Sunday, July 26, 2009

The community we chose

Sunday, 26 July

We have decided to do our pilot post-disaster reconstruction participatory video as a means of NGO feedback in a semi-rural community outside of the city of Ica. The community we have chosen is in fact a group of three very small communities all clustered together. The total population we will be working with is approximately 250 families. This place is quite organized and already has a community center for us to work in. We have sealed our fate by letting a community leader know and will be moving in tomorrow.

There still exists the possibility of working there and in San Clemente, especially since María got back to us and has a place for us to stay for real cheap if we want to try and move back and forth.

Later we can post a complete list of the communities we were choosing from and a simple guide we used to decide.

Saturday, 25 July

For Peruvians, Saturday is also a rest day. But not everybody rests. The market for instance actually shows up in full force. As did the misty clouds this morning in Ica as well as San Clemente. Javier Uriano, a consultant for Proética a transparency NGO, also chose to organize another large survey over a large portion of the city of San Clemente. His goals are to see what the advance in reconstruction in the area has been in terms of homes specifically. This is a continued effort from the week before, with the iignificant additional twist that today we must also try and do all the homes whose inhabitants were not to be found as well as the places that were simply unlocateable due to lack of street signs, numbers, and local understanding of the municipalities arbitrary nomenclature for the shantytowns set up for immediate (but slowly more permanent) relief.

Anways, moral of the story is we helped them out again and it was another day long affair. It is useful to get a better feel for the layout of the land, however. We also had the opportunity to visit a couple of outlying clusters of towns, where the chickens for the pollerías probably don´t but conceivably could come from.

For the mission, there are two leaders – one from Proética and the other from a group of journalists in Ica named Martín Flores – one other college student besides myself, 7 members of the local Comité de Defensa Civil (Civil Defense Committee – they defend rights not tanks) and 2 volunteers from the community itself. Its a good group and at the end we exchange bitter stories of angry dogs, neighbors who give bad directions, lack of inhabitance in homes far away, and the general dispersal of the surveys. We were strictly ordered to meet back for lunch and wrap things up by 2:30pm, but I was impressed by my compadres drive to finish their lists of names, some of them staying out past 3:15pm.

Lunch was a massive chowdown on chinese food, see heavy pixel concentration to the right, which they affectionately have termed ´Chifa´ here.

From there I have a long-scheduled meeting to see 30 highschool girls do a video program on civil society issues. It is held in a bare, local TV filming station and the program is quite low-quality. The girls attempt to illicit calls from children who work but it seemed no one was watching, so they simply kept opting for commercial breaks. Gotta admire the girls for trying. We spoke to the 5 girls that actually showed up about their interest level in helping teach rural kids some of their camera skills. They giggled and laughed and whispered and nodded and said yeah it sounded interesting with faces that said “What movie should we see tonite? OMG, my boy just texted me!” We´ll plan for without them at the time being.

From there we head to the cheap internet place to catch up on e-mail and even facebook for the first time in about 2 months. How many is so many ignored invites? More than very many, anyways? We can´t update the blog today because its saved on another disk so are avid readers will have to suffer at least another 15 hours. Then we find a place in San Clemente since it is much cheaper to stay than Pisco. Tomorrow we plan to set things in motion for staying in Nueva Esperanza. Wish us luck.

Friday, 24 July

On the ground during a social science project, how does one make the in-between decisions best? The overarching conceptural decisions usually develop naturally. The minute details take care of themselves, and usually end up working out fine if you put the effort and time into doing them right. But its those in-between, and equally important decisions that really make you go back and forth like a poorly designed website.

For instance, the overarching goals of what we would do over the last few weeks of our project developed on its own mostly. And the minute details will work themselves out. But right now we need to make the in-between decisions, the intermediate decisions. We have to decide which community(ies) we will work in. We have to decide where to live during this time. We have to decide what order to set up our meetings for.

We have to make some of those by Monday – latest. We should've made those decisions by last Monday, but we spent a week plus trying to research the required information to make the best decision – especially which community to choose since this is huge, grandote, killer-difference-maker, chick-chick-BANG.

Since we have no community chosen for sure, we are unable to find a place to rent for long term. This means we have to pay three times as much for each night. So we decide to pull the plug and just choose San Clemente to work in. We've found a place for cheap in the community we will be working closest with. We show up with all our stuff this morning and to our dismay the owner pulls a fast one on us and informs us that since we have a computer with us we will be responsible for paying the difference between her regular electricity bill and the one that comes out during our stay. She thinks this will add 35 soles to the monthly price – an increase of over 40% in total price. In the end this price is not that high, but we don't like having fast ones pulled on us so we ask to leave our stuff there as we look around for a new place.

We head randomly asking around some more until we arrive at a neighboring community called Agua Santa. Apparently there a good smattering of NGOs working there as well, or so Adam thinks. We find a great place, with a single room on the roof. It sits overlooking a grassy park and even a bit of the outlying farms. The main road is close-by, and there is even a nice interior road that runs right the front – think like a bike. The family is a bunch of professors, real nice people, and are ok with us using their kitchen sometimes. Electricity (at no extra cost), clothes washing buckets and a clothesline. Price is $/. 100 soles which is pretty decent considering they are cleaning up the place for us and even putting in an outlet.

We look at each other a bit and say ok, we'll take it. We pay them up front. We head back to get our bags from the other place and drop them off. From there we head off to conquer the world. As we walk we realize that our place is situated in a community that is not exactly the most NGO-intervened community in San Clemente. In fact it is a good 10 minute walk away from the more NGO-intervened community of Santa Rosa. In addition, we suddenly remember the rural community of Nueva Esperanza outside of Ica. This community had struck us as well-organized, with a well-used multi-purpose community center. Two NGOs had done housing projects in the area already, and another was currently underway. Each project was differently done in many different ways. More than that, the area has a very secluded feel, a more rural, more communal and open feel. Maybe our time constraint means we should focus more on a community like this?

But we just paid 100 soles to stay here a month. We pow-wow and agree that its best to humbly apologize and grovel for our money back. We end up offering them 10 soles to leave our bags behind for the day and night, but gratefully take the 100 soles back off their hands. Whew.

From there we decide to come up with a more rigorous metric for choosing our community. But first lunch.

After aji de gallina and arroz and chicken soup and fried chicken and white beans we head over to the community of Santa Rosa to get to know them better. How aware are they of the NGOs working in their region? How friendly and curious do they feel? Can we find any local community centers, any youth running around with interest in a video camera project? The first few tries really arent very promising. Especially after we asked a person working on a house for an NGO and he told us that he knew of no NGOs that were working in this community itself but that some were elsewhere. We thought for sure he must be misunderstanding us, but after a good minute of clarification he had us convinced. He was unaware. Then we asked another two random community members out for a walk who racked their brains for a bit and then told us to ask someone else, but that yes there was a good bit of construction going around in the community. Wow. Thanks, sistas.

With time we found a multi-purpose room that might be employable but the owner is not around to find out for sure. In addition, we head over to a Red Cross/Emergency Architects meeting with the beneficiaries and they seem to be quite interested in the project. They convince us that such a project would work great in their community and are in fact quite organized with some youth who would be interested for sure. Exchanging of a few phone numbers and we have some promises to follow through if we just give them a call. Great.

We have decided to pay an emergency visit to Nueva Esperanza. We make another rash decision and jump on a bus for Ica. Then we call Ingrid, from APORTES, the only NGO that is currently working in Nueva Esperanza. Turns out they are actualy headed over later tonight, right about the time we are planning on arriving. Sometimes rash decisions pay dividends – by pure luck. The trick seems to be make rash decisions and make the best outta whatever shade of luck surfaces.

After the hour bus ride, and a 8 minute taxi ride we arrive with 30 mins to spare at the APORTES office. It is here that we sit down and make our little project selection matrix of criteria and possible communities. We have about 8 communities we are comparing. We come up with 11 different criteria that are most important to us. We weight the criteria so that the sum adds to 1. Then we come up with a 1 to 5 ranking system for each criteria and hang an appropriate number to each matrix square. This system is unfortunately very wishy washy but the decision process for such things is this way. Oh and MIT teaches you how to do this and we spent weeks on it – on such a simple obvious thing...

On the way to Nueva Esperanza, we learn that the community we were thinking of is actually a conglomerate of three: Nueva Esperanza, Señor de Lurén, and Mancocapa. They are more like streets, and less like blocks, and can be covered by walking in 10 mins. Upon arrival we see a flock of youth playing volleyball in the middle of the dirt road. Smaller children were to the side playing in the dried river. We end up breaking up a Women´s Meeting going on in the community center. They immediately take to the idea of a video camera project for the area. Three of the participants are above 16 years but less than 20, and agree they´d be interested in working with us for sure. They admit that they don´t have great luxuries to offer us if we wish to stay. That is a good thing, we say. We´d prefer to hang out how they hang out. Eat how they eat. At this they lighten up even more and start chatting about who can host us and how they can set up a rotation for cooking our meals. We mention we´d like to cook alongside them to learn from them, and there eyes brighten even more still.

After 20 minutes of introductions and talk of life, a group of men join us – the testosteroneated half of the town´s directive committee. Turns out the President is headed off to Arequipa for the holidays (Independence Day is next week!) and he has called an emergency meeting to pass off official power to the vice-president for the time being. From here, the women who do not double as committee members escort me around the town, stopping as the pass each others house to say goodbye´s. There was Paola, a great-grandma at least, Julia with stretched, acknowledgin eyes, Adrianna who insisted we talk till I was convinced their community was the one, and Pamela and Alison who are teenagers and best friends. At the oldest lady´s house they pull out a flask of wine from her stash. She cracks a wrinkled, toothless smile, then takes a swig before offering it around.

After dropping off Julia, Adrianna pulls out a clear bottle from her pocket and grins. “Ready to change colors?” Meet Pisco, the local liquor. Warm like tequila – also made similar just switch agave for grapes.

Adrianna leaves us, and from there the teenagers pull out a volleyball and start knocking it around. It is here that I realize what is going on. This was the rural Peruvian version of heavy recruiting.

The meeting over, and we are headed back to Ica where we will spend the night. We now have two very promising communities to choose from. Can we do both somehow? We tell them we will get back to them on Monday. In the meantime we will do some serious soul-searching, that is if we have souls. Otherwise we would be wasting our time right?

Do you think humans have souls? If so, what purpose do they serve? If not, where does meaning live?

Thursday, July 23

Today there is a day long conference sponsored by the Peruvian Ministry of Housing on the topic of seismic-resistant housing. Adam says it looks really interesting since they are bringing in engineers with specialties in adobe and quincha, which we know nothing about in the US. Brooke says we should go search for a place to rent long-term (a month).

Needless to say, we begin our home search by walking around randomly, but winding our way towards Santa Rosa, where Brooke remembers meeting María´s sister. The sister kindly escorts us down the hill a bit farther to María´s humble wooden shack on the very edge of town. María is an active member of San Clemente who feels very strongly that she has been discriminated against by Cruz Roja in the housing beneficiary selection process. She decided to do something about it and has worked with others who apparently share her sentiments to draft an official complaint complete with signatures and multiple trips to Cruz Roja hq in Lima.

Last time we met María, she had offered to help us find a place to live if ever we were to stay in San Clemente, and she does not fail to follow through. She first offers to rearrange her temporary wooden shell of a home to accomadate us but we kindly refuse for every reason that one could think of. After some discussion she determines that the best place for us is with her family members who live nearby and will take us there tomorrow at 4pm. Good for us, since we will

From there we head to Pisco where we have a 11am meeting with Jaime Mok from Paz y Esperanza. He is a great guy, and we are interested in seeing what his masters thesis is about and also hear feedback on our upcoming project. The meeting goes great and he encourages us to spend significant time thinking about where we do the project and how to narrow it so that we don´t overload ourselves. He knows from experience how long it often takes to get projects rolling if you want to do it in a participative process. By the way, Jaime is doing a long-distance masters through a University here colloquily called La Católica. His thesis is on the participative housing process carried out by a tripod housing and development effort by Cruz Roja, Paz y Esperanza, and Acción Contra el Hambre.

After Jaime is done splashing us with his wisdom, we attempt, once again, to meet up with Arsídias to confirm the details for the Saturday meeting with the youth TV reporters. He is not there but is expected to come later. Greeting our more reliable friend, Michael the gate guard, we find out that the swine flu is causing such a scare throughout Perú and they are considering lengthing the two-week cancellation of classes to three weeks to prevent the spread. People are especially worried about increased infections in places with high rates of malnutrition, like Puno. If you don´t know anything about Puno, please check it out online. It is the coldest place in Perú and children are dying bying the hundreds from lack of warmth and food. Since we have been here, many different organizations have been running food and clothing drives for the children of Puno. We really hope to visit before we leave to know for ourselves.

Giving up on Arsídias, we decide lunch and seismic-resistant housing is a better use of our time. Carapulcra con sopa seca from the market topped off with some sweet breads fresh out of a street bread oven. At the conference we greet the various NGO workers we recognize including Henry, Segundo, and the bamboo architects from CEAS. We walk in on time for the Adobe lecture, which turns out to be decently interesting. It is amazing how much work and study has gone into adobe around the world since it is the only feasible alternative for a large percentage of the world´s population. The take aways from this lecture were basically that:
Adobe will be used so we must try and make it as safe as possible
Adobe weak points are the corners, and wall sections that are not properly tied into the roof or second floor diaphragm.
There are 5 story houses built of adobe that are seismic resistant and lasted the earthquake with cracks comparable to concrete buildings of its size
To make adobe that strong it requires serious time and very massive walls.
Adobe is best if limited to a first floor with second floor walls of lighter material such as quincha

Undoubtedly, the other lectures were also quite interesting and we wish we could stay longer but we already have our 4pm commitment with María in San Clemente. The thirty minute bus ride from Pisco to San Clemente makes us grind out teeth since we know it takes us that same amount of time by bike, but those are in temporary storage in Ica as we attempt to finalize our plans. To be fair, the only reason busing takes so long is that the main roads of Pisco are undergoing major reconstruction in preparation for the 2 year anniversary of the earthquake.

María is not there when we arrive. Granted, we are 10 minutes late, but we have yet to arrive someplace 10 minutes late and not end up being 20 minutes early. But she never shows up. We have here number packed away in some bag back in Ica so we cannot call her. Instead we decide to stop by her house, meanwhile looking for other places to rent. Surprisingly, many different places in the communities are renting rooms. Not one of them has a sign outside advertising a room to rent, which seems odd. Many of them are full with customers and it is also interesting to note that some of the rooms are in fact quite expensive. Seems there is quite a range in demand and some people are working in the area with pretty chunky salaries relative to what one might expect. In fact, nearly every house with two stories and made of brick (which means it didn´t fall or was newly built after the quake) rents rooms.

One of the places we find seems to fit the bill. It has the cheapest rooms we have found yet and offers space for bikes to be stored safely, electricity, and a large clothes washing area. The owner of the place informs us that she keeps this place here at a cheaper pice and runs a more expensive lodging on the more densely populated and touristic side of San Clemente. We give her confirmation that we are interested but since we have the night elsewhere already we will hold off on finalizing everything. When we stop by María´s home she is not there, so we opt for leaving a note hanging on her door letting her know what our phone number is and apologizing if we had missed her due to our tardiness.

For dinner, we stop by a bread post and pick up what looks like some different bread than usual. Add some fruits into the mix and we are set. The breads are definitely different from the usual selection of 4 different types and Adam gobbles them down with tasty slices of apple. The total dinner price for us all to eat more than we need comes to $1.50. Bed.

Break it up

Wednesday, July 22

The swine flu has created quite a scare in Peru. 14 have died according to La Voz de Ica. Apparently a foreigner in Cusco is responsible for this spread. Of course, if anyone was to make up a story about how it got here that would be the story that would be made up by probably 79% of any Peruvian. i.e. Cusco has many foreigners.

This relates to our project because this has led to the closure of all schools nationally for 2 weeks. 2 weeks. 2 f-ing weeks in an attempt to stem any further spread at a delicate time in Peru´s development. Unfortunately, we need those kids to be in school if we are going to talk to them about starting our project with them. I suppose that will have to wait and instead we will have to meet with other stakeholders in the project.

Our first such meeting is with Ascensión of the Int. Fed. of the Red Cross. She is the one who´s worked with many different NGOs in many different fields and many different countries not to mention continents. She is especially valuable as she has found a way to play a very influential role as project manager of the reconstruction efforts of her NGO but remains well connected and down to earth by working closely with her team as well as the international management of the Red Cross. Do the readers of this blog understand that the Red Cross has many different branches that are not under the same structure, the federation is one of them and then you have chapters of the Red Cross in many countries? There is not always pure cooperation between all these chapters, though there is much work streamlined due to having the same last name.

She is helpful. She says our project is useful and will help us out, tho she is leaving for Australian vacation spots for two weeks. See, she has learned that the next few weeks (due to independence day) everyone will be on vacation and the prices for travel will skyrocket within the country. She mentions a Florian Krueger in Lima who is working on starting a website charting all the NGOs working and granting them the option to upload their info for sharing to other NGOs working in the same area and/or on the same type of project. Maybe we can help/share ideas with him. Oh, but he is leaving for Germany vacation spots today. Great. We call him anyways, and he agrees to stay in contact via email and will help us out over vacation if he can.

She also recommends talking to Reagan Roy, a Canadian NGO worker living in Ica with 23 years of experience working in the region. So, he knows his stuff, especially that which pertains to the differences in the various communities of the Ica region. We call him and successfully set up a meeting tomorrow at 4pm. So much for Ica no more ever again.

From here we head over to try and find Arsídias or Jorge B since we weren´t able to get ahold of them yesterday. We want to confirm our Saturday meeting with them since we are considering asking them to partner with us in teaching these chicos in San Clemente. Of course, they are not there. The gate guard, Michael, blames a power outage. This is where Brooke becomes friends with him and learns he lives right behind our Pollotel. We agree to meet him later tonight to help us find a place to rent for a month at a cheaper rate.

Always staying in touch with Segundo from CEAS in San Clemente, we head over to the new bamboo Catholic Church to show him what we have come up with for our proposal and here is feedback. He agrees to help us set up a meeting with some community leaders but this will not be able to take place until August 5th. That is literally 2 weeks from now. He patiently explains that next week basically no one is working since three days are officially holiday. Everywhere people are planning on simply taking the week off in its entirety. He is really busy planning a conference for tomorrow on different types of earthquake-resistant housing construction techniques, so he can´t talk too long.

After picking up a late lunch at the market of chicharrón (flavorfully roasted pork with corn and lettuce), bananas, and 24 breads of different varieties, we head back to the taxi company that we used when we lost our food knife and sunglasses. None of the mentioned are that valuable, except in fondness and usefulness value – in which the knife is top-ranked in both. Adam claims it may be the only thing he has left from his childhood in Nigeria – and at a whopping total of $3 (some 12 years ago) it has been through a lot.

Amazingly we are able to track down our driver and he has the objects stored in his house for safety. He had considered driving around with it yesterday, but figured a customer who happens to open the glove compartment might freak out if he finds a knife! We thank the man for his honesty and give him a token papa rellena (stuffed potato).

From there its time to head back to the pollotel and critique any new ideas we have for the project. We spend some time thinking more about the many different options we have for spending the rest of our time here. We calendar out everything from quitting, to jungle documentary, and even to extending our stay. Of course we come to no hard conclusions since we still lack information. In the meantime we get a call from Martin who wants us to help him finish encuestas for Proética on Saturday. In addition, Jaime Mok calls to let us know that he is available for meeting us tomorrow morning, which is huge since he has been thinking of how the NGO reconstruction intervention can become more participative by analyzing the way it is done now in detail. This work is just beginning for a thesis project he is developing. Maybe we can work together.nn

Tuesday, July 21

The best part of waking up is quaker in your cup. Why didn’t we think of this before we got to Perú? It´s basically milk and oatmeal but in drinkable form with cinnamon and clave and some other spice.

10 am meeting at CODEHICA over the planning of the August 15 festivities to commemorate the 2 year anniversary of the earthquake. To the meeting are invited a smattering of NGOs interested in working together and taking advantage of CODEHICA´s superior communications department to advertise via radio, tv, and posters the event that is meant to be a chance for leaders of communities in Ica, Pisco, and Chincha to voice their concerns over the lack of reconstruction by the government. The theme is “Una sola voz por la reconstrucción”. One voice for the reconstruction.

We now understand why NGOs around here are not really excited about having these meetings. It is one of the slowest we have yet to see, with little progress made over the span of 2 hours. We arrive 3 minutes late. To put this into perspective, we arrive not only third out of everyone, but before three out of four representatives from the very office it is held in even arrive. Clearly, the NGO communities are not the only one who are late all the time. We start 30 mins late after they give up waiting for the other NGOs who seem to have prioritized other activities at the last minute.

The objective of the meeting is to delegate responsibilities – both financial, as well as for the detail planning for the activity. They successfully choose three different people to be in charge of the details and discuss over and over the different financial costs and how to tweak it, but never who will actually cover it. Both of these things seem to be things that will end up being done in the end.

Unfortunately, few of the reps are the reps we have gotten to know at their respective NGOs. This makes us sad, since we had planned to speak to them in person about our project proposal. Instead we have to settle with simply speaking with Charo and Martin, Pepe and the 3 CODEHICA interns. They promise to get back to us.

We are leaving for San Clemente now. It is there that we are leaning towards working due to its high density of NGOs, proximity to PNUD Pisco, familiarity with community leaders, presence of four schools and 1 Instituto Superior (tech school), agricultural demographic but easy access to either more rural to the east and the urban Pisco slightly more south.

First, we have to move out of our rented room. This means we will have to leave our bikes with the Arquitectos de la Emergencia, a friendly French NGO with young leadership and a rented place in Ica, as well as some excess baggage. And then we are off from Ica for good. So ends our 2-week stint at Ica, our third stint after Tambo de Mora and Pisco. So must begin our 4-week stint in San Clemente.

But we have a 4 pm meeting in Pisco with the journaling girls of the Colegio Bandera in Pisco. Granted we arrive a little late due to a fiasco of leaving our food knife and sunglasses in the colectivo (we are on a bad streak of losing things), we are stood up. Arsidias, the guy in charge, does not answer his cell phone. The school is all locked up and everyone informs us that there is no classes. Really? Thanks.

Arsidias is not in his office, we are carrying around full bags of most everything we own, and again we are bikeless – a recipe for delicious crankiness to die for. Brooke decides to force herself to smile and chuckle to make herself feel better. Adam grabs the closest electrical pole, wrenches it outta the ground, snaps it in eight places, puts one end of the snapped wire into an ear and the other plunged into his heart. Lindsey buys 36 breads, 24 of which are sweetened, and a lasso for catching small children of the pig variety.

All satisfied in different ways, we regroup happily to head to San Clemente. As you must do when it is late and you have no bikes and heavy packs, we set up shop in the cheapest place we can find. Happens to be a room above a fried chicken joint. Our window opens to the chimney as the chicken cooks. The cooks also seem to thoroughly enjoy watching TV very loudly while they fry. At 15 soles per night we are doling out cash for lodging at three times our last place. In a couple days, if we decide to stay, we will find the cheaper option. For now, we will just chill out and pay the hefty price of $5 for 3 people.

Dinner is chicken soup with the entrée being chanfainita and tallerines. We get a lot of food and can´t even finish one meal between two people. How do people do it around here? The two people next table over looked like they were on a date and the girl was 80% brooke´s size. And she ate an entire meal herself. We finally ended up packing some of the soup up for the next day and rolling up the hill to our pollotel.

Monday, July 20

We wake up in Chincha at 6am. 6:30am and we are at the bus stop. Water is bought. 7:30am and we are at the Cruce just east of Pisco. By 8:15am we make it to PNUD´s office in San Andes where-

“Expletive, where is the still camera?”

Musta left it on the bus. We go back and do everything we can to track it down but its no where to be found and the bus was thoroughly examined to no avail. Here marks our first significant loss of the trip. Good thing we have insurance on all our electronics. And we can still take stills with our video camera so we are OK. Bad news is that the camera had a 16 GB SD card with other information not to mention a couple days of pictures taken by one very photographically talented boy.

In San Andrés, Henry hooks us up with an escort to find two people from the municipality of Pisco that might be useful to help us out: Jorge Bardales who is in charge of capacitación charlas with the community, and Jorge Pineda, the municipal press representative. Jorge B hooks us up with Arsídias who is doing a video and civic participation program with a group of rich girls at a private school in Pisco. Jorge B seems great but Arsídias is a bit less interested in what we have to say.

Jorge P is in a suit. He is also very busy. But he says, estamos en contacto and is willing to air whatever we want. At first he thinks we are coming on the part of PNUD with a documentary that we want him to air. We patiently explain to him that our documentary is currently in the form of a 300 GB amoeba. It will not be released from its cacoon as a beautiful butterfly until April or May of 2010.

Sounds easy, but tracking down these two guys took a good chunk of the day as they were in and out and in out. After this we spent some time checking out the organization of Pisco´s temporary municipal set-up. Since the earthquake cleaned out its plaza de armas location, they have been forced to separate into different camps of single-story wooden módulos for shelter to set up operations. This seems to indicate that the muni might actually not have any money like it says, since it has yet to even rebuild its own office.
We spend the rest of the day doing some hard-core brainstorming together over what we will be doing over the rest of our time here. This is the part where we come up with an idea for what a couple engineering students with below-average communications abilities, no experience working for reconstruction NGOs, 10 flipcams, 2.5 weeks, limited contacts in any given community, and little familiarity with not only Peru but life in general can do to help.

We cover some pages of paper with lists of strengths and weaknesses for different project ideas we come up with. After significant effort, hairs pulled out, and brains jostled, we decide to buy a couple bananas and 4 scoops of ice cream to share a banana split. Suddenly, we have typed up a one page proposal for what our project might look like and type up another page of critique questions that we would like responded to by the people we have met that have best understood why we are here at all. These include: Daniel from ASPEm, Eduardo from LWR, Henry (and his entire office) from PNUD Pisco, Rosario and Hernán from PNUD Ica, Ascensión from the Federación Int. de Red Cross, Jaime Mok from Paz y Esperanza, Charo and Pepe from CODEHICA, Martin from the Colectivo de Periodistas, Leonardo from Proética, 3 university interns at CODEHICA, and some others. These are some of the first-team all star NGO workers that we have gotten to know as defined by how well they understood what we are doing.

We spend some cash printing off copies to hand out as well as sending out emails to all that we can.

After that we head over to check out a group of evangelists in the plaza who have rented really loud speakers, are dressed in suits and are on a stage healing people. We join the semi-circle surrounding them as we much two chicken hamburgers and two carne hamburgers – the total of which cost us $1.33 at our favorite chicken couple.

We share some deep discussion on religion, and supernatural healing, as one person in the crowd claims that he has been healed of a tumor, another gained mobility in a strained shoulder, another a head pain of 15 days, and some others felt that they might have been healed as well but had to check their doctor. One boy was brought up who had a heart murmur and the healer in the suit tried praying multiple times for him and the boy kept saying he felt no different. Logically, the suited one thanked the boy and told him to go to his doctor to find out that the murmur was indeed better and that he should tell others about Christ when he was healed.

If supernatural powers are real, should they still be ignored and discredited?

After this we head to catch a bus to Ica since we have a meeting at 10 am. This is the first time in awhile that we have not had bikes with us at all and it is costly, frustrating, and tiring – all great character-building exercises according to Lindsey.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The kid next to me says, vamos a matarles!

19 July, Sunday Feliz día!

Wish Brooke a happy birthday when you see her next.
It’s an early start cause we’ve got a mountain of work in front of us. But FIRST, a tamale. Hooray for all night cooking, black waters, and delicious interiors. We were told to meet at the Soyuz bus no later than 6:15. People start trickling in at 6:25ish. We don’t leave until 6:40.

Peruvians, I hear, have an issue with punctuality.

Once we’re in Chincha, we have the most delicious breakfast of mystery meat sandwiches and strawberry milk honey shakes. Then we taxi over to Pueblo Nuevo. Pueblo Nuevo is at the very top of the Chincha region nearby Chincha Alta and Grocio Prado. The area has a beautiful center square complete with a highway lined with palm trees. Apparently, the plaza was fine after the earthquake, but many of the buildings around it have broken windows and cracks down their sides that reach towards the roof.

There are volunteers here from the municipality too. One for each of us. Hugo and Brooke. Raúl and Adam. And after a lengthy diatribe sobre the encuestas, we have to head out to begin, an hour and a half late. We plan on returning back at 1pm for a quick lunch at a polleria. And after we see Javier, our leader, do a practice run, set off by ourselves.

We average about 10 surveys an hour at first. The houses are divided in manzanas (yes, that’s an apple). Imagine a big grid where the lines are streets and the squares are lined with homes with free space in the middle for back yards. That square is a manzana. So if you have to do houses 1 to 15 on manzana A, and then 3-8 on mnzana B, you end up on the other side near manzana C and then have to back track.

Everyone we talk to was eligible for bonuses or BanMat cards (materials bank). No one received money or supplies. Many people are only able to reconstruct with their own money or through a Techo Proprio program. With the recent changes they’ve made to their business, many people are unable to pay the monthly bill. We try hard to finish off just one last manzana before going back for lunch. CARAPULCRA! So good. Heavenly, I’d say.

After lunch it was already around 2:30pm. Javier, the NGO rep in charge, decided we would stop all encuestas at 4pm to ensure that we were all back in well before dark set in. Unfortunately our local municipal guides, who know the places like the backs of their hands and even have little hand-made maps of the layout, have to leave for a 3pm meeting. We reorganize and decide we cannot finish today and will have to leave some sectors for next weekend.

Since Brooke and I were given the shortest list of encuestas, we both finished ours by 4pm. Out of 7 surveys, 3 were finished and the others had around a total of 100 encuestas left for next weekend. At 4:30pm we were all accounted for, reimbursed for travel expenses, and invited to stick around to join the beer circle. We do for awhile. They say its birthday beer.

Since we are in the area we decide to spend the rest of our time hanging out with Choche and his family. As expected they treat us to much food and drink. Choche says its birthday wine. Then we fall asleep, psyched for waking up early.

18 July, Saturday WORK IT
“Yo puedo cocinar huevos.”

In the mornings, as the sun starts to rise in Peru, robots flood the streets. They equip themselves with megaphones and drone their messages to wake up the unsuspecting. “Breeeeead! French breeeead!” “Apples, oranges, oh so sweet!” ...Not really, but most mornings sound like a robot battle in the streets. Street vendors ride around on bicycles with a load of fruit in a front trailer. But the doppler effect and the distortion of the megaphone combined with the monotony of hearing about pan or frutas over and over again makes it seem like electronic war could be being raged outside our windows. It's a strangely pleasant feeling.

Today we took a leisurely breakfast in the market at the normal quaker lady with a new twist. We brought our own homemade bowls (the bottom of 2.5 liter water bottles), plastic spoons we've been saving through all our meals, and a bottle of soy yogurt. Our plastic spoons have managed to survive at least a month now because we take care of them each and every time we're done eating by licking every bit of food off. It grosses Lauren out. Heh. On a side note, soy products cost significantly less in Peru since being a hippie, vegan, save-the-planet freak isn't popular and ergo a non-profitable business.

Our recently set routine is 3 soles of surprises, 2 soles of bread, and 2.10 soles on quaker. Each day we venture further into the depths of the market in search of surprises, and now we know (very well) the sleeping beast within. Our surprises range from peanuts to apples, oranges, bananas, peaches, and plums. So we shake up a fruit parfait and chug quaker. Maybe it's because it's a Saturday, but all the vendors were lazy today. Usually we ask for 1 sole of apples and they fill up a bag, weigh it, and tie a cute little knot for us. Today, sin embargo, they just hand us bags and tell us to do it ourselves. A day of rest? Who knows.

Since we have 2 conflicting appointments again, we plan on splitting up. There is a Cáritas Fair in San Juan Bautista and an architecture/urban planning class with UNICA. We all ride to the Cáritas office and split up from there. Adam hops in a cab with a Cáritas chica, and the girls set off to find class.

The first UNICA we stop at isn't the UNICA we're looking for. It's just one branch of many. There is, in fact, a Pisco UNICA and a city of ICA UNICA, and a Pan-American UNICA. I suspect there are more, but the one we are looking for is a good 3 kilometers outside the city. I thought it was going to be a day of rest. When we arrive, we come encounter a 50 student classroom of fourth years who are studying a variety of topics (architecture, urban planning, civil engineering). Only 5 or 6 are female. Everyone explains that most girls at UNICA are more interested in Human Rights or Communication. Everyone wants to know what it's like to take courses in the United States. Curious is a nice word for - acting like high school monkeys who know how to make paper airplanes and are are happily swinging about in the jungle.

Profesora Rosario is thirty minutes late for her class. When she enters, everyone settles down but the rowdiness is bubbling right underneath the surface. She discusses how a city is like a living organism, what proportions of what kinds of buildings make up urban centers, and the upcoming project. Today we are going to visit La Tierra Prometida to do encuestas and to see for ourselves what kind of conditions the people are living in. What does the air feel like there? How do the people live? What kind of soil? Before this, she asks Lauren to stand in front of the class to introduce herself. Afterwards, she asks three volunteers to tell us about Ica and how the city relates to their studies. Her sole goal is to embarrass as many people as possible in front of a large group. One says that engineering work is important since they are located on a fault line near a beach where the soil is not very anti-seismic. Check. Or at least that's as much as I understood. Another talks about how there is a lack of soil studies done before constructing which then leads to unsuccessful buildings. Check.

Then we head out. We watch the students do encuestas under a scorching sun from the shade.

Upon our return to Ica proper, Lorena chows down on two ice creams. Then we share a soup. Then a rice dish with chicken adobo. More water. Oh so much water.
Back home, we all do laundry together. In the same bathroom. One at the sink, one in the shower, one hovering over the shower. All squished into a bathroom (so tiny!) laundry doing party. The floor was wetter than our clothes, and I'm not entirely sure how clean everything can really be, but it's better than it was before. We think. Except the shirt that fell in the toilet. Oops.

Tonight's din din is on Proética since we are going to be waking up at the crack of dawn for them tomorrow morning. In addition, we are attending an orientation meeting at 8:00 to learn the survey before we enseñar our mirror group mañana in Pueblo Nuevo. Proética is a pro-transparency NGO. Our branch focuses on government corruption. Our surveys ask how many are in the family, how bad the destruction was after the earthquake, whether the house has a “certificado damnificado;” and which reconstruction program (6.000 soles or mivivienda) they were eligible for. The kicker is that almost al the homes in my sample were deemed eligible but have yet to receive their bonuses. Lauren walks in an hour late to the meeting, elbow deep in a bag of 5 soles worth of animal crackers. That translates to something around a kilo’s worth. Ai mamí!

The volunteers hail from UNICA and study civil engineering, communications, or law. In order to collect them up, Leonardo had to go to several universities to give a short talk about his work and ask in person for volunteers. What we see today is only half of those that agreed to help. Apparently participation is a tough deal in Perú. All the NGOs we’ve worked with have had issues with attendance so it’s no surprise. After many clarifications, we all leave the meeting to hang out and eat pizza in the plaza. And guess what?? The pizza’s from Lindsey’s favorite ice cream place! So she has two cones-worth. She might have had three if it weren’t for other limiting factors. Her dessert stomach is NOT a limiting factor (as she explains, there are two stomachs. One for food. One for sweets. Guess which one is never full?).

Oh yeah, like always, we sleep at the end of the night.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Wouldn´t it be great if we were older

Friday, 17 July
“And I totally am in love with Henry. And our chicken lady-lover pair was there, but not our tea lady nor our smoothie lady, oh but our ice cream man was.”

When some people get older they become more humble, even though they have only gotten wiser. Type 1. Others listen less, and talk more. Type 2. What does that to them?

Henry is type 1. To the 100th power. Too many old ones are type 2 – but they´re friendly and harmless so we advocate keeping them around despite their twosomeness.

Breakfast was fruits and pan and quaker at our new breakfast spot in the market. We like the whole table to put fruits and bread on thing. They had milk and manzana quaker this morning. ¿Cómo se escribe ´delicious´ en francés?

9am radio show with CODEHICA. Weekly, one-hour long, and titled ´Voces por La Reconstrucción´. Sounds up our alley so we´ve been excited all week to hit this bad boy up. We film them interviewing a couple journalists from the ´Periodistas por La Reconstrucción´ group and hear some community feedback on the ground from Sunampe and Pisco on what they think of the reconstruction so far. Their responses are very familiar, as we´ve heard the same things many times via our community surveys.

10am interview with Ingrid, an NGO worker at APORTES. We arrive a bit late and it seems she is taking time out of free time this Friday to hook us up with her words of wisdom. And suddenly Brooke had done her first complete on-her-own real-life larger-than-life totally-in-spanish interview. It may have taken 3 hours and felt somewhat like being murdered with a corn cob, but it happened. And when the husks were swept away, months of ceaseless Spanish-intake efforts and Ingrid´s unique perspective were smelted together to glitter like a golden success nugget.

After this interview we had a brief breath of fresh air – and by fresh air I mean leftover fruits, bread and a angel-fruit cake like pastry. We confirm our interview at 2pm and also confirm our meeting in Pisco with Henry Flores. During the radio show we had heard about a 5pm march in Pisco in protest of the lack of reconstruction on the part of the government. Interesante. Of course, we still had to remember the CODEHICA workshop with journalists and students later on tonight. So we decided to do it all. And then, we did.

But first we interrupt your normal blogging program with a miner strike. No, not a minor strike. A strike about the current income rates for iron miners in Peru. Their flyers are labeled “Unidad Sindical” and tell “las autoridades de trabajo: respeto al derecho de huelga y a la libertad sindical!” They’ve been on indefinite strike as of the 13th of July until their demands for .70 centimos raises have been met. “El gobierno no debe proteger a empresa que no respeta los derechos laborales (The government should not protect a business which does not respect labor rights).” They are fighting for a raise of 23 American cents.

From here, we split up. The interview at 2pm was at Guadalupe, a town outside Ica, and with Casas de la Salud rep Percy Gutierrez. Brooke now has two feathers in her cap and gets the sweet reward of seeing our favorite community member: Janet. And don’t forget her 5 beautiful children. I encounter Lucera chewing on a sugar cane outside on a dirt mound, intently supervising a work site. A cement mixer is roaring in the background and wheelbarrows are flying between it and the foundation’s trenches. She runs up for hugs and kisses, and then we go into her house where Janet is breastfeeding the newest addition to the family. I also say hi to Percy, and we ask Janet to conduct the interview in her house. She dodges to the left, she barrel rolls past the right, and GOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL! I conduct my next full-on in-Spanish interview.

In one of our more recent brainstorming sessions, we brilliantly formulated a worksheet with questions specifically dedicated to workers in the field. We infused this sheet with some of the burning questions that have lain dormant in our bosoms. Then there was an eruption of courage and determination within our hearts to include said questions in our typical q+a sessions. Thus became the “Ficha del Campo.” Which was so deftly utilized by our budding journalist hero. Casas de la Salud plan on constructing at a rate of 5 homes per month. Four months of work to finish houses for 20 families. In addition to homes, they will be planting trees and hosting community-building talleres. Despite the lack of attendance at last Saturday’s meeting, he says that the people of Guadalupe are much more likely to participate and come to meetings than many of the other communities they’ve worked with. It’s all due to the intense initiative of the informal leaders of the town. One thing that I find interesting about their work is that they divide the work into smaller projects so that the housing construction is staggered. After the first trial run, the architect conducts interviews with the people to decide on how to make the homes more suitable for the needs of the people in that specific region. Then they move onto the second group and so on.

In Pisco, we’re hitting up the PNUD office to talk to handy dandy Henry Flores. He suggests two groups: “Espacio y Espresión” who wants to do work with kids to discern new uses for public spaces or maybe with a group of urban planners/architects instead of the kids. He also mentions working with his friend Jorge who is in charge of stirring up democracy in the minds of ambitious youth. Maybe we can draw from this pool of know-who. We bring up our idea for troubleshooting a larger scale project about evaluation that we’ve had in mind. Are there other organizations already providing public information about the failures and successes of these privately funded, civil service organizations? On the topic of APCI, he refers us to the website but advises us that their work is mostly regulatory. Like an FDA stamp for organizations. As an alternative, he suggests CIES which apparently has at least produced some evaluation report. It´s location is known only by his secretary. Finding any more info looks like a job for the… Internet! We will spend a whole lot of time researching the responsibildades de estas organizaciones. In the future. When we get some free time.

While Brooke colectivos, taxis, walks, and bikes from Guadalupe to the CODEHICA office, Adam and Lorena leisurely enjoy the stomping and shouting of a peaceful protest march at the central square. “¡¿Alcalde rata, donde está la plata?!” “Rat of a Mayor, where’s the money?!” They reminisce in the good ol’ days of Pisco while visiting the normal ice cream man and chicken sandwich couple. If some people get more humble or more talkative as they get older, there is a third category of people who just get more bad ass and greasy. And we love them for their threesomeness.

Adam and Lorena try to hop on the bus back to Pisco but it only has space for 1 person. Anti-splitting up as we are, we choose to hang back. Turns out, a truck driver nearby saw it all, and offered us a ride and a lollipop. So we said cool. He said, ´my place afterwards´? And we said cool. But really, we caught a ride back in a 32 ton tanker transporting hydrochloric acid to Arequipa. Fun and exciting, just ask Lindsey, who fell asleep 10 mins in due to the fast and furiousness of living in 3rd gear.

At CODEHICA, there is a meeting at 4:30 with students. Except there isn’t. But she still waits around for them until 5:00 since everyone is normally 30 minutes late. After asking again about the meeting, the security guard changes his mind and says that maybe it’s actually at 5:30. Unfortunately, they people hosting the meeting are all in another kind of meeting and can’t answer the questions about meetings until they’re done meeting in their meeting. Meeting meeting meeting meeting. So again, there is some waiting around. At 5:30, there is frustration and a decision to go out and ask the hosts of the meeting what’s up. There never was a 4:30 meeting. In fact, the next meeting we have scheduled at 7pm is actually at 6:30. Or is it?

Anyways, the meeting for Periodistas Unidas Por La Reconstrución (scheduled for 6:30) doesn’t begin until 7:15. Más que nada it is an organizing rendez-vous to decide who is going to which community, who is calling which mayor, and what their organization’s name and emblem is going to be. Afterwards, we pick out people who write about private institutions as they relate to reconstruction. That’ll be useful in the future.

So then we are all like, let’s meet back at headquarters. And we do. And we debrief each other. And celebrate Pisco by eating hot hot chicken sandwiches and sweet bread. And we upload. And we sleep, oh don’t we sleep.

Thursday, 16 July

“I bought 48 cookies today. I only planned on eating one package of 6, but then they looked so good, I had to eat another one. On my third, I decided that eating a fourth would gross me out enough to prevent a fifth.”

Our rent is due. Our landlord is pounding on the door. I thought it might have been room service.

No breakfast in bed this morning. Instead, we all go to the market to eat diner-style. We split up into the fruit group and the bread group. The fruit group’s mission is to obtain 2 soles worth of fruit. The bread team will return with 2 soles of bread. The normal bread ladies are missing in action, so we find a joven at the entrance.

Bread man: “How much do you want?”
Adam: “One Sole, please.”
Bread man: “How much?”
Adam: “One Sole.”
Bread man: “But how many pieces of bread?”
This should have been our first indicator that this bread boy was no pillsbury push over. He played dirty and didn’t bat an eyelash when he handed us 14 pannes not 16. When we noted this to him, he reluctantly gave up the last two and 17 soles change for 20. Leaving us one sole short. Eventually we grew frustrated and proceeded to take the boy by his legs, turn him upside down, and shake him down for the rest of our change. Blame Lindsey’s pent up rage.

We sat and drank quaker de manzana. A heftily jolly woman selling corn con queso jaunted over to our table from the middle of the street and asked where we were from. When she found out we were foreigners (not very hard to do since we are gringos) and that Lindsey didn´t know the Spanish word for an ear of corn, she proceeded to pull one out and hand it over. Try this! It´s good for your cholesterol if you have it for breakfast. And so we did. We each got an ear of corn and a little bit of what was quite possibly the best tasting queso of this trip. After talking a while and learning that on other days she sold some sort of yucca treat, she set off and promised to look for us in the market in the future so we could try her other food.

From here we have to run a few errends. We head to GTZ to gather more information on the trip we had returned from, the connection between GTZ and Pachamama, collect a DVD copy of a video shown to the people, and set up a guided site visit on Wednesday with Pachamama´s headquarters in Cusco. Then, we head over to the internet café to print off financial aid documents that cry “we need non-digital signatures”. The scanner is a little harder to come by, not to mention the corresponding jump in price (14.01 in action).

After this we ran over to the plaza de armas to brainstorm for a couple hours and make a couple key calls. We discussed where we would like to return to and what project we would implement. The project is to be designed based on what we feel is lacking in the community-NGO communication aspect of post-disaster reconstruction. The location is a function of the project we choose, but will likely be around Pisco since this seems to be the location of the most sustained NGO intervention at this stage. We conclude that whatever project we do must be very specific or be very preliminary. We discuss many permutations of these two routes, and come up with a couple ideas. We agree that the next stage is to invest time into planning right away, specifically meeting with the right people to find out what they think can be done and their thoughts on the evaluation stage of NGO projects by third-party observers. Luckily we will be interviewing PNUD in Ica later tonight so we can ask them. We also call Henry Flores from PNUD Pisco to set up a meeting with him tomorrow on the same topic. We figure these people have much more knowledge on these topics than we do. It is our priority to find out if we are missing any institutions that do this same kind of work in this region.

Its sunny. Conveniently there is a 1 sol ice cream cone place on the block. We head over there because we suspect Lindsey will be there. She is. Fancy us being right. We treat ourselves to an ice cream each. Tasty balls of lime, cocunut, lúcuma, pecan, and chocolate chip dissolve on twitching, muscular tongues.

Lindsey heads to lunch, and Adam and Brooke decide to try and see Mesa de Concertactón Contra la Pobreza (MCLCP), who apparently has many contacts of local leaders everywhere. Turns out they have a 4 hour lunch break. Literally. So we are forced to go eat lunch with Lindsey. Of course, she is eating the last meal available at a lunch-only restaurant since its 3pm, so we can´t sit together.

Lunch done, and we head over to our PNUD interview. We had set it up with Julio Rojas the Coordinator of the office, but two others (Hernán and Rosario) from the office are kind enough to sit down with us and join as well. The interview goes well. They remind us that PNUD workers cannot be interviewed and can definitely not be filmed – but since we asked nicely and wrote a nice email and have two girls with shy smiles then they´ll let it slide just this once. We like PNUD.

We finish just in time to run over to our 7pm commitment with CODEHICA´s television crew. They are interviewing the Director of the College of Lawyers and someone else for a show that is televised on Saturday nights. It is quite irrelevant to post-disaster, but it gives us a chance to gather footage on the video equipment used by CODEHICA, an NGO involved in the reconstruction as part of its program of general development. Besides, the camera crew is very nice and let us film in the room live, and take many pictures of ourselves pretending to be interviewing each other – i´m pretty sure they saved some footage of us making professional fools of ourselves, but they are chill. One of them had a ACDC shirt on.

Home time. Then dinner time. We savor some pineapple chicken with rice and potatoes and some duck. Chicken soup, and then scalding herbal tea. We had all of this at the new place we found on the West side of the Panamericana highway. The atmosphere is chill and it lends itself to being a hang-out spot for many of the mototaxi drivers.

Wednesday, 15 July
¨I bet your mom´s water broke and she was like, Oh, it´s a Brooke!"

Alarm´s set for 4:02am. Second alarm set for 4:45am. We roll out of bed at 5:25am. Last time that Lindsey is left responsible for making sure we wake up.

Under harsh verbal orders from Brooke, we wake up, pack quickly, and stash our breakfast of yogurt and breads in our packs. We arrive at the German aid institution GTZ at 6:01. We are greeted by a security guard and a cleaning crew, who are friendly, but no Ing. Armando Moyonero. Bad news, is that in our rush we managed to forget our camera battery charger. We anticipate two days with multiple meetings and rural community footage, and are worried we won´t be able to last. So, Brooke, again snaps her fingers to get Adam´s attention, points, and grunts ¨Fetch.¨ And so he does. Good boy, goooood boooooy. Yeh, who´s a goooodddd dogggyy? You´re a goooddd dooooggy!

6:20am and everyone is on site and ready to head out in the van. We get to ride with Armando from GTZ, David the driver, and Renán - Mayor of San Isidro which is the district of the first meeting later today. Renán becomes our new favorite mayor by inviting us all to breakfast. A hearty chicken noodle and egg soup with hot coffee/quaker.

Then we pick up a projector in a box with a projector graphically illustrated on all four sides.

Then David pulled out his sunglasses. Armando zipped up his flaming jacket. Renán squished in the backseat with us three. Asphalt to concrete, concrete to rougher concrete, rougher concrete to dirt. Dust billows behind us in un-Matlable fashion. Thankfully, no one is in sight ahead of us so we aren´t riding into the wind – just dirty.

Dirt to bumpy road and we have to slow down. It looks like its in the middle of a road paving project but why would we know? MIT doesnt teach Civil/Env. Engineers these things. Neither did life apparently. Two of us hold our breath in anticipation of the Sierra landscape – dry gradual mountains that slowly turn more green, more rocky, and higher as one travels further into the departamento de Huancavélica. The other one tries to sleep, cuz she can ´sleep through anything´.

The landscape doesnt disappoint and soon we are happily filming and shooting pics from the inside of the fully caged full cab 4x4 Hilux. Our first stop is Córdova which is about 3 hours from Ica. We stop here to greet the Córdova mayor and set up lodging for the night, since this is the only place in the region with a hotel/hostel. Turns out this town is in the midst of its annual 15 day festival. That would be quince. Brooke and Adam have seen this before elsewhere, and here is the blunt and excusably ignorant foreigners version of what the festival is. It is religious (largely syncretic) and centered around church services, fireworks, dancing, local alcoholic drinks, beer, and folk music. By day 3 expect every single person in town to be drunk.

We end up staying here quite some time to watch fireworks and be invited to drinks from town members dancing behind a train of what looks like a school band. After prying ourselves away and picking up two workers (Walter and Grimaldo) from a partnering NGO Pachamama Raymi, we head up towards San Isidro.

We finally enter San Isidro, which is a spread out district with many farmers. At the first group of 8 roofs we come across, we stop to greet a local resident. 30 mins later we are exiting the cluster, after snacking on beans and potato soup with boiled potato and goat cheese. Rico.

In the end, we do actually reach our final destination, and are greeted by a rather new 3 story municipal building and spacious plaza de armas. Both are rather empty. We are already hours late for the meeting that was scheduled by us, but no one seems to be complaining. The mayor proceeds to announce the beginning of the meeting over a loudspeaker on the outside of the municipal building. It takes awhile for everyone to get settled in and its not until 3pm that the meeting gets going. Rumor has it that the meeting was scheduled to start at 10am. We were too scared to confirm this minor detail, afraid of the answer.

The meeting is only about an hour long and consists of an introduction of the development project set up by GTZ and operated on the ground largely by Pachamama Raymi, which has had a significant record of success working in areas of extreme poverty in Quechua regions of South America and apparently Guatemala. This NGO utilizes a strategy of gradual change realized by setting up a competition among all families of a community to see who can best utilize 2 to 3 years of basic life-improvement training. They help with improved stoves, adobe latrines, vegetable gardens, small animal pens and fish farms – all of which are designed to help the people become self-sustaining and healthy. The next step takes another few years and consists of raising the crop production to goods that can be sold at markets as cash crops. Then comes encouraging vegetation tourism.

Another part of this NGOs strategy is to choose the top performers from the advanced communities to work for them and replicate the same projects in other regions. This is where Walter and Grimaldo come from and they are set on their assigned task of working in San Isidro. They introduce their project to the community members listening and Armando puts a couple videos on the projector as examples of success in other similar rural Andean communities.

After this meeting we are again invited by the mayor to a dinner at his place. It is getting late however, so we decide to go back to Córdova where our lodging is staying. It is now cold, and we choose to sit in the back of the pick-up. It is very cold. Colder than Cusco says Grimaldo. On the way we pick up at least 5 different locals walking from one area to another. They are all very grateful for the ride, and we wonder how often trucks with free space come by. By the way, we met the President of the Farmers Committee and he said transportation costs are killing this region, and says it must be fixed before everyone in the town is forced to leave for elsewhere.

Turns out the hostel we thought we had booked was full. Surprise! Not worried, Armando hunts down the mayor to see if he can find us a place to crash for the night. Everyone in town is partying – only dancing harder than before to shake off the cold. We wait an hour and still cannot find the mayor, and finally decide that it is best to simply return to Ica tonight. The meeting scheduled for tomorrow morning will be cancelled because of the party anyways (everyone will be drunk says Armando, telling us what we could´ve told him.)

Before leaving, however, we sit down to a delicious dinner of rice, ram meat in a delicious sauce, and potatoes with tea to top it off. As expected, everything is more expensive here than Ica (if you eat as cheap as possible) since the food must be imported from town at a cost.

Arrival back at Ica is 11:30pm. We pick up our bikes and follow the short and well-lit road home through the center of town. Yogurt dies. We upload and blog and fall asleep.

14 July, Tuesday
“Hola, it´s Lindsey. I don´t know a whole lot about what Brooke and Adam did today because I stayed home in the morning and watched Wanted. I didn´t like it the first time I saw it and after a second chance today, I still wasn´t impressed. But it was decent I guess. Anyway, almost right after that ended, Brooke and Adam returned home and I was hungry for food, and they were hungry for internet and entrevistas, so we headed out in the direction of sandwiches in hopes of finding internet also. However, Adam quickly broke off from the group and soon after I heard Brooke say something about looking for something but I didn´t understand, so I decided to go my own way and look for some tasties. This took me to the Super de Ica, aka the land of the KEKE, but after eating like 20 keke´s over the last few days, I decided to swear them off. Instead, I got some vanilla yogurt and a ¨Dalmatian¨ treat: gooey chocolate at the center, with chocolate cake outside that, covered in white chocolate with chocolate chips on top. All for about 50 cents American. On my way back to the room, I passed Adam and Brooke and decided to turn around and follow them to whatever meetings they were planning on attending. We rode very quickly through typical crazy Ica traffic and Brooke and I ended up camping out outside the CODEHICA/Proetica office and although Brooke might try to deny it, she totally tried and liked the ¨Dalmation¨ tasty.

Then we went in, met with Leonardo of Proética and spoke in both English and Spanish during the interview. He was eating an helado and it made me really want to go buy one, but I´d already had four kekes and that other treat and that´s pretty much my limit on junk food for the day so I didn´t get one. (Later I ended up buying these animal crackers with giant blobs of hard colored sugar on top plus some little chocolate cookie things for one sol, but you don´t encounter those as often as ice cream so it´s kind of a must. Peruvians really like their ice cream…it´s kind of everywhere.) But anyway, after that, we stopped by this CODEHICA how-to-use-the-internet workshop for a little bit but we were all hungry so we soon left to pick up some breakfast for tomorrow (we´re going to have a very early day- have to be at GTZ at 6:00am and then we are going to Huancavelica and staying overnight there I think).

After this I started off towards dinner with Adam and Brooke behind me. Or at least that´s what I thought. Turns out they had passed me at some point and then when they looked back again, they didn´t see me. I still thought they were behind me, and at one point when I looked back, I didn´t see them. I waited for a bit and then continued on to our favorite dinner spot near the animal cracker store. I sat there for quite a while expecting them to roll around the corner any minute. When they didn´t I figured that they had either run out of traffic-dodging luck or had ditched me for some tallarin verde or lomo saltado or were already home somehow. Either way, I had no money and was kind of hungry. So I went back to the room, grabbed some change and headed back out. On my way to the food, I passed them on the street. ¨Did you get me some sandwiches?¨ I asked. They were too far away on the other side of the street to hear so I went over and asked what they got and where the heck they had gone. Turns out they thought I had gotten lost or ran into a car or ditched them for sandwiches. And took turns searching the Plaza de Armas and the animal cracker area for me. Woops.

So then we got food. A whole lot of food. And then some more. Then I led the way home and again when I turned around, no Adam and Brooke. Oh well. The shower was calling since I hadn´t paid it a visit in…a while. When I emerged all fresh and too clean for all the sand on my roll up mattress pad, I learned that Adam and Brooke were off acquiring more sweet bread and tea. Adam tells me to eat it and so I do, but now I think my stomach is going to explode.”

And so this ends Lindsey´s recap of the day. On to more serious important grownup NGO things from La Brooke and El Adam:”

So this morning, we got to see some cool things. CODEHICA’s office is a media dream. Not only is there a room set up for recording audio for their radio station as well as a place for writing the CODEHICA newspaper, there is also two whole rooms dedicated to television. There is one large room where they record for their Saturday and Sunday television spot that airs a la Good-Morning-America style and a smaller room connected where all the post-production editing occurs. Apparently they go out Monday through Wednesday to collect footage within communities, record their own news anchors on Thursday in the Good-Morning-America room, and then Friday is CRUNCH. Two lucky filmmasters sit around with all the footage from the week and edit it into a one hour version to be aired. Given this rate of editing, our documentary should be completed with a mere twelve days work. Into a twelve hour documentary.

Fruit death toll from this morning: 2 peaches, 3 apples, 6 bananas, 3 oranges, and 1 liter of strawberry yogurt.

We start at 8:40 a.m. at the CODEHICA office where some are in a rush out and others are in a rush in. We are handed off to Rosario for a break down of CODEHICA’s communication defense line. The best way to describe their strategy is as a four-dimensional attack of radio, television, print, and internet (wa-BANG!). They try to diffuse and highlight the opinions of community leaders, “dirigentes,” and elected representatives from local organizations. So they run a radio show five days a week 9-10am, a television spot on Saturdays and Sundays, a newspaper once every two months, and have their internet site updated con frecuencia.

Next, we meet Diana. She is in her third year at UNICA studying communications while doing a three month internship with CODEHICA. She is currently enjoying her work in the printing office, but is nice enough to take some time out of her day to escort us to CODEHICA’s off-site radio broadcasting spot. The set-up for the radio show is not typical. It is a room that is about as big as a wealthy man’s closet. It fits just one dining table with very little room to walk around when the chairs are occupied as well as just enough space for the electronic equipment in a small nook. There are newspapers sprawled across the table, and two very knowledgeable, fast-speaking woman seated across from one another. Words are darting back and forth between them about the government’s reconstruction promises, factory strikes, education, and masculinity. They deftly pass papers, microphones, and cellulars between themselves as one narrates the story and the other queues their reporters on the ground. They simply press their cell phones to the microphone to broadcast. Amidst all this impromptu coordination, a guest shows up to participate. Seamlessly, they incorporate him into the show without missing a beat.

Back at the CODEHICA office, we are passed around to more people to get a more thorough tour of the office. “NGOs are faced with low participation.” In this woman’s book (her name escapes me), this is because people make their problems the NGO’s problem. But the NGO knows that it’s not their problem, it’s the peoples’ problem. They’re just there to help the people help themselves. We also meet Leonardo of Proética after catching a short glimpse of their impressive website. Take a look at or or If you scroll down, Proética is one of the participants in this project “Voices for the Reconstruction.” Their website is brimming with intriguing tidbits that will definitely help our report later. Proética’s site looks like it took a lot of foot work and time to develop.

We plan to return again at 3:30 to speak with Leonardo and attend a taller with CODEHICA. On the way home, Adam gleefully purchases a Chicha Morada and Maracuya refresco. He also manages to snag the to-go bags on a bush, losing all of the tasty purple juice to a fight with a plant. Then we contemplate Cuzco, Lima, and that place with a volcano. Then we hit up Internet for some more printing out of real world forms, learning about home, and sending some e-mails to key players for the last phase of our project. This is the part where we lost Lindsay the first time.

The phone cuts through our contemplation, and a voice on the other line informs us that we should meet them in fifteen minutes on Diamond Street. Fishy. Appointments are lined up like soldiers one right after another at 3, 3:30, and 4pm. We lasso our bikes for adventure and slide into homebase for a run. On Diamond Street, GTZ confides further intel concerning our sleepover tomorrow morning. On Avenida Cutervo, Lindsay savors a Dalmation. Brooke also enjoys a bite, but no tanto. Inside the wooden doors of CODEHICA, Leonardo paints a scenic picture of words about Proética work. We are astounded to hear that the incredible website from earlier was the result of two people’s work. Then we are floored to know that it is just 12 people in their office working in all of Peru. He tells us that getting honest, constructive, and critical feedback from the people is going to be impossible to get from the community. In fact, he says that what we are looking to accomplish might not be possible. Communities here are not entirely aware of the meaning behind NGOs, what expectations to have from aid agencies, and will be wary to be critical. Most of all, the communities haven’t had enough experience to grasp the entirety of what should or could be done. We learn that he will be doing encuestas on Sunday so we decide to join him. In addition, he invites us to the movies but we have to politely decline in order to find our way to the CODEHICA Workshop on how to better utilize the Internet.

By the time we arrive at the workshop location, they are still on the basics of learning words like CPU, monitor, keyboard, and USB. We all look at one another and decide to roll out. Then we lose Lindsay again. But we find her so we eat dinner like woah, so it’s cool.

To end the night, we restlessly ride through the streets until we find ourselves somewhere entirely new where we eat tea and fresh pan.

Friday, July 17, 2009

15th July Wednesday
Southern Huancavelica

Here are some pictures from our day long adventure into the southern tips of the mountains. We saw a meeting with an NGO named PachiMama (which means mother earth in Quechua, the language of the mountains here). We set ourselves up to meet with them to see some of their work in Cuzco while we are there.
More to Come!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Wéré ón góóglé éárth

13 July, Monday
“This one muffin a day thing just isn't working out.” Says Lindsay as she answers the door with a muffin in her hand, “This is my fifth.”

Check out where we have been via google earth by downloading the .kmz file at this link

We had nothing on our agenda today except the long list of NGOs we have yet to contact. Our goal is to interview and go on a site visit with each of them. So we wake up early this morning and try to be out of the house by 8:30. At 8:45, we are making calls to GTZ to determine when we can go on a site visit with them. Apparently, we are having a sleep over on Wednesday night! Yahoo! We also call the Architectos de la Emergencia. They tell us that they will call us back around noon so we can go with them on a site visit today to a region of Ica where they are building a few schools. By 9:15, we are on the road. So far so good.

We first stop by Cáritas' office which is right off of the Plaza de Armas. We are greeted by the front desk who is also trying to simultaneously deal with several community members who are trickling in from the street. Apparently they are hosting a meeting in their office to have a discussion concerning land titles with the community. She tells us to wait in the hallway where we read the news about an English volunteer working with a group of foreigners in reconstructing Pisco. We have our fears that it might be Pisco Sin Fronteras or M.A.D. because the description fits them perfectly. Yikes! After the director arrives, our meeting results with a scheduled visit to a fair that they are hosting on Saturday. We would have gone with their engineers today, but both are out sick. Que lastima.

Cruz Roja Española. We've so far worked with Cruz Roja Americana and Peruana as well as the International Federation of the Red Cross. However, the funding and projects are different from this Red Cross so we decide that we would like to have an interview with them as well. We get separated, and Brooke learns that her Spanish is now good enough to be alone whilst still managing to get to a said destination. Inside, the three employees who are working take time from their busy schedule to sit down and meet with us, complete with notebooks and attentive ears. They are excited to have some of the raw footage, give us brochures, and make an appointment with us for when we are in Lima in a week. Score. Two out of two.

The next place we want to stop is in Parcona, which is about three or four kilometers outside of Ica proper. The sun is hot today unlike other days when there are clouds, and Peru is cold. I guess it's winter so I should have expected it. The mountains and desert make the temperature swings in the morning to afternoon somewhat more extreme than would be expected. When we arrive, we search around in vain on Calle Tacna. Which exists, but without any NGO to be found. So we call the MCLCP office to determine what mischief is afoot only to be informed that the office is actually just off the Plaza de Armas in Ica proper.

So we turn around. By the time we arrive at 1 p.m., no one is present due to lunch break. We are feeling a little tired so we stop to make a few more phone calls to Casas de la Salud and APORTES to reschedule our interviews which were planned for Wednesday or Thursday. Thankfully, they have time on Friday. Again, we search in vain, but this time for tripods. For about fifteen minutes. Then we give up because we are being turned in circles. Then we return home to Lindsay.

Who is watching a Vin Diesel movie while munching on some Ahi de Gallina, milk, muffins, soup, and probably more things I can't recall. She tells us about her crazy adventures out and about (crazy, yet tame and entirely safe) to Plaza Vea and in the city. Her valiant rides through the streets, her skilled darting through shopping aisles, and sharp eyes for deals. Her ultimate obstacle, her dragon, if you will: the choice between muffins or animal crackers. The man standing beside her mentions that both are very tasty. True, true, Lindsay thinks to herself. But one is more moist and oh so much more delicious than the other, comments the man next to her again. And so...

Muffins it was.

We listen intently to her tale, hanging off her every word. And then we do some normal organizing, typing, uploading, branstorming. Because we just don't already have enough work to do for ourselves. We start to think about the site visits that we will embark on in the upcoming week and make up a worksheet to make sure that we extract all the information we can. Now we are making sure we are prepared for our next five full days with charged batteries and free hard drive space. Like Batman and his utility belt except now it's Adam and a backpack we've so endearingly named, Choche. Thanks for reading Choche, we miss you!
We have most of the things done that we need for the upcoming week. Now we will think about the week that will come after Cuzco. This is our home stretch of summers. Where we put out heads on straight and cross our fingers. We'll return to Lima for some interviews from a theoretical standpoint in clean offices far from the affected area. Then we will come back to the ground to get our hands dirty and have our camera's cup floweth over

Into the wake

12 July, Sunday
“I have feet and a belly button. And when I scratch my head, there is sand under my fingers. But I think the sand made my hair a little less greasy, so that’s good. I think I showered Monday. Wait no. Huh, that’s not right. Let me consult my book. Hmm.. like two days ago? On Friday. Yeah.”

Let´s just start this post off by saying that Vin Diesel is amazing. AMAZING. Like, seriously, God used up most of the hardcore in the world when making him. Let’s all thank Lauren for pointing out this oh-so-obvious fact. Now, she will proceed to write this blog. Enjoy!

This morning we had breakfast while sitting around in this park by our rented room. Brooke practiced reading in Spanish, and Adam practiced correcting her. Lauren practiced sitting in the rented room watching Vin Diesel do his thang (in la película Triple X). Then Brooke and Adam returned and were all like ¨Hey let´s go to Huacachina! Sand boarding! Adventure! Excitement! Thrills! LOTS OF SAND!¨ ¨Okay¨, says Lauren, ¨I can finish watching this Vin Diesel movie más tarde.¨ But then Adam got sucked into the vortex that is watching Vin Diesel be awesome, so Brookie the Cookie went out to acquire more food, because that´s just what we do. Apparently the trash also got taken out at some point.

And apparently Brooke made friends as usual at all the tiendas and she learned that ´cado is short for ¨avocado¨. Or something like that.

So then we head out for Huacachina. Except, the trusty guides (Adam and Brooke) aren´t so trusty and we end up not in Huacachina but what we learn to be The Promised Land. La Tierra Prometida. We were clued in to the fact that we weren´t in the Oasis of Tourism and Gringos because the sandy sandy path that we took led us to a place lacking in tourism, and gringos, and essence of oasis. So we turn around and ride back through all the sand (but not before going down a slide at a playground we passed) and ask multiple times ¨¿Dónde está Huacachina?¨ Finally the trusty tour guides get their act together and we ride along some actual roads leading to an actual oasis. Complete with lagoon, white people aplenty, and giant dunes full of footprints up and sandboard marks down.

We ask around and find a sandboard that we plan on sharing between the three of us, 5 soles for 2 hours. The day before Brooke and Lauren spoke to Percy Gutierrez of Casa de la Salud and mentioned our sandboarding plans. He advised us that it was fun but that we´d probably be extremely tired and over it after about 3 rides downhill. We each ended up doing 4, 5, or 6 times maybe, so we held up a little better than predicted, but it was mad tiring. Lauren has never gone skiing or snowboarding, but now seriously entiende the concept of a snowlift. Walking up a hill is hard enough, but when the stuff you´re walking on is sand and makes you slide down just a little with each foot step, well, let´s just say that even the resident hombre Adam ¨Soy atlético¨ Talsma looked winded.

Anyway, it was a little scary the first time, but by the end we were all embracing our inner Señor Diesels and heading down with perhaps a little too much wax applied to the board. We even moved on from our kiddie hill to a steeper version sin huellas (footprints)…uncharted territory! And there were even some trips downhill that did not involve falling over and landing on one´s butt.

Before we knew it, it was very close to board-returning time, so we each had one last victorious trip down our mid-range hill (no time for Adam to test his burgeoning sandboarding skills on the monster hill) then trekked back in the growning darkness to return our board. There, Lauren and Brooke tested out their Spanish on the guys renting the equipment (mostly Lauren though, cuz Brooke ¨soy peruana¨ Jarrett is practically fluent by now), and then practiced their English on us. We learned that Huacachina is Quechua for ¨woman that cries¨ (or something like that), and they learned that escuchar means to listen.

So then we were ready to get back home and eat and do work and all that stuff, so we sped off down some hills in the dark, twisting and turning and dodging mototaxis left and right, But parents shouldn´t worry too much about this, because sometimes we like to exaggerate in order to make our lives sound more like a Vin Diesel movie. Adam headed home while the girls gathered food. ¨Get some bread¨ says Adam. So the chicas buy 2 hamburguesas, un menú, 1 té, 1 espinaca tortilla sandwich, and 2 soles worth of pan (bread). Upon arrival back at the room, they discover that Adam also got bread…1 sol worth of bread. So now our bellies are full and we are overflowing with bread. Los dos que trabajan are trabajando and la una que duerme is contemplating the difficult decision between sleeping and reading. It´s up to you to figure out who´s who.

11 July, Saturday
“But I had to finish my stash cuz…that’s what you do. But I´m gonna kill him.¨

Today, we are lazy. So lazy, we stay in bed and watch Angelina Jolie. If it seems as though we have been watching a lot of movies lately, you would be correct. For Miss Biscombe, in her glory, has bought a few soles worth of videos the other day, if you vaguely recall. Y ella le gustan. And so do we, when we get sidetracked into seeing adventure scenes that we only wish we were in. But the computer breaks down, so we decide to hit up the world that we call Work. Capital W.

After a bit, we decide to wander out into the world of the Outside. There, we encounter Internet. We try to order a hardcase for our harddrive, but it’s hardhard. So we call Alex Rosenberg, our pack mule who will be arriving in a few days from the United States to request even more electronic equipment to be brought across borders.

Then we cleaned our bikes and ignored the ice cream men who oh so tempted us as they rode up and down the streets.

Afterwards, we head out to attend a Casa de la Salud meeting in Guadalupe. The first of many to be held for the selected beneficiaries of brand new houses. We show up a bit late, but no one has started yet. The team is there and so are some of the beneficiaries, but not all. Which will prove to be an issue later. In addition, the “dirigente” of the zone (elected representative) is somewhat if not totally plastered. For a good reason though. Another traditional roof-placing-on-the-top-of-the-house has occurred in Guadalupe, and he toasted the family a few times too many. This provides many many moments of entertainment during the meeting.

The Casa de la Salud first elicits opinions for why people didn’t show up. Is it a bad day? Too early? Too late? Are we asking too much? Then they proceed to ask the beneficiaries what they would like to see in their town. Police station. Parks. Child care center. Bank. Market. Mirtha, who is leading the meeting, tells the community that they can’t just wait for someone to start constructing things for the town. They need to take action on their own. Start planting trees. Start organizing themselves. “Organization, yeah.” Chimes in the president who decides that he is entitled to shadow the conversation by repeating all that the NGO is saying.

They decide to end the meeting early for lack of participation. We go home with Percy, Marcos, Jose, and Mirtha. The girls must sit in the cab of the truck, and Adam has all the fun in the back, in plain air, enjoying the wind pulling through his black dyed tresses.

Upon debarking our fair vessel, we encounter a man selling tamales. He sells us his sweet tamales for two soles apiece. We put Lauren to bed, tucked in tight, and then take a walk to find some more food. We return to wake her from her peaceful slumber so that we can all watch the rest of the Angie movie while falling asleep.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I think we want a hard shell

Friday, 10 July
“If there were two of us three who were going to suck on a dog’s teet, it’d be you two.”
“If you took her out of the sleeping bag but left the three pigs, could you have pigs in a blanket?” “No, because she is like aji, it adds that certain necessary something that I just don’t like.”

One alarm
Two alarms
Three alarms, no more
Two people on a mattress while
One is on the floor

Today, the girls rise with the sun
And the boy remains until shopping’s done
We return with sweets and fruit
While Adam sleeps like a brute
The crumbs burst and scatter
As we eat with a clatter
Finishing our loot

Some of us try to shower
If we have the power
To muster up might
To win the fight
Against a temperature we find sour

The camera broke
Who knew it would croak
But the repair was quick and spicy

Now we’ll take care
For who wouldn’t dare
To treat it oh so nice-y

Although rhyming is fun
This entry would never be done
If we kept going
It’d be quite slowing
To write a poem like this one

In the morning, it never fails that one of us is still asleep while the other two go out to get breakfast. We have very carefully developed a game called guess-the-price-of-that-food for when everyone gathers round to eat. Yesterday morning, Lindsey was off by 1 sole or so. This morning, Adam was off by 0 centimos. Every day, we get better at approximating what food should cost in the market that is conveniently located a stone’s throw away from our apartment. Which is helpful since we are becoming better at market prices and determining when we are being ripped off for being gringos.

Afterwards, we head out to the Plaza and leave Lauren behind to a luxurious shower of cold water. My favorite part of the morning is leaving on bike to dive into the streets of Ica. Cars here keep enough space from the sides of the roads to allow for some gnarly traffic weaving. Bumps in the road are exhilarating at full speed. The cranks of our bikes are eating our hard work, and you can hear the chains straining under the weight of our feet now. It seems as though they are overdue for an oil change. In addition, taxi drivers here have the fastest reflexes of any one that I have ever witnessed. What Americans might consider a game of chicken is normal practice here. Let’s just call it fun.

Since our camera broke down, we got to file our first insurance claim ever. It is probably some of the easiest paper work I’ve done for business purposes. Unfortunately, the situation is one of the most complicated I’ve had to describe to a touch tone phone menu. Press 1 for the sales department. Press 6 for the insurance department. Press 0 if we have not yet described the nature of your call to speak with a representative. This call may be monitored for quality insurance purposes. Please hold.

So we held. And they advised us to get the camera fixed here in Peru. So we did. Yesterday, I was prepared to be without a camera until August. Today, they inform us that the camera was simply malfunctioning normally. How delightful to live in a world where products are designed to have short lifespans and “typical malfunctions.” In the meantime, we made more copies of our NGO interviewing worksheet since we have been blowing through them at record rates. Thankfully, we’ve managed to standardize our interviews into a sheet so we can arrange all responses into a large matrix for comparison purposes. We have also been able to start to develop NGO profiles complete with event records, community surveys, and interviews that pertain to each organization.

While riding one handed and using the other to pat ourselves on the back, we roll into to the Plaza de Armas like gangsters looking for trouble. So much trouble, we decide to just ride up on the sidewalk, next to the fountains, in front of the guy mopping the concrete, and right past the police who stare at us incredulously. Then the mob comes complete with pitchforks and fire in their eyes. This is a clean city. A city where bikes stay on the streets. This is a pristine city. A city where there are people in suits. While we desperately try to explain that we just want to be close to our bikes while making business phone calls, another policeman walks up. She is more pristine than the city. In fact, her shoes sparkle and you can smell the starch in the sharp creases of her uniform. She is the tourist police. Just like in Guatemala. Thank you ma’am.

So we make phone calls in the Plaza de Armas. Smugly.

We make up a list of five or six addresses to visit today. We’ll just play it all by ear starting with … CODEHICA, Comisión de Derechos Humanos de Ica. Note to self, that’s the Commission for Human Rights in the region of Ica. Pronounced así: Co-Day-Ee-kah.

A note on asking for directions in Peru. You get two types of people. One type knows and will give you overly detailed directions. These people, we say yes thank you very much we’ll get there no don’t worry thank you. All those words are spoken as we are in motion away from them as they explain for the third time with different landmarks. The other type are those who think they know where our destination is. They say, thatta way a little and then like turn this way and maybe twirl once or twice for good luck. These are the kinds of people that we run into most. For future reference, CODEHICA is over there a bit, which is where we finally found ourselves.

Padre José Manuel has the eyes of a man who really cares, says Adam. He has the schedule of a man who can spare an hour of talking to random university students who walk in unexpectedly. We’ve seen CODEHICA in many different places that we’ve worked already. They usually come as a single volunteer that has a presence during participatory budgets to ensure that it is run fairly or during elections to act as a guarantee of its democracy. We’ve seen them at least three times in the past. Probably more since they are like silent guardian angels that look after the people of Peru.

CODEHICA was founded in 1982 by a group of people that included the man we were interviewing. He seemed proud of this fact, but not overly so, His answered were saturated in experience, and the organization offered us a window into new ways of communication that we have yet to encounter. CODEHICA runs a radio and television station which broadcasts the opinions and ideas of the community here. We will be finding out more next week. In addition, they have talleres on topics like “using the Internet” or ¨Equal employment for the handicapped.” In some sense, their topics seem much more advanced than what we’ve been encountering. It is far beyond wash-your-hands – here have some soap and a towel. The programs that they offer, however, covers a wide variety of topics. They build houses of the temporary and permanent source, protect life against dictatorships, work against armed violence, protecting democracy, increasing political transparency, and developing local government capacity.

After we set up more appointments to do site visits as well as tape a radio show, we stand on the second floor to stare at the view. I’d like to call it a moment of reflection. During this internalization of information, we spy with our little eyes a church called Iglesia Lurin. One side of it is tall and stands like a proud soldier. The other has a crumpled tower and an ashamed slanted face. We eat mandarins next to it. We take pictures like tourists. We make phone calls to more NGOs who tell us to call back in ten minutes. So we eat mandarins and take more pictures. In these small experiences, I feel as though I am making acquaintances with stories that I’ll never know. It reminds me somewhat of people, things, and places that you can’t entirely understand without time and distance. Or maybe time and endurance. From afar, this building is lined with iron fencing. But something squeezes between those bars and radiates past. There are things you can’t really know without putting them under a microscope. There are other things that you can’t really know unless you are able to see it in context. With the church framed in the lens of the camera, we saw it poise itself to tell stories of the people it had supported through the earthquake, the aid that it provided to the affected community, and the symbol of remembrance it offered.

Then we call Aportes who says, we’re busy right now and we’re headed to a site visit but you can come if you want, but we’re going soon. Y entonces, fuimos a APORTES para ver su trabajo de campo. Even though they are busy and getting ready to leave, they manage to offer us a glass of coca-cola, provide us with a fifteen minute documentary of their NGO, and let us use their bathroom. This is a good sign of the work we are about to see.

APORTES is primarily working in La Nueva Esparanza (The New Hope). Here, they are constructing houses from CMU blocks. FYI, for your information, CMU stands for concrete masonry units. Why do you care? I don’t know. In short, this was one of the coolest site visits that we’ve ever gone on por culpa de la pequeña fiesta. Lined with houses in various stages of completion, the entire street was hard at work. APORTES has a system where they employ certain people in the beneficiary families to build homes. This auto-construction technique seems to work very well since the houses end up being completed in twenty days or something por allí.

As with a cake, the very finishing touch is the tip-top. Nice to meet you Traditional Peru. When the roof is put on top of the house, there is alarge celebration. The owner ties a bottle of wine and flowers to his front door. A mototaxi with the dueño’s wife and a large pot of food arrives. Everyone gathers for a speech by Aportes who offers blessings of security, fidelity, and good luck. Then the neighborhood ceases to make construction noises as people put down screwdrivers, power tools, and their shovels. Ingrid holds a hammer up in her hand, and swings while squeezing her eyes closed tightly. And it … doesn’t break. So some guy has to come over to help her shatter glass and alcohol all over his newly constructed home. Then everyone rushes in to sit, pass around beer, and be fed delicious food in celebration. Que bueno.

We also check out the Casa de Sonrisas, a community center built and initially run by APORTES, which is largely a psicosocial NGO. This space is dedicated to afterschool programs for children as well as mothers and fathers workshops. We asked the lady getting ready to run the womens´meeting what kinds of things they discussed. ¨Sexual Assertiveness¨, and ¨Menstrual hygience¨. OK, says Adam. Alright, says Brooke. Goodbye says Lorena.

Since its beginning, the community members have been handed over control of the meetings that are run. They now have an executive committee for operations but are still dependent on materials (understandably) from APORTES. In December, if they pass, they will be handed over full control and all the materials. From talking to the ladies it seems that they certainly find the information from the workshops useful and also enjoy hearing and sharing input with other members of their neighborhood.

We head back home around sunset and get to know Ingrid better. She is an energetic member of the APORTES team and Brooke gets Spanish practice setting up an interview with her and discussing everything from star signs to restaurants to dune buggies. Al llegar at the NGO base, we bike back towards our place, stopping only to treat ourselves to some pie de manzana.

During the course of the day, Lorena had managed to acquire an array of intriguing videos including a plethora of Michael Jackson music videos and Angelina Jolie movies. We eat some fruit and get some tea. The tea had alfalfa in it. It was too sweet though. Poor alfalfa. From there we settle down to upload all the film and organize our data from the day. We are quickly running out of hard drive space, and we don’t know where to find soft drives. Lorena remembered seeing a place in Chincha where they sell semi-squishy drives so we may have to go back there.

And then there were 4 pages. And they saw that it was good. ish. At least the poem was good, you have to give Brooke that.

Thursday, 9 July
¨Do you think there is some sort of dog hierarchy around here, and the ones with the sweaters tell the others what to do?¨

Ica is known for its large sand dunes. The city is built around an oasis called Huacachina, which is in the middle of the coastal desert region of Peru. Tourists come by to drive dune buggies and wear sunglasses. We´re not staying near the tourists, but we happen to have a dune a couple blocks down from us, that is surrounded by homes facing the opposite direction. So lonely it looked (says Yoda) that we decided to take a detour from our morning jog to scale it like a fish.

Have you ever tried spitting on a dune. Highly recommended. Also recommended is creating lahar slides. Oh and you should also watch the Grant Hill NBA Sensation film because it is transformative.

On the way back we stopped at the market Arenales – which we now know the name of thanks to our new friend, Yanet Hernández, from the settlement outside of Guadalupe. We played a game called ´we only have 5 soles for breakfast´ and ended up with a decent array of 8 small bananas, 3 apples, an avocado (it was the most expensive, least ripe, and least touched purchase), a chunk of queso, 16 little breads, spinach, and spicy sauce.

After the breakfast we headed over to run some errands including shopping for oh-so-needed batteries, water, animal crackers, helado, internet, hard drive and insurance calls. From there we spent approximately 2 hours in a brainstorming session. Into the session we brought only our original project proposal, some blank pages, pens and 3 sparkling minds. The event location was determined by a small sign outside a restaurant that read ¨Menú, ají de gallina.¨ Ají de gallina means ¨Tasty, enter here.¨ So we did.

Over a meal of deliciousness and a bottella of Cristal we discussed what each others thoughts were on our progress, and what we should focus on moving forward. We concluded that we were performing a decent job interviewing NGO coordinators which was providing us with a nice smattering of the reconstruction work being done in the various regions most affected by the earthquake. We do not however feel that our community surveys are effective enough in capturing quality opinions from the places where NGOs are working. We decide to focus a bit more on interviewing community leaders both informal and formal alike. This seems to be a good idea since they are often the ones who have more keen personalities and have also interacted much more with NGOs and coordination amongst the community in general.

We also discuss more about how to use the rest of our time here. We agree that we want to develop a new method for helping improve some component of the communication between NGOs and the beneficiary communities. How best to do this is the $2 question. We conclude that we would like to either focus on how beneficiaries for homes are chosen or how evaluation of projects is conducted. To do this we are thinking of partnering with some institution not personally involved in working in the area to do a workshop with community leaders and youth with the goal of learning one specific neighborhoods experience with NGO communication in this particular component. The details will be mulled over the following week or so and will be carried out over the course of August.

With thunderstormed brains we head over to one of our few interviews with community leaders. We are excited to see how it works out. The interviewee is named Yanet Hernández and she meets us at the tienda near her home. Here we conduct the interview and she gives expectedly better information than we have been receiving by our random surveys we have been conducting up till now. She mentions that the housing project in her town involved no community members in the selection of the beneficiaries and that she would be interested in seeing NGOs evaluate projects after they are finished. Granted they have had mostly short-term aid in the form of donations.

From the interview we head over to the local Vaso de Leche, a government subsidized program for providing families with daily quantaties of milky, steaming quaker proportional to the number of children in the home. Yanet fills her small pot and heads home. That is when Lorena met them. Smiling and energetic, dark-haired and respectful, inquisitive and playful. Lucero, Kiara, Oscar, and Rosa – Yanet´s gorgeous children. Lorena spends the rest of the visit playing with the children and trading pictures of them for kisses. Oh, the language that is transaction.

Dinner is the standard sautéed noodles and chicken soup, but the treat is Michael Jackson videos streaming on the TV in the background. Smooth Criminal, Thriller, and Scream provide us with enough entertainment and amazement that even after getting back to the room, Brooke cannot get Mike outta her head.

Then we do something really new and exciting – we upload footage and go over old footage to standardize the NGO event notes a bit more.

Wednesday, 8 July
“When I hear the glorious music, I'll know that my ice cream lady is nigh.”
“Why are these gringos in my calle?”
“Brooke, are your parents named River and Stream?”

The market is closed this morning. Adam has to cycle thrice the expected distance to find hot quaker – too hot apparently because the womenfolk take too long drinking it and force us to rush to make our 9am meeting with GTZ. GTZ stands for something in German that is equivalent of cooperation between German government and developing nations. They have a special arrangement with Peru especially to do water projects nationwide.

GTZ is not an NGO, it is an institution funded strictly by government ministries within Germany and also the EU. It may be the German equivalent of USAID but more focused on permanent development relationships with developing nations. I can't think of the actual equivalent US branch, if you think of it, comment it in so Lindsey doesn't have to look it up

GTZ is in a ritzy neighborhood, everyone is nicely dressed and relaxed, friendly and inviting, and the showerhead of the bathroom has muliple settings. We are wearing some clothes that used to be white, and Brooke feels self-conscious about the holes in her jeans. The interview we showed up for was with an Architect Project Manager named Lucia Ramos Cuba. It goes well. It is one of the more formal interviews yet, and it is clear that this organization has been working many years doing development in the region with well-educated leaders. We can't help but wonder what they are like in the field. The field is not well-educated. Does that mean that when the tall Germans walk in they feel more intimidated? Do the office workers send field workers to the field?

After the interview, we attempt to set up a time for a site visit to one of their projects. We may be going next week, was the response we received from the engineer who worked under the Project Coordinator Piet Van Driel. Maybe we are right, and they aren't the ones going into the field as much.

After a tour of the office we head home. Brooke says, “Let's take this road.” So we do. Everything is closed. Noon. Siesta? Up ahead we see burning black mounds and smoke with large stones all scatttered across the road. A group of approximately 20 guys dressed in jeans and t-shirts are loudly running around like a non-domesticated school of fish. As we near the intersection, rocks are thrown. Crash. They hit the frame of a mototaxi trying to get around the burning debris. The school of fish goes after it with verbal curses and presumably force the mototaxi driver into paying to be released, under strict orders to not make any money today.

It dawns on us: today is the national strike by the transportation industry in response to overly-hefty fines being leveled against motorists. This was why the market was closed as well. As we slow down a safe distance away but still in eyeshot of the frantic scene, we film from afar, listening to the sounds of sirens thick in the air. There were very few motorists on the road, mostly individuals on motorcycles with families or taxis that turned around on the dime as soon as they neared the scrambled omelet made up of smouldering tires, gleeful strikers, and curious bystanders. The sirens approached more quickly and three motorbikes invaded the scene, followed by a black pick -up truck spilling over with policia in the back. You would expect them to be synchronized swimmers as they hop out one right after the other and into the streets. Big black boots kick through the air, shooing the strikers like you might shoo a dog who is trying to eat dinner scraps from the table.

The entire thing doesn't take all that long. By the time the police are done pushing burning trash out of the way, incoming traffic is flowing smoothly through the intersection. Like butter on a communication sandwich. So we turn to go home through empty streets that are littered with bricks, some patches of broken glass, and small bags of trash. Of course, Brooke gets a flat tire which forces us to walk past the people playing cards, cooking outside, and hanging out in the streets. This town would be decidedly much nicer to be in if there was a strike everyday. That way people could lounge about in the streets all day, talking about strikes and political topics. On our way back, we encounter a group at an intersection receive a box of bananas which is promptly invaded. Every one pumps their fists and bananas in the air, toasting the success of keeping cars from passing. But not us, oh no. We walk right on by and to our street.

Hey street. Hey guys. What did you do today? Saw a strike. Yeah? Yeah. Cool.

Brooke sets off to fix her first flat of the trip. Hopefully we can avoid any more. Adam heads back into town to find some lunch. Lindsey (who has confessed she was once named “the slug” her freshman year of college) reclines in bed reading a structures book. Then we all sit in the sun and eat from improvised dishes made up of bottom bottoms for bowls, bottle tops as funnels for soup, and plastic/banana plate for our chicken and rice. The sun feels good. As we start to slow down, music floats from around the corner. A recognizable melody that perks Lindsey's nose from normal to flaring nostrils. Complete with a smile from ear to ear. The ice cream lady pedals around in her dashing yellow uniform, dutifully stopping for an eager costumer. I can see the gears turning in Lindsey's head... chocolate chip or chocolate chip? She decides on chocolate chip, triumphantly turning to us with proper reassurance that the world wants her to have ice cream. “I thought that if I stayed near the room today, I wouldn't be able to find any. Apparently, the world found me instead.” “There goes the world....”, down the street and off into the distance, an unbearably long ways away by the time she finishes and starts to crave another.

Then we work on catching up with more footage, and figuring out how to manage our somewhat non-functioning camera. This leads us on a wild goose chase through town to find a repair shop and a clothing outlet to purchase non-hole jeans. Everyone we stopped at for video repairs pointed the finger in a new direction so we ended up with a new pair of pants and no más. One of us stayed to do a big batch of laundry, scrubbing until their hands hurt.

Afterwards, we assume Sisyphus' position and push the rock up the hill once more, sorting our footage and diving face first into our laptops. We all nod off as the flash drives blink, still attached to the computer as it plays video.

Tuesday, 7 July
“There’s this adorable little cockroach in the bathroom.”
“Oh! What a quaint little river of trash.”

So today we search for the new motherhostal. This one promised us hot, hot water (it’s tepid at best) that enticed us into buying into their schemes. The price is too high. The room is too cold. The place is just not right. Entonces, we wake up temprano to ride about in the city streets, stopping at any hostel that seems like it might be Mister Right. But like real life, it just doesn’t exist. So in our fit of frustration, Adam jerks sharply and into the market on bike, bumping into old ladies trying to carry large amounts of vegetables. Upon exiting, we stumble onto a very nice street with lovely two or three story homes. The grass is trimmed just right and there are people selling bread up the street. Anomaly.

And then it catches our eye, “Se Alquila Cuarto.” Maybe it was chance. Maybe it was luck. Maybe some force within us brought us to this beautiful single room located directly aside the market and many ladies selling bread. Maybe just maybe it was all by accident. Whatever it was, we end up in a room with a floor and a boxspring for 35/week. The cheapest that we’ve encountered. Que bueno.

So we head back to make sure that we get out of the room by 11am. We’ve learned our lesson the hard way from the awful…ly sneaky old lady from San Andres. Fleeing the scene, we slide and skid our turns back to the prim and properly landscaped neighborhood to claim our newly discovered treasure. From here, we make a few calls to start setting up the normal round of interviews. GTZ. Casa de la Salud. Cruz Roja Española y Peruana. La Federacion Internacional de Cruz Roja. Cáritas. CODEHICA. JICA. Some new players. Some old players. A good sampling of the usual with some spice to snap us out of our routine.

Meanwhile back on the farm, we upload pictures to this blog and send out a terribly nice email to request an interview with PNUD Ica. There is noticeable difference between the ways that PNUD works in different cities. Whether it is due to the urban setting, the director’s preferences, or the poshness of the office is a question I wouldn’t be able to answer. Largely what we have discovered from our interviews is that the quality of the information as well as the understanding of our project is dependent on the personality of the interviewed. Not surprising, but it makes our job that much more difficult.

From here, we think we’re going to Chincha. But then we’re not. But then again, where is this place we have an interview at in an hour? Apparently, far away. So we take off like the wind. Or should I say like galloping stallions with whipping manes as we weave through the streets and between cars. Sometimes I imagine that we’re really in a Western movie rather than the Southern hemisphere as we ride into sunsets and off into the distance to some undetermined location. But, we sort of already know where we’re going. Casa de la Salud, a Peruvian development NGO.

He’s not there when we arrive 40 minutes early. He’s not there when we ask again an hour later. But Lindsey is here with a bag of churros, oranges, 2 ice creams, and 14 pieces of bread. He does arrive about 30 minutes after we’re supposed to have meet. But he is very busy so we defer to another day and another person because we’ve learned that harried interviewees give cut and dry answers. But he asks if we want to go along with a team to Guadalupe to hand out invitations to community leaders there. They are hosting an event there on Saturday to try and capture the community’s needs through a somewhat participative workshop to assess where the city’s priorities lie.

We take a cab there. The man driving has a head that is shaped like a cab. As in his head looks like a car. All square and … stuff. Our flip cams capture a donkey crossing the road and the sights flashing before our eyes as the cab lurches towards the outskirts of Ica. On the first day there was light, and on this day, there was Janet.

Janet is jokingly called “gringa” because of her fair skin. Nicknames like this are definitely not uncommon here, seeing as most of the people that we meet along the way go by names like “Chumby,” “El Gato,” and “Chupily.” Casa de la Salud (which shall now go by Casa) has been in contact with Janet for several other projects. She’s lived here for 8 years, long enough to see fluctuations in population. Notably, the flood of people from the mountains who came here to have more access to urban resources after the earthquake. She has also been here long enough to be familiar with the waning and waxing NGO presence. She seems somewhat tentative. Casa’s upcoming Saturday meeting seems a lot like some of the meetings that other NGOs have hosted in the past, and she warns the team that a lot of people will associate their event with something long gone and unfinished. Nonetheless, she is still happy and willing to take us along to meet all the leaders in the community. She is incredibly articulate and gives us some juicy footage. She doesn’t like liars and apparently there are some organizations that have come and gone that would fall in that category. We meet the “president” of the community who tells us a little bit about the politics, aid, and land titles in the area. He has a strong opinion about land titles and realized early on that people would need proper entitlement before receiving aid. So he fought and fought. He is proud to announce that in the past few months, things have worked out and the titles are being approved. This is essentially a case of invasion by displaced people onto government land during emergency, setting up permanent infrastructure, and eventually gaining property rights to the land. Property rights are a huge deal nowadays, an interesting side effect of the earthquake.

We like her so much we plan on coming back in two days.

Then we return home to grab our bikes and shoot like arrows oh-so-true to our beloved hogar.

Monday, 6 July
“I think Adam and Brooke need to work on their communication skills, especially considering the nature of their research. You know, it being about communication and all.”

Sunday night after our weekend-long adventure en bicicletas, Adam is the only soul both brave and un-dead (meaning awake and chock-full of energy, not living-dead zombie kind of un-dead) enough to shower and wash off approximately a week’s worth of grime. For the lady folk, this task is put off til Monday morning. Lindsey removes her cornrows before washing up, returning her hair to its usual state, and Brooke actually brings some clothes into the shower with her, pioneering a whole new method of laundry-doing.

Then we had our first project-related meeting in ICA, with PNUD, to figure out which NGOs are working in the area, what they’re doing, and how we can track them down for some serious entravista-grabar-ing. Our new amigo, Hernan hooks us up with quite a bit of info, but we also can tell right away that the Ica PNUD office is much less active in its current state than the Pisco office. Interesting.

After this, we had some time to kill before our interview date with the Arquitectos de la Emergencia, so we decided to explore our new ciudad and hit up a local mall. A mall you say? Yes a mall! (Damn a mall). It feels like being in almost a different country than when we were in Pisco. There, Lindsey finds some seriously over-priced helado, but which is also seriously tasty (chocolate cake, white chocolate, and some fancy name which means mint), and blows all her money (or approximately 5.50 soles of her own plus 2 soles which she begs off of Adam) on this delightful treat.

From here we headed off to make some phone calls and update the blog – yes, update you. We end up spending quite awhile as the many internet spots are very busy at this time. We finish just in time (ok, a little late but the main half of the interview was even more late, so it was kinda like we were not late) to head over to the rented home of the oh-so-well-known Architects in Emergencies. Translate that into French and pronounce it and that is their real name.

Here we had one of our more informal interviews as this group is all young architects, engineers, and business students taking time away from school and rejecting offers from well-paying internships to essentially work as volunteer interns receiving a small stipend. They were interesting to talk to and ended in everyone heading down to the local hamburger stand to grab hot chocalate with cinnamon, hamburgers, and chicken burgers. The prices here were nearly American equivalents, though, so our budget took more of a hit than any of us would have liked. In fact, on our way home we found multiple places where we could have eaten the same sandwiches for half the price, which was even then still expensive-ish = $10 for 3 of us.

Tired and exhilarated we crashed upon arrival at home.