Guinea Pigs and Wedding Crashers
My first week in Huancavelica consisted mainly of getting whisked around on Wednesday meeting people and organizations in town and attending a meeting (where we were served delicious empanadas!! Yum!), before leaving Thursday at 4am for Lircay, about 4 hours away on a VERY rough road. It was a long trip, but beautiful (pics above include a view during the drive (spectacular!), the playground at the school, kids playing and the wedding--- info all to come), and we arrived a little shaken (from the potholes) but intact.
We were there to attend a three day workshop of local NGOS funded by a Spanish NGO called Madre Coraje. So there was a diverse group, which was great, and I met a lot of new people. The first day lunch however, i was introduced to cuya... which is baked guinea pig in a brown spicy sauce. I bravely took a bite, and then handed my plate over to a tablemate, who happily ate my portion, sucking on all of the little bones and enjoying themselves immensely. For my part, i barely made it through--- there's something about eating pets that doesn't quite sit well... :)
Anyway, that afternoon, we found out that one of the local guys there in Lircay was getting married that night, and he invited us all to come! Hahahaha.... no way we were all invited to his wedding, right?? But as it turns out, we actually were... :) So Thursday night was spent quite nicely, attending a small service in a catholic church, greeting all of the family, filling our pockets with tons of rice which was pelted mercilessly at the couple as they left the church. We then raced into town to get a wedding gift, and went to the reception, where they couple danced for us, and we feasted on potato balls and beer (interesting side note: you don't get your own bottle of beer, or your own drink at all for that matter. A bottle of whatever is being drunk in the room is passed around with a glass--- you pour yourself a portion, drink it and then pass the works on to the next person. Fun!)
The next day, after having a cold shower (no hot water in the hostel), we had more presentations and events. I continued to be amazed at the quantity of food that people ate (between my continuing altitude belly and general dislike of eating tripe soup (another rather disgusting breakfast dish i passed up) and pets, I was't downing it like the rest of them). That evening, after the main parts of the day were over and everyone was fed (again), people broke out the guitars and we spent the next few hours singing (okay i didn't sing--- there is a collective memory of songs here, and i have yet to have a clue what they are to be able to sing along), dancing (in this, i did partake), and having little glasses of caliente, which is an herbal infusion mixed with alcohol--- lovely!
The next morning, we woke early and drove to a project way out in the mountains (about 2 hours drive on ROUGH terraine), which was a school dedicated to children who have suffered from political violence. It was amazing--- the setting, the resoursefulness, the animation, the color. Have some great pics which i will post soon. There was a school, a garden, a medical facility, etc.... an oasis in an otherwise impoverished and desolate arrea. We then went back to town to witness the opening of a centre working in issues of violence against women-- also really fun and inspiring--- a little play was put on, some singing, presentations, etc...
We then got ourselves ready for the long trip back to Huancavelica--- got back around 8pm and CRASHED (after finally having a hot shower in my hotel). An amazing experience and a inundating introduction to what is happening in the area, and the people who are working here. I feel like i have lived a month in only a week--- too full!! (and with not a word of english in a week---- i was parched for some english, so called my family on sunday!)
Speaking of Sunday, we went around looking to see if we could find a decent apartment (nothing yet---- yikes!!!), and also checked out the sunday feria (or market) in Huancavelica---- AWESOME!!!!! So many new veggies and fruit, anythign and everything you could ever want you will find there--- i am DYING to settle down and get a place so that i can start cooking and exploring around. I am so sick of living out of my half-unpacked suitcase!! Arg!! :)
This week so far has been spent making trips to local NGOS to invite them to a meeting on Wednesday (there is a whole uber-formal process to inviting people to meetings--- i will not get into it now--- but it strikes me strange that you have to get all of these stamps and signatures, and then people don't bother to show up until 2 hours after the meeting was supposed to start.... what??) we also spent a lot of time on the back roads today visiting some rural schools getting them to sign on to our 'Cultura de Paz' (Culture of peace) project which i will eventually be working on. It is pretty much organized, just waiting for some general capacity building and seminar organizing before things start to get really rolling. Alida and Oscar (my officemates) are gone from thursday till Monday morning, so i am REALLY hoping i get an apartment before they leave so that i can try to get organized with that. Otherwise, i have no idea what i will be doing for the next few days--- eep!! We shall see!!
Anyway--- this is the resume--- for now. Continue to feel overwhelmed, but not so much that i feel bad. Continue to be stressed about the apartment and hope that is resolved soon. Continue to like Huancavelica and feel okay with this being my home for the next two years. Generally good and happy--- can't complain!! :) Keep in touch, and have a great week!