Friday, November 16, 2012

I said goodbye to Chipillico

As I write this blog I am literally sitting on the bus watching the city of Piura fade around me as I am heading to Lima, which means that in a few days I will no longer be a Peace Corps volunteer.  That is such a weird thing for me to say.  For two years it has been that title that has defined what I am doing here, it has been my excuse behind everything I was doing or sometimes things I wanted to get out of, it has been my back up in just about every situation.  And in just a few days I will be formally separated from this title that for two years has defined me, and has changed me, and has been the most significant milestone and amazing adventure of my life up to this point.    There are not enough words to describe my emotions on saying goodbye to these two years.

I can start with retracing these past few months from the last blog I wrote.  To preface the following I must say that it hasn’t been my easiest or my favorite part of my 2 year experience in Peru; sometimes becoming so integrated and having a better level of understanding of your environment and those in your surroundings can have its disadvantages and I found this to be a problem from me at my ending in Chipillico. 
It’s no secret that Chipillico is a poor rural community with its own set of problems that include not having water, any government support, poor health, and the people just have a tougher life in general.  Well with all that, there is someone else who has added to their problems and that is the banks. Some genius thought it would be a great idea to come into my little pueblo and offer loans to these people. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see what harm loans will do to a community of people who have no solid income and barely know day to day how they will pay to put their food on the table let alone figure out how to pay a loan payment monthly.  However, these people come in and glamorize everything and these easily influenced people who dream of having a better life, or a better home, or nicer clothes are quickly convinced to signing the dotted line.  

This was the problem I saw with my own host family.  Unfortunately their financial problems did start to create problems for me living under their roof.  I watched the quality of food I was being served change from meats, beans, and occasional vegetables to fried eggs and rice at every meal.  Then, I was constantly being asked to borrow money; however I learned early on to never let anyone borrow money.  But then I would be manipulated into paying for things, and sometimes out of guilt and simply feeling sorry for them I would think I was helping pay an electric bill or something and then later realize the money would go to completely other things.  Just like the money I pay monthly for my food.  I know I paid for a lot more than a fried egg and rice for both breakfast and lunch.  

Conversations with my host family began to become very uncomfortable, I would avoid being alone with my host mom because it would often turn to money and their hardships that would make me very uncomfortable.   She was famous for talking about my parents and how wealthy they are and all the things they could do.  It didn’t matter what I said about how they were successful in their lives all they see are dollar signs and the things they are able to do.  Simply trying to show them a picture of my niece they would analyze the clothes she was wearing and everything else they could see in room from the background of the picture.

My last few months with my host my made me very edgy.  It was money stuff it was food issues.  I even started to put back on weight from such a poor diet and they would feel the need to comment on that, which would infuriate me.  I made it a point to stay out of my house during the day or spend time with my host sisters or the kids.  Fortunately for awhile my project kept me busy and focused on other things.

My relationship has been a popular topic for gossip for everyone from my host family to complete strangers.  There is one thing you have to understand about being an American woman in a community such as Chipillico is that I am literally a celebrity, maybe there are no paparazzi, but there are people who watch my every move every day.  People who I never spoke to would know what type of crackers I like to buy or if I had gone and bought juice that day.  After two years you start to get used to this kind of stuff.  The stuff I didn’t get used to was the things that get invented about me!  Sometimes it can get difficult constantly battling rumors people make up about you, or just walking into conversations where everyone is clearly talking about you.  Its part of the job, and part of what it necessary to deal with when you make a decision so big as to live in a place like that.   But sometimes I just want to be me and not have to worry about what everyone is saying when I walk by.
A few weeks ago I was put into one of the most difficult situations I have ever experienced in my life, and the repercussions from it have saddened and infuriated me.  To make a long story short, I was put into a position where I had to rescue a little girl from the arms of a disgusting drunk who wanted to molest her. Although the situation could have been much worse, I think I caught it right on the brink of going there.  Fortunately I had been there start to finish and was able to intervene when I got the notion that something was wrong.  The situation with the little girl is sad, she came a few months ago with her beaten up mother from Lima.  The mother returned to her jackass womanizer husband in Lima with her baby, but since the little girl is not the daughter the husband she left the little girl behind (4 years old) with her completely out of it grandmother.  What kind of woman does that?!?!?!?!  So this drunken predator knows the background and thought it was his chance to swoop in.  The drunk tried to confront me which only escalated the situation for me and made the entire town aware of what had happened.  

 And what happened? Apparently the entire town is also aware that this man has a history with this type of behavior and has been successful on several occasions.  My host family had me confront the wife, who is a good friend of my family.  She defended her husband as a drunk and asked me if “he touched the little girl, or she touched him”, probably the craziest question I have ever heard in my life!  Days went on and I searched out what I could do.  The police weren’t going to do anything because drunks have rights in this country!  Believe it or not, being drunk is an excuse to a major crime.  And the local Rondas (neighborhood vigilantes) couldn’t help me either because it was my word (the American who came to the community to help out) against the drunken pedophile!  INCREDIBLE!!! People then proceeded to trash me; the wife came up with another story saying she witnessed the whole thing.  Then another neighbor I have issues with proceeded to tell everyone I was nothing more than a liar.  The drunk even commented that he didn’t really care because he knew I was leaving in just a month!  

So as you may see, I lost a lot of faith in Chipillico.  More that everyone knows it and no one does anything about it.  This is how it is in everything, because the amount of child molestation and prostitution that happen in my community of 1700 people is absolutely terrible.

The only thing that restored a little of the belief that there is goodness in some people was that the Aunt of the little girl (who was also in my project) believed me from the rumors she had heard about the situation.  She asked me host family about it, and the little girl confirmed the man had been touching her.  Since then she has taken the little girl in and is getting the care she needs and that is enough for me.  

So all that and other things are what leave me here writing about my indifference of leaving Chipillico.  But if you have been reading my blogs over the last two years you also know there are so many reasons I also fell in love with Chipillico and most of them have resulted from working with some amazing women (the moms of my project) and seeing success from that, but mostly I fell in love with the little people, those little kids have my heart!    And they were the hardest people to leave. 

My host family threw me a going away dinner and we ate my favorite roasted chicken at a big family style table with the 17 people who ended up making up my host family over these two years.  Then the health promoters and the mothers of my project also threw a party, we ate and drank and danced and it was a great way to have my final send off.  I am leaving so very proud of that group of women.  They have taught me so much.  

I think a part of me is still in some sort of shock a little, I was watching some the videos I had taken during my time in Chipillico the other day and was just thinking how normal that life felt to me.  I think I will realize how much I miss it when I get home.  Right now I just feel like I am on a vacation from Chipillico, but when I really leave this country and know that everyone isn’t just a bus ride away that I may struggle with missing them.  

I didn’t want this last blog to be on a negative note.  But these were also some of the truths of my experience that I wish didn’t have to be.  Chipillico will always hold an incredibly special place in my heart for a number of reasons.  I am not returning home the same person that left.  I said there were two things I hoped to gain from this experience, they were passion and patience.  The patience part is questionable at times, but the passion is a given.  I will never be able to look at the world the same after having been a part of a community such as Chipillico.  It has made me a better person and I am forever grateful to all that community and my host family did by opening its doors and lives to me.  

Now it’s time to close out this chapter, I will formally leave Peace Corps this week and return back to Piura as just Jillian to spend a few more weeks with Edgar before we move onto the next chapter together. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


I can honestly say I have never considered myself a very adventurous person.  My ideal vacation was always just a sunny beach somewhere.  When someone would say something about the Galapagos Islands or Machu Picchu I may have thought that it sounded cool or interesting but really never had much of a desire to visit either place.  To me, they are both that kind of thing  other people do.  However, in just a 4 month period I had the opportunity to visit both of these places.  I will admit Peace Corps has changed me.  I have realized there is more out there then just sunny beaches and clear blue water, and why let other people have all the fun when I can do it too. 
So when I went home to visit in December my parents and I decided that the next big adventure we would take would be to visit the Galapagos Islands.  All I had known about the Galapagos was Charles Darwin and lots of animals.  On travel and nature shows it always seemed like a neat place.  So I was looking forward to the visit.
At the end of July I took a bus from Piura to Guayaquil.  Not a very pleasant trip, it is overnight and you have to go through customs on both the Peru and Ecuador sides of the border.  And as you can imagine in the middle of the night there are not many people working, so I stood in long slow lines, half asleep. Then my lucky bus was chosen at two random points to have the bags inspected as well.  So that means a total of 4 times I had to get off the bus in the middle of the night.  However, when I reached the city of Guayaquil I was excited to get over to the Marriott where we had booked a room months in advance.  I could not wait for a hot shower and a nice comfy bed to begin my week away from Chipillico and latrine building. 
Later that night I went to the airport to welcome my Mom and Dad to Ecuador.  Although it had only been 7 months since the last time I had seen them, I was very anxious to spend a week with them.  There is just something about being with my parents that makes me feel normal again and I can put Peru far behind me for the few days that I am with them.  Plus, I was looking forward to just the time with the 3 of us.
We spent one night in Ecuador and then flew to Baltra Island, one of the 13 islands that make up the Galapagos, the following morning.  The Galapagos Islands are about 700 miles off the coast of Ecuador; you even gain an hour changing time zones.  There is a lot of research that is done and breeding of species and maintain different ecosystems in the Galapagos islands, therefore when we checked our bags at the airport there were special locks put on them as to not bring in any unwanted food or items that could mess up what they have going on.  Towards the end of the flight the flight attendants all came out and opened the baggage hold above our heads and started spraying an insecticide.  It was kind of funny, because if you were on a plane in the United States and someone started spraying a “harmless” insecticide on a flight people would be freaking out.  Just seems like something you shouldn’t do in an enclosed space so far up in the sky! 
We arrived at a very small airport, and waited for a bus to take us to ferry where we would then take a van to travel to the island of Santa Cruz where our hotel was.  It seemed eerie at first.  I had expected everything to be tropical and flourishing with life.  However, the first island was very desolate and desert like.  However, when we reached the marina to get on the ferry, there was a seal waiting at the bottom of the steps as we got onto the boat.  The was our first encounter with an animal, and it was so surprising how tame and unphased the animal was by human presence.  You could get as close as you possibly wanted and it wouldn’t even flinch!  Little did we know there was so much more to come.  The ferry was a quick ride over incredibly clear blue pristine water.  From there we took a small bus to the hotel.  Along the way we passed “Los Gemelos”, (the twins) they are side by side volcano craters.  They are inactive and lie on the part of Santa Cruz island that is considered the highlands.  In this area it has a drearier look, lots of clouds and some misty rain, but the vegetation in this area was much greener, and you could find that many of the natives who inhabit the islands have their fields in the highlands.  We came down in the small town of Santa Cruz, a neat little area of many colorful homes.  Our hotel was amongst this.  Our hotel which had sort of a Hansel and Gretel look was very charming.  As we explored it seemed that most of the hotels were very similar, there were not large chain hotels, more of small boutique hotels, each with their own unique look. 
Our hotel was only a few blocks from the main strip of Santa Cruz, where on one end you could find Charles Darwin research center and on the other a Marina where seals were there to meet you all day long and you could find boats and water taxi’s to other parts of the island or other islands all together. 
We spent our first afternoon trying to get a lay of the land.  We were so surprised to come across the fish market where seals and pelicans hung around all day long waiting for the fishermen to come in and hopefully get a chance at the catch of the day.  I tried getting a little to o close to one of the seals who turned and looked at me and barked!  Just like a dog!  The seals are so full of personality, each time we would encounter one it was either they paid you no attention and you could get close enough to touch them, or at other times, they would follow you and almost even pose until you snapped pictures of them. 
The other exciting and yet also surprising animal we encountered were iguanas.  The most interesting part was when you came up to an iguana on a sidewalk or path they would have no intention of moving for you, you would have to make sure you got of their way.  So unlike the behavior you typically see out of this creature when they scurry out of your way faster than you can blink.  We saw iguanas everywhere we went.  So many that by the end of the week we were sick of them! 
At the Charles Darwin center you can also find one of the islands biggest attractions, their gigantic turtles.  This center is famous for the turtle named Lonesome George, who we missed by only one month, he died at the end of June, at the age of 150 years old!!!!  There was a small little plaque in his memory.
Our first full day on the island we decided to trek out to an area called Tortuga Bay.  It was a few hour walk from the hotel to the beach.  One thing about the islands is that it’s all natural; there are no stairs or handicap passageways.  You have to be able bodied to do everything or otherwise you just can’t.  So we took this long trail out to the beach.  The park ranger told me that the beach water was rough but once we had reached the beach to walk another 15 minutes and we would encounter an area to swim.  As we walked along the pristine beach of beautiful clear blue water, I saw a very large iguana coming out of the water onto the beach.  I was so excited and yelled for my Dad with his better camera lens to come and check it out.  The one thing I hadn’t realized watching this iguana come onto the beach was that there were tons of iguanas already lying there.  I had dismissed them on first glass as logs or sticks, but nope, they were all iguanas lying there sunning themselves.  We took tons of pictures.  Since the island is made up of rocks formed from lava from the volcanoes that created the islands, the iguanas would also climb up onto the rocks to sun themselves, and they match the color of the rocks so you would just see areas with tons of heads popped up over the rocks. It was really cool!  Once the fascination of the iguanas wore off, I looked behind us and realized through some bushes there was this bay –like area with calm water where people were swimming.  We had brought our bathing suits; however, there was no place to change.  For me this was no big deal, after bathing in creeks and rivers for almost two years, changing in bushes is no big deal.  But I helped my parents out with holding up towels.  The sand was so white and almost like a powder.  Since it is winter in Ecuador the water was a little chilly, but actually refreshing and just beautiful.  As we sat in the water, pelicans would pass overhead and land in the water.  Although I have visited a few Caribbean islands and Mexico, I have never seen water so incredibly blue and clean, you almost feel like you personally are discovering this place for the first time, it seems so untouched. 
The next day we decided to explore the highlands of the island.  This meant going and seeing turtles in their natural habitat and exploring lava tunnels.  Instead of paying some guide to take us, we just got in a taxi (which are all trucks), and we told him where to take us.  We went to what seemed like a farm, lots of open grassy land with cows grazing and look for turtles.  First we had to change out of our sandals and but on boots.  That was a fun experience.  Then we went turtle hunting.  We found about 3 female turtles, which are the smaller of the sex. However, in my opinion still huge.  When we got close they would hiss and growl.  And recoil into their shell as much as they could, since they are so huge isn’t much.  We got some great pictures before heading over to the lava tunnels.  I wasn’t really sure what to expect with the lava tunnels but my Dad was excited to see them.  The taxi just sort of dropped us at this hole in the ground and pointed to this house up on a hill and said we would come out there.  Being a little too trusting we went for it.   We went down into this hole, and there was a rope and small lights that would guide our way we were told.  All I kept thinking is that in Peru, this when you would get robbed!  We followed the tunnel that had been cut from this lava from the ancient volcanoes.  It was so neat, and there were parts you would have to crawl or duck to get through.  Who can say that they walked through tunnels that were cut by lava!  It had a real creepy vibe though; there was no one or any animals or anything in these dark tunnels.  As we were told the tunnels ended at the house on the hill, where we climbed out only to see a beautiful view of the coast and its blue waters, and a neighboring island.  We changed back into our sandals and headed back to the hotel. 
The next day we had looked over the map of Santa Cruz Island a few times and realized there wasn’t much else to see then what we had already seen.  So we decided we would do an excursion where we would take a 2 hour boat ride over to Isabela Island, the largest of all the islands, it also was home to the 2nd largest town and really the 2nd inhabitated area between all the islands, Santa Cruz being the first.  To be honest, we signed up, but really didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into.  At the office they had shown us pretty pictures of the excursion and the boat.   But it was not completely accurate.  I don’t anything could really have been prepared for what that boat ride was really going to be like.  When you get out onto the open Pacific between the islands, it’s no joke.  It is the reason Dramamine was invented!  The waves are enormous, and the small boat we were on didn’t seem made for that kind of ocean.  It was a stomach turning two hours.  There were 15 of us together on this excursion, and when you looked around you would seen everyone with their eyes closed hanging onto something in the case the boat would jump, which it did a lot, to help soften the blow.  Occasionally they would make us move around shifting the weight so that the boat would not jump as much, at one point landing more than half of us comfortably on one side of the boat.   It was a relief to all of us to reach the other island, however, a little bit sad at the same time knowing we would have to go back that afternoon the same way we came.  On isabela island we went first to visit flamingos in a Laguna, then we went to a research/ breeding center of turtles, where we saw many many turtles of all ages that were being breed and raised to be released back into their natural habitat.  And interesting fact was that a threat to the turtle population is actually the locals killing the turtles and eating their meat.  I was surprised to hear that, it just seemed like most everyone on the island was sensibilized to the animals having been raised in such a famous and unique place.  We also saw more iguanas, and took a small boat ride out to an area called the Tintorerias.  Where we saw penguins, the famous blue footed booby bird.  Also sharks and seals.  I really loved the penguins they were so cute.  We couldn’t get that close to them to any really great pictures.  But we were lucky when we came back into the marina, there was one swimming around below the pier.  They are so incredibly fast.  We also saw a few more as we were sitting on the beach, they almost looked like ducks from far away but then you can see the difference when they dive and how fast they move. 
We also got a lunch with our excursion, it reminded me of what is called “menu” in Peru.  It is a lunch that a restaurant decides in advance that is going to prepare for the day in a large amount and it is generally cheaper then ordering something out of the menu.  It typically comes with a soup, then a main plate, and a drink, and with luck in the islands a dessert. It was like eating in Peru, there was first a fish soup, then a chicken dish with rice and banana chips, and desert was a bowl of bananas and whipped cream.  I thought it was delicious, especially since the last month or so there had been problems in my house in Chipillico and I was being served fried eggs at every meal!  Actually all the food was delicious in the Galapagos.  I even got quesadillas one day, which I love!
We were so pleasantly surprised with prices of everything.  On my previous trip to Machu Picchu I was so disappointed at the price gouging and the complete taking advantage of the tourist situation.  I had just assumed the Galapagos would be worse because Ecuador is a little more developed then Peru and when you are typically trapped on an island they take advantage of the tourists.  Not in this case at all.  Ecuador uses dollars and everything was reasonably priced and cheaper than you would find in the United States, and pretty good.  We only went to one restaurant where we were disappointed in the pizza, but I have found through traveling that other countries are just discovering pizza and haven’t quite got it right yet. 
The last full day we discovered there was a part of Santa Cruz we had missed, we asked and found we would have to take a water taxi to the part of the island.  The trail said it would take us to “Las Grietas”, I didn’t know what this word meant, but now know it means crack or crevasse.  .  We followed a trail, passing a beach and other Laguna’s.  It was a very uncomfortable trail made of lava rocks; it wasn’t smooth and was difficult to walk.  Like I wrote previously, there is no trying to make anything any easier, you just sort of have to deal with it as it is.  We reached what was my FAVORITE part of the trip, a little cavern of crystal clear blue water.  We climbed down into it, and found a place to change between some rocks and my Dad and I climbed over very slippery and kind of dangerous rocks to get in the water as my Mom took pictures.  We arrived just as a family with their guide was leaving.  They said the water was about 30 feet deep.  Just standing there looking down you could see the bottom.  My Dad and I swam from one end to the other, where I climbed over some rocks and saw that there was another pool of water, and opened up into other caverns.  It was so cool!  It would have been a great place to snorkel, because as we were leaving I climbed up over rocks to look at it from above and there were some large fish swimming around that we couldn’t see while we were swimming.  I just love when you find something like that!
Before we knew it vacation was over and we were heading back to spend one last night in Guayaquil, as my Mom had put it, it was a vacation where you almost need another vacation to relax from this one.  It was true, it was a nonstop adventure.  Typically a vacation like that wouldn’t interest me, but where else in the world can you just being standing there and a wild bird comes and sits on your hand….in the Galapagos it happened! 

We spent one last day in Guayaquil before my parents flew home that night and I took my bus back to Piura.  We found a semi-touristy area, and climbed a big hill which was also a neighborhood and there was a church up top and a look out to see the entire city.  But none of that was really anything comparable to where we had just come from. 
It was difficult to say goodbye to my parents as always.  This time more than ever I just wanted to hop on the plane with them and go home.  My time is so close to ending in Peru that I am ready to go back to the states. Leaving them meant I was going back to my reality in Chipillico, a reality that I am ready to come to an end.   I feel like my job is done here, and I have done all that I feel that I could to contribute to Chipillico.  I am ready for the next chapter, which is already looking exciting; I can’t believe I will be coming home to go shopping for my wedding dress and to finally hold my beautiful new niece Emma!  That seems so surreal! 
One thing is I am so grateful for these two years of unbelievable experiences!  I am so lucky to be able to check off Machu Picchu and Galapagos Islands on my list of “been there and done that! 

Friday, July 6, 2012


I have been meaning to sit down and write this blog for a few weeks now.  The problem is that my emotions have been on a roller coaster and who knows what I would have said in these past few weeks about how I feel about the latrines.  However, I feel I can finally discuss it level headily now! 
The start of the latrines project was very very bumpy.  I have been working with these 55 mothers’ since October 2011.  I felt like my expectations along with their responsibilities for the project had always been very clear.  However, when I showed up the day before construction to inspect my first house, it was clear that something had gone very wrong.  She didn’t have her hole dug out, nor made adobes (mud bricks), there was no husband to help out, and she was asking me to put her at the end of my list and come back in another month or two.  I walked away boiling mad, we had been over this a million times, if you didn’t have your materials you would be thrown out of the project.  So as I walked away from her house and could feel my blood pressure rising I found at the second house, that although she had her hole, she did not have adobe’s either. 
I went home to think about all of this.  Basically, if my first and second families of the project weren’t ready more than likely this was going to be something I encountered every day, and I had a lot of days left to go.  At the end of the project do I want 55 toilets sitting in my house that I have no clue what to do with because I took away everyone’s latrine for not being ready?  The answer was no.  I also thought when this is all over do I want to go back to the United States to a house with multiple bathrooms inside of it, knowing that I did not figure out a way to help these families of Chipillico.  The answer to that was also No, so I went back to the first family and we talked about what we were going to do. 
She was adamant about not losing her latrine, so she had already contacted her brother in law to come and dig the hole, because that would be the most important part for the following day.  Then we decided that he figuring out what materials she wanted to do for the walls would be on her, the contractor and I had many houses to do, and to stay within the bounds of our contract we were going to continue on, only stopping to do the walls for families who were ready with their adobes. 
Part of the rules for the project was that each family signed a contract saying that there would be a male in the home who was available to help the contractor on the day of construction.  Sometimes I regret this rule, because for example in the house above, the woman was incredible, and she worked right alongside the contractor, cutting wood, mixing mud and building her latrine, it was incredible.  At the end of her construction, I told her she was my miracle Mom for all she put together at the last moment to make sure she didn’t lose her latrine. 
The latrine construction is in phases.  The first phase is the construction of the cement platform that will cover the whole and then have the granite toilet and tubing placed into it.  That is only about an hour or work; however it takes 3 to 4 days to dry before we are able to install it.  The second phase is the installation phase.  In this phase we prepare the hole, with large tree trunk s to brace the hole and hold the platform securely, then we prepare mud that cover s the trunks and allows us to set the platform into it nicely.  From there we install the toilet and the tubing.  All of that can take up to 2 hours, depending on how well the family works with the contractor as well.  Lastly, we raise the walls of adobes, this is usually a 2 day process, in the morning we work for about 4 hours raising half of the wall, we leave it for 4 days to dry and then we return for another ½ day of work to raise the final part of the wall.  Unfortunately, very few families have actually had their adobes finished, so I have yet to see a finished adobe wall like what was discussed in the original project plan, however, I do have about 10 families that we are ready and we are currently in some phase of their construction.  Other families that do not have adobes, we simply do the first and second phases, and the families are left with the bathroom all ready to go minus the walls.  In this situation, I am finding that most families are going to do their adobes later, or are using other materials such as tin roofing panels to make their bathroom, which actually turns out very nicely.
The part of this project that has been the most challenging for me isn’t the construction at all.  It is simply dealing with the families.  I have had to be very strict, and it isn’t a lot of fun!  Sometimes I feel like the families look for ways to take advantage of me.  My first week of construction, I got into an argument with a mother who confessed that she didn’t have property to build on.  It frustrated me that she lied back in October when she told me that she was renting their home, but had property they planned on building on in the future.  I told her we would build on the land that she was going to build her home.   However, when I showed up to start construction, she told me the truth, and then got angry when I wouldn’t just give her the materials.  I can’t do that, I have people to answer to at the end of this project, and they want to see completed latrines and not materials lying around in homes. 
Many families have also decided to change the model of the latrine against my advice.  We are doing a dry-well latrine, which means there is a hole dug directly under the latrine, where all the waste goes.  The families want to do another type where the waste goes into a tube connected to the toilet and goes about 3 feet away to another hole dug away from the latrine.  However, this model requires that the families use water to flush their waste through the piping.  In my opinion this is absolutely stupid to do in a town where there isn’t any water.  Each family brings water to their home using donkeys each day or every few days that is typically used for cooking.  Now they are talking about doing it twice that amount because they want this fancier latrine.  I am not saying they can’t, because in the end that is on them.  But I am only allowing the contractor to either install the piping or build the adobes to cover it, because both situations are very time consuming and again, we have 55 families to work with and we have a contract only to work on one type of latrine.  Plus, it’s an opportunity for the contractor to make more money for the families to pay privately and for him to get his name out there as the person who has expertise in this type of latrine.  However, the first family we did this with has been going around town trashing me and saying that I didn’t finish her latrine, she leaves out the reasoning why.  She also claims I stole a half of bag of cement, which I did take because each family is given a half of bag, she was given a whole so I took back the half and gave it to another family.  Plus after we left they used more then she was supposed to.  This is so frustrating to me sometimes, everyone is extremely gossipy, and they know they like to leave part of the story out.  I know what I am doing, and I know I am not cheating anyone out of anything; I just don’t like people trying to cause problems!
I also had one mother approach me and tell me that all she needed us to do was come and do the cement and install the platform and her husband would build the adobe house himself.  That was great!  However, when it was all done she wanted to know when I was going to pay her husband.  I looked at her in surprise, and explained I pay no one except the contractor and how could she expect me to pay her husband for doing something in his own home to benefit his own family.  These people are really crazy sometimes and it makes for some uncomfortable situations.
I have had mixed feelings about this project because I find most families to be very ungrateful or they just are never satisfied.  For example the other day the husband decided he no longer wanted to build his latrine because he thought I would be giving them a porcelain toilet!  I was in shock, they didn’t even have a hole to use the bathroom in before, they were just going in corners of their yard, and NOW they are too good to sit on a VERY NICE granite toilet!  WOW! 
However, I went to a home the other day where the wife said that at the end of the day after buying rice and milk and potatoes to feed her babies there isn’t any money to do anything like these latrines and she was very thankful.  Another one told me that Chipillico will throw me a big party when I leave for all I am doing.  I thought that was sweet. 
And the people who have come out of the woodwork have been fascinating.  The very first day construction began; some man was running alongside my mototaxi asking me to come talk to him if I have anything left over.  One day as I ate lunch there was a lady who came in my house and sat at the table and asked the same thing.  Just this week an old lady came to my door asking for me by name and then kept kissing me asking for a latrine as well.  I feel bad when I have to tell them no, but the families in my project have been attending trainings since October, and it wouldn’t be fair to just give any away.  Plus I know that I won’t have anything left over!
I have one contractor that is working on the latrines.  He was recommended to me by my host Dad. He is just a regular guy who has some experience in these kinds of things.  His family is one of the poorer families of Chipillico.  And by him doing this project, he is making double what he would on a normal day working in the fields, and in the end the project is less work.  There were more professional contractors who wanted a lot more money for this project, however, Peace Corps likes to be able to train and help people build an expertise like we are doing with my contractor.  I really like him, he’s a good guy and I believe he is doing excellent work.  Plus, he and I work well together.  The other part of this is that he also has a large family, 6 kids, and when this project is over they still have to maintain their livelihood by working in the fields, so he asks for days here and there to be able to tend to something in his fields and it works out because he always makes them up, or we have extended our contract a little.  He is a good guy, and I  really think by everyone seeing him out there has and will continue to bring him a little extra business once we are finished with their project.
Peace Corps has a slogan “The toughest job you will ever love.” When this project started “love” was the furthest feeling I had.  However, with each passing day and us having found a good routine and model for this project things have gotten a lot easier.  Just the other day I was walking to one of my further out houses down this trail with my clipboard thinking that yes I kind of do love this.