news? Seven stitches, antibiotics, an order to stay off my foot for a while – thus wiping out the possibility of finishing up my house visits, and having to get the stitches out in Lima while my family is visiting from the States. The good news? I didn't lose the toe, and, after I jumped in the lake, six more people decided it would be a good idea, did so as well, and not one of them had to visit an emergency room afterward.

Here are some photos, and in case not everyone is interested in seeing pictures of a mangled toe, I've put those photos in a separate album with a bonus picture of Amanda's bloody eye from a burst blood vessel.