Monday, 28 April 2008

Life in Huancayo

Life in Huancayo continues to treat us well. Nothing really to complain about, bit disapointing really. I have put a few pics up on my photo site if you want to see what it is like up here, pretty idilic. Ah, well lets see you lessons are going well, we need to spend a bit more energy disaplining than we are used to. Not that the kids are bad per say but just spirited. Well ok some are a little naughty but we are starting to get a decent amount of control and run games with minimal pushing, shouting, hitting and cheating. Made me miss Japan a little bit. I have been getting some decent study done, still nowhere near the productivity levels I managed in Japan but I think having a more set routine and place of my own their helped. Fingers crossed I will do OK in the exams, the maths one will be the hardest, for a bit I was wondering if I would be able to do it, now I think that maybe I will. The economic history course in contrast is keeping me very interested. I only wish I had more time to study it because it is so interesting. I think I am learning muchos about the world, how we got to where we are. Also changing my views on the British empire and certain prominent countries impacts on the world. I still can´t decide if I am a free tradist or a trade protectionist. Maybe most accurately I am a free tradist who think free trade is the aim but that it is not the method to get to that state. Anyway, moving on. I and Kel are taking dance lessons at the moment, we have our first two on this Sat and Sun past, respectively. Goodness I ache in places I have not ached in before. Good fun though, hopefully we get it down pat before we go, doing the Marinnera btw, a traditional peruvian dance but with spanish influence. The dance revolved around a man and woman flirting or courting. The woman acts all elegent and coy (but a little flirty) while the man acts like a horse. Also had a rocking day at the market, got some good hats. I really like peruvian hats, they have heaps of different kinds and they are all really good. Different regions and villages have their own unique hat style, its great, really great. Boy I like hats! The only bug in my bonnet is that the great felt hats they have are rather hard to transport. The felt will get all put out of shape if I pack it. Wearing it on your head is the only realiable way so I have only one felt hat. I have many more delightfully packable alpaca hats.



Saturday, 19 April 2008

So we are up in Huancayo now, the heart of Peru´s highlands (siera). It is beautiful up here to say the least, much more the Peru I had imagined before coming here. Everymorning we get up to catch a 7.30am car (like a shared taxi) to another spot where we catch a combi for one hour to aco, the small peublo where we teach english. Now a combi is bascially a minivan that acts like a bus, and here in Peru in such a mini van you can fit 27 people plus babies inside. We counted. It is amazing how they cram people in. Then we come home and have a wonderful home cooked lunch from one the peruvian volunteer coordinators grandmother. Actually she cooked us breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is amazing, really. Then in the afternoon we volunteer at an afterschool homework club in a closer village, only 15 minutes away. It is a little less stuctured there and the kids are VERY lively but it is fun. Some of the kids are very bright and it pains me to think some of them won´t reach their potential due to a lacking in the standard of education they recieve here. One half of a set of twins has impressed me in particular. He is only 7 but managed to pick up how to do basic equations (eg. 2X + 2 = 12) in about 5 minutes. And it was evident he had not come across this before and I was explaining it to him without knowing any of the relevant spanish words. Well. Today I and Kelly had a fantastic time, we had a short sleep in, then made it to a nearby village for their market day and festival. We did some good shopping, I got a Alpaca inca style slingshot amung other things, and then we took a taxi out into the campo propper (the countryside). We got out next to a beautiful, crystal clear river and found a grassy spot to have a picnick for lunch. Then we explored up along the side of the river and I found nice spots for me to study and Kelly to knit. We found a tiny little peublo up there too before catching a combi back. Great day. Later we will make and eat pizza with the other volunteers.


Monday, 7 April 2008

Mud Mud Glorious Mud!

We had a good time up in tumbes in the far north, a stones throw from Ecuador. First we stopped off in Puira though. Kelly had managed to get her hands on the LP (guide book) and found out that there was a little town good for shopping (handicrafts etc) near puira on the way to tumbes. So we stopped off there. We ended up buying a bunch of pottery and some filigree jewelery all for amazingly cheap prices. Filigree jewelery is made up of fine silver thread wound in intricate designs. Then we were back on the road towards tumbes. It was an interesting town, they had made an effort of make the place look good. And they had decided colourful and excentic was the way to go. Am I right the church looks like a licorice allsort? The first day we hired a boat and guide to show us around the mangroves at Port Pizzaro, where Pizarro first landed in Peru and discovered the Incas. It was pretty cool, we got to get off and walk around in the squelchy mud and see a huge frigite bird colony up close. We also got to see some of Perus only crocodiles getting nursed back from the brink of extinction, here's to reptiles with secondary palettes! Maybe the delighfully squishy feeling of the mud inbetween my toes had triggered something but when I found out about thermal mud baths near by I knew we had to go. The LP didn't have anything about it except mentioned a hostel which did tours to the site. So we took a combi down to where the hostel was (in a little town named Zorritos, little foxes?). The hostel proved useless so we started wondering down the pan american highway which runs along the coast the entire length of Peru. The coast of Peru, except for the very tip around Port Pizzaro is desert, so save the small patches of cliff is is one long sandy beach where it meets the sea. So being partial to beaches we walked the roughly 100metres from the pan american to the coast. The beach was amazing, perfect white sand and blue sea stretching either way as far as the eye could see. Not only where there no people but no litter! I guess there aint many litter making people living in the desert. So we spent a pleasant 2 hours or so walking down the beach, there must be allot of oysters in the water there as the beach was littlered with lovely pieces of mother of pearl. Just about when I was getting hungry I was giving up hope of finding the thermal mud baths. So started back towards the Pan american in hope of finding a restuarant, in our way was a large compound with basketball nets, I assumed it was a school, but luckily kelly was on the ball and recognised it for an upscale hotel/resort. So we approached the compound and stood mornfully at the locked gate. A fellow approached us and kelly used her Spanish skills on him, we were in! We were served up some awsome cebiche ('raw' seafood marinated in lime juice) and not content with fixing up our grumbling tums the waiter fixed us up with a ride to the thermal mud baths! Oh yeah! He called a taxi for us which would take us there, wait for us and take us back for 30 soles (ten bucks), pretty good deal. So we got to play in mud, mud, glorious mud! Also the mud bathes were free! They are just these completely natural pools of bubbling mud in the middle of nowhere! Each pool had a slightly different mud and we tried them all out, throughly covering ourselves from head to toe. It was splendid. Oh it is supposed to be therapeatic and help/cure various things, I dunno, all I know it was really good squishy mud.
Now for the bad news, looks like the road up to the mountians will likely be closed for a week more, we are looking at our options.
The last pic of off the little balls of sand that crabs make when they feed on the little bits of organic matter that surround each grain of sand.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

So it seems like the earliest the roads will open is early next week so we have taken it upon ourselves to get out of dodge and go up north so see some mangroves and maybe some south american crocodiles. YES! Not caymen or alligators, crocodiles, the real deal! Also we will drop by a lil´town renowned for its handicrafts. I feel bad about being a little mean about chiclayo on my previous blog, we met up with our good Chiclayo friends last night and have great time drinking wine and watching a pirated movie (why go to the cinema here for 9 soles when you can buy a pirated copy for 2!). They are such great folks and being so nice to us I felt bad. But still we are getting out of chiclayo for a break. Fingers crossed we can go to liemabamba on Monday!

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

A man doing something to a chicken or something
kelly on the roof of a ruined church
Another ruined church, this town (Zana) used to be rich with many churches but then after some pirate raids and a slave uprising and finally a flood it gave up the ghost.
pretty ruined church in zana
same church
same church

The street about 2 days after it rained, it was worse earlier!
At some parade done by some theatre groups
Me Kelly and a Raptor!

Well we are still here in Chiclayo! We were meant to leave on Sunday, we didn't becuase I had a fever and sore throat. Yep that is two fevers in about two weeks, I feel like an invalid although given the filthy nature of our surrounding it is perhaps unsurprising. So that was why we didn't go on Sunday, the reason for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday was that the road was impassable due to heavy rain. It is the last month of rainy season atm. We keep going to the bus station and asking them and they keep saying come back tommorrow. We have decided that if it is cancelled tommorrow we are going to go somewhere else, anywhere else! The people we met in Chiclayo are lovely and we were sad about having to say goodbye, well we were on Sunday anyway, maybe Monday too, now we just wanna get out of this city! The streets here are basically at a medieval level. They are unpaved, without drainage and oft used as a rubbish dump (and to a lessor extend as a toilet). The streets in the centre and around the shiny american style malls are paved etc. but the vast majority are pitted, rutted and either throwing up clouds of dust or turning into a foul smelling marsh depending on how much it has rained. Oh and then the garbage, some streets in particular seem to be used to dump either construction or household waste. I don't know if there is some system at work there or not. We learned last week that the rubbish collection business is partially ruled by the mafia here, at least at night. During the day there is a limited official rubbish collection service but at night a certain gang/group/organisation controls the rights to route through the rubbish and take out all the valuable things (stuff that can be sold for recyling). Further more it seems that most of the rubbish is just dumped into the desert outside city limits, whenever we drive out of town we see these lumpy fields of rubbish with the sad little raggidty dwellings of the people who make their meagre living scavanging there. Well isn't that despressing! On the bright side my throat is much better today, we self diagnosed and suspected it was perhaps bacterial (I had not cough or other cold symptoms) so we went off to find some pencillin. Pharmacies here sell everything on request, so we hit up a couple and managed to get 20 penicillin tablets (for 56 cents a pill at one place and 30 cents a pill at the other - it pays to shop around) and also a syringe, a bottle of penicillin to be injected and a little vial of some cortical steroid stuff, also to be injected! We didn't actually want those but it turns out we asked for them, darned language barrier! I personally think they might very well come in useful in some remote place. All those other things only cost about 25 soles; 8 dollars or 4 pounds. So being here in a city which has medieval streets but in which there are multiscreen cinemas, american style malls, many many shops selling luxury goods, and were almost every house has TV reminded me of an observation of George Orwell. His observation of working class people in the north of England was that they would first spend any income they might have on luxury good and not on improving the quality of more basic things. At that time (early 19 hundreds I think) the primary luxury was tea and he observed that families would subsist off nothing but white bread and margarine in order to afford their tea and suger. So perhaps it is not so strange that a person here is happy to walk down the dirt street, weeving between various piles of rubbish and breathing in clouds of dust and goodness knows what when he can do so wearing some trendy quiksilver boardshorts or brilliant white new sneakers. Perhaps I am being harsh but it is my wont sometimes! So far our contemporaries we have met here have been smart, upto speed with whats happening in the world and also happy to be living in Peru, and in Chiclayo at that! I am probably missing something. On a more positive note things seem to be fairly progressive from a social standpoint, at least here on the Costa. After our first failed attempt to get the bus some of the peruvians came back to the house we are staying to chat. Somehow we got talking about India and that led on to arranged marriaged which they were shocked at. Then we told them about what we had learned from "Kabul beauty school" which we have both just read and they were just as shocked as we were when they learned about the hardships Alfgan women suffer. So that´s good here, maybe.

Friday, 28 March 2008

This is a Peruvian hairless dog, it has a higher body temperature than normal hairy dogs and was used in pre Columbas times as a topical remedy for arthitus and things like that. Like a living heat pad!
Well I didn´t plan to write a post but I actually have a newish keyboard so I thought I might take advantage. Usually they are so worn that they can barely be used. The delete and return keys seem to be the first to go. We went with our new Peruvian friends to see a small parade yesterday evening which was pretty fun and then replaced our usual english lesson format with ´sit and drink beer and try and talk english or spanish´. It worked pretty well. Tonight is our last lesson and I think they are planning a wee shindig for us. Oh the other night we had some medicinal plant drink, sounds a little dodgy I know. It started when Kelly told them about maple syrup and they then told us about all these various trees they get liquids from. These and extracts from all sorts of other plants are blended together in various combinations to cure just about any ailement you can think off and a few ones that might be new to you. They are sold by these fellows you have their little plant laboritories mounted on three wheeled bicycles. They also only come out at night. We were interested so we had our students help us track one down. He has 18 glass bottles each filled with a different plant juice/ extract and some powders and a couple of tubs of hot liquid. You tell him what you want cured and he begins adriotly and rapidly mixing and shaking and transfering liquids between various containers left right and centre! Some of the ingredients were gooey (like alovera or snot) and others were dark and viscous. Most were green and watery. At the end of the process you had a hot drink that actually tasted quite good, like a herbal tea but more slimy. Our friends swore that they were very good and as evidence impressed us with the ages of their parents and grandparents (who regularly drank these potions). We went out to dinner with our host and his father to celebrate his fathers birthday a few days ago, maybe last week, and we were shocked. He looks 50, not older than 55 but apparently he had just turned 70 that day! Maybe there is something to it after all! Ahh what else.....I have been spending most of my time studying maths. Yes, I know, I don´t know why I am doing it either. It is hard too, I haven´t studied much maths since Highschool, hopefully I pass the exam! On Sunday we will take a bus upto Chacahopoyas up in the northern highlands and then get a collectivo taxi (little minivan) to Liemabamba were we will volunteer for April. The trip to Chacha will take 10 to 11 hours, yikes! But if we are lucky and there is a cama, bed, bus then they are actually very comfortable. Oh! I learned something today (other than maths) and it is this; re-applying sunscreen does NOT extend the amount of time you can spend in the sun with whatever factor of sunscreen it is you are using. Maybe most of you knew this, and if you think about it logically it is obvious but it never occured to me. Just to

reitterate- if you would burn in ten minutes without suncreen and put on some factor 15, that mean you can stay out for 150 minutes and not burn, it does NOT mean you can re-apply and then stay out for another 150 minutes after the first 150minutes. I guess I had never though about it before but really that 150 minutes is that max time you can stay out before burning assuming you are sufficiently covered in sunscreen for the whole duration of that 150 minutes. Re-applying only ensures you are sufficiently covered, it doesn´t reset the clock to zero. I just thought if there were any of you out there you hadn´t really thought about how sunscreen works like me, well that you should know this.

Take care!

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Just waiting in an internet cafe for someone to come online. It has been raining for a couple of nights this week here in Chiclayo and in a city where most of the streets are dirt and which does not have drains or anything this results in very muddy, dirty streets. In the centre of town where the streets are paved (concrete) you can´t even tell it rained but further out (where we stay) where as I said the streets are not paved, oh boy! Mud mud glorious mud! Well not glorious mud actually, scary mud, that smells of poop. It must be the most noxious mix concievable, not only is household waste thrown there but the faeces from all the stray dogs is mixed in too. Also the sewage system is rudamentry and in some spots there is a distinct odor and one suspects it isn´t coping with all the water. It makes walking around here like an obstacle course but at least it has reduced the previously omnipresent dust. I really liked the group of young things (all older than me) who we were teaching English to, it was nice to find out that in Peru there were young people just like me. I didn´t really think there wouldn´t be but it was nice to get to know some. I also always thought that the vast majority of south americans were deviot Catholics so it was nice to find out that at least some young people were not so. However this said I am looking forward to going up into the mountains and breathing some of that pristene and rarefied mountian air. Plus countryside dirt is good honest dirt unlike city dirt which is just nasty.