Remember That Volunteer Meeting?

Long overdue would be an understatement. Apologies for this post’s tardiness! While I’ve gotten back into the groove of things here, I haven’t really gotten back into the ebb and sort-of-flow of updating this blog. I know. Excuses, excuses.

Remember all that time ago (less than two weeks), the night I broke my clavicle? That very night was also my first volunteer meeting since being here. This particular meeting was very special to me because I was given the opportunity to help plan it – something that was equally terrifying as it was exciting. I’ve written about it on a second blog – the one I write for the Omprakash Foundation. Please take a minute or two to check it out! 

Regarding post-op life, my clavicle is doing pretty well as far as I can tell. I’m sure my surgeon isn’t going to be super thrilled about how fast I got back into motor-taxis, but…yeah there really isn’t any way of compensating for that one. There’s not much I can do about it – unless someone would like to repave (and pave) some roads or drive me around in a car with top-notch shocks. Honestly though, the amount of pain and discomfort that I have decreases ten fold each day, so at that rate I’m thinking that this will be a very smooth recovery. On Monday afternoon I have a doctor appointment and I’ll definitely know more about the timeline of my recovery after.

So in the mean time, I will do my best to maintain some continuity this little blog. For a while it may be lacking in the picture department because my camera is right-handed and my right hand hangs out in a sling most of the time these days. But who knows – I may be back to my shutterbug ways in no time.

First Day 2.0

Today marks the grand one-week anniversary of the infamous mototaxi accident and the breaking of my clavicle. How time flies! It was fitting that today was my first day back at CEDED and I couldn’t have been more happy to be back.

As I was on my way walking to CEDED, I ran into Hannah and Roxana as they were shopping for tomorrow’s field trip for Voices of Youth (more later).  I decided to hang out with them for a while before finishing the trek up. It felt great to be able to be out and about again, especially in one of my favorite places: the mercado. After we finished shopping, Roxana took a moto up the hill because she had to carry a lot of groceries (they included 60 bananas) and I walked up by myself to the center. Even though I am well aware of the convenience of using a taxi to get up the hill, I was pretty content to walk it up because it’s quite the reminder of the fact that I am even able to walk up that hill. If I had broken my femur or my hip or sustained an injury that took away mobility of that nature, things would be incredibly more difficult. My first day back probably wouldn’t have been today, that’s for sure.

This afternoon’s classes were the same as they were a week ago – music and baking. I was really excited to see all of my equipo in the CEDED again, the guitar instructor Andy, the woman who leads the baking class, Roxana, her family and all the kids. [Roxana (and her 10 month old) went to the clinic in Villa with me and Hannah the night of the accident and were with me until Emily and I left for San Isidro.] I got there a little after 3pm and the classes start at 4pm.

Música was filled with a lot of younger kids today – all probably younger than 11. While it’s great that there are more students coming, it’s a little difficult to keep their attention for two hours. Today we drew and practiced playing six guitar chords: Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Si. If you are familiar with music composition/theory, those should look pretty familiar. However, I’ve never learned how to play guitar chords using that system and so I a little bit of me was learning along with the kids. (Aren’t I always, though?) Because these kids were young, their hands were a little too small to form some of the chords, but it was good to practice with them. Even though I won’t be able to play the guitar for a while (at this rate, I’ll probably be jamming out by next week) it felt good to be able to help.

Once 6pm came around, classes began to wrap up and kids began to go home. Normally, I would head back home around 6:30pm in a taxi with Roxana, Yolekha and Andrew because we all live along the “A”, but because there still were some things to square away before tomorrow’s field trip, we all stayed until a little after 8pm to finish up. ~Tangent Time~ While I sat in a chair like a bump on a log for a majority of those two hours, my heart was full. If I haven’t made this clear before, I am the biggest goober for the people I work with and getting to just sit and be in their company made my day. ~End of Tangent Time~ The original plan was to walk down to the hill and get a moto to our respective houses. However, because it got so late, walking down wasn’t the most ideal option. So, Roxana, Yolekha and I took a moto. Thankfully, I have nothing eventful to report of this adventure. We got in, I sat in the middle, we told the driver to drive really really really slowly and we made our way down. It wasn’t even painful! In fact, the sneeze I just did was more painful than the entire moto ride. But even that wasn’t that bad.

The night culminated in a wonderful Chifa dinner at the little restaurant near home and all was grand. What made this dinner grand was 1. it was the most enjoyable meal I’ve had since my accident 2. it’s Chifa. All in all, it was a very successful day. And yes, I’m going on a field trip tomorrow.

Many Thanks and the Incredibly Necessary Discussion of Hospital Food

With a food-driven blog like mine, how could one expect me not to bring up the hospital food. I would be disappointed if anyone thought otherwise. This blog has priorities.

Most importantly, thank you, thank you, thank you, to all of my family and friends who have left words of encouragement, support and incredible kindness. To y’all back home, expect big hugs when I get back home. To everyone in my second home, Peru, expect as big a hug one can give with one arm.

Now onto some updates:

Surgery went according to plan. I can’t really say more than that because well, I was sort of asleep during all of it. When I woke up in their post-op room of sorts, the first few things I said were “qué rapido” and when I can eat food. (I hadn’t eaten since the night before, due to doctor’s orders.) My Spanish is far from perfect, but I’m still pretty sure that the nurses told me that I couldn’t eat for the rest of the day. This was very devastating to post-op-Michelle. I decided to attempt to guilt them into giving me a better answer by asking them if they knew about El Pan de la Chola and explaining that all of my friends were there at the moment (which they were) and how sad I was going to be if they brought me back something and I couldn’t eat it (they didn’t).  Even though they did not give me an answer I could appreciate (or one at all), I decided that they partially-redeemed themselves when one of the nurses told me she liked me eyes. Because hey, I like them too.

The running joke of this particular hospital was how ritzy it was. It was basically a hotel. Ever since Emily and I wandered into the “cafetaría” earlier this week, I had very high expectations for whatever meals I would be given. This cafeteria was essentially a restaurant. It even had its own separate entrance. The business that runs it is a popular chain in Lima and upon seeing large carts with the same logo in the hospital halls, we were convinced they catered for its patients. My dinner the night of my surgery wasn’t too shabby. It was chicken, a vegetable medley, two cups of jello, wanton soup and a cup of mate tea.  I couldn’t do the wanton soup. I don’t think anyone could. Because my right arm was in a sling and my left was left partially immobile due to the location of my IV, Emily fed me. I will be forever grateful for the comic relief that was Emily feeding me.

As for the past couple of days, things have been pretty low key. Even though I have joined the elite group who are bionic and therefore, one step closer to being robots, life is pretty normal. Bought some toilet paper. Downloaded OS X Mavericks. (I’m not looking to start any arguments, but one of those achievements was a little more worth while than the other.) Today was more eventful that yesterday, because I rode in a moto taxi for the first time since “the night”. As my friend Melissa said to me via Skype this evening, “You just get right back on that horse.” That I did. It was only a quick ride from the municipality to home and I was safely cushioned with Emily on my left and Andrew on my right. Gotta start somewhere.

Physics: 1 Clavicle: 0

Let us begin the most tangential “Peruvian Food Monday” in the short, yet rich (not really) history of “Peruvian Food Mondays”.

There are many restaurants in Villa El Salvador, but InKafé’s pizza and pasta have special place in the hearts of the volunteers at CEDED. On Saturday night, we had a meeting of all the volunteers – local and international.  We discussed the various perspectives and challenges of international volunteerism and how those insights effect the volunteer program at CEDED. It was a fun, educational and thoughtful meeting and everyone was looking forward to heading down to InKafé for dinner.

As I’ve mentioned before, mototaxis are a very common mode of transportation, here in Villa El Salvador. Our group of about fifteen divvied up in a couple of motos and headed down for our communal feast. However, shortly after heading out, before even leaving the community of La Encantada, the taxi lost control on the unpaved road and tipped over onto its side. I was seated on the side that had immediate contact with the ground and upon impact I knew my shoulder took most if not all, of the fall. After getting up and resting on the overturned moto, I felt my clavicle and realized that something definitely did not feel right. As I waited with Yolekha while Hannah got all of my stuff (most importantly the copy of my passport) I went through some symptoms of shock, which understandably induced some anxiety. But once my ears no longer felt like they were stuffed with cotton and my sight cleared up, I was determined to maintain my well-known stoicism. What sobered me up was the fact that there was also a 10-month-old in the moto and he didn’t get hurt at all. The other volunteers in the taxi were also alright.

After a quick consultation at a clinic in Villa, we learned that my clavicle was in fact broken and pretty badly. It was then decided that I was to go to a  well-known, widely respected clinic in the district of San Isidro, named Anglo Americana. We got a real taxi from the little clinic in Villa to InKafé, where Emily met up with us and then accompanied me to the clinic.

While I do have standards that I like to think I hold myself up to regarding my writing, I’m just going to skip over basically all of the clinic visit because while it wasn’t unimportant, I really don’t feel compelled to write about it.  Also, I’m typing this with one hand and I can do whatever I want, goddamnit. I will mention that when the doctor showed Emily and I the x-rays of shoulder, I will never forget the expression on Emily’s face and my typical Santa Cruzian reaction of simply saying, “Gnarly.”

To demonstrate how messed up it is, we were shown a lot of representations with ET-like hand gestures. If you touch the tips of your two pointer fingers together, that’s the clavicle. It’s common for clavicles to break in which it looks more like the tips of your fingers are pointing up a bit and those can be fixed without surgery. In fact, most clavicle fractures are fixed without surgery. But that is not the case with me. Put the tip of one pointer finger on the middle knuckle of your other pointer finger. For an even more realistic representation, lift that top finger up a little! That’s my right clavicle. The pain has been dulled by a sling I was given on Saturday night and some pain pills. It’s more uncomfortable than painful, although the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

Today I went to the hospital with Emily, we met with the surgeon who will operate on me and I got the necessary pre-operation tests that make sure I’m healthy enough to undergo surgery. It’s a standard procedure for breaks of this severity: screws and a titanium plate that will help brace the bone and can stay in place permanently. This will be my second time having an operation, but first time going under the knife. When I was younger, I broke my wrist bones while going down a hill on my scooter. Pretty badass.

Anyway, I’m not feeling very nervous. I know that I’m in excellent care – my surgeon is one of the best and I have great support back home and here in Peru. When I stayed home on Sunday (because the doctor that saw me on Saturday night said that the earliest time a surgeon could see me was Monday morning) all of my friends came over to my room bearing my favorite treats, flowers and even a DVD that has all seven, let me repeat all seven, Harry Potter movies. It warmed my heart, as does their steadfast generosity and optimism.

Thank you to everyone who has left such thoughtful words on Facebook and email. I’ll be sure to keep y’all updated. Until next time, I’ll be trying to catch some z’s and not think of that TLC show about surgeons that casually left things in their patients. I mean, what?

More MJ but Less Fun

As a way of extending the Building Dignity’s resources outside of Lomo de Corvina, volunteers have the opportunity to also assist a few of the schools in Villa El Salvador to be teachers’ aides and instructors of English. (At the community center we don’t offer a class for learning English because past English programs at CEDED didn’t prove to enhance that area of their curriculum.) The two schools that are currently receiving help from Building Dignity are Colegio Buena Esperanza and Colegio Japones.

Colegio Japones is a public primary and secondary school with I believe, hundreds and hundreds of students. The woman, Erica, a teacher of English who enlisted our help is responsible for teaching dozens of classes, on top of preparing a show. The school will be having a special show later this month that will be featuring the work of the kids learning English and Wednesday was my first time going to the school to help prepare for their presentation.

When Emily and I arrived at the school we were able to just walk right in. No questions asked. When Erica wasn’t in the place where we thought she would be, we decided to ask someone if they knew of her whereabouts. Upon asking two women who looked like they worked at the school, they responded with a, “¿Quiénes Erica?” – they didn’t know who she was. Casual. A little later on we found out that Erica arrived a little later than us and after a long wait for keys to the space we were to use for this workshop, we got so started.

The group of kids I worked with are in fourth grade and are apparently the best kids in this particular class. Each grade is doing a different type of performance – young kids are singing a song about pumpkins to the melody of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, another is doing a Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs skit and the fourth graders will be singing “Black or White” by Michael Jackson. These schools in Villa seem to love them some MJ. Originally, Erica wanted them to sing “Smooth Criminal” but that was a pretty tall order. I barely know what the lyrics are to that song and I’ve been speaking English for a while now. (I learned that the addition of “Black or White” was the doing of another BD volunteer who goes to Colegio Japones, who came to the same conclusion as anyone else who has heard “Smooth Criminal”.) When the kids asked me what the significance of the song was, I realized that this was going to be more difficult than I already anticipated it to be.  If the kids aren’t able to figure out what the song is about, how should they be expected to know how to pronounce its lyrics? But that’s not all! Because this is a performance, we’re also acting it out.

On the fly, Emily created choreography for the first verse, chorus and second verse. We spent the second half of our time at the school rehearsing these parts with the kids. As recess was happening outside, allowing kids to bound in and out of the auditorium as they pleased, I saw myself and Emily continuing to sing “Black or White” a capella along with our interpretive dance, and I seriously questioned my purpose in the world. Essentially, this performance isn’t providing a comprehensive learning experience. The song is beyond their comprehension – they’re being asked to memorize and pronounce words they simply don’t know. Also choreography. The entire situation is just so strange and at times disconcerting, but we’re making the most of it.

In the meantime, I’ll be listening to “Black or White”.

The Scenic Route to Pachacamac

The plan was to go to Pachacamac, have lunch and come home. That happened, but also a lot more.

I learned about this opportunity to go to Pachacamac from Ana María about two weeks ago. She mentioned that her friend Oscar (or Fernando, I don’t know but there’s more to this and that’s for another day) was giving a tour to a group of school children for a field trip and that if I wanted, I could go with them. Roxana could come too and we wouldn’t even have to chaperone or anything. I thought why not and sure let’s do it! As the trip day got closer, I learned more about what this trip would entail, however, never could I have anticipated what actually happened.

Hannah, Roxana, Ana María’s sister, Amelia and me set out for our trip to Pachacamac at around 8 this morning. We met Oscar at the kids’ school and waited for them on the bus. I was hoping that we would just casually sit in the back and be able to do our own thing, but that did not happen. Once the kids arrived, got seated and we were ready to go (which is no easy feat), we were publicly acknowledged and as all of the kids turned in their seats to look at the “turístas”, I realized that we really didn’t know what we got ourselves into.

Our trip to Pachacamac was really quite the package deal. Not only did we go to the said destination, but also made a few pit stops along the way. We got off of the bus to see some cows (two times), a river bed and this sort of hauntingly beautiful hill top:

One of ten crosses that are located on this hill

The cross at the tip top is just one of ten that are located on this hill.

We made our way through the backroads of Villa El Salvador and through districts that I don’t know the name of and by lunch time we finally made it to places that said “Pachacamac” in their name in some context. That gave us hope, although we had yet to get to the ruins.

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We took a much needed break from the rambunctious group of kids and went to find lunch. Oscar helped us find this particular restaurant that was affordable and had vegetarian options. The food was pretty good as well! I am all about the lomo saltado/verdura saltado so that’s what I got.  It was delicious.

After a quick stop to look at more cows and almost have kids get run over while crossing the street, we finally made it to the ruins of Pachacamac.

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Emelia, Roxana, me, Hannah

The fact that this incredible archeological complex was just minutes away from where I live was surreal. (We went a very roundabout way with the kids, because it only took less than ten minutes to get back home on the bus.) Pachacamac was the most important religious site for the indigenous people of Peru’s costal region and dedicated to the god of the same name. There are more than a dozen pyramidal ruins, many dwellings and frescos. From the first indigenous people (said to have first occupied the site during 200 CE), to the Incas who so revered Pachacamac’s powerful religious standing to the point where they allowed Pachacamac to coexist with their own sun god, Inti, to Pizarro who crashed the party in classic conquistador fashion and left Pachacamac to be forgotten. But not for long (well sort of), because in the 19th century, archeologists began to excavate the site and the rest is history.

Getting to walk around Pachacamac definitely made up for all the random, often tiring little trips along the way. But before we could square this trip away and head back home, we were once again publicly acknowledged. This time we were applauded by the kids and their teachers (I like to think for enduring almost seven hours with 30 third graders and one bus) and many pictures were taken. It was sweet. One of my favorite moments was when the kids’ teacher had her student get out of his seat to take a picture of her sitting with all of us, all while the bus was steam rolling down the highway.

All in all, it was quite a day. I don’t think I’ll be signing up to tag along on another field trip like this one, but nevertheless, it was nothing short of memorable.

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Liquid Gold a.k.a. Yogurt

One of the hardest things about being vegan was the lack of yogurt – specifically greek yogurt.  Sure, there are the “non-dairy yogurt style” products, but if you have ever had those, you know quite well that those don’t cut it. Not even close. So for about two precious months, I shamelessly ate loads of greek yogurt. It was a quite a glorious time in my life, yes it was. Then I came to Peru and my greek-yogurt-centric life came to a sudden halt. There’s yogurt here, but unlike the sour cream consistency of yogurt in the US, it’s more like a beverage here in Peru.

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It’s like the liquidy part of kefir. It’s also very sweet. (Even the natural flavor is sweeter than the plain yogurt that’s in the US.) But nonetheless, there are a myriad of flavors, lactose-free and even soy. Another interesting factoid about this yogurt is that it’s shelf stable. This has enabled me to create a stock-pile of sorts, as you can see above. (I also have one in the refrigerator.) The only catch is that the woman who I buy my yogurt from doesn’t always have the same flavors all the time. It’s quite the struggle. My favorite is the Light Natural because it’s fat free and has no added sugar. This is probably because it is the closest thing that resembles greek yogurt. I also like the ActiBIO which is fat-free, sweetened with stevia and has flax seeds. Pretty fancy. Last night I went to the (assumedly only) supermarket that’s in Villa El Salvador for the first time and my yogurt dreams were fulfilled.

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This supermarket had an entire refrigerated isle devoted to yogurt. It was beautiful. I had never seen such a large selection and it was almost a little overwhelming. I quickly searched for the Light Natural, but they sadly did not have any. Instead, I found four other flavors of the Light variety and decided that the vanilla would be a pretty safe bet. It has been added to my stock pile and I am excited to try it. Much like the Light Natural, the bottle for Vainilla Francesa features a picture of a woman being…”light”?

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So that’s that for this Monday’s “Peruvian Food Monday”. There’s been a lot going on regarding non-food related activity, so I’ll be catching up on that stuff in the coming days.

Deep Thoughts and Michael Jackson

Directly across from CEDED is a school for elementary and secondary school students. For the past few weeks, (possibly even months) they have been preparing for their school’s anniversary. We’ve gotten glimpses of the dances, decorations and all the festivities that lead up to today and to say that I was looking forward to seeing everything come together would have been an understatement. This school loves them some build up, that’s for sure.

Earlier in the morning they had a little fair with stands that displayed the different foods from the various regions/districts in Peru. There were foods from the jungle, the sea and everywhere in between. Some people were selling food from their respective region and this lead to my first antichuco experience. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was an anticucho de corazón aka heart. Not that this little piece of info could have dissuaded me from eating it – it’s just something note. It was so good though. But what I was really looking forward to was the talent show that took place at night. I knew that a lot of kids that frequent CEDED programs would be in it and I was excited to see their performances. And boy, they did not disappoint.

My absolute favorite group were the third-graders who did a dance to Thriller by Michael Jackson. They didn’t just do the dance – there were theatrics. It started off with a boy dressed in a red tracksuit number and an afro wig, which was entertaining in and of itself. Behind him there were prop caskets and tombstones as if he was dancing in a graveyard, a la the Thriller music video. After he did his solo, all of a sudden the tombstones started to move and kids were coming out of the caskets! These zombies were very zombie like – watch out actors in the Walking Dead. As the zombies crawled out of their hiding places and got into position, little Michael Jackson took off his wig, put on some kind of Michael Jackson mask and then routine really began. They basically did the Thriller music video and pretty damn well. Granted, they are third-graders but they they were so full out, it was amazing. I was laughing out of pure happiness and tears were brought to my eyes.

As I watched the kids I know perform, I was filled with a huge amount of pride. It was really overwhelming when I realized this, because I’ve really only known them for a little more than a month. Yet as I watched them do their (despite appearances) choreographed dances, I was smiling for so long and so much that my cheeks started to hurt a little. Literally.

As mentioned before, sometimes I think about what it’ll be like once I’m back in the US. I’m often reminded when people ask how long I’ll be here and sometimes it’s hard to think about the fact that I will be getting on a plane and going home. Emily told me that the cyclical nature of international volunteers can have very adverse affects on the community that CEDED works with. After all, this organization is built upon creating genuine, meaningful relationships. How can one establish continuity with these relationships if volunteers who provide input on many of CEDED’s programs, leave after a certain amount of time and never come back?

I know that this may be naïve to say so early in my trip, but I feel like there’s an inevitability that I’ll be coming back to Peru and undoubtedly, Villa El Salvador. Never communicating or staying in contact with the people I’ve met here after coming home would deprecate the development of these friendships and the idea of letting them go to way side feels careless. I don’t know what will happen in the future; if my life will be at a point where I could even consider coming back to Peru. If anything, I think I’ll just leave that train of thought for the future and continue to stay in the present. However, I do know that I really wouldn’t mind being there for this school’s next aniversario.

Hydration Education

Did you know that approximately 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water? The EPA also says that “the water you drink may have been a drink for a dinosaur.” I think there are a lot of reasons why not as many people know that one. One reason could be that there is a change to said factoid – but the government shutdown has obstructed the EPA’s ability to update their website. We may never know.

In any case, water is pretty darn important. I don’t think I really, truly, understood just how much of a privilege it is to have constant access to safe drinking water. I’m not saying I was ignorant to it – I’ve just attained a completely different level of understanding now that I’ve been in Peru for about six weeks. I don’t brush my teeth, wash fruit, or let alone drink water straight from the sink. (My life is going pretty well without adding a water borne disease to the mix, thank you very much.) Then how do I get my eight cups of water a day, you ask? Let’s break it down.

SteriPEN

SteriPEN. Magical wand of hydration. (That sounds like a euphemism, but I really didn’t want it to.) Call it whatever you like, it’s pretty great. For those who are unfamiliar, a SteriPEN uses ultraviolet light to kill bacteria and whatnot and in about a minute, it can sterilize 1 liter of water. I use it about twice a day and while I can’t see it as being the most ideal tool for long-term use, its popularity with outdoorsy people and the likes is very understandable.

Medieval Boiling Method

The operative word is “boiling”. The tried and true, boiling of water is quite a constant while at CEDED. The kettle is almost always on when we’re working – especially the past few weeks because for some reason it’s been getting colder instead of warmer. Spring started on September 23rd and evidence has yet to be provided. Anyway, boiling water. Pretty easy. The only draw back is the waiting. And waiting is hard.

*NEW* Water Heater *NEW*

I would like to take this opportunity to share with the interweb that I bought a electric water heater today. Aside from the people I see and talk to here in Peru, I don’t think anyone else can understand just how much of a development this in my life. Never before could I have imagined how liberating it would be to have my own water heater. I almost want to name it.

It’s not that I haven’t had access to hot water before this milestone in the Daily Life of Michelle in Peru. (See, “Medieval Boiling Method”.)  You see, my room isn’t really connected to the rest of the house – I can’t just walk to the kitchen or anything – and I always feel like I’m inconveniencing my host family whenever I ask for hot water. This feeling is completely one-sided, as my host family is incredibly generous, thoughtful and quite frequently offers me a cafésito or tésito. Nonetheless, I’ll be here for a while and the thought of asking for a cup of hot water throughout the seven months I’ll be here is sort of pathetic. So, I decided to be a problem solver and buy myself a water heater.

Now that I have my hot water heater, opportunities are seemingly endless. The most important development is my ability to make oatmeal for breakfast – whenever I want.  I won’t even begin to start on my feelings about oatmeal. Those feelings are deserving of their own post, although I think I’ll save myself any future embarrassment by simply leaving things as is.

I’m very grateful that I was conscious about the consequences of water bottle dependency when traveling, before coming to Peru. I attest a lot of my pre-departure prep to my internship and global development class (EdGE) with the Omprakash Foundation. Travelers and especially long-term volunteers who rely upon bottled water can be really quite damaging to the environment. Imagine all of the waste that’s produced from only drinking bottled water for months and months at a time. It’s a lot. I think that when traveling, people may not be as conscious about trash as they would be when in their usual environment. I have not tested this hypothesis, I have no extensive evidence behind this claim. I suppose what I’m getting at, is that we should be very very appreciative and proactive about the fact that approximately 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, 30% of it is not and those percentages aren’t the other way around.

Note: 1 point for Michelle for crafty blog title? I think yes.

Chinita on Chifa

(Let the first official Peruvian Food Monday commence!) 

China. Chinita. I have been addressed by either, from little kids to adults. But I really don’t mind. I know that there’s no malice behind the moniker, so there really isn’t a reason to be miffed or anything. (Although, I think it confuses people when I tell people that I am from the US but that I was born in China.) Before coming to Peru, I definitely thought about how great of a minority I would be, or the social perception of Asian people. During the research I did pre-departure, I learned that Asian people weren’t as much of a minority than I had anticipated. There’s even an Chinese food scene.

Around the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Chinese immigrants came to Peru and their culinary influence is still prominent in the country. The term used for this type of cuisine is “Chifa” and there are restaurants all over the place. In Villa El Salvador (assumedly in other places as well) there are these green and orange tents that dot the main thoroughfares and all of them cook Chifa. I’m not sure if they are organized in any sort of way, but there is one conveniently about twenty feet away from where I live. At first, I was sort of sketched out by these places because I didn’t want to get any sort of weird food poisoning. But every night that I would come home late from CEDED, the place was hoppin’. A place that’s consistently busy can’t be bad, right?

The first time Roxana and I went to this place, we both ordered the arroz chaufa aka fried rice. When the woman came with our plates, my mouth dropped and my eyes widened. The portion was gigantic. The plate wasn’t even that big, but somehow they managed to fill it with at least four cups of fried rice. It was a glorious mountain of rice with chicken, egg, peas, carrots, and green onion.  It was overwhelming but also really really fabulous. Because the entire plate cost 6 PEN (Peruvian Nuevo Soles), which is around 2 USD. It made awesome leftovers.

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So, that was my first experience at our neighborhood Chifa joint. Last night we decided to go again and we were ravenous. And rightfully so, because we had originally intended to go on Saturday night, but that night’s festivities lead to the cancellation of our Chifa dinner. The bad food from the night before also increased our need for Chifa tenfold.

This time, I ordered the “salvaje”. Essentially, it was arroz chaufa (portions just as big) but with noodles and vegetables added to the mix. I was very enthusiastic about the veggies: broccoli, bell pepper, snow peas (so fancy), cabbage, sprouts (not so into that). Reason being, I really love me some vegetables and the amount I’ve had while being here is significantly less than what I’m used to. I will take what I can get. And this was real good.

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See the salvaje. Taste the salvaje. (Just get a ticket to Lima.)

I am all about budget friendly meals that make for delicious leftovers and Chifa seems to fit the bill. Although, now I have established yet another dangerous food habit (e.g. the panadería across the street, coconut cookies at the Sunday flea market, the snack lady who sells virtually every nut known to man for my trail mix, the abundance of alfajor cookies that are everywhere). Oh, well. I say it’s community building. Yeah.