Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Amazon Adventure and Request for Donations to Calendar Project

Link to donate to the Women´s Empowerment Calendar Project:

I know it has been forever since I last posted a blog and I attribute this to a natural progression in my cultural integration. All of those hilarious and exciting experiences at the beginning still happen but they just seem normal. Today I was sitting at lunch with a volunteer who has been in his site for two weeks and a donkey ran down a main road of town right outside of our restaurant window. I didn't even flinch but when he started laughing I realized that the situation was hilarious. I will miss these quirky little experiences when I move back to a world where the only animals that pass by restaurant windows are well groomed dogs on Coach leather leashes. On my ride home I decided to do a little exercise to get back to the state of mind where everything is new and exciting. For 15 minutes I tried to look at things as a visitor from the US would. I saw chickens having sex along the main road, a man with a live goat hanging off his handlebars on the way to market, and a school bus sized vehicle driving down the road with its right wheels about 10 inches smaller than the left so that it slanted at a precarious angle. I need to make sure that I never forget how unique my experience here in Peru ha been.
One of the most memorable aspects of my time in Peru has been the travel. I was lucky enough to end up in a country with some of the most amazing natural and cultural history in the world and I have taken full advantage of the travel opportunities. Since we are not allowed to travel after our close of service conference, I took the last week before my conference to see the Amazon jungle by going on a tour that left from the “island city” of Iquitos. The city is only accessible by four day boat ride or by plane. Due to my lack of vacation time I opted for the plane. My tour consisted of four days of hiking and canoeing to look for wildlife. I ended up being the only one on my tour and the only guest at the second lodge which meant that I had a huge staff to myself. On paper this sounds great but it got a bit overwhelming when my two waiters were so eager to help that they kept snatching my dishes before I was finished eating. My guide and I shared candlelight dinners listening to bird calls on his mp3. Despite some moments that felt more like a date than a nature tour, there were tons of benefits to being alone. We were able to stay very quiet so I saw tons of new bird species including the elusive blue and gold macaw and four species of monkey! I caught and ate piranhas, took afternoon naps in hammocks overlooking the Amazon river, and tried to learn the calls of the hundreds of bird species surrounding me at any given time. After returning from the jungle lodges I had a day in the city that I was going to use for sampling local delicacies including lizard and grubs but I came across a sports bar owned by a Texan expat where I watched the US Open and ate the best pancake I have ever had. It also helped that the restaurant had ac and Iquitos is about 100 degrees with 100% humidity. Between the pygmy marmosets, one on one birdwatching tutorials, and Texan banana pancakes I am completely satisfied with my final vacation in Peru.
The last stop of my travels was a retreat center in Lima for my close of service conference. As I look back at how my perceptions of Peru have changed I realize how fast these last two years have gone. There have been hours that seem to go on for days and days that seem to go on for weeks but the months have flown by and all of a sudden I found myself at my close of service conference. I only have two months left so it was time for me to find out how to close my bank accounts, request my plane ticket home, and write my final report. The best part of the weekend by far was hanging out with my entire training class (those of us who made it for two years) and hearing what these people have been up to for two years! It was great to share experiences and hear about the exciting post Peace Corps plans people have.
My last big project as a Peace Corps volunteer is the “Peruanas Poderosas” calendar project. We started this project last year based on an idea that volunteers in Bolivia had before they were pulled out of the country. This calendar highlights twelve women who have proven to be invaluable community partners for volunteers all over the country. The women in this year's calendar will represent 8 departments and a variety of professions. The calendar is a perfect means to celebrate these strong women because every Peruvian house and business is decorated with calendars of naked women an white babies surrounded by floating dolphins. Why not try and replace some of these with motivational stories about women who have overcome adversity and are working to improve the communities in which they live? We will release the calendars at regional workshops on domestic violence and women's rights. Because of massive budget cuts, we need to fund this project through the Peace Corps Partnership Program, a program where people from the US can contribute to our projects through the secure Peace Corps website and have it be 100% tax deductible. I beg you all to get involved and help us recognize this group of women who are the foundations for our projects as Peace Corps volunteers and the key to sustainable development. This calendar is an excellent opportunity to recognize women who are not generally recognized for their amazing efforts. To get involved please visit the link below. Thank you so much for your support.

The link:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I completed a marathon (albeit very slowly)

I haven't written in a very long time but my life has lately been filled with exciting events so I thought that I would update everyone back at home. I only have about 4 months left in the Peace Corps and then I will be returning home to Portland to figure out the rest of my life. That is all up in the air but it is still very exciting to daydream about all of the possibilities. Along with thinking about which law schools to apply to and drafting a personal statement that will hopefully get me into these law schools, I have spent the couple of months since my last blog running. I had to complete my intense marathon training schedule which means that I have run over 600 miles since January. The culmination of all this running was the fourth annual Pacasmayo marathon, a Peace Corps founded event that has since been continued by the municipality and other volunteers in the region. The event was relatively small with somewhat bleak surroundings meaning that the majority of the race I was by myself in the desert. Despite this, I got to run along the coast with some beautiful ocean views along the way and upon finishing (in a somewhat embarrassingly long time) I was rewarded with an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. I had a killer sunburn, a pretty massive headache, and was seriously fatigued but one of my first thoughts upon finishing is that I want to run another marathon next year only this time I will try and run it in a time I am proud of rather than just finish. Any sport that generally starts off with a pasta feed and ends up with an expo offering free massages, snacks, and gear is alright in my book.

The day after the marathon I headed to Lima for a Women in Development Committee meeting. After a long session of planning, we made significant progress on our calendar for 2012. For those of you who don't know about the calendar project, it is the second annual “Peruanas Poderosas” (Powerful Peruvians) calendar featuring women nominated by the volunteers they work with to be featured in a calendar. The success of last year's calendar in recognizing women who work diligently to improve their communities without any reward has made it a main priority of the committee to repeat the project. The calendar will be distributed to all volunteers, staff members, and important contacts, and we will hold regional ceremonies and leadership workshops for volunteers, the women selected for the calendar, and any woman who wishes to accompany them. We are currently writing the grant proposal which will be funded by generous donations from friends and family. I will definitely be hitting all of you up for contributions as soon as our grant and budget has been approved by Peace Corps. This is a great cause and all donations will be tax deductible so I urge all of you to get involved. I will post on my blog and on Facebook when we are ready to receive donations.

As I reach the final stretch of my Peace Corps service, I have found myself with many conflicting emotions. I am nostalgic, homesick, and excited about the future. Although it is increasingly difficult to motivate to start new projects, I am satisfied with the projects that I have underway and I am enjoying pulling everything that I have accomplished thus far together. The 2012 calendar will be a great way to end my service and, since the woman that I nominated was selected to appear, I will leave a beautiful finished product behind for my town to remember me by.

Friday, May 20, 2011


This past weekend I put my recent marathon training to the test. There was a huge marathon/half-marathon/10k event in Lima sponsored by Adidas and the main cell phone company here. Since I am a little over half way done with my training, I decided to run the half marathon to see how fit I am. What I found out is that running 13.1 miles is very tough. I had run up to 15 miles successfully in training but the race was quite a bit more trying. During the first 10 miles of the race I felt pretty good and was running on the spirit, energy, and adrenaline of the event. The last three miles my main thought was "I just want this to be over and I have no idea how I will run twice this distance." I was inspired and a bit embarrassed when the elite marathoners (who had started their 26.2 mile race only an hour before us) came blowing by me to finish their race in not much more time than it took me to run half that distance. The satisfaction that I felt after the race was quite overwhelming and I determined that it was well worth the 3 or 4 miles of pain that I went through. The question now becomes am I willing to endure 13 miles of pain for an exponentially more satisfying accomplishment. I have heard about marathons my entire life but never had I realized how incredible of a feat just completing the entire race is let alone running 26.2 consecutive miles faster than I can hope to run even 1 mile. I like a good challenge but I am now getting seriously nervous about the challenge that I have signed up for in July. In the upcoming weeks my training runs will start kicking up a few notches and I will try my best not to blow out my shins, knees, back, and every other part of my body. Luckily two of my fellow volunteers are also preparing for the main event and we have made a tradition of having sleepovers before our super long runs and then following them up with good food and beers (after a few liters of water and Gatorade of course). I must say that, while I appreciate the sense of accomplishment and the therapeutic aspects of running, one of my favorite parts of marathon training is the carbo loading. I may be taking this a bit too far as I have not lost any weight even though I am running around 30 miles a week.
From here on I will be working hard to keep up the motivation to get up and run before my work. At the same time I am also jumping into some big projects. Thanks to all the donations from friends and family we have funded an environmentally themed leadership camp for adolescent boys and are in the planning phase. Aside from this, I am also working on planning the second annual calendar project recognizing women leaders in communities where volunteers are working. Last year's calendar was so successful that we are really looking forward to replicating the project. Since there have been major budget cuts for Peace Corps, we are making some changes in how the project is executed and we will have to raise funds from friends and family once again so keep an eye out for my email begging for your support. I find these larger scale projects to be very rewarding and I look forward to working on these in addition to the projects that take place in my site.
In site, I am working with a group of recycling promoters going house to house and giving everyone sacks to put their recycling in. This is pretty fun work because almost everyone we talk to is excited to start collecting recyclables to sell so that they can help clean up the town and earn a little money at the same time. I think many of them aren't so excited about recycling as they are to figure out what it is that I am doing here besides hanging out in the market eating the tasty street food. I think the door-to-door aspect of my project is something that I should have done earlier on in order to explain myself more thoroughly from the outset.
I am feeling pretty successful lately but I am still in a constant battle to avoid the perils of the Peace Corps. The most recent of these potential obstacles is a tropical disease called Dengue. I have talked about this before but now it is here in Pacora and even my host father got it. Dengue is transmitted by a particular mosquito and the symptoms include flu-like symptoms and body aches so severe one feels as if their bones are breaking. It only lasts a week and goes away on its own but I would still rather avoid anything that doctors refer to as "agonizing." I will be doing all I can by putting on repellent, sleeping under a net, and wearing long pants and sleeves but those mosquitoes are sneaky little buggers and I cannot be completely safe. Wish me luck!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Welcome to the Jungle

Since I work in a Catholic country I get a four-day weekend for Easter and I decided to go all out with my chosen vacation. Four friends and I headed south to the Manu Biosphere Reserve to look for the elusive national bird of Peru, the Cock of the Rock (obviously this caused never-ending innuendos which originally annoyed our guide but eventually he was the one making raunchy jokes). We flew into Cusco for some awesome touristy food and left before dawn the following morning for the drive to our first lodge. The drive that day was grueling to say the least. The first couple of hours were on paved roads and we got to stop at some picturesque villages along the way but when we pulled into the Manu national park, the roads got a bit treacherous. The Hyundai mini-van we were riding in was not made to wade through mud pits and ford streams. We ended up getting out of the car at the muddier spots so that the car could pass through. With about two hours left in the drive we came up on a long line of cars and went to investigate the holdup. What we encountered made the reality of our situation much scarier that the harmless adventure on rough roads we had thought it to be. The road ahead had collapsed under a lumber truck sending the truck sliding into a ravine. Luckily, no one was hurt and apparently this happens all the time, but it was incredibly nerve wracking to come across this scene. I had no faith in the estimate that we would be on our way again in about an hour but all I could do was wait. Amazingly enough, one bulldozer and one tractor was plenty to pull the truck out of the ravine relatively quickly (they had already been working at it about 4 hours when we showed up) and then carve a new road out of the side of the mountain. Luckily, there were a bunch of cars that had to pass over the new section of road before we did so the integrity had been well proven. Still, I waited on the far side of the collapse site and hopped in the van once I saw that it did not go sliding into the ravine.

After our harrowing 13-hour drive, I was thrilled to get to our little haven in the cloud forest, San Pedro Lodge. The lodge had big outdoor sitting areas with the noise of the river, the birds, and insects in the background. Although we were close to the little mud road we had ridden in on, there was not a car to be heard the entire night. I can't think of the last time that I found a place where there was no evidence of motor vehicles but this was it. The next morning after a successful bird walk where we spotted the cock of the rock and a few other beautiful species, we climbed back into our minivan and headed to our next activity, rafting. On the drive we spotted a pack of wooly monkeys, one of five species in the area. The next lodge was only accessible by boat so we rafted half way and then took a motorboat when the river got a bit bigger and flatter. The second part of our adventure took places at the Erika Lodge and began with a nature hike through the quicksand. In an effort to reach an enormous tree with a root so big it looked like a dinosaur trail, we had to move cross a patch of ground that sucked three of us in up to our knees before we found a spot solid enough to make a stick bridge and cross. I think it sounds so Indiana Jones to sink in quicksand so I am pretty proud of myself.

The next day we had to arrive at the clay lick before 6 am to watch flocks of amazing birds arrive for their morning feeding. The clay lick is pretty much exactly what it sounds like, a wall of clay where birds come to get their minerals. We ended up seeing four species of birds and a beautiful sunrise over a tributary of the Amazon River. After a breakfast of delicious pancakes, we hiked up to the zipline for a day of cruising through the canopy in harnesses. Our full day of activities continued with a typical jungle lunch cooked in banana leaves followed by a hike and paddle around a beautiful lake where we spotted the Hoatzin or "stinky bird" (called this because its digestive system operates like that of a cow complete with three stomachs). This bird looks like the archaeopteryx dinosaur with a feather Mohawk. We looked for the capybara (the world's largest rodent) but were not lucky enough to find it. Despite this, we did get a glimpse of our second species of monkey, the squirrel monkey. Overall, this was an amazing final activity for our trip.

The last day of our jungle experience did not disappoint on the adventure front. After a quick ride up the river we got back in our minivan for 13 hours of alternate riding and trudging through the mud. Late that night we got into Cuzco and headed straight for burgers and imported beer with the rest of the tourists. One of my favorite things about Cuzco is the amount of high quality pub type food. After an Easter Sunday that involved hiking up to the giant white Jesus overlooking Cuzco and spending lots of money on food, we headed back to our sites. Remembering these experiences makes me a little sad as I sit in my room watching episodes of House and planning my next trip to the jungle as mice literally scurry in under my door. Being a tourist is pretty awesome.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

So you want to get involved with my projects? Read this!

I have never had an answer when someone asks me to recount my most embarrassing moment but I may have achieved just that at the regional 50th anniversary party that we held for Peace Corps recently in the municipality of my capitol city. We had been planning to celebrate President Kennedy's signing of the order to create Peace Corps for many months and had put together an elegant event with photo exhibitions of our work, testimonials from volunteers and counterparts, and words from the Peace Corps Peru director. There were quite a few authorities and important people present and my body thought that it was the perfect time to come down with the flu. I had been unable to eat much that morning so when it came time for snacks I went to town on the finger sandwiches and tiny empanadas. I approached the director of the national park that I live near to thank him for the support he had given the most recent reforestation effort that I have been working on. This man is pretty important in the Peruvian equivalent of our National Park Service. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into when I started a conversation with this man and how sick I was actually feeling. As he got increasingly excited about new ideas to save the forest and help the people who live off of it, I got increasingly woozy. My vision started to get blurry and my sampler of snacks started to make its presence known in my belly. Finally I interrupted a monologue about organic gardens that I would have been very excited about ordinarily and asked if I could sit down. As soon as we reached the trash can by the wall I started hurling everything in my stomach into said trash can in the middle of this elegant event. I was somewhat discreet but the VIP guest I had been talking to felt obligated to take care of me. He gave me toilet paper to wipe my face and a pill that he had from his recent illness. I called one of my friends over to help me out with a plastic bag so that I could get to the bathroom and relieve the park director of his duty. At least I had a hair tie so he didn't have to hold my hair back.
Going along with the theme of uncomfortable situations and bodily functions, I would like to describe what it is like going to the bathroom in my house. I have a real bathroom so I am ahead of many of my friends in terms of amenities and I am not complaining. Many people that I know have holes in the ground and I have heard about encounters with snakes, black widows, tarantulas, and other fun creatures in the bathroom. Luckily I only have to deal with roaches in the bathroom but I often have "why did I decide to do this?" moments when I walk into the bathroom. I usually take a deep breath, wave away the roaches so that they scurry off the toilet seat back into their holes, and then position myself on the cement toilet bowl that is less than comfortable to sit on. The funniest but most disgusting thing about using my bathroom is that it is so hot that I am usually dripping sweat. The sweat droplets are often an indistinguishable sensation from flies or roaches crawling on the skin. I know that this is all a serious overshare but the small stuff like going to the bathroom is so different from my life in the United States that I think it deserves to be explained. It helps to set the scene so that some of you at home can laugh at/with me about my experience.
Workwise, I am trying to train recycling promoters and coordinate a work plan for this school year. So far I have had a good amount of success with both goals thanks to the very active groups that already exist in Pacora. I am working with the women's organization, the university student's association, and the health promoters who I have been training in HIV/AIDS prevention. We are doing door to door training in recycling and giving each household a sack to put next to their garbage can. This strategy will require a lot of follow up but I think that executing this project will be a great way to keep busy until November when I finish my service. There is a lot of potential for me to finish strong as I enter the last third of my time here in Peru and I know it will fly by. Now it is a matter of me cutting back on my reading, movies, and podcasts in order to do some serious work.
Peace Corps funding has taken quite a hit due to budget cuts mandated from Washington. Because of this, some of our larger projects need to be funded through the "Peace Corps Partnership" program. We ask friends and family to donate to our projects through the Peace Corps website. I am starting two projects that we need to fund this way so PLEASE PLEASE help out. The first is a leadership camp for boys where we each invite outstanding young men from our sites who we will train in healthy habits, environmental consciousness, leadership, and other important topics. All of this learning will be mixed in with a soccer tournament and a cross-cultural lesson in s'more making. Last year's event was a huge success and we will need your help to make this year's equally successful. I will be getting the link to donate up as soon as possible and I will also be sending out an email with more details.
Along the same line, I am also working on a calendar recognizing powerful Peruvian female leaders who support volunteers in their work. We made this calendar last year and it has been a huge success in calling attention to the wonderful efforts of ordinary women in our sites. Last year we held a celebratory conference in Lima to which we invited all of the women featured in the calendar. This year we will hold conferences in each of the departments (Peruvian equivalent of states) that has a woman featured in the calendar. We hope that this will allow the women to celebrate their achievements among their own peers and keep our travel and lodging costs down. The calendar last year was the highlight of my Peace Corps experience so far and if you have more interest I can send you a PDF version. We will also be asking you for money for this project as well so expect to receive a link to the project on the Peace Corps website. All donations are tax deductable and these projects will undoubtedly cause a direct impact in many lives. Thank you very much for your support and I hope you will get involved. Tell your friends and family!

As I was posting this blog the project got posted! Please donate!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Poopy the Dog and Paint Covered Festivals

I finally got over my aversion to petting my dog puppy (pronounced poopy). His name comes from a brand of soap by the same name that had a puppy as a mascot. The Spanish pronunciation of the vowel "u" means that Peruvians pronounce this English word as poopy. The name is pretty fitting for my dog. This mangy little terrier is missing splotches of hair and is constantly covered in all manner of nasty bugs. For the longest time I never pet him because I don't want to catch any sort of mange, fleas, ticks, or other nasty critters. Little poopy is so friendly that I have recently given in and started to play with him. I do a daily tick check and pull off as many as I can before I play with him but I usually still end up with one crawling on my leg looking for a good place to latch on and suck my blood. Since I am the only person that will actually pet him, poopy follows me all around town and helps me with my tasks. It must be quite comical for the townspeople to see the tall white girl walking around followed by this splotchy little creature who has lost all the hair on his tail.

This past week I had to leave my little friend Poopy to go celebrate Carnaval in the beautiful Andean city of Cajamarca. Over 100 volunteers had showed up for this legendary three-day party. The highlight of the weekend was running around the streets with squirt guns and paint and taking part in epic battles between the various neighborhoods. Gangs made up of people of all ages run around the streets with buckets of paint, water balloons, squirt guns, and other weapons all the while beating on drums and chanting. I purchased my water gun and water balloons, dressed in my rattiest clothes and joined the fray. I was worried that I would hate the experience because of the strangers running up and rubbing paint all over me but as soon as the first person grabbed my face and rubbed paint all over it, I was hooked. I definitely got hit more than I was able to hit others but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Every so often I would take a dance break with one of the drummer gangs and then continue on my way. Around 1 pm the skies opened up in typical rainy season fashion adding to all of the chaos. By this time I was completely blue including my face (luckily I had worn old sunglasses) and the rain caused me to start shivering. I tried to tough it out but right as I was getting remotivated a group of kids with buckets started shoveling buckets of gutter water onto the group that I was with. I had seen men peeing in these same gutters all day long not to mention all the nasty stuff that runs off the streets and I couldn't take it. At this point I was soaked to the bone and shivering and decided to give up. The day had been awesome but I had reached my limit so I headed back to my hotel and indulged in a very long, hot shower. It took me at least two more showers to get the blue tint out of my skin and feel fresh and free of grime and urine but, I had an excellent and memorable carnaval. Now I feel ready to take on Rio and New Orleans in order to enjoy excess before lent. I am, however, not so sure that I am ready to give up chocolate for the next 40 days. I'll probably just take up caramel or vanilla.

After my weekend of delicious food, excellent volunteer company, and outrageous celebrations, it was time for me to get back to site. When I walked back into my house Poopy immediately started jumping around and wagging his little hairless rat tail. I reached down to pet him and was not surprised when a couple minutes later I looked down to find a tick crawling up my leg. I have found that the key to surviving this experience is laughing at the ridiculousness of everyday occurrences.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Am I really Killing Your Baby? Myths Versus Reality in Peru

Before starting in on this blog I need to set the scene a little bit so you can better understand some of the little things that affect my day-to-day life. I am sitting on my mattress without sheets because I was getting little bites all over my legs and even on my butt. After inspection, I found that my sheets are filled with biting ants and I know exactly how this infestation started. I washed my sheets a couple of days ago and hung them out to dry. During the process of drying outside, they filled with ants. One of my daily frustrations is that my clothes actually seem to come out dirtier after I wash them because as they dry, they fill with ants, dust, and leaves. As I look around, I realize that the ants have also infested my mattress and the only solution I think of at the moment is to make myself a nice little bed involving a sleeping bag and a yoga mat on my floor. Camping on my own floor almost sounds fun but in the long run I think I'm going to resort to spraying my mattress with some sort of chemical. Constant contact with the elements due to shoddy construction leaves me exposed to lots of critters and in the summer, when the insects come out, this exposure becomes almost unbearable. Maybe I'll end up sleeping on my floor until ant season is over, at least it is nice and cool close to the cement.

This weekend one of the hot cumbia bands of the moment came to my friend's site and, not having attended any concerts in a while, I decided to dance the night away. We assemble d a group of gringos and had a big night of Peruvian style fun. First, we invited the neighbors over who taught us to make pisco sours, the cocktail of Peru involving lime, sugar, and egg whites all whipped together and spiced up with a bit of pisco, the typical Peruvian liquor. When we got to the concert security helped us cut the line and then we took to the stage to dance with the band. It will be very strange to get back to America where I will not be treated like a VIP nor will I get away with stuff like jumping up on stage and demanding to dance with the band at concerts. Although I don't really like being watched all the time, it is nice to get away with whatever I want.

I recently had an incident in which I ended up taking on an entire van full of passengers in order to not suffocate in the sweltering heat. I got on the van in the hottest part of the day and opened my window. I considered this to be a completely normal thing to do but apparently the air that I was letting in was incredibly harmful to the baby in the seat behind me and as soon as we started moving the mother slid my window shut. I looked back at her and opened the window again. This action was met with an angry response by the mother about how the air was going to make her baby sick. Just so you have a clear picture in your head. It was about 100 degrees in the afternoon sun, the vehicle was a 15 passenger van crammed with 20 passengers, and the baby was swaddled in blankets. I refused to shut the window saying that the heat was more of a danger than the air only to be lashed out at by everyone in the van. I held my own and went about my business reading my book with my arm wedged in the window. My run in with this Peruvian belief gave me the idea to write a blog about some of the other seemingly irrational beliefs, fears, and superstitions that come up on a daily basis. Below are some of my favorite examples of advice I have received:

1. Don't go outside in a breeze if you aren't feeling well or if you are a baby. I mention this first because it comes up nearly every day and no matter how hot it is, people are terrified of "el aire." I have even heard some claims that particularly strong winds can paralyze you.
2. The other most common belief that I hear is that drinking cold beverages at night or when one is sick will make you very sick. If you eat too many popsicles, severe respiratory illnesses will ensue. A woman once told me that her daughter's respiratory problems resulted from eating too many popsicles during pregnancy.
3. Recently, my host family freaked out when I tried to go outside to go to the bathroom after eating hot soup because it would leave my mouth twisted to one side in a really awkward expression for the rest of my life. I found this particularly hilarious because, unlike the other superstitions I have heard, I can't come up with a rational explanation for the cause and effect at play.
4. In the same conversation about how cold air after hot food will twist your mouth, my family told me that they know someone who got their neck permanently twisted because they opened the refrigerator in the morning when their body was still warm from being under the covers in bed.
5. One belief common in the Andean regions of Peru is on the scarier side and has been known to affect the ability of volunteers to integrate into their communities. Many people believe in pishtacos, a demon in the service of the devil that kills people and sucks out their fat. These demons have light skin and hair, therefore some people have commented on their resemblance to male volunteers.

I generally find the beliefs and superstitions entertaining except when they threaten to keep me enclosed in a moving oven in the hot summer. I don't know if I handled my particular situation very well by confronting a bus-load of people about their deeply ingrained beliefs but standing up for myself has become instrumental in maintaining my sanity. I wonder what Peruvians would say if they knew that I sleep with a fan blowing on me…