Saturday, June 6, 2009

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Posted by Posted by Eliza Kern at 12:41 PM


The plaza.

At the last day of the festival...
Random plant.

The road behind my (Jarrard´s) house.

Random staircase of a blue that seems very common around here.

View of a garden/farm from the ruins above Ollanta.



The outdoor cocina.

On top of my house...

Posted by Posted by Jarrard at 9:56 AM


Friday, June 5, 2009

I´m fairly certain that I could live quite happily here in Ollanta for a long time, with only a few necessary modifications, and no, it´s not because they have cheap avocados in the market. I could live with the instant coffee and the weird Spanish keyboard and the dusty cobblestone streets. I could adjust to reading American newspapers entirely online. Maybe. I could even get used to carrying around my own toilet paper. (Who knew that there are people in the world who don´t consider it a bathroom essential?)

But I digress. I think the hardest thing about living here, for me anyways, would be the language barrier. I´m starting to understand other people most of the time, and I can usually make out what I want to say. But my concoctions are usually pretty ugly, and I´ve been frustrated by my limited vocabulary.

I love words. I like learning new words and looking them up and finding out where they come from. I like trying them out on people and figuring out how to pronounce them. As my sister Julia would say, words are my jam.

So to come to a country where my descriptive abilities are limited to ¨pretty,¨ ¨funny,¨ ¨clean,¨ and ¨magnificent,¨ give or take a few words, is frustrating. I like telling long stories and sarcastic jokes, both of which are hard on a limited repertoire. Every time I learn a new word, I try to repeat it and fix it in my brain so it doesn´t leave, but usually it does. It has taken me a lifetime to build my English vocabulary, so I guess it´ll take more than eight weeks to build a functional one in Spanish. I think I´ll have to start by finding another synonym for ¨bonita.¨

And bonita just didn´t cut it for our experiences today. None of us are quite used to living at 9,000 feet yet, and we get out of breath walking up stairs. (Which I actually fell down this morning. Ironic that my first mishap was so mundane.) But we wanted to check out the amazing ruins surrounding Ollanta and not feel quite as lazy as usual. So we went up about ten minutes to the free ruins at the edge of town. Wow.

This town is situated in the Sacred Valley, but it feels like you´re in a bowl of mountains. The Incans used Ollanta as a defensive fort, building terraces from the river up to the town and on the hills of the surrounding mountains as defenses against the conquistadors. They held off the Spanish for a very long time, and it´s easy to see why. It´s freaking hard to climb those terraces. And we aren´t even carrying armor.

But the view from the ruins was magnificent. From where we were, we had a view of the entire town and surrounding hills. It was so beautiful, in fact, I was at a loss for words. In either language.

Exploring the Incan fortress. Building with stone was clearly their jam.

Looking out over the town, and the more well-known ruins on the other side.

¡Hola Ollanta!

Climbing around.

Posted by Posted by Eliza Kern at 12:49 PM
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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Headed to the elementary school this morning, where we talked to the director and created a weekly schedule for the three of us. Kelsey and Jarrard will teach together, since theoretically two sort-of-Spanish-speakers is better than one, and I´ll be making a go of it on my own. My Spanish is getting a lot better, and I feel so proud when I successfully make a joke or make a kid smile (the important things). As Jarrard kindly pointed out, no one would mistake me for fluent. But I´m getting there.

We´re teaching in the mornings, but school lets out at one p.m., so we´re going to be working on a variety of projects with our organization, Awamaki, to work a full 40 hours and feel useful. Awamaki is trying to bring more tourism to Ollanta to promote economic development, so I´ll be drawing a map of the town with important landmarks for tourists. We´re also going to do a lot of the more popular hikes in the area- Jarrard will take pictures, I´ll write up a description of each trail, and Kelsey will put our hiking skills to shame.

This afternoon, we had lunch at Jarrard´s house, and it was by far the best meal I´ve had yet. Blog post soon to come on that subject. But afterwards, we headed out in the extreme afternoon heat and sun to take pictures of the Rio Urubumba which runs through the valley, as well as the road beside it.

(Trying to skip rocks and failing. Kelsey was clearly the pro.)

Kelsey was sound girl, which Jarrard informed her was a very important job. She had a microphone with a fuzzy hat that picked up even the slightest sound, and every once in a while we´d be very quiet and she´d record sound to use for Jarrard´s video. Jarrard, or Jay, as the Peruvians call him, took a lot of videos of things and cursed loudly when they didn´t meet his exact specifications. We discovered that he gets very perturbed when he becomes the subjects of photos or videos, so we´ve had a lot of fun with that.

Much to my excitement Jarrard showed me how to use his other camera. He said a lot of things about aperature and shutter speed that I tried really hard to remember but pretty quickly forgot. It was the coolest thing. The camera was really heavy but made everything look ten times better than it looked in real life. I took a ton of pictures, most of which turned out really overexposed as it was crazy bright outside and I didn´t really know what I was doing, but a few turned out well and I´ll try to post those at some point.

After a few hours of our photography and video extravaganza, we were all pretty tired and hot. It´s a strange experience to feel so hot but not sweat at all. There is zero humidity here. It´s great. But it´s also a great way to get dehydrated, so we headed back to Jarrard´s house for some water. I ran around with the two-year-old, Paulita, who was entirely fasinated by my theatrics. Probably thought I was insane, but it´s a fun way to work on my Spanish, as she´s pretty forgiving if I use the wrong verb tense or forget a word for something. Paula and her eight-year-old brother Gabriel adore Jarrard. It´s adorable. He introduced them to the concept of playing catch which was apparently very revolutionary, and their faces light up when he ducks through through the door.

Posted by Posted by Eliza Kern at 4:25 PM
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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

So, Jarrard uploaded all his pretty pictures this morning, and was about to save, when I accidentally payed for his internet instead of my own. Meaning they shut down his computer. I bought him a 3 Musketeers bar, and promised to upload them myself. Here they are! They really put my ramblings to shame.

On our way to Ollanta.

Just arrived.

Dancing in the Plaza.



Whipping each other´s ankles as part of a traditional dance. We cringed just watching it.

The Plaza.

El vaca!

Jose y Gabriel.

El Rio.

The yard next to Jarrard´s house.

Drawing a map of the U.S. for Jarrard´s family. We omitted some superfluous states.

Girls from Patacancha who speak Quechua.

The chicken. We won´t say what happened to it after this.


Mountains at dusk.

Fighting or playing?

Posted by Posted by Eliza Kern at 2:19 PM


Yesterday was the last day of the festival and therefore the most elaborate and wild day of partying yet. After eating cuy for lunch, which was actually pretty good, if a little greasy and gamey, Kelsey and I went down to Jarrard´s house for the festivities.

Now, to be clear, getting to Jarrard´s house requires about twenty minutes of walking through Ollanta and down these humungous steps that were built by the Incas. What were probably very intimidating to the conquistadors attacking the city five centuries ago is also intimidating to Jarrard, who climbs them daily to get to Ollanta. And to those of us who visit him.

There´s a church near Jarrard´s house that was the main site for the festivities in the afternoon. We made friends with a little girl who was fascinated by our cameras, our shoes, and pretty much everything we had with us. Jarrard wasn´t exactly inconspicuous with his large camera, tripod, and fuzzy microphone, which children found fascinating.

Side note: Some of us, ahem, Kelsey and Jarrard, seem unable to distinuish children´s ages from their phyiscal appearances. However, I consider this to be a personal skill of mine. I have now begun shouting approximate ages when I see children in the Plaza or around town, and Kelsey or Jarrard will then ask their ages to check me. It´s probably about time that we start working.

The festival was crazy. Everyone was eating and drinking chicha, and there was more dancing. The entire ceremony was in Quechua, meaning we were totally lost as to what was going on. Quechua is crazy. But after some sort of religious ceremony that involved a lot of food and stringing a chicken up on a rope, they hung a piece of maize from a rope and men on horseback rode by and tried to grab it. Drunk men on horseback is pretty much universally funny.

(Some of the dancers getting ready to climb on each other´s backs and try to grab the maize. Epic fail.)

Kelsey and I headed back up the hill of death to Ollanta for dinner, and Jarrard met us in the Plaza later where the festivities continued. All of the dancers had danced up the hill in a huge procession to the square, where the party got started around ten p.m. The three of us were watched them wind their way through the square when suddenly the masked men grabbed Kelsey and me and we found ourselves dancing in the Plaza with crazy Peruvian dancers. Jarrard was all smug that he hadn´t been grabbed to dance, when of course, he was sandwiched by two very old, very short men, and was forced into the fray as well. It was such a blast.

Then they set of ginormous fireworks that were fairly frightening considering their size and proximity to where we were. There is a reason that you´ve never stood directly under fireworks before. But we survived, and they were admittedly very cool, if loud. We called it quits around eleven, meaning we will never escape our reputation as wimps. Oh well.

This morning we headed over to the primary school where we´ll all be teaching in the mornings. Supposedly because it´s a private as opposed to a public school, it´s more organized and structured, but CATCCO hasn´t placed any volunteers there yet, so it´s just a guess. Hopefully I´ll be able to go over to the preschool, or el jardin, three days a week and do art classes for about 45 minutes, which should be great.

Posted by Posted by Eliza Kern at 1:34 PM
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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

We are currently in the middle of the biggest festival of the year, meaning school is not in session until Wednesday (maybe) and we´ve had a lot of time to explore Ollanta and get a sense of the culture here.

The festival is insane. It makes Franklin Street celebrations look like a kid´s birthday party. We think that the festivities are honoring the patron saint of Ollanta, but really, it´s a total guess.

One thing is for sure, the Peruvians love their dancing. And their beer. There are 15 (or maybe 16, we´re not sure) dance troupes called ¨cargos,¨ comprised of about 15 dancers. All the dancers have elaborate costumes and masks, but no two groups dress the same.

Kelsey and I were woken up around 5:30 yesterday morning when the drummers and flute players accompanying the dancers marched by our window to the main Plaza. The groups pretty much take turns dancing throughout the day, taking time off to eat and drink a lot of cerveza or chicha. Google chicha. You won´t regret it.

At night they have fireworks and street vendors selling delicious churros, which are kind of like donut sticks, and scrumptious-smelling meat on skewers.

We´ve had some difficulty determining what´s safe and what´s not safe to eat. Suddenly the campus health seminar on eating in a foreign country seems like a really long time ago. So far, Kelsey and I have eaten hard-boiled eggs, cheese, orange juice, and butter. Some would say this is a bad idea, but we´ve talked to other volunteers who´ve said it´s okay.

We figure we haven´t gotten sick yet, and our family runs a restaurant which caters to foreigners, which is supposed to be a good sign. Jarrard thinks we´re crazy. We think he´s jealous of our butter.

This morning we went to the market and bought avacados, since they are one sol for two, AKA, FIFTEEN CENTS EACH. My avacado-loving heart was singing with joy. There were some fuzzy and crunchy parts to them, I´ll admit, but it was still heaven. Kelsey and I have to head back for lunch soon, and apparently our host mom is preparing a traditional Peruvian meal, which means.... cuy. Guinea pig. I´m super excited. Kelsey, less so. Wish us luck.

I was so excited about my avacado. Jarrard was a little freaked out by the fuzz.

View from the room I share with Kelsey.

El Museo CATCCO.

Kelsey walking around town.

Jacob stopped by as we were finishing dinner!

Beatiful view of what I think is el Rio Patacancha that runs through Ollanta.

Me and our host sister, who turned 18 yesterday. We´re mortified that we can´t figure out what her name is. We´re working on that.

Picture of the festival.

Posted by Posted by Eliza Kern at 9:26 AM