Saturday, March 17, 2007

working hard

I went to the clinic - received a prescription for antibiotics - am now better. Feeling like my old self again (this picture is literally my old self back in September 2006).

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

sickness continues

I continue to be sick. The slight fever creeps up every day and the bowel problems persist. I have have yet to go to the clinic. They may be able to cure the physical malady but there is something much stronger bothering me. Yet I am here in the office, exhausted and with pressing work due.

I will detail this at a following post, and I hope doing so is not considered mere histrionics.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


This week I have been ill. On Tuesday I suffered from dehydration that lead to stomach problems and body aches... yeah, I know I'm a wuss. Today I woke up at 3:45a.m. with chills and realized that I had contracted a fever.

The work this summer has been physically brutal. On both Thursdays and Friday's Collin and I take the kids out swimming, pretty much all day long. I have a 14 hour day on Friday and on Saturday run the sports taller. All in all, lots of physical work.

This is all coming together to wear me down. Today I'm taking another day off hoping to catch up on rest and some work.


To mark the end of the summer holidays (yes, it's warm and sunny here) the promotores and our team ventured out to Chosica. About an hour east of Lima, the weather here is perennially warm and dry. Water parks and picnic areas abound.

After a day of activities (three legged races, treasure hunts, volleyball match, etc.) we capped the adventure with a trip down the Tobogan la Roca. Here's Beto, a wonderfully comic promotor, making a splash.

Monday, February 19, 2007

choke hold

Kleyder and I have grown old during this adventure.

thoughts on cooking

On this fine day, some thoughts on cooking:

It is a fine priviledge to have a table on top of which to cut; a knife with a handle; to have a floor that is not dirt; to have a latrine far from where you wash potatoes.

The poverty I witness is interesting: the latest fashion. We have TVs, DVDs, CDs, and VCDs; blenders, gas stoves, stainless steel pots and pans; consumers of goods from China and whereabouts.

We have clean water in a bucket and roosters on top of it; wood burning ovens and wooden chairs to burn.

We have worm-eaten lettuce and potatoes, and chickens injected with contaminated water.

We make do and continue to cook.

día del amor y la amistad

From left to right: Giovana, Rocio, Nelson (siblings), Ximena, Gisela cooking up a storm for our Valentine's day dinner. We are to dine on Aji de Gallina, then exchange handmade gifts, and finish off the evening by watching "My Sassy Girl".

Monday, February 12, 2007


Once a "promotor" himself, now heading his own initiative within SES, Roger is a good friend and agent of change. Here we were, chatting of the woes of being a volunteer.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007


At a tour of a vineyard in Chinca home of Pisco. From left to right: Collin, Luzmila, Holly, Chloë, and Alicia.

las chicas


los chicos

After a laid-back afternoon at the pool, los chicos, "promotores" for this new year, pose for the camera.

islas ballestas

This past weekend SES sponsored a field trip to the Ballestas Islands, south of Lima. According to our tour guide, the bird guano collecting on the rooftops of these great rock formations, was collected and sold as fertilizer to pay off Peru's foreign debt. Sounds like good business practice.

Monday, February 05, 2007


Vanessa "matando" in a casual Friday afternoon game of voley.

under water

Roberto and Nelson, two new promotores, enjoying the underwater fun. Picture by Collin.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

of chile and peru

Elaine and I returned recently from a trip to Arica, Chile. Our objective was to renew our visa and spend some time under the stars at Lauca National Park.

We booked a flight on Peru's own AeroCondor airline to Tacna, a town in a free-trade zone (whatever that means) and near the border with Chile. We then maneuvered our way to the bus terminal and booked seats on a mid-sized bus heading South to cross the border.

A month ago, Elaine and I were in Cuzco where we witnessed a throng protest LAN's presence in the Peruvian airline scene. The slogans went to the tune of: "Get out LAN! Support Peruvian Airlines!"

As stated, AeroCondor is a Peruvian airline. LAN, is a Chilean enterprise.

Perhaps the protester's message left an imprint in my sub-conscious and led me to support a Peruvian airline. Or perhaps the cheap airfare convinced me. AeroCondor offered a round trip to Tacna for $94.13 while LAN neared $120.

I can't say I regret that decision, but I will say that I hope not to fly AeroCondor again. On the way from Lima to Tacna and again from Tacna to Lima, we were delayed over 1 hour. This was something definitely worth taking in stride. Unfortunately, it is indicative of the consistent and frustrating delays and inconveniences found here.

But let me not dwell on that too much, I'm over it.

Arica is now part of Chile but was once part of Peru. It's a shame for Peru since they lost fine dessert beaches and access to some breathtaking Andean landscapes. Elaine and I spent a day at the beach before heading out by bus to Lauca. We eventually settled in the small town of Parinacota (population: 15) at circa 4,400 meters above sea level. Parinacota is the only town in the park and offers a breathtaking landscape in every direction. We met a Polish national who had bicycled from Buenos Aires to Parinacota. We saw the Milky Way like I've never seen it before.

We also got sick from the altitude. Our evening was fairly sleepless and cold. The next day we tried to venture out to visit the Lake Chungara, a lake at the base of the Parinacota volcanoes some 4,600 meters above sea level. The path was beautiful and we saw many birds, viscachas, alpaca, and llamas. We reached 4,600 but not the lake. The sun and the altitude got the best of us. I was ready to die.

Fortunately, we reached a road and after some time, hitched a ride back down to Parinacota where we picked up our bags. I convinced the family that picked us up to let us hitch our way down to Arica. On the way down we spoke of Pinochet, and other things.

After a long day of adventure, we finally arrived back in Arica, home of some fabulous pino empanadas (tiny bread pockets stuffed with beef and onions). We rested and took the next day at the beach, at sea level, with no alpacas in sight.

young folk

Another great picture by Collin: from left to right, Kelly, Breyson (in front), Jonathan and his sister, Wilder and Rebecca (brother and sister).


This is Charles, one of the promotores juveniles. He is 22 years old and is transitioning into young adulthood. Picture by Collin.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

end of part one

End of part one.

Do toes have knuckles? Her toe knuckles are grey and shiny, like the edges of angles of the stone in Inca walls. She wears flips flops because it is summer, I believe. Her name is C. of ten years old. I hope her teeth straighten as she grows. Wonderfully real, and consistent, she is always in the background. Never having asked for much, but always giving, she inspires me to begin writing again.

I have completed 6 months of "service." End of part one.

Last night I commented: I've done this all wrong. Like a fool, at every turn I believed myself to be right. But after reading Ulysses, I've realized things change. What once was dense but knowable is clear and ultimately unknowable.

To "develop" others, as I believed development work to be, is shoddy enterprise. A career ought not be made of it. Like a fool, I've only realized now that I am here to be developed, to learn from my other, and to cook, under low heat, and slowly, the soup that is the broth of us both. Only then, can I achieve what I hope; a taste I cannot yet describe.

There is a picture stored in bits somewhere on this blog. It contains Elkin, Nemias, Jon and perhaps somebody else. If anybody, it is me, the picture taker. The children, these "poor" children are searching for a lost spinning top among a pile of garbage that is to the left, not the right, of the Lois y Thomas, our home. I keep coming back to this image, sometimes seeing it as black, others as white, and sometimes as grey. Is this an "Area of Moral Clarity" reader? Children looking for their lost and spinning top in a pile of trash.

I wondered then and sometimes now: ¿porqué? Why must it be so?

The simple answer is lack of trash cans and trash removal service. The old me had gathered troops from the richer, if not cleaner, parts of Lima to join hands with the community and "clean-up." The new me, six months older than the old, still has some of the old in him. But, will this be a solution satisfactory of the new year? I am leaning towards a "no."

This work has kicked my ass. I have been humbled. I have been angered. Yet, importantly, I have realized one thing: this is not about me.

Beginning of part two.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Thank you!

Dear Friends,

Thank you for helping me get to where I am now. Without you, I would not have the privilege of enjoying the holidays south of the Equator. Although I miss home and family, this experience brings me closer to them than one would think. Jon, Masha, the elder Geyers and Elaine are with me. On Christmas day, I plan to drink hot chocolate and eat 'panetón' with Julio who guards the house day in and day out and probably misses his family much like I do.

Happy holidays from Peru,


And so this is Christmas

When I took Elaine to the community where I work, we climbed up a dusty road leading to the uppermost shanties. Then we took a left into a nondescript path of desert soil until we reached a no man's land. From here, we looked ahead and saw nothing but sky ahead, rocks behind and long yellow stairs below leading down and littered with dogs to the left and the right. At this uppermost point, this penthouse, we waited to be accompanied by the children who could protect us from the dogs as we climbed down. Challo, Mickey, Carolina were there to protect Elaine and me.

We made out way down these great stairs. They are signs of progress some would say; a reification: the white man is in charge but is kind and in due time will build you stairs to climb up to your shanty and down. Yellow and immediate, they cut the landscape from top to bottom and by way of concrete, bind themselves, and the people around them, into the mountain.

And so, we continued until we approached a step with a dead dog. Small and golden, but an ugly mutt, with the twisted face of Doberman and Collie in the body of a breed small enough to fit dead on a single cement step. Blood had once streamed from the corner of its mouth. We stepped over it but I emphasized: "See! See that there are dead dogs and this is what I have to see when I come to work! See that post with the picture of the dead dog! You see why it's there!" Oh, silly me.

And so this is Christmas, and what have we done? I've climbed up the mountain to wait for protection to climb back down. I hope that along the journey I also offered my own bit of protection to Challo, Mickey, Carolina, etc.