Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Interesting Things

I’m bored of writing long formal blog posts so today I’m just going to write a list. A list of interesting things about Peru, my site, and Peace Corps. I figure it’s the little, completely random things that will explain best what goes on around here. So without further ado:

Interesting Things

• Keren requested a bike from Peace Corps (they’ll lend you one for free for two years, providing you always wear a helmet). When she picked it up it was all packaged up and was very hard to push around Huaraz. She called it “unwieldy”. Get it? Haha. Ha.

• Keren and I are pretty funny.

• An amazing thing happened. Peace Corps put two more volunteers in Keren’s site (remember Keren’s site is the one just above mine, a 20 minute walk away). They are a married couple named Ben and Katie and they have both done Peace Corps before (separately) in Zambia! They are fantastic, Keren and I foresee many sleepovers at their house (because they aren’t living with a host family… they get their own house…dude). They live pretty high up on our little mountain (“cerro”) and they have beautiful views. It does get kind of cold at night, but I don’t ever want to hear them complain because they have built in cuddle buddies. Unfair.

• Rainy season has begun. It runs from November/December to around March. Do NOT ask me what season it is. I have had thousands of conversations with my parents back home, other volunteers, and dozens of Peruvians. It is either winter or summer. No one knows.

• The place I live is known for its backpacking/climbing tourism. Huaraz is a bustling city of backpackers and we like it that way. There are some amazing ruins and hikes in both my and Keren’s sites.

• I was just invited to play soccer on Sundays. Fi-na-lly. I am psyched. I have been waiting for this for so long. I’ll let you know how it goes.

• My parents sent me Trader Joes Dark Chocolate today. Oh. My. God. [I can’t believe I’m missing out on the new Trader Joes a few blocks from my house, btw]. I had totally forgotten what real chocolate tastes like because it’s all milk chocolate down here. Thanks Mom and Dad!!!

• My host dad is obsessed with Werther’s caramels. Charlotte sent a bag and he keeps asking when someone can send more.

• Since Ancash has tons of backpacker tourists, Huaraz has kind of become this hub of North Face knock-offs. And they’re nice! I’ve always kind of loathed North Faces for their yuppie stigma. But I’m a total hypocrite, because I can’t pass these up. There are so many different colors and styles, its crazy!

• Huaraz also has the most incredible collection of 80s and 90s style thrifted backpacking clothes. Think 1990s ski jacket in purple and teal (Gunston represent).

• My town does not have any sort of waste management system. I am dedicating a lot of time to this (despite being a youth volunteer) because it’s a total mess. Since no one wants to dig a hole in their back yards to throw their trash in, they have 2 options – a) burning their trash, smells awesome, or b) throwing it into the river. And people just don’t know that this is harmful to both them and the environment, it’s not taught like it is in the U.S. so it’s totally normal.

• Flaxseed is ridiculously inexpensive here. Think $1 for half a kilo, basically a huge bag.

• Nuts are ridiculously expensive here. Think $10 for a kilo, basically a smallish bag.

• I actually have no sense of dollars here. My brain has completely converted over to soles (the Peruvian currency).

• I just made a paper Christmas tree and am considering mayyyybe taking down the Halloween decorations Metro sent me. Maybe.

• Really, I can’t believe I’m missing out on that new Trader Joes at home.

• Llamas/alpacas are iconic symbols of Peru. And they’re awesome. And so fluffy. But that doesn’t change the fact that I have only seen 2 llamas in Peru and they are both in the Huaraz plaza. They wear sunglasses and you have to pay 2 soles to take a picture with them.

• Dung beetles live in my town. Awesome.

• I was out watering our fields one night with my host mom and she thought she saw a ‘muka’. She explained it to me as a cat like creature with a long tail that sleeps upside down. I was so excited – I was sure we had bush babies in my site. As soon as I explained it to Keren she instantly realized it was just a possum. Yeah. It’s a possum. Let down.

• Spanish is actually usually a second-language here. Most people speak Quechua at home, the native language. I am trying to learn, and supposedly should reach an intermediate-mid level by mid-service. Also, this means the Spanish here is not always perfect, many people here actually have poor Spanish grammar. So don’t expect my Spanish to be too awesome after two years.

• Soopi-siki means farty-pants in Quechua. Haha. Always a crowd pleaser. Grandma I’m sure the bingo and counting ladies would all love that one!

• Charlotte Bowman is coming to Peru to celebrate New Years with me. I have never been more excited. We’re going to Mancora, a beautiful beach in northern Peru. It’s supposed to be nuts, I’ll let you know how it goes.

• There is apparently a pretty good Thai restaurant in Mancora. Omgomgomg.

• I taught my host sister how to play solitaire. She’s pretty good.

• Keren and I, just to seeeee, asked the guy who sells animals on the streets of Huaraz how much a kitten might cost. SIX SOLES. What, sir? You must be mistaken. Nope. SIX SOLES. For you Americans, that’s like TWO DOLLARS. For a kitten.

• They apparently eat cats on the other side of our mountain. This disgusts most people on our side of the mountain and may very well just be hearsay… but our Peace Corps security chief has apparently eaten cat before. But he’s a baller so…

• There is a common belief here that rainbows can impregnate you. So don’t get hit by a rainbow. And different colored rainbows can impregnate you with different things (never a baby). For instance, a black rainbow (?) gives you a pig, whereas a red rainbow just fills you up with water.

P.S. After writing this list I finally went up to the ruins and waterfall in Keren’s site and we saw a huge flock of… LLAMAS! Keren’s quechua-lady friend Pizza (nickname) swears they are sheep, but I promise you, they were llamas.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

FINALLY! Vlog #2!

It's what we've all been waiting for; I can finally cross it off my to-do list.

P.S. Shout out to the Paul's - love and miss you guys so much, I constantly feel like I'm missing out on your social guidance. It was so nice to talk to you "at the christmas party".

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Food: Peru :: Liberty: US

So during training, there was a select few of us who were obsessed with snacking [cough cough Brit, Amanda Snack, Brielle, Katy…]. It was stress relief. Training was constant and overwhelming and nothing eases your nerves quite like a Sporade and a bag of Choco-Travesuras. Or in Katy’s (or should I say Meat Patty’s) case, it was fried up street meat. Oh man and were those Choco-Travesuras good. In Chosica there were also these bomb sandwich places where, especially after a long night, you could get a 75 cent pulled chicken sandwich topped with French fries and a heaping amount of different sauces. Delicious.

I love street food. Love it. When Charlotte, Loretto, Lindsay, Nick and I (I guess I’ll include Arjun in there too, even though he was always MIA) were in Chile together for study abroad, the street food fests were out of control. Omnomnom. In Chile they make these amazing sweet potato based fried dough cakes, Sopaipillas, and, randomly, also make really good egg rolls. And in Chile I actually lost weight! Portion control!

But now I’m in site. And I wish I was snacking. But if I snacked like I did during Training or in Chile, I wouldn’t have room in my belly for anything else.

That’s cause any time you go for a walk here, you’re sure to be invited to something or another. Yesterday it was six apples, breakfast, and lunch, the day before that it was a cachanga, a fried pastry the size of my face, and a plate of chicken feet. If it were up to me, I wouldn’t be eating any of this.

But… in Peru, it’s considered extremely rude to reject food. So much so that a good deal of Training is teaching us not to refuse food, and in very extreme situations, how to reject it politely (which usually entails still eating it).

Truthfully, it is a pretty nice tradition. People are so so so good at sharing here. If they just went to the store and bought fruit, and on their way home they see you, they offer you not just one, but a whole armful of bananas. But there is also the expectation of this sharing, which is much harder for us gringos to adapt to…

For instance: I love Ritz crackers here. I’ve never really paid them any mind in the past, we’ve always have a box of them at home, but I’ve mostly ignored them all my life. But Ritz crackers in Peru. Ask any volunteer. There is something about them… I don’t know if it’s how they package them, making them super fresh, if the formula here is different, or if it’s simply that they remind me of home, but I’m OBSESSED. So I go to the store and buy my Ritz crackers, and if I forget to hide them in my backpack and I end up talking to anyone on my way home, I have to share them. This sounds selfish, but case in point, I once took two Ritz crackers out of the package (which I had been planning to eat as my breakfast), offered some to a group of women from my town, and the whole package disappeared before I could eat any more.

I wished this would work with almuerzo (lunch). It’s the biggest meal here, and while Peruvian food is off the chain, portion control is non-existant. Meals in the campo are generally served on one of those huge pasta bowl plates – half the plate is generally covered in a mountain of rice, and the other half with a mountain of the main dish (usually, or always if you’re Keren, consisting of potatoes). And then you either get soup before this, or a huge bowl of mazamorra (campo pudding) afterwards. And if you’re really unlucky you get all three.

At least my host mom is a dank cook (Grandma, dank means really, really good). I consistently tell her that I would probably eat a rock if she cooked it. [Funny side note, you can buy dehydrated potatoes in the market that, no joke, look exactly like stones]. So of course I’ll eat if she offers it to me. Problem is, it’s way too much food. And I’m gaining weight like crazy. And it sucks, because I don’t even want to be eating all this food. Why can’t I be gaining weight from my own lack of self control?!

I’m running more and more, trying to balance out all the food I’m always invited to. I try telling people, “Just a little, liiiiiittle bit.” And I know that the fact that I’m being invited to all this food means that they care for me, which is awesome, but dude. This has got to stop.

And so, I present to you, the Ali Foley Peace Corps Peru Campo Diet:
1) Tell everyone you will cook almost all your own meals. Never actually do it because you’ll still be invited to every meal.
2) When you are still invited to every meal, ask for just a taste, a teeny tiny bit. You can always use the excuse that you already cooked yourself lunch (even though it’s a huge lie).
3) Before they can ask if you want more or give you a plate of mazamorra, overly exaggerate how full you are while repeating the phrase “pacha junta, pacha muuuy junta” (stomach full, stomach veeery full).
4) Never buy snacks in site. You will either be disappointed because you had to give them all away or you will never have room for the food that you’re about to be invited to. Remember to thank God that there are no Choco-Travesuras or Princesas in my town.
5) Try to resist the chocolate chip cookies at California CafĂ© in Huaraz. Do not allow yourself to make a special trip to Huaraz on their behalf. Seriously, Ali, don’t do it.

And, since you might be curious as to what kind of food I’m actually eating, some of my favorite Peruvian dishes (thus far):
-Pollo a la brasa (rotisserie chicken served with French fries and salad… still on the quest to find better pollo a la brasa in Peru than Pollo Rico… ironic).
-Ceviche (raw fished cooked in the acidity of lemon juice…)
-ChoCho (definitely my favorite campo snack, sort of like a soy bean, but way more delicious, its actually a weed here in Peru. Super high in protein and low in calories.)
-Pallares (also a delicious bean, like a fava bean, yum)
-Tuna salad thing (My host mom makes this great plate of food when we have tuna. Tuna salad here is just canned tuna mixed with lemon and red onion – its super good and healthy. Then she serves along side a beet and carrot salad… and rice and potatoes, but it’s a delicious combo all together.)
-Utzururu (a breakfast soup made with eggs, cilantro, and, surprise, potatoes. Delicious.)
-Yuyo (a leafy-green weed found in the fields or in the river… cooked kind of like collard greens, its gotta be super nutricious, and its bangin)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Getting out of my room

It’s gotten kind of chilly (by chilly I mean its not really that cold at all, the temperature has just lowered a bit below perfect), so it makes it a little harder to get out of bed in the morning. Today I procrastinated a bit getting to the school to make a few announcements and instead worked on my computer all morning.

Around noon I hear my favorite tiny host cousins calling my name “Ayiiii, Ayiiiii” (translation: Ali, Ali). Even though my family saw that I had bought food to make my lunch, I was invited to eat my second lunch at Mamantuca’s (host grandma’s) house. I finally faced the world and followed my host cousins over to where Mari (my host mom) and Mamantuca were eating. After I made some over-exaggerated expressions and miming that my belly was super full after my first lunch, I managed to compromise down to only a mazamorra of quinoa (basically a sweet pudding). So I received my huuuge portion of mazamorra and sat down to chat with my two favorite women and my two favorite tiny children in Pariahuanca. It was lovely.

After mazamorra I finally pushed myself to head out to the school and update the principal (with whom I may or may not have recently argued with) on my plans for the upcoming week. Somehow our quick chat ended with her giving me a hug. That went well…

Afterwards I head over to the health post to update them on upcoming plans as well… the labeling of the newly painted recycling containers at the school, our upcoming trip to go house-to-house in a far-away neighborhood of my town, the continuing endeavor of a community diagnostic, and the planning of a lunch with the health post staff.

Managing to keep the meeting at the health post brief, I headed up to the municipality to put up my poster announcing English classes which start next Tuesday afternoon. On the way up I found myself walking and chatting with students and my favorite Pariahuanca family (other than my own, of course).

After putting up my poster, a friend from the municipality invited me to her house to eat an ice cream (her family owns our town ice-cream parlor). I couldn’t refuse. We chatted for a while about metal (the music genre - she’s obsessed) and vegetarianism. As I headed out she “regalar”-ed me (gifted me) a bunch of asparagus (which is quite pricey here). Yay, I’m making friends.

As I walked back home, smiling, I greeted all of my neighbors and was reminded that all I have to do to have a good day is just to get out of my room.

Fun side story as told to me by my amazing host mother Mari:

Here in Ancash snakes have a lot of mystical and medicinal powers. My favorite of which is when they are put into bottles with rubbing alcohol; the resulting mixture is then used on wounds to accelerate the healing process. Like Campo-Neosporin.

So anyways, there once was a girl who was advised to brush snake venom through her hair to help it grow long and shiny. And it did. In fact, the young girl’s hair grew so long that every night she had to tie it to the bed posts. One night, however, she forgot, and her hair twisted around her neck like a snake and strangled her to death. The end.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

all over the place... sorry its so long


Last night at 9:30 when I got to my town plaza to check out the beginning of our town anniversary fest, I was surprised by the tranquilo-ness (the tranquility, the chai-yen-yen) of it all. I’ve gotten pretty used to the dozens of drunks at town parties, but there were actually pretty few. There was dancing but it was mostly laid-back and for the most part everyone was sitting around talking. The craziest part was the fireworks “Castillo” (castle) which shoots sparks all over the small children and Peace Corps volunteers below it [check out the next video blog – that thing was ridiculous]. With the exception of the Castillo, it was a pretty tranquilo night - so I was surprised and thought, hey this might not be such a crazy town festival after all.

Yeah, I was wrong.

The town festival continued today. I had been up all night waiting for the Castillo to be set off so I went to sleep at 2 last night (which is really late for me in site) and I accidentally woke up at 10 this morning (which is also really late for me in site – yeah I know, blah blah blah you suck at waking up, whatever). Anyways, I finally got to the plaza around 11 where all the activities take place. According to some Pariahuanca friends, I apparently had just missed all of the desfiles (parade-like presentations done by schools and community groups). [Also we’ll never know if I really had just missed it or I had missed it by hours, because, of course, time is just a suggestion, if not a theory here in Peru.] So I was feeling a tad guilty for not getting there earlier and wanted to see what I could do to help out and earn my stay.

I made a beeline for the municipality where they would be handing out free lunches for everyone in attendance, thinking I might help out handing out the lunches. Keren and I always seem to do this, head straight for the ladies preparing lunch and this always has mixed results – either they completely ignore us, or they laugh at us because we can’t possibly know what we’re doing (which in many cases, I guess, is very true). I got lucky this time and found that all of my favorite Pariahuanquinos were bringing in the food. Unfortunately my faves didn’t stay for too long and I was surrounded by assorted municipality workers and quechua ladies I hadn’t met yet.

There was a ridiculous assortment of buckets and pots lying around, filled with chicken, sauce, salad, and mote (rehydrated corn type thing which is delicious and prepared with bleach and ashes – fun!). I decided to put myself somewhere amongst the assembly line and just see what happened.

Now if there is one thing you need to know about Peruvians, and I’m being completely serious here, is that Peruvians do NOT mess around when it comes to food. So you best believe that the line outside the door of the municipality appeared immediately and probably wrapped around the plaza five times.

And boy did our assembly line work fast. For my Arlingtonians, imagine Pollo Rico… on a Thursday night… on crack. I mean… this was insane. Seriously, the only thing I could think about the entire time was the Ford’s assembly line. And that I was not only earning my stay (and my pollo), but that I was representing the United States of America – the inventors of the assembly line.

I was in charge of putting forks in the chicken, making sure they had all their fixings, and passing it on to the lady who poured on the chicken juice (basically gravy, but delicious). And it all worked out pretty well, but my pants, shoes, socks, you get the point, are now all disgustingly covered in chicken juice and salad pieces…

When the line finally died down, I was exhausted. But what did I say about Peruvians and their food. Oh yeah. People came back for seconds. And a lot of them were drunk. There had been a constant yelling back and forth between people at the front of the line and the lunch workers throughout. But then things got violent. A fight broke out and I tried my best to stay out of it. No one was hurt and I was actually a little proud to say I had seen my first Peruvian fight… (I should probably do some foreshadowing for you here…).

I finally got my own meal and covered it with more gravy (which I probably could have just wrung out of my clothes). After eating I escaped into the plaza to find my family and friends. Immediately I was greeted by a group of kids (all of my kids here are the best ever). I invited them all to a popsicle (we have ice cream in my site – come visit me) and I ran into even more friends along the way. So that was nice.

As I was eating my popsicle, Mariu from the Peace Corps office called me. She seemed very confused as to why there was Huayno music blaring in the background and she couldn’t hear me at all. Finally I found a haven of silence and of signal (difficult if not impossible to find here – you should still visit). Turns out some representatives from Peace Corps in Washington are auditing the Peru program and I was selected as one of the volunteers they are coming to interview. So random, but I’m pumped. Also really tempted to write the D.C. offices and ask them to bring me Baked and Wired pastries or coffee…

And then Keren showed up! I love it when she shows up – it’s the best. I was needing a bit of a break at this point so we walked to my house to descansar un poquito (rest a bit).

It was nice to chill out for a half hour, but we definitely needed to get back to the festivities and the hundreds of kids pleading “Hay que jugar!” (see Keren’s blog post http://amateuralmanac.wordpress.com/2011/09/17/a-funny-thing-happened-on-the-way-to-my-wawa/ to fully understand that slightly obnoxious phrase).

We went back… and had another popsicle, this time with one of my community counterparts and her host sister. I continued to meticulously avoid any possibility of having to dance with anyone – although it can be fun, the songs here last for, like, 80 minutes, I swear.

Finally Keren and her gang had to head back up to her site and the party seemed to be dying down so after chatting a bit more with my community counterpart and her husband, I headed back down the hill to my house.

I had a lovely dinner of soup and leftovers from the pollada lunch (the leftovers was a chicken foot but it was covered in that delicious sauce, so I didn’t mind). Dinners with my family are fantastic and relaxing and I can vent a little bit without being judged – also my host family has a great sense of humor (again, come visit).

After dinner the party was still going on (we could hear the band from our house) so my host mom asked if I wanted to go out and ‘chismear’ (gossip) a bit. I was hesitant – knowing that if anyone recognized me, I’d be dragged out to dance or play again. But I was so down to hang out with my host mom, so I put on a full disguise (okay, just a hat and a huge scarf, but I felt like a badass so whatever…) and we went back up to the plaza.

So it was definitely still going on. It was already about 9 at night and, not including the kids, I’m sure about 95% of the people remaining were drunk. My host mom went up to a balcony in the plaza to go watch the drunkest ones dance the night away. My host mom explained all the different twisted relationships between people in our town (its tiny so everyone knows everything) and we laughed at some pretty silly drunken dance moves.

One recently separated married couple was dancing beside each other, but with different partners – can you say awkward? And then, out of no where, someone (apparently someone from the husband’s family) came up and hit the wife over the head. Next thing we know, she’s flailing her arms to hit whoever hit her back. Her flailing causes drunken flailing across the entire drunken dance floor – so now there are 20 drunks flailing around and it got nasty. Safe to say we booked it back home ASAP.

So that was two. Two Peruvian fights in a day. At least the second one wasn’t about food.

Now, let me clear something up. Peruvians are the sweetest people I’ve ever met in my entire life. I’m not exaggerating. They are fantastic, and generous, and funny, and kind. And there are so many of them who avoid these kinds of parties for the kind of activities that they breed.

So even though my tranquil, tranquilo, chai yen yen town is for the most part quiet and peaceful, I guess they really know how to throw a crazy, crazy party.

P.S. A couple weeks ago I was walking out to our backyard garden (to pee of course – this was before I bought my chamber pot – best decision I’ve made in my entire life btw), and I came across my host sister catching bees. Safe to say that is something you would never see a U.S. kid doing, so naturally I was curious. Turns out, as Meche explained to me, she was catching them to sting and cure her aunt of the flu. In the end there weren’t enough to cure our Tia – she would have needed around 20 I think. So… I’ll let you know when I decide to try this remedy. Pretty tempted – is that weird?
P.S.S. I am trying SO hard not to adopt a puppy. Any other volunteers having a seriously hard time with this? Also, Mom, feel free to chime in here with words of discouragement (they would be greatly appreciated).

Shout Outs

Charlotte Bowman: I love you. The package was incredible. The cosmo is sitting next to me and my host mom just came down to ask for another Werthers – we’re all loving them. Come to South America faster.

Lauren Demetro: My room officially looks like an elementary school teacher’s in October. I probably shouldn’t have put ALL of the leaves up on my walls, but I had to. Everytime I look at them I see your face, live laugh love.

Mom and Dad: Thank you for all of your packages. I usually eat all of the granola bars in 2 days. I’m LOVING LOVING LOVING the music – totally keeping me company when Keren can’t. And ma I can’t wait to make a real white sauce. AND THE BOOKS – I told all my kids today that you guys sent new ones and they went ballistic! I’ll take photos when we read them together.

Grandma and PapPap: HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE BOTH OF YOU - Sept. 22 and Oct. 17!!! Your letters mean the world to me. I cherish every word. Lets be pen pals?

And finally: SolLight – where would I be without this little guy. Currently my light my room is not working so I use the solar-charged bottle cap lantern all night. And the kids here LOVE to play with it. I also use it in our latrine since there’s no light in there either – SO handy. Thanks SolLight! PCVs get a discount so, guys, if you’re interested, here’s the link: http://www.sollight.com/

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

boring blog post

So some of you may be curious as to what a typical day might be for me here in Pariahuanca. I’m not even going to give you the obnoxious typical Peace Corps response of “it depends” – because it really does. I’m just going to tell you how an ordinary day – like today – might go.

I was dreading just a bit going to the school this morning just because every time I go my principal gives me another long list of things that she wants and expects me to do for the school. So I sat in bed for an hour before I finally convinced myself that there were plenty of other wonderful things that happen when I go to the school and I got up and went.

I got to the school and went to the main office where I signed in – and sure enough the principal tried to make me feel bad for not being there often enough and gave me more things to add to my list. So. Frustrating. But you know, at least she’s animated about having me help out at the school.

So I got out of the main office as fast as I could to go help out Professor Justo – the secondary science teacher. He’s a pretty interesting guy and currently he’s working on taking 3 students to the science fair (we go tomorrow! I’m pumped!). So he had some of these kids parents helping build a dog house out of plastic bottles the students had collected from our ridiculously contaminated river.

We still needed photographs to present at the science fair so I was employed by Justo to photograph their project and go to the river with the students to photograph them picking up trash. So I went off on a mini field trip with the first grade of secondary (middle-school aged kids).

After the photo sesh I helped paint a variety of plants potted in recycled goods (I love the ones planted in baby rain boots). One of the three science fair student’s moms was there and she happens to be my friend Maritza who I help with an adult education class that she runs. So that was nice to have her company.

And then I went home and had a quick meal of oatmeal and went back to the colegio for the APAFA meeting (Peruvian PTA meeting). I had been warned that it would be a long meeting so I sat next to my host mom and her friend and settled in. I’m not going to bore you with the boring details but basically it was a lot of fighting between the municipality and the principal over a lack of funds for the construction of a new auditorium. After the fighting I awkwardly stood up and presented myself – taking advantage of the rare large crowd.

And now I’m back home – I just popped some fresh popcorn and finished reading some entries I downloaded of Beth’s blog (another volunteer who lives close by – its good reading btw if you’re interested – http://bethperu.blogspot.com/). I also read a bit of the Washington Post I downloaded on my Kindle. Thanks again Mom and Dad for convincing me to bring one. I’m loving it.

Okay, so there goes my slightly boring blog entry. I thought I owed you guys some more info on my life here. Anyways, that’s all for now. Oh, my next update might be from Lima since I chipped my tooth (when my friend Brice punched me in the face) and next week I have to go to the big city to get it fixed.

P.S. Brice didn’t really punch me in the face… He just accidentally hit my elbow. Jerk. Totally kidding, he feels really bad.

Love and miss you guys like always. Can’t wait for your visits!

Friday, September 16, 2011

My best friend Ciprofloxacin


On Sunday I got sick for the first time in site. It sucked. A lot. I’ve been in bed for three days, I just got out and bought myself some knock-off Gatorade (Generade – pretty comparable actually). I was so super dehydrated last night – I think that was the worst part. My vision was so distorted I couldn’t see anything. I was secretly hoping that maybe I’d at least hallucinate something interesting, but no… alas, only blindness.

We do get rehydration salts in our med-kits but ask any Peace Corps volunteer – they are so so so awful. The last thing you want to put in your stomach which is emptying everything you put in it is salty water. Ugh… I drank almost a liter and then I just couldn’t anymore. I’m definitely stocking up on the Generade.

My host family really took care of me. They were really worried and although they wanted me to keep my door open to air out my room, they definitely respected my privacy. They cooked for me and checked up on me – it was so sweet. And then last night… Grandma Mamantuca passed the egg over me.

She what?


Passing the egg consists of taking an egg (in our case a very smelly – right out of the hen – egg) and rolling/dragging it across the body of the person who is ill while praying to God for that person’s well being. This should take away the illness. Then the egg is cracked into a glass of water and read to see what caused the illness. I apparently only had an “ojo” – an eye – meaning that someone gave me a bad look recently. So that was last night.

And I am feeling much better today…

Then again I also started taking the miracle drug Ciprofloxacin a few days ago, and I only have one pill left.

Local and scientific powers combined I guess.

…oh my God, that egg was so smelly.

Friday, September 2, 2011

...woah this is my life now

Oh… haha, just found the labels from the sex ed dinamica (activity) I ran with the nurses from the health post yesterday… and then last night I definitely electrocuted myself in my electric shower – DEFINITELY worth the hot water I’m getting in the campo though. Take that city volunteers. Seriously, how is my campo house so awesome?

But that was yesterday. Today, haha, or well I guess tonight really, is definitely a good way to describe my new reality here. So after spending the day in Huaraz (the closest city) learning how to become Girl Scouts leaders in our communities (um, yes please), Keren and I had to pick up a few things before heading back to site. Problem was, it was 5:15, we had a ton of stuff to do, and the last colectivos (think bus system, but in car form) to our adjacent towns leave around sundown. But if you know me, you know I do rushing very well.

So first Keren and I run off to the closest libreria (office supply store), where, surprisingly, the grumpiest saleswoman ever gives us excellent prices on papelotes (huge poster sized papers, great for running dinamicas). Then it’s off to the market to buy Keren some fruit, cheese, and bread for her family (with a slight stop at the churro stand). As Keren gets fruit, I go for the most fly infested meat stand (not really, but seriously though I should have been a little more selective) and buy my family a half kg of beef as requested. As I reach for my bloody bag, I also decide to purchase a ginormous cucumber which I cannot wait to eat.

Bloody bag and cucumber in tow, and also two more purchases of flax seeds and garbanzo beans (ridiculously easy and cheap to get here btw), I find Keren and we head off to the ferreteria (hardware store) to buy locks and paint. Keren picks a beautiful teal color to paint her room, I buy a few wachas (haha… washers), and we’re off to another ferreteria, because this one doesn’t have an exterior lock that will fit my door frame.

Turns out locks that actually fit my doorframe are quite difficult to find. By the time we find one its 6:38 and the sun is down. We decide to cut our losses and try to get back to our sites anyways. The very nice man who sold me a lock which actually fit gave us very incorrect directions to where we needed to pick up the bus back to site. We end up asking about 10 more people who all end up giving us opposite directions.

Finally we find the bus stop in front of the market. We climb in with our giant papelotes, Keren’s fruit, bread, and cheese, our locks, and our paint, my bloody meat bag, and both of our backpacks, and go straight for the back, where I tried warning Keren that the rear corner seat is the worse, because literally there is no escaping. To no avail.

Slowly the bus fills up and the combi driver keeps yelling at us to scooch closer and closer (…wishing I hadn’t eaten so much Chinese food at lunch). Poor Keren is completely plastered against the window, I’m stuck between Keren and this adorable old quechua woman, and on top of me is my backpack plus all of our stuff.

Oh right, and its nighttime, and we’ve never travelled to site alone, let alone at night, so we really have very little idea about where we’re going. So we just pray we’re going the right direction.

And we were! And we actually got off at the right stop! And there were colectivos waiting to take us the final leg to our sites! And my host mom’s sister is in the car and she’s the best!

So we pile into the trunk of the station wagon colectivo, bloody meat bag and all. As we’re travelling down the dusty dirt road, in the back of this car whose trunk door won’t even shut, we stop briefly. There are two cars in front of us, but we’re not really sure whats going on because, well, we’re in the trunk and its hard to see from the trunk. And then we realize, while the car is still running, three men are going to fill up our gas tank (which is right next to me), directly from a tanker (not exactly sure the correct phrase, one of those huge gas trucks), which I’m pretty sure is also running.

About ten minutes later I arrived safely home, still cracking up, to my host family who is finishing up dinner and crowded around a map and worrying about me. Love them. Tonight is still funny to me, but becoming normal. That’s my life now. And its awesome. And I love it.

Love you guys – thanks for all the emails!!!

*Glossary of terms you have to know to be able to understand what in the world I’m going to be talking about for the next two years:

Charla – a talk/class given by a teacher, volunteer, health post official, etc.

Taller – a workshop

Dinamica – a game run within a charla or taller, used to reinforce and teach info

Churro – delicious fried dough pastry filled with caramel, dipped in sugar, mmm.

Ferreteria – hardware store

Libreria – office supply store

Combi – bus, but where we live, van sized

Colectivo – again, think bus system in car form - also there is no limit to the amount of people or objects one can fit inside of a colectivo. Also, Keren will always be found in the most crowded colectivo.

Also, Five Things I Always Carry With Me At All Times:

- Toilet Paper (also newspaper and used notebook paper are good alternatives)

- Hand Sanitizer (see above)

- Camera (because hilarious things happen constantly)

- Sunblock (the sun is ridiculously potent here - hence my ridiculously burnt face)

- Water bottle (with my slightly brown home-boiled water! mmm)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


I’m officially a Peace Corps Volunteer!

Today I go to my site and start the first day of the next two years of my life!

I will be living in the beautiful town of Pariahuanca (remember the h in Spanish is silent) in the department (like a state) of Ancash. Its. Incredible. I can’t even tell you with words. I got everything I wanted. I asked for green – my agricultural town is surrounded by chacra (field) covered mountains (behind which the great snow covered mountain of Huascaran peaks out). I asked for small – I only have one school and around 1200 people living in my town. I wanted campo (aka rustic) – I have pigs, bulls, sheep, a mini orchard, and a latrine! Plus Pariahuanca is pretty close to the very international capital city of Huaraz which is nice so I can come in for quick trips to the coffee shop and to pick up groceries. I can’t tell you how happy I am.

Some photos:

The view from my window:

My room (before moving in):

A couple more pics from just walking around Pariahuanca:

Yeah... how gorgeous is that?

...I’m also pretty overwhelmed. It’s been a crazy, crazy, past few weeks. Leaving behind Yanacoto (where I’ve been living), my beloved host family, and my amazing fellow trainees was really hard. So of course we celebrated a lot. We got even closer to the people of Yanacoto and to each others’ host families which only made it harder to leave.

Although I am so excited for the incredible experience ahead of me, a huge part of me wishes I could stay as a volunteer in Yanacoto – I felt like I was starting to make connections that could have made a lasting impact. I do know that I will be back to visit and that the people there will always welcome us back with open arms. But man I will miss them. I did not think I was going to cry when I had to leave my host family, but as soon as my beautiful little sister Valentina wrapped her arms around me I just started bawling. Those kids mean the world to me.

But now I'm in Ancash, and its unbelievable, and I have a crazy two years ahead of me! So excited!

Two more important things:

1) I have been trying to update this FOREVER: My first video blog (vlog)! More to come...

2) I have a new mailing address!!! Please send any future mail to:

PCV Ali Foley
Cuerpo de Paz
Casilla Postal 277
Serpost Huaraz, Ancash
Peru, South America

(And don't forget to follow all the instructions found in the previous "mail" post. p.s. I love receiving your letters and photos!!! thank you!!!)


Wednesday, July 6, 2011



PCV Ali Foley
Cuerpo de Paz
Casilla Postal 277
Serpost Huaraz, Ancash
Peru, South America

WOW! You want to mail me things?!
…omg I love you too!

No, seriously, if you want to send me things, it turns out I love receiving things – so I am MORE than happy to give you my address and a couple fun facts about mailing things to Peru.

1) Boxes = Dumb. Large envelopes are definitely the way to go for this one. And the size of the envelope really doesn’t seem to matter. There is a certain someone in our traning group who receives a new 2 foot-ish sized envelope about every day. Large plastic-y bubble wrap ones seem to work well.

2) Things to not send: electronics (little things like little games are fine I think, just don’t claim them as electronics per say), money, used clothes in mass amounts, anything above $100 in value, anything super valuable or super heavy (under 2.2 lbs I hear, but you can split it up into multiple packages if you want…).

3) Things that get stuck in customs are annoying and expensive to get out. When itemizing at the post office, estimate low costs.

4) Things usually take about 2 weeks to arrive.

5) I’ve heard writing “Que Dios te bendiga” all over the package and/or taping pictures of the Virgin Mary may help your package arrive safely. Decorate accordingly.

That being said. Here is my address for the next 6.5 weeks. As soon as I get my in-site address I’ll post it up here too. Go ahead and use this one until I can post the new one.

“Alison Foley” PCT
Cuerpo de Paz/Peru
Calle Via Lactea 132, Surco
Lima 33, Peru

Anything you send me will make my day, really. Things I do love though are magazines, chocolate chip cookies/assorted baked goods, PICTURES, chocolate candies, stickers, and anything else I can share with my host family and/or community. I’m sure this list will get longer once I’m in site, so I’ll keep you posted.


P.S. This post was definitely requested… I swear I’m not just hustling for American baked goods.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

so. busy.

Found another quick moment in a cozy little internet cafe to give a couple few updates.

Our first three months (actually 10 weeks) in Peru are spent in training for our work as Youth Development Facilitators. The Youth Development trainees are placed with host families around the Chosica area - which is a small semi-urban district (sorry geography friends, hope I´m making the right distinction there). [We aren't considered volunteers until the swearing-in ceremony at the end of the last week.] We have training every day from about 8-5 but the sessions are pretty dynamic, and luckily, as Youth Development trainees, our training centers around games ('dinamicas') and simulations of activities we can run with our youth.

...But we are pretty stressed. It's pretty draining doing 8-5 while learning Peruvian Spanish and culture. Its hard to balance, but it will be such a relief by the time we get to ¨site¨(the place we will be assigned for the next 2 years) to have some time off and a flexible schedule. Also the other trainees are awesome - everyone is great and ridiculously nice.

My host family also ROCKS - they are a family of five: Viviana, Ronald, and their three kids, Matias (8), Valentina (6), and Antonella (3). I. adore. them. They are so nice, and intelligent, and interesting. Love.

In other news, I finally went for a run today. I´ve been pretty worried about the dogs chasing me but most of the dogs have actually started to recognize me now, so I thought today might be a good time to give it a go. [Disclaimer: Always carry a decent sized rock when running in Peru - raise when approached by a ravenous-looking dog - repeat.] Running was a magnificent idea. The fog was covering the mountain which I ran/scrambled to the top of and you could barely see 10 feet ahead of you. I was literally running inside of a cloud and it was one of the very first times I was in awe and so excited about being in Peru and doing Peace Corps.

So yeah, its moments like that. And I cant wait to get to site to break out of this routine and have moments like that all the time.

Again guys, I really miss all of you. Keep me posted on your lives, and if I don´t get back right away just know that I am reading them and anything you send me MAKES MY DAY.

And just in case you´re curious:

New Meat Things I´ve Tried:

- Chicken Foot (Actually, this is totally a lie, I didnt actually eat it, I was scooping up some potatoes and lentils when out of the depths of my lunch came this claw of despair jutting out towards my face. I did not eat it, but I´m sure I will eat one soon. Apparently this is my youngest host sibling´s favorite food... I´ll keep you posted.)

- Cow Stomach (I did actually eat this, last night, in a dish called Cau Cau, not bad)

- Chicken Liver (I ate it before I knew what it was... turns out to be a good method)

- ¨Cuy¨ aka Guinea Pig (Sarah Newman, I seriously apologize. That actually goes for all my neighbors... I will try to do this as little as possible... It will be hard to avoid. It really does taste just like chicken though...)

Love you all lots!


Sunday, June 26, 2011

bucket baths!


I'm here in Peru - working on making a vlog for you all - but for now I thought I'd give you a quick update! How are all of you?! My internet situation is pretty limited right now - so emails are probably the best way of getting in touch. I MISS ALL OF YOU SO MUCH!

So first of all, I thought you should all know that I (yup, me, Ali) am waking up at FIVE. Yes, you heard me right, FIVE in the morning. I live the furthest from our training center (I'm the highest up in Yanacoto, our host community for the first 3 months). It takes me about twenty minutes to walk down our 'cerro' to the bus stop (most people just take a mototaxi - google it). And then we wait about 10 minutes for a bus (called combis - I will probably be using this word a lot) and then its another 30 minutes to the training center.

And waking up early has allowed me to take successful BUCKET BATHS. And although I am craving a hot shower, I really look forward to my morning bucket bath. I think I'll take a photo of my beloved bucket to give you a better idea of wtf a bucket bath is.

...haha, yeah... i was just trying to upload a couple photos. right. i really need to find a faster connection. that will also have to wait till next time because i have run out of internet money! sorry! i promise another update asap! now i'm off to make pancakes with fried bananas for my host fam!

love and miss you all!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

And so my blog begins…

If you don’t know already, I leave our beautiful, green country in a little over a month for my assignment as a Youth Development Facilitator for the United States Peace Corps (don’t you love how fancy our official title looks?). Oh, and they’re sending me to PERU!!! After a year expecting that, despite my Spanish language skills, they would definitely be sending me to Romania because I’m “good at languages” (I assure you – I’m NOT) – the Peace Corps finally gave me an assignment in Latin America!

Yeah, I’ve been waiting a whole year. And I reaaaaally should have done fifth year – but I’ve learned a whole lot about “the real world” (insert spooky noises) – and it sucks. It sucks so much that I’m leaving for two years and delaying the real world for as long as possible.

No, but really, what have I been doing for the past year? First I got a job at Eventide (a bomb restaurant in Clarendon) and worked with the most amazing people ever. While at Eventide I got a job at Kinder Haus (a bomb toy store in Clarendon) during the day – the managers Jen, Dana, and Laura are the sweetest people EVER.

But then I got frustrated, because I worked all the time at night and never saw my friends, so I desperately wanted a 9-5 job. So I found a job translating standardized test questions for a research institute in DC. It was a temp job… that ended up lasting about seven months. I could talk about it foreeever, so ask me about it later and for now I’ll just say it was definitely an experience.

Oh right, but then I got frustrated again. Because I felt this crazy intellectual drain – and I wanted to learn something (college withdrawl). So I signed up for classes at NOVA (ohh yeahhh) to bolster my portfolio. I’m taking Web Design I and II, and Digital Imaging. And now I can do things like make this blog template!

Here are a couple other things I’ve made in Digital Imaging:

So now I’ve quit my job and I’m finishing up my final few weeks of classes. Every time I tell people this they are like, “wooooooaaaaahhh – what in the WORLD are you going to dooooo for the next mooooonnnnttttthhh before you leave??” Yo, I’m about to be working in Peru for the next two and a half years. You know all those things you have on your long-term to-do list, like cleaning out your basement or starting a blog (yup)? That’s what I’m doing.

I’m also slowly trying to turn myself into a morning person… haha I’ll let you know how that goes.

So, a little bit about the Peace Corps before I conclude this novel of a blog post.

Most people’s first question is “Why?” I’ve always wanted to live somewhere completely different than the US – and really experience it, not just study abroad – but become a true resident. I want to bring those experiences back with me and into my creative vision. I’m also so excited to work for two years for a community who has specifically requested help. Imagine having two years to dedicate solely to the wellbeing of a community. And on top of that, I get to work with KIDS! I get to dedicate myself to working with the children of this community. I’m so excited.

Two more things about Peace Corps:

1) I am not saving the world. I am not venturing to save the world. I hope to make a sustainable impact on a community and on the people I live with. And I hope that they make an impact on me too.

2) The more I learn about the Peace Corps’ approach to development, the more impressed I become. Granted, Peru is a special country for Peace Corps since we apparently have a long history and reputation in the country. But Peace Corps seems to really try and assure that they are not imposing, but rather listening and responding to the requests of a community and providing sustainable solutions. If you have any constructive criticism of the Peace Corps please comment – I’d like to be critical of my work as well, so any criticism for me to take into mind would be fantastic!

Okay guys, done with that introductory novel – I’ll post a little more about packing, finals, etc. before I leave on June 9th!