Blog Post 6 - June and July 2016
I have completed my internship and I'm back in the states. I'm happy to be back in my country but I do miss the friends I made in Peru. My last month and a half was eventful! For our last week of work, we cross trained the 5 new interns. I've included some pictures of the factory that I haven't included before. Their first weekend we all went out dancing at our favorite place for the last time. I finally felt like I could keep up with their fast paced Peruvian dancing. It was my favorite night out dancing!
Our last day of work I wore a velvet dress that Olimpia, the head pattern maker and designer at KKP made for me. I bought the fabric at a huge market my 1st month in the country. Summer, one of the new interns, did my braided updo that last day. We all gathered to say goodbye to the ladies in the program and all our co-workers. Patricia who heads up the program, gave a little speech, Savannah and I also gave quick speeches. The ladies gave us a colorful scarf and each gave us a hug goodbye. Yanet, my best friend there, also made me a navy hat on my last day. That night we went out to celebrate!
The next day I packed to go traveling for 2 weeks. First I explored Ica and Huancachina, the desert oasis. I went buggy riding and sand boarding- or sand sledding really. We laid on the board and were pushed down massive sand hills. Then I headed to Paracas, a coastal town, to tour the Ballestas Islands. I saw penguins, birds, sea lions, and interesting landscapes like a red beach. That night I took a 17 hour bus ride to Cusco. The ride was full of switchbacks and we gained altitude but I got some sleep and watched some movies.
Upon entering the city, I checked into a hostel and walked around the city center. I even got to watch a religious parade with fireworks. The next day I tried to book a tour to the jungle but realized it was far away, expensive, and you need the yellow fever vaccination- which I never got. I was bummed to not see the jungle, but I am determined to see it on a future trip. I decided to hike the Rainbow Mountain the next day with a tour group. That day I took a walking tour of the city, hiked up to Cristo Blanco- a white Jesus statue up on a hill, and had drinks on a hostel rooftop with some new friends.
Early the next morning, I got picked up to do the 3 hour hike to Rainbow Mountain. The summit is 1600 feet, the highest I've ever been. We were fed and started the hike, some people paid to take horses up. The morning was freezing, it warmed up that afternoon but was windy. I got to the top to see the beautiful colored mountains. On the way down, I felt sick. A kind lady gave me altruism sickness pills. I ate, drank, and rested that night. The next day I felt a lot better. I shopped at a big indoor market, viewed a convent museum, and Quioricacha- an Incan sun temple turned Dominican monastery. The next day I went to church and got to see a massive parade full of colorfully dressed dancers. My 3 cousins Dan, Pat, and Jenny, arrived that night from Lima. The elevation was a shock to them but we made our plans to get good rest and start our 5 day trek in the morning.
That morning we set off on the Salkantay Trek. We took a taxi to the trailhead but got stuck because of construction. Finally that afternoon, we started hiking in the sunny wilderness. The landscape looked like the board game Catan! Just as the sun was setting, we made it to the 1st campsite beneath snowy mountains. We set up our tents inside insulated huts and bought a hot meal. The next morning we climbed steadily to the summit, Dead Woman's Pass. Dan felt sick so Jenny and him hiked down faster while Pat and I hiked 15 minutes further to a beautiful glacier lake. We caught up with the other 2, ate lunch, and then kept hiking downhill into jungle terrain. We landed at a small campground where we could shower and eat a hot meal.
The next day Dan and Jenny taxied to the next town because Dan was feeling elevation sickness. Pat and I set off on a lovely hike through the jungle with a swim in a waterfall. It started raining that afternoon but we made it to our family in the town of La Playa. We ate and rested. That afternoon, Pat and I walked to a coffee plantation. We got to taste strong fresh coffee from a nice local. Nearby is a hot springs that I wanted to go to. Instead of that, Pat persuaded me to go to bed and do a night hike to see the sunrise at a lookout on Machu Pichu. I agreed, we woke up at 1:30am to hike from 2am until 5:15am to the lookout. Unfortunately the weather was rainy and overcast so the misty sky lightened but it wasn't spectacular. We saw many mountains but it was hard to pick out the ruins. We ended up setting up our tent in the rain and napping until the others arrived. I bought a meal at a restaurant at the lookout camp. Eventually they made it and the rain slowed a bit. While hiking downhill from the lookout, Jen and I fell. I injured my knee and ankle. When we reached flat ground, Dan carried my pack and I limped using a handy walking stick I found the first day. We made it to the train that afternoon that took us to Aguas Caliente, the town below Machu Pichu. We got a hostel, showered, ate, and slept soundly.
The next day I took a bus to Machu Pichu because I was still injured. The other 3 did the hour and a half hike to the ruins. We took a wonderful tour of the marvelous lost mountain city. The Incans were ingenuous architects, builders, and landscapers! Machu Pichu has a wonderful canal water system, lots of terracing for farming and gardening, and stunning architecture and scenery! Afterwards we ate and wandered around a bit. We had some llamas visit with us in the grassy terraces. That night we took the train and a taxi back to Cusco. We stayed at a fun hostel where we drank and danced to reggaton to celebrate after the long hike! My cousins left the next day. I left the day after for Lima and then Chicago! I got sick on my trip home but have now recovered. I will be working and preparing for grad school in East Grand Rapids, MI until mid September.
Thank you immensely for following my volunteer work and adventures in Peru and Bolivia. I've enjoyed sharing them! Thank you so much to all those who sponsored my volunteer time. While the time abroad was at times challenging, I am incredibly grateful I was able to learn and experience a new language, people, culture, and place that will be near to my heart forever! Xo, Megan
Blog Post 5 – May 2016
May went by really quickly. The weather has been getting steadily colder and drearier. Work has been getting busier and busier. The ladies can choose if they want to work 2 hours later, until 7pm instead of 5pm. I’ve been working on creating new fechas, the instruction pages for products, and bulk production for the Spring 2017 collection. I track the yarn needed for every new product. First I issue yarn to the leaders, give them products to make,and then hand off the panels to the development department to make them into bags, tops, and shawls. Outside of work, I went to a beautiful museum, surfing, on an intern spa day, to a new church, and to some great restaurants.
One Sunday after church, I decided to visit Pedro de Osma Museum. The museum contains an exquisite collection of Peruvian paintings, sculptures, and silver from the 15th through the 18th century. The collection is housed in an elegant white mansion with gorgeous floral stained glass windows. I was thrilled to see more of the Cusqueno school gold-embellished fashionable paintings of Mary, the holy family, saints, and angels. I was especially excited to find two paintings of Saint Barbara, my confirmation saint. I have never seen a painted depiction of her. The museum also had an Italian fashion exhibit going on. The fashion was arranged in decades- featuring the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. The earlier years were displayed amongst Peruvian art while the 80s and 90s fashion were housed in a separate building. The clothing featured was designed by big Italian designers such as Dolce & Gabbana and Valentino as well as other lesser-known names. The museum grounds also have a beautiful courtyard with palm trees that I sat in after viewing all the art.
Another weekend Savannah, Steven, and I left the house at 6:15am to take a surfing lesson. We met the Eternal Wave instructors at their cute Beatle bus at a beach in Barranco. First we ran and did some stretches with other learners. Our group split into two, beginners and more experienced. I’ve surfed before but it’s been years so I was put with the beginners. Our instructor, Carlos showed us how to paddle over waves, paddle into a wave, and stand up on the board. After some practicing, we paddled out past the waves. I was glad we had wetsuits because the morning was overcast and the Pacific Ocean waters were cold. Carlos pushed us individually into waves to catch. The waves that day were small, smooth, and long. Every time I was able to position myself, stand up, and ride the waves confidently. I learned to stand up slower and farther back on the board. The lesson made me want to pursue surfing further in the future!
Besides that I have been going to some great restaurants here: Germinado Vida- a vegetarian place, Barra Mar- a seafood place, and Crepes and Waffles. I also went to a cute church recently called Virgen de Fatima.
We now have 2 ½ weeks of work left and then I have 2 weeks of travel planned! I am going to Nazca to go sand-boarding in the desert, I may go to Paracas to see islands rich in wildlife, and then to Cusco to head to Manu National Forest to see the Madre de Dios tributary river of the Amazon River and the Amazon Rainforest! The next week I will meet my cousins Pat, Jen, and Dan in Cusco to complete a 5 day Salkantay trek to Macho Pichu! We will be hiking, camping, and cooking on our own. I am so excited for these travels!
I have also been working on my online magazine Lfty. The 1st issue will be released June 17th. I can’t wait for people to see it. I am hard at work on the next 3 issues so that they can come out monthly. Thank you for your support and following my adventures, volunteer work, and projects here. This last month will be truly incredible! After everything I have done and seen here in South America, I will be overjoyed to return to my home country!
Blog Post 4 - April 2016
April has been a pretty chill month for me after all the things that happened in March. This month we had 2 coworker’s birthdays so we celebrated those with parties, drinking, and dancing. It’s been fun hanging out with co-workers but it’s also still kind of hard with the language barrier. I understand a lot more but it’s difficult to understand people who talk fast or quiet, with a lot of slang, and in different verb tenses. I skipped over some travels and sight-seeing from the past 2 months that I want to share for this month.
In March, for one of the interns, Dez’s birthday, us 3 interns spent the weekend in Punta Hermosa. Punta Hermosa is a quaint beach town an hour south of our home in Chorrillos. The beach is shaped like a half circle with white houses built all around it. To the right side there is a big rock formation with a tide pool. We arrived on a Saturday morning, checked into an adorable quiet hostel, and ended up walking all over town to find an acai bowl stand at a market with food trucks. Eventually we stumbled upon it and found out it wasn’t open until that night. We got lunch and then made our way to the beach. I swam out and we lied out. The other 2 girls decided to take a nap at our hostel but I decided to stay on the beach. I ended up drinking a beer and meditating on some of my experiences in Peru and how blessed I was to be laying on the beach during my country’s winter.
That night we got to try some local food from the cute food truck park. I got a delicious fish wrap and fries. This organic fair next door had a free folk concert so we listened to that for a bit while the sun was setting. The next morning, the other girls went to get coffee while I went swimming. I decided to go in the tide pool part. Lots of families were lounging in it. The waves would crash against the rocks nearby- we all got tossed around! I also climbed up the front part of the rock to get an awesome view of the town. That afternoon our taxi driver friend picked us up. I was sad to go, I wanted to stay forever! It was such a nice, fun, relaxing weekend!
Another weekend, Steven, an American who co-leads the program here in Peru gave us a tour of Central Lima. First we visited a rock and mineral museum. I never knew Peru has so many beautiful rocks! Next we saw a church on the way to the square. The size and architectural style of the buildings in the square reminded me of Madrid, Spain. Many of the buildings are yellow which is Lima’s color apparently. We saw the outside of the main cathedral and the palace with guards. We toured the Archbishop’s old house. it was gorgeous and contained many paintings, art, and exquisite interiors. Next, we walked to Santa Rosa church. Santa Rosa was the first saint in Peru and the Americas. She took a vow of chastity, fasted, tortured herself, and did charity work. The church grounds have a beautiful garden and a well that you can throw prayer intentions into. I tossed in my own. We also learned about Saint Martin, a black saint who established a children’s orphanage and hospital. There is a chapel for him nearby the church with meals for the elderly.
Then we went up in a monastery bell tower. We had to climb a lot of stairs but were rewarded with a great view of the city. We took in the sights of the buildings, river, and hills and then descended for lunch. We ate at a cute rooftop restaurant with a view of the square. During the walk, Stephen and I talked about religion, feminism, and politics. I enjoyed hearing his views. After lunch, we visited this creepy museums about torture during the Spanish Inquisition. They used to execute people in the main square and we went underground the building to see torture devices. Then we walked to Chinatown and a massive knock-off market. The area was packed with people! After a long day we were exhausted so we took a taxi home in the late afternoon. it was nice to finally see Central Lima, learn more about the city, and see all the main churches and buildings.
I’ve also attended mass at a few different churches in Lima. I’ve started going to this cute yellow one in Barranco. my favorite church is called Santa Maria Reina. The church is shaped like a half dome and has a massive statue of Mary with white hair and a halo of stars in front. The inside is baby blue and white. The building is very artistic and elegant! I’ve only gone to it once because it’s a bit farther away but I hope to go back before I leave!
I hosted a gallery opening party Wednesday, May 11th for my Proyecto Manta, my photo project here. I had a great turnout. Lots of the women, their kids, and other coworkers came. Everyone made really nice comments about the photos and the ladies enjoyed seeing themselves looking so elegant. The kids were all running around. I even gave a short thank you speech in Spanish. One of the ladies gave me an exquisite hand-embroidered red dress from the jungle in Peru so I wore it with a flower crown. The party was really special. Now I’m focusing on putting together the 1st magazine issue of Lfty with the project. It will be coming out in about a month, mid June! I’m excited to release it soon. Savannah Goins, a fellow intern, took these pictures at the party.
Thanks again for taking the time to see what I’m up to here in Peru! I’m so blessed to have such supportive, caring friends and family! I am getting more and more excited to come home and see you all!! Xo, M
Blog Post 3- March 2016
March was a pretty crazy but super awesome month! I was able to complete my photo project using the traditional Peruvian cloth that I bought and my friends here called Manta Proyecto. Early in the month I started talking to the ladies about when they were available. There was a lot of back and forth about when they were free. All the shoots happened in a 2 week period before we left for travel during Easter weekend. Dez, the photo journalism intern, took the photos and I styled the ladies. Yanet, one of the women in the program who is studying cosmetology, did the hair and makeup. She was also photographed. We completed photos of 10 ladies over 4 nights. The photos were shot in the same streets that we live and work. We all had a lot of fun and got beautiful photos of the ladies and also them and their children. The women enjoyed being dolled up and wearing my colorful manta. They all signed the back of the cloth, like they sign the Krochet Kids products they make. I did the project to promote knowing the people who create products, the beauty of every person and place, and to celebrate cultural craftsmanship. I printed out the photos and will frame one of each lady. I am creating a gallery of them in the ladies' classroom during May and will give each woman her framed photo when I take them down.
I'm happy to announce that the Manta Proyecto will be topic of the 1st issue of my online magazine Lfty. The issue will be released mid June! The 1st issue will include a photo of each lady, some other special ones, and photos and a report of how the gallery went. I'm super excited to have this come together and share what I've been working on for a while now! Here is a little taste of my project:
As soon as we finished the shoots, it was time to head south with my roommates to Arequipa for our Easter trip! We flew early Thursday morning to the 2nd biggest city in Peru. The city has lovely mountains off in the distance, white elaborate Spanish architecture, and palm trees. The cathedral in the main square looks like a castle and has many beautiful details. One thing I love about all the old architecture I’ve seen in South America so far is the melding of Spanish European features and ancient Incan symbols. My roommates and I enjoyed walking all over the city and eating great food.
The 2nd day we got up at 3am to take a bus to Colca Canyon, the 2nd deepest canyon in the world. The sides of the mountains are not as steep as The Grand Canyon, but it’s very green with lovely terracing constructed long ago by the Incans. I enjoyed seeing condor birds fly gracefully through the chasm and the local dress is unique and beautiful. That afternoon we left the canyon and took a bus to Puno to see Lake Titicaca, the highest lake in elevation. The next morning, we took a boat tour of the floating islands called Uros. The people construct them out of submerged soil blocks and layers of straw. The islands last for 24 years and then need to be rebuilt. The locals make incredible huts and boats out of the straw and colorful crafts and textiles. After seeing the island, I jumped off our boat into the lake. The water was cold but refreshing on a hot day!
After our roommate trip, I decided to take a week of vacation to explore Bolivia on my own! I took a bus from Puno down into Bolivia and had to pay a huge visa fee because I’m American. I went to Copacabana, a quaint town on Lake Titicaca. People were camping, gathering around fires on the beach, swimming, and boating. It reminded me of summer at home in Michigan! I had lunch on the sand, and that night I took a bus to La Paz, the incredible capital city of Bolivia. The next morning I took a walking tour of the city and learned a lot about the history of the city and country. It’s named La Paz as a sign that a war was over in the country during the Spanish colonial times. I took a cable car up to get a better view of the city; it’s bowl shaped with houses built into the sides and surrounded by gorgeous mountains.
That night I took a bus to Uyuni to see the Salt Flats, Salar de Uyuni. Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat measuring 4,086 square miles. It formed as a result of transformations between several prehistoric lakes and is covered by a few meters of salt crust, which has an extraordinary flatness. The morning I arrived a lady from a tour company snatched me up to join her tour that day. I’m glad she did because I ended up being apart of a super fun group of 5 Israelis, a fellow American from Hawaii, 2 Peruvians, 2 Chinese, and 1 Columbian.
We headed out in our 2 jeeps with our tour guides to the Flats. First we got to see and play on some old abandoned trains. Shortly we got to the Salar, the entire ground was white and shiny. We drove out to where the salt has a 6 inch or so layer of water from the rainy season. The sky reflects onto the water. Visually it was so incredible and inspiring! We ran around, took pictures, and had lunch out there. That day we also walked around a massive island with cool rocks and cactuses and took optical illusion photos with small toys. That night we stayed in a salt hotel and talked about our homes and lives.
The second day we left the salt to see volcanoes, rock formations, and colorful lagunas with flamingos. The lakes are filled with minerals- sulfur, borax, and others. The Salt Flats actually has lithium underneath it that Bolivia wants to excavate but it will be hard not to destroy the flats. One lake was a beautiful light aqua color and another was red. That night we stayed in a hostel near the red lake. My group played Israeli card games and drank wine and beer. The stars were incredible, but it was quite cold so I just peeked outside. I wish I ventured further out to see them better.
The last day we got up early to see geysers and go swimming in a hot spring. I went in with part of our group and then another part so my body was really dried afterwards. That afternoon we drove back to Uyuni. That night I took a bus back to La Paz with the 2 Peruvian girls. I had a restful day in a hostel and also went to church at San Francisco that night with my friends. The Franciscans built it with the help of the locals. The ornate wall behind the altar is pure gold and the Franciscans put mirrors on it to trick the locals into thinking that their souls were trapped in the church and they had to worship the Christian God. It was a well attended Friday night mass and I got to say la Paz in La Paz!
The next morning I took a bus to Copacabana. I took a boat from there to Isla del Sol, a remote, hilly, green island. I took a walking tour of the island and got to see the people and their donkeys who live there. It was a pretty day and nice to be out on a boat.
That night I took a bus to Arequipa where I was flying out the next day. Since it was Sunday, I visited the cathedral for mass and another beautiful church. I flew out and arrived safely back in Lima. It was weird to be back after time away and then I got sick the next week. Now I feel settled back into my life here, but traveling made me excited for my further travels after I finish working in July. April so far has been a good time to relax after a super busy month. I'm ready now to continue working on personal projects of mine, updating my website and portfolio for London, and studying and improving my Spanish. I've had some fun times socializing with my co- workers this month so that's been really nice!
Thanks for following my time here and for all the love and support! I have met so many great people and made many amazing memories. I'm so thankful for this time to volunteer, grow, and explore before heading off to London in the fall for grad school. I'm planning on making the most of my last 2 months here in Lima!
Blog Post 2- February 2016
This past month has been filled with lots of celebration, joy, and exploring. I have been learning and experiencing just how close-knit and caring the organization I work for is. February 20th two of the ladies graduated from the program. They are the first to graduate here in Peru. Us employees and many of the ladies dressed up and had a huge, fancy never-ending 7-course meal at the Hilton Hotel restaurant to celebrate their achievements.
Both graduates, Silvana and Jackie, are super special and have great futures ahead of them. Silvana has bought her own sewing and knitting machines and is starting her own fashion business. She is currently working on designing products. Jackie went to secretary school and is working as a clerk in a store but will be able to get an even better job eventually. Jackie has gone out dancing with us and is an amazing dancer. She is excited to graduate but also finds it hard not to see her sister Rosa, who is in the program, and close friends at work every day. Jackie has a young daughter, Bianca, and has issues with her family so she values the love, support, and advice she has gotten and continues to receive from her mentors and friends at Krochet Kids. She is a very strong, determined, and beautiful woman. Lots of the ladies including Rosa and Savannah, a fellow intern, gave touching speeches celebrating the character and persistence of the two graduates. Sean, who was visiting from our headquarters in California, said that there is a saying in Uganda- “I am you and you are me.” Even though the graduates are moving on to bigger things, they will always be apart of the Krochet Kids family.
Some pictures from graduation of Jackie, Silvana, Rosemary, Magda, Elsa, Rosa, Savannah, and I:
Two past interns, Megan and Ayla, and Sean, the head of fundraising at HQ, were in town for the graduation. Megan and Ayla both loved their time in Peru and have rich relationships with the ladies. They told us stories of their experiences and travels, and encouraged us to put in the time and effort to get to know the ladies better. Sean helped set up the first Krochet Kids program in Uganda for four years. He told us many stories of his time there. They started out with 10 or so ladies and grew to about 120 ladies today. The people in Uganda are very warm and eager to work but also have family, government, and poverty issues. Sean told us how he creates and maintains a relationship with donors so that they feel a sense of ownership in the work and good our organization does. Sean is lively and humble, and helped us understand more about the roots, values, and culture of Krochet Kids at the headquarters and in Uganda. We even had a passionate conversation about the sad state of fashion today and the documentary The True Cost. Andrew Morgan, the filmmaker interviewed Kohl, the founder, for the film but decided that Krochet Kids was “too good” to be in the movie, but he is in the trailer.
This month, I have been focusing on visiting museums around the city as research for my project with the Peruvian traditional garment, a illicla and the ladies. On Valentine's Day, I visited Amano, Museo Textil Precolombino- the Museum of Pre-Columbian Textiles. Peru has some of the oldest, most intricate textiles in the whole world, dating back to around 2500 BC. Peruvian tribes created textiles full of bright colors and patterns with depictions of painted, embroidered, and weaved nature, plants, flowers, humans, and deities as a way of communicating their culture, values, and beliefs. The people used plants, rocks, and bugs to dye the cotton and wool fabric more than 150 different colors. They developed complicated techniques such as brocading, warp pattern, double cloth, flat braiding, feather-embellished textiles, and needle binding. In the Incan civilization, textiles were given to rulers as gifts, burned in enormous quantities as offerings to the Gods, and the clothing of the Inca sovereign was also burned because he never wore the same item twice. I was overwhelmed and amazed at the beauty and skill of their handiwork.
The Museo entrance, my favorite pieces, and the beachfront park in Miraflores that I walked around afterwards:
The second museum I visited was Mali- the Museum of Art in Lima. I was psyched to see the largest collection of Martin Chambi photographs on the last viewing day. Martin Chambi is a prolific Peruvian photographer from Puno, a southern city on Lake Titicaca. He took studio portraits, journalistic photos for newspapers, candid photos of the indigenous people, and landscapes of Machu Pichu and Cusco in the 1920s-1950s. His photos helped make Machu Pichu and the Sacred Valley a tourist destination and have been featured in National Geographic and many books. Chambi was apart of a group of left-wing artists whose art focused on the ancient legacy of the Incans as well as contemporary Colonial Andean culture . I love his style- it’s very simple, natural, and journalistic. The photos are all in black and white and feature strong compositions. The museum also has a wonderful permanent collection of Peruvian art pre and post Spanish colonization. I especially enjoyed Anonimo Cuzqueno’s religious paintings. His rich, patterned compositions featuring gold embellishments reminded me of Gustav Klimt, one of my favorite painters. One of his paintings is my favorite depiction of Mary! Mary is so fashionable and regal in it. Peruvians have a history of amazingly creative and vibrant textiles, pottery, and metal work as well as post-Columbian painting and photography. Their aesthetic is inspiring and fills me with color and life.
The Museum, Chambi photos, and paintings by Anonimo Cuzqueno with my favorite of Mary first (they are all better in person!!) :
Lastly, I visited Mate, Mario Testino’s photography and art gallery. Testino is a world-famous fashion photographer from Peru. His gallery featured huge photos of celebrities, models, and fashion designers in small intimate rooms. He is great at connecting with his subjects and playfully portraying their personality and character. His photos are full of emotion and never look stiff or too formal. Testino did a project called Alta Moda where he photographed local Peruvian dancers from Cusco in their traditional festive attire. Inspired by Martin Chambi, Testino used Chambi’s backdrops in his photos but added in color. Testino also has an exhibit on Princess Diana. He was the last person to professionally photograph her before she died. Testino photographed her in classy, simple outfits with little make-up, jewelry, and natural hair. Her sons said his photos were their favorite and most accurately captured her. There was also a special exhibit called Draftsman Congress by Pawel Althamer featuring a room with paint buckets for visitors to paint whatever they want in bright colors. I painted the logo of my magazine against a colorful section and got a great photo of it!
Some Testino photos and the Lfty logo painting:
On the past intern, Megan’s last day we visited La Herradura Beach, just 30 minutes from our house. It was the most gorgeous, quaint, and secluded beach I have seen in Lima so far. I collected rocks with Jackie’s daughter Bianca, swam in the clear water, and tried leche de tigre, spicy juice with ceviche, a local delicacy of raw fish and lime juice, with plantain chips on top.
Photos of us:
March will be busy with a visit from the designer, Tina from HQ, Dez, the photo intern’s birthday, and shooting the pictures for my project. The museums gave me lots of ideas and inspiration so I’m excited to put it all together. At the end of the month, the other two interns and I are traveling to Arequipa, Colca Canyon, Puno, and Lake Titicaca in the southern mountainous region of Peru. Afterwards I am traveling to Bolivia on my own for one week to see the Salt Flats. I’m super excited to see more of this beautiful continent! Thank you for your interest in my adventures and for your continued support and prayers. Xo, M
Blog Post 1- January 2016
Living and working for Krochet Kids here in Lima, Peru has been incredibly challenging but also incredibly humbling and rewarding so far. It’s crazy that I have almost been here an entire month! First off thank you to everyone who has financially supported my volunteer work here. I am so grateful for your generous support- I could not be doing this without you!
Before talking about Peru, I wanted to update y’all on my project Lfty which started as a book but will now be an online magazine. I am still working on putting it together. It will launch this upcoming September when I am back in the states and will come out every other month. Each issue will feature 1 short story with photos laid out with quotes and an audio or written portion. I decided to not launch it while I am here in Peru so that I can fully immerse myself in this experience and focus on personal growth. I am sorry for the delayed launch of Lfty but I have been using the time to carefully consider the best way to present it. It will be worth the wait! I am so grateful to everyone who has collaborated on the project and supported it. Thanks for donating to the Kickstarter before I cancelled it; you should have been refunded if you donated. Thanks for your patience and love! It’s been a great learning experience for me.
Here are 2 photos by Elliot Reynolds of Stephany wearing Arturo Ricardo Gonzalez dresses in Central Park in the New Romantics shoot for Lfty to get you excited!!
I will be working on a styling project while I am here using local traditional garments and the women I work with. I bought a colorful shoulder cloth and will be working with the photo journalism intern to capture the women in their local environment all wearing the shoulder cloth in unique playful ways. Each of the ladies photographed will sign a tag that will go inside the cloth. I will bring it with me to London to continue photographing ethical artisans in it. The book Little Black Jacket: Chanel’s Classic Revisited inspired me- check it out! The project will be promoting knowing the people who make the clothing we wear and rich traditional craftsmanship.
Here are pictures of the traditional dress and the shoulder cloth that I bought in Huaraz:
In other news, some of the keys on my laptop aren't working because I spilled water on it this summer. The keys initially malfunctioned when I spilled water but starting working fine. When I moved here they stopped working again. It’s been hard to write anything out. I’m using my friend’s laptop right now. Also the 2nd week I lost my cell phone. I think I dropped it or someone took it when I was out to dinner with my coworkers. I was initially annoyed but have felt more free without it. All the time I would spend online on it- I have to think, learn, listen, read, write, pray, and be peaceful. We have a shared intern phone to make calls locally so I still have a way to contact others. I’m using my Skype to call or see people back home. I will replace my phone eventually but for now I feel called to distance myself from it and spend time focusing on my relationships, learning Spanish, running to the beach, appreciating the beauty around me, and soaking up the culture.
On to Peru! I live in Chorrillos, a lower income area south of the inner city 1 mile from the beach in a very nice house. To the north there is a huge dirt hill with colorful houses built into it. Many of the women in the program live on a section of the hill called Pacifico. One day we took a tour of the hill. The area isn’t super safe, the houses are run down, and they have to get water delivered to them. Lots of the women live in broken homes and have children at a young age. The government hasn't given these people the deeds to their houses so technically they don't own them and could have them taken away at any time. Pacifico is their home so they don't want to leave. Its complicated, I’m sure we’ll learn more about their situations.
The view from my rooftop:
There are 26 ladies in the program knitting the products. Once a week they attend classes about making budgets, finance, and various topics. They knit hats, scarves, and pieces for tops and bags on big knitting machines. They have a Peruvian mentor who they meet with regularly to talk about their personal life, goals, progress, and future plans. The ladies can be in the program for 3 years until they graduate to go on to other jobs. Some are in school. One lady, Yanet is in beauty school and cut my hair the other day. There are also cut and sew, post production, and inventory departments. They are not in the program and most are paid hourly. The women in the program are paid per product. The prices are determined so that the women can make minimum wage or if they are ambitious- more.
My job is to quality control check the products. The ladies put their products in their box at the end of the day. The next morning one of the leaders checks it and then I look and see if there are any loose threads, snags, holes, or if it’s too big or small. I stick stickers on the mistakes and ask the ladies to fix them. Once they are ready, we pack them with their tags to be finished and shipped to the states. I am also assisting Jordan, an American employee, with the development of new products, paying the ladies, and tracking efficiencies.
The Peruvian ladies are funny, silly, and really talented. They joke and laugh a lot; I’m starting to understand more of their jokes. One of the ladies, Lourdes and I have become friends. One day I was sitting on the stairs outside talking with some ladies and she, out of the blue, asked to see a picture of my mom. I showed her a picture of my family but said I didn't have one on hand of my mom who passed away when I was younger and would bring one. I brought one the next day. She said- que bonito- pretty. She showed me a picture of her family.
I’ve been to Lourdes in France with my family on our trip to Europe when we walked across Spain doing El Camino. I printed pictures of Lourdes, the city she was named after, and gave them to her. She liked the pictures and invited me to dinner at her house the next night. That night we walked home together; she lives close to work. I met her adorable puppy Draco and her kids. She is 38 and has a 9 year old son, 16 year old daughter, and a 20 year old son. Her youngest son and I talked and compared what items are called in Spanish and English. Her daughter and I took sideways selfies. Lourdes cooked a veggie chicken stew and rice and gave me juice and tea. Her eldest son came home later and was playing reggaeton music (which I’ve started listening to) from his car. He asked me if I wanted to go dancing that weekend with his friends. I said we were leaving for the weekend but next weekend we could. Lourdes asked if I was married or engaged- I said no. I’m pretty sure she wants me to marry her son. We all laughed about it when she asked. I gave her a card saying she’s my favorite Peruvian and a polished rock I got at a market. At the end of the night, Lourdes, her youngest son, and dog all walked me home.
Here are some pictures from that night:
This past weekend, the other 2 interns and I traveled to Huaraz, a mountain town north of Lima. We took an overnight bus and ended up being the only ones in our hostel. Saturday we walked around the local markets and saw women in traditional outfits. I bought a shoulder cloth for my project. We took a bumpy taxi ride up a mountain to see ruins that ended up being stone tombs. The next morning we got up at 5am to take a 3 hour bus ride to hike Lago 69. The morning was cold but it warmed up quickly. I felt great and ended up hiking with an American and Brazilian guy who were both teaching English in Lima. We got to the lake at noon; the water is a brilliant aqua color. We ate lunch and talked until my friends showed up. The American guy and I took a jog and a dip in the lake. We laid on a big rock to dry off and watched other hikers swim. The way down was quick but the ride down I felt pretty sick. I moved to the front of the bus and felt better.
Being a foreign white woman, the other interns and I receive a lot of looks, whistles, and honks. It can be annoying to be different but funny things happen sometimes. The second weekend, I went to a huge fabric market with Jordan and Olympia, one of the development girls who is in fashion school. The streets got really crowded and we visited many shops and street venders. Olympia makes a lot of her clothes so she was looking for fabric. Jordan was looking for fabric for Olympia to help her make some dresses. While walking through the shops, I noticed a Virgin Mary Statue with Jesus wearing a sequined dress. I thought it was awesome, so I went back to take a picture. All the guys in the shops asked me if I wanted a picture of them, I said no. They all grouped together anyways. I laughed, snapped their photo, and got in a photo with them.
The market, Sequined Jesus, and the fabric guys and I
I’ve been thinking about what this experience means to me and what I will learn. I have been struck by how humbling and frustrating it is to not understand the language of the country very well. At first, I felt dumb for not learning more before moving here, but I’ve been thinking that this is similar to how immigrants and refugees must feel when they move to another country and are thrown into a new language and culture. I am trying to learn and practice as much Spanish as possible. I watched Ted Talks on how to learn a language quickly and I have to focus on listening, talking, and not being afraid of making mistakes. It’s hard but I’ve been watching movies in Spanish and discovering new Spanish music to help me. I talk with the ladies daily and learn new phrases I can say to them. They have all been nice and kind, and smile and greet me in the morning with cheek kisses. They are warm and call me Megita. A lot of them have kids and the company has a daycare next door. The kids are gorgeous and full of life. After lunch we all hang out and eat fruit popsicles called marcianos. There is a lot of simple joy in their lives and mine here.
Thanks for taking the time to read all this if you made it all the way through! I miss you all and if you want to visit I have plenty of space in my house, way more than I ever had in NYC. Please pray for me and if you would like to still donate you can (if not I have raised and saved enough money on my own so no worries if you decide not to). Go to this website: http://www.krochetkids.org/donate/ select that you are supporting an intern, and put in my name. Thanks to those who have so far- I really appreciate it! I hope to blog once a month so stay tuned for more! If you have any questions feel free to ask.
Ps- Lima has great art and graffiti that I will def write of once I see more!