Anne’s Peru Diary, 14-Oct-15

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anne_reilly_novWhere does the time go? Today is 13th October and I haven’t had a minute to myself since the 9th when I started to write. You may well ask what have I been up to? Well, a typical day, there is no such thing, for example, today we started with creating 40 litres of yogur/yogurt, the milk arrived at 7.30am and we completed the 1st stage of the process when the milk is boiled, cooled to a certain degrees and then the cultivo is added and then wrapped in brown paper and a blanket to keep it at that temperature while the cultivo works.

We will resume at about 4pm and then it is put into the fridge for 24hrs., Then tomorrow evening we will gather to add the fruits that we prepared yesterday evening from 4/6pm that was cutting the pina/pineapples, fresas/strawberries, durazno/peaches and the Fruta Seca/figs, prunes/raisins. It’s quite labor intensive and I’m sure there’s probably  a bright spark out there that will say I could develop a system where the time element could be cut in half and I would say fair play BUT the yogurt making is more that the product. It’s the social gathering, interactions, sharing of concerns,  an opportunity to do something that is money generating for the women themselves, with no major stresses and, all within a fun and cooperative atmosphere that is community, because they are there for each other no matter what and no money can buy that.

anne_reilly_peru_oct15_7At 11am I went to help Rosa a member of the yogur group to prepare the “carapulca” for her sister Marie’s birthday/Santos/cuplanos, another major intensive event as the potatoes all 25kilos are washed boiled, then the skin is peeled off with your fingers no wasting potato with a knife then you dice the potato into cubes well there is a knack to it and after 6months here I’ve finally arrived because normally I’m the one with the fork to hold the potato (because they can be very hot) and then the knife to peel the skin and pluck any black spots etc!.

The meat is boiled and diced into many small pieces, its mutton today. All the raw ingredients, herbs like cumin,garlic/ajo and “aji”/hot spice, etc. are cooked into a reddish paste like substance it’s kept boiling, for 2/3hrs of stirring. It’ shot in many ways, if it splashed onto your skin Phew! It burns and it is the main base for the carapulca that is “hot” to the taste, so plenty of water after the meal. I gave 2 hrs of labor and Marie’s neighbors are hosting the cooking because Marie is a maths teacher and won’t be home until 4pm. So again the neighbors rally whoever is available and it’s a great way of meeting and practicing my espanol.

So I’m home for my lunch now and to feed “wee doggie” In the afternoon at 3pm I will go with Maga and a few other friends and neighbors of the late “Aleja”, a beautiful women I met when I visited Mary in 2012, and when I heard the news of her death I was really sad. Aleja was a women in her 70s with a smile that was genuine and when you/I met her she would light up and it was infectious because while we never share any conversations we always had a warm hug and smile for each other. So, I’m off to the cemetery for her birthday anniversary, now this is something else, there will be an official prayer/music/song person or group that help the family sing and pray for the deceased and after all that the candles on a cake will be lit and the youngest of her grandchildren will have the honor of leading us all in “Cuplanos Felix/Happy Birthday.

At around 6pm I will be off with another group for the novena of Saint Martin De Porres, this novena has been going on since the middle of September, let me try and tell you about it. First I live in the parroquia/parish of “San Martin De Porres”, his official feast day is 3rd Nov. This is a very devotional Catholic country, there are statues and novenas all over the country, they are usually street events where the statue and people walk/caminando through the different streets/calles. Here is San Clemente the people requested hosting the statue in their homes, there were that many homes that we will have visited over 50 homes in the parish before 3rd Nov. Then on the weekend Sunday 8th there will be a whole host of events, celebrations, and fun activities for the children (including me!) and a concert, so I need to think up or learn a song for the occasion, something catchy so that people can join in (any thoughts to nothing too difficult because I will probably have to say what it is about in espanol!!

anne_reilly_peru_oct15_4Back to the novena tonight, there is a small group 3 or 4 people who make up the representatives of the parish, I am one of those whenever I’m up for it or available, then there is the host family and their extended family and neighbors who gather and we have an “leader”who is not the priest but someone who is gifted with a prayerful presence, it’s Martin tonight and boy! Can he play the cagon, it’s a type of drum that you sit on and play, the back of the cagon (the g has a h sound so its cahon) has a hole so it is quite a booming sound but played with rhythm you should see the kids dance and sing. Last night we were with what I can only call a very poor family, there were kids everywhere all under 9/10years well it was an utter privilege and enjoyment to hear them since and dance to the rhythm of the music. Part of this hosting is then the family distributes some form of sandwich and drink in thanksgiving for the people who gathered in their home. Last night we were served a sopa/soup it was rise and chicken with veg and of course the secret ingredients of spices plus “aji”, well I might have been feeling cold before the soup but by Jove I was hot after it.

Talking about hot/calor and cold/frio we are living with the effects of the Nino, it’s called the Nino effect, I’m not up to explaining it but where we are on the coast we should be living in winter instead the temperature are between 20/25 degrees in the day and then it plummets in the evening, well, maybe goes down to 12 degrees, definitely a jumper is needed by yours truly while everyone is in coats hats and scarf’s. The schools up north will probably close at the end of October and they shouldn’t really until the end of November, but the weather forecast for the Sierra is floods, and that means floods, bridges become impassable because of the rising rivers. Here in San /Clemente they recon the bridge will flood, looking forward to seeing that as there isn’t a drop of water under it at present.

So climate change is hitting the Southern hemisphere. Talking of adverse weather conditions, the recent earthquake/terremoto that hit Chile, where the death toll was extraordinary low and damage minimal considering what they said “officially” if that same 7.9/8.2 earthquake had hit Lima we would have been talking thousands killed, hundreds of thousands would have lost their homes so bad is the sandy terrain and the quality of the buildings We here in San Clement e have the usual reminders of the earthquake that hit 8 years ago with the siren going off and evacuation drills in the schools and public gatherings for information on what to do WHEN. I live in hope that nothing will happen BUT people live in fear, real fear I know one woman who sleeps in her clothes just in case…Mary (who I live with) has asked me a few times since I arrived “did you feel that tremor last night”? T.God, no. So, a real fear, as we live in an earthquake zone, not something to dwell on but be prepared I have my torch and small bag with essentials like copy of passport to hand.

9th October 2015.

A good day to write and give you some sense of what I’m doing here in San Clemente, Pisco, Peru. Well, September was a mixed month; first we had the news of the earthquake in Chile which borders Peru. It’s not well received because of the nearness and also the after shocks/tremors and the ultimate fear of a tsunami. It is a very real and frightening fear for the people here in San Clemente and the surrounding towns and villages of Pisco. We are situated on the coast although not close enough to walk to the beach but by taxi about 40 minutes. It’s a great place to go for a day out, the contrast is amazing, very touristy, nothing wrong with that but comparing it to San Clemente is like we live a simple day to day existence, probably the highlight of our day is if someone is celebrating something and there is plenty of opportunities given the close knit community that we are.

Yesterday Fe y Allegria no.68 the local primary and secondary school was celebrating 8 years, it established after the teramoto/earthquake 8 years ago, by the Dominican of the Rosary congregation. What can I say it was amazing event, parents mostly the women mothers and grandmothers or older women siblings created costumes from recycled paper the creative energy imagination  and pain staking hours of sowing, painting, the good thing about it was it wasn’t being judged was a blessing. I was with a local family Maga, her daughter Charo plus Charo’s daughter Hermana and Maga’s granddaughter Romina, both girls 11 year. I hope to convey my astonishment at just how magnificent the costumes were and with such dedication, not sure the two girls saw it that way being teenagers and of a different generation.

anne_reilly_peru_oct15_3There was a concert put on my the students and teachers it was “river dance” perunana style, it really struck me how much rhythm and story is intertwined in the dance. One group started with a Whitney Houston song well the girls could hear the music and dance the boys look as if they had two left feet. When the music changed into Peruvian style Wow! Did they all become alive, it really did remind me of River Dance during the interval of that famous Eurovision , when we Irish discover something new in our traditional dance, where were you when that phenomena hit?

Finishing on a positive note the Espanol is really coming to the fore speaking much more and I have an intensive 7 days of conversational Espanol booked for the 23rd October. I won a 25 kilo bag of arroz/rice at the local “Gran RIFA”, held last Sunday, so how to distribute it is the issue, everyone wants a regalo/present, my response is,  “ Yo soy regalo / I am the gift” which gets a great laugh and me some space to work out how to share it.

It’s Mango and asparagus season, Peru export asparagus, watch out for it in the supermarket so plenty of goodness

People are very generous, their generosity knows no bounds, I have attended many a birthday celebration which is a meal put on by the person celebrating for their families and friends. I have come home and sat in astonishment reflecting on/ at their generosity, so it’s a privilege to have the opportunity to live within this community of San Martin and take every day as it comes.

I pray and wish the same to you all, my family and friends.

Love and Prayers, keep me and the people here in the Southern Hemisphere especially San Clemente, Pisco, Peru.

Anne Reilly