When the strange becomes your life

Here is a video I made about 3 months ago that captures many of the moments that occurred in my first months in country. Many things have happened since I made this video, but it captures the excitement of being in a new place, that is now my home. At the same time it makes me realize how many small moments add up to influence this crazy experience I am undergoing โ€“ rather captured or not.

Click here to watch:ย Peace Corps Moments

or here for Youtube version (it is not as clear)

Recently, I haven’t been inspired to blog or even journal as life has been becoming ‘normal’. I donโ€™t know when it happened or how it happened โ€“ but the strange has become my life…but that still does not make the strange normal. Because, what constitutes normal or strange? This used to be strange because everything was unknown, but now as I am becoming more integrated and understanding life down here…I do not feel like an alien from the Outer Space of America (at least all the time). Everything is honestly going very well, and I am genuinely happy. I suppose half of this happiness has to do with finally feeling like I am volunteering, and the other half with the wonderful people I have come to love down here. ย So this time I will let the photos speak:

VOLUNTEER WORK:ย 

Proyecto Ninos Sanos, Fuertes e Inteligentes (Healthy, Strong and Smart Children Project): The goal of this project is to work with 30 mothers who have children that suffer from malnutrition or anemia. We work with them to improve their overall living situation from feeding practices, cooking practices, hygiene, etc. etc. I go and visit the houses of the mothers with health promoters we are re-training and with health post-personnel.

Mother's session on complementary feeding practices - with hairnets and everything!
Mother’s session on complementary feeding practices – with hairnets and everything ย (can you spy me)!
Rosy and Ayllin during a house visit after we made the regla de crecimiento (growth chart) to track her heigh we are working on recooperating
Rosy and Ayllin during a house visit after we made the regla de crecimiento (growth chart) to track her height we are working on recuperating
Emma showing her 2 and 1/2 year old son Yoel how to wash his hands with their new Tippy-Tap washing station we made
Emma showing her 2 and 1/2 year old son Yoel how to wash his hands with their new Tippy-Tap washing station we made
Health Promoters Training Session on Recycled Toys - Making Trash into Treasure!
Health Promoters Training Session on Recycled Toys – Making Trash into Treasure!
Valeria, health promoter, making a shape placement toy out of a box and toilet paper holders
Valeria, health promoter, making a shape placement toy out of a box and toilet paper holders
Yoga for mommies to be  building up their abdominan, back and hip strength while practicing breathing
Yoga for mommies to be building up their abdominan, back and hip strength while practicing breathing
Yoga for mommies -to-be. They were very hesitant at first than eventually got into it
Yoga for mommies -to-be. They were very hesitant at first than eventually got into it

Pasos Adelante – Promotores Educadores Pares (Steps Forward – Youth Peer Educators Program): This project is focused on empowering youth to build up leadership skills while also training them be youth health promoters in their high-school. They receive 14 sessions in themes ranging from self-esteem, values, prevention of alcohol/drug use, abstinence, sexual protection methods, STIs, VIH/AIDS, etc.etc. After they receive these sessions, they then turn around and give the session to their peers during study hall hours. They are now in the stage of practicing their sessions, and the first group gave their’s last week, and it went really well!

Youth Health Promoters at a big reunion with others youth in nearby communities
Youth Health Promoters at a big reunion with others youth in nearby communities
Youth Health promoters practicing how to put on a condom but having a little trouble with such a big plantain
Youth Health promoters practicing how to put on a condom but having a little trouble with such a big plantain
Violencia Domestica Sesion - These definitions and examples the teens did and class show how realistic it actually is in site
Violencia Domestica Sesion – These definitions and examples the teens did and class show how realistic domestic violence is in the community.
The first group giving the session to their class over self-esteem
The first group giving the session to their class over self-esteem

Trash management Secondary Project: This idea came about during Earth Day where we planned out clean-up days of the streets. In our town there is no trash management system which leads the community members to burning it in the street or taking it to the farmland, leading to even more contamination. These clean-up days have expanded into a large secondary project in coordination with the municipality to create a trash management system and a good location to build a landfill.

Trash Clean Up - Originally started on Earth Day and continued on at the beginning of every month with help from the municipality, health post and high-school
Trash Clean Up – Originally started on Earth Day and continued on at the beginning of every month with help from the municipality, health post and high-school
Project Design Training with my Community Partners:
Project Design Training with my Community Partners: During late June, I had the opportunity to bring community partners to a training with me. In the end my health post boss, director of education and even my mayor were very eager to come. We worked hard all week detailing out the first steps of a project idea of a trash management system.
Formation of Trash Management Comitee
Formation of Trash Management Comitee, which was the result of the mayor and director of education coming to the Peace Corps training with me. Now 8 active community leaders are part of the action plan to implement this idea.
Mayor Jesus explaining the 'arbol de problemas' and the next steps to fix them
Mayor Jesus explaining the ‘arbol de problemas’ and the next steps to fix them

IS THIS WORK?

World Map Mural Painting - During summer, I taught geography, culture and english to a group of 60 kids. In the end, the goal was to paint a giant world map mural for them to continue learning throughout the year and for the professors to continue promote global learning. We finally were able to start painting this month, and are about to finish up this week.
World Map Mural Painting – During summer, I taught geography, culture and english to a group of 60 kids. In the end, the goal was to paint a giant world map mural for them to continue learning throughout the year and for the professors to continue promote global learning. We finally were able to start painting this month, and are about to finish up this week with the help of the art professor and senior class.
Yoga Class - I began teaching yoga classes every Monday and Thursday for youth hoping eventually I could get the mom's to become more physically active.
Yoga Class – I began teaching yoga classes every Monday and Thursday for youth hoping. The big turn out has been teenage girls, and recently more younger children. There is even a group of 5 boys that comes every week now despite the verguenza (embarrassment) they have walking into the class.
Pasacalle for Dengue - The past couple months Dengue numbers have been record high in the past decade, leading to deaths throughout the region. We marched in the district to help raise awareness.
Pasacalle for Dengue – The past couple months Dengue numbers have been record high in the past decade, leading to deaths throughout the region. We marched in the district to help raise awareness.
Washing Hand Sessions - I help support the health post with 'healthy schools' sessions where we teach professors simple themes to teach the kids as a health class component. I am in charge of the washing hands session, which seems simple but in a town where water is not always accessible it does not happen as much as we would like. I get to do my favorite charla showing them how caca (poop) can get to your boca (mouth)
Healthy School Sessions – I help support the health post with ‘healthy schools’ sessions where we teach professors simple themes to teach the kids as a health class component. I am in charge of the washing hands session, which seems simple but in a town where water is not always accessible it does not happen as much as we would like. I get to do my favorite charla showing them how caca (poop) can get to your boca (mouth)

Family, Friends and Fiestasย – Work hard, play hard.

We started out July strong celebrating the 4th together at our favorite beach house
We started out July strong celebrating the 4th together at our favorite beach house
Celebrating the 4th at the beach with other wonderful Americans!
A couple of fireworks
Quite the spot for the 4th
Quite the spot
Team Dinamo! This was our first game, and we will be playing until the end of August.
Team Dinamo! I joined the town soccer team that consists of young mom’s and teenagers. It is not my best sport, but I am learning poco a poco. We are undefeated thus far! Fun fact: The two twins in the bottom right hand corner are with their older sister, Diana, who also a fraternal twin as well – two sets of twins in the same family…crazy!
We even get to play against El Tallan, the town my best friend Annie plays for. We beat them good :)
We even get to play against El Tallan, the town my best friend Annie plays for. We beat them good ๐Ÿ™‚ I do not know what I would do without her just a bike ride away
Rice Harvesting! This month my family has harvested over 200 large sacks of rice that is taking over our house. Here my little sisters are playing on it as their playground. My host mom is very eager to send a sack home when my family ends at the month, even though I have told her it is impossible - she isn't giving up hope!
Rice Harvesting! This month my family has harvested over 200 large sacks of rice that is taking over our house. Here my little sisters are playing on it as their playground. My host mom is very eager to send a sack home with my parents when they visit ends at the month, even though I have told her it is impossible – she isn’t giving up hope!
Started the month with USA Independence Day and Ended out the month with Peruvian Independence Day. Here I am at the town's Fiestas Patrias Parade. I walked with the health post through the parade while all the children were dressed up representing a culture or point of history wihtin Peru. One of my favorite fiestas thusfar
Started the month with USA Independence Day and Ended out the month with Peruvian Independence Day. Here I am at the town’s Fiestas Patrias Parade. I walked with the health post through the parade while all the children were dressed up representing a culture or point of history wihtin Peru. One of my favorite fiestas thusfar
My sister, Carla, and her two friends who led the parade
My sister, Carla, and her two friends who led the parade
Ariana (Ari) - my little sister is in the middle and her classmates representing the Quechua Sierra culture
Ariana (Ari) – my little sister is in the middle and her classmates representing the Quechua Sierra culture
King IntiRaymi - My little brother is hiding behind his shield on the left, I'm rather embarrassing
King IntiRaymi – Representing the Inca Empire My little brother is hiding behind his shield on the left, I’m rather embarrassing
Kids representing the jungle culture and doing the dance
Kids representing the jungle culture and doing the dance.
More dancing
Bust a move
Showing off my peruvian pride
Showing off my peruvian pride
Bianca Nicol is going to be turning 1 year this month! Quite a treat to see this cutie growing up and crawling like a wild maniac.
Bianca Nicol is going to be turning 1 year this month! Quite a treat to see this cutie growing up and crawling like a wild maniac.
Andes Hike: A couple months ago I went on a my first 'trek' through the Andes mountains with my boyfriend, Glenn. It was absolutely beautiful, but I couldn't walk when we woke up the next day at camp.
Andes Hike: A couple months ago I went on a my first ‘trek’ through the Andes mountains with my boyfriend, Glenn, to a glacial lake. Long story short..what was supposed to be a 3 hour hike turned into a 12 hour hike. It was absolutely beautiful, but I couldn’t walk when we woke up the next day at camp. The outdoorsy gentlemen that he is carried my big-pack along with his on the long journey back, while I gimped along with a giant branch stick and the decrepit box of wine in my other hand. He was a wonderful surprise to find down here for many more reasons beyond his cargo abilities ๐Ÿ™‚ .

Well there it is. A couple of glimpses of my past couple months down here. I always love hearing from all of you, and thanks for everyone who has sent down cards and packages. Unbelievably generous and thoughtful, and it truly means alot!

Until next time,

Jamie