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Peru

Hello PDs,

I was just remembering when we first starting talking about this idea of blogging (for ourselves), and how it might be fun in those awkward-alone time moments when there is still a lot to be done. Here I am – awkward alone moment! Gosh, here I am, survey number three.

Here’s how Peru is today. I woke up and attempted to run. FAIL. It only takes one run at 12,000 feet to decide you aren’t running. Then I met a future youth counterpart/staff counterpart/I’m not sure what yet at the Mercado to sell some cheese with his mom. First of all, I love Latin American markets…..they are my safe space – probably because I feel so surrounded my culture and activity that I forget whatever my own problems where. Well, this was the case this morning, I found myself totally overwhelmed – on one side women were shoving cuy in my face and on the other the smell of spices was so great it stopped me in my tracks. I found the queso stand I was looking for (really more like a cuajada stand) and his mom put me to work selling cheese for the next few hours. Her plan worked – the cheese flew off the stand – as people came to see the gringa selling cheese. My plan worked – I learned how to say “would you like cheese?” in Quechua. Next I am off to church, not that I am religious, but it seems like a good place to meet people – and yesterday I met some nice nuns, so perhaps I’ll go hang out with them.

Llevas queso?

Llevas queso?

On a more serious note: there is a lot of work to be done! Setting things up is no easy task and I feel the weight of the work I need to get done in IO on my shoulders as well. However, a lot has been done this week. Our partner agencies – the Ministry of Health and Management Sciences for Health (and potentially a smaller local NGO) seem to be on board. But as always, I fear that partner agencies never quite comprehend what they are getting themselves into – i.e. they don’t understand how awesome it will be or how much work may be required. But, I love the ideas that have come up surrounding community health and what our volunteers will be able to accomplish. Now that they seem to be on board, I am focused on all the other tasks; find a house, find a training space – a mail box, a doctor….blah blah blah you guys know the drill. Don’t forget recruiting youth volunteers! I don’t love the chaotic running around, but when I think about the volunteers and youth counterparts I feel so so so excited for the summer to begin.

The communities are so beautiful. I really had no idea why people always talked about Peru and the Andes…but wow! Visiting communities (when I wasn’t out of breath chasing Pepe, our Doctor friend from the Ministry of Health) was so incredible – the mountains are beautiful and the culture is so vibrant. And, plus Cusco is great – the seat of incredible cultural clashes between the Incas and Spanish – not to mention the culture and night life (not that this really matters….).

Per usual, I just met this guy who works for a youth travel organization, and when I told him I worked for AMIGOS he just said “wow, you guys are great.” Case in point.

¡First week in México!

Hello everyone! I’ve really enjoyed reading about all your adventures so far. Now that week 1 of my first PD survey EVER is over, I figured I would share a few highlights. Jesse and I had a great time in Mexico City for the first two days, hosted by our amazingly hospitable (and really quite fun) International Trustees Jon and María French. María helped us a ton by connecting us with key people at the American School there (this school is ridiculously nice, by the way). We were trying to recruit some Mexican Vols as CVs, as you’ve all heard, and although we didn’t have astounding turnout, we talked to quite a few bright, friendly, interested students there. And luckily, my awesome APD Becky is studying in Mexico City this semester, so she and María can give some seguimiento to the recruitment process at the school!

Jesse and I also saw some pretty things around the city; exhibit 1: this huge flag in the zócalo:

Yeah, D.F. rocks. Except the traffic. And the pollution. But yeah, other than having these mental and physical irritants present in great supply, it’s simply great.Here’s another pretty picture, just for kicks:

Finally on Wednesday, we were Oaxaca-bound. Also on Wednesday, I woke up with pinkeye. Nasty. I’d been pretty congested since leaving the U.S., so this was just the latest in a string of gross bodily occurrences. But it also gave me the excuse to go see my favorite doctor in Oaxaca, Dr. Tony, the first night there! He’s great; it’s not every doctor that calls me “Joselito.” Even better than “jóven” and we can all agree that “jóven” is pretty great.

It’s been so nice to be back in Oaxaca. Feels like I just left. This city is so beautiful and so easy to navigate. Jesse and I had productive first meetings with our two partner agencies, and also have reconnected with some other contacts here in the city. Since Jesse left today, I also had a great meeting over coffee with a Mexican AMIGOS contact from a few years back. She’s going to help us recruit Oaxacan jóvenes to be National Vols that my staff team can train locally, reducing their costs enormously. I also have some money in my budget to completely fund a few of them, if we’re successful in recruiting. It would be awesome to have some Vols from D.F. and Oaxaca in the project this summer.

The best way to sum up one of the biggest highlights of Oaxaca so far? A poll, obviously. Answer away.

Abrazos,

José

This little piggy….

Went to Boaco….

Hello everyone! I realize that this is my first blog post and it feels great to get on! So far I have been on survey with Becca, Mac, Chelsey, and Marta in Nicaragua and Panama. Currently, I am in Costa Rica with the lovely Maddie Delgado! Thought I would post a snoring piggy picture to make you smile. Don’t you worry, more to come soon!

Abrazos Fuertes,
Kate

Que es un lider?

Hi everyone,

Its been exactly a week since I arrived in Managua and Kate and Chelsey (thankfully) picked me up at the airport.  This is not a blog about AMIGOS, this is a blog about non-project aspects of travelling.  This is a blog about two men that walked into the hostel where I am staying – one from Vancouver, one from El Salvador.

I am not sure what the El Salvadorian’s deal is but the canadian is into business, does contract work for video production in British Colombia, is looking to get invovled with Nestle  coffeemate exporting and generally get into the coffee business here. They are travelling around with two fifteen year old Nicaraguan youth, a boy and a girl, that serve as “guias” I guess.  The girl has shut herself in the room, the boy is sitting on a rocking chair next to them, after all three them spoke with me briefly about who I am and what I am doing here, right off the bat the canadian had offered me  a rum and coke – I politely declined and reminded them to ask if they ice was made with bottled water….it was not, they went for it anyway.   I told them all I was working and the canadian said that HE had been working all day and that it was time for ME to take a break. EXCUSE ME? once I returned to my lap top I heard them say “so she knows you’re married but she’ll do you anyway? wait wait, but she knows that you’re married, and she still wants to do you?” .

They talked at me for a little, while the canadian would yell over to the kitchen “WHERE IS THE MUSIC, lets get this party started, hey, DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH”.  The canadian and el salvadorian (I apologize for using nationalities, I don’t remember their names and I am not interested in asking for them again, and I don’t think the ‘white man’ and the ‘brown man’ are appropriate either) are sitting next to Javier – a young nicaraguan that could be one of our Nica volunteers or youth counterparts, doesn’t speak a word of english —the canadian is speaking in an noticeably loud (drunk?) voice “he didnt get enough attention from his parents, but this kid, he’s a good kid, he loves me like a father, like his own father, he does.  He had too many brothers and sisters, so he didnt get enough attention, thats the problem. but he has good values, you know, he wants to help his family. his mom doesn’t work, you know, because she can’t, he told me.  Its that he didn’t get enough attention from his parents thats why “. Ahem. This whole time Javier is looking between them, the cat that won’t stop meowing, his shoe laces.

Thought I would share!  They made me slightly uncomfortable to the extent that I almost considered packing up my bags and going elsewhere. but its dark out, and luckily my room has a lock on it, and its been about thirty minutes since I last heard their voices. Unfortunately the two men are in room 7 and I am in room 8. Hopefully they will be gone after breakfast.

thanks for reading. the next blog I post will be about how rewarding it is to get to know a new city, start seeing familiar faces, and for people at nearby stores start recognizing my face.

A Paraguay Summer

Hi Everyone! It is summer here in Paraguay and Gustavo, Maya and I kicked off our week with sunburns! Ok, I think I got it the worst, but no sooner have I thawed out in the Paraguayan summer and I will be headed back to Houston where we just might expect another brutal “cold day” in Texas.

We kicked off the trip with some Iguazu research and exploration requiring a 5-hour bus ride to Ciudad del Este, which takes nowhere nearly as short as 5 hours.

The first and only basket of chipa to make it on our bus to CDE ran out right before we had the opportunity to purchase and enjoy a piece of Paraguay’s famous warm cheesy corn delight. We were left hungry and all our neighbors devouring their chipa–crumbs rolling down their shirts and looks of satisfaction on their faces–just sort of rubbed salt in the wound. However, the following day’s long bus-ride would reward us two fold. Thank you Chiperia Leticia for sending two wonderful chipa ladies on our bus.

We finally made it to Iguazu with smiling faces. Feeling accomplished, so close to setting our eyes on the curiosity to come, we stopped to snap a photo on one of the many bridges leading to the falls.

And we managed to avoid getting our heads bitten off by serpents.

Naturally beautiful, immensely powerful and a wonder that hopefully our Volunteers will be able to see.

Upon return to Asunción we got straight to work…

Gustavo was sworn in at the Congreso de Paraguay…

I objected, mostly out of concern that Gustavo’s plate would be too full balancing new responsibilities on top of his job as the Project Director in Paraguarí.

We met some friends ducking out of an aguacero.

Maya and I learned about Plan’s variety of programs in San Pedro including Más allá del aula – sounds like a good theme for summer activities!

Mariela, Plan Paraguarí’s 2010 AMIGOS coordinator brought Gustavo up to speed with where things left off and how Plan has been following up and preparing for 2011.

It was a long week of meetings, travel and program planning in Paraguay. We have some exciting developments in store in San Pedro and Paraguarí.

The Fundación Paraguaya and Plan Paraguay are both committed to recruiting Paraguayan volunteers. Partners of the Americas is also very interested in collaborating to recruit and train volunteers from their large network of active Paraguayan youth.

Other highlights: increased collaboration with Rotary, likely visit from the United States Ambassador to Paraguay, business as usual with SENASA (hopefully Gustavo can give us an update after community visits on Monday), Peace Corps support in stove trainings and educational activities, connection with a new organization to get trees donated locally…and so much more to come!

What a day full of emotion!

It really began last night. It was the classic non-yoga night: went to sleep, settled in under the bug net, and woke up an hour and forty minutes later. Wide-eyed. Finally I just got up, pulled out my laptop and iPad of articles, and started writing. I actually made some headway. That said, it was so lovely to be with Maribel again— to wait for her on her porch, to see her coming down the road, all prego, to play with Yasira. She got a puppy, a parrot, and a pig. And she’s preggo? Something is going on here, I think. But, wonderful to talk life in a rocking chair while the sun sets with such an inspiring woman….

So back to this morning- finally, 3 am, I fell asleep listening to the roosters crow (I will never understand why they cannot wait till morning!) and watching a sliver of moon light shimmer on the floor. 4 am, someone decided to chop wood. Right outside my room. Slept a bit more, woke up, fed the birdie with Maribel. I must say, I love her dearly. She’s going through kind of a rough patch in her life right now, and I wish I could make it all better. It so painful to see someone you love so dearly, someone who believes so deeply in the power of youth, someone who is just always willing to give and give and give and give of herself to youth, communities, everyone. She is so generous and kind and caring, she’s a mover and a shaker, she makes all kinds of wonderful things happen, and she’s one of my best friends in the world. And so its hard to see her go through things I think she should not have to deal with. I’m staying with her (always do). She’s also pregnant- due May 28- and the single mom of two other beautiful daughters. This summer she will be less involved with the communities, which will be hard on the project, but she will be off work for three months, so that means she will be hanging out with me all the time in Teustepe, and we will have a baby to tote around and play with!

We all had breakfast- a tortillas, beans, and some salty eggs… and my personal favorite— passion fruit juice! Fresh squeezed, with tons and tons of little seeds. I looooove the seeds! All bets are off for when I won’t get guajada in her house. I never eat it, but her muchacha always gives it to me. I just can’t do the guajada. I do it in communities, but I stay with M all the time— and she won’t eat my peanut butter and jelly!

Then we had a partner agency meeting. Headed over with Maribel in the morning, and met Isela, Armando, Rosalio, and Angelica. We all sat together and talked about which youth might be interested in participating as volunteers, 2 at the international level and 10 at the national level. The conversation was good, highlighting a lot of excellent young people. I kind of felt like we were choosing them though, and what if we passed someone over? Wouldn’t it be better to let them self-identify as interested through the application process? At the same time, it was nice that they were so invested in thinking through who might be interested. We ended up thinking about Darling and Betty for Ecuador vols, and a whole slew of others for natl vols.We were supposed to go out to the communities with Maribel, but today Isela changed that. She sent M to Juigalpa and was going to go only with us. I was very worried about this, because Isela (who is the coordinator of Plan, but does not get out to the communities much at all) does not know the communities at all. I knew we needed someone to go with us who could talk to the parents, who the parents trusted. So, thankfully, she had Rosalio come with us. During that conversation, I mostly felt like this:

So off we went, with Isela and Rosalio. I love Rosalio, I really do. When you need something, he is there. Always. Like when you need 30 cots in the next two hours, Rosalio jets off on a moto, collecting cots. And he shows up, in time, with 30 cots. Always there. That kinda guy.

We headed first up to La Laguna, one of the farthest communities. In La Laguna, we met with Darling and her family. I always feel so warm and welcomed by this family. Her parents hosted vols last summer, and they were loving to all of us. Darling was a vol in another community, and so I know her well. We sat around in the cement floor living room of their bright pink with blue trim home, and we laughed about stories and shared experiences of the recent big snows.

We talked of her being a vol in Ecuador, seeing how they were feeling. I think she will be a volunteer, which is exciting. This is when my heart broke. She has two more years of high school. She wants to finish. She also has a brother, who also wants to finish high school. Long story short, the brother is going to finish high school, and the family can only send one son or daughter, so the son goes and the daughter does not, and my heart breaks. And all for transportation and food! All she needs is transportation to school and food at school, about $500/year for two years. I almost want to pay it. I know I can’t, I know its not cool, I know there are tons of girls in this situation. But this one, I love. This one, I’ve watched grow into a leader. This one, I’ve watched inspire and be inspired. I’ve comforted her when she was homesick, I’ve congratulated her when she finished the summer, I’ve laughed with her over memories. And so it hurts. I’ve been upset about it all afternoon. I mean, this is a truly brilliant young woman.

(from left: Darling’s Mom, Me, Darling, Don Catalino (Darling’s Dad) and Rosalio, from Plan)

My heart has been broken and my belly in knots all day because this brilliant young woman in a pink tank top and red shorts, a brilliant young leader can’t go to school. Because it costs $1,000 dollars. And then I’m thinking, if she goes to school, then what? What does she “get?” A way to leave the community? A job? Then I’m horrified, realizing I am thinking about how she can “get out,” what if she does not want out? What if she loves La Laguna? Why do I think she needs to be able to get out? And then… and can it not be education for education’s sake? Does it have to have an ends? But then, I know what education is like here. Its rote learning. Its reciting. Is that education for education? Is it worth $1,000? Who am I to say what its worth?

And then— time-space expansion. Cindi Katz, 2008. She says that globalization might well produce time-space compression in the global north, but in the global south, it produces time-space expansion. Here, it means that the geographic regions/space/time that people must traverse in search of education/economic resources/other resources. Darling’s case is the example of how that intersects with gender. The more local high school closed because of funding a few years ago, and b/c most of the youth were going out to the cities. Then there was a collapse of the crops, and no one could afford it. Or some could, some couldn’t. The youth had to go far away. Then gas prices skyrocketed. Bus fares got higher. And then it was the decision Darling’s family was faced with: a son or a daughter- who to send to school, when there is only enough for one? Gendered time-space expansion.

We headed through a bunch of other communities then, weaving through the mountains, inviting youth to Thursday’s workshop, talking with parents and listening to giant pigs, sound asleep, snore. We stopped off in Asiento Viejo, and saw Betty and her family, and talked about her going to Ecuador. Her dad is on board, her mom is considering, and either way she’ll at least be able to be a natl level vol!

Then we headed down, Kate and I were starving and ate with Dona Irma, and then we headed here to Managua with Chema! And now, we’re getting ready to go the airport to pick up Marta, tomorrow is a few meetings, and then I’ll head back to Teustepe. Thursday is a youth encuentro. I’m thinking of showing them some of the cool videos about youth activism that have popped up on Facebook lately— like this one:

I was thinking of maybe a few others, and then we’ll come up with some kind of action or cool thing to do around a topic of their choosing- could be a great conversation around leadership. Plus I think it’d be cool, at this juncture, to watch videos of what other youth are doing, get a sense of what kinds of issues are relevant to youth in other parts of the world, see what and where and why and how the connections might be….

Off for now…

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