Sumac Hacllpa Business Competition

It feels like it has been a very long time since I have updated my blog.  I feel like time passes a little differently in Peace corps.  Another volunteer said it best, the days seem to stretch on, but the months seem to fly by.  Sometimes I forget how much has happened since my last update.

My last entry I mentioned the business contest I was working on with a few guys from my town.  I gave 14 classes on basic business concepts and helped them develop an idea they had for a business.

Before I tell the whole story I feel like I should give a brief background on the two boys.  First there is, we´ll call him Aldo.  Aldo is about 23 years old and comes from a very nice family.  Both his mom and dad have been very helpful and supportive in my work as a volunteer.  They have a few ranches were they herd cattle. Aldo studied at an institute in Arequipa for agriculture and how to care for livestock.  He also took a few business classes at the institute.  Because Aldo had a base knowledge of business, it was easy to motivate him to come to classes and work on this project. Aldo is a very smart and motivated kid with million business ideas.

Alex however comes from a different background and was not as fortunate with his upbringing.  Alex is around 20-22 years old.  His real father left when he was little so it was just him and his mother until she remarried.  His step father drank a lot and was abusive to the whole family (not uncommon in some of these mountain town families).  When he was 11, Alex ran away from home.  He lived on the streets in Arequipa, Tacna, and even Lima for a while getting money where he could. There is a lot more to say on this, but lets just leave it as his life up to this point has been very hard. He returned to Callalli for the first time in 9 years, around the same time I arrived in Callalli, to return home to his family.  The father, I can honestly say because I know his stepfather well, has changed his ways and is a completely different person.  With no business education or much schooling at all, Alex joined my class.  I never expected such dedication and determination from anyone in my town like what I saw in him.  He came to every class, he participated actively, and the kid is smart.  Smarter most people his age and he everything he knows is self-taught.

The contest was based in Lima and was a competition of business plans.  After receiving the full course, the group needed to write a full business plan with financial projections, marketing plan, operational plan, and full details on how the business would be structured, run, operated, and plans for progress in the future.  My group wrote their plan on a horse back riding business.  The idea was to combine horse back riding and a cultural family home stay in one tourist package.  Because there are so many tourists in the Colca and no horse back riding competition in the upper part of the Colca, it was a very feasible idea.  After submitting the plan, I traveled with them to Lima for the actual presentation part of the competition.

They procrastinated a lot on preparing their presentation which made me very worried.  The fact that neither of them had ever had to give a public presentation and they planned on just winging it just churned my stomach!  It was like I was about to witness a full on train collision!  I asked them why they had come this far and were not willing to put 100% into the presentation?  They told me, “what´s the use, were not going to win anyways”.  They had already admitted defeat, before the competition really even began.  I think that is a big problem with the mountain town youth in Peru, self-esteem.  They see all these city kids with better education, well dressed, well spoken and they feel inferior.  Peruvian society, I have noticed, can be bit classist.  There is a distinct social economical discrimination between people for the cities (high-class, more money, have a more european influenced culture) and the people from the mountains (low-class, poor, identify themselves with the customs and traditions of the Incan heritage).  People from with money look down upon people from mountain towns and treat them as inferiors.  So with that said, I could understand how they could see this competition as an impossible win.

When it was their turn to present, my heart was in my throat. They were so unprepared to give their presentation, I almost couldn´t watch!  You could tell they were very nervous, their voices were shaky, they were pacing back and forth, nervous twitches and so forth….but they did it.  They got through the presentation and answered the judges questions without having a nervous break down!   After they were done presenting, that was it.  They were done.  They had come so far and worked so hard and now all we had to do was wait.  I have to admit, I was really proud of them.  The courage it must have taken, first of all to travel outside of Arequipa to a completely foreign land (Lima) was a big feat in itself.  Yes, Lima is still Peru, but it’s not at all, and traveling is a scary thing for a lot of the campo kids.  But secondly to have the courage to stand up in front of these judges and something like 35 people in the US EMBASSY and give a public presentation for the first time in their lives?!?!?!?!  That is a lot of pressure!  And they did it!  Win or lose, what a great experience for them!

It was time for them to announce the winners.  After hearing the other business plans, I honestly thought we had a shot at winning something.  Yes, there were city kids with business educations and big words, but their ideas didn´t seem that feasible or that profitable.  This took place in a the embassy with the U.S. ambassador present plus an army of news cameras, sponsors, and big wig embassy workers.  They announced third place…wasn´t us.  They announced second place…nothing.  By this time, I was almost sure we weren’t going to win first place…but I still had a shimmer of hope.  I will never for get this moment for the rest of my life.  I will be telling this story to my grand children.  Alfredo says “And first place winner…….coming all the way for Callalli, Arequipa, Sumac Hacllpa!”  Aldo was almost dumbfounded.  Just a look of complete surprise and disbelief.  Alex however, couldn´t control himself!  He started jumping up and down and throwing his fists in the air!  After all the hard work and preparation, it finally paid off.  After the boys were so certain they weren´t going to win anything, we won first place!  That means S/. 5,500 to invest in their business!  I am certain that neither of them had ever experienced anything of this magnitude or felt anything close to these overwhelming feelings of success.  The whole experience was unforgettable for all three of us.

The competition was in August.  Since then we received the money and bought two horses with all the equipment two days ago. The boys are very excited to start their business.  If anyone is coming to the Colca, I highly recommend their horseback ride.

Published in: on January 20, 2012 at 10:08 AM  Leave a Comment  
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Sumac Hacllpa

It feels like it has been a very long time since I have updated my blog.  I feel like time passes a little differently in Peace corps.  Another volunteer said it best, the days seem to stretch on, but the months seem to fly by.  Sometimes I forget how much has happened since my last update.  

My last entry I mentioned the business contest I was working on with a few guys from my town.  I gave 14 classes on basic business concepts and helped them develop an idea they had for a business.

 Before I tell the whole story I feel like I should give a brief background on the two boys.  First their is Aldo.  Aldo is about 23 years old and comes from a very nice family.  Both his mom and dad have been very helpful and supportive in my work as a volunteer.  They have a few ranches were they herd cattle. Aldo studied at an institute in Arequipa for agriculture and how to care for livestock.  He also took a few business classes at the institute.  Because Aldo had a base knowledge of business, it was easy to motivate him to come to classes and work on this project. Aldo is a very smart and motivated kid with million business ideas.

Alex however comes from a different background and was not as fortunate with his upbringing.  Alex is around 20-22 years old.  His real father left when he was little so it was just him and his mother until she remarried.  His step father drank a lot and was abusive to the whole family (not uncommon in some of these mountain town families).  When he was 11, Alex ran away from home.  He lived on the streets in Arequipa, Tacna, and even Lima for a while getting money where he could. There is a lot more to say on this, but lets just leave it as his life up to this point has been very hard. He returned to Callalli for the first time in 9 years, around the same time I arrived in Callalli, to return home to his family.  The father, I can honestly say because I know his stepfather well, has changed his ways and is a completely different person.  With no business education or much schooling at all, Alex joined my class.  I never expected such dedication and determination from anyone in my town like what I saw in him.  He came to every class, he participated actively, and the kid is smart.  Smarter most people his age and he everything he knows is self taught.

The contest was based in Lima and was a competition of business plans.  After receiving the full course, the group needed to write a full business plan with financial projections, marketing plan, operational plan, and full details on how the business would be structured, run, operated, and plans for progress in the future.  My group wrote their plan on a horse back riding business.  The idea was to combine horse back riding and a cultural family home stay in one tourist package.  Because their are so many tourists in the Colca and no horse back riding competition in the upper part of the Colca, it was a very feasible idea.  After submitting the plan, I traveled with them to Lima for the actual presentation part of the competition.  

They procrastinated a lot on preparing their presentation which made me very worried.  The fact that neither of them had ever had to give a public presentation and they planned on just winging it just churned my stomach!  It was like I was about to witness a full on train collision!  I asked them why they had come this far and were not willing to put 100% into the presentation?  They told me, “what´s the use, were not going to win anyways”.  They had already admitted defeat, before the competition really even began.  I think that is a big problem with the mountain town youth in Peru, self esteem.  They see all these city kids with better education, well dressed, well spoken and they feel inferior.  Peruvian society, I have noticed, can be bit classist.  Their is a distinct social economical discrimination between people for the cities (high class, more money, have a more european influenced culture) and the people from the mountains (low class, poor, identify themselves with the customs and traditions of the incan or preincan heritage).  People from with money look down upon people from mountain towns and treat them as inferiors.  So with that said, I could understand how they could see this competition as an impossible win.  

When it was their turn to present, my heart was in my throat. They were so unprepared to give their presentation, I almost couldn´t watch!  You could tell they were very nervous, their voices were shaky, they were pacing back and forth, nervous twitches and so forth….but they did it.  They got through the presentation and answered the judges questions without having a nervous break down!   After they were done presenting, that was it.  They were done.  They had come so far and worked so hard and now all we had to do was wait.  I have to admit, I was really really proud of them.  The courage it must have taken, first of all to travel outside of Arequipa to a completely foreign land (Lima) was a big feat in itself.  Yes, Lima is still Peru, but its not at all, and traveling is a scary thing for a lot of the campo kids.  But secondly to have the courage to stand up in front of these judges and something like 35 people in the US EMBASSEY and give a public presentation for the first time in their lives?!?!?!?!  That is a lot of pressure!  And they did it!  Win or lose, what a great experience for them!  

It was time for them to announce the winners.  After hearing the other business plans, I honestly thought we had a shot at winning something.  Yes, there were city kids with business educations and big words, but their ideas didn´t seem that feasible or that profitable.  This took place in a the ebassey with the U.S. ambassador present plus an army of news cameras, sponsors, and big whig embassy workers.  They announced third place…wasn´t us.  They announced second place…nothing.  By this time, I was almost sure we werent going to win first place…but I still had a shimmer of hope.  I will never for get this moment for the rest of my life.  I will be telling this story to my grand children.  Alfredo says “And first place winner…….coming all the way for Callalli, Arequipa, Sumac Hacllpa!”  Aldo was almost dumbfounded.  Just a look of complete surprise and disbelief.  Alex however, couldn´t control himself!  He started jumping up and down and throwing his fists in the air!  After all the hard wokr and preparation, it finally paid off.  After the boys were so certain they weren´t going to win anything, we won first place!  That means S/. 5,500 to invest in their business!  I am certain that neither of them had ever experienced anything of this magnitude or felt anything close to these overwhelming feelings of success.  The whole experience was unforgettable for all three of us.  

The competition was in August.  Since then we received the money and bought two horses with all the equipment two days ago. The boys are very excited to start their business.  If anyone is coming to the Colca, I highly recommend their horseback ride.  

Published in: on January 20, 2012 at 9:20 AM  Leave a Comment  

Presidential elections and work updates

Hello,

I just wanted to send out a quick email to let everyone know whats

going on in Peru now with the elections. The presidential elections

are June 5th and now there are two candidates. First candidate is

Ollanta. Ollanta is a nationalist who parallels Hugo Chavez. He is

also against all foreign aid, which means there´s a chance I might

come home early if he´s elected (very unlikely that I wouldn’t finish

the two years but possible).

Next candidate, Keiko Fujimori. Keiko is the daughter of former

president Fujimori. Fujimori was the president who ended terrorism in

Peru. The first half of his term, he actually did great things for

Peru. Improved the economy and ended the sendero luminoso. Second

term however was not so great. He basically used the fear of

terrorism to take over the media. He would call innocent people

terrorists and put them in jail or kill them to keep the fear of

terrorists alive. Later he tried to rewrite the constitution. He is

now in Jail. His daughters first order of business will be to let her

father out of jail. She shares all the same advisors as her father as

well.

Long story short, Peru is screwed. It will be very interesting the

upcoming months of the new presidency. I’ll keep you up to date. Read

this article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/28/world/americas/28peru.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=fujimori&st=cse

Everything else is great. I’m finally busy!!! I have an artisan

traveling to the Smithsonian museum in D.C. to participate in a

cultural festival in June compliments of Peace Corps. She is one of

four people throughout all of Peru who earned this opportunity. A lot

of my time has been dedicated to organizing the passport and visa

process. Also, preparing the four other artisan associations with the

list of products they are bringing to sell at the festival. I have

business classes up and going as well. We are learning how to create

business plans. In August, my group will compete in a competition in

Lima. The winner will receive %100 of the costs in their initial

budget plan up to $5,500!! We are doing a tourist agency, more less.

My other project is the Ride the Colca. We started this a while back

but had to postpone it due to some lost tourists in the Colca Canyon.

These lost tourists have been huge news all throughout Peru. They

found the girl but the guy has been lost for over two months now and

they wtill haven´t found anything. Most people including myself think

the girl killed him! Anyways, Ride the Colca will be Sept. 22-25.

Right now we are detailing the budget and looking for organizations to

fund the ride which is quite tedious.

That´s all I have now. Love you all and hope all is well.

Published in: on May 29, 2011 at 9:08 AM  Leave a Comment  

Work after 6 months in site

Callalli, is an amazing town. The people here are very respectful and friendly beyond my expectations. There was an election for a new municipality in December. The old municipality was ehhhh to say the least.  The regidora of tourism would always stand me up on meetings, the alcalde was never around, the president of the tourism committee in Callalli thought of me as a work horse or secretary and would never fill me in on any meetings or events no matter how many times I asked him.  Work was extremely frustrating.  I frequently questioned my purpose here.  I know this is a bit negative, but it´s the truth about Peace Corps.  There is the P.R. side of Peace Corps that tells you young Americans are going change everyone’s lives in these poor ¨unhappy¨ towns and make them happier people and all your work will be nicely bundled in a pretty package waiting for you when you arrive to site….ha.  Then there is the reality of Peace Corps work….which is not so much.  You would be amazed how difficult it is to donate your time and help.  Sometimes you feel like you are almost begging to work.

Needed to get that off my chest.  That is how I felt in the beginning, but things have changed drastically with the new municipality.  Our new mayor is a young enthusiastic guy who is very excited to work with me in tourism.  His wife is amazing as well.  She went with me to Trujillo (amazing time) to learn about how to start community banks in our community.  Since then, she has been extremely helpful in my work.  She promotes my projects, she seeks ME out to coordinate, she understands why I´m there!!!!  I had not experienced that from a town member since I arrived in Callalli…I can not tell you how great it felt to have someone from the town interested in my work.  We have the new regidora of Tourism who has also been very helpful.  On top of that, they fired the former president of the tourism committee!!!!  The community members felt he was too exclusive with work and projects.  The same complaints I had about the guy.  The new president is the coolest guy I´ve met in site.  He invites me to meetings, he taught me how to play wino music on the guitar, and is helping me promote my projects!! 

So here’s what I have going on right now.  I am starting a community bank in Callalli with the artisans, as well as Arequipa with a group of alpaqueros.  This is basically a way for the community members to save and loan money within the community.  The mayor came to me about a month ago to talk with me about starting up an adventure tourism project.  We´re going to start mountain biking, moto biking, river rafting, mountain climbing, and repelling in Callalli.  When he asked me, I almost wet my self I was so excited.  My eyes started to water…they didn´t, but they could have.  That´s how happy I was to work on this project.  Next, I’m starting a website for Callalli, and hopefully for the rest of the upper Colca.  Now for my main focus right now, the Colca bike tour!!

I had an idea when I arrived in Colca to do a bike race/tour through the entire canyon.  Like a Ragbrai of Colca.  I told some volunteers about it, but as time went by and saw how difficult it was to work with people here and get projects off the ground I decided it was too unrealistic.  BUT, recently another volunteer was approached by a guide in Chivay who had heard of the bike tour idea.  He said he thought it was a fantastic idea and wanted to help in whatever way he could.  We now have planned out the entire bike ride from beginning to end and have a meeting today with all colca volunteers to make this happen.  It will probably be end of April, beginning of May.  All riders will stop in each town on the way.  Each town will have something unique to offer the riders and will be able to share their unique culture.  This year because we don’t have much time to promote, it will hopefully consist of locals and tour guides from Arequipa and Chivay.  This way, they will understand how it works and can promote it for the next year.  I and everyone else are very excited about this project.  This really has the potential to blow up in the Colca and finally bring tourists to the other towns besides Cruz del Condor and Cobanaconde. 

School will begin in March, so I will probably start up my english classes, the movie business group, and hopefully an entrepeneur competition sometime in May or June (need to explain this in another entry). 

So that´s where I am right now.  Very busy and very happy.  Can´t wait to share this place with family and friends who WILL come visit me!  haha.  Hope all is well at home.

Published in: on February 22, 2011 at 9:32 AM  Leave a Comment  

The Watiti Warrior

Watiti is a very specific dance to a very specific music unique to the Colca Canyon.  Each town has their own Watiti festival throughout the year, usually lasting for 2-3-4 days.  From dawn till dusk.  It originated from the soldiers of each twon would not be allowed to see women from other towns.  So they would disguise themselves as women to sneak into the town and steal they women they loved.  So to celebrate this they have the Watiti Festivals.  Chivay has the biggest festival of all the pueblos.  It lasts for 4 days straight.  AND there are two divided parts to Chivay:  The people from Urinsaya and the people of Hanansaya.  They entire for days they battle it out with they brass horns and dancing through each others dance lines.  It was sooo shocking how the same song for four days never got old!  The dance goes like this.  When they low horns play their melody you basically do a slow jog in a single file line.  Just make sure your shoulders and your hips are moving in opposite directions.  As soon as the high horns hit, every one starts spinning around in circles (the fun part).  You dance by yourself, with one girl on your side, or two girls on your side. 

This was the biggest party week I have had in site.  Two two day weddings back to back, then a four day Watiti Festival!!  The first wedding was very traditional.  Everyone sits down under a big tent thingy, while the artisan ladies drink and pass around ChiCha to the guests.  Almost everyone is in traditional wear.  Then comes the food.  No silverwear, but by this point eating with my hands does not bother me.  Usually, it starts with soup with potatoes, chuño (tastes like freeze dried potatoes, but Peruvians love it!), and a big hunk of alpaca meat.  Next comes the second plate with is corn, potato, and very marinated alpaca (delicious).  I don’t know why they don’t cook alpaca like this all the time, but they only do it for weddings.  Anyways…at these traditional weddings is where I stand out like a sore thumb!!  Especially since I have never might the bride nor the groom, lol.  Its more and more comfortable though, especially since most people know my name by know.  From every direction I hear ¨Timoteoooo¨, mainly from little kids.  After eating everyone dances.  You could be the worst dancer in the world and still tear it up at any Peruvian wedding!  They make a circle, everyone holds hands, and you swing them….that´s it.  Really easy, but really fun.  Meanwhile the bride and the groom dance in the middle of the circle with different people they chose from the outer circle.  These weddings usually last for 2 days, sometimes 3!

The next wedding was more like the US than Peruvian.  There were waiters, champagne, cake, tables, and all sorts of wedding like decorations.  Everyone always warns you should be careful with drinking too much in site, but at the same time, it’s the best way to socialize and get to know your town better.  The rest of the night was just drinking and dancing all night long.  My buddy Jonny, would point out a girl that I would have to dance with then give me pointers with hand movements from across the room, lol.  I had a blast!   This is also where I met Brethna.  A girl and her friends from Arequipa that I hung out with for the weekend.  This wedding also lasted for 2 days.

RIGHT AFTER THE WEDDINGS, the watiti festival started.  There was 2 days in my town of Callalli, then 4 days of Watiti in Chivay, the capital city of Colca.  The volunteers stood out like two broken thumbs.  But we were the only gringos dressed from head to toe, so all the Peruvians gave us credit.  After the fifth straight day of the same repetitive music, drinking circles, and dancing I was all fiestad out! But man, never been closer with my town!

Published in: on January 12, 2011 at 7:59 PM  Leave a Comment  

Thanksgiving in Puno

Exceeded my expectations by miles!!  Puno is amazing and I want to stay there for the rest of my life!!  And can I just add that they have their tourism down pat!!  Somehow they´re able to pull off 15 years of ´turismo vivencial´ while still conserving the authenticity of the town, people, and culture of the rural islands.  Normally, when a town decides to do turismo vivencial, the town loses their authenticity and it becomes more of a show for the tourists rather than a real look into the life of the local. 

Anyways, getting to Puno was a bit of an adventure.  Normally, if one wanted to take a bus from Chivay to Puno it would cost $25!  which in Peru, might as well be a million.  The other option would be to take a 4 hour bus to Arequipa, then a 7 hour bus ride to Puno which would cost around S./32.  Well in order to save money, we chose the third option.  We had heard that if you take a bus going towards Cusco, there’s a place called the crossroads, which is where busses pay a toll and is in the middle of nooooowhhhheeerrrreeeeee.  Once you are in the middle of nowhere, you need to start flagging down buses and find one that is going to Puno….all together costing us S./25.  At the time we started the trip, we didn´t know where to get off the first bus, or even if this travel route was possible…it was all kind of through hear say.  Turned out alright and we literally waited at the crossroads for about 2 minutes. 

We signed up for a 2 day tour with a home stay on one of the islands (all food and accommodations included for S./60…not bad).  We went to the floating islands first.  There are actually villages and civilizations on man-made floating islands made out of a special kind of floating root!!!  These islands have been there since the time of the Incas!!!  After the floating islands, we took a 2 hour boat ride to the island we were going to stay on (the name slips my mind, but it starts with a T).  On the shore we were greeted by a group of traditional women with their traditional dress on.  They cooked lunch for us which (surprise surprise) was kenua soup and potatoes and a fried egg on top.  Later on that day, we walked up to the two tallest hills on the island (about 13,300 feet) and watched the sun set over Lake Titicaca. 

Later that night, our host families dressed us up in traditional ponchos and chullos for the guys and dresses for the girls to parade their new gringos around the island.  This I am used to from living in the Colca, and it never gets old!  Always a good time when you’re wearing a Peruvian poncho!!  They brought us up higher on the island were they had a live Bolivian band playing and traditional dancing.  The room was filled with about 150 tourists who were all dressed up in ponchos and dresses, lol.  It was a sight to see. 

Next day we headed to the neighboring island about an hour and a half away which was a functioning collective communist community.  Something I have come to realize in Peru is how important the hats are.  Whatever hat they are wearing will tell you what department, what district, what city, sometimes even what family they are from.  On this island, the hat would tell you where they were on the governing hierarchy and if they were single or married.  very interesting.  What I loved most about Puno is a. the preserved culture and b. No one really tried to rip you off too badly.  You would hardly ever come across beggars or people shoving their products in your face like you usually find in other very touristy areas around the world.  Every one there is very tranquillo. 

All in all, going to Puno for thanksgiving vacation was one of the best decisions I´ve made since being in Peru!!  I highly recommend it to everyone that comes.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!  Miss you all.

Published in: on November 25, 2010 at 3:12 PM  Comments (2)  

Been a while

It´s hard to believe that I have already been in Peru for 6 months!!  Life has been pretty slow up in Callalli.  We had an artesan fair in Lima a couple of weeks ago that I took my two artesan groups to.  It was a blast for me to say the least.  For them it was out of this world!  One of my artesans had never even been to Arequipa!  People who don´t know Peru very well, the south of Peru is basically a different country.  Different culture, different language, different people, just different.  So it was exciting for them.  Another volunteer and I took them to the ocean and took them out for a few good meals at a turkish restaurant.  As far as the fair went, they did pretty well.  All the Peace Corps volunteers and staff were pretty impressed with their products.  It was also great to see the other volunteers from Peru 15.  After the artesan fair, I have been much closer my artesans!  Their entire family has really warmed up to me.  I started teaching English to the 5th and 6th graders in the Primaria, which has been an experience.  I can say that it is definitely easier to get in good with the elementary kids than it is with the tourism groups or artesans.  Since then, I have also been able to converse with the primaria teachers in Callalli which is a lot of fun.  My business group is putting on their first movie tonight!!  For Thanksgiving, I and a few other volunteers are taking a trip to Puno to see Lake Titicaca.  

And that is my very brief, half assed update…sorry.  As soon as I´m back in Arequipa, I´ll have more time and faster internet to give you all a more detailed update.  Until then, I hope everyone is doing well!

Dorothy, I heard you got married, CONGRATS to you and Norm!!!!  I really wish I could have been there.  I can´t wait to see pictures!

Published in: on November 20, 2010 at 7:53 AM  Leave a Comment  

Tourism festival Callalli

First day of the tourist festival

So no tourists showed up, but I still had an interesting experience.  I walked out into the plaza pretty early to hand out my surveys to find a completely empty plaza…except a small group of locals making a fire in a corner of the plaza.  I walk over to see what’s going on.  Turns out they were practicing an ancient Incan ritual to bless the land and bring good luck.  First they burnt a bunch of herbs, put it in a small bowl and started waving it in circles around a full artisan bag and a dried up alpaca fetus!!  During this entire ritual, coca leaves and chicha were being passed around the circle and every time someone was passed the chicha glass, they had to pour a little bit on the alpaca to offer chicha to pancha mama before they started drinking.  They then took the baby alpaca and put these balls of white goop in its skull and its body, then took coca leaves and stuck it in the goop.  After this, we covered the goop stuff in little sheets of gold and silver (similar to the foil on a gum wrapper).  They cut up alpaca sternum into small pieces and put a few pieces into a sea shell.  That sea shell was then passed around the group to bless the sternum.  Each time the shell was passed around, it was to bless a different thing.  To bless it we had to breathe on the bones three times and wave it around in circles in the air.  After the bones were blessed they were placed on top of the alpaca fetus, and new pieces of bones were placed into the sea shell to bless something else.  This shell was passed around about 15-20 times.  Then we took the alpaca fetus and all the bones on top and burned it in the fire.  While it was burning, everyone (one at a time) had to take a small shot size glass of wine and pour a half circle around the fire three times.  Once the alpaca was turned into ashes, we put them equally into two holes in the ground that were about 4 ft. from each other.  Once equally distributed, we poured a little bit of chicha, then a little bit of alpaca blood into each hole.  Then made circles around the holes with the blood.  After that, the land was blessed.  Now we just had to build the huge 25 ft Peruvian flag structure in the two holes that we made.  We put two large poles up, and then tied three poles going across about 4 feet apart.  After we attached one pole, we had to climb up and tie the next one, then climb to the next level and tie the third.  By the time I was on the top level I could just feel the poles moving back and forth.  The whole time I was holding on for dear life while having to tie on about 10 Peruvian flags on the top level.  It was a bit of an adrenaline rush, which I haven´t had in a while so that was good.

The second and third days were also pretty interesting.  Although not a single tourist showed up to this tourism festival, there were a ton of townspeople!  More than I knew existed!  The second day was the day of the llamas and the viajeros.  Apparently Callalli was a stopping ground for the people walking from Cusco to Arequipa with there llamas.  They had this whole crazy ritual that they did and dressed up the llamas in crazy outfits.  Moving along to the third day…day of traditional music.  I was talking to one of the guys from my town before the music part of the day and mentioned that I have a guitar.  He tells me they need an extra guitar for the festival and asked to borrow it, I say sure.  I grabbed the guitar and we start to play a few songs.  I play the only song I knew with Spanish words, Caress Me Down by Sublime.  When I finish playing he tells me that I’m going to perform that song for the festival.  I performed sublime for over 300 people!!  From that moment on every single person in Callalli knows my name!!  Biggest adrenaline rush since I’ve been in Peru!!

Published in: on September 25, 2010 at 2:07 PM  Leave a Comment  

Work in site!

It´s been almost three weeks since I swore in as a Peace Corps volunteer, and so far everything has been going great!  Arriving in Callalli was a bit awkward with all my luggage, but we made it work.  I actually almost missed Callalli!!  I realized it was Callalli as the bus was pulling away and yelled to stop the bus!  I ended up about a 10 minute walk outside of Callalli literally in the middle of nowhere with my large back pack, smaller school size back pack, an even small back pack, my guitar, and a twin size mattress at 10:00 pm with no one in sight!  When the bus pulled off, I was thinking…´shit, now what´!  At that point, I catch eyes with the guy standing right next to me…We look at each other not saying a word for what seemed like forever…..wait…. Where the hell did he come from?!  Has he been there the whole time?!  What the hell is going on?!  Literally we were the only two guys within miles just standing in a field in the middle of nowhere!  So I say ´hola´…he says ´hola´ and just keeps staring.  As my eyes start to adjust, I start to make out his FUBU hat he´s wearing…MY HOST DAD!!!!  I had called earlier in the day and said I would arrive around 7pm, I didn´t think anyone would be waiting for me!  He waited the entire time and chased the bus out of town to catch me!!  Thank god!!  There was no way I could have carried all my things into town.  The walk was about 25 minutes.  We set up my bed, then said goodnight.  That first night was sooo exciting.  I was finally there, I made it!

  The first day was weird!!  I don´t think I´ll ever forget waking up in my bed that morning and just staring at my tin roof and thinking ´…what the hell am I going to do today?´  I knew the day would come, but now that I was there alone, in site, with no work, not knowing anybody….seriously, what the hell do you do?  Where do you start?  The first day, I just walked around town and made sure to say buenas dias to every single person I came across.  Walked into some stores and restaurants and tried to stir up conversations with people.  The first couple days, I really got the feeling these people were genuinely disinterested as to why I was there.  A lot of people didn´t even respond to me when I said hello.  I heard people in the mountains, especially in Arequipa, are a bit more reserved, so It was a bit easier to keep my spirits high.  I made a serious effort to be as friendly and positive as possible, and little by little, it started to pay off.  As the days went on, people started to warm up to me.  They would smile and say buenas dias before I did!  Some people would even call out my name!  Sounds like a small thing, a friendly greeting can go a long way.  My fourth day in site, there was a wedding!  I knew that this could be a huge opportunity for me to socialize and meet the town.  My plan was to basically walk around until someone invited me to a drinking circle, which is exactly what happened….at 9 in the morning!!  Didn´t expect to be drinking until much later, but I was getting desperate to meet people.  Plus, drinking circles are key to socializing (they even tell you that in training), so I didn´t want to be rude and miss out on a chance to meet some guys my age.  And the party began haha.  Probably the best thing I could have done.  I only had a few beers with these guys but definitely won them over, just by saying yes to the beers.  Later that day, they introduced me to more people, and more people, and more drinking circles! Now, don´t think I got smashed and made an ass of myself, I knew that could be dangerous to my work as well.  It’s important to drink just enough to feel good, and not make a bad first impression, which is what happened.  It was a great feeling!  After what seemed like an eternity, I finally broke through and was able to integrate.  Since then, my name has been spreading through the town.  People stop me on the streets and want to get to know me.  Since that one night, I have been very comfortable here. 

The work has been great as well!!  The second week, I got a call from a Peruvian buyer for a company in the U.S.  She had heard about the artisans in Callalli and was interested in exporting!  After receiving the call, I went to Maqui Centro (my artisan group) and explained everything to them.  The next day, two other artisans and I were on a bus to Arequipa.  The bus left at about 10:00 pm and arrived around 2:30 am.  With a full bus, we had to sit in the aisle the entire way.  Got to the hotel around 3:ooam, woke up at 6:00 to prepare everything and make our meeting at 7:30.  Ruth, the buyer, was amazing!  She looked at all their products and critiqued everything.  Gave me some things to think about as to what would sell in the states and what wouldn´t, also how to keep costs lower to compete with American companies.  She ended up making an order of 140 alpaca gloves and hats. 

I am also working on the tourism fair that will happen sometime next week.  Just finished the design and the brochure for the fair and feel pretty confident about everything.  I have a million ideas for this town to increase tourism, so I constructed a survey for this week to do a market study.  Depending on how the results come back, I´m going to put together a business plan for an idea I have (top secret).  Hopefully I can get this project going which should give me work for a while. 

On top of these projects, I´m going to start giving English classes.  Everyone and their mother wants to learn English!  I don´t think everyone is that serious about learning a foreign language, but there are a few potentials, so I think I´m going to start after the fair.  The good thing is, I´m teaching to adults who could actually use it dealing with tourists and what not.  I like working with kids, but I´ve heard English lessons turn into daycare.  I want my work to go towards something.

Just when you thought it was over, I have another project I´m going to start with another volunteer in Sibayo with a youth group!  This is going to start on the 16th

I know right?!?!  Busy busy.  I still think about home every now and then, but I keep myself busy and remember why I´m here.  Miss everybody, hope all is well!

Published in: on September 10, 2010 at 8:48 PM  Leave a Comment  

Could not be more excited to serve

Soooo, first couple days, so far so good.  We’ve been in Arequipa city for the past couple days and I am falling in love with this place!  You can not even imagine how amazing this city is!  First day we arrived, a volunteer, James, took us to an Arequipan bull-fight.  This type of bull find is 100% unique to Arequipa.  There is no killing involved, no blood, no matador.  It’s bull on bull!  We found a good spot, bought a caja (box of 12 large beers), treated ourselves to some Rocoto Rellano (stuffed peppers).  We met some Peruvians, that we later found out were good friends with the mayor candidate of Arequipa who we got to meet, and made some friendly bets.  I know bull fights sound very inhumane, and I would agree 100%!!  When I saw the bull fights in Spain, I walked out because I was so upset.  I just want to clarify, this was nothing like that.  It was more of a push fight with the bulls.  They would lock horns and just push back and forth for a while until one of them would run away.  The View was incredible!  It was a big bull arena with Volcan Misty in the background.  The culture is so rich here and so different from anything else I have experienced in Peru.  They actually say that Arequipa is its own country.  They even have their own passports!  I also could not have asked for a better group of volunteers.

  So the following day, we went to Siglo 20 which a huge shopping area to buy mattresses, bed sheets, water boilers, and anything else we should need for our sites.  The other volunteers bought the cheaper mattresses, but not me!  After sleeping on that cement mattresses for 10 weeks, I thought I would treat myself to a decent bed.  I am now sitting down to the best doner kabob in South America waiting for my bus to leave at 4.  Might be interesting getting my house considering I have a mattress, a huge back pack, a medium back pack, a smaller back pack, and my guitar and my host family won’t even be home…

 To give you a bit of geography, my site is a 20 hour bus ride away from Lima.  About 90% of the other volunteers, minus the 7 volunteers sent to Arequipa, are in La Libertad, Cajamarca, Piura, and Lambayeque which are all about 10-15 hours NORTH of Lima.  So we are pretty much flying solo, meaning the directors don’t usually check up on the Arequipa volunteers as much, which is great!  I think it gives us a little more freedom than some of the other volunteers might have. 

So this might be my last post for a while.  Colca Canyon isn’t exactly overflowing with internet cafes.  The closest internet I have is in Chivay which is an hour and a half away and extremely slow.  Were talking about a half hour to send an email!  I’ll try my hardest to update as much as possible.

Published in: on August 25, 2010 at 8:51 AM  Leave a Comment  
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