Monday, December 26, 2011



Toady I traveled back to Peru after a 6 week leave in the States, encompassing a wedding, reunions and tomfoolery with loved ones, gift-giving and receiving, story-telling and listening. During my morning goodbyes and finally hug to my dad at the airport, I wasn´t sure how I felt—sadness at saying goodbye, with no sense of urgency or finality, but most strangely, a sheer lack of excitement. This dullness continued through my airport time wasting (I tried to tell myself to stock up on American candy bars and magazines, to no avail) and both flights. I didn´t feel scared, nor doubtful, nor worried, but I also didn´t feel the urgency and nervousness I had imagined. It was like going on a business trip to Ohio or to the grocery store to buy eggs- simple, thoughtless and uninspiring. This in itself began to panic me and I tried to analyze but was distracted by Game of Thrones, until I finally arrived in Lima, and was standing in the customs line, behind two confused German women and in front of a blustering American.

It was there that I saw it: in the duty-free store, just ahead, there were four attendants, all unoccupied, all wearing hideous orange matching vests and skirts. There it was—a stunning example of Peruvian inefficiency (any store worth it´s salt will take at least 15 minutes to ring up your purchase, require fashion sacrifices out of its employees, and consider an employee pow-wow more important than customer service).

From then on, I was hooked once more. Through haggling my taxi price, forgetting my ATM card, realizing I had booked at the not-so-nice hostel, crossing my fingers to find my cellphone, and most of all, the wonderful, chaotic ride from the Callao airport to Miraflores, I smiled and giggled like a fat kid with a pocket full of fudge. Even the dirty streets and traffic are like the fart of a loved one—unpleasant, but it´s nice to recognize and remind you who you´re dealing with. Between swerves and near misses in the taxi, I saw graffiti, over-crowded buses and terrible junk cars, stray dogs and cats, tacky billboards, crowded slums and sleeks malls. We passed chifa, pollo a la brasa, tacos, Italian, food carts, tiendas, street vendors and drove through miasmas of frying potatoes and sautéing garlic, of gasoline and sea salt. It was a marvelous gauntlet of reintroduction.

Thank you, Lima, for continually baffling, frustrating and confounding me. It´s good to be back in Peru.



Tuesday, October 11, 2011

FIRE!!













Starting last Wednesday, I had an unusual view from my home—not just my daily vista of Huascaran, but also of huge clouds of smoke, as wildfires swept the forest below Huascaran. Having read accounts of out of control blazes in the States, I was fascinated and terrified by the sight. My host parents assured me that comuneros, people who held community land in the forest, would fight the fire—with dirt, water or ditches. For three days we worried, watching the black swath grow across the base of Huascaran. Finally, it rained, and I ventured up to see the results. This is the strange landscape that I found.

Starting last Wednesday, I had an unusual view from my home—not just my daily vista of Huascaran, but also of huge clouds of smoke, as wildfires swept the forest below Huascaran. Having read accounts of out of control blazes in the States, I was fascinated and terrified by the sight. My host parents assured me that comuneros, people who held community land in the forest, would fight the fire—with dirt, water or ditches. For three days we worried, watching the black swath grow across the base of Huascaran. Finally, it rained, and I ventured up to see the results. This is the strange landscape that I found.








Saturday, September 10, 2011

Homecoming





A homecoming is many things—a return from travel with stories to tell and gifts to give, a silly high school dance to be fretted over, a celebration after long trials, greeting loved ones after a long or short absence. Over the past couple weeks I have had homecoming on my mind. First I attended our Close of Service (COS) Conference, where I greeted some volunteers after nearly two years without seeing them and saw other good friends for the last time. The topics were varied but focused on two things: saying goodbye to our communities in Peru and re-adjusting to the United States. Everyone threw around phrases like “culture shock” and solemnly asked about plans for the future.

Myself, I´ve been torn about my November leave date. On one hand, it has been far too long that I have been barefoot, curled up on the couch during a family cocktail hour, hearing the sarcasm, ridiculous stories and passionate debates that characterize our family. I miss everyone there—even my nephew, who I have yet to meet. However, going there means leaving here, where I also have people I love and a job I find challenging and fulfilling. The conference and days in Lima, spent walking, talking, shopping, dancing and generally chilling with other volunteers, helped me see some more of the appeals of going home—conversations about more than the weather, easy access to stores with fresh fruits and veggies, regular hot showers, to name a few. The week was so relaxing and enjoyable that I wondered if, for the first time, I wouldn´t be happy returning to Musho. What if I had somehow readjusted to city life?

With some apprehension over that thought, I arrived in Musho at 8, exhausted after a night bus. It was a wonderful day. My host family was so happy to see me that Edita broke her shyness barrier and gave me a hug (and then invited me to my favorite soup at lunch), my early childhood stimulation session at the health post went wonderfully, comments about the rain, where had I gone etc. were welcome and hilarious—in short, I arrived and felt like I was home.

Even in the evening, when Jesus dutiful plied the donors of the graduation party with beer (his responsibility as president of the graduation), I laughed, refused to participate, and didn´t mind at all. Home isn´t always about being comfortable or perfectly relaxed, I think, but contains some ephemeral quality that envelops you while you´re there. It is annoyance as much as affection; part of the comfort of home is the ability to be uncomfortable and still be happy. After a two-year absence, how quickly will I fall back into home once in my Stateside home?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Learning to get along with the borrachitos










Often, partially to try to make sense of such an overwhelming experience and partially because of a long love of trashy romance novels and chick flick movies, I compare my tenure in Musho to falling in love. It may seem bizarre or unusual to make this comparison—Musho is a place, not a person, to state the extremely obvious. Even so, the metaphor works better than anything else I might invent.

Like any loved one, Musho is not always perfect. In fact, we often fight and grate on each other. There are many personality quirks that drive me to stuff a change of clothes and my laptop into a backpack and almost run down the hill to Huaraz. The strange thing is, though, that we´ve worked through almost all these quirks. The past tense—drove—might be more appropriate. Through exposure and a little bit of learned patience, I tolerate Musho´s worst habits—and some even bring a smile, as if at an adored one´s antics. While I had, through my chronicling of my love affair, noted this change, it was presented to me strikingly last weekend.

As some of you may know, Peru beat Venezuela 4-1 to win 3rd place in the Copa de las Americas last Saturday. I didn´t watch the game—we didn´t have the channel and I spent the day in my usual weekend relaxation, some house visits, some walking, some lesson-planning, and an hour in the late afternoon, reading in the cemetery. On my way home, I went to buy flour and other necessities at one of the local stores. Walking in, the owner and one of my neighbor´s declared, “We have been drinking soda, señorita!” in a way that assured me they had actually been drinking beer.

When I first came to Musho—to back track—the sight of grown men publically drunk in daylight startled and disgusted me. I would do anything—walk hours out of my way or out of town—to avoid the encounter. On Saturday, though, I just smiled to myself and asked for flour. In his tipsy state, the owner measured, weighed and dispatched the flour far slower than usual so we had time for a long conversation, including the following exchange:

DRUNK NEIGHBOR: Señorita, I have a question

ME: Sure, what? laughing slightly

DRUNK NEIGHBOR: I think you are a spy.

ME: obviously this was not a question, so I ignored it

DRUNK NEIGHBOR: Do you know what a spy is?

ME: Yes, and I am one.

DRUNK NEIGHBOR: bafflement

ME: I count all the cows, chickens and guinea pigs that you have and tell the CIA. It´s a big concern of President Obama´s.

STORE OWNER: catching on Yes, she also registers all the borrachitos (little drunks) and tells the US government about it.

DRUNK NEIGHBOR: believing, stupefied.

With that, I escaped, laughing, and it didn´t occur to me until later that I had actually had an exchange with two drunk men in my community free of judgment, embarrassment or discomfort. Rather it had been enjoyable and sort of a highlight. I´m not sure what I owe my change in perspective to—perhaps learned patience or slightly lessened self-centeredness. After so many months in Musho, I´ve realized that when you set out on any errand, you will probably be waylaid, whether by a friendly neighbor wanting to chat, a grandmother needing help with her burro, school kids asking for English help or someone inviting you to a bowl of soup. Of course, you can rudely press on, but it´s usually not necessary. In the states, I was used to getting things done and being efficient, that I had to learn the value in wasting time. Maybe I go out to do house visits and end up sitting for an hour chatting at the first house. That´s okay. There is another day to finish the houses. It´s taken me a long time to learn this, but the lesson serves me well. Let´s hope this learned serenity lasts me through the August fiestas.

Here are a few scenes from walking around and also teaching:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Stand-Up, Quechua Style


It would utter arrogance to call myself much of a comedian. My sense of humor tends towards the sarcastic, called the lowest form of wit and not at all understood in most of Péru. However, in the first minutes after I met my host mom, Edita (she was picking chili pepper in the middle of a field; I was exhausted and bewildered), I had her in stitches. The joke? My name: Kaitlyn, then my second name: Keirsey and my last name: Stanhope, each of which she asked for in turn and then realized she couldn´t pronounce any of them. It was a silly moment for both of us, and I knew we would be okay—not really mother-daughter, but friends.

After 20 months here, I would like to say that my jokes have moved beyond just unpronounceable English words and into a more sophisticated realm. I do include some all purpose quechua phrases as icebreakers in a meeting or house visit. Saying something like, this is my friend; he´s come to Péru to find a wife is a sure success when presenting a visitor and, in my case, anything about doing work in the fields, Peruvian men or babies is like a Chris Rock stand-up show.

The sense of humor in my site is similarly foreign. Sarcasm is unknown and not understood (Sometimes when people ask questions like, “Are you walking uphill?” as I clearly walk up hill and I can´t help but say something like, “No, I´m knitting a sweater.” This is incomprehensible). Slapstick humor on tv and movies is quite popular and, in person, jokes range from teasing to anecdotes with punchlines that I never quite get. The teasing is easy enough: for me, it´s usually about finding a husband, or that my 34 year old mom is going to hit me if I stay out late or that I should always wear my pollera, the traditional garb. I can give and take with the best of my “paisanos” (countrymen) from Musho. The anecdotes are tougher. Usually I just stare at the storyteller at the end, thinking there is more to come, as everyone around me bursts into laughter.

My lack of humor, at least in certain situations worried me until I remember the all-purpose Peace Corps out: it´s cultural. It is, though. As there are certain things here that I find hilarious and cannot share with my host family, the reserve is also true. This makes telling and sharing jokes a sort of challenge and surprisingly rewarding. Never in my life have I been the sort to think of a joke and eagerly anticipate the telling. However, now, when I think of a funny line to tell to a quechua grandma on the street, I find myself giggling as I walk up to her.

A killer from yesterday: I saw a giant, nice SUV parked on the dirt street in Musho and one of my quechua-speaking neighbors coming down the road. I asked her (in quechua): “Is that your car?” It was amazing. She laughed and laughed, then said that no, it must be my car and I said no. Translated it´s not particularly funny, but walking away from my still giggling 70 year old neighbor, I felt so cool—the nerdy girl who has managed to get into the popular crowd. In a way, it is the same sort of thing. The likelihood of a vegetarian, sarcastic, academic-oriented, city-raised, American foreigner being able to laugh with a quechua-speaking, subsistence farming, semi-literate woman, is wonderful.

Two of the Peace Corps´s three goals are about a cultural exchange—Americans learning about Peruvian culture and Peruvians learning about American culture. We do this through food, through sports, through dance, through music, through manners and, a little bit, through laughter.


And here are some moments I have found hilarious:
My house mom dancing with her baby bundled onto her back.
And here are some moments I have found hilarious:
My house mom dancing with her baby bundled onto her back.


The tradition of shoving a birthday boy´s (or girl´s) face into their cake.
And this absurd looking pig.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

We are Family!! I got all my sisters and me...




Family is a fairly flexible term. It can mean the nuclear unit that you are related to, can extend to cousins, aunts, uncles—and outward, for genealogists. To others, family means the people that you choose to spend your life and time with. In theater, work units are often described like a family. In Ancash, the Peace Corps volunteers refer to “our Ancash family,” only partly a joke, because the support system is as powerful as a blood tie. Over the past few years, I´ve had host families in Santiago, Quito, Lima and Musho. Naturally, my Musho family is the closest connection, but in each case I found support, caring and something special in the connection over the months I lived there.

After living here, in Musho, my definition of family has changed. I´ve mentioned before the custom here: that parents, children, grandchildren often continue living in the same house for years after the children grow up and, often, marry. The idea of living alone, or moving far from parents and siblings, is strange and marveled at. This I learned, laughed at, and then accepted (and now sort of like—next year I will definitely be in my parent´s house) long ago. Lately, though, I´ve been more and more intrigued by extended family connections. The term “tia” (aunt) or “tio” (uncle) can be used for any person of the right age. I often use them when somebody´s real name escapes me; it´s quite convenient. However, it can mask true family connections. A couple weeks ago, I learned that about 75% of Apa Grande, the community in which I am working on an improved stoves project, is related. Fairly closely. It´s a small community of about 30-40 households, and it makes sense. Sort of—10 out of the 17 families in my stoves project are aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters or first degree cousins of one another. I wouldn´t be surprised if the other 7 are second or third cousins. The amazing thing here is that, aside from addressing one another as tio and tia, they are as gossipy and backstabbing as the cast of characters from Mean Girls.

This shock started me thinking: if family can act like this, does it even matter? If a tia can spend a good 20 minutes trash-talking her niece, daughter-in-law or cousin, what do family ties even mean? It took a visit from one of my oldest and best friends, Roseanna, to set me straight. We had a great, eventful trip to the jungle and also spent a couple of hangout days in Lima. It was fantastic; despite awkward sleeping arrangements, a canoe voyage similar to Monster´s Plantation and lots of weird food, I felt relaxed and happy the entire time. The day after Roseanna left, my mom spent an hour on Skype talking me through an awful case of Lima-glumness and Roseanna-withdrawal.

Suddenly, I knew what family is. Partially, and importantly, it is, as my sister Sally defines it, the people who love you when you are unlovable (depressed, belligerent, frustrated, withdrawn, etc.) and partially, it is the people who love you enough to allow you to be yourself, to relax. Family is what you make it; an aunt who you trash talk and wouldn´t invite to even one boiled potato is nothing, yet a foreigner who you invite into your home, teach about strange food and customs and consult on important decisions (like whether to sign up for cable—weird, right?) becomes something. Perhaps I am not actually the gringa daughter that we joke about, or the sister of the soul that my friend Lidia called me during a toast the other night, but I´m something. Similarly, I know that I have so much family at home, not only the ones who are actually related to me, but all the wonderful people who have supported me throughout my life and, from afar, for these years. That´s what will bring me back to the States—but the same sort of connections are what tie me to Musho.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Ay, dios-- I enter a world of passion and intrigue!

While I may not have broadcast the fact, last August, I picked up a dangerous (yet common) Peace Corps addiction: television. I kept it in check: one hour every evening. It was a wonderful escape, though. I would watch Glee, Mad Men, True Blood, How I Met Your Mother… Each evening´s episode would be like a little trip back to the United States (in it´s own fairly inaccurate way. I am aware that my life never involved vampires, 1950´s male dominated advertising firms or constant bursts into songs). However, this year I cut back. I prefer to read, after all and reserve tv for sick days or when I just need distraction. Don´t believe that this is some huge burst in work or intellectual development: each evening I spend in my house and my reading is often as simple as Harry Potter.

A few weeks ago, though, with a craft project in front of me, I sat down with my host sister to watch what turned out to be the pilot episode of Ana Cristina, a limeña novela. Do I have to explain what happened next? Every night, I sit down with my host siblings at 7 pm with some sort of sewing or craft project, and we watch, gasping, yelling and advising the characters as the situation demands. The setting and plot of the show is lightyears away from our Musho day-to-day: an “amor impossible” between a poor, campo girl and a rich Limeño man, a tale of business backstabbing and revenge. I can´t help but wondering if I give advice to my host sister through this bonding time—in real life, people don´t talk that way; if a man ever treats you that way you should not take him back, but I mostly keep my comments to exclamations on the characters poor decisions: Ana Cristina, why would you take Gonzalo back? Maju, why are you kissing Lucho? Etc.



It´s all very silly but I feel like it has helped bond with my host sister as much as anything during the past year. She asks me for help with her homework more often, to check her email on my computer, and just general questions. Our programmed hour of tv is our time to catch up daily, and I now know what happens in her classes every day, and she knows how my projects are going. So I am grateful for telenovelas—also it´s an amazing show if anyone gets it on their TV.
The beautiful pictures are: My host mom with 7-month old Mirella, Mary also with Mirella, and a rainbow across our valley.

Monday, April 11, 2011

There are thou happy






“What, rouse thee, man! thy Juliet is alive,
For whose dear sake thou wast but lately dead;
There art thou happy: Tybalt would kill thee,
But thou slew'st Tybalt; there are thou happy too:
The law that threaten'd death becomes thy friend
And turns it to exile; there art thou happy:
A pack of blessings lights up upon thy back;
Happiness courts thee in her best array;
But, like a misbehaved and sullen wench,
Thou pout'st upon thy fortune and thy love:
Take heed, take heed, for such die miserable.”

Romeo and Juliet, Act III, scene iii, Friar Laurence

This quote is the inspiration for a game I play with myself in site. Sometimes life in Musho is not to my liking. Sometimes events, set-backs, even people frustrate me to the extent of throwing myself on my bed, looking longingly at pictures of what I call my former life (college, home, nice looking clothing and clean people). This is ridiculous and no way to behave. This quote, therefore, delights me, and inspires me to my game.

An Example:

Say, I´ve been invited to a lunch, potatoes, with potato soup, and flour gruel for dessert. I stumble out of the house, muttering some excuse for not having seconds, and clutching my overfull stomach. Obviously I am ready for self-pity. So I play the game:

“Look, there is Huascaran, there are thou happy.”

“You finished 2 plates of potatoes and delighted that mom, there are thou happy.”

“You can walk through the fields and woods until your belly is no longer distended, there are thou happy.”

“You have people here who care about you (even if the only way they show it is in quantity of potatoes served), there are thou happy.”

The game works for everything. It helps if you imagine the “there are thou happy” coming from a sort of monkish figure. I find it indispensable for life here in Musho. I am happy—very happy with my pack of blessings light upon my back—yet sometimes need to remind myself. Thank you, fate, for bringing me here. Here am I happy.



Tuesday, April 5, 2011

"Mom, I want you to have 11 boys-- for a soccer team-- and 1 girl-- to do the cooking"




Yesterday afternoon, I left my house to visit my recently installed improved stoves. I think I´ve mentioned before, but I repeat, house visits are one of my favorite parts of my job. They are effective; to tell a young mother that she needs to keep animals out of her kitchen is one thing in the sterile health post, it is completely different to show her the dirt her dog, cat and guinea pig bring into the kitchen. Also, nowhere do I feel better about my work than in a house that has made serious changes. Some families have gone from blackened, smoky kitchens and open-air bathrooms to whitewashed kitchens with improved stoves, sinks and beautiful latrines in the backyard. I love it, and tell the families. There I am sometimes a motivator—“Don Justo, when are you going to finish that stove?” sometimes a friend, “Zenaida, your sink looks great but it would be even nicer if you used the rest of your cement to build a little table next to it,” sometimes an educator, “This, Doña Rafaela, is how you should use and clean your chimney so that it doesn´t smoke,” and sometimes a bit of an authority, “Señor Juan, if you don´t finish your sink by next Tuesday, we are going to take your materials.” I am not always comfortable in my different roles, but have learned to transition nicely. What keeps the task interesting and fun is that, while these are my professional roles, sometimes people thrust others upon me: listener, gossiper, best friend.

Returning from the visits yesterday, a woman not in my stoves projects, but with whom I´ve worked with in sinks and latrines, called me to her doorstep. She asked about a meeting, which was clearly a weak excuse for a long a chat about her son (“too lazy!! He won´t do anything in school. He just wants to be a farmer like his parents!!”), which somehow transitioned into a discussion of the differences between American and Peruvian parenting and, then, surprisingly, birth control. I should say this is a loaded topic in the sierra. First, due to the closed nature of sierra culture, there is shame about mentioning sex or birth control. Family planning programs are a recent phenomenon, at least in Musho, maybe a generation old, and many women still do not trust the various methods available free through the health post. According to local myths and beliefs, the injection can cause cancer, women to gain 20 or 30 kilos, and the pill causes splitting headaches, and, in many cases, madness that overtakes women and causes them to want to kill their husbands. As I spoke with my acquaintance, a woman of 35 and health promoter, she cited examples of these symptoms among friends and acquaintances, and was clearly curious as to my response. Among men there are other beliefs: that women who want to take birth control want to sleep around is the most common. She told me of a woman with 11 children whose husband told her to look for another husband if she wanted to take birth control.

Two aspects of this discussion struck me as particularly unique: 1. That the woman I spoke with is a health promoter, elected as a leader in her community and trained by the health post in different topics. Despite this, she at best was doubtful about the health post´s assertions that birth control is harmless and, at worst, completely against the idea. 2. That she told me. Often women will mention to me doubts about birth control, but I never expected such a candid conversation, in the streets of all places. Her doubts and anecdotes worry me, but the fact that she told me I could only attribute to the magic of house visits. For months, I have visited people in the morning, the afternoon, the evening, asking about latrines, bathroom-going habits, hand washing, and life. Now, for better or worse, people feel comfortable airing their doubts about anything—from sinks to birth control. It´s an achievement of sorts, no matter how strange and sometimes uncomfortable.

And, to finish the story, how did we end our 45-minute discussion? She asked me if it were true that now they “castrate” men so they won´t have any more babies. At first I was baffled then completely amused when I realized she meant vasectomy but was confused by the terminology and procedure. I managed to explain to her the surgery without laughing but was undone when she got excited and claimed that she was telling her husband that very evening to go and get “castrated.” Citing the arriving rain, I left, only starting to laugh hysterically when I was out of site.


Also, after yesterday´s interest-piquing discussion, a 10 year boy said my title quote to his mother.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Recent Adventures


OK, instead of boring you with thousands (ok, more like 100s maybe), I will hit you up with their more elegant equivalent:
a beautiful sunset from my house
Me as the "godmother" for my friend Lidia´s recently constructed bathroom
Mary posing with her birthday cake
One of my lazier English students, in the midst of class.

Our carrot harvest; two men are washing the carrots by dancing on sacks of them in the creek and Yomer, Lidia´s son, is sampling the product

Monday, January 24, 2011

It´s a month later, the kings have already begun their circular route home and the panetones are on sale in the stores. However, finally I am up to speed on technology and can offer you this heartfelt, albeit very corny, Christmas video of celebration in Musho. Merry Christmas. video

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Getting Bacon in Rural Peru






Vegetarianism is a strange thing. To be honest, when I decided, at 17, to become a vegetarian, I had no real good reason. Because of a best friend, Maya, I had experimented with periods of no-meat (month long resolutions or challenges often broken when faced with a restricting menu or delicious looking meal), but the final decision, spring of 2004, was a spontaneous decision, while out for a run one afternoon. I informed my mom upon my arrival home, when she told me that she had already cooked dinner, spaghetti with meat sauce, and that I could start my new lifestyle the next day.
In the years since, I have gathered different good reasons for vegetarianism: personal health, negative environmental impact of meat production, a preference for veggies built up, but none truly explain my non-meat preference. They are arguments, not lifestyles. Living in a highland region with a culture of sustainable low cholesterol meat production, I could argue almost more eloquently for meat-eating. So I´ll own up to my real reason for vegetarianism, which has much more to do with sentiments than intellectual reasoning. Let me explain with a story.
A few months ago, I made bread with my friend Lidia. An essential ingredient in Musho Day of the Dead bread is lard, from a pig. Lard is such a bizarre substance; I wondered how one would go about collecting it, whether all fat would look like it (thinking about the fat stealing in Fight Club), and if it just gathered in pockets in the pig, ready to spurt out like blood. Seeing my confusion, Lidia invited me to help her out in the future when she killed her pig. For that uncertain date, I was happy to accept. Last week, she informed me that this Monday she would be killing her pig, and that I should come and bring my camera and knife.
Here they are, catching the blood in a bucket. And here I am, several feet away, watching.

Pig-killing is not pretty. It´s nothing like the sleek kills of people or animals on tv or even the slightly shocking slitting of guinea pig or chicken throats that come before any fiesta. It is violent and disgusting. Pigs scream in an eerily human voice, despite the fact that we wrapped it´s snout three times with rope, and fight for minutes and minutes, not like the clean throat slitting in spy movies where people gurgle once and die. I watched two pigs die this morning, held down and roped by five people, with a huge knife (thankfully not mine) and a bucket to catch the blood.
Then we shaved the pigs, using sharp knives and lots of boiling water, a laborious 2 hour process that made me feel a bit green and long for the sterile strangeness of a supermarket. When we finishing, the courtyard was filled with bloody mud and black hairs. Only after about 6 hours of being present, carrying water, getting herbs ready for the sausage and generally sending thanks to every divinity ever for my US upbringing, I escaped, explaining that I was nauseated and could not possibly join the family for lunch.
Here we are, skinning the pig.
So I´m a vegetarian, and, I suppose, a bit of a hypocrite. For the next year, I will encourage every Mushino to feed their kids meat whenever possible, but I have no intention of ever participating in a butchering again. When I return to the US, I think that my experience will have broadened my mind in a lot of ways, and I am very thankful for that. However, I don´t think I will even be able to look at pork chops without imagining that violence. It´s wussy. It´s squeamish. It´s illogical. However, as a first world citizen, I can and will embrace that squeamishness for the rest of my life.