Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Peruvian Food

This is just about 3 months (by which I mean I have no idea when I said I would do this but it was awhile ago) after I promised a food of Peru post. I’m sure that in was an agonizing wait to read the word delicious over and over since that is how I tend to describe food rather than with synonyms or the flavors of the dish. I promise not to shortchange on the use of delicious.

Let’s just say that the food is scrumptious here. In the land of beans and rice, I couldn’t be happier. Most of my experiences come from eating at the Albergue and it has mainly all been great except for the days that they make soup (who wants to eat soup when it’s hot) and a dish with government issued tuna. Best and the rest from the Albergue cooks:

Lomo Saltado: It does not get better than lomo saltado. I would compare it to a stir fry except 10 times more delicious. Strips of beef fried with onions and tomatoes in a delicious marinade mixed with papas fritas and thrown on top of rice. I really hope they make it tomorrow, being it my last day and all.

Aji de Gallina: A spicy, creamy, cheesy sauce with shredded chicken on top of rice. If you put spicy and cheesy together in the same description, you’ve won me over.

Ceviche: Always fantastic and something I looked forward to before coming down here. Not as good as I remember it being in Costa Rica, but fish cooked with nothing but lime juice cannot be bad. Plus it’s spicy.

Arroz con frijoles: A staple at the albergue and I haven’t gotten sick of it yet. The beans change from lentils to black eyed peas to red beans to pinto beans. And I almost always throw aji on top, which I haven’t yet described as the sauce that will make just about any dish better. The aji pepper, native to Peru, makes a fantastic spicy sauce that I coat my food with.

Papas Rellanas: A stuffed and fried mashed potato ball. Stuffed with a little meat and egg with aji of course.

Tamales: They make a mean tamale here. The last one I had contained so much flavor in the corn meal section that I didn’t need to get to the stuffing.

Sopa: The one thing (besides the government tuna) that I don’t really eat here. I just haven’t felt like soup when its 80 with an intense sun.

Food from the outside – The food is just as good on the outside as well, especially the street food.

The Terminator: Almost as bad for you as the greasy five meat and cheese sandwich I would make when working at the Pizza Pub in high school. Three layers of meat/protein on this. Regular hamburger patty, a scrambled egg patty with sausage mixed in, and a chorizo sausage topping. This is rare for me to say, but it doesn’t even need cheese (although it would make it better). $2 for a complete meal (which of course means that it fills you up not that you get all of your necessary food groups, although there are tomatoes on it).

Cow heart and chicken skewers: A fantastic street food. Tender meat with a savory marinade with an aji topping.

Fresh squeezed orange juice: One of the things I will miss every Sunday. There are lots of stands on the street offering squeezed in front of you juice. The oranges down here are a lot more citrus, not so sweet, and I love it. That lady next to the bakery is going to miss my business.

Pollo a la brasa: This is a Peruvian staple as there are about 5 pollo a la brasa restaurants for every other kind of restaurant. Roasted chicken with a delicious marinade. They really do roasted chicken quite well.

Chicha morada and other things they let rot in the ground: I unfortunately (unfortunately for the experience, probably fortunate for my stomach health) never got to try chicha morada. It is a beer made from corn. The corn is chewed and then spit out. It ferments from the spit and the bacteria in your mouth. I have seen pictures of it and it does not look right. I didn’t get any because it is mainly a mountain thing and I never was able to find any when I was up in the mountains. They think it helps with stomach ailments. Like producing said stomach ailments. They also think that eating potatoes that they have let rot in the ground until they have fermented is good for that as well. I have smelled those and it was not pleasant.

Cuy: Your favorite pet rodent served roasted and with the paws and head still attach, no fur. The guinea pig is a culinary favorite and while not tasting that bad, it was actually difficult for me to get over the fact that I was eating guinea pig. There was nothing super good or super bad about it. It was like any other chicken tasting animal.

And that’s the food of Peru. I feel a little bit like Homer Simpson, I like everything (which would have been an absurd statement for me to say probably just 3 years ago). So the moral is that if you go to Peru, EAT.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Anabel Visit

Anthony and I visited Anabel (I’ll spell it correctly now and not the previous gringo way) on Saturday in her new home in Pacanga. It turned out to be one of the most rewarding days that I have had in Peru. I knew the day that she left, that it was a happy day but this confirmed it. To see the love she was receiving and how perfectly content she is was incredibly uplifting.

We had quite the 2 and a half hour journey up there, complete with multiple vague directions from Peruvians and a mototaxi ride that took us through field roads and had Anthony telling the driver at the end, “Thanks for not robbing us.” Anabel’s parents have a nice, modest home in a community of about 5,000 and have a small tienda at the front of their home. Anabel had one of her new friends over when we arrived and despite hoping for a running hug, I got what I expected; the same shy little girl that I remembered. It took her a few minutes to warm up and then she gave me a hug and even if I had been hoping for an immediate reaction, looking back on it I would not have it any other way.

Her father showed us the house and showed us the new bedroom he was building for Anabel. In every word he said, even if I couldn’t understand the exact meaning, you could sense how happy he was to have Anabel in his life. The father and mother told us about the adoption process. They had started it two years ago and only in the last two weeks of the process did any of it involve Anabel. The whole thing happened very quickly for them once they were approved.

They served us flan and I broke out the presents that I had for her. The first present came from the house that she had lived at here. The madre and the children all wrote her a little something and she teared up after reading that. I broke out the camera and she went nuts with it again, remembering exactly how to use it. They showed us her first marks from her first week of school (perfect), told us how she never watches TV and just wants to read (which is why I brought her books), and told us how she’s always asking to help in the shop or help her new father with his work. They were beaming new parents.

Towards the end of our stay, the father asked me multiple times when I was going to return and was truly happy that we had come to visit. I think that those words may be the tipping point in getting me to return to Peru someday, at least for a short period. Seeing Anabel off this time was quite different from the first time. I was not nearly as sad and instead I was extremely happy. I could leave knowing she could live happily in a loving home. It’s strange how such a short visit can leave such a lasting good feeling. Short visits with my family feel the same way and they certainly made me feel like family. As I said, an uplifting day.

P.S. I know it looks as though the parents aren't happy in the photo. Peruvians have a difficult time with the whole smiling in photos. Think of your great grandparents wedding photos.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

"Tio Le-er"

Unfortunately for me, I will not get to hear those words said again, in that same way. Fortunately for the little girl that said those words to me at least once a day, she has been adopted and now has a mother and a father. My little sobrina preciosa left yesterday and now I am left without a reading partner at night.

The first time I went up to read to this house, I thought I would read to 4 or 5 of the little girls. Annabelle was the one who showed the most interest though as she, despite being shy, put herself under my arm so she could see the pages. So, for the past 3 months I could count on hearing at least once (if not more) a day Annabelle ask me, “Tio le-er”. And so for the past 3 months, Annabelle and I have read together 3 nights out of the week. Sometimes she would sing or count or do something that made it seem like she wasn’t paying attention but she always knew where we were in the story and always wanted me to read one more. In the past month and a half, our nights became more interactive and she started to do half the reading. So, we would sit together while she sounded out every syllable of the word and then put the whole word together in perfect Spanish. This transitioned into the day as well where before, other than asking me to read she was too shy to want to talk (and by that I mean she could have talked and I could have acted like I understood everything), but then we started having conversations (yes, sometimes I did understand and could talk back) about favorite foods, favorite colors, and what stories she liked. I could always count on her being extremely excited about me coming up to read and really, that is a pretty wonderful feeling.

When I got back last Sunday, I learned that her adoption process had moved quickly along and that she was going to be leaving on Friday. I went into AnnabelleandKarl time over drive. So I read to her every night this week, until Thursday came. I went to go read to her, but instead I found a girl who had been crying all day. She had been so happy this week, which I presumed was because she was going to receive what she wanted, parents. On Thursday though, I think she had the realization that she was leaving a place with people she knew, people who loved her and a place where she had friends around her 24/7 to go to an unknown place with two adults that she had met only a handful of times. Her security blanket was being taken away but it will be replaced by a better one she’ll soon realize. So I sat with her Thursday night and talked with her until she fell asleep and then I needed to read to her, even though she was asleep, for my own well being. This little girl had taken an extremely fond place in my heart and I had to have one last night of reading to her even if this time it wasn’t going to be interactive.

I ate breakfast with her house the next morning and spent the morning with her until her parents came to pick her up. She had stopped crying and was busy taking, oh, about 150 photos with my camera. Quite a bit of which were of my holding her doll. She was all dressed up for the big day. I kept hoping her parents would show up later and later. It was amazing even to me how much I had grown attached to this girl. My selfish side of me didn’t want her to leave even though I will be leaving soon. The tears started to flow again when she started to leave and everyone wanted one last goodbye from her. She gave me one last kiss on the cheek and one last hug before they left.

All I wanted though was to hear, “Tio le-er.”

Sunday, April 12, 2009

To the Land of Steak (Buenos Aires in the Fall)

*Yeah, the asterisk is needed. I can’t fairly judge Buenos Aires. When you’ve been in a developing country for three months, a western style city will look pretty good when you’re used to that. I’ve been eating the same (albeit delicious) food for three months, I’ve been in a hot, never changing desert for three months, and I haven’t been in a real park in three months. So when I’m fawning over some aspect of Buenos Aires in this entry, remember that it is a biased opinion.

I like cool weather. This makes fall and spring my favorite time of year. Peruvians may call Trujillo the city of eternal spring but their spring is a little different than a Minnesota spring. Therefore Buenos Aires in late March and early April was perfect for me. After the first day, when it was in the 90s, it was in the low 70s the rest of the time and down into the 50s at night (I really feel like a Minnesotan when I lead off an entry about Buenos Aires talking about the weather). This was one of the many reasons why I enjoyed Buenos Aires.

So, I arrived on a Saturday evening a day before my traveling companions, Sarah and Fiona, arrived. If I had arrived 2 or 3 hours earlier I could have gone to the Argentina/Venezuela World Cup qualifying match. I know that would have excited my soccer loving friends to be able to tell them all about that, but alas I had to settle with watching it on TV in my hostel while eating a delicious carne picante empanada. The hostel manager ordered these for me from a restaurant just around the corner because I was starving after traveling all of the previous night and that day. I’m glad he did because I went back to this place to get 2 or 3 of them 3 more times during the duration of my time there. These things basically just contained steak, spicy steak and little else. They were unbelievable. That’s why I went back 3 more times at the end of sight seeing days.

I went out to explore the barrio that we were staying in, which was Palermo (Bruno, if you’re reading this, unfortunately there was no Palermo’s Pizza in this neighborhood. At least not one that I could find.) I would describe this neighborhood as Uptown like without the hipsters and with an area that is very reminiscent of seven corners. (Don’t worry, the rest of Buenos Aires has plenty of hipsters. In fact there are enough of them there to make me think there is another mother ship, JO.) Palermo has a vibrant nightlife and plenty of fantastic restaurants. I sat down at a place in the seven corners like area to pass the time until my restaurant had a table for me. I met a Canadian hombre who had just spent 4 months in Uruguay with his Uruguayan girlfriend. When I asked him how he had met this girl, he replied with, “Well, I’m 40, single and traveled down there last week to find a wife.” Pure honesty, he had no qualms about his reason for going down there. He then told me a story about some cat that showed up at their doorstep, so I paid my bill and left. I left to go to a restaurant that would promptly serve me one of the 10 best meals of my life (by the way this is the first restaurant meal to crack the top ten, the other 9 have been at family gatherings for Christmas/birthdays. You can’t be something that is made with love.) La Cabrera served me a superb cut of Chorizo de Bife (no it doesn’t taste like chorizo sausage at all, it’s just their name for that cut) along with 13 really good side dishes. This was not a meal to share with oneself, for two reasons: 1) their was way to much food, over a pound of beef and 13 side dishes the size of a ramekin dish, and 2) you shouldn’t eat something so good all by yourself. I got over it rather quickly and enjoyed it thoroughly. That was a great end to my first evening in BA.

On Sunday, the San Telmo ferria is in full force. I got up and walked the tree (aww trees, I missed thee) lined streets to the subway. Got off the subway in San Telmo and promptly walked in the wrong direction, discovered a food market and enjoyed a fresh juice and sandwich while I “read” the Sunday paper (it was in Spanish). The last part of that was really how the whole trip was (Sarah and Fiona may disagree but we didn’t really get lost or go in the complete wrong direction the rest of the week), just very relaxing getting to sit down where ever I wanted and just observe what was going on in the city. So I eventually made it to the market which was a cross between a flea market, a craft show, an antiques road show, and on the outskirts of it, a tourist trap. If anybody had wanted some silver they should have let me know before this trip, an unbelievable amount of silver antiques. There were also a lot paintings and drawings on display. It was all very relaxing, a common theme here, to walk around in. I didn’t have people hassling me to get into their taxi or to come to their restaurant, nor were my ears bombarded with noise pollution (well there was noise but not over bearing and not annoying to me). There were tango dancers just dancing in the street, people playing accordions, and people selling humongous ham and cheese (lots of cheese) sandwiches. I of course had one.

I sat down to have something to drink towards the end of the day at one of the cafes on the cobblestone (important, remember that for later) street. A girl came up to me and started talking in rapid fire Spanish. Now normally I try to at least understand someone but she was talking so fast I had no chance. So I said, “Wo, wo, wo. No entiendo.” To which she replied, with a perfect American accent, “Oh, you speak English. Can I sit here; there are no other places to sit.” She sat down and we talked for awhile. As the sun got a little lower, shining in my eyes, our waiter got an umbrella to help me out. He took a stand from behind me and put the umbrella in there. Perfect! No more sun in my eyes, but as I went to lean back as I had been doing the whole time, myself and the chair just kept going and going. All the way until I was on the uneven cobblestone street that had been even up to that point with the help of the umbrella stand. I blame the waiter. And so concludes the first full day in Buenos Aires (I still have 4 more days to get through).

With Sarah and Fiona now having arrived, we went down to La Boca to see the colorful houses and tango shows. This day we were hassled quite a bit because it was such a touristy area. First, a pair of “tango dancers” grabbed us and said we should get photos with them. They of course wanted money, a lot of money, for each photo. A string of restaurants had their minions out to get all of the passing tourists to come to their place and watch the tango show and each their crappy food. The neighborhood was beautiful though. The wood and sheet metal sided houses were painted brilliant, bright colors and their residents were just out hanging the laundry. The neighborhood had a very clean, orderly, and vintage feel to it, even if it had turned into a tourist trap. We did see a great tango show at lunch. I am still amazed at how this dance is done, I know they must rehearse their routine nonstop but there is still leading that needs to be done and it is not obvious how.

We also saw the thinnest house in Buenos Aires which had been given to some freed slaves. I wouldn’t have noticed it had I just been walking down the street. All these houses in these old cities look so thin that it doesn’t stick out to somebody who grew up without another house within a half mile of their own and after living in Peru for 3 months where many of the habitations probably have less square footage than this place. It appears, from the outside, that somebody still lives their. I would hope that it has been connected to one of the adjacent houses by now. We also enjoyed some hot milk with melted chocolate afterwards, the Argentinean café version of a hot chocolate. It didn’t have as strong of a chocolate flavor but an individual bite of the chocolate bar was splendid. That night we went to a jazz percussion show that is held outside at the culture center (the Konex Center) every Monday. The place was full of Argentinean hipsters and young travelers. The music was awesome and a good 1 and a half hours of entertainment.

The government area of the city is beautiful as well. I enjoy looking at sculptures of historic figures and the Greek style architecture that Congressional buildings are often built in. We followed the Avenida de Mayo down to the Plaza de Mayo. The Avenida was designed by Mayor Alvear to be reminiscent of Madrid. It’s lined with beautiful buildings (which maybe I could describe in greater detail if I knew anything about architecture, but the great thing is that its something you don’t have to know a lot about to appreciate). Saw some colorful bear art, got a quick Argentinean history lesson from a local (Gen. San Martin is there George Washington is how he described it), and I ended daylight with some more steak empanadas. We went back to La Cabrera that evening and this time the steak came with 13 different side dishes than the first time I went and all amazing again. That’s at least 26 side dishes that they had to offer and who knows how many others they are hiding. I want more. The steak was scrumptious again (for me at least) and to start we had a something (I didn’t order it and I forgot to ask the name) with arugula, queso fresco, other cheese that I’m blanking on right now and prosciutto. You can’t go wrong when prosciutto is included. It was another amazing day of walking around, in cool weather, in parks, and in friendly city streets. It just felt good, putting it simply.

With the absence of any more good stories, I’ll blow through the last few things that we did. We walked through the rose garden, saw the famous Recoleta Cemetery (unbelievable mausoleums, including Evita Peron’s (“don’t cry for me Argentinaaaaaaaaa”), saw an old library in the Scientific Society of Argentina, saw the Palacio Paz (awesome for its complete and utterly ridiculous amount of overabundance as palaces and mansions always have), ate more empanadas, had an awesome torta with an absurd amount of cheese, shared the largest calzone I have ever had, saw the museum of modern Latin art (the MALBA), relaxed the afternoon away in a café because the city was shutdown for the burial of past president Raul Alfonsin (he was buried in the cemetery we had visited the day before), and spent the dusk hours walking through the botanical garden in Palermo. We then finished off a wonderful eating week with a grill out provided by our hostel which included steak, pork tenderloin, sausage, and blood sausage (was there other stuff to eat, sure, but who really cares when that stuff has been on the grill).

So what do I think of Buenos Aires? I loved it. I loved it because I didn’t feel so much like a tourist there (I’m sure I looked like one but when you have been stared at for three straight months because you’re a gringo, it doesn’t take much to feel like you’re fitting in). It felt like a city I could have lived in. I could imagine riding my bike through the streets to my job, to school, or to the market and it would have been easier than doing so in Pittsburgh (hey, another reason I can’t fairly judge BA, pedestrians have the right of way there). It was the perfect place to go for a quick break from Peru.

Speaking of Peru, I missed being here. For these 6 months, it has and will be my home and I miss home when I’m away from it even if I’m having an awesome time. I especially missed the kids. It’s not hard to miss them either because they have this unconditional love for you (which by the way is completely undeserved as I can’t speak their language but I’ll take it anyways). It’s nice to come back to 10 minute hugs from kids who ask you how much longer you are staying and when you tell them until June they say, “dos meses mas. No Junio, Agosto tio.” I missed working on the water project (always a good sign that you’re work is something you enjoy when you miss doing it) even though I did need the break. I’ll look forward to my next vacation while I’m in Peru but I also look forward to returning from that vacation.

I can honestly say that although nothing wild and crazy happened in BA (I’m not left with any great stories), I’ll always have great memories of it because of where I’m at. Obviously the food played a huge part in that as it always will with me. I’ve had multiple friends tell me that they have wanted to go to BA and if/when they go I hope I can go with them so that I can relive it again.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Bad Haircuts Come With A Feo Mustache

Okay, my second attempt at writing correct Spanish on here failed miserably. Jefe, not hefe (thank you for the correction Max). So what fantastic, wonderful, delicious new things happened this past week and a half? Well, I received a wonderful (read: not so wonderful) haircut from one of the orphans last week. It slightly resembled a bowl haircut (which it would have been better had it actually been a bowl haircut) combined with random puffs of hair. I figured this girl could use the practice since she was in hairdressing school. She will have to practice else where from now on. She detached my beard from my head with a razor and left me without any sideburns. In fact some people might call what I have reverse sideburns. So that meant I had to shave off the beard, although I left the mustache on to draw attention away from the head. Actually, I meant to shave off the mustache as well but I gave in to peer pressure and I left the mustache on for nearly a week. So with the mustache and a bad haircut I received a combination of comments from the children (guapo, feo, and guapo and feo combined). I was also told by one Peruvian that I looked better but I would look even better without the mustache. So now the mustache is gone and my hair is fixed, mostly (the girl went so far up one side with the razor that the only two solutions would be to shave it off or let it grow back).

I know some may be interested in my ice cream consumption in the past week. It went down and I’m not happy about it. Surfing is up though. We went to Huanchaco again this past Saturday. Either I am very poor at finding the good waves or the waves were not excellent this time (think the former). I did find some at the end of the morning and had a good time. Two surf shops know us by name now, which is awesome. I actually made the initiative the go talk to them this time. We’re going back this weekend and Alex (he is the director of projectors here) and his family are coming as well. He is very excited about going surfing. It’ll be a nice time.

I’ve been trying to read to the kids lately. I get to work on my pronunciation and they get to listen to a story read with incorrect pauses and intonations. I saw a 2 year old do one of the most intelligent things ever. He had thrown a sticky ball too high on a sliding glass door. He looked at a for a second, jumped a few times (he was only 2 feet away from it) and then decided to push open the door until the other part of the door knocked it off. To see if this was an accidental intelligent moment we put the ball back up there a little later and he did it again. That was awesome to watch. There is also a girl here who is a natural at basketball which warmed my heart a little bit. She can barely dribble or shoot but she understands back cuts, how to anticipate my moves, and how to make a correct fake cut. Oh man, I was beaming, seriously. It was fantastic.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ice Cream of Course

What was on tap for this past week? No Premo unfortunately, or Summit, but there was surfing. There was driving in Trujillo as well as a lot of ice cream. By now I know that if we are driving into Trujillo in the morning, there is a good chance I am going to be late for lunch at the Albergue. I don’t like to be late for a feeding. Luckily there are lots of ice cream vendors in Peru and my fellow workers are always up for ice cream. Thank goodness for Princesas and Sublimes. I think I had ice cream every day from Tuesday through Saturday. Not all of those were during work though. On Thursday, two of us took out two of the kids to what we hoped to be an art museum. Well through a series of misunderstandings, differing directions, and a taxi driver dropping us off at the wrong stop we ended up at an English language school. There was some art there thankfully and they enjoyed making fun of the situation. We then took them out to dinner (not going to say where because you’ll make fun of me, the girl that we took out wanted pizza because she had never had it, that’s all the dinner info you get) and then got delicious ice cream cones dipped in chocolate. The boy that we took out won some tickets for prizes at an arcade and like a gentlemen, picked out prizes for the girls. That also resulted in me having a hair snap thingy placed in my hair. Don’t worry I made the picture of it in my hair manly by flexing.

We also had ice cream in Huanchaco after a morning of surfing. At the time of getting our surf boards and wet suits, I was extremely happy with my short sleeves and short pant legs on my wetsuit. Big mistake. I was too cold, making me shiver after awhile, and the legs pulled up exposing my skin where I hadn’t applied sun block. Otherwise it was a great time. I was better at getting up this time and could control the board a bit when I was up. After surfing, lunch was had, consisting of ceviche and pancakes for myself. I have not had good ceviche experiences in Peru thus far. I think I need to go to a better restaurant so I make sure I have good fish.

Now for a story (or a paragraph) that doesn’t involve ice cream. I got to drive all over the city of Trujillo on Tuesday. My roommate Anthony asked me when I told him about it if I was comfortable driving in Trujillo. Comfortable is not the word I would use to describe it. Able yes, but absolutely positive at the same time that every taxi is going to run into me or that at an intersection I’m going to be hit from 5 directions because I’m not yet sure how the stopping (or slowing down actually) works here yet without stop signs. They seem to get by somehow.

Work on the water project is going well. One of the fun things for me about this whole experience has been the chance to get to work on real systems with my own hands. So I’ve gotten to learn more about electrical systems, metal working, digging (well I’ve done that before and that’s not ever fun), and pump operations.

Now for one Serious Karl moment (yes, Chris Rix is a good quarterback, and this is a Serious Karl moment). One of the great things about coming down here has been the new ways that I’ve found myself expressing love for my family and friends. I feel as if it has been reciprocated as well. I recognized that it was starting before I had even left. I’m learning things about the people close to me that I didn’t know before. I know that I have been more open as well. This is just another positive that is coming from my time down here.

El gran hefe arriva este semana. (Words are coming, correct grammar may not be.) It will be a good time to get his views and get a clear view of the goals. So I have that to look forward too.

Thank goodness the Gophers won. Please be consistent from now on Gophs.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

From Minnesota to Peru (and back again)

Nobody told me to do it but I've decided to do this blog. Not sure how I feel about it. I like to give the minute details of my day sometimes and that's impossible in email, so maybe I can do that here. I have a little of my grandfather in me, I like to tell stories. This is a good way to tell lots of my stories from in Peru. This is not as fun as telling them face to face but it will have to do. It may not be just restricted to Peru either. It will be restricted to Peru and the Gophers. The Gophers may make me jump around (eat it Kohl center) or they may make me frustrated (NW really and Penn State?), in which case I'll be looking for comments from people who watched a particular game. I do not promise perfect grammar (maybe I'll send each post to you first J?) but luckily I can't mispronounce words because it is not a video log.

Onto this story, I decided to come down to Peru to volunteer on a water distribution project. This project is tied in with an orphanage that is near the city of Trujillo. So far I'm really glad I'm doing this. I am lucky that I didn't think about how hard it would be to leave my two new nephews, their mothers and fathers, my mother, and the rest of my family and friends or else I would have stayed probably. It was tough to leave. The work has been very rewarding and challenging so far. Obviously, the fact that I don't know Spanish makes it even more challenging. I soon hope to be typing some of this in Spanish.

I've been here over a month now so I'll give a quick recap of the exciting events in number style followed by a way to long post of the volunteers weekend in Peru:
(1) I don't know the language very well but the locals still ask me questions and I tend to be agreeable even if I don't know the details of the question. No more! Although this isn't that bad but I apparently agreed to buy shoes as a price for a festival in the small community which may include me being featured as well in the festival.
(2) I made a local friend. This 16 year old kid worked with us for the first week and enjoyed learning English words from me and teaching me Spanish words. At the end of the week he gave me a necklace and a note in his best English telling me we were BFFs. Okay maybe BFFs is a little advanced for a Spanish speaking 16 year old but you get the idea.
(3) Went surfing in Huanchacho. Even got up a few times and my nipples made it through unscathed (wet suits are good for that).
(4) Some of the kids are excited about my beard. Although their love is fickle. There are a few days when I have to go around the table 4 or 5 times letting them rub their cheeks against the beard so they can act like it hurts. Then there are days where they act like the beard isn't even there.
(5) I wouldn't say that I've solved any major problems so far with the water project. Just basic stuff but I think I have added some value with ideas which I hope will prevent any future problems.
(6) Este fin de semana en Cajamarca fue muy divertido. It was awesome.

We left on Friday night at 10 pm and took a bus that normally would take 6 hours but was expected to take 8 and ended up taking 10.5 hours which is unusual for this bus company. Being back in green and cooler temperatures was an immediate joy. It was 50 to low 70s the whole time we were there. It was the beginning of Carnaval this weekend, the celebration for the beginning of lent. 4 of us checked into a hotel while the others stayed at a church with people they knew. We went to some hot springs and I envisioned the ones that we went into near Arenal. Not quite as nice but they still had the ancient baths (it was called Los banos del Inca and was there baths for their kings) that looked quite nice. Back in the Plaza de Armas, the barrage of water balloons started. The entire weekend, water balloons were flying from balconies, from the back of trucks, through the windows of cars, and from pedestrians on the street. They enjoyed hitting the gringos but it was all a part of their celebration. We walked up to a church that sits on top of a hill in the middle of the city. They had some traditional dancing going on by young girls. They then invited the public to join. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't the first in line. I sat down at the bottom of some stairs and one of the little dancers started pointing at me and whispering something to her father. She came over and asked me to dance, at least I assume that because we danced but who knows it was loud and it was in Espanol. My roommate Anthony took a long video of me dancing with this girl and you can see another volunteer, Sarah, get dragged out to dance as well. Then Anthony got dragged out, so it was three gringos and three ninos. Then I got passed around and was given some shoulder decoration to wear. It was awesome, really awesome. Like I can't describe how fun it was, the dancing combined with the view combined with something called awesome. Then a couple of kids wanted to give us a tour of the rest of the hill which had some history to it as well; it was a sacrificial spot according to these two boys who are in the pictures as well. Dinner with all the volunteers and saw some more dancing in the plaza. Oh and I tried guinea pig at lunch, for the first time ever I had to get over the thought of what I was eating and try to enjoy it because it tasted just fine actually.

Up early on Sunday to do some hiking which turned out to be walking which made it better. We went out of town to the ventanillas de Otuzco which were some burial spots dug into a rocky hillside. We (Sarah, Anthony, and I) got there well before the spot opened so we walked around the countryside for a few hours. We met multiple locals, saw great scenery, and had a little kid try to hide behind a giant aloe plant to sneak attack us with a water balloon. We stopped in a place where a woman was sewing skirts that Sarah was interested in. We ended up chatting with the family (by we I mean Anthony and Sarah and I smiled a nodded and said a few words) for 30 minutes while the woman fixed the skirt. Plus they sold us water balloons so we would have ammo back in the city which they let us fill up in their home. We kept walking and ran into some guys who may or may not have still been drunk from the night before. They were sitting in a circle with a guitar and a violin and empty beer bottles, singing. We joined in (maybe not the best idea but we were feeling friendly), shared some food and song. We got back to the ventanillas, looked at them and had some more kids want to talk to us. We shared some food with them and they shared some of the fresh wild raspberries that were growing right there. They were delicious. We went back into the city to see all of the beautiful churches and the markets. This was the best afternoon to be there if you wanted to be hit with multiple water balloons and buckets of water. They enjoyed hitting Sarah the most it seemed like. We were also getting a lot more looks than normal because Sarah was wearing her traditional skirt and the locals loved it. I bet she got 50 "muy bonita", and "hermosa" comments throughout the afternoon. So we got soaked, went through the markets, and bought a massive amount of cheese because Cajamarca makes delicious cheese. We got some wine and bread to go with that and went back to the plaza where I made my first friend on my own in the city. A group of teenagers were standing in a circle singing and banging on a drum. They invited me in and handed me some of their coke/alcohol mixture and talked to me in their best English. That was my personal success of the weekend. I'm guessing the beard helped. We had our wine, cheese, and bread and watched more water fights and listened to more chanting ("We sing in English/ because there are Gringos"). Had a delicious lamb meal and got back on the bus at 10 and made it back in time for work this morning.

It was just an overall fantastic weekend. We met lots of friendly people. I mean, you can't go wrong when dancing and cheese are combined in the same weekend.

I hope there were enough side bits in there to break up the monotony of the list structure.

Longest first blog ever.