20 December 2008

Madrina x 2

Although I was planning on staying up in Copa through Christmas, last week was wonderfully busy and I have 6 interviews, some 50 GPS points, and 40 imagines of Copa's meeting notes that I was getting increasingly anxious about backing up...especially considering that a colleague was just robbed in Lima and lost two months of work and maybe a day later my host family gave me the 'people think you have a lot of money/life here was scary during the years of terrorism/don't answer your door at night because they might be coming to rob you' speech. So it was either come down to Huaraz and back things up (in 8 places) or sleep with my recorder, camera and GPS receiver in my pants at night...I opted for backing up (and of course the hot shower sweetened the deal!).

Again I got some comments about my last entry sounding down. I was for whatever reason dragging my feet about going back up into the mountains, but felt at home again almost immediately once I arrived. Everyone was happy to have me back and several kids brought me new flowers for my hat, so many that I converted one of my few drinking receptacles into a vase...but it really ties the room together. I think the biggest cause for my hesitation was concern over screwing up the interviews, but to combat the fear I dove right into it the night I arrived and am feeling much more secure overall but note to self: no more blog entries when feeling out of sorts, it is scaring the readers.

On Wednesday I clambered back down the mountain to pick up Claes, the Swedish NPR reporter who was doing a story on climate change affects in South America. Copa was his last stop on the way back to L.A. where he lives (he pitches stories to both American and Swedish NPR, so stay tuned...). We had a great few days of recording and I was impressed at how well the folks of Copa received his huge boom (?) microphone, which intimidated the hell out of me.

After we said good-bye to Claes, my host family and I walked over to Copa Chico (no actual relation to Copa Grande, just the next village over) where I was to be the madrina (or god-mother) of two girls that were graduating from elementary school, Florcita and Cinquena. It was a sweet ceremony followed by food, beer and dancing. As the new madrina, I am now co-padres with two families. Traditionally, the child's parents cook and serve a whole cuy (guinea pig) and whole chicken for the new god parent, but since I had two families, I was given TWO whole cuyes and TWO chickens. Needless to say, most of that 'came home with me' to Huaraz, where I shared it with the Ames family (who own my second home, the hotel in Huaraz). It was a pleasant surprise how effective the ceremony was, after eating together and sharing the afternoon (which of course included a few chelas), I felt quite fond of my new co-padres and look forward to visiting in the future. I am working on getting some video up on my site so you can experience the joys of huayno and other campo pleasures, but connections are slow here so it may take some time...

Finally, many thanks to all those who thought of me over the holiday. I went to the post office yesterday and walked out with 5 packages! I am trying very hard to stick to the many 'do not open until Christmas' requests...but not sure how successful I will be.

10 December 2008


As usual, I am reporting in with a roller coaster of emotions. With an hour or so before boarding a night bus up to Huaraz where I will spend a few days before going up into the field for a solid two weeks, I find myself dragging my feet. I’ve been staying in the city and grown quite accustomed to creature comforts, good company and delicious food. The good news is that during my border crossing last week, I talked the immigration official into giving me 183 (three?) days instead of the normal 90 before I have to renew my visa again. I was looking forward to planning a trip to Bolivia in March for the renewal, but life is much easier without having to plan around a border crossing. Now I don’t have to renew the thing until early June, which gives me plenty of time to plan a great trip to Bolivia. It will probably be the perfect time for a break before the final push in July and August. But I am definitely getting ahead of myself here…

After putting the final touches on the latest draft of my NSF application tomorrow and Friday, I have my first official Quechua lesson on Saturday. After meeting for a few hours I will head up to Copa until after Christmas. This marks the official start of project work now that everything has been set-up, which is at once overwhelming and exciting. At the moment, it feels like I can really get some good work in the next nine months, but I’m sure I’ll arrive at the end of the summer with a million things still to do. If you can believe it, we will be celebrating Christmas with the exchange of fruit cakes, or panetón. The much sought after panetón is mass produced by the same huge companies that distribute milk and ice-cream throughout much of South America; however, my host family called me from Copa to specifically request panetón from Lima. As far as I can tell, this is like asking someone to bring a Snickers from California to New York, but hey, if some nasty corporate fruit cake will make them happy, who am I to refuse?

Enjoy the holiday season wherever you are! Most of you are probably jealous of my 70 degree days, but I am missing the crisp air, snuggly fireplaces (or fireplace DVDs) and the possibility of snow! The grass is always greener I suppose, although for those who are wishing for my weather, do realize that while I’ve been away, the rains in the highlands have arrived full force, so my re-entry will have the extra twist of determining whether my floor is still in the same place it was when I left….