Social Impact Design

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

¡Feliz Navidad!

Each day
is a little different
than the others.

Well I thought I would listen to some Christmas music on my computer to lighten my mood during the holiday away from family and old friends. Although, songs like “There’s no place like home for the holiday” and “I’ll be home for Christmas” did not help much.

The first month in Canchaque has been one to test my resolve. Many thoughts passed through my head, thoughts which the Peace Corps staff said were normal: What am I doing here!? Is this really what I should be doing with my life?

And I have also been struck with days of inaction. When there is no boss checking if you start work at 8am sharp, or noon for that matter, it is quite easy to watch hilarious tv series like “How I met your mother” or “Its always sunny in Philadelphia”.

That’s not to say that I have done nothing during this first month. I have had a few meetings with the Health Post and have made a list of the villages that I will focus on. Luis Humberto is a very organized health promoter that I am really excited to work with. Together we will coordinate meetings with the local water committees to clean out existing reservoirs, and implement a chlorination system to disinfect the water.

On top of this, he really wants me to build Cocinas Mejoradas (literally “better kitchens). Most of the people cook over open fire inside of their homes. Not only is this a very inefficient use of wood, but it causes a lot of lung problems because of improper ventilation. There are a variety of types of stoves that have been designed and tested by Engineers in a University in Lima. They measure the efficiency by how long it takes to boil 5 Liters of water. Some models can do it in 25 minutes, while others take longer (45min). The 25 minute model has a very smallopening, and requires more labor to cut up the firewood, while the 45 minute model takes longer, but requires less work from the women who will be operating it.
45 Minute Model.

Another interesting fact that the Engineers did not take into account was the habits that have been formed from cooking with open fires. Many women have become accustomed to cooking while squatting, close to the ground, and did not like the new models that required them to stand. While it made little sense to the engineers, human habit does play a role in the design process, so they developed a model that is low to the ground.

Floor Model
Most Efficient 25 Min model

Another model has little cubbies to place the livestock (guinea pigs) that would warm up while cooking, keeping their animals warm during the cold seasons. All models have an exhaust out of the house, so that the smoke will no longer cause respiratory issues.

While I have not started any projects to date, I already have a general idea of things that I will be working on. The first three months of service are dedicated to our Community Diagnostic. Unfortunately for me, the first three months in my site are filled with rain rain, and more rain.

I am going to add some variety to my life by teaching an English class during the summer vacation. I made some posters during my free time the other day (about 3 hours for each poster) promoting the classes. It will be interesting to see how many (if any) people will come,

and what ages.

Speaking of school, I got to see the graduation ceremony at the secondary school I will be teaching at. It was really nice, they had a ceremony of the changing of the student council. The new “mayor” of the school just happens to be the new mayors son. They also had a small nativity scene with the students.

Christmas was very relaxed. The tradition is to have a turkey dinner at midnight, with Paneton (a mix of angel fruit cake and our American fruit cake. Actually very tasty) and hot chocolate. To everyone surprise, the power went ou

t around 8pm. It was extremely dark, until everyone busted out their LED flashlights (technology spreads fast). We had a candlelit dinner with champagne, Turkey and duck. The hot chocolate was delicious, very rich. It was a nice night, followed by gifts in the morning. I bought my little host siblings some paints and a new candy red Hot Wheels car. I also gave out some candy canes which my mom sent to me.

As lonely as it is being away from family, friends, and my wonderful girlfriend, my new host family did a great job of filling the void. Merry Christmas and happy new year to everybody!

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