sábado, 10 de octubre de 2009

Road (un)Safety

Traffic in Peru is crazy, everybody does their own thing and for a foreigner first coming here there seems to be no logic (I still doubt whether there actually is). In Huaycan, however, everything remained quite calm until a couple of weeks ago… That was the time when the traffic lights on the main junction stopped working. Our luck, of course, is that we have to cross that street a couple of times per day!

Sara already had an amazing near-death experience. We were heading back home from ‘Quince’ and had to cross the street. Lara and I started running and safely reached the other side. It’s only then we realized that we were missing Sara. When we looked for her she was still on the other side of the road patiently waiting for a good moment to cross. Exactly at the moment she thought it was safe, traffic started coming in from all sides. This ended up in a big mess with her standing in the middle of the road looking terrified and almost being run over by moto-taxi’s and combi’s. Every time she intended to start walking again she immediately changed her mind as she was almost run over by a next car. In the meantime, Lara and I were laughing hysterically and everybody else was looking at us as if we were crazy. Luckily, in the end Sara managed to cross the street without being injured and also Lara and I calmed down.

-- Nadja Franssen, Light and Leadership Volunteer

jueves, 8 de octubre de 2009


Our discussions at the lunch table are mostly pretty calm. However, seeing as a majority of our volunteer staff teaches English, there is one topic that gets everyone heated. The deeply profound question: Pop or Soda?

I, being from the Chicagoland area, have grown up saying pop. Knowing that there are others that, in my now very strong opinion, incorrectly call it “soda,” I realized early on the opportunity I had as an English teacher. There would be no teaching “soda” in my classroom.

I’m not sure how, but the “pop-soda-each-side-thinks-they’re-right” discussion came up. Kristin, who I previously thought was a fellow pop supporter because she’s a Midwesterner (Wisconsin), was staunchly defending the “soda” side. Amy, Sara, and I were making a pretty good showing for pop. I must say though, Kristin held her own.

It was heated. I was almost in tears, Sara and Amy refused to speak to Kristin, and Kristin stormed off.

Well. Not quite. But I’m still stubborn about my choice in using pop and the discussion didn’t accomplish much—except that I now know Wisconsin says it wrong.

It’s worth mentioning that all the while, Nadja, our volunteer from the Netherlands, was not remotely interested in this. I don’t blame her, really.

--Lara DeVries, Light and Leadership Volunteer

martes, 6 de octubre de 2009

So Misunderstood.

It is possible to come to Peru without knowing Spanish and learn the language. That just means that your mistakes are going to be that much worse. Saying the wrong word in a classroom typically goes by unnoticed because you are surrounded by people who, like you, don’t know any words outside their textbooks. Making a mistake around the table with native speakers nothing goes unnoticed. The results can be tragically embarrassing.

I have been officially speaking Spanish for one month now and it seems to me that I have made more tragically embarrassing mistakes than your average gringa. The worst part is that you think you successfully communicated what you meant to say. But then you start to get strange looks or laughs and then you look around until you are the last to know what terribly inappropriate phrase you have just mumbled out. Thus here is my top 4 countdown of the worst misunderstandings…

4. Sitting around the lunch table one afternoon I begin to gloat about my Wisconsin pride once again. This time I tried to prove to everyone at the table that Wisconsin is far superior to Illinois… in Spanish. I am not even sure what exactly I said but everyone started to laugh, I unsure if this was good or bad. It was bad. It translates to “my love is very juicy”.

3. There was a very important nurse over for a visit to discuss how we could start to partner with her clinic. I sat down and she asked me how my Spanish was coming along. I tried to explain that I try not to think in English phrases but it didn’t exactly come out that way. I said to her “I don’t believe in English.” Might I note, we are an organization that teaches English. Lara and her both look at me like I was crazy in the head. Lara says, “Did you mean to just tell her that you don’t believe in English?” Oh my. Lara smoothed that one over for me but I have since been hesitant to sit down with other guests. Maybe I’ll try it again in a few weeks.

2. Yrma is our “Peruvian Mom” of sorts. She is Luz’s mom and is around all the time. She was getting ready to go on a week long trip and was sitting in our living room getting her hair done. There were at least eight people sitting in the room. I was reading a book and the Spanish phrase for have a nice trip was in there. I say to Yrma, “bien vieja” she started to laugh and so I said it again and again. Everyone was laughing at this point. I look around and knew I had done it again. Translated I said, “You are very old.” Watch out for that one kids… it’s just a close call. Good trip, buen viaje.

Drum roll please….

1. Setting… lots of new people I have not met in the house for a party. They ask me to take a picture. That day I had learned two new words, chócala (high five) and chompa (sweater). I thought it would be a huge success if I would say “uno, dos, tres… Chócala!” when I take the picture. This is more how it went, “Uno, dos, tres… CHUPALA!!” Lots of laughs immediately indicated to me that it was far more successful that I thought it would be, I mean really successful. I was the last to know that I had actually said, “One, two, three… SUCK IT!”

Kristin Bolan, Misunderstood Light and Leadership Initiative Volunteer

lunes, 5 de octubre de 2009

Why is choclo so grande?

Why is choclo so big????? This is the question I have been asking myself ever since I arrived in Huaycan two weeks ago. Choclo is the name for the corn that they have here….if you can even call it corn. This is no ordinary ear of corn like one that you would see in the supermarkets. The kernels on this corn are the size of a penny or larger. I have done a considerable amount of research on the web without any successful leads. If anyone has an idea of how the corn here has become so big, I would appreciate some information. Luz’s explanation of “big seeds” has not cured my curiosity in this matter.
- Amy, newest Light and Leadership volunteer.