Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A little FYI to all my loved ones: If you should feel inclined to send Norwegian chocolate, a postcard, an update from home, or anything else that's transportable by mail, you can do so at the following address:

Janne Kristine Dale (Please remember to include my middle name - that's the name I go by here)
La Restinga
Jr. Raymondi 254

Sunday, October 26, 2008

48 hours in heaven (a.k.a. I LOOOOOVE IQUITOS!!)

Since Iquitos is famous for being the largest city in the world that cannot by reached by road, Elin and I had to leave Lima in a plane. After a short flight over the Amazonian jungle, we dove down to the small airport in Iquitos. I knew that the different regions in Peru (coast, highland, and jungle) were fairly distinct, both in landscape and culture, but I was still taken aback by how totally different it is up here.

Picture above: View from the seaside restaurant, where we had our first taste of the local fish.

For starters, I can (FINALLY!) put away the woolen undershirt I wore religiously in Lima, along with the three longsleeved sweaters I usually wore on top of each other every day. The weather has been just perfect so far – hot, but not in a suffocating way. The second most obvious difference from Lima is the air and the evironment. Iquitos is completely surrounded by beautiful lush forests and though the river is pretty badly contaminated, the air is fresh. The landscape with the small straw huts along the roads, the houses built on stilts in the Belen neighboorhoos (more about that later), the small motocarros filling the streets (there are almost no cars here), and the bountiful open air markets is incredibly charming, and I feel almost giddy with excitement that I get to live and work here for the next six months.
Food picture: Unlike Lima, where fish is usually served with rice, the fish here is usually served with platano, a less sweet type of banana.

Above: Puri and me at the restaurant.

Our first day was made extra special by Puri—a previous Hald student who works at La Restinga—who spent all of Saturday with us, showing us around town, helping us by some essentials for our apartmant (a fan, water, toilet paper, and other little things), and introduced us to some culinary specialties from la selva (the jungle). She also brought us to this beautiful getaway place, with a small pool, lots of hammocks, and small huts with views over the Belen neighborhood (see picture below). What she didn't tell us, however, was that in one of the small tree huts, there is a cage with a big snake. Having inherited my dad's fear of snakes, I was not exactly thrilled about this. The picture on the right was incidentially taken in the exact moment I discovered the snake... Yes, that is what fear looks like in its purest form. :) Thankfully, I now have half a year to learn to love these creatures...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Snapshots from Lima

It's crazy how fast time passes by! Our first month in Lima is nearly over, and on Saturday morning Elin and I get on the plane to Iquitos, where we will be working for the next six months.
I am so grateful to have had these first few weeks in Lima, though, and I feel so much more confident in my language abilities, and much more acquainted with the culture.

Here are a few of the highlights from the last month, including some pictures:

  • Getting to know our host family! For our goodbye dinner with our wonderful host family, Elin and I wanted to make some typical norwegian food. We decided to make fiskegrateng (a dish with fish, macaroni, and white sauce) and lapper (almost like pancakes, except made with yogurt), and the video below shows Elin, grandma, and Diego (our little host brother) in the kitchen. (You may notice that grandma is the one cooking the lapper, because after Elin and I failed repeatedly and grandma knows best).

  • Nightly family gatherings in the livingroom to watch Victoria, a ridiculously wonderful soapopera I've developed a small obsession with. Watching this show has definitely helped me learn the language better, because I have to REALLY listen to catch the meaning of everything.

  • Our last night in Lima, we also had one final hurrah with the other Norwegians before parting. It’s been really great being with them this month – looking forward to seeing them during infield (a 1 week group corse, probably in Bolivia, in January)! (see picture below)
  • Seeing Oles and my good friend Karin! Many of you know Jared Brandell and Frieda von Qualen, who are both in Lima right now with the peace corps, and we had a wonderful little luncheon together to catch up. I also got a visit from my good friend from high school, Karin, whose sister is studying in Lima. So good to see them all again!

  • Visiting different Stromme Foundation projects. In addition to the center for teenage mothers (see previous post), we've also visited Tierra de Niños (which has lots of different projects with kids and teenagers), and Ágape (which works with issues of family violence). The picture below is of a girl from one of the Tierra de Niños projects, where they (for lack of other materials) used sawdust and sand to make art.

  • Going to the water park in Lima with Kristine, Thea, and Thea's host sister, Claudia.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Just wanted to include a few pictures from our "Pizza and Salsa" night. Thea, one of the girls from the program, has a host sister, Claudia, who is a national champion in marinera, a tradidtional Peruvian dance. She has won over 40 championship, danced for the Norwegian princess and the Peruvian national soccer team, and is basically one of the best marinera dancers in the country. Naturally, her mom, Filomena, (who is in charge of the Center for adolescent mothers described in the last post) was super proud and brought out all of her trophes and prizes (see pictures).
Originally, were invited over to their house to bake pizza and learn to dance salsa, but after getting down the basic salsa steps (enough so that we can survive our first trip to the salsa club tonight!), we got to learn marinera, which was much more memorable. The dance is supposed to be a romantic courting dance, and everyone has handkerchiefs as props! The pictures below show Claudia instructing us, and us failing misorably...

12 years old and pregnant

Do you remember what you were worried about as a 6th grader? I seem to remember just moving out of my Barbie phase (a little late, I know) around that age. For the mamasitas (little mothers) we visited a few days ago, reality looks pretty different. Meet Gloria: a 13 year old girl from the local community who already has a 10 month old daughter, Cielo (the picture on the right). Most of the girls come from communities plagued by poverty, family violence, sexual violence, and drug abuse, and several of them have become pregnant through cases of incest of rape. Luckily, the Centro para Madres Adolescentes (Center for Adolescent Mothers) is giving these young women a chance to deliver their baby safely and break out of the cycle of poverty and abuse.
Our visit to the center was moving and disheartening, but also left me with the sense that these girls have hope for the future. The leader, Filomena, and the psychologist on staff gave us a presentation about the project, and afterwards we were shown around the center, got to see the Anacoda dance and a Peruvian polka performed by the girls, and got a few minutes to talk to them in the end.
The project currently has 15 adolescent girls (and 15 babies) living at the center, but every day kids from the community come there to take part of the vocational trainings and other types of education. The center offers vocational training in beautycare (see picture frm the classroom on the left), textiles, and bakery, so that the girls will be able to support themselves when they leave the center (usually after about a one year long stay). While there, the girls are given holistic support (including psychological care, counseling with their families, legal advice, health care, social services, etc). The goal is that the girls will have safe pregnancies, learn how to take care of themselves and their children, and be able to reintegrate into their families and communities with a new perspective and ambitions for their future.

Since the Center receives support from the Stromme Foundation, two of the girls from our programs will be working there for the next six months. In the textile training, they were making adorable sweatsuits for the babies reflecting this partnership in their logos (see picture on right).
One of the things that struck me the most as we walked around the center was the writing on the wall above the soccerfield in the back of the center. In bright yellow letters it proclaimed Jesus' words that "los úlitimos seran los primeros" -- "the last shall be the first." These words take on new meaning when found in this setting where "the last" desperately need to know that they are not forgotten.

Raw octopus, guinea pig, and other Peruvian specialties

Living with a host family, we've gotten to eat a lot of traditional foods. The different regions in Peru, la costa (the coast), la sierra (the highlands), and la selva (the jungle) all have very distinct cultures and foods, but here in Lima you get to have a taste of it all. Luci, our housekeeper, is from the highlands, and the other day she prepared a specialty from her region: cuy -- also known as guinea pig. It tasted pretty good, but the legs were still intact, with claws and everything, which definitely startled me a bit at first. We've been served lots of other delicious (and less scary) foods, including papa a la Huancaina (sliced boiled potatoes covered in a cheesy, slightly spicy sauce served on top of lettuce) and chicha morada (a sweet beverage made from purple corn).

Yesterday, our group went out to a Cevicheria, a seafood restaurant where they serve the traditional Peruvian dish ceviche: raw seafood in a lime and onion sauce. I would be lying if said I didn't cringe a little bit at the sight of raw octupus tentacles in front of me, but after a few deep breaths I was ready to try it out. To my great surprise, it actually tasted really good! Granted, I think I'll still need to take a few more deep breath the next time I take on a plate of raw slabs of octupus, shrimp, and squid, but at least I'll know what to expect... :)
The picture above shows fried seafood (octopus rings, shrimps, etc), and the pictures below show seafood in a rice and beans mix, and Svenn (another Norwegian from the program) taking a big bite of raw fish.

Monday, October 6, 2008

I'm Here!!

Just wanted to write a quick note and say that I have safely arrived in Peru, and have had five wonderfully confusing days here so far. Elin (the girl I'm going to Iquitos with) and I live together with a super nice host family in Salamanca, which is only about a half hour in bus away from downtown Lima and from ESAN, the university where we'll be taking spanish classes every day, from monday to saturday. The spanish classes are absolutely fantastic -- it's really challenging, but not so much that it feels impossible. I'm determined to really work hard at the language these first three weeks, so that I'll be able to communicate more with my host family and feel more prepared before going to Iquitos in November.

After five days here, I'm starting to feel like I've got the hang of the basics: we know how to take the bus (though it's quite the adventure every time you climb into a little "combi" -- a 13 seat car with about 25 people crammed into it), we know the basic schedule of the host family and how to communicate basic things with them. I have to admit, much of the time, I have no idea what's going on, and I spend much of my time wondering if I've understood correctly, or not understanding anything at all. But that's all part of the fun and adventure, and I feel a lot more secure already. I'm excited to keep learning and keep exploring the city and the culture -- I think I'll have a great stay here!Picture: From the famous Plaza de Armas downtown Lima.