Here’s a month-by-month recap of what I’ve been busy with since you heard from me last:
November began with a trip to visit artisan groups in La Oroya, Huancayo, and Huancavelica. This circle-through-the-Andes tour included various car rides and bus rides that took us increasingly higher (up to 12,500 feet in Huancavelica) and more rural (Huancavelica is a 12 hour bus ride from Lima). It was great to be out of the Lima smog for a bit and see the peaceful, more traditional countryside of the campo. I got to meet and visit the workshops of five of the different groups of artisans that Bridge of Hope works with and gain a better understanding of the individuals that hand make each product.
Thanksgiving was spent with the 6 other Peru YAVs, our site coordinator and her husband (Debbie and Harry), my coworkers from the Red Uniendo Manos office, and our hosts for the event, Sarah and Rusty, who are also PC(USA) mission coworkers. We managed to make most of our traditional USA dishes, with turkey, dressing (that I made for the first time ever and was quite happy with, although everyone tried to call it stuffing–a non-Southerner mistake), rolls, sweet potatoes, and a ton of vegetables and desserts. It was a great day spent with my Peru community.
December brought summer to Lima; the schools finished their terms for the year and began their three-month vacation. We finally started to see the sun in Lima! Due to our proximity to the Pacific Ocean and a host of atmospheric events that causes, Lima spends most of its time under a cloudy, gray sky—according to Wikipedia, we only get 1284 hours of sunshine a year, 28.6 hours in July and 179.1 hours in January. I saw the sun about 8 times from our arrival in August until December. The sun has brought a new energy and happiness to the oft-sad-looking Lima.
With my thankfulness for the sun came my dissatisfaction that it did not feel like Christmas. Even this Mississippi gal is used to a bundled-up Christmas, fires in the fireplace, and (maybe) snow. My other US friends and I put aside any hate for corporations and embraced the brand consistency that Starbucks offers—the stores feel the same no matter where in the world you are. Outside in the streets it felt like July, but holed up inside Starbucks we had Christmas music/lights/trees/decorations, and it smelled like Christmas, too (maybe just to me, and only because I generally spend the cold months cozy-ed up next to an espresso machine). An oasis in Starbucks—kind of gross, huh? But it got me through the weeks before the holiday.
Then my family visited. My mom and sister were able to come see me for a week over Christmas, and it was great to be able to have the familiarity of family and family traditions during the holidays. We visited Cuzco and Macchu Pichu and lots and lots of markets. After my mom and sister returned to the US, my two weeks of YAV vacation started. I was able to travel to the two parts of Peru I wanted to see the most—the tallest of the Andes and the jungle. I spent a week in Yungay, 12 hours north of Lima in an amazing, rustic lodge at the base of the peak of Huascarán. Huascarán is the highest mountain in Peru and in all of the Tropics. The summit is the second farthest point from the Earth’s center and is used as training for climbing Mt. Everest. I couldn’t help but gasp every time the clouds cleared and I could see the jagged, snowy peak towering stately over me. I spent four days there, hiking up waterfalls and to glacial lakes, and exploring Keushu ruins from the pre-Incan Wari period. Yungay has become the new bar (set extremely high) for all of my future exploring. After the snowy mountains, I set out for the humid high jungle of Tarapoto and Moyobamba. Hikes through the jungle showed me various tropical insects, flowers, and swarms of more mosquitoes than I’ve ever seen (this is coming from a Mississippian, don’t forget). After these two weeks, I recognize and appreciate Peru’s diverse and beautiful land.
I was in Lima for one week after vacation before I left again for a week. This time I headed to Cochabamba, Bolivia, to attend an environmental conference for young adults. Delegations from Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, and the United States attended and presented issues affecting their communities. A theme that appeared in many of the presentations was mining and its pollution of air, water, earth, flora, fauna, and human health. The week was an eye-opening one on our collective misuse of natural resources. The participants were given opportunities to build relationships with like-minded environmental activists from their own country and those throughout the Americas.
And there’s my obligatory “what I’ve been doing since I haven’t been writing blogs” blog. I’m still working on getting settled in to Lima, but I’m finally starting to feel like I live here. I’m continuing to discover the city and what it’s all about. My cab fares are decreasing, and I hope that means my Spanish skills are increasing. One of my goals for the next six months (because I have exactly six until my flight leaves for Memphis) is to become a local in my community, and I plan to achieve this in part by posting up in the same cafe for hours at a time until I become the crazy gringa who drinks too much coffee. My entertainment for those hours? Hopefully more blog writing.