Saturday, January 17, 2015


CLUB VIP is a youth group that I had for the second half of last year. I trained them on Sexual Health and Reproductive topics and now they are "health promotors" that will do replications of educational sessions in their classrooms this school year which starts in March. As an end-of-the-year project, in conjunction with World AIDS Day activities, we decided to paint a mural on the hospital's exterior wall, where many people pass by daily.
It started out ugly, covered in cobb-webs, paint peeling off, etc.
We drew, outlined, taped, and painted. It was coming along.

Working on the mural.
It is true that Rome wasn't built in a day and neither was this mural. Off and on, we finally finished after a month and a half of work. We have another wall primed and ready to go for another one, so we'll see what the rest of this year brings!

The final product!

Monday, December 15, 2014

That's a Wrap!


CLUB VIP at the debate
To catch you guys up a bit, I have been working with a group of students since August in a youth group called CLUB VIP. It's a youth group for specifically chosen students (thus the VIP part) that want to learn about sex-ed topics and be leaders for their communities by doing replications of certain charlas (educative sessions) to their peers. Our objectives are to create youth that have healthy lifestyles, make intelligent decisions, and are proactive. My kids learned about self-esteem, sex and gender stereotypes, STDs and HIV AIDS, and condom use (and other methods of pregnancy prevention including abstinence) while also participating in radio shows and even painting a mural. For me, this project was one of my first "good ones," and so I am very proud of my small group. In March when the new school year starts, my kids will have earned the title of "Health Promotores" as they start replicating the same charlas they once received to their fellow peers (peer education is powerful) in their schools. We also want to extend our knowledge into the community as we have the opportunity to pair up with profesionals from the hospital's own health promoters.
This year, November 25th marked International Elimination of Violence Against Womens Day for Huamachuco. Every year there is a comite that works on planning different activities in and around this day in order to better spread the word about women's violence. The comite is comprised of many profesional institutions from the community such as the local government, the school board, etc. CEM is the Emergency Women Center that also works alongside these same goals, and therefore with the rest of the comite in honoring this day. With CLUB VIP, we had a debate regarding themes of self-esteem, positive communication, and gender equity. We selected these themes because they are at the base of the problem of violence against women. Attacking the base we can make change.
We painted hands and did handprints to signify "STOP THE VIOLENCE," we were on two television stations talking about selfesteem, and handed out a lot of flyers.

For World AIDS Day on December 1st, CLUB VIP designed and painted (well, we're still painting) a mural. On it will be different myths and statistics about HIV and AIDS. Yes, that is a superhero condom. He can fight against STDs and HIV and help protect and save your life you know. It's fun, and we sure get a lot of stares when we're painting.
So, CLUB VIP is done for this year but in March they will start promoting what they have learned by doing session replications in their high schools.
To all of you, I wish you the very best Christmas and holiday season. I am heading to my regional capital this Friday and then to Lima on Monday to spend Christmas with Oscar's family. I am very grateful for him and his support, and I am excited to get to know more of his family. I am also very grateful for my 18 months of living in Peru and 16 months of being an official Peace Corps volunteer. This time truely has flown by and I'll be home visiting before I know it! I only have 7-8 months left of my "contract" as I call it, but I am looking foward to what I can acomplish in 2015. Thanks to all of you beautiful people who have helped me along the way with letters, cards, packages, stickers, Crystal Light packets, etc. You don't know how amazing you are, and how special you are to me.

<3 Feliz Navidad from Oscar and I <3

So for 2014 that's a wrap! We'll be seeing each other soon.
With love from Peru,

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Mom meets Peru

So Ms. Awannah Buelterman came to el Peru! I honestly never thought that would happen. Mom has never even been outside of the US! (If you don't consider going literally "across the border" to Canada when she was younger). It was so weird (yet satisfying) to be able to show her my reality; what I live every day. We started out by meeting Oscar in Trujillo and doing some city tours. I myself enjoyed learning some new things about my regional capital.
Oscar helping mom across a glass-top walkway.
 We went to the famous "Huanchaco" and Mom tried CEVICHE, a traditional Peruvian dish with raw fish ("cooked" in lime juice) paired with white rice and a salad of purple onions and tomatoes. Mom was trying all sorts of new foods in her two-week stay (including cow heart, guinea pig, and sheep's intestines).

Oscar, mom and I in Huanchaco
After about 4 days in Trujillo we went to my site, Huamachuco, which is about 4.5 hours into the mountains from Trujillo. We visited where Oscar works (an ancient archelogical site called "Wiracochapampa") and got an unofficial tour from an archeologist. Mom just kept saying "Wow, bonita bonita."

The weekend that we were there, Huamachuco was celebrating their patron saint, Saint Francis de Asis. Thousands of St. Francis patrons line the streets barefoot, carrying a red carnation in their mouths, honoring their Saint. They also color sawdust and make intricate "paintings" depicting their Saint in different stages of his life. You can see the deeply-rooted tradition of the Huamachuco people and the high-importance of their religion in holidays like this.

Patrons of St. Francis walking through the paintings made by sawdust.
We spent a relaxing day in thermal baths about an hour and a half from Huamachuco. After opening our pores in our private baths, we messed around on the jungle gym and took a short hike to explore.

My mom also got to meet my Peruvian mom and dad. I had to translate everything, but it was nice seeing my two "families" mesh together. Mom's invited back to their house even if I don't live there.

Julio, me, mom, and Margarita
 My mom left mid-October and says she can't wait to come back. She says she'll be back to Peru within two years. I finish my contract with the Peace Corps this upcomming August (yes, two years has FLOWN BY!) and I'll be able to visit her and the rest of my family for a little bit.
Mom's three words to summarize her trip to Peru: LAND OF CONTRAST
And let this be an official invitation to ANYONE who wants to come to Peru to visit me. You will not have to pay to stay at my house and you will eat so much food! (Don't worry, I have PeptoBismol).

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Bringing "Sexy" Back

Well, it's not sexy I'm bringing back, that's for sure, but it's a blog update with pictures. *Cue the "YAYYYY" It's been too long. Let's just call it one of those fancy TV "hiatus" where it breaks off mid-season and the plot is too good to wait till fall and you look for any clues in online gossip blogs and stalk the celebrities Instagram acounts hoping for a sneak peak. Just like that, right? I have to say I had a sliver of hope you'd stalk me for Peace Corps life updates.
I'm doing a brief overview of the 'haps in August, September and October. Day-to-day life isn't that exciting so it's best to review the highlights and update on the generals.
In August, I helped the Municipality with their first annual Job Fair. To be honest, a job fair was one of my main project ideas coming to Huamachuco. A lot of youth get stuck in the mentality that anything beyond highschool is unreachable (due to lack of money, lack of motivation, lack of experience/skill, etc.) Peace Corps set up a booth amidst the other colleges and universities (representing Huamachuco and Trujillo, our region's capital). We had over 250 juniors and seniors stop by our booths to listen to our mind-blowing information on about how to set and achieve goals, things to keep in mind when picking a career, and where to find scholarships. Some of them came to stare more than listen (and to steal our candies), but at least they came.

Our little Peace Corps booth!


Alejandra and I

Alejandra is my new site mate. She's a Business volunteer and she came to Huamachuco mid August, 2014 and will be here working until August 2016.
September rolled around and Youth Day did too. Peace Corps participated by helping out in the day of competitive games. Different high schools participated in these games in order to win points and ultimately computer tablets they could raffle off for their end-of-the-year celebration.
Games included sack racing, carrying eggs on spoons, popping balloons, etc. It was all to celebrate the day of the "joven" or "youth." Peace Corps led the "Marshmallow Challenge" game (check out the challenge here: MARSHMALLOW CHALLENGE) Groups had to build the tallest free-standing structure with ONLY 20 spaghetti sticks, 3 feet of masking tape, 3 feet of yarn and 1 marshmallow that goes on top. Whichever team measures the highest (from the base of the structure to the marshmallow) wins. The students were frustrated because we didn't give them instructions on how to build their structure, and that was the point. They had to use critical thinking and team work to come up with a base that would not only hold the weight of the marshmallow but be high enough to outwin other schools. First go-round was a little rough and only 2 of the 8 schools' structures withstood the final measurement so we did it again and we had 6 structures standing at the end.
Mid October we had CAMP ALMA which is a camp for youth girl where we focus on strengthening their leadership skills while developing skills in topics such as self esteem, sex ed, and career building. I brought three of my youth leaders from my youth group. They did extreemly well and I'm proud to be their Peace Corps volunteer! It was an exhaustive 4 day camp (I felt like a zombie by day 3) but I always personal get a lot out of camps. I feel like I can be my crazy wacky self but all with purpose of motivating and energizing others so they can get more out of their experience. Call me crazy (you probably already have) but it's what I enjoy the most of being a Peace Corps volunteer.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

La Batalla de Huamachuco

So, it's been 131 years since the Battle of Huamchuco took place in a pampa (field of land) between two mountains that surround the area. "It was originally fought on July 10th, 1883 was the last major battle of the War of the Pacific. The Chilean soldiers led by Colonel Alejandro Gorostiaga decisively defeated the Peruvian army commanded by General Andres Avelino Caceres near the town of Huamachuco. This Chilean victory effectively eliminated Cáceres' Ejército de la Sierra, (Army of the Mountains) ending any real threat or resistance in the Peruvian Andes. The Peruvian defeat paved the way for the Treaty of Ancon that finally put an end to the war. Also, one of Peru's greatest heroes, Colonel Leoncio Prado, died as a consequence of this battle. The Peruvians lost 800 men, about 1/3 of their forces." (WIKIPEDIA). Huamachuco's hospital is named after Leoncio Prado.
Leoncio Prado
Students (a lot!) from all over the Huamachuco urban and surburban area took place around the obelisk to celebrate the victory of the Battle and to pay tribue to those who lost their lives. The Peruvian flag was flown at half-mast.

Elementary school (primaria) kids waiting to march

Members of the UGEL (like the school board)
I work a lot with the UGEL of Huamachuco. From there, I see what the needs are on a city-wide basis and together we work on projects that support the entire education system. I marched with them in the parade. (Picture below)

When in Peru, you have to march like a Peruvian! (Which takes some getting used to)

Friday, June 6, 2014

Year 1, DONE!

Hanging out at the beach
Wow, a year has FLOWN! They say your first year in the Peace Corps goes by so slowly.... that the days never seem to end but the weeks start to pick up speed. They also say your second year, in comparison to the first, passes faster. At that rate, I'll be finishing my service in what will seem like 2 months!

What have I done in my first year?
In my first year, I had a LOT of ups and downs (the downs being more common) and I have learned a lot about what really is "development" work. For me, my first year was hard because I was fighting something. That something is a bit complicated to get into here on a blog post, but just trust me when my year mark hit (June 6th), I about had a nervous breakdown.
I have realized that things that bother you will always bother you if you let it. The stuff you can control, control it and fit the problem. For the stuff you can't control, LET IT GO. Many times I've told myself "Cheyenne, does this bother you? Yes? Okay, can you change it? No? Recognize that it bothers you, put it behind you and move on." This phrase alone has saved me from many tears... literally.  
Quickly after the June 6th mark, things began to change. I had a long deep conversation with myself where I got myself into shape and realized I need to work harder and smarter... putting my efforts in the right places. It's all about making intelligent and thought-out decicions. I began to see patterns in the way things work, and I began to be more direct and honest with my socios about how sometimes I felt left out or second priority. Likewise, I had to show them that I was changing, too, not just pointing out how their work (or lack of sometimes) affected me. My socios and I's relationships improved and projects started to get going.
My sitemate left last week to go home to the USA. She is part of the Peru 19 group that came in June of 2012, so one year before me. I'll receive her replacement in August. I realized that in just a very short year (is next year a leap year?) I'll be in my old sitemate's place... finishing my Peace Corps service (or at least looking at extending a third year as a leader). I think that's part of the reason I (and other people helped me to) kick my butt into gear. Signing up for Peace Corps back in July of 2011, I thought "Oh my, 2 years (technically 27 months) is a LONG TIME! And when I first got here to Peru, I was saying "Oh, but I have two years for that." Well not anymore. I can't even say I have a year left, because things should be long well wrapped up 365 from now. I have less than a year, and pretty soon single digit months that I can count on my fingers alone. I don't want to get to July 15th, 2015 and ask myself, "Cheyenne.. are you proud of your service?" And tell myself "No."
Another volunteer from Peru 19, Mandy. I'm gonna miss her!
Side note: To those looking to join the Peace Corps. Do not take it lightly. And don't take my stories for your success. Every single volunteer in every single Peace Corps country has an un-comparable experience as a volunteer. What bothers me won't bother someone else, and what someone else will eat I certainly won't. Even my sitemate who worked in the same city as me, had a different experience. Talk to RPCVs (Returned Peace Corps Volunteers) and current volunteers and they'll tell you the same. It's a life-changing (butt-kicking at times) experience, but for the amount of humility, patience, and self-control I have learned, I wouldn't trade it for anything.
So, year one is done and year two ... what will I do? I saw a Facebook (FACE as Peruvians call it) thing that I adopted as my year two motto:
You don't always need a plan.
Sometimes you just need to breathe...
Let go...
And see what happens.
My work doesn't always coincide with a plan, but more of a guide. Things change so rapidly and what I think should be done in a week sometimes takes two. I keep in mind at the end what I'd like to get done, start out on the right foot, and let Peruvian craziness take it for the journey. That breathing part got me through my year mark. I'm trusting in my potential and what that will bring me in year 2, I'm letting go of stupid things that bother me and I'm seeing what happens as of July 15th, 2015.
As always, thanks for keeping up with me and reading my blogs. I'd like to know that someone out there gets something out of them.
Let's go year 2!
My center Plaza de Armas of Huamachuco

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Let's go camping!

About twice a year, each Peru region that has volunteers tries to have a camp for youth. Usually one for all boys and one for all girls. This past May, my region (La Libertad) held Camp V.A.L.O.R. (VALOR in English means "Values") for more than 70 youth from across the region, both coast and sierra. The youth learned about basic values that make up a true "Ironman" (yes like the movie): Respect, honor, maturity, etc. They also learned about leadership and Sexual Health.
The students visited a few technical schools to learn about future careers and also scholarships that can help them get there.
Here, the boys are learning about techniques of working out without the use of weights. They really enjoyed it. (Plus, we were able to see the "tough kids" sweat a little bit!) In the background are our red and blue tents we camped in.
We use a lot of non-formal education in Peace Corps. This is game we use to build teamwork and critical thinking skills. SO FUNNY to see some of the positions they had to come up with. You could see their competitive nature come out.
Here's me and my 3 kids from Huamachuco. (I was a team leader on the yellow team... and we won most spirited!) It's nice bringing youth outside of their normal learning environment and see them flourish/break their personal limitations.
For those of you who helped donate to our camp, THANK YOU! Because of you, we were able to reach a lot of youth in a unique, fun, and yet educational atmosphere. In October or November, we're looking to put on Camp ALMA (soul in English), which targets youth girls and teaches them how to be strong, independent women that value themselves.