Well, as promised, here is part 2 of the long overdue on what I've been up since the New Year. Yesterday I wrote about my Christmas holidays, surprises upon returning to Huacho, and the move to Lima. Now I'll describe a little bit more about apartment hunting, the job, and my day to day life in Lima.
So I left you off at the end of my first day of work: thoroughly enjoying the colleagues that I am work, quite a few assignments to do, and by 9pm a place to stay for the night at a friend of a friend's place. Busy day, to say the least. A little bit about where I was staying - I had my own room (with ensuite bathroom, lucky me!) in Paola's apartment (she's a friend of Juan's, my old boss/counterpart from EMAPA Huacho). Paola lives with her husband, their 8-year old son, and a girl who helps them around the house. It was a really nice apartment, lots of windows, my room was spacious enough... but no internet (or not yet, at least - they said they would be getting a connection within the next 2 weeks). I was about a 20-30 bus ride away from work, which for Lima standards is really close. And finally happy to have a place to put my things done for more than one night - living out of a suitcase is not the most enjoyable. So since they were letting me stay rent-free at their apartment for two weeks out of the goodness of their hearts, I tried to be quiet and not disturb their daily activities too much by being there. I was at work all day every day anyways.
The rest of the week was eventful (and tiring): waking up early, busing to work, searching for apartments, and visiting places in the evenings and during lunch time. By Wednesday night I thought I had found a place to stay, but wanted to go check it over with Andrea (who had come with me to check things over the first place I thought I was going to live) just to make sure that everything was A-OK. Things looked good: I would have my own room in a big, 100-year old house; it was furnished, which was a must; shared bathroom with another American volunteer who was about to arrive; $140/month, everything included (including internet!), and the best part about it: only 9 blocks (or 900 metres) away from work! Perfect. The next day I went to pay my deposit and pick up my keys. I moved my things in partially on Friday after work, and the rest the following Monday after work. (In between there, I took an overnight bus with friends to Trujillo, about 9 hours north of Lima, to check out the national marinera festival - and a 9-hour overnight bus back to get to work bright and early on Monday morning.)
|A marinera dancer parades through the streets on the Saturday afternoon parade.|
|One of the tiniest marinera dancers at the parade (and the marinera dog).|
|Justina and I at the parade.|
|The marinera is a couple's dance - and by far my favourite Peruvian dance to watch.|
A note on where I am living: it has its ups and downs. Lots of frustrations, but a few reasons why I don't want to leave. Let me explain (I'll go from best to worst).
1) The best part about where I live is my housemate, Kaley. She is the sweetest girl ever from Mississippi, volunteering at a fair trade cooperative. She will spend 1 year in total in Lima (she is half-way through, but opted to live on her own instead of with a family for the second half). We have long discussions, checked out gyms and yoga places in the area and went to some trial classes together, bring our laundry to the same laundromat (if you have at least 4 kilos of clothes it's less expensive, so we both win!), and just have lots of fun. Plus, that way there's almost always someone else there in case you need anything, want to chat, need a hug, etc.
2) The location is also pretty unbeatable (well, it's both a blessing and a curse). I am less than 1km from work so I can wake up less than an hour before work and get a nice morning and afternoon stroll in every day. No need to sit in traffic, pay for the bus/taxi, etc. So wonderful. The downfall about this though is that I am living on one of the busiest (in terms of car volume) streets in the city - and for anyone who has experienced Lima traffic, you'll know that there is nearly always a cacophony of honking noises being produced by people anxious to get moving (which clearly won't happen, you're in Lima: you're bound to get stuck in traffic). I mean, walking into the house is a huge relief from the sounds that you hear walking down the street, but there is still noise around the close. Unavoidably. At least it's a continuous drone, so I can sleep through it... most of the time...
3) OK now come some of the frustrations. Well, I think the biggest one is that both Kaley and I were told that we would be the only two sharing our bathroom, which isn't the case. I have on occasion been quite late for work waiting to brush my teeth or get ready while someone takes a 30-minute shower (and then leaves the tub clogged and the floor soaked). Which leads to another issue, the bathroom garbage: in Peru, you throw all of your toilet paper into garbages that are placed next to the toilet instead of into the toilet itself. Well, Kaley and I are the only ones who change it (yet somehow it fills up in a day, and it's a pretty big garbage). If we leave it for a few days... well it just gets overstuffed, and then someone either packs it all down, or things start falling on the ground. Gross. I think if we were the only two using it we could have a schedule and share the work, but since we're not, it's a bit frustrating (same thing goes for the kitchen garbage, but we are practically the only two who fill that one so it's not as bad). We were told someone would do house cleaning (a maid?) and that everyone would clean up after themselves, but that's not the case.
4) And the last thing about where I live... well, we don't actually know how many people live there. It's a HUGE old historical house, and we think our landlord's family owns it... well anyways, he lives there, and sometimes has friends over. Then there are two other rooms upstairs - sometimes we see people come in and out of one room (but they are always different people), and the other room, I don't know... I've been told that someone lives there, but never seen him/her (I actually think a couple is living there, but I don't know who they are). Then there's some sort of office in the front of the house (and they're not supposed to use the other parts of the house, but almost every morning while I eat breakfast people come in chatting or use the bathroom ... awkward!). There's a paper printing/photocopying thing that's run out of the garage (that's on the side of the house) and then a few other families I think that live in apartments above the shop... so we share the same courtyard (well, front yard, since there is a fence all around it) but all of the doors are locked to that part of the house (or extension to the house?), so we have never been there. Except that sometimes people come through locked doors to use the bathroom and then go back to where they came from. Sorry for such a confusion description but... we really are quite confused. Which goes back to point #1. Thank goodness for Kaley. If she wasn't there, it would feel like a ghost house.
But, enough about my house. It's only for 3 months total (more like 2 months now), and so I can't complain. Although there is about every type of bug living in the house (notably spiders in my room, termites almost everywhere, and ants in the kitchen), it really isn't that bad. I have a strong internet connection, a big bed, hot water in the shower (almost always), and I don't get stuck in traffic going to work. Not really a hard life.
Now to talk a little bit about my work! I am working for the General Directorate of Environmental Research and Information, mostly helping out with these three projects:
- I am facilitating the establishment of the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) by helping to run a pilot project and to design the national implementation plan. Tools have been developed for companies to be able to calculate and report their emissions, but now we need to test them out. We have met with a few companies in the region here, and next week I will travel to Cajamarca to meet with Nestle Peru and Gloria (a national milk and milk product provider). The project will end in April, which is when I leave, so it's perfect timing - but lots to do before then!
- I am coordinating with and developing activities for the Committee on Science and Technology to Combat Desertification and Drought (as set out by the United Nations' decade plan: 2010-2020 is the decade to combat desertification and drought). Right now I am coordinating with the heads of the committee to put together a forum so that they can write the country's position on the issue, and then discuss it with other Latin American countries before the next UN meeting.
- I am developing and publishing media releases and monthly newsletters for the Peruvian Environmental Research Network. If you'd like to sign up for our monthly newsletters, you can click here. You can also sign up and have them delivered to your inbox at the end of every month!
The general theme of my area is to make scientific information accessible and available to decision-makers, because regional and national decisions are not currently made based on environmental issues. The Ministry of Environment has only formally been in existence since 2008, so there a ways to go, but hopefully my involvement in these projects will help make a difference!
When I arrived at the Ministry, I was also asked if I would participate in the Canada-Peru Workshop on Sustainable Housing/Buildings for Climate Change Mitigation happening February 16th and 17th, 2012. Funded by Environment Canada, the conference brought together specialists from Canada, the United States, Mexico, Peru, Chile, and Germany to talk about sustainable and net zero carbon emission housing and how to go about implementing a program in Peru. Leading up to the conference I helped translate a few documents between the Canadian and Peruvian teams. I then facilitated roundtable discussions all afternoon on the first day, prompting participants and helping to bridge the gap between the Canadian and Peruvian participants. It was probably one of the greatest experiences yet - I learned so much, got to meet people working towards sustainable housing from various parts of the world, and also talk to them about how to get into the industry and what they do. Amazing.
So... I think that's about it. I've updated you on work, life... other than that, I've done a bit more travelling (I had a 4-day weekend so went to visit friends in the Andes in Huancayo, and then just got back from a week-long vacation with my boyfriend mountain biking and hiking in the Colca Canyon and visiting Arequipa and Tacna). New week I will travel to Cajamarca for work, and hopefully Piura and Tumbes the week after that (and take advantage of the weekend to stay up north and go to the beach - Tumbes shares a border with Ecuador, so it's much warmer up there!). And today I finalized my plans for Easter! I'll be travelling to Pucallpa in the Amazonian basin to spend 4 days appreciating the biodiversity of the area, hiking, taking river boat trips, swimming with dolphins (hopefully); life is exciting. My last weekend in Peru I am going to go sandboarding and dune buggying with my best friend and her boyfrined who will be visiting, and before I know it, I'll be home!
I'll try to update my blog more regularly from now on, but as you can see, the past month really has been busy. But I'm loving it. Sometimes wanting to take a breather, but when things slow down I'm wishing they were busier again.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a great start to March!