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Serenity Now, Revisited.

Have ya’ll ever seen the Serenity Now episode of Seinfeld? (Check out the clip below if you haven’t!)

 As I’ve stated before, this whole Peace Corps thing is jam packed with the highest of highs and lowest of lows – both of which can happen to you in the same day. And with the 5 million things that drive you crazy on a daily basis, your life could easily devolve into a ridiculous live action version of the Serenity Now episode. You know kind of like when you tell your host mom a million times that  you despise yucca  but she’s always trynna make you eat it and you try to tell yourself to stay cool and that its totally okay until one day you wake up and just can’t take the sight of yucca being on your plate anymore and turn to your host mom on the brink of self combustion and with a wild look in your eyes  and say, “¡Por el amor de dios, no mas yucca por favor!

That, my friends, is a perfect example of “serenity now, insanity later.”

And even though Frank Costanza was hilariously missing the point of his “relaxation cassette,” by not truly taking the time to calm himself, there’s definitely something to be said for carving time out of your day and  trying to find some tranquility. As for me, I started using a guided mediation app to help calm my nerves for when anxiety and frustration start to rear their no good, dirty  little heads. And there is one guided meditation that I revisit frequently because its a perfectly reflects the nature of this experience. Its probably what Frank’s Serenity Now was supposed to be and since sharing is caring, well, you know…

May I come to be at ease with myself just as I am

May come to be at ease even when life is difficult

May I have a wise response

An easy and accepting relationship to the difficulties of life

May I be at ease even when life is pleasant and joyful

Through not clinging to the joy, through understanding its impermanent nature

May I be at ease in the midst of praise, of success

May I come to be at ease with myself just as I  am in each moment

May I be at ease with this mind

My human mind that judges, that resents, that compares

May I come to be at ease with this mind

May I learn to not take it so personally

To understand that the mind has a mind of its own

May I be at ease with this mind

May I be at ease with my pain, with my challenges

May I be at ease with my joy, with my successes

May I stay grounded

May I stay balanced

May I be at ease

So if you’re a fellow PCV, perspective PCV, or just a person going through this thing called life, as Prince phrased it, I hope you take this meditation with you and that you find it equally as useful and applicable to your life as I did.

Oh and shout out to self care and Seinfeld being applicable to any and everything!

 

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Invasion of the Turkish Telenovelas

In Latin American television, the telenovela rules all. These drama and romance packed series dominate the tv and you can catch everyone from little kids to old señoras glued to the screen to get their fix of their favorite stories. And although I’m not too fond of the novela (I find the overblown drama and sweeping romantic plots quite ridiculous), I have noticed that the novelas from Turkey are wildly popular here. One Thousand and One Nights, Feriha’s Secret, Black Rose (my host family’s favorite), Prohibited Love, and Fatmagül are all imports that have found their way into the hearts and homes of the

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Black Rose, my host family’s personal fave

Peruvian household – So much so that there has been a surge of kids born with Turkish names like “Onur” and “Sherezade.”

But why is that? I mean, Latin America is the birthplace of the telenovela, right? They’re the experts at pumping these things out like it’s nobody’s business so it seems unlikely that a small time Turkish novela market would even come close to infiltrating.

Well folks, the story actually begins in Chile in 2014 where by chance, a Chilean network imported the series One Thousand and One Nights. It quickly became an overnight success and spread to other countries including Peru. Left hungering for more Turkish melodramatic goodness, Peruvian networks, like Latina, started shelling out the big bucks to import more. According to some folks, these overnight show sensations became so popular because they already share a lot of the themes and values of the novelas that are born and bread in Latin America.This means, plot lines that focus on tumultuous or forbidden loves and families that stick together through thick and thin set against the societal problems of the day. The International Business Times even says that the Turkish shows do a great job with attracting little old señoras because they tend to be more conservative than the new risque generation of Latin American produced shows. Go

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Turkish president in Latin America

figure.

Just to give you all some perspective, about ten years ago, Turkish television exports only brought in about 1 million per year and today, they’re raking in a whopping 350 million annually, thank in large part to Latin American consumers. Now that’s what you call a come up! And in a trip he made to the region earlier this year, Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, even shouted out the international success of Turkish television saying, “We see this visit as a step at the right time. We can see that the people of two countries, which live far away from each other, meet along common cultural themes. In this respect, the acceptance of Turkish [TV] series has pleased us.”

Even though I am not an avid watcher and these shows present a limited view of the Turkish people, I still think its pretty cool Peruvian folks get to learn a little bit about Turkey  – a country that most Peruvians would otherwise see as a distant land they would have never thought about before these prime time dramas hit the scene. And in that way, these two seemingly unconnected people and cultures separated by vast landmasses as well as oceans, can find some common ground.

Shout out to globalization!

Want more Turkey in Peru? Check out this post here.

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Thanks for Choosing Me – I’m Headed to D.C.

I love writing this blog and sharing fun anecdotes and Peruvian culture with you dear readers. It really has been one of the most fulfilling parts of my service thus far. To be honest, I think the main reason why I joined Peace Corps is because ever since I was little I have always been interested in learning about other cultures – just ask my parents. So to be recognized as a finalist in the Office of Third Goal’s blog initiative as a finalist was such a dream come true. And to be selected as one of the winners and have the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. to share my love for intercultural understanding is just the sweetest cherry on top of a delicious sundae – And let’s make that a brownie sundae from Friendly’s because I day dream about eating one far too often.

I want to say thank you to anyone and everyone who voted for me during the Facebook voting round. We came out on top at over 1600 votes – imagine that! I have less than 400 friends on that social media platform and because of you all, you helped me to be numero uno! It was almost overwhelming to feel that much love and support from all the people who have been in my life (and maybe I even shed a little tear). So thank you to my family, especially my parents, to whom I’m sure I gave mini strokes when I said I was once again moving abroad. Thanks to my friends, friends of friends, old educators back home who helped give me that extra push during the voting. Thank you to my wonderful network of PCV friends who are always there for me for the highs and lows of my service, thank you to the beyond amazing Peace Corps Peru staff whose support always motivates and encourages me to be a better PCV, and thank you to mi Perú because although sometimes you are hard on me, you are giving me the experience of a lifetime and making me a better person each day.

Today marks one year since arriving in this country and starting this wild adventure with nothing but a bunch of strangers and a hope that all would work itself out and right now, I just feel nothing but gratitude. Again, thank you all so very much.

See you in two months, America.

P.S. check out the shout out the US Embassy in Peru gave me on their Facebook page!

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My Narrative as an Afro-Latina Peace Corps Volunteer

I don’t usually re-blog but this is a deep post from an Afro Latina sister who served in Nicaragua.

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After only being back in the States for a few weeks, I was planning on writing something nostalgic to express what my Peace Corps service has done for me and what it symbolizes in my life because it has truly been a life-changing, and eye-opening experience that I will never forget. I’ve made the most amazing friends and long lasting relationships with Nicaraguans and Americans. Sadly, however, the first thing that I’m going to write about is the present, heartbreaking reality that is weighing on me: our society needs a huge change.

I recently posted a picture of some friends and I standing in solidarity in response to the violence and systematic-mass killings that have taken place against people of color in the United States. For Peace Corps Volunteers (PCV’s) of color worldwide, it is painful to watch what is happening from abroad, and frustrating because we feel so helpless…

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Vote For Me and Send Me to D.C.

¡Ya está la hora para votar! As I said a couple posts ago, my blog was chosen at the end of July to compete as a finalist in Peace Corps annual Blog It Home Contest which highlights volunteers that use their blogs to share the culture of their host country with people back home in the States. The winners will be sent to D.C. at the end of October to participate in a week of intercultural presentations, professional development events, and other activities around the city.

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Voting is easy! All you have to do is “like” my picture posted on Peace Corps’ official Facebook page. After you’ve “liked” it, make sure to share the link and encourage your network of Facebook friends to “like” and share as well!

Voting lasts from August 11th-August 15th and winners will be announced on August 17th. Those of ya’ll that know me know that one of my favorite things about my Peace Corps service is writing this blog and that I put a lot of thought and effort into it. So if you’ve ever learned something new about my new home Peru by reading Siyah En Peru, be sure to vote me all the way back to the States!

CLICK HERE  HERE HERE TO VOTE FOR ME – And while you’re at it, here are a few of the posts that have been crowd favorites:

Where Fruit Cake Is Not A Joke

Tomando: Pisco Sours

Dearly Beloved, We Are Gathered Here Today To Get Through This Thing Called Peace Corps

El Ritmo Sabroso: A Guide to Afro Peruvian Instruments

Mo’ Money, Mo’ Money, Mo’ Money

Santa Catalina Monastery & Its Naughty Nuns

For Colored Folks Who Have Considered Peace Corps

Your Imaginary Boyfriend: Jefferson Farfan

Kids Named Hitler

The Best Worst Trip Ever

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The Best Worst Trip Ever (Laguna De Las Momias)

Brittany White doesn’t hike, she doesn’t camp, and she certainly don’t ride no horses. So when I got invited on a camping trip that involved a 8 hours horse back ride and 2 hour high altitude hike to camp out in the middle of nowhere to see a cool lake and pre-Incan ruins, I let my naiveté cloud my vision and I said, “Sure, why not?”

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Us on horeseback

We were headed to a place called Laguna de las Momias, or Mummy Lagoon  named for the 70 mummies from the Chachapoyas culture found high above the lake back in 1997. And ya’ll know I’m all about the history, so I found a way to romanticize travelling far off the beaten path to look at some obscure ruins on the edge of a cliff.

WELL LET ME TELL YA’LL.

First, lets talk about how I chose to be cheap and buy the 5 sol poncho instead of the 20 sol poncho and how it rained for the first 3 or 4 hours of the trip. So there I was wearing the thinnest, sorriest piece of tattered plastic on horseback as it rained all over me and all I could do was cry – real talk.

I initially was able to keep my crying on the DL because nobody could really tell the difference between my tears and rain drops but then lunch rolled around and blew my

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Me laughing and crying at the same time

cover. See, our guides had been telling us that we would be stopping for lunch in a cave so in my head that meant we’ll stop, make a fire, eat a warm meal, change into dry clothes – You know, that whole bit that I probably saw somewhere in a movie once? Yeah, that didn’t happen.

We ended up stopping right out in the middle of nowhere with zero shelter from the falling rain and eating chocolate bars and cookies for lunch. I was so cold and my hands were so frozen that I couldn’t even pull my pants back up after I went to the bathroom – my friend Hilary had to help me like I was in an old folks home.

I wanted to cry because I was so upset and I wanted to laugh because the thought that I  shelled out a couple hundred soles to have the worst time ever is actually pretty funny in self deprecating kind of way. I mean truly, if any of my friends would have described my worst nightmare, they would have described this trip and to say that I was way out of my comfort zone would have been an understatement. Anywho, after about 7 more hours of grueling travel, we finally arrived at our campsite, dried off, warmed up, ate, went to bed and pressed the reset button.

The next day we hiked down to the lake which is beautiful. The lagoon itself is mysterious with its quiet and dark waters just giving me all the life Indiana Jones movies are made out

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Ancient skull left at the mausoleum

of. We crossed the lake in preparation to climb up on the cliff side to see the mausoleums where the mummies were found.

Now, I could lie to ya’ll and tell you that I made it to the top and saw the mausoleums and the ancient skulls and wall paintings but I didn’t. I got half way up the cliff and decided to stop because your girls heart was about to explode from the hiking a steep incline at a high altitude. I’m not ashamed to admit that because even though functioning outside of your comfort zone is great, I still know my limits and I was just done. I waited for my friends to come back and had them show me their pictures as we headed back towards our camping site.

The next day, we set off back to civilization having mentally prepared ourselves for the cold, the rain, and the misery but to our surprise the trip back was pretty awesome. We laughed, we joked, and learned that a cookie and piece chocolate lunch isn’t so bad when it isn’t seasoned with the tear salt. It was amazing to be able to appreciate how the landscaped moved from cloud forest to barren open plains, to open farm land – it made it all worth it really.

I laugh now at my thinking initially, “Why not do this ” because there were a million

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Me during one of the many times I was playing myself

reasons not to do this and everything about the trip description screamed, “Brittany, don’t play yourself,” and you know what? I did play myself -about a million times over.

Doing this trip reminded me a lot of doing the Peace Corps. I laughed, I cried, I laughed and cried at the same time. It was long and hard not only my emotions but on my body and I really, really missed home. But I had a great group of volunteers who helped as we collectively laughed off the ridiculousness of it all and before you know it we were back at home but with a once in a lifetime opportunity underneath our belts.

So I guess all this to say, cheers to the best worst trip ever. You were somethin’ else.

Blog It Home Contest 2016

I’ve stated a bunch of times on this blog that Peace Corps has three goals:

  1. To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained Volunteers
  2. To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
  3. To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

The first two goals are great but the last one, the one we appropriately call Third Goal, is what this blog is basically all about. Simply put, Third Goaling is sharing the culture of your host country with Americans. Now, Peace Corps was founded in 1961 when computers were still the size of conference rooms so, historically, it has been hard for volunteers to actively pursue Third Goal activities during their service due to lack of communication with the world outside of their sites.

In the past ten years, due to rapid globalization, easy access to internet sauntered onto the scene and began to change the world – including the Peace Corps Volunteer experience. IMG_8758It’s actually quite amazing if you think about it. I’m thousands of miles away from home in the middle of nowhere South America but I’m still able to talk to my friends and family in the States every single day.

And with the advent of the internet, volunteers have started to use the power of blogging and social media platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram – you name it – to share their experiences and host country cultures with loved ones back home. Recognizing how this technology can be utilized to do amazing Third Goal work, in 2013 Peace Corps started the Blog It Home Contest to encourage volunteers to use their blogs to increase cultural awareness.

Each year since, winning volunteers are invited to Washington, D.C. for one week to promote the Third Goal in a series of intercultural presentations, professional development events, and other activities around the city. And this year, my blog has been chosen as one of the 20 blogs that made it to the final voting round.

On August 11th, Peace Corps will host about a week long Facebook voting round. The scores from the Facebook voting and the scores the judges have given our blogs are then tallied up and the top 8 or 9 are selected to participate in the week long activities in October.

So thank you to anyone who has ever read or supported this blog –  If you want to send me to D.C. this October to continue to share Peruvian culture (and to be reunited with my beloved Dunkin Donuts) get ready to vote for me this August.

I’ll be sure to write a reminder post when the voting starts in a couple weeks!

Thanks ya’ll,

Brittany

 

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Lyrics de Libertad (Feliz 28)

Well I don’t know about ya’ll but the speeches made by my POTUS and FLOTUS at the DNC has me feeling all the feels for my sweet homeland America right now – just makes me want to walk around in a Lady Liberty print outfit complete with American flag print underwear, no joke.

Anywho, all these feelings national pride are pretty appropriate this week because its Peruvian 12045568_10153029644700981_5365230625817777452_oIndependence Day! Today, July 28th, marks the 195th anniversary of Peruvian independence from the Spanish Empire thanks to General José de San Martín. Today is also the day when the cambio de poder or change of power happens if there has been a presidential election in the same year. Being that this was an election year, I now have a new host country president — Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. Additionally, towns usually have parades throughout the main plaza where everyone can get a good view the spectacle.

Now it seems as if my town just isn’t feeling the whole patriotism thing today because when I wen’t down to the plaza there was nada. But I wanted to leave ya’ll with a little taste of Peruvian Independence so I wanted to share with you guys the Himno Nacional del Perú or in American terms, the national anthem. Personally chosen by Peruvian liberator General San Martín from a public contest, the lyrics were written by a man named Jose de la Torre Ugarte and it goes a little something like this:

Chorus

Somos libres, seámoslo siempre, seámoslo siempre,
Y antes niegue sus luces el sol,
Que faltemos al voto solemne
Que la Patria al Eterno elevó.
Que faltemos al voto solemne
Que la Patria al Eterno elevó.

We are free; let us always be so,
And let the sun rather deny its light
Than that we should fail the solemn vow
Which our country raised to God.
Than that we should fail the solemn vow
Which our country raised to God.

Verse

Largo tiempo el peruano oprimido
la ominosa cadena arrastró,
Condenado a cruel servidumbre
largo tiempo en silencio gimió.
Mas apenas el grito sagrado
¡Libertad en sus costas se oyó!
La indolencia de esclavo sacude,
la humillada cerviz levantó.

For a long time the Peruvian, oppressed,
Dragged the ominous chain;
Condemned to cruel serfdom,
For a long time he moaned in silence.
But as soon as the sacred cry of
Freedom! was heard on his coasts,
He shook off the indolence of the slave,
He raised his humiliated head.

That’s right, and there’s about six more verses where that came from. If the nationalism surging through your veins is just too much and you need more verses, just give it a quick google search. And for those of you whose Spanish reading game is below par, don’t you worry, I’ve linked the audio version below. ¡Enjoy and Feliz 28!  ¡Viva Perú!

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Throwback Thursday: Santa Catalina Monastery and It’s Naughty Nuns

For those who know me, its no secret that I love history. As a PCV, I’ve hit the jackpot with a IMG_8529placement in Peru. There’s so many different cultural heritages to learn about and so many great archaeological sites to visit that would make any history buff want to cry. Not to mention, there is so much more to Peruvian history than just than the Incas and Machu Picchu. So in the spirit of sharing my love for history, I decided to do a series called Throwback Thursday where I highlight a specific part of Peruvian history on a Thursday of course. Enjoy – I hope ya’ll learn something!

Arequipa is such a great place to visit especially if you love history. When I went, I didn’t go with any plans except to walk around and see some of the beautiful colonial structures. In many ways, the city itself is everything Lima isn’t. Where Lima is rough and gritty, Arequipa is more refined. Where Lima is a bustling with automobile and pedestrian traffic, Arequipa, all although filled with tourists, is quieter, cleaner and  with a slower moving pace.

Besides seeing Juanita, the ice mummy, one best places I visited was the Santa Catalina Monastery. Built in 1579, it is a IMG_8532huge mini city within the city that was founded by the Dominican Second Order nun, Maria de Guzman. Initially, the monastery was meant for rich upper-class women from Spanish families and each family would have to pay a dowry upon their daughter entering the monastery. Some dowries were as expensive as 2,500 silver coins which would be the equivalent of 50,000 dollars today — Ballin. On top of paying a hefty dowry, nuns were assigned up to 4 slaves to do their daily chores and were also required to bring things like paintings, intricate tapestries, clothes, and other things would make the environment scream, “We love God, but we love us some money too.”

But the sinning don’t stop there, ya’ll. It was also pretty common for the nuns to throw extravagant parties in their quarters – and no, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph weren’t the only folks invited. On even more scandalous note, the rumor is there were tunnels that connected the monastery with a church nearby that housed monks to aid the nuns in their nightly creeping. Stories of pregnant nuns and monk baby daddies were fueled by the allegation that a baby’s skeleton was found encased within the monastery walls however, the church denies such claims.

The monastery nuns raged right on up until 1871 when Pope Pius IX sent a strict nun toIMG_8528 shut the party at the Santa Catalina social club down. She also freed all the servants and slaves and sent all of the dowries back to Spain in an effort the begin reforming the monastery.

In the 1960s, the structure suffered significant damage due to two earthquakes that struck Arequipa. In order to help pay for restoration costs and installing electricity and running water, the 20 remaining nuns opted to open up Santa Catalina to the public as a tourist attraction in 1970. And, today, history loving folks like me can freely roam around the beautiful grounds and learn about the story of malcriada nuns that loved to have a good time for only 35 soles.

Love history and want to hear more about colonial girls that just wanna have fun, check out my first Throwback Thursday post here.

 

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Perú, Meet Türkiye.

There’s no hiding the fact that I love me some Istanbul and I would go back to visit a million times over if I could. For those of you who either A.) don’t know me or B.) haven’t made your way on over the the Know The Girl tab at the top, I used to live there for a hot second and the title of this blog is a little nod to the time I spent there as siyah is the Turkish word for “Black.”

Some days I look at all the pictures I took while I was there and reminisce on my beloved IMG_8504Byzantine/Ottoman paradise. I think about how much I liked hearing the call to prayer, I think about how I loved being surrounded by old historic buildings, and I think about how nice it would be to sit down near the docks at Eminönü on a chilly day and drink salep once again.

Up until recently, the only taste of Turkey I could get in Peru were the wildly popular Turkish novelas dubbed in Spanish that run network television. So imagine my surprise when I was wandering the streets of Arequipa and I saw a restaurant called El Turko.  Amazed, I walked in, looked at the menu and said to myself, “…I know’d there is a Gawd,” in my best Ms. Sofia voice.

I was kind of full so I didn’t want to to eat anything super heavy like a doner (a turkish sandwich) or super sweet like baklava but I had this craving for ayran, a traditional Turkish drink that I used to really dislike when I first arrived in Istanbul. Ayran is simply yogurt mixed with salt and ice water to make it cold. You can add a hint of mint if you’re trying to be fancy. I know, it sounds weird to most of us westerners who are used to sweet, not savory yogurt products but I really grew to love it.

So I looked around and spotted the guy who seemed like he could be the owner and said, “I don’t see this on the menu but do you have ayran?” He immediately got really excited and asked me how I even knew what that was. I gave him the whole rundown about how I used to live in Turkey and how I’m living in Peru now and he told me all about how he came to live in Peru (all in spanish, btw. Spanish skills on fleek).

His all-Peruvian staff looked on and one of them finally asked, “Que es ayran?”  The owner then took the opportunity to show the entire staff what ayran was and how to make it. After I finished drinking my ice cold cup of salted yogurt, I got up to pay and the owner

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My  ice cold ayran

wouldn’t take my money. Instead he said he was grateful that I was able to help him in sharing his culture with his Peruvian staff and that that was payment enough.

One of my favorite things about Peace Corps is that 2/3 of the Peace Corps goals are about cultural exchange. Goal 2 is about sharing American culture with people from your host country and the Third Goal is about sharing the culture of your host family with people back home. But I think its really cool when I get to share my experiences in another country, like Turkey, with people right here in Peru.

At a time when Turkey is going through a rough patch and the media is constantly bombarding us with negative images of such a beautiful country, I feel like I’m doing my part by sharing a story about that part of the world that isn’t all ISIS and tragedy – and by sharing one ayran at time, maybe, just maybe, I can make a small difference.

If you want to a little piece of Turkey, check out this aryan recipe