4/28/10

Hay que tener fe, fe, fe

Last week Rachel and I made our Peruvian Performance Art debut at elgalpon.espacio's Cuestion de Fe (Question of Faith), part of UCSUR's International Theatre Festival. We created a piece that examined creeds/recitations of faith. I used the image of a shadow to represent the act of prayer-- a practice both internal and projected outside of oneself-- and did a movement piece while I recited the Nicene Creed, which is a statement of the central beliefs of the Catholic Church. Rachel sang the Sh'ma, a prayer in Hebrew ("Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God..."). And then we performed "Gotta Have Faith," by George Michael, which is an extremely moving document. (The idea was to finish with a recognizably American style of performance-- MTV-cum-musical theatre-- and also to not take ourselves too seriously.) Also, Rachel was dressed in a priest's costume that I rented from a lovely lady in Magdalena del Mar.

All things considered, the piece went well. I, at least, learned some things through the performance of it. However, I'm pretty sure our audience had no idea what we were getting at. It turns out that something of George Michael's genius is lost in translation.

Nonetheless, I got some positive feedback from my friends, which was enough for me. Next up: my friend Koki wants me to portray Marge Simpson as Ms. New York. More on that later.

Love to everyone! And CONGRATULATIONS to my sister, who has finished her thesis! She spent an entire year playing fetch with human beings. No, she spent a year pushing old ladies down staircases. No, she spent a year learning how to read palms. Okay, fine, it had something to do with proprioception. You can ask her about it.

4/17/10

And What Exactly Are You Doing in Lima, Megan?

Before I left New York, my friend Emily asked me what my day-to-day life would be like here in Lima. And I, jittery off of too many cups of coffee and the looming prospect of expatriation, had to answer that I just didn't know.

Two months in, I'm still figuring it out, bit by bit. The truth is that I am learning (slowly, painfully) to be more proactive. All the folks at Yuyachkani are amazing, but if I had thought that they would have a 9-5 work plan waiting for me when I landed at Jorge Chavez International, then, well, I was wrong. I'm currently working on a project proposal to send their way; more on that some other time.

Meanwhile, Rach and I are working on a piece to present next week at a performance exposition run by our roommates. The topic of the evening: "Cuestion de Fe" (Question of Faith). Our piece will involve some movement, the Nicene Creed, a bit of Hebrew, and George Michael (on accordion, of course). I will post about that next week; I am too jittery about it right now.

I've been looking for volunteer opportunities, which has been getting easier as I've gotten better at talking on the phone in Spanish. (It's harder than you'd think. I didn't realize how much I rely upon non-verbal communication- in both English and Spanish, really- until I picked up my movistar and tried to have real conversation on it.) The other challenge there has been trying to find a way to volunteer responsibly. I'm not really interested in contributing more to the non-profit industrial complex, especially on a global scale. (The non-profit industrial complex, hereafter called the NPIC, is the system in which social justice work becomes dependent on the State and private donors. This was articulated by INCITE! in 2004 at their conference "The Revolution Will Not Be Funded," and you can read more about it here.) Subject of future post: the NPIC in Lima.

Bla bla bla. Point is, I've been trying to find volunteer work on my own, without turning to the volunteer-placement organizations that show up at Idealist.org volunteer fairs (and charge you hundreds of dollars for the pleasure) (does that money go to the organizations that you're supporting, NPIC? No? Hmm. Well, then, where does it go?). And that's been slow going. But for now, I've met with two groups that I'll work with on weekends-- one, a community-based organization in Ventanilla, run by and for teenagers; and another, a weekly workshop at a home/school for kids who are HIV positive. Both groups are cool, ask for solidarity from their volunteers, and are looking for people to do arts/theatre workshops. (Subject of future post.)

During the week, I go to Spanish classes every day from 9 AM - 1 PM. That's a very good thing. I still make mistakes all the time, but I'm also getting better (poco a poco). My class is small, my teacher is a lot of fun, and I like my classmates. The only bummer is when I run into the occasional Ugly American. You know the archetype (Ipod earbuds firmly implanted; loudly jabbering in English and/or appallingly-accented Spanish, but usually English; spewing complaints about the traffic, the weather, the food, the people...), but meeting these turistas in the flesh is somewhat horrifying. No matter. I stick with the ladies in my class, who are all a lot of fun, and I choose not to speak to the Ugly Americans (and their brethren: the Ugly Europeans), or, if I must spend time in their presence, I stick to Spanish. That has the effect of shutting them up nicely, because it's painfully obvious that they've spent weeks or months here without learning a word of it.

Other Things I Do in Lima: Read. Go to museums. Exercise (though not as frequently as I had intended to do in my retirement) (eh, maybe next week). Cook Quinotto, a risotto made with quinua that is really delicious. Go shopping for exciting fruits. Eat. See shows and/or performance art. Drink with my roommates. Plan the upcoming trip to Machu Picchu with Rachel and my best friends from high school, Emily and Lauren. Study Spanish. Try to focus on living in the moment. Write the occasional blog post.

So there you have it, folks. That's more or less what I'm up to right now.

And in conclusion: if you give me your address, I will send you a postcard. If you don't want to leave it as a comment, shoot me an e-mail at megankhanley(at)gmail.com. Expect to hear from me in 3-5 weeks.

4/6/10

Semana Santa en Ayacucho

Easter has always been a big deal in my family, full of masses and celebrations and late nights. Nonetheless, nothing in my Catholic upbringing quite prepared me for Semana Santa, Ayacucho style.

Ayacucho is nine to thirteen hours east of Lima, depending on which bus company you choose to take. Rachel, her parents, and I learned this the hard way, on a cold, rickety, bathroom-less bus that crept up and over the Andes over the course of a very long night. We had arrived for the Grand Finale of Holy Week: the Saturday Night Vigil on the night before Easter. In the States, this is generally a solemn (but celebratory) night. In Ayacucho, it's a bigger party than Mardi Gras.

There were parades, often converging on the central square from several directions. See the photo above; please also note the small explosion in the background-- someone setting off some fireworks. We danced to these awesome brass bands, ate some delicious pork sandwiches on the street (on a Saturday in Lent-- offending both the Catholic and Jewish traditions in one fell swoop), admired rugs and other beautiful crafts, and went to the Vigil mass at 8 PM. And then, as soon as Mass ended, the party began.

This brass band played valiantly for hours to a crowd that grew more and more rowdy and drunk as we got closer to dawn. Rachel and I made a few friends with our sweet moves, and they decided to teach us how to perform acrobatics. "Toss the Gringa" may not be a long-standing tradition in Ayacucho- the celebration attracts mostly Peruvians- but everyone seemed to enjoy it nonetheless. Don't worry, Dad, my neck is still intact.

I was ready to sleep by 2 AM, but Rachel convinced me to stay in it for the long haul. So, we danced until three in the morning or so, pausing for snacks and coffee and lukewarm beers and fireworks displays. I had read that they would set off fireworks at midnight, but that doesn't quite do the displays justice: groups from all over the city had built about twenty enormous "castles" or towers of fireworks that they set off periodically throughout the night. Here's the last one, which they set off around 5 AM:

video

Rachel and I took a brief nap in front of the cathedral around 4 AM but were awoken by one of these fireworks displays. By then, the square was full of thousands of people, waiting expectantly in front of the cathedral. Finally, as the sky was just starting to brighten, a huge stream of confetti flew into the air, the Cathedral bells started tolling, and the Church doors were flung open to reveal perhaps a hundred men carrying an enormous float with an image of Jesus on top.

video
Here's a video the emergence of the float. It was pretty amazing, and the video doesn't really do it justice. But try to imagine that you're sleep deprived and a little drunk and surrounded by thousands of sleep deprived, drunk people who have been waiting for this moment for hours and hours.

This was Rachel's reaction to this deeply moving moment. Then everyone fell into a procession behind the float, and the band kept playing, and people cheered, and the sun came up, and Rachel and I walked back to our hotel to get some sleep. (Rachel's parents slept through the all-night party and were probably the better for it.) On our way back, I took a picture of this beautiful woman. I'd been trying not to take lots of pictures of the women in their lovely hats and skirts, because I didn't want to be one of those tourists, but I couldn't help taking just one picture.






















After crashing for five or six hours, we got up and went on a drive with an awesome taxi driver named Nino. He took us out of the city and into the countryside; we got a tour of the Wari ruins from a really smart 12-year-old boy who is going to be an amazing archaeologist one day; we ate some tunas fresh from the cactus; and we learned about the Battle of Ayacucho from an amazing little boy who played a surprisingly convincing Peruvian general. Here's a picture of the hill where the Peruvians beat the Spanish in 1825 (and yet still had to pay taxes to the Spanish for decades to convince them to leave the country...) Yes, that's a rainbow. We'll just ignore a long and ugly history of colonialism for a moment so we can admire the scenery, yes?

Yesterday we took a much more comfortable bus ride through the Andes, admiring the little herds of llamas and alpacas and trying to ignore the Spanish-dubbed version of Iron Man.

That gives you an idea of this amazing weekend; I'll post more pictures on facebook sometime this week. There are lots of other things I'd like to discuss here, but I think this post is long enough.

COMING SOON: the post I promised on Yuyachkani's Open Lab a few weeks ago; some thoughts on tensions related to tourism, gender, and whiteness; my new Spanish class; More Reasons to Love my Roommates; What Ever Happened to Maletó and What Does This Have to Do with Gender Trouble?; Megan's artistic journey in Lima; and, What Exactly Are You Doing in Lima, Megan?

Love to all. Happy Easter, and Happy Pesach, too (I'm late on both counts, as per usual).