Posted by: stacylynn12 | February 6, 2012

Fiesta!

The sign at the entrance to the Lazy Dog Inn (below it says the same in Quechua).



We’ve been here at the Lazy Dog Inn now for almost 3 weeks.  The dogs might be Lazy but there is no time for the humans to lounge or linger idly too long.  The views are magnificient when we get them, though it’s quite cloudy most days.  The food is amazing.  When there are guests at the lodge we are treated to delicious homemade breakfasts and dinners.  When there are no guests we get to cook for ourselves – also a treat as it’s been a while since I’ve cooked over anything other than a camp stove.

After our busy days we usually retire to the main lodge for dinner and enjoy a few moments of quiet in front of a crackling fire.  The boys fall asleep like puppies in front of the hearth and we have to carry them down the hill, sometimes in the rain, to our cabin and their beds.

The Inn is located about an hour up into the mountains outside of Huaraz.  There is no public transportation that services this area so if we want to head to town we have three options.  1.  Hitch a ride with Diana (the owner) when she makes a trip into town in her truck.  The boys love to ride in the back of the truck down the very, very bumpy road.  This is the direct route into town though the road condition is so bad that taxi drivers won’t drive up or down it so if we can’t ride with Diana we often… 2. Walk for about an hour down to the town of Marian where we can catch a collectivo (small public minivan) into town.  Option number 3 involves taking a taxi which we often do for the return trip up to the Inn because A) it’s a long walk uphill for the kids and B) it’s often dark by the time we head home.  We have to take the long way around on the better road so it’s about an hours drive.  Anyway we do it, it is an adventure!

The view from the main lodge at the Lazy Dog Inn, looking down hill to our casita (on the right).

We are housed in the purple and orange building – here we are doing schoolwork on our porch.


The owners of the Inn, Diana and Wayne, in addition to running their business have started an organization called Andean Alliance – a Peruvian NGO (Non Governmental Organization) “focused on supporting “grass roots” community development planning capabilities and implementing programs that strengthen the educational and economic base of Andean communities while enhancing their social and environmental conditions.”

The school, Yurak Yacu, is the first stage of a long term community project that will ultimately, hopefully bring opportunities from tourism to the local people.  Currently there is a early childhood education program that operates year round, a summer school program that helps school age kids get caught up or ahead and a leadership program that is teaching young adults skills they will need to enter the mountain guiding profession.

Our weekly routine is centered around the school schedule.  Monday through Thursday the boys and I head down the hill to the school for the preschool class.  Josh is participating, more or less willingly.  He’s a shy kid and it’s encouraging to see him sitting and doing activities with children he does not know (yet) and who speak a different language than he. It doesn’t hurt that the teacher passes out chocolate cookies during circle time.  I help out in the class as well… extra hands with little kids is always welcome.

Joshua’s name joins the group


Joshua and new friend Yesenia having snack time

Bodhi has been making new friends which comes as no surprise.  Just yesterday one of the local kids came up to the Lazy Dog looking for Bodhi.  He wanted to play.  There isn’t a ready made class for him like there is for Josh but he does quite well, joining in with the preschoolers where he can and playing with the older kids who come early for their summer school classes.

Snack break

As for me, I have been thrust head first into my role as “Professora Stacy”.  Though when the sweet children say my name it comes out sounding more like Daisy or Estacy.  The St sound is a tough one for them.  It’s only been 2 weeks since the summer school program began at Yurak Yacu and since we got involved in the preschool program but already I’m in love with these children and dreading the day I have to say goodbye to them.  They face challenges and obstacles that we simply can’t fully understand.

The summer school program offers a mathematics class and a communications class.  I am helping to teach the communications class.  In the first week of school it was not clear who or if anyone would show up.  When they did we were all excited but quickly realized there were many facets of the program that needed to be sorted out. For one, given that this is a new program, there is no set curriculum.  Even if there was there is no one program that could meet all of the student’s needs.  There are children in the class who are going into grade 4 and who are more or less on track at grade level and there are kids who are going into grade 1 or 2 who cannot yet recognize their letters.  Add to this the complication of kids who are native Quechua speakers and no teachers who speak Quechua.

After two weeks things have settled into a bit of a rhythm though it’s still evolving.  Recently, I have been starting each class with a game centered around the theme of communication.  Some of the kids are so timid that just getting them to talk during an activity seems like a small victory. I spend quite a bit of time preparing for these classes as my Spanish is still sub par compared to where it should be to be in this role.  The students are kind to me though and they correct me when I make obvious mistakes.

After the warm up game we often split into groups to try to work with students on a more individual level.  There are 3 other teachers helping with this class so the ratio of teachers to students is fairly good.  I was working with the more advanced students but when I realized upon trying to review their homework with them, that I had no idea what on earth they had written or were saying, we decided it was best if I work with the more beginner students.

The Communications class
Yesterday I worked with 2 girls who are struggling to learn their letters.  We practiced writing them, we sang the ABC song (in Spanish), we made playdoh letters and we made an alphabet puzzle.  One of the children had barely spoken before then and during our time together she laughed and sang with me.  The other child, it seems obvious, has a learning disability.  I am not in a position to diagnose such a thing but the teachers are in agreement.  Unfortunately there is little support for a child like this and she will undoubtedly be lost in the system.

When we are at home I often complain passionately about the education system in our city and our country, and with just cause.  There are mountains of problems with few solutions.  However, with the perspective that only travel can bring about, there is much to be celebrated in our education system too.

Now, lest all work and no play make the Earlywines a dull family, last week we were invited to a fiesta.  The community was celebrating the opening of the second phase of the project – the multi purpose room.  Adjacent to the classroom there is now another room designed to be a library, computer lab, secondary classroom and community meeting space.  The buildings here are constructed entirely by hand of adobe mud bricks. They are simple yet seem solid. Randy has been spending some time painting the interior of the room a bright, cheery yellow.

Adobe mud bricks for the school project
Randy puts in some hours painting the new multi purpose room at Yurak Yacu


On the morning of the fiesta we headed down to the school to see what was happening.  Several community members had gathered to begin preparations for the meal.  There were women peeling and grating squash for a soup.  There were fires being built for cooking and two of the most enormous pots I have ever seen.  Potatoes were peeled and put into one of the pots.  There were enough potatoes to feed a village – literally.  And then there was the cuy.

Preparing the potatoes

They are done!


Cuy (pronounced coo-ee) is guinea pig.  Though I have not seen them yet myself, I’m told that it is common for families to keep guinea pigs in their kitchen much like we keep chickens in our backyard.  They split the little creatures open, remove the innards and deep fry them – head, claws and all.  Yum.  In all my travels I must shamefully admit, I have managed to avoid sampling some of the more exotic foods we have encountered.  There was the Yak Butter Tea in Tibet but a drink can hardly count as a food.  Cuy seemed like a mellow introduction to the wild side of culinary adventures.  I figured it probably tasted like chicken.  

Cuy, before and after cooking

While the food was being prepared there was one entrepreneurial woman selling plates of Chocho – a common traditional made from the seeds of a lupine plant and served along with cancha or toasted corn – for 1 sole each, a sort of appetizer I guess.  I’m not sure but I think she might have only been charging the gringos. 

 

Chocho


People began to trickle in and before long there was quite a crowd.  There were some presentations, accolades and gratitudes for those involved in bringing the project to fruition.  Special honor was given to our new friend and fellow volunteer, Sarah from Edmonton, Canada.  She is the project director for a Canadian NGO called Sombrilla that is providing vital funding for the project. 


Sarah and Yovanna

Following the presentations there was food.  It was an informal affair and folks were scattered about the grounds with their families waiting to be served.  Bodhi and I shared a simple but tasty bowl of soup with a hunk of rather tough sheep meat in it.  While we awaited the main course of cuy and potatoes we listened to a man calling out the names of families present.  As each name was called, a family member would go up to the cooking area with a bucket and wait for it to be filled.  Since each community member contributed in some way to the preparations for the fiesta, everyone got to go home with some of the food.  Given the size of the pots there was no doubt that there was enough to go around.


Buckets to take food home in.


After we finished our soup we received a plate with two pieces of cuy and a pile of potatoes.  All in all it wasn’t bad.  There wasn’t a ton of meat on the wee little creature’s bones and though the locals eat the skin I could not bring myself to try the tough, leathery flap.  Randy managed to escape the whole cuy shenanigan citing a moral objection since he could not get his mind off of “Miss Piggy” his childhood pet guinea pig.  The local people think it is of course, hysterical that anyone would keep a cuy for a pet.  Funny, funny Americans.

As with any good party there was dancing and drinking.  There is a ceremonial custom here of passing a beer around throughout the party. The bottle comes to you with a cup, you pour yourself a small swig, drink it down and then emphatically toss the remaining drops on the floor before passing the bottle and cup on to the next person.  Never you mind that everyone drinks from the same cup.

Eventually, the party began to wind down and the boys and I went home.  When I reflect on the day I see that while much was different from any party I’ve ever been to, much was also the same.  The food we ate, the clothing people wore and the language they spoke is all different.  But the essence of celebration is quite similar.  The world over, when people gather to celebrate they eat, drink, talk and dance.  Here, just like at home, there were teenagers going ga-ga over each other and sneaking beer in a corner.  There were children jumping and hollering. There were adults drinking and dancing.  There was laughter.

What a privilege to participate in this celebration, to have a glimpse into life here in the rural Andes.  This is the sort of experience you do not get as a tourist passing through.  It is the sort of experience that makes the world seem just a little bit smaller.



Florentino, Esmeralda and Nayeli


All around the world boys like trucks



Esmeralda has some swing time

Joshy partakes in the swing fun



Deyvis

Hand washing before snack time

Snack time

Preparing for the fiesta at the school

Chicha Morada – a non alcoholic beverage made from purple corn



A girl from the community



Women listening in on the presentations – the colorful wraps are their version of rain jackets



A couple watches the dancing

 A grandmother of one of the students

Serving soup, cuy and potatoes

Florentino



Eliana and a relative



Women washing the enormous pots in the stream after the fiesta

The dancing begins outside

And continues inside



Nancy and her son Juan Carlos

Little Ñork joins the band

Noemí

Yovanna

Pensively watching the dancing

Watching the pot

Too cute

Dancing with the niños

A note:  I must take this opportunity to share some exciting and shamelessly self promoting news.  I am now officially a Guest Author at Vagabond Family – a website for traveling families.  If you are so inclined you can check it out at http://www.vagabondfamily.org.  My post is called “Dominican Republic with Children”.  There is also a short bio under the “Authors” tab.  Thank you for indulging me!  


I must also include a few more photos that do not really relate to the theme of this post but are simply worthy because of the serious cuteness of the subjects.

A different kind of fiesta…

The boys were invited to a birthday party at the house of our new friends – Jenn, Ted, Cole and Noah.  Cole turned 6 and had a Knights themed party.  Too much fun was had by all.

Ted and Josh practicing their archery skills

King Cole, the birthday boy


Handsome Sir Bodhi







Responses

  1. Wow, amiga, it’s so cool to see how well things are working out for you guys in Huaraz. Though I think the word choice of “things working out for you” doesn’t really accurately reflect the amount of research, hard work, and open-mindedness with which you have sought and then embraced opportunities. Your pictures are beautiful and your writing is, once again, thought-provoking and fun to read. Thanks for keeping us all in the loop!
    Not much new to report here, except that my next big travel plans are official: my proposed trip with students to Ecuador and the Galápagos in June/July got enough students to run… so I´m getting paid to spend two weeks taking kids on an amazing adventure there! I leave (almost?) exactly the day you all get back to work in Seattle (June 21st), but I hope we´ll get to overlap for a few days – long enough to say hello and make a plan for a better reunion later in the summer.
    Lots of love to you and the whole family! How is Bodhi doing with the books?
    Love,
    Kelly

  2. It all looks like a lot of fun and a grand adventure!

  3. I love reading your posts and the pictures are great. Those children really are adorable (yours included!)
    -Nancy

  4. What beautiful and fascinating blog posts, Stacy.
    It is such a pleasure to follow you all on this journey.

  5. We are loving every entry Stacy! We always enjoy the latest, and look forward to the next. Really love the photos of the kids in this post. BTW, was that a smartphone in Yovanna’s hand? What is the technology like there? Hugs all around, Sean/Annie

  6. Hi Professora Stacy, Once again I enjoyed your story, very interesting.
    Pictures very colorful. Joshua is so cute and Bodhi has grown so much. What a adventure.
    Keep the stories coming.
    Lucette

  7. Professora Stacy, great write up and pics! I want to sit in on circle time and have some choco cookies!

  8. Beautiful photos Stacy!! You captured some really great portraits of the people in the community. And congrats on being a guest author – very well-deserved. 🙂 Love you guys!!

  9. Love this entry – and just linked it to my blog on “giving back” – hope that is OK. All the Best for your remaining time out in the world 🙂
    Anne
    http://anvl.travellerspoint.com/35/

    • That’s great! Thanks Anne!


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