Sunday, December 20, 2009

What I've been up to...

I'm painting...

Sunset in the Andes....

Town festival

The picture says it all...

My host family, host mom's birthday. I made the cake! Strawberry cake.

Painting my bathroom, with my head in the clouds.

Christmas glistening in the distance....

I thought it would be a good idea to listen to Christmas music, I mean
tis’ the season. Well, bad idea. I listen to sleigh bells jingeling
on a silent night while mommy kissed Santa Claus, and the water works
opened like it was the first day of summer, full blast!

I was reminded of my favorite Christmas movie The Grinch starring Jim
Carrey. The scene where Christmas finally gets to the Grinch, and he
starts crying. I found myself asking, as the Grinch did, “why am I

Before coming to Peru I never considered my Christmas’ to be
particularly perfect. But here I am longing for that Christmas that
glistens in the distance.

So what is the point of all of this? Well I guess it’s that I can’t
wait to appreciate it all a bit more when I get back. But it's not
all that bad I'm blessed with so much family, so many friends and an
opportunity to see the world through another’s eyes, that I can’t help
but start to appreciate it all a little bit more even now. So I say
to you, this Christmas do me a favor, and fulfill what I can’t. Stare
at Christmas lights just a second longer, eat just at least one more
cookie, smile like you mean it in those annoyingly wonderful Christmas
pictures, jingle those bells, enjoy the mistletoe and the warmth of
the Holiday Season with your son, your daughter, spouse, mom, dad,
brother, friends, pets or what have you.

And to all those I’ve had the pleasure of sharing the holidays with
before, in the office, at school, at home, at your home, or even over
the phone. From the bottom of that thing that beats in my chest, thank
you for creating joyous memories of what I now consider more than 20 (
a girl never reveals her real age) perfect Christmas’. I will be
here, in Peru, enjoying the humblest of Christmas’ blessed with more
than I could have ever imagined. I miss home like crazy.

No bahambugs, just Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, and a very Joyous
New Year to you all.

P.S. Send me some of those awesome cheesy Christmas pictures, of you,
family or friends. I loooove that stuff! Makes me feel like a have a
bit of home with me.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"No matter where I was, my compass pointed [north]. I ... always know what time it was in California..." Fitch, adapted for moi.

October will be my fifth month in Peru, but I still know what time it is in Cali. I assume I always will. A lot has happened since my last entry and have even joked with a friend that perhaps a short book should be started. I have enough titles for chapters including:

Incan gods in Jesus' house- from my trip to the wood sculpting sector of the parish that concentrated on traditional Andean artifacts.

Cold, sticky yet refreshing- our PC experience with food, and the PC experience overall.

Irony- on not being able to teach a class on respect because the children would not be quiet long enough to listen.

Ode to the dirt rode (Em)- on my trip up a mountain, seeing the most beautiful sight in all of my life and having an epiphany (inquire within for further detail). Huascaran- highest mountain in Peru, second highest in the Americas.

Parasites or Bacteria, the lesser of the two evils- on my experience at site for the first month, and my host mothers comments on me looking like a stick. I almost asked her to repeat that so I could record, I've never heard that before.

It's raining plaster- communication, or mis-communication.

Reading thicker books, they last longer and make better pillows (Coelho)- my refuge in the world of literature, the warmth of covers and the friend that never leaves.

Square pegs in triangular holes- on culture clash and integration.

I should stop too much writing makes others fall asleep. I'm taking submissions for suggested title, entries must be witty and yes, still apply to my life...

Monday, September 21, 2009


Adobe smell

I packed into the human tetris machine, called a combi ( or a bus), a couple of days ago as the rain came down on us. Mamita move here, you move there, now theres a butt in my face, oh thats an elbow, ok ok we're all in vamos vamos... lets go lets go. The window was cracked open which is not common, and I could smell the distinct combination of odors that seeps up when the rain comes pounding down... wet adobe, this musky thick scent that makes you feel like you're almost rolling in the dirt, the pine and eucalyptus, their freshness opening up my lungs. I've passed by this mountain many times now and every time I go by it it's different, I guess things change depending on how you look at them. I could feel the rain drops hit my face and I couldn't be happier. I was wet when I got home, no I didn't take an umbrella it was a bright sunshiny day when I left home. But it was ok, there hadn't been water at home for a couple days, no showers, daing! Electricity was also out for a while. It's a good thing I like candles in my room and moonlight outside.

I've been working with a group of kids at the local school, we've painted, drawn and are now well on our way to completing our world map mural. We chat as we paint and its interesting to see their faces of amazement when we talk about different cultures, and lands. They see me at the school and run up to me to say hi. The young girls run up to hug me or shake my hand and the boys mozy over slowly and wait for me to ask if they'll participate and don't want to stop or go home when its time to stop.

I've also started imputing data into excel that I've gathered from the last 5 years of school records. I'm going to be looking at different demographic variables to see if there is any correlation between those variables and drop out rate. Then hopefully address those things during my chats to help encourage high school completion. Along with self esteem chats, sex ed, values, respect, health, nutrition and so on. The world map kids really enjoy the painting and I love art so we will probably start up an art group. (Side note: I've started using oil paints and have completed my first couple of paintings. I continue to sketch and will probably do some water colors.) I plan on doing a community clean up and sorting out recyclables to use for both funds and material for our art group. I'm excited about the world of art! Oh and environmental sensitivity.

This week is my communities patron saint celebration. It will last one week. There are more than 5 pigs (no pig for me makes me violently sick), 3 cows, countless guinea pigs, over 250 cajas (one caja: a case of about twelve 40 oz. beers), several sacks of potatoes, rice, and bottles of hard liquor being donated by the community. Which means lots of food and lots of celebration. There will be fireworks, mass, and dancing. I know great time to pick sobriety as a way of life... ha.

Ciao for now, with my knit belt, bracelets, sandals, hair wrap, tattered clothes I realize I'm looking more crunchy granola as the days go by...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


The first week and a half at site has been rather interesting, with
plenty of time for reflection. Admittedly the first week was at best
one of the most difficult weeks of, well, perhaps my life. A trying
period for me, I was indecisive, scared, lonely and confused. I kept
telling myself that perhaps I was not meant to be in the Peace Corps.
Perhaps I wasn’t strong enough.

When I was still in LA I attended a Peace Corps event with a bunch of
RPVC (returned peace corps volunteers), a friend of mine accompanied
me. There I had an interesting conversation with a man who’s probably
forgotten my name and face. But I still remember him telling me to
enjoy every moment of my experience and that when I came out of it,
that everything I went through will have scrapped against my conscious
until leaving it smooth, and that I would never be the same. I
remember that starry night at the rooftop of one of LA’s skyscrapers
well. I kept holding on to that memory last week, to no avail. It’s
hard being from home from its familiarity and its sense of freedom. I
however am able to count on an incredible support system composed of
family, friends (near and far) and even some PC staff. And I realized
that strength can come from the most unlikely places and even when you
feel there’s nothing left, it’s just time to stop, listen to the
birds, the wind through the leaves, the rapid beat of the
hummingbird’s wings or whatever may be around and find the strength
you thought was lost.

For now I will continue to try. My work will be mostly with the
municipality (city hall), school, health post and some youth. Some
things I’m thinking include gathering of donations and job fair school
fair adaptation that may look nothing like a fair but would encourage
educational advancement as well as some other stuff…

Don't think that life out here is somber, it is good and I am learning
tons. For example some Peace Corps Volunteers have decided that
instead of having the slogan Life is calling, how far will you go?...
it should be Life is calling... bring your PH (papel hygenico/toilet

Monday, August 24, 2009

Walk the walk

I was so nervous to give the speech at our swearing in and couldn't figure out what the big deal was. I've spoken in public before, but it was different. And not just because I would be delivering it in Spanish, yes my native language, but also a language I've never received formal training for. I was exceptionally nervous. I think I've realized that Peace Corps is probably the most important thing I've done in my life as of yet, and speaking about it was bound to make me emotional and nervous.

Talk about leaving my family in the states. Talk about some of the people I've worked with. In particular my little hero at the shelter for children with disabilities. Writing with his one foot, eating with his one foot and learning to walk with his prosthetic leg. Talk about building the foundation to a home, not just a house but a home. Talk about working and learning with my 35 Peace Corps Peru thirteeners all made tears welt in my eyes and made my voice crack! DAING! I though I could but didn't. After it was over a rush of adrenaline swept over me and the video above was a result of that...

I miss and think about you in the states often, and lament not being part of what your lives are now. BUT look forward in the sharing we will do. I also now miss my thirteeners that are spread throughout various departments (or states) of Peru.

Bueno, hasta pronto.

Oh here is my PO box... please feel free to send chocolate, inn n out, tampons, encouraging messages, or simply good vibrations. (which can be done via telepathy, no postage needed)

PCV Maria Lisette Botello
Casilla Postal No. 277
Serpost Huaraz
Ancash, Peru

Sunday, August 2, 2009


It's funny how pictures hold stories, like secretes embedded in the colors. They remind of us a time past, introduce us to a new land, allow for us to share, or revive long forget sentiments. But for all, I am grateful.

Tomorrow I leave to visit my site, in the department of Anca$h, Peru. Site assignment was a bit over a week ago, we were all anxious to find out where we would be for (hopefully) the next two years of our life. Our names and assignments were put on flags of boats that drifted along the pool. One by one we unfurled our flags and discovered our fates.
Anca$h holds two mountain ranges, the Black mountain range and the White mountain range. It is also home to Huascaran the highest mountain in all of Peru and the second highest in all of the Americas at approximately 6,700 meters 20,540 feet. I will be living at altitudes close to those from which I sky dived a couple of years back. And although I will avoid swimming in the glaciar lakes, I look forward to living in one of the most beautiful places out there. The temperature is suppose to be about 12 degrees celsius during the day and 0 degrees during the night. Ohoho. My community consist of approximately 2,500 people and I will be working with the health post, schools and municipality. Along with other places that may come about during the next two years.
(<--- all over the place)

I will come back in a week or so with pictures and hopefully some fun stuff. Also if there is something anyone would like to know just shoot me a line... I miss all of you in the states and but cherish what I'm doing and look forward to coming back a bit more educated, a bit more worldly and a bit more tan ;-)

Last thought... I'm going to be living in the Andes Mountains... :-o... I still can't get over it

Andean girl in the making...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A life in technicolor

FBT is a time during the peace corps experience where you get to visit a site and do some Field based Training (FBT). I was fortunate enough to have visited Cajamarca a department in northern Peru. Sierra at 2700 meters, with sights I've never imagined.

Whisked 18 hours away from Lima, with a group I totally heart, FBT was one of the best experiences I've had yet. If I close my eyes I can still see the vibrant blues and greens that made me gasp. I ate cuy, met some cool kids, hiked the most beAutiful site I have ever seen in my life and shared in a million and one laughs. From stuffed combis, to having to share seats, laps and beds I wouldn't change a thing. There were adventures trying to kill giant mosquitos, starting bonfires and walking to the ends of the world.

FBT could not have been any other way, than ... the peace corps way.

Monday, June 29, 2009


Did you know "humor" is spelled the same in English and Spanish? And let me tell you humor its self is often universal...

Example one:

My host grandmother had been knitting, as she often does, in her seat in front of the television which is adjacent to another seat. She decided to get to bed and said goodnight.

Later, my host brother is attempting to show me how to understand something. I then decide to plop, not sit, not slowly recline, not even place myself gracefully next to him, but: plop. I immediately felt the needle being used just minutes before stab me in the ... well in the buttocks. I immediately jump what I estimate to be about 5 feet above ground and scream. My host family stares at me attentively, then dare to ask "que pasa" what is it? I then reach for the needle that is about 4 inches long, and pull, um no such luck, it's stuck. It didn't break skin but it was lodge in my chonies and jeans. It had a hook at the end so it was rather difficult to pull out. I pull one more time... and YES! its out. I could barely contain my laughter. My host fam. also began to crack up.

Example 2: A couple of PC volunteers and I were going to host a youth group in my community. We decide to head in to town. I say oh we can catch the Combi (bus) at the corner. We get to the corner and I hail a combi... stick my hand out and waive 'em down, there are no bus stops here. I jump on and PC volunteer #2 jumps on and I can see #3 not getting on. I start yelling #3 get on get on but #3 doesn't notice me. The oh so kind Combi driver takes off and as I look through the back window #3 continues to look down the street. MY BAD! I start to yell let me off, let me off. #2 and I get off and at that moment #3 notices us getting off the combi about a quarter of a mile down. I guess #3 thought we had to cross the street to catch the combi, again my bad... The combi people were not pleased and took off but all we could do was laugh histarically. I nearly peed my pants. We did the youth group amidst chaos caused by two stray dogs that insisted on being in the center of our circle. But we pulled it off. I heart PCT's 2 and 3. They made my day.

Things I've learned in Peru:

Piranas: Group of youth usually teens that come in groups and strip a person of all their valuables. The person they take everything from can be on foot or in a car. Usually occurs in a matter of seconds.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Hey Gringa

So things in Lima are interesante.

Thoughts race through my mind as I walk up the mountain to my new home. Ah, burn, feel the burn. My calfs start to feel the heat from the steep hill. Ok, ok, a quarter of the way there. Hola! Buenas tardes... the guard at the front of the community stares at me and nods but doesn't reply. The silence encourages my mind to travel to the past and relive memories from long ago. I can almost hear the laughs and feel the tears. The silence cuts through the train of thought bringing me back to the moment, one, two, three.. five... seven dogs I've counted so far and I'm not even home yet. My house nestled above the clouds, I can start to feel the temperature changing with every step I take. Some kids off to the side are sitting on skateboards zooming down faster than I can run. Horn. and ah burn again, my thighs. Ok ok, half way through. Three months it's just for three months. The sierra is my back yard, dry, no vegetation like giant rocks craddling the community. Time to cross the bridge, at least this one's sturdy, no crackling under me. Beads of sweat, one, two, now down my back. I see it, I see the blue, maybe 5 more minutes. Ha, I remember the beach, how did I hop to the karoake place so quickly, the train, the restaurant, the party, oh I remeber that kiss, I feel the rush, the butterflies. Oh burn, ok, this time calf and thigh. Sigh. Finally, I'm home.

Story: 3 soles, yea. 3 soles for the trip. But it's only 1 sole? No, no it's 3. I'll give you 1.5 soles. My coparter was charged 3 times what a peruvian is charged for a bus ride. I paid 1 sole... yay for brown hair. As long as I don't speak they don't know I'm gringa.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Trust your instincts.

Saludos a todos from Peru. I’ve been in Peru all but a week and it already feels like it’s been ages since I’ve arrived. Currently we’re all in training. I’ve been placed in the advanced Spanish group sooo, rather than taking Spanish classes I’ll be working on my first mini project to be completed within the next couple of weeks.

The public transportation in Peru is a trip. Say it with me Co-m-bi. Yes that’s it. A combi is an oversized van used as a bus, they go fast, charge you differently depending on the person charging, unless you stand your ground. It’s a completely different rhythm of life, and I’m trying to trust my instincts and dance to my own beat.

Also, there are a couple of things going on in Peru at the moment, so, if you hear anything don’t worry I’m hours and hours away from the danger. All is well, my host family, and the PC are taking good care of me.

Anecdote: After coming up about a mile and a quarter stretch that goes up hill I finally arrived to my house, I sit on the sofa trying to catch my breath. Whoo. My host mom comes up to me and ask if I’m feeling well, I explain that I am just a bit winded. She gets closer and closer her face a couple inches away from mine. I am extremely confused at that moment, I stare at her and then click. She wants a hello kiss on the cheek. When you walk into any room with people you know you are to greet, ask how they are doing and kiss on the cheek. I guess my winded American mind forgot. It was hilarious.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

In peru

Hola a todos... i am here... PERU.

ive seen a llama and weve started the training... i am well and emotions are running wild, like most other things. I am tired from days and days of crazyness... im off to bed but maybe next time ill have something... no se mas interesante.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Me voy.

I'm almost done packing. It's been a challenge all on it's own to pack. Take this out, that doesn't fit, leave the tiger slippers at home, take the extra pair of socks, leave the friends, take the pictures, leave the family take that LED flashlight.

I'm racking my brain trying to find something witty to say about this whole thing. I have nothing, I'm tired. I'm nervous but oh so excited.

Monday, May 11, 2009

I've been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, A poet, a pawn and a king...

So you tell me, how are all of those things going to fit into one duffel bag? This weekend I purchased an over sized duffel bag for my Peruvian Journey. When I woke up this morning I stared at it on my bedroom floor... it taunted me with its grey and red patches, its black and white trim laughing "how you gonna get your life in here, ha you crazy."

How was I going to get everything I needed for two years into this duffel giant? It took about 15 minutes and then I realized, well, I'm not. Things, a lot of things are going to need to stay behind. Funny. I realized I don't fit in a duffel, and I'll be needing to shed some things in order to leave. Family, Friends, Familiarity, Love, and those bomb tacos from DT L.A.

“I've been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, A poet, a pawn and a king; I've been up and down and over and out"... and now I need to leave all that behind because it doesn't fit in my sierra duffel.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


WOooooooooooo WHoooooooo. So, I received an email today titled Peace Corps Peru Staging info. I instantly got that tingling sensation in my stomach, my body was confused and didn't know whether to throw up or jump for joy. I think it was adrenaline, yes, it had to be. It was reminiscent of the feeling I had right before I leaped out of a plane, or right before that kiss you know the one, right before a big speech or swinging at a pitch with the count being 2 and 3, last inning lights in my face with our team being down by one. I didn't even have to read the rest, I had it and it's real and it's here.

Staging info includes information on my departure including how to schedule my flight. The overarching meaning for me is that my departure will occur and is creeping up rapidly.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Thoughts in the midst of craze...

So. Rundown: 08' Graduate with MA and left to wonder... hmm.. what's next? I'd spent weeks feeling out of place, like I didn't belong and looking to break into something new, philanthropic and exciting-> Peace Corps.

For the sake of time I'll provide the cliff notes. The application took exactly a year, major roadblocks included selling my car, clearing debt, almost getting swindled by a Dentist who gave an estimate of 5,000 that really ended up being 1,000 (thank goodness for honest/good dentist), orthopedic evaluation, obtaining all medical records for the past year, strengthening knee enough to get by, not to mention losing of my records and request by some entities. Getting a second job at a homeless shelter to pay for unexpected costs. It's been long, it's been hard, but it's been done.

March 30th my dad called me, keep in mind that mom and dad... well needless to say they had not been very happy or excited on me doing this. So I pick up the phone while at work and he says, the fedex man just came, with a packet would you like for me to open it? I crawl into an empty office and stare out at the Downtown LA setting, with cars whizzing by and people everywhere. I say yes yes yes. He then becomes very quiet.. Dad? Dad? are you there? For a second I thought he might accidentally drop my packet into the blender (if you knew pops you'd know he'd never do that). But with a tone difficult to describe as anything but filled with fear and pride... he spit out a "you're going to Peru. " I'll never forget that. I received my invitation to serve in PERU, finally, from August 09 to August 11, with training starting in June. So if all goes well I depart for Peru at the beginning of June.