I arrived in site to live on July 22nd. These first few weeks have been full and fun and at times frustrating, but overall interesting despite the challenges. My Spanish is coming along, but there are times when I wish I was getting better faster, I suppose it is sort of like watching your children grow, you don’t see it but “poco a poco” it happens. It is interesting to observe how different people react to my language struggles. People with a little patience can usually figure out what I am trying to say and when they repeat it back to me correctly, I can tell that they understood. People with little patience try to finish my sentences before I can spit them out and that is the hardest, because then I not only have to explain what I am trying to say, but also that that wasn’t it! Occasionally people will just shake their head and turn away. This usually only happens at the market or in stores. One day I was at the market with another volunteer who struggles with Spanish more than I do, but he is fearless and persistent. It was fun to watch him push until he got the vendor to pay attention and answer. Good lesson for me…
There are a lot of possibilities for me here in Pátapo, it is just figuring out how to define the projects that I want to do and then break them into parts that I can actually accomplish. Meeting a lot of people and a lot of ideas floating around. This week after a community bank presentation to a group of mothers who run a comedor the conversation inevitably turned to food. One of my favorite dishes here is “ají de gallina,” chicken in a slightly spicy creamy sauce. At first they wanted to invite me for ají de gallina, but when they found out that I haven’t tried cuy (guinea pig) yet, they invited me to a birthday party at the end of the month so that I could try it!
A comedor is essentially a soup kitchen. A group of women get together and form a comedor. They receive some staples from the government and buy other ingredients and prepare meals. People with limited resources sign up to eat there and pay to cover costs. There are 25 comodores in my district of 21,000 people. There are also 49 groups of “Vaso de Leche.” These are organizations for families with small children and few resources. They get a small allotment of milk and oatmeal from the government every month. Last week I visited each one when they received their monthly delivery. I expect to work with some of these groups on community banking and financial education.
I am working with some teachers at one of the high schools. We’re working on financial education in a math class and business skills in a vocational program. Today I am going to talk to one of the English teachers who is also hoping that I can work with her. Our district is opening a new library and I am excited to be able to promote that. Also excited to help with some of their programs. As I am fond of saying (in both English and Spanish!), “si puede leer, puede hacer todo” (if you can read, you can do anything).
There are several archaeology sites in the surrounding area. In 1987, there was a major discovery very close to here. “El Señor de Sipán” was an astonishing find. It was an intact burial site, containing seven people and the remains of several animals (including a dog and a llama) as well as 451 ceremonial items and offerings, much of it gold. Other tombs were discovered and a museum was built in the city of Lambayeque about an hour away. It is reputed to be one of the best museums in Latin America. The actual Sipán – Huaca Rajada – excavation site is just a few minutes away from where I live and so far a total of 14 tombs have been excavated there (although none as dramatic as the 1987 discovery). There is a great little museum at the site and you can walk around the excavations. I had the opportunity to visit there last week and was delighted. Huaca Rajada is a Moche site dating to around 300AD. They were agriculturally based and constructed an elaborate network of irrigation channels to divert river water for their crops. In addition to their irrigation systems, they are known for their ceramics, gold work and ceremonial constructions that are often astronomically oriented.
I have also been guided on two different hikes up into “El Cerro de Pátapo.” This is a Chimú site that was built around 1300AD. The Chimú worshipped the moon and their metal work and monochromatic pottery are distinctive. The Incas conquered the Chimú around 1470 and abandoned this site when the Spaniards arrived. It is just a short walk from my home, but the hikes are steep and difficult in places. Some of the areas have been disturbed by treasure hunters but the site is vast and efforts are being made to explore and develop it. There just aren’t adequate resources available.
I still have limited internet access and am hoping to resolve some of these issues this week. Hopefully, I will be able to get at my pictures and post some soon!