Saturday, January 19, 2008

Day 494: An email sent to the family...

Just wanted to send a quick note (ok, in retrospect, this is a long email... so print it out and make some tea!) of hello out into the world of wires and satellites. Benj and I are in Huaraz for the evening... just took HOT, BURNING, SCALDING, CLEANSING showers, got hair cuts, and are about to drink a dark beer and eat a veggie burrito. Life is good.

We've had some great last few days... last week we started a micro-business simulation course for summer school with a group of young (12-15 yrs old) and motivated youth. The course will last 6-weeks and take place Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 9-1. Our work plan involves teaching them the basics of micro-businesses, including accounting, market studies, marketing and publicity, production, quality control, etc. Then the kids will divide up into small groups, take on the roles of general, finance, and production manager and make their own product. They've all contributed S/.10 (the equivalent of $3) to the group bank, from which they will be able to withdraw a loan to produce their good. After selling their product (hopefully with amazing success) they will pay back their loan and return to their homes at the end of the course with their S/.10 plus their profits. Should be cool. We talked about the characteristics of an entrepreneur last thursday using dynamic games to pound the ideas home. To impart the idea of risk-taking we decided to play the egg toss... you can only imagine how the kids clawed at the ground in uncontrollable laughter when the egg splattered into my chest and dribbled the orangey yolk that only a farm bred chicken can produce down my shirt and jeans. ;)

Wednesday and Friday saw us out in the community of HuamboMusho, nailing house numbers onto each and every structure in the community... The idea is a project called the Community Vigilance System and involves the health post identifying the risky zones in their area of intervention. To do this, each house gets a number, and each family completes a basic family survey with a member of the health post staff. It's basically a health-focused census. HuamboMusho is a huge community with over 120 houses, within a 4 mile circumference, and between 8 and 3pm yesterday we touched 80 houses! We were a team of 7. People welcomed us into their homes, fed us split pea soup with pop-corn and spicy pepper and boiled corn for breakfast, invited us into their strawberry patches to munch on the sweetness of the earth, grabbed my cheeks and squeezed, talked to us purely in quechua, gave us fleas, hugged us, gifted us apples and apricots and corn sugar stalks, we saw families in their fields working with their bull-drawn plows. It was muddy and sloppy along the paths, and the dark clouds threatened while we systematically covered a non-systematic community. We smiled and laughed our way from house to house. Unfortunately, the health post staff has a lot to learn about how to work with people... they rushed through the surveys, hardly stopping to greet their interview subject, they were more focused on answering the survey questions than observing the actual living conditions, and in some cases were straigh up rude. 3 of them didn't even come out into the community with us and then proceeded to take advantage of World Vision's offered lunch... one of them brought her boyfriend. Boo. I think this would be a great training with the health post staff... interpersonal relations with a touch of heart.

I imagine you remember the large group (30 americans) of evangelical missionaries that stayed in our living compound last year in March? Well, their leader is back, this time with a group of 9 peruvian youth missionaries from the jungle and his new peruvian wife. They moved in on the 16th of January and plan to stay for 2 months. Conveniently, as of now at least, most of them are living in the church... so we don't have quite the strain on our porcelain as we did last year.

We're also working up in Pariantana on two projects... one is a write-a-book project on literacy with 15 elementary-school age students. I purchased a book of fairy tales while in Lima in December, and we start each class with story time. The kids love it! Next week they will really start writing their books.

The other project is phase #2 of our Healthy Homes initiative, where we once again are promoting the Improved Stove. This project was started due to the extreme interest shown by the community, and we are already almost 2 months in. We are again complementing the stove implementation with a nutrition course, a training on how to raise improved guinnea pigs in healthy cages, and also implementing home-based native plant garden. While World Vision is not working in Pariantana this year, the health post is assisting in the nutrition course. The funds will come from a Small Projects Assistance grant through the Peace Corps, complemented by a few other local/regional donor agencies.

English class continues on Tuesday evenings from 5-7pm and Yoga on Wednesdays from 4-6. We have increased participation now that the kids are on summer vacation. Benj still has his radio program, Tres Leches, every wednesday, although the radio CPU has been in Lima for cleaning for at least 2 weeks now.

The rains have hit hard. We have only seen the mountain for about 4 hours all week, and the afternoons have been reserved for indoor activities, hot tea, cribbage, books, and work planning.

We are thinking about you all lots and missing you.

With love, L & B