Amy in Peru: An Odyssey

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The first few days in Lima

Good day all!

Just a quick entry--- no pics yet, until i get settled with my own comp. But I thought I would write quickly, to let people know I am alive and well in Lima. We (myself and Nilou, another CUSO cooperant) arrived around 1 am on Monday, after a very long flight from Toronto. We were picked up by the FANTASTIC CUSO office people (more later) and were dropped off in a hostel for the night (we are still there actually--- it is comfortable and cheap--- I will probably stay there for the two weeks of spanish lessons before moving to Huancavelica).

The next day (or the fisrt day really), we were shown around the environs of our hostel neighbourhood (named Miraflores) by the CUSO offices "vigilente" Juan, who is extremely nice and helpful. Security is apparently a big deal, and we are accompanied most of the time, especially when travelling accross the city (at least for now, until wqe get used to it). No big scares or anythying, but one definately does not feel very safe walking the streets.

Anyway, after the tour, we took a combi (which is sort of like a privaely owned bus, that stops wherever you want, on a certain route, for 1 sole, or about .30$) to the CUSO office, across town. We met the rest of the people working at the office, did some preliminary stuff, and after a lunch of potatoes with a bunch of sauces (what else?!) and a drink made of purple corn (woo hoo!), we went back to the hostel to sleep and rest before the fiesta that night.

The fiesta was not being thown for us.... :) It was for another CUSO cooperant who had won a big development prize, but lots of people in the Peru NGO field were there, which was great! I even got to meet the director of EDUCA, which was very useful and I appreciated this casual way of being able to introduce ourselves! The party was a great introduction into the office, and we got to try some great food, and listen to some amazing music (mostly on guitar, but also some played withthe jawbone of bull--- go figure!) It was a lovely evening, and a great time!

All in all, things have really been great, and people have been extremely welcoming at the CUSO office, and have really made huge efforts to make us feel welcome, comfortable, safe and happy. Carmen (the head honcho at the office) even took us around yesterday on her day off into the center of the city, and around to a few other barrios in the city. We also went to a little market that had been set up, and grabbed a beautiful cfe con leche--- i am not a huge coffee fan, but i can definately get used to the cafes con leche... And I have also discovered the sensory joys of sweet lemons (limones dulces)--- holy fragrant!! I love them!

Today, we went to the Canadian embassy to get registered (not even a maple candy or ANYTHING to greet us--- i will be writing a letter...) :) and opened our bank accounts. Nothing too exciting, but it is nice to be able to take our time getting things done and aclimatizing and getting used to things. Otherwise, it is surprisingly cold, I have to say--- its not so much the temperature, but the humidity that makes it freezing, especially at night. Quite a surprise, but not too bad.

I will sign off now--- will post again soon! Happy thursday, and keep in touch!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Where are you going Amy??

By way of a general introduction, I thought I would post a bit about where I will be going on my upcoming 2-year adventure. Take note that I am posting this in a potentially-misinformed pre-departure mode, so take all of this info with a grain of salt. For the truth is, in reality, I haven't a sweet clue what to expect outside of a few touristy websites and a travel book.

So, in short, "...Huancavelica is the capital of the department (or state) with the same name and it has more than 30 000 citizens. It is located in the middle of the Cordillera de los Andes (the Andes mountain range) and it is isolated from the others towns because of its height (3500 meters). YIKES! (this last comment was added by me....)

It was founded in 1571 by the Spanish to take advantage of the mining resources. Huancavelica is a small and nice town where the citizens are still dressing with their typical clothes. Its churches are considered beautiful and great examples of colonial art in Peru. The medicinal springs of San Cristóbal have a temperature of 28 °C (HOORAY for hot springs! Added by Amy). Those springs are very important because they make possible the existence of two large swimming pools known as curative. If you take a walk near the mercury mines, you will find the Santa Barbara church, where you can see many llamas and alpacas in a nature that lends itself to the adventure (HOORAY for llamas! Added by Amy)."

(I got this info from the following website: You cal also find a few more pics of the area at:

My trusty Lonely Planet book also has these few things to add:
- was a strategic Inca center until the conquistadores
- beautiful but forgotten and remote area
- tough to reach but worth the effort

Basically, I wasn't able to find too much about the town on the web or in books, but here are a few other facts I was able to amass: It is going to be relatively chilly--- an average temperature of 10, getting down to 0 in the winter. The population is indigenous, and primarily speak Quechua (which I am going to try to learn, in addition to working otherwise only in Spanish--- eep!).

As far as basic stats and population, things are a little bleak at the moment. Huancavelica is the poorest region of Peru, with a low family income, a high rate of infant malnutrition and mortality, inadequate health facilities, scarce potable water, a high level of illiteracy, insufficient power, life expectancy of 58.5 years, etc... So it is good to know I will be going somewhere that obviously needs some help.

As far as what I will be doing there, well, it will be anyone's guess at this point. I'll write a brief description from the info I was given by CUSO (my Canadian executing agency who is sending me to Peru:, to record for posterity. I imagine it will be interesting to go back to this after 6 month-1 year of having been working in the field... :)

"EDUCA (the Peruvian NGO I will be working with: has developed a proposal to create citizenship awareness and build peaceful relationships among different sectors of the population... which have a long history of exclusion and marginalization. It is precisely these communities which suffered the most during the 18 years of internal war in Peru." Apparently, I will be working on peace education materials, workshops, advocacy, human rights, etc... Beyond this, I am relatively clueless, and it will be interesting to see what I actually end up working on. Fun fun!

I will be leaving beautiful Bocabec, New Brunswick (see photo taken by my shutter-bug-happy father, who has taken a pic of almost every sunrise this summer...) on August 28th, and will be arriving in Lima, Peru early on the 29th. From there, I will be spending 2 weeks in Lima taking some Spanish classes (which I am VERY happy about! Boy I need some brushing up!), before heading up to Huancavelica to find an apartment and start working with the EDUCA team up there.

So I think this will bring to an end my lengthy pre-departure post. I may add a few more things before going. But on the whole, I think this gives people a sense of what I understand the situation to be that I am getting into, and what I am basically expecting, so far. Keep checking out this site for updates--- I will make best efforts to be diligent about posting what I am doing and what my new context is like. Thanks for reading! :)