Sick Day Blues

And a touch of introspection for good measure!

One of the first pieces of advices I was given pre-departure to Peru, was to be prepared for the inevitable conflict between the food and my digestive system. I’m glad I can report that I have been affected by no such illness. I just broke my clavicle. Ah, jokes. But really, I haven’t gotten sick – at all. Well, until Thursday.

Every day during last week I had felt a little unfocused and generally unmotivated. It was definitely frustrating. It all snowballed into an immense wave of exhaustion that hit right around 7pm on Thursday, which soon lead to me trying to keep down a fever and not fall over from walking as slow as a snail. The reasons for my continual struggle to keep motivated throughout the week suddenly became more clear as I lay in bed, re-watched The West Wing and “read” an embarrassingly high amount of BuzzFeed articles while trying to imagine what life was like without headaches, a fever and overall lethargy. I don’t think I had ever been so disappointed about having to take a sick day in…well a really long time.

The day that I missed was definitely not the most ideal of all the others in the week. Fridays are music in Oasis and it’s one of my favorite workshops. (That and music in La Encantada.) I’ve always been enthusiastic about being involved in the music program but the past few weeks have somewhat tested that, as I’ve taken a lot more of a leading role in their planning and instruction. More often than not, I’ve been worrying that the lesson plans I write won’t be successful or that no one will show up – and at the beginning those anxieties outweighed the enthusiasm I once associated with the workshop. But as of the past few weeks, I’ve started to relax a little bit and the experience is getting a lot more enjoyable.

On Saturday afternoon I taught music in La Encantada and I think it was one of my favorite workshops to-date. The evening went so well, I was afraid I would jinx it while on my way back home. One may scoff at the fact that only three kids came, but I was perfectly happy with it. It’s hard to teach guitar to a large group of people, let alone when you don’t have experience teaching guitar in the first place. (On a side note: my personal experiences with music classes in large numbers have only been in orchestras, which is a very different atmosphere and set up than the small guitar classes I’ve been in previously.) But this afternoon’s little group was just perfect. Quality about quantity, right?

On that note, I’ve also realized that planning and running the workshop didn’t have to be as stressful as I was making it out to be. The lesson plans I’ve written during this summer cycle have been chalk-full of definitions, exercises and activities with the intention of having the most comprehensive and fun two hours of music a person could have. However, figuring all of that out was stressful and the quantity of information packed into each workshop in conjunction with the once-a-week nature of the class was not very effective. So with that said, today I decided to keep it simple and keep it basic. I started us out by practicing a simple warm-up exercise, playing the strings fret by fret and going back down, with the kids playing along with me to a particular rhythm. The next thing was learning three basic chords – two ways because the group was so small and focused. After that, I wrote out a simple chord progression that we all practiced together. All that and a small snack at the end made for a very successful afternoon.

In reflection, I could have never imagined the progression of my involvement in with music at Building Dignity. In the earliest stages of planning how I would be involved with the various programs, music was definitely not as high a priority as it is now, for me. I envisioned a much greater emphasis on Voices of Youth, the youth leadership group. But as I am taught time and time again, everything is subject to change – in ways that are very small or very grand. After that, it comes down to how you adapt and collaborate with the people and resources around you. Pretty simple, right?


Beats and Rests

During the last cycle of programs, Voices of Youth was also being brought to a neighboring community called Oasis. In an effort to strengthen our relationship with the kids who participated in Voices of Youth, this summer we have started doing other workshops as well. Every day (except for Sunday) there is a workshop. In the past, I rarely went to Oasis due to conflicts in schedules, but with the new summer programming I’ve been going a couple of times a week. Said conflict was the fact that I had music in La Encantada while Voices of Youth in Oasis ran at the same time. That still holds true today, but now I get to go to Oasis on Fridays for their music workshop.

Last Friday was the first class of this summer and it went really well. Emily, Niko and me were there as well as the twenty-seven kids who came. It was a big group, especially compared to the groups in La Encantada of usually no more than ten. We split into three groups, guitar, cajon and violin. The violin group  consisted of older kids who specifically asked for violin, and the rest of the group was divided between Niko and I, for cajon and guitar, respectively. It went pretty smooth and everyone enjoyed that week’s lesson about how to read music.

This week was a little different. With Emily traveling on business and Niko having left to continue with his travels, I thought it was going to be just me. But luckily, Andy, who has been teaching guitar in La Encantada was available to help out. Even after doing a myriad of workshops with Interact, class presentations in school and even more recently, helping a little with lesson plans for Voices of Youth, I had never doing anything like write a lesson plan essentially from scratch for this two-hour class. It was challenging, but I found a lot of help from reflecting on what types of activities I did in school. For example, one review activity I had the kids do was inspired by a game my Calculus teacher taught me last year.

Today’s lesson was about beats and rests. The main activity was a make-your-own song type thing. Each small group got a long strip of poster paper with a music staff that had five measures on it. With the small packet of cut out notes and rests, each team had to create their own song so that each measure had the correct number of beats in each one. Each correct measure was five points and each error was minus one. I even threw in some bonus points for having a title for their song and or if they could play it! These kids love competition therefore, the game was automatically more interesting. One mistake I had made was not practicing what it sounds like for each different type of note (whole note, half note, quarter note, etc) for enough time, so the lesson might not have sunk in as well as it could have. Nonetheless, the kids caught on and they had a good time.

The past few weeks have consisted of many days that started early in the morning and ended late at night and sometimes work was brought home (i.e. music in Oasis). But even so, I think that they have been some of the most successful weeks of programming that I’ve participated in since I arrived. It may sound really self-indulgent, but really honestly every night on the short bus ride home, I think about how much I really enjoy what I’m doing and how much I will rue the day I have to go home. More often than not, that train of thought segues into something that makes me stressed out in the end because I’ve been here for almost five months and I just know that the next five will pass by even faster and how am I supposed to encourage genuine community building when I know I have to leave at some point and I don’t know if I’ll be able to visit again and then I get so caught up that I end up having to walk half a block more because I forgot to get off at the right place.

In summary, things are most definitely in full swing these days and I am trying not think about when I have to go home. (Although for curious minds, I will be coming back before the second week of June. More explanation to come soon.)


My posts have been lacking in photos lately, so I figured I’d add this one. Yesterday, Voices of Youth went on a small visit to EcoRec, a local green house/recycling organization that is helping us plant vegetables in our garden. Fun fact: EcoRec is right across the street from my house! Really, I can see almost all their plants from outside my window.

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.

Welcome to WordPress and Other Craziness

Welcome to Notas de Perú via WordPress! If you’re reading this, I greatly appreciate it. I’m sorry about the site change – but it’s all for the better! (It’s not you, Tumblr. It’s me.) Now, if you feel compelled to write a comment on a blog post – you can! (No pressure, but you should.)

This morning was spent transitioning the posts from the Tumblr blog to this one. I wanted to make sure that everything got here in one place, instead of just starting off with today’s post. Gotta keep up that continuity. (Says the girl who said she would post one blog a day and has many a post titled “Catch Up ___”.) Also may I just say that choosing a blog theme is more difficult than one would think. There are just so many. I digress.

On to the important stuff!

Since the program’s inception (I believe) the guitar/cajon class that I’ve been working with has been held in the morning. But not today. As of this week, we changed the time to 4-6pm, because of the really low turnout that we had been getting. The kids study more often in the mornings so afternoons are a better time. So, tonight we had very high hopes that we would get some more kids to come jam with us. We got that and then some. Because Música isn’t the only program that runs from 4-6pm every Saturday evening – Repostería happens at the same time.

In theory, it really shouldn’t be much of a problem. The women who go to Repostería really just stay in and around the kitchen at CEDED and the guitar class is in the main area of the community center. So, there shouldn’t be much traffic. But more often than not, the women also bring their young children and not all the books in the world, let alone the little CEDED library, could keep them occupied for the two hour class. So tonight was pretty busy. At one point, I somehow I ended up holding a toddler while also trying to stay engaged with the kids in the música class. Regardless of the craziness, I thought that tonight went very well. Having an abundance of kids at CEDED is better than none at all.

Unfortunately, I didn’t actually get to play any guitar tonight. We only have so many guitars at CEDED and tonight yielded enough kids to have them all being used. Although, the selfish part of me that wished I could have gotten to play just a little was drowned out by the excitement from seeing all of the new faces playing the guitar for the first time. It was nostalgic, fun and of course the theme of the night: a little crazy. There were about eight kids in total, some playing guitar and some the cajon. And by playing, I mean more like aimlessly strumming and spontaneously drumming along to each kid’s individual internal rhythm. The immense activity was a refreshing change and I hope that the kids come back next week. With their friends, too.

As mentioned before, tonight was Repostería. During one of the quick moments I was a way from the music kids, I peaked my head into the little kitchen to see how things were going. Luckily, I got to try tonight’s recipe: empanada de pollo.

Empanadas ready to go into the oven!

A delicious filling of chicken, hard-boiled egg, olives, onions, bell peppers and spices was wrapped up in a flaky, warm golden brown pastry. They were amazing, as is every recipe that is made during Repostería.

I’ve found that busy nights like tonight end up being more energizing than exhausting. That may be naïve to say as I’ve only been here for a month. I don’t know if it’s the challenge of keeping tabs on everyone when things get busy or the buzz of energy that envelops the community center during such times, but it is nights like tonight that I try to remember most.

Catch Up 2.0

Once again, I have fallen short on the daily-update of this blog. Although, I didn’t set out to make this a daily-entry blog, I think that routine posting creates a nice sense of continuity.

On Friday, I went with Emily, Hannah and Andy to Miraflores to meet with Alisa, a current study-abroad student who will be helping format BD’s newsletter. We met in a hip cafe in town and got to business talking about BD marketing. Although before I get to that, I must describe to you what we ate! Because as many of my posts contain my experiences volunteering, I have also been having quite a few culinary adventures as well.

Everyone ordered a coffee drink and I got an “Ice Cappuccino”. I’m not usually someone who goes for the fancier drinks, but this morning I felt like why the heck not. We also ordered an appetizer of fried wanton-like dough that came with guacamole. They were so good. My drink was also super delicious – the cappuccino had been blended up with ice and had a drizzle of chocolate syrup on top. Its sweetness wasn’t overwhelming as well.

The meeting was really quite interesting. I learned a lot about BD’s goals as an organization as well as its history. I attended the meeting because not only will I be working on programs at the center, but also with BD’s Facebook page. (If you haven’t already liked them on FB, go do it!) I gained a lot of experience about how to utilize the information that Facebook gives to people who host pages about their organizations on their website due to the social media internship I had with Omprakash. I’m looking forward to sharing my knowledge with BD.

The rest of the day consisted of another delicious lunch made by Martha at CEDED and horas publicas later that evening. As most Friday night tutoring has been, today was not exception. It was pretty quiet.

Saturday was another full day at CEDED. That morning’s guitar class was really awesome, because we played for most of the time. When I got there, it was only Andy and one student, Isaac. The three us of played a song by the Latin American band, Camila. To be perfectly honest, I haven’t played a lot of guitar lately because I had been so busy with school. The calluses on my fingers are no longer, so playing this Saturday was a little bit of an exercise. One of my favorite moments was when Isaac pulled up chords for a song he really liked and we proceeded to learn it together. I even got to show him an easier way to play the song by using some bar chords. It was super fun to jam and play along with the song on YouTube. About 30 minutes before the end of the class, a younger boy came. He had never played guitar before and it was great to see him being so enthusiastic about wanting to learn. We spent the final few minutes eating cake and drinking tea. Pretty great start to the day.

Now, fast-track to this afternoon’s Voices of Youth meeting. As mentioned before, there are Voices of Youth meetings twice a week; Thursday and Sunday afternoons. Today’s group had a couple of kids that also went on Thursday, but I saw a lot of new faces. We played name games and had groups compete in a competition of completing challenges while their wrists were tied together. We tested their teamwork skills and they did fantastically. I’ve only been to two of these meetings, but I’m really excited to get to know these kids better and collaborate with BD on the program’s curriculum.

Full disclosure, I would like for this to be the last time I have to make up for missing posts. I don’t really enjoy the rushed tone that these types of posts exude and they aren’t as interesting to write. I know that this being my own blog, I can write about whatever I choose, but I like to think I hold myself up to some standards. In conclusion, look forward to more consistent posts! I’m looking forward to writing them.

Música y Repostería

Today was my first day getting around town by myself. Almost.

Ana Maria had to go into Lima with her family, so today was my first day without her helping me around. Ana Maria’s sister Amelia accompanied me on the bus from home to Mariategui ruta C, which is the stop I make before getting a taxi up the hill to CEDED. There’s virtually always one or two taxis waiting on this particular corner for all of the people, like myself, who go up the hill. From that stop, I went in the taxi without Amelia. I wasn’t particularly scared, just very attentive. I asked the driver to drop me off at la tranquera, which is literally feet away from CEDED. Once I got dropped off, I felt pretty darn proud of myself.

At this point it was about 15 minutes before 10am. From 10am-12pm on Saturdays, there are music classes with a focus on guitar and the cajon. I asked if I could visit today’s class because I’ve played guitar for a handful of years and figured it would be a fun way to help out. The instructor, Andy, arrived soon and we set up a computer for the kids to watch a documentary. It was on a popular Latin American band called Camila. Their music’s pretty good! Click here to watch the video we watched this morning.

The class consisted of four boys and the cajon teacher, Eduart. After the documentary, we watched more videos and ate cake with coffee. This was the first time I had coffee here and it was pretty good. Sort of mild. It was a very enjoyable morning and I’m looking forward to the upcoming Saturdays. I haven’t asked if there was any particular reason why the class is primarily boys, but I think I’d like to see more girls in the class.

For lunch, I went to the second floor of CEDED, which is where Jesus and his family live. Lunch was made by Marta’s sister, Beatrice. It was a delicious dish of rice, zapallo (Peruvian squash), potatoes, radish and garlic. All of the food I’ve had here has been really really good.

Jesus and Martha’s youngest daughter is named Maricielo. She’s about a year and a half and will beat absolutely anyone at a staring contest. She literally stared at me the entire time we ate lunch. She has the most serious little face you’ve ever seen! Apparently she does that for every volunteer who comes to CEDED. If only we knew what she was thinking…

The next thing on my schedule was the baking class that’s held from 4pm-6pm. That left a pretty large amount of time between, even including lunch. So I spent those hours hanging out on the first floor of the community center with Jesus and Marta’s sons Jean Piere, Rolando and their cousin Gabriel. It was nice to have some down time and just get used to hanging out in CEDED a bit more. I brought a couple of books with me to Peru and this afternoon I decided to start Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy. While reading the introduction and forward, (written by Caroline Kennedy and Robert Kennedy, respectively) I was struck by how the themes they wrote about resonated with the topics I’ve been thinking about so much latey; service, leadership, etc. I’m glad I brought it with me.

Later that evening was the baking class or otherwise known as Reposteria. The woman who leads it is named Roxana and her children came as well. The recipe she and a couple of other women made was a queque de pina, or pineapple cake. Basically, the women make the recipe and when the food is cooking they have like a social hour. It’s really quite nice. I didn’t sit in on their conversation very much, as I was spending time with Roxana’s kids: Aron (6), Tifani (9), Nayely (pronounced Nah-yell-i) (11) and their friend Natalia. Once the cake was done, we all filed into the small kitchen in CEDED and tasted the cake. It was delicious! They used the fresh pineapple that Ana Maria bought yesterday and it was very good.

Queque de piña!

Tonight I got home much earlier than usual which is nice. Jesus accompanied me home which was also very nice. I think I could have handled the bus ride from home to ruta C this morning by myself, but going places at night still makes me a little anxious. Mainly because I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to see if the driver was going the right way.

In any case, it is safe to say that today was a success. Tomorrow I don’t have to go to CEDED so I’m not sure what I’m going to do. I think I’ll try to go to the market and pick up some more food. That’s always a good thing.