In the month and a half since I’ve last written a few cool things have happened. I’ve met a very important person, made some new things, been called a few new names, learned some interesting things about the Spanish language, and seen things that will make you lose your head (or at least boggle your mind)!
First, my host dad and I started a project that I never would have expected when I started with the PC over 20 months ago. We make yogurt! Seriously, we make a small amount of yogurt each week (usually 10 to 12 liters) that we sell to anyone who comes looking for it. We’ve made pineapple, lucuma (a Peruvian fruit that doesn’t have an English name) and unflavored. We sell it for 3.50 soles per bottle, which after cost of production earns about 2.50 soles. The 2.50 soles per liter of milk profit is great, considering that selling fresh cheese (which we also do) only earns about 1.00 sol per liter of milk. Yogurt takes a little more time, but it is worth it and after only about 3 weeks of production we’ve developed a pretty steady demand. The quality is high and it is all natural. It is a great income generating project. I’ve helped to get the initial materials, my host dad has used great initiative to have a sticker made so our product looks professional, and we’ve done the actual production (which takes about 3 hours of work and 5 hours of incubation) together. It is fun and I enjoy being “paid” in fresh yogurt.
Second, the Reserva Paisajística Nor Yauyos Cochas (RPNYC), the protected area where I live, celebrated its anniversary. To celebrate, the minister of the Ministry of Environment, Antonio Brack Egg (that is his real name) made a visit. The Minister knows about Peace Corps because PC has a contract with Peruvian protected areas, but it was fun to share lunch with him nonetheless. He is in the top 15 in terms of power rank in Peruvian government, so he’s kind of a big deal.
Thirdly, the annual Tomas horse race and duck pull (Jale Pato) happened. The horse race is exactly what it sounds like, people bring teams of 4 horses and there is a round robin style contest of a 300 meter sprint race. It is really fun to watch, the entire town is sitting in the hills watching, there is lots of food for sale, and it ends with the Duck Pull.
This, unfortunately, is also exactly what is sounds like. To decide who is the padrino, or sponsor of the next years race, they pull the head off of a duck. Besides the question of why, you might ask yourself how do you pull the head off of a duck. The answer is simple, tie a duck by a rope between tow large poles, then ride underneath the duck on your horses and pull on the head. If you pull hard enough or after enough tries, someone will eventually get the head. To make things more interesting, many people who were watching the races all day drinking get on horses to have a pull at this event. It is completely chaotic and looks like it could be right out of the wild west, except (thank God) without guns. It is a little cruel, but in the Peruvian highlands certainly not unusual. In many places they are adopting new ways to decide who is the Padrino without killing a duck, but for now it was at least a sight to see for this American.
Besides those things, I’m co-coaching under 14 soccer with the Priest, I’ve been working to keep up the tree nursery, SLOWLY making progress with the municipality to start having municipal trash collection, and I’ve been helping with the harvest, which is back breaking work that started last week. Life is good!