Saturday, March 30, 2013

Skyhawks in Peru

¡Feliz Semana Santa! We've been spoiled this weekend (what else is new?). Practically no one works here on the Thursday and Friday before Easter and this year that included us! Thursday we decided to take a day of rest and basically bummed around all morning, working out and relaxing. Around noon, however, we it a call from the only American Mercy Sister, MariaElena. She explained that a married couple from the US was living in one of the rural towns near here and they had come to Chulucanas for the day to speak with her-they really needed to speak with someone in English! She asked for one of us to go and pick them up to bring them to our house to get to know them, exchange numbers, and maybe plan another opportunity to hang out. As we are always eager to make more friends, we quickly agreed. I rode my bicycle (yes we have bikes here!) to the sister's home and was shocked to meet this couple. They are both Stonehill alums! Although Jocelyn and Micah Christian graduated before me, they have come back a number of times to visit campus ministry and to plan their wedding which was celebrated at the school. It's one of those situations where I recognize them but they don't know me. Still we were all delighted and amazed to meet other Skyhawks in Peru.

Yesterday was one of the fullest and most fun days that we've had so far. It began very early: 4:40 AM. For Good Friday, all of the churches here hold a passion play/procession. San Jose Obrero is the Augustinian church and runs the school where Britt teaches so we went there. The students have been practicing and perfecting this pageant for months now. They wore beautiful and brightly colored costumes and tried to be as serious as possible. The only thing that I didn't like about the over 2 hour long experience was that when the Roman soldiers beat Jesus- they REALLY beat him! This poor kid was bleeding all over the place from the wounds. It was, however, amazing to walk through the streets with them and eventually end up high on one of the city's hills. At times I felt like I was in a living Gospel.

The beginning of the procession

Jesus on the cross. The guy on the right in the black cassock is Pdr. Juan Carlos

Climbing down the hill afterwards

After a short rest, we headed to the bus station with our friend Italo. The bus ride offered us a nap and brought us to Piura where we jumped in a taxi bound for Catacaos. Only a fifteen minute drive outside of Piura, this small city is best known for its Semana Santa festivities. The streets were packed with people all there to enjoy the traditional fish meals, to play the carnival games, to shop in the artesian market, to watch the street performers, to see the beautiful wood chip drawings, and to touch the revered image of Jesus held in the cathedral. It was so much fun! Oddly enough, we ran into Jocelyn and Micah again!!! It's a small world after all- you ain't kidding! After spending the entire day in Catacaos. we went back to Piura and Italo showed us around the city's center. All in all, it was an exhausting and wonderful day!

Mallarabia: a traditional Easter dish

Britt, Chantelle, and Italo

Chicharrones, fried fish bites... mmmmm

Ceviche! Raw white fish, cooked with lemon juice and served with onions, sweet potato, corn, and yucca!

The cathedral in Catacaos


We got bracelets!

The wood shavings/flower images

That's right... we found a llama. Se llama llama

Foosball!!! Italo was stoked

This is not connected at all, but I finally baked bread here! It's heart shaped!

May your days be long, holy, full of friends, and foosball. Love you!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Just Turn on the Sink and Drink

I've been thinking about water a lot lately. Its not necessarily something new for me as I'm known for always carrying a water bottle and for being strongly against the consumption of plastic bottled water (for information why check out this video: ). Interestingly enough, it became a cultural taboo to be seen with a plastic water bottle around Stonehill's campus. When I studied abroad in Andalucía, Spain I learned first hand what it was like to live in a city with a constant water shortage. We had to be careful with how long our showers were, but could easily turn on the tap and drink from it without becoming ill.

I cannot do that here.

If I did not drink bottled water here, I would become very sick. Clean water from the tap had never seemed like such a luxury to me as it did when a Peruvian asked, "If you want water, do you just turn on the sink and drink from it? Wow!" This was such a foreign concept to her that she could barely understand it. Two of the main health problems for people here are dehydration and dysentery (from drinking the water).

Water is absolutely necessary for human survival. For a number of Americans, the fact that water would not be completely and easily accessible is ridiculous and unfathomable, but for the rest of the world this is reality.

In the midst of all these thoughts on water, my older brother has decided to run a 5k race to raise money for clean water. If you're interested in donating to this cause go to his website:

In the meantime, please be conscious about your water consumption. If you are lucky enough to have clean tap water do not abuse the environment (and your wallet for that matter) by buying plastic bottled water.

Peace, love, and water for all!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Enough Sunscreen to Cover a Sumo Wrestler

¡Buenos días! My mother can attest to the fact that I had a very busy weekend last weekend- I gushed to her all about it, forcing her to listen. Let's break it down day by day!

Dinner was a hamburger supper. This included a very thin- but very good- patty topped with cucumber, lettuce, tomato, fatty bacon, aji sauce, ketchup, mustard and thin potato chip slivers. A nice Peruvian twist on an American meal. After dinner we made our way to El Frances, one of the discotecas in Chulucanas, but we weren't going there to dance. That week Chantelle met a doctor at the hospital (through her work) who is good friends with the owner of the club and they both invited us to come watch a soccer game. It was Chile vs. Peru, a rivalry as heated as Red Sox vs. Yankees.  A very exciting game, neither team had scored until the last four minutes of the game when Peru scored the first and only goal. We all jumped to our feet, cheering and hugging one another. To celebrate, they turned the music on and we all had out own private little dance party. During all of this we just kept looking at each other and saying, we live the strangest lives here!

We spent the day shopping in the market and preparing a delicious salad with our new friend Fabiana. She's one of those people who just came up to us an said, "I was friends with last year's volunteers so we'll be friends too!" As you can imagine, this makes the whole making friends thing a WHOLE lot easier! Our salad was a mix of lettuce (something that made us all really nervous, but thank goodness we didn't get sick!), apples, raisins, crumbled cheese, scallions, cucumbers, and a dressing made out of strawberry jelly and balsamic vinagerette. It was fun hanging out with her and the food was delicious, but by the time we finished the meal we were all exhausted and another Peruvian "custom" was affirmed. They often don't get the hint when they have overstayed their welcome! I've seen this a number of times here and no longer think that this is just a personality trait. Rather, it is a desire to keep the party or fun going even when everyone is practically asleep or the conversation has been exhausted.

That night we were invited to go to La Amistad (a discoteca) with my friend Sthefanie. Before going into the discoteca, we did the customary laps around the plaza. Everyone and their mother, her mother, and her mother's best friend is there... doing laps. As we've been here for a significant amount of time now and know a lot of people, it was fun to stop every few seconds to stay hello to a different friend. After we had done enough laps and chewed on some delicious churros, we decided it was time to go into the discoteca. Sthefanie is a fabulous dancer and I had an absolute blast dancing with her all night! Our friends Italo, his cousin Diego, and our other friend Tín also met us there.

Sthefanie and I

After an early morning Palm Sunday mass with a church packed more tightly than I have ever seen, Fabiana met us at our house with two other friends (Marcos and Cristian) and a moto. After lathering up wtih enough sunscreen to cover a sumo wrestler, we hopped on the moto to begin the hour long drive to Pueblo Nuevo, a small town outside of Chulucanas.

Faba and Britt on the back of the moto.
 Starting there, we hiked almost and hour and a half through farmlands and jungle to el carrizal.

Chantelle, me, Britt, Faba, Marcos

 Essentially a swimming hole, the water at el Carrizal is fed directly from the surrounding mountains and is delightfully chilly. We found one swimming hole with a big rock along side it that you could jump off of into the water. Of course, Britt and I were right there! Chantelle took a little more coaxing but she eventually jumped in too. The rest of the time was spent trying to convice Fabiana to jump in too but we were unsuccessful.

The leap.

The splash.

I gave my students an exam yesterday which they were not pleased about. To try and win them back a bit, I gave them candy at the end of the class. I was shocked when one of my students  yelled, "Miss!!! You only gave me 2 pieces!!! Give me another one!!!" Except picture that being said in the most annoying, whiniest voice possible. I asked her if she was indeed a child or an adult. I love my students and I feel like I'm really starting to get to know them, but man can they whine.

I've been meaning to write this for a while: Britt cut my hair last week! As Chantelle watched horrified, Britt took scissors to my bangs and trimmed them, and she did a great job.

Much love, peace, and thin potato chip slivers!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Guys, We Live in Peru

Many of my friends and family members have recently asked me, what is ate average day like for you? Here, my friends, is an example of what I did today:

7:45 I hit the snooze button for five more minutes as "me pegan las sabanas" "the sheets stick to me."

7:50 I lazily make my way out of bed and into the shower.

8:30 I've make and eat breakfast: hard boiled/fried eggs, yogurt and granola, or a home made smoothie.

8:45 I begin walking to CEO Betania, where I work. I say hi to the same people that I see on the sidewalk every single day.

9:00 I unlock the door of the CEO and begin setting up my classroom.

9:15 If most of my students have arrived (highly unlikely) then I begin teaching.

12:00 I finish class. One of my students. Susanna, begs me to go back to her house with her so that I can how her how to do something on her home computer. I help her and-of course- her mother offers me a huge plate of food. Trying to be polite, I eat the food and am amazed at just how delicious it is (lentils with rice, vegetables, and a very chewy piece of steak). They also provide me with a glass of refesco: a sweet juice mixture. Although the food is delicious, I am concerned as I have other plans for lunch and don't wish to be rude. I am relieved when Britt calls, looking for me and I am granted an excuse to leave.

12:45 I hurry home to meet Britt.

1:00 We both roll away from our house on bicycles, headed to Chantelle's host family's restaurant. They invited us to eat there every Thursday for lunch. We obviously did not object, Nena is a fabulous cook! Papas Juan Gallina (spelling?) and pasta make up a delicious meal that is lightly seasoned with a fabulous conversation with Nena and her 14 year-old daughter Claudia.

2:20 We bid them adieu and head back to our house.

2:45 We return to our house and check on the mango ice cream that Britt made the day before with fresh mangoes. It's good.

3:00 Hopping on my bicycle once more, I make my way towards the university.

3:15 I begin teaching English pronunciation to a group of students hi are too embarrassed to speak during class. For obvious reasons this makes pronunciation difficult.

4:00 The class is over (it's a short one). I pedal my bicycle home.

4:30 Once back home I decide that although it is late, I will wash my laundry (by hand of course). during the washing I am able to Skype with my best friend Kelsie.

7:00 I finish washing my clothes and hang them on the line. Feeling lazy, we decide to walk to the corner for chaufa (Chinese friend rice), French fries, and a fried chicken wing (talk about artery clogging, but delicious!) served with a glass of Marycuya juice.

9:00 My "cousin" Jefferson and our friend Russo show up and want to hang out and chat.

9:30 We all leave for Russo's grandmother's house where we eat beef heart kebobs (delicious, don't knock it till you try it!).

No day is necessarily "typical," but I do have a set schedule that seems to be always changing!

Love you!!!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Photo Update

Enjoying watermelon with Anabel.

Dinner: Duck.

Helping prepare dinner with Yudy, Anabel, and Jesus.
Anabel and I.

Anabel blowing out the candles.
Rafaela going in for a bite!
Hanging with some of the neighborhood kids. That's Pathi in the background.

Anabel and Sucora dancing.

Pelau's whiteboards.

The first day of work. Note Britt's uniform!

Pelau being silly.
Our first home cooked meal.

Chicha Morada: A popular Peruvian drink.
The cake for Anabel's quinceñera (15th birthday party)
Sucora plucking the duck.

Our friend Richard showing us how to open a coconut.

Me trying it out!

Cooking with the lights out. Headlamp time!

Headlamp cooking!

The lake that appears in our house when it rains.

Sadly standing in our like, rockin the headlamps.

My computer students working!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Embodiment of True Love

Why? This was the question of many of my friends and family members after hearing that I wanted to do this. My answer is multi-faceted and would take a confusing novel to describe. However, I fully attribute my high school trip to Honduras for igniting this passion and desire to serve. It was there that I discovered and was immediately attracted to post-graduate service. I knew that I was meant to give at least one year of my life in service to my brothers and sisters.

Throughout college, I had the extreme privilege to go on 4 more alternative Spring break trips. Each journey was completely different from those before it, but with each my decision was further confirmed . Service was a beautiful and fun way for me to live out my faith and filled me so wholly.

So far, this experience has been nothing like that. Now before you all freak out and worry that I'm not having a good time here, I'd like to quell your fears with the assurance that I am quite happy. It feels like I am living out my calling. What makes this year so different from a week long break trip? The obvious answer is time. The not-so-obvious answer is that here I am living a life, building strong relationships, and making mistakes.

I am reminded of the emotions of retreat experiences. While on the weekend, we are lifted and the image of God is thrust upon us. We break our hearts open and allow ourselves to be vulnerable. If we're lucky, we feel the warmth of God in the simplicity of the sunshine on our face. Then we leave. It's not the same, and it never will be. We work hard to feel that high and feed that hunger but we cannot replicate that feeling in our daily lives- and we're not supposed to. That is the beauty of Christ: to be both powerful and meek. Even more amazing is the way that the meek side can grow to mean more to us than the powerful.

I live in the meek. My H.O.P.E. trips were my retreats, my blatant examples of enduring Love. This year is my challenge to discover that through my exhaustion, my frustration with my language abilities, and my attempt to slow myself down I am growing as a person and in my relationship with God. She is there, meekly urging me on: a perfect, omniscient embodiment of true love.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Who Needs TV When You Have Gringas?

My neighbors are loud. Can you blame them though? It's someone's birthday and they're Peruvian which generally means that they like to party (at least it seems to be the case here in Chulucanas). That being said, I can't sleep and shall gift (hahaha) you with another blog post.

If I had gone to bed earlier I would probably just be having some really weird dreams right now. However, my job requires some serious lesson planning. So far, I've decided that the easiest way for me to present information is through a PowerPoint, but of course it has to sufficient information to fill such a long class. This process of preparing for class sometimes keeps me working late and tonight it was particularly late.

Funny story #1: When I got home from the university I was very hungry and found myself in the kitchen, searching for a snack. All of a sudden I noticed a group of four young people watching me from outside the door. It turns out that they are engineering students from the university and were sent to our house by one of the local nuns who assured them that we could translate some physics homework for them (not a ton of personal boundaries here). I did my best translating the material for them and they chimed in randomly to help me with certain physics words. It's always something different!

Funny story #2: Tonight before dinner we decided to do a workout video in our living room. We have 2 doors, one of which is more of a gate than a door and therefore is kept open almost all the time to let air in. During the middle of the workout, about ten of the neighborhood kids came up and started watching us through the gate and our open front window. Who needs TV when you have gringas? They didn't just watch us though. Like most children they were full of questions for us like, "Are there only gringos in America?" Highly entertaining.

I hope you've enjoyed this random blogpost. Thank you and good night (only if my neighbors stop yelling!). Love you!

Monday, March 11, 2013

My First Day Was a Struggle

I know, I know. It's been a REALLY long time since my last post. I'm sorry to have kept you waiting but things have been a little crazy around here lately. First of all, we are no longer living with our host families but as of March 2nd have been livng together in our own house. The house is absolutely beautiful and HUGE! We have 4 bedrooms (one of which we just use for storage as there are only 3 of us), 2 bathrooms, a kitchen, a living room, dining room, patio, a big backyard, and a ton of frogs. It's certainly a huge change from what I had grown accustomed to.  We're just starting to clean around her and make the space our own, but it's really a darling little house!

The entire first week that we lived in the house a painter/carpinter/everything guy worked on the house. This was crucial as mother nature has finally decided that she's going to try out this whole "rainy season" thing, and we had some serious leaks. I'd heard before that when it rains, everyone in Chulucanas stays at home and nothing is open. I had thought that this was particularly strange- it's just rain! - until I actually experienced the rain. Whoo! There was an actual river flowing through our street that was at least three feet deep. Needless to say, I now understand the concern about the rain.

In addition to having house work done, we also had the pleasure of hosting a group of Villanova students on Spring Break. Sixteen of them were nursing students who went around the community to educate people on prominent issues such as diabetes and high blood pressure and to do medical home visits. The other half were campus ministry students and we were in charge of organizing all of the events and activities for them. Some of these events included visits to the orphanage to play with the children there, a visit to the nursing home, and a painting project at Santisima Cruz (the school where Britt works). It was fun to get to know the students a little and to watch them experience Chulucanas for the first time. Also, we were allowed to eat meals with them which really helped out our food budget and gave us one less thing to worry about!

On top of all of this, Britt and I began our jobs (as one of Chantelle's jobs is at Centro Pastoral-where the students stayed- she worked with them all week instead of doing her normal work). Britt is working at Santisima Cruz as an assistant English teacher. From what she tells us, the way that teachers work here is very different. Sometimes her co-teacher simply leaves the room and Britt is left in charge of 30+ kids! Chantelle started work this week and will work at two different health offices: at Centro Pastoral and San Jose Obrero. It is her job to act as a pharmacist and to offer medical advice. I teach basic computers at CEO Betania, a community center and techical institute. I work every Monday through Friday from 9am to 12pm. At first, I was completely overwhelmed by such a long class period. How was I supposed to fill all of that time? My first day was a struggle as I attempted to stuff my students with information and would get embarrassed whenever I had to stop to focus on a particular student or to fix a problem with a computer. I felt like I wasn't capable to do this job. I felt like my students didn't like me. I felt all of these things in a matter of 2 hours (heavy freakout session!).  After my class I told the director of the center Hermana Carmen (a sister of Mercy) that the class had been very difficult for me. She assured me that the first day is always hard and encouraged me to sit in on one of the other teacher's classes. Excellent advice. Watching the other teacher teach really helped me realize that I need to get out of my hurried, East Coast mindset. It is now my goal to teach each class calmly, taking time to make sure that each person is up to speed with what I'm saying. I'm learning that small talk is important too. In a weird way, it's important to stop occasionally to ask my students, "How are you?" or "How was your weekend?" The best teachers here are both friendly yet able to keep the class under control. Last year's volunteer who taught the same class that I am teaching also gave me this excellent website that teaches computer basics in Spanish and it has essentially been my bible!

Today I began my other job as an English pronunciation teacher at the University. This was particularly fun and a lot easier for me to teach than computers. As I essentially share the class with another English teacher, all I have to do is work with the students on their pronunciation (and it's only for an hour and a half!). A LOT LESS PRESSURE! Like those in my computer class, the students are all eager and excited to learn- hanging on your every word.

Last Sunday Britt and I were required through our jobs to attend a march for peace through the city. Despite being really early in the morning for a Sunday, the march was a lot of fun and even inspirational. There has been a significant increase in violence and petty crime in the past few years (don't freak out guys, I'm fine) and the march was an opportunity for everyone to stand up together and demand peace and tranquility. As we marched we chanted things like, "Vida sí, violencia no." or "Life yes, violence no." In addition to street violence, the focus was also against gender violence: particularly violence against women. Obviously this made me very happy and gives me hope for a safer and healthier future.

The kitties that have taken up residence in our  backyard. They're so little!

Chantelle holding a frog she found in our bathroom. We have A LOT  of frogs!
Us with a llama as a local public pool.


Pat with the llama!

More later! LOVE YOU!