27 June 2010

USA v. England

What an experience all around! The day started early (though apparently not early enough) when Javon came to pick us up around 1pm. We randomly met these folks in line for tickets where they bought our extras for the game. As we made plans to exchange tickets, it quickly turned into ‘we’ll drive’ then ‘come over for a braai at our place first’, which we were quick to agree to on all fronts. The food was incredible and abundant: local sausage, pork chops AND beautiful steaks, not to mention several delicious sides, salad and milk tart, a smooth, subtle desert that reminds you of the holidays.

We left the house a little after 4pm for the 8:30pm kick-off as the stadium in Rustenburg was a 2-hour drive with the last bit being only a 2-lane road for all the 40 thousand fans (!!). Several traffic ques later, plenty of road rage and lots of vuvuleza practice we are pulling into the park and ride at about 7:45pm and getting more than a bit nervous. Several large busses are lined up waiting to take folks to the stadium, however, we climbed onto the one bus who apparently had never driven there before….with only minutes until kick-off she drove us away from the stadium and pulled several u-turns before finally making it to the horrendously planned vehicle entrance for the bright lights, where we immediately hopped off and booked the last bit on our own, making it into the stadium seconds before the teams entered the field!

The energy was electric, though it was rather disappointing to have the reserved fan areas so incredibly mixed with US and England fans, and there is certainly some bad blood. Several hand gesture exchanges could be seen throughout the stadium and one of the more popular chants on our side was ‘1776’.

Considering that we were in a newly renovated stadium, it was rather disappointing that the scoreboard, clock or replay screen did not work, especially when our goal went in… The final blow to the organization of the new stadium, however, was trying to get the hell out. The buses were coming in at exactly the same intersection as mobs of people were exiting and it was completely deadlocked for hours. Our cars were about 5-miles away and not exactly walkable, so we hit up the only bar in the area (full of England fans who were by and large NOT pleased, we heard a few ‘f*** the US’ as we walked in with our garb) while we waited for the crowds to thin out. The frustration was so high that when the first empty buses came to pick us up people rushed the doors, causing some panic and a few injuries.

So after our beers, we qued up again and finally were on our way back to the park and ride where of course, nobody was moving so we settled in with some more beers and plenty of biltong (talk about delicious) to watch the spectacle. In the end we arrived back at the hostal at 4am, almost simultaneously with the various other convoys of US fans returning from the stadium.

Bafana Bafana!

After an adventurous drive from the Johannesburg airport, we arrived to a busy hostel with plenty of folks from all over excited about the upcoming games. Our first night was rather mellow, sitting around a fire pit in the back yard talking football statistics and comparing country stereotypes while slurping down delicious local beers. The hostel owners joined us later, teaching us some valuable, and some not so valuable Afrikaans.

A few days of walking around Pretoria later, seeing the South African executive buildings, the Voortrekker monument and embassy row, we prepared for the opening games: Bafana Bafana v. Mexico. There was a mall (though think more like beer garden) around the corner from our hotel so we planned to watch there, but were way too late considering the amount of local support and the doors were closed. So the group (about 8 of us) was desperately wandering around looking for a bar minutes before kick-off (as you will see later this is a theme) when we stumbled into Cofi (subtitled eatchillate) where we wedged ourselves onto the floor between large leather couches full of fans (and yes, their vuvulezas). It was rather uncomfortable but a great vantage point for the big game. We were happy to be in a purely South African crowd, instead of the mixed bag that would have been the beer garden where we were originally aiming. The celebration after their goal was phenomenal.

As the game rounded down, the DJ eased up the volume on the tunes and we all easily segued into a full-on dance party which continued through the next game and well into the night. Only once the music really picked up did we realize that we had crashed a VIP room. Not long after we began to boogie we were approached by the folks sitting on the couches in front of us who wanted to test out our dance moves. As a group we did fairly well, and for those of you who know him, not surprisingly, my brother was made honorary African American by the group after teaching them ‘bootie call’.

03 June 2010

World Cup 2010

So, certainly a different set of mountains (though the diurnal extremes are similar to where I've spent the last year and change), but I am off soon to the hills of South Africa where I will be joining soccer fans from around the world to celebrate the 2010 World Cup, the first games hosted on the African continent!

Stay tuned for updates from our trip across eastern South Africa (as we assume you are following the games on your own). After a LONG layover in Munich, we start in Johannesburg for the days leading up to the first game with England, then head north to Nelspruit, just outside the southern entrances to Kruger National Park (one site to find the 'Big Five'), back to Gauteng for another two games, then off to the east coast to camp on the beach with elephants! Hopefully the 4-man can deal with the herds...

More soon. Happy footballing!

17 October 2009

Buses, taxis and lots of walking

Okay, so not surprisingly for those of you who do or have lived outside of the Western work-a-day world, not too terribly much has been accomplished in the past few weeks. At least not much vis-a-vis interviews, though I have been able to get up to my site several times and re-connected with folks. However, between the first week of panic to finish my 'narrated powerpoint' for the November conference (suddenly it was due in early October!) and the many days of celebration in Huaraz for war heros, and independence in the villages, it has been difficult to get up the mountain.

Now that I live in Huaraz instead of Copa itself, I am dependent on the various cars and buses that go up and down the mountain. When I first arrived, the unpaved road up and down to Copa was in terrible shape with huge swaths washed out entirely or deep potholes. Fortunately, last January, the district decided to spend the money to fix the road, and now it is a fairly decent ride (though my parent's might disagree...its all relative). As such, there is much more traffic up and down because taxistas and others no longer fear for the life of their vehicles on the journey. There is even now a bus up and down for the professors of the primary school during the week, which is usually what I catch to go up (at 7am). But, if there is a school holiday, and when the rainy season break comes up (December to March) I have to find other ways. There are taxis that go up and down the mountain, but they charge quite a bit of money for a sole passenger, which is not in the budget. On market days (Wednesday and Sunday) these taxis take carloads of people up and back for just a few soles. Otherwise, I try to connect with the medical folks who go up and down the mountain, even throughout the rainy season, so as to keep the taxi costs down as much as we can. Although it is in their best interest to have me go up and back with them (it lowers the overall cost to have more people) they are less than reliable when/if their schedules changes.

Anyway, this week will not be much different as Copa is holding the annual 'fiestas patrias' to celebrate their independence from the patrons in 1978. It is a full week of celebration (aka drinking) starting tomorrow with a Mass (following by dancing and drinking) then the week is generally a time of less work, more play (and a semi-permanent state of drunkeness), and then Thursday and Friday are the main days of celebration in which there are three story firework wheels, four or five bands which play all day and night, who knows how much beer, all-night dancing in circles around the fireworks structures, and bull running! I was quite surprised about the bull running event, but was assured by several women who have adopted me as their own that I would not be running with the bulls. No kidding ladies. I get nervous just walking near the damn things when they are tethered to the earth. I hope to avoid the majority of the debauchery and participate only in the structured drinking events where fireworks are involved...

During my final week for this round of work, a reporter from LA that visited me last year around this time is coming again to follow-up and do a story on the 'life of a researcher'. We are visiting some other sites in the valley that are working on responses to water scarcity and climate change issues (unlike my fieldsite...), including one that is 're-introducing' ancient techniques of water management in an attempt at adaptation. Should be an interesting few weeks all around!

29 September 2009

Home Sweet Home?

Back I am. To be honest I was entirely unsure as to how I would feel upon arriving back in my current country of residence. But when I began the long taxi ride though Lima it was a comfort to see the sights I have come to know so well. For me Lima has been many things to me throughout the past year. There were times when I thought of it as a conceited capital not worth the time, energy and money to visit. That of course changed as I met folks there through conferences, got to know students who moved to Lima from Huaraz for school, and became closer to my Fulbright colleagues. Either way, I am now completely comfortable with the city, and enjoy whatever time I do have to take advantage of wonderful restaurants, beautiful parks, and although the faces of Lima have almost continually evolved, the friendships that have developed. It also helps that modern creature comforts can be found within, which is always a good break from the dusty (or rainy depending on the time of year) frontier town of Huaraz.

Speaking of, I arrived 'home' to a sunny afternoon with a comforting breeze. Fortunately, it has not begun raining yet, and I think I'll have a few solid weeks to enjoy before the deluge happens. This year is El Nino, which means that the highlands will see long bursts of torrential rain. This translates into dangerous times because of the resulting mudslides and of course the damage that type of rain inflicts on agricultural practices and pasture animals.

Otherwise, life continues as normal here. I will be moving back and forth between Copa and Huaraz interviewing folks and observing village life and times.

24 September 2009

Peru Take Two

Crazy. My lovely yet busy time at home is coming to an end. I saw most of my people, had a fantastic time on the beach for my friend's wedding (pictures posted) and even made some good headway on a paper to be presented in November when I return briefly to Athens for the Millennium meetings of the Ecological Society of America. My only complaint is that I did not get to experience a good storm...while I am incredibly happy that it did not storm during the beach wedding, a nice thunder and lighting storm rolling through earlier in the week would have been welcome by all.

On Sunday, I am heading back up to the mountains as a Junior Specialist Staff for the University of California, Davis. A nice help in the final months of my work in Peru. While finishing my own research, I will also be providing insight and interviews for a larger multi-sited work on the local perspectives of glacier loss, which I imagine I have mentioned here before. If not, stay tuned for presentations and papers...

Visiting my country has been really wonderful and I do admit that I am looking forward to returning (somewhat) permanently in the near future. While in the short-term I will be settling in Athens to analyze and write-up, I am excited about potential future movements toward the mid-Atlantic with a J-O-B! All leads welcome!

This is just a short check-in since it has been too long since my more routine posts, but I will be back in touch next month with more entertaining stories from the field.


26 July 2009

Make me down a pallet on your floor...

It is hard to believe, but after a year of high-altitude living, various unknown live-in intestinal friends, plenty of near misses, insanely jealous Latin men, gigantic slugs, rats, tocosh, incessant honking, urine allies, and too many mind- and ass-numbing bus rides, I get to come home!! For good or bad, it does not mark the true end to my dissertation research days, as I have been hired as part of a larger National Science Foundation project for a few more months. But the upside is that I get to come home for a month and unwind, and from this point on I have a lot more control over my life instead of depending on the kindness of State Departments, that is, if they don't lock me up for living off a tourist visa...

My folks came to visit in May and it was quite a trip. We made it over to the Amazon just before things blew up in Bagua, then explored the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. As the intrepid travelers they are, they then made their way up to Huaraz, survived meeting the locals and eating cuy, not to mention a few 12+ hour tours around the Cajellon de Huaylas. Fortunately, we missed anything heavy, but we did manage to catch quite a few regional and national strikes. The folks left in early June and I spent a few days moving into and settling my apartment in Huaraz, which is saving my sanity. It is a great work space with wonderful views of the glaciers and overlooks a sweet little plaza which is great people watching. I spent a few weeks working up in Copa then had a quick but great visit from Dabies. We hike Santa Cruz, the more famous trek in the area, on about 1,000 calories...over four days! Word to the wise, do not use Galaxia tour company! July was largely spent planning, organizing and participating in a large conference on Adapting to a World without Glaciers, put together by USAID, The Mountain Institute, and your favorite university, UGA! It was great networking, and I was relieved to learn that I was still up-to-date on the regional research even after hiding out in the foothills of glaciers for a year.

There is not too much to report in these final days. As usual, it has been a roller-coaster, but I am getting lots of work done and setting up some good leads for when I return in September. Copa meanwhile is very excited that I will be joining them for their independence day celebrations in October. It is so wild! Three story spinning firework displays, non-stop dancing and too many cajas!

So get ready folks, I will be in and out of our fair country a bit over the next 6 months or so (namely in September and November), and will be looking for a place to rest my head...'make it soft, make it low, so my good girl will never know, oh make me down a pallet on your floor'...