Peace Corps: Peru

My Photo
Location: Lalaquiz, Piura, Peru

Sunday, September 21, 2008

More than a marathon, waterfalls and farewells


The day of the big race finally came on the 5th of July. It was organized by a volunteer in a beach town about 5 hrs from Piura City. Here in Peru running for fun doesn’t really exist as a concept except from small circles of people in Lima. Between the four different races (5k, 10k, 21k and 42k) there were somewhere around 140 participants (a large chunk of which was volunteers). I of course was planning on running the bit 26miler. Something in my gut told me that it wasn’t a good idea mainly because I had missed a huge part of the training program…I actually didn’t follow any program, but I knew approximately how much I needed to run. Due to the ridiculous rainy season, a foot injury and a number of trips I was only able to max out at 13 miles before the race… was supposed to run 20. When I came down to it, though, I didn’t want to settle for the half marathon. I actually am not a fan of running at all, so if I was going to do it, I was going to do it right, otherwise it would have been a lot of wasted weeks of training. To make things just a little worse, I had been invited to play in a soccer and volleyball tournament in tunal the same week. I hadn’t played either in a long time so following few days my whole body ached like crazy. Long story short, I lined up with the 16 other marathoners and decided to give it my best shot. The course was not ideal.. to say the least. There was not a single stretch of paved road but rather we ran in the desert. It was basically the equivalent of running on a loose gravel road…with a couple sections of deep sand…not like I needed the extra challenge. The course consisted of a number of big loops which I guess wasn’t a bit deal since there was not a single tree, house.. or any type of scenery for that matter. I felt really good for the first 15k’s. I hit the wall at 21… yeah, the half way point. I guess the big turning point in my mental psyche was when this van zoomed up beside me to tell me that I was off course. So I guess I can say that I ran more than a marathon.. about a quarter mile extra. Talk about a horrible feeling of hoplessness. Fortunatley/unfortunately, however, I am a very proud person so I would have died of exhaustion before calling it quits. Plus all my friends were waiting at the finish line! I’m honestly not sure I survived it, but I did. I broke no records, but I finished. I even beat some people! I finished in the top ten…. And the bottom 10. Not many people can say that!

Independence day here is july 28th. We get a few days off for the holiday so I went with 5 friends to a place called Chachapoyas which is about 14 hours by bus from Piura. It is the home of some of the largest preincan ruins in Peru as well as the 3rd highest waterfall in the world according to National Geographic (some websites rank it 15th but 3rd sounds a lot better to me J) We enjoyed the beautiful landscape and even camped in a flat section in the middle of the fall. The interesting thing about the waterfall is that I was only “discovered” a few years ago. Apparently because of a funny local belief involving some evil mermaid none of the natives ever explored the area.

The last couple months workwise have been fairly relaxed. I’ve been trying to get the groups ready for the next volunteer who will be arriving later this month. Both the boys’ cake business and the lady weavers have a long way to go. I have, however, been quite pleased by the progress that each group is making.

The weavers have really started to take more initiative. I backed away for a few weeks to see how they would do without anyone urging them to meet weekly and they in fact have met every week. They continue to work on shawls and are now knitting scarves. They are doing a fantastic job and have received a lot of positive feedback. I recently went to them to a fair in one of the nearby caserios. It was the first fair they had been to so they were a bit nervous. I had to walk them through the process of tending to customers after they straight-up ignored the first lady that visited their stand. By the end they did really well, however, explaining their work and having the people try on the pieces. In the coming months they will hopefully continue to work on the group’s organization as well as develop a marketing plan.

The bakers have reached the 300 cake mark and continue to bake more and more every week. They’ve been receive a lot of orders recently and are looking forward to their one year anniversary next month. I had the opportunity to take them down to the city for a couple days so that they could not only see what urban life is all about but also tour the central market, buy ingredients, and most importantly visit the largest supermarket in the city. I had arranged a tour of the bakery and an informal workshop on cake decorating. They workers were extremely kind and patients and were very helpful. They explained their techniques and even let the kids decorate a cake. The boys really enjoyed the visit, especially since they were able to try all the different varieties of pastries! In addition to the supermarket tour I took them to one of my favorite cevicherías and treated them to the best plate of ceviche that they had ever had. We also went out for hamburgers and later to the movie theater. For the 15 yr old who had never been to the city I was a particularly exciting couple of days.

I am writing this entry as I sit on my balcony looking out across the town which has become my home for the past two years. I’ve been trying to enjoy every last moment here because I know that it will be one of those places that I will look back on nostalgically for the rest of my life. It’s a very bittersweet moment really. I’m sad to be leaving the many great friends I have acquired throughout my term here, but at the same time I am extremely excited to see what adventures lay ahead.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The days continue to go by faster and faster. I’m down to under 2 months left here in Tunal. I’ve started to become a bit sentimental, already sad to be leaving… even though it’s obviously still a little ways away… which has maybe been a good thing. I’ve really been trying to appreciate all of my friendships here, the food, music, the slow pace of life…even things that sounds kind of ridiculous like the dirt roads, isolations from the outside world and sometimes even being invited by the old, drunk, unbathed men to a swig of the local moonshine… sounds kind of ridiculous, I’m sure.

The women’s association continues to progress. They have complete their first series of shawls and ponchos and are focusing on product development, defining their designs as well as looking into more possible products. I took a number of their pieces home earlier this month to get the opinions of some women from the states. They seem to have received a good grade as well as an order of 10 ponchos. I am really glad to see that the women are becoming more independent, taking on more responsibilities and initiative. They have recently begun the lengthy process of becoming a legal entity, something that will open up a lot of business opportunities.

The boys are still working daily, now baking around 10 cakes a week. I’ve been working lately to teach them the importance of marketing as well as bookkeeping. They recently purchased t-shirts that they now wear whenever they are working and have also started to advertise via the community loudspeaker. They are also managing their money by themselves using excel. Their latest novelty is funnel cakes. Once a week, in the evening, they carry all of their cooking gear to a central locale and make and sell funnel cakes. It appears to be a hit as everyone seems to be asking for them! They’ve each earned their S./50 needed to buy their MP3 player so they are patiently waiting for them to arrive in the mail as I didn’t have time to buy them when I was in the states.

Trip home
My trip home was extremely short, but well worth it as I not only was able to attend my buddy Tim’s wedding, but was also able to see the majority of my friends and family. I also met my one month only niece, Lily who is absolutely adorable! I was in the states for all of 74 hours of which I think I spent about 5 non-sleeping hours at home. Traveling was took about twice as long, especially state-ward. I took a bus from Piura to Lima which normally takes 14 hours (it’s a very comfortable bus, though, so it sounds worse than it really is!) but at 1:30am it stopped and the driver turned it off. I looked out the window to see dozens of other buses also stopped. Turns out that there was a blockade put on by people from a certain region who were upset at the allocation of funds by a mining company. This basically meant that all ground transport to the north of the country was cut off… if you can believe it, there is only one road that connects the country from north to south… I waited there from for just over 12 hours until finally the blockaders got tired and gave up. I missed a dentist appointment scheduled for that day, but fortunately did not miss my flight.

Marathon Training
After 3 weeks of being on the disabled list, I’ve returned to the marathon training. Unfortunately I’m very far behind schedule. I was supposed to run 20 miles a couple weeks ago, however the farthest I’ve run is 13-14 miles. I’ve kicked it into overdrive lately, however and have been doing some serious training on the hilly dirt roads here. My goal is really just to finish the race(although my pride will be hurt if I have to walk!), so I’m hoping that my last ditch effort will be good enough with only a week and a half left until the big day.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Rounding the bend..

After 10 days of being stuck in Piura city, I finally was able to head home to Tunal. Due to one of the worst rainy seasons in years (since el niño in 1983 and 1998) the whole region was greatly affected. Many of the mountain roads were washed away or buried by mudslides isolating various districts here in Piura as well as other departments (states). Some of my doctor friends who had to return to Tunal spent two days crossing rivers and flooded by valleys in inner tubes and horse drawn carts and walking for hours. They fortunately got a ride in a mining company’s pickup truck saving them from having to walk another 8-10 hrs. Fortunately my return wasn’t so urgent so I could enjoy the comforts of the dry city why my friends suffered, eating only rice and eggs for days since no trucks could deliver supplies.

It continues to rain, but very little. Finally everything is starting to dry out. I’m tired to washing mold off of my kitchen utensils! My corn field didn’t yield even one ear of corn… probably the end of my agricultural ventures ;). The word is, however that the rain will prove to be very beneficial for many areas here. A lot of the other crops seem to be doing well.

In late march I began training for a marathon which is being organized by a volunteer who lives in coastal town about 4 hrs from Piura. I’m not a huge fan of running, so for me it’s been more of a test of discipline. The rain and mud have made training a bit difficult here, limiting me most days to running laps around the soccer field. With the hundreds of laps that I’ve run, I’ve made quite a nice path in the uncut grass…so nice that it’s become a popular highway for the local livestock. Every time I run I find more and more hurdles of natural fertilizer.
This past week I was in Lima for our close of service conference (doesn’t that sounds crazy!) and decided to take advantage of the beautiful running path along the beach to do my longest run yet of about 14 miles. All went well until about 3 hrs after I finished the run when my right foot became rather sore. Turns out that the sudden switch from cross country running on soft grass and dirt to the hard cement was not a good idea (it may also have had something to do with the 6 year old cross trainers that I was wearing for the run.. I bought a new pair the next day). Due to the likely march fracture I may be sidelined for the next couple weeks… probably the most important in the training process.

Workwise, the baking business continues to be a success. The boys have fully paid off the oven and continue investing half of their earnings into the business. They have been baking 6 days a week and are only ten cakes away from the 200 mark. Word is spreading throughout the community resulting in an increase in orders to go along with the cupcakes that they sell daily in the streets. Unfortunately someone stole 100 sols from them which was really a shame, but they have since been able to recuperate nearly all of the loss. They are really excited because I told them that if they can each save up 60 sols (just over $20) that I’ll buy them (cheap) mp3 players when I go to the states in June. I’m also hoping to treat them to a weekend in Piura city since they rarely ever get to leave Tunal.

The weaving project that I have been working on is finally gaining that I only have 3 months left here. We had the first workshop two weeks ago which went really well. Organizing the project has really been a nightmare, between the ridiculously long beurocratic process of obtaining the financing from the municipality, being semi-swindled by an NGO, fighting the rainy weather, finding a teacher.. etc.. it’s just not been fun, so I was very glad to see that the women really enjoyed the workshop and learned a lot. They have been progressing very quickly on their first shawls and ponchos. They actually ran out of yarn, and of course my order for more yarn has yet to come in, so we are face with another bump in the road.

I’ve continued working on the Small Business Development program video with a fellow volunteer. We’ve cut 10 hrs of video down to just over an hour. The video will be used in the training of the new volunteers arriving next month.

As I mentioned earlier, I was just in lima at the COS conference. It was a very bittersweet time, as it was the last time that all the volunteers in my class will be together at the same time. We’re quickly approaching the end of our service, completing 2 years in country next month. Our term officially ends September 1, however we have been given permission to leave up to one month early. My plan is to stay as long as I can, so I’ll probably head out the last days of august. Though I really haven't a clue where I'll be or what I'll be doing after Peace Corps, I´ve begun updating my resume and the rest of the documents that I might need for the next adventure.

Other exciting news: I’m an uncle! Jonas and Priscilla are now the proud parents of a new baby girl, Lilly Asha Nelson. Congrats bro!!

Thursday, April 03, 2008


For the past 3 days I have been patiently waiting here in Piura city to be able to return home to Tunal. Due to the phenomenon La Niña we’ve had a very abnormal rainy season. It has not rained this hard since 1998, the last time the area was affected by El Niño. It has cause a lot of problems in the area such as crop damage, mudslides, cutting off towns and districts, an increase of sicknesses etc. To get to Tunal one must pass through a number of small ravines as well as Rio Seco (Dry River). Rio Seco which is normally almost completely dry (thus its name) has become a roaring river. Busses and trucks can no long cross it forcing passengers to cross on intertubes and horse drawn carts. It is quite an experience. The past few days it has actually rained even more than before making a mess of the dirt road leading to Tunal and making the ravines impassable.

I spent nearly the whole months of March in Tunal in which I saw some of the hardest rains I think I’ve seen in my life. One particularly hard rain caused two house to collapse and a lot of other damage. Needless to say, it’s been a pretty adventurous season. I planted a field of corn in February which, like a lot of crops in the area is looking pretty bad because of the excessive rain. For me it’s obviously not the end of the world, but for my friends and neighbors who depend of the harvest to support their families it’s a source of a lot of preoccupation. Forecasters have said that it appears that the rain will continue for at least another two weeks. I’m waiting for any opportunity to venture back to my home!

In February my buddy Timmy came to visit. We had a very good time in the Iquitos on a very brief jungle tour. It was great to reconnect with him and to be able to spend some quality time together before he ties the knot in June!

My brother Jonas also just visited me. We spent a few days in Lima and also took a 15 hrs bus ride to a city called Arequipa. We didn’t really do very many touristy activities, but rather did what we do best: Eat good food!! He treated me to the first Indian dish I’ve had since coming here (at the only advertised Indian restraint in all of Lima!). We ate the whole spectrum, from the traditional Peruvian dishes including the famous fried guinea pig to pizza, pasta, Mexican food…and even a big mac at Mcdonalds! What a treat! It had been a long time since we’d been able to enjoy a good 4 days together. It’s also the last time I’ll see him before he becomes a father in May. (congrats Joe and Priscilla!)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Machu-Pichu, Videos, Cakes...

It’s a bit strange to already be receiving emails about my close of service conference, but I guess it’s only three months away. In training all of the “senior volunteers” said that the second year really flies by, and I remember thinking how far off that seemed. I technically have just over 6 months until I head back to the states, but it does feel like the home stretch now that we’re all having to seriously think about our future plans. Between future planning and a few trips here and there I’m trying to stay focused on my work here in Tunal. The last few months have been rather difficult simply because I’ve been gone for at least a week each month.

In December I met mom and dad in Lima from where we left for Cusco and on to Machu Pichu. We had a fantastic time. Here in Peru the big Christmas celebration is the night of 24th. A good friend of mine, a dentist intern who I met in Tunal, invited us to celebrate with his family. The previous year I was in Tunal so for me it was neat to experience the same tradition in an upper-middle class household. Generally the dinner begins at 12am (technically the 25, I know) and goes until everyone tires out. The next morning mom dad and I had our own mini celebration in the hotel. We even had a mini Christmas tree that they brought over to give it the Christmas feel!

Cusco was the next stop on the trip. Obviously I just couldn’t live in Peru for 2 years and never visit the famous Machu Pichu, so we flew to Cusco from where we took a 4 hr train ride to the ruins. From the bus station you have to take a bus up to the peek of the mountain. Mom wasn’t a huge fan of the rollercoaster-like driving style as we nearly met the other busses head-on at the hairpin turns ;). The rainy season is from December to around March or April, so I was a bit afraid that we’d get rained out, however we were very fortunate and had a beautiful sunny morning tour of the old Incan town. As we sat down for lunch it began to pour… nice timing. Machu Pichu really is as beautiful as it is said to be. It has one of the most beautiful views I think I’ve ever seen.

We had such a great time sightseeing, dining out a spending quality time together after not seeing each other for seven months. It was especially nice to be able to spend Christmas with family after spending it alone the previous year.

As far as work goes, I’ve been able to keep myself busy, continuing with the same projects:

The baker boys have celebrated their 100th cake, now having sold over 2,000 slices! Two of the boys who specialize in selling the slices throughout the town have gone to Piura and Lima for the rainy season leaving the two boys who actually bake the cakes and one who sells. The seller is the youngest of the group, 11 year old, and is a bit shy, so he refuses to sell anywhere but in the municipality and the health center J. Thanks to some very thoughtful Christmas presents the boys have recently began making cupcakes instead of cutting slices from a cake. It’s a lot easier for them and they actually make a sol (about 30 cents) more per batter. Two days ago I introduced them to sugar cookies which they love. They made two batches which they quickly sold to people who even came to my room to taste the novelty. In the next couple months the goal is for the boys to learn and practice cake decorating as they are now receiving a good number of birthday cake orders. I also plan to teach them to keep basic accounting on excel as well as work with them on business planning and market research. They seem to really be enjoying the idea of having their own business.

I continue to work with the weaving group; however we have encountered a number of obstacles. After the NGO who was going to give workshops decided not to help I had to rewrite the project proposal to get financing from the municipality. We had to wait until Jan 1 to request the money and just recently we receive the positive results. Returning after my Cusco vacation, I was ready to get to work. I had found a new teacher willing to come to Tunal and give classes. About an hour after arriving the president of the association came to my house to inform me that she was leaving for Lima. She had recently finished her contract as a preschool teacher and had been offered a job as a nanny in Lima. Not only did she leave, but also the secretary left for Piura to study. That was a blow. I though for a time that that was going to be the end of the project, however I met with the remaining members and they assured me that they wanted to continue. We have since met a couple times to coordinate for the workshops which will hopefully begin at the end of this month.

The last two weeks of January I visited three other volunteer to continue the filming of the Small Business video project. My good friend Steve joined me for the filming. We now have 9 hours of footage which must be cut down to an hour. The idea of the video is to examine the 3 goals of the small business program of Peace Corps Peru featuring volunteers’ projects to give real life examples. We’ve got about 2 months to do the editing which means a lot of time in front of the computer.

At the end of the filming trip we met up with 40 some other volunteers in a city called Cajamarca. Cajamarca is known for its dairy products like cheese, yogurt and a caramel-like sweet called manjarblanco. The city is also well known for its annual Carnaval fiesta festival (similar to that of Rio de Janeiro). It includes a lot of dancing, parades and most notably water balloon battles!! It’s quite a crazy idea that an entire city would join in-from little kids to grandparents- but that’s how it is. It just so happens that I was there for the big Saturday. That specific day they have what must be the biggest water battle in the world...although it’s not just water. Everyone buys bags of paint, shoe polish, or basically anything that makes a mess, and they runs around in the streets making sure that everyone is well painted by the end of the day! Let me tell you, it was one of the most fun days I’ve had in a while!! By about 11am I was completely covered in paint. We had a third story room in the hotel with a nice big balcony from which we through hundreds of balloons.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Jungle Fever

After every entry I make on this blog I swear to myself that I’ll be better disciplined and update it more frequently. Well, that hasn’t worked out too well for me so far. So once again I’ll try to give a very brief update on the past month+.

At the end of October, 4 of my good buddies (other volunteers) came to visit me for my birthday. One walked for 5 hrs and the others came by bus from up to 10 hrs away… talk about good friends!!! It was really nice having English speaking friends at site for once. We volunteers tend to enjoy speaking English in our communities so that the people understand that Spanish is not our first language (we’re not really as dumb as we sound!. In some villages the fact that not everyone in the world speaks their languages is really hard to comprehend.) That night my Peruvian friends threw me a party so we had a nice dinner, cocktails and danced until the bus passed by at 2am.

In November I took advantage of some vacation days that I had saved up and went on a week and a half trip to the jungle with 8 other volunteers. For being a fairly small country, Peru is very geographically have three main regions: coast, mountains and jungle. The final destination of the trip was a city called Iquitos, which happens to be the largest city inaccessible by road in the world. Only by plane and boat can you get there. We decided to take the scenic route to get there, taking a bus for 17 hrs, a car for another 4 and then a 2 ½ day boat ride. Though it was a pretty tiring voyage, it was well worth it. The bus ride was pretty unpleasant since the roads wound up and down mountains for a good 10 hrs. That combined with the odor of urine from the bathroom (whose door wouldn’t stay shut) made it fairly difficult to sleep. We spent a few hr in a small city called Tarapoto where we ate and bought hammocks for the trips. From there we took a rollercoaster car ride to the port. It was a mixture of off roading in 4 inches of mud and literally squealing tires around tight corners at 70mph. Apparently the drivers have some sort of daily competition, so it’s literally a race.

Fortunately we survived the ride, only to arrive at the dark port, greeted by 3 drunk men. We found our way to the boat and (after paying off the drunk guys so that they’d leave) boarded the three story cargo boat. In the bottom floor they were loading all sorts of fruits and sacks of rice and the top two floors we for passengers. The way it works is you find an open place on the floor and hang your hammock up. There was not a whole lot of security, but since we were a nice sized group we had no problems.

A day a half later we arrive at a small town called Lagunas where we would take a 4 day canoe trip into the heart of the jungle. Each hollowed out canoe had a guide (who did all the paddling) and two of us. We spent a good 5-6 hrs a day in the boats floating down the winding river taking in the beauty of the jungle. It really was exactly how i´d pictured it… a national geographic type of thing. We saw monkeys, sloths, snakes, tarantulas, macaws, piranhas, and even the rare pink dolphin. We camped out under the stars and enjoyed fresh caught fish everyday. It’s really difficult to describe just how amazing it was. I shot a good bit of video so I’ll try to put some online soon.

From there we spent another day and a half on the boat until finally arriving in Iquitos. It was a very tropical city, very hot and humid. We had a great time there visiting a couple zoo-type places where we played with monkeys and held boas etc. but I must say that the highlight for a bunch of us was eating every single meal at a tex-mex restraint. It was like a dream come true. BBQ chicken, burritos, alligator nuggets, meaty hamburgers, french toast… and the list goes on… I guess it’s not exactly what you’d imagine would be the most memorable part of the trip, but it’s been a long time since we’ve been able to eat good hardy American(/Mexican) food.

So anyway, after all that excitement, I am back in site for another couple weeks. There have been a number of developments on the project front:
We started weaving workshops about a month ago. The first couple classes went well, however there was a problem with the project that the NGO sent me from Piura so they no longer are working with us. The deal was that they were to pay half of the instructors salary and we would pay the other half. They later decided that they we not going to pay her, so that kind of messed things up. Fortunately we have been able to continue with the workshops with the help of a woman from the community who knows a lot about crochet. Long story short, the ladies are progressing well, reading diagrams and getting ready to begin putting together actual products.

The baker boys have been having a lot of success. They have become well know now throughout town and have sold over 65 cakes in the last 3 months. We’ve also been working on baking panetón which is a fruitcake-like bread that nearly every able family in the country buys around Christmas time. They boys are really excited about their business and the fact that they can now make the cakes without any help. They’re now getting orders for birthday cakes and for graduations etc. I’m looking into the possibility of getting a grant to buy a better oven and a nice mixer.

I´ve recently started working on a bimonthly with a number of the high school students aimed at promoting communication between the various institutions in the community and the general population. The students are writing articles and I also hope to use it as a forum to discuss development. Our first issue will hopefully be released on the 17th of this month, although we have a lot of work to do before then.

In other news, I have once again been pulled into being the “padrino” of TWO graduations: kindergarden and the primarty school. This means that I have to buy a lot of presents.

Mom and dad are arriving in Lima on the 23rd for which I am extremely excited. We´ll be in Lima for Christmas and then heading to Cusco for a few days to see Machu Pichu.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The last couple months have been quite eventful. I really should have written a few more entries to cover everything, but i guess I´ve been a bit lazy in that regard. To make up for it, I´ll try to write a quick review of each month.

As I wrote before, my sister-in-law´s cousin, rachel came to live here in Tunal for a few weeks. The time went by really quickly, but we had a lot of fun. For me, it was great having an english speaking friend here. At the beginning of the month i also changed my living quarters. I moved one house down where i know rent a second floor room which opens to a nice balcony, with a great view of the town. I moved mostly have a bit more privacy and independence. (I also was becoming a little sick of eating rice an eggs!) I bought a small gas stove and all the necessary cooking supplies and have since been enjoying all of the dishes that i had been missing so much!! Rachel and i spent a significant amount of time in the kitchen(mostly because i was so excited about the availability of american food).

At the end of the month i went to lima for mid-service med checks. I enjoyed spending a week with the other volunteers from my group. Being in Lima is also a good opportunity to buy all of the things that aren’t sold here in Piura. As far as how the checkups went... medically all was well... but my streak of 23 years cavity free ended... with an unheard-of 4 fillings. To this day i still think that the dentists used me to make a few extra bucks... what are the odds of having so many cavities after such a clean i´ve taken better care of my teeth here in Peru that i ever did in the states!! Well, anyway, it wasn´t a fun day, but i´ve since recovered.:)

September was Tunal´s big anniversary, which means that all of the extended families came to visit from all over the country more than doubling the normal population. The fiesta officially lasts for two days, the 14th and 15th, however pretty much the whole week is filled with festivities including a Miss Tunal beauty pageant(i was a judge :)), a cultural dance presentation, the passing of the bull through the streets, a donkey race, bicycle race, a fair and 2 dances. By the end, I was about ready for everyone to leave and to get back to normal life.

Workwise things are really picking up. I continue to work with the group of women weavers. At this point we have organized the association, electing the executive board and have raised funds to begin a series of workshops. There are 27 women in the association 19 or which are from my town and the other 8 from a village about a two hour walk away. I´ve been visiting the village quite frequently by bicycle which cuts travel time down a bit. The women are going to be focusing on crocheting shawls. I have organized with an NGO a series of workshops which will enable the women to produce quality products. The plan is to begin in November, although it is contingent upon the financing from the municipality. I recently went took one of the women to a Peace Corps sponsored artisan fair in the US embassy in Lima where we were able to get a good look at some of the other groups that have been working for years.

One my most enjoyable activities of late is baking cakes with a group of 5 little boys. Since early September i´ve been teaching them how to bake cakes which they then sell throughout the community. The first time we bake was for the fair during the fiesta in September. They ended up selling 10 cakes and 10 dozen cookies in 2 days. Since then they´ve perfected the banana, chocolate, and vanilla cakes and oatmeal cookies. I´m trying to use it as an opportunity to teach them about starting a business and how to manage money. Since there are no other cake-bakers in town, they are having a lot of success. In one month(8 days of baking/selling) they´ve sold over 25 cakes and have made a profit of 112 soles. They´ve decided to invest half of the profit in the business so we´ve recently purchased a very nice gas oven/stove which they will pay off in 6 months.

I've recently been looking into a number of other possibilities for project, one dealing with bees and the other with guinea pigs which I´ll hopefully be able to work on in the coming months. I´ve also added another second english class which gives me something to do three nights a week. We now meet in my room where I have a marker board and the ability to show videos.

Well, this is really a pretty poor recap of the last couple months, but it´s time that I stop putting it off. I´ll try to throw a few more quick update on the good ol blog in the next few weeks.