Happy 2018 everyone! My aunt always sends our family her Christmas card every year, and it generally has the form of her year in the alphabet. Around December, I started thinking about how I wanted to to that in blog form, and never got to it. We had another family friend that used to get her Christmas cards out by New Years, and called them a New Years card. So, in the spirit of my aunt and our family friend, here is my really late Christmas/New Years card.
A is for Asuncion, a district in Cajamarca about 5 hours from Cascas. I traveled to Asuncion to co-facilitate a training in operation and maintenance of small community wastewater plants for several water committees, operators, and Water For People staff. I loved the experience of getting to know another town briefly, and to share some of my knowledge.
B is for Uncle Silvestro’s Birthday. During the evacuation, I had the chance to go to Florida to surprise my uncle on his 70th birthday. We spent a few days with my aunt and uncle, two of my cousins, and my cousin’s toddler. We ate and drank and swam and laughed together, and it was a nice trip that I wasn’t expecting in the middle of a chaotic time.
My Dad with my Aunt’s three dogs
Mom and I jumping in the pool
C is for Sustainable Development Action Committee. in Peace Corps Peru, there are several committees that volunteers can join, and I was lucky to be chosen to help form and establish a new committee. The SDAC members meet several times per year to brainstorm ways to support volunteers and staff in their work, and to try to do what we do in a more sustainable way with the counterparts and host country nationals we work with. It is a very rewarding team to work with, and the committee members are fun people, so I am thankful for getting to discuss and work with them.
D is for Diagnostics. One of the big things I worked on this year were surveys and data for the national government and for Water For People. I got to traipse all over my district, talking with water system operators and community members to get information for the diagnostic.
E is for English classes. One of the things most volunteers deal with in Peru are lots of people wanting to learn English. They assume that as an English-speaker, we are inherently qualified to teach (we are definitely not), and most of us teach a few classes in our two years. I taught way too much English this year, for kids in summer school, students at the Institute here, a group of adults, and the veterinarians in town. A resolution for this year is to learn to say no and teach way less English!
On the way to Pastoruri with Lauren and Jon
Practicing colors with the kids
F is for Friends. My dearest friend from college came with her boyfriend to visit me in Cascas in October, and I am still so thankful for the kind of friend that she is. We spent some time just being in Cascas, and she said that she wanted to do that to be able to relate to my time here. Her selflessness to spend that kind of money and time just to experience some of this and to be able to relate to me blew me away, and we had a great time here in Cascas and exploring Huaraz.
G is for Gratitude. When I began my service, I made a gratitude board to keep track of the little things I am thankful for. I haven’t been great at updating it, but slowly and surely, it is filling up. It gives me a reason to stop and be intentionally grateful.
My gratitude board is filling up!
H is for Hospitality. One of the wonderful things about Peru is the hospitality that is always shown to anyone who walks through your door. I have been on the receiving end of this hospitality often, and through that, I have learned how to make a meal stretch for all of the people in the house, or to find what you have to offer to whoever shows up.
I is for Infections. This year, I have been pretty healthy overall, but have had some different bacterial and viral infections. The most memorable were the three cases of giardia and the time I had to get a minor toe surgery for an infection I had. (Yuck)
J is for JASS, which is what we call the rural water committees here in Peru. This year, I got to train 15 JASS in operation, maintenance, and administration of water systems. JASS trainings are one of my favorite activities, because it is when I get to get in touch with my technical side, answering questions about water systems, and trying to find solutions for the problems they face daily.
JASS training in Machasen
It was sooooooooo cold!
K is for el pozo Koan, one of the lakes in the upper part of the district of Cascas. This year, we returned to the lake in July to see the vicuñas and swim in the frigid water with a group of friends.
L is for Luna. Luna is my little pup. She is a white/tan shi tzu fluffball mix, who bites too much and loves to eat meat. I got her as a gift for the new year as a tiny puppy, and she has been a source of joy and laughter all year for me, my family here, and all of the neighborhood.
Lunita as a puppy
M is for Machu Picchu. In December, the Ritter family descended upon Peru, and we headed to Cusco to see the Sacred Valley and hike the Inca Trail. Mom, Dad, brothers, boyfriend and girlfriend all hiked the four days, ending with three hours in Machu Picchu. We were all astounded by this wonder of the world. I was expected to be underwhelmed, as I tend to be at super touristy places, but I was overwhelmed almost to tears at how incredible Machu Picchu and the other ruins really were.
N is for el Niño Costero. This March/April/May in Northern Peru, el Niño Costero hit particularly hard, causing ceaseless torrential downpours, floods, landslides, and the loss of homes, crops, roads, bridges… All PCVs in the northern parts of Peru were evacuated back to the states for 40 days to impatiently wait out the storms and news from Peace Corps if we would be going back to our sites or not. Thankfully, most of us got go back. It was definitely one of the saddest parts of the year.
O is for Oven. This year, we made a wood fired pizza oven at the house, and this means that about every month, we get a group together to make pizza. I have learned the ins and outs of making pizza from scratch this way, and I think I may have perfected it, as much as you can living in a small community in Northern Peru. Even the my Peruvian family and friends say it is delicious, which is a great compliment, because Peruvians are very serious about their food.
P is for Pacasmayo. In June, Kevin and I ran a 10K in Pacasmayo (just north of Trujillo). It was my favorite race I have ever run, with the 10 kilometers spent looking out on the beach and running out to the lighthouse and back. I also really liked the distance, and hope to run it again.
Q is for gender eQuity, which is one of our focuses as a Peace Corps post. This year has been especially important for gender equity on a global scale, and I have personally learned a lot through the Women’s March, the MeToo movement, and in Peru, the NiUnaMenos movement.
We made it in the Trujillo newspaper before we ran the 5K
After running the 10K, with the founder of the race, a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer!
R is for Races. Kevin and I ran several races this year, and planned one (see letters U and P). We also ran a 5K La Industria, and a little bit more than 5K Maraton del Arco in Cascas.
S is for the Santa Cruz Trek. As I mentioned in a previous blog, Kevin and I took advantage of a trip to Huaraz to hike the Santa Cruz trek in Huascaran National Park. It is a backpacking trip in the Cordillera Blanca, and one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. It was an amazing experience, and left me thinking about where else I might want to go hike next.
From right on the other side of Punta Union in the Santa Cruz trek
T-bone when he was little
T is for T-bone, the little bull that Kevin bought at the beginning of last year. He was three days old when he came home, and drank four liters of milk per day for the first four months of his life until we weened him off of the bottle and taught him how to graze. He is slowly getting bigger, and a little less cute, but Kevin adores him.
U is for the Feria de la Uva, the grape festival in Cascas in July. This year, I helped the planning committee in the months leading up to the festival, and helped plan and carry out a 5K and 10K race. We had about 40 participants, and a really great time. I also participated in the Pet Contest where Luna won third place. I learned that Casquinos take their festivals very serious, and that it is not easy to be involved in planning or executing any of the activities.
V is for the Viviendas Saludables (Healthy Households) project I co-facilitated with the three Sanitary Educators in my office. We worked in 75 households for six months, teaching families household water treatment, sanitation, hygiene, and about their water systems and committees. It was an incredibly rewarding experience and the biggest project I have been a part of in my Peace Corps service.
W is for Wonderful. My site mate came to Cascas to start her service in October, and she is absolutely wonderful. It is great to have a friend around who understands the life you are leading (especially in circumstances as weird as Peace Corps) and who you can speak English with. Not only that, she is motivated and creative and kind, and just a great person to get to live near and work with.
X is for Xenial, which is described as “a friendly relationship between two parties or countries.” This seems to fit two of the three Peace Corps goals, which are sharing cultures between our communities in Peru and in the states. I try to reach those goals by teaching English (see the letter E), hosting pizza nights (see the letter O), and by keeping up with my daily picture project on facebook as well as this blog. I also spoke for my church and for two high school Spanish classes while I was evacuated at home (see the letter N).
Y is for 1 Year and 9 months. I opened my LinkedIn account the other day and it told me that I have been with Peace Corps for now a year and nine months. I was absolutely blown away. This means that my service is on the downhill side, and I now know that my six months left are going to fly by.
Z is for Zap. When I was standing up next to the Pastoruri Glacier at more than 17,000 ft in Huascaran National park with my dear friend, her boyfriend, and Kevin (see letter F), the lightening began to strike all around us. I was afraid we would all get Zapped, but thankfully, we all made it down the mountain. We were covered in snow, rain, and hail, but were safe and sound.
And now you know your ABCs….
Here’s to 2018!