I've passed the 2 week mark and aleady i'm feeling very comfortable in my site. Each day i get more acclimated to the cold wetness (which isn't really that cold, but there are no heated buildings to escape the temps in the 40's at night). It's good that i'm acclimating because every day 2 or 3 people ask me if i'm accustomed to the weather yet...they are all very concerned about my wellbeing! Life has been a little busy recently, which has been good.
Last saturday night was the graduation and celebration of the 18 seniors in my town. Many people of the town where there and after we ate a small dinner and they passed out the diplomas, we began the night of dancing and drinking. The drinking customs are a little different here than in the US. In Peru everyone stands (or dances) in a circle and passes a bottle of beer and one cup. You fill the cup then pass the bottle. After you drink the cup, then the next person does the same. All that i've learned about not sharing beverages or glasses in my life is completely out the window here in Peru. My biggest challenge with this is avoiding all the offers to drink from nearly every person in the town. The people were a little surprised at how willing I was to dance though...who knew that dancing would help me get to know my community better.
I've also been getting busier with work. INRENA, or the Dept. of Natural Resources in Peru has been having a lot of end of the year meetings with updates on their projects. I attend all of these because i will be working directly with INRENA and their environmental education, along with trying to achieve some of their Protected Area goals. I live in one of 2 Land Reserves in Peru, which is a little different from a national park becuase the Reserve's master plan directly involves the communities within its limits, and there are efforts to improve tourism (we have great potential for ecotourism if we can get a little more infrastructure). Becuase of these meeting i've met a lot of mayors from different towns, as well as all the biologists and full time staff from INRENA. There is a lot of pressure with this because INRENA always presents the 4 volunteers from the Peace Corps (including me) as experts who are going to greatly help the effort. I sure hope that they're right.
The whole town is preparing for our four day Christmas party and celebration of the Virgin del Carmen, which will be four days of music, dancing, drinking, and Paneton (fruitcake, although much better than fruitcake in the U.S.) So there is a lot of excitement and all the kids are playing in the streets during the days because school ended. Again, i'm excited for the Christmas celebration here even though i already miss the traditions of a snowy, Minnesota Christmas!
Peace and Love,
This is a picture from the town graduation party. My community counter part (who I often work with) is the young man with the beer. 18 graduates, 1 town party that ended at 5:00 am, and 50 crates of 12 bottles of beer (each bottle is 600ml, or almost 2 US beers).