Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Maximo Education Fund

Hello Readers,

I’m writing to you because I received a request for help from my host brother, Maximo, in Nicaragua.

As you may know, Nicaragua is the 2nd poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, the 1st being Haiti. However, right now it does not get a fraction of the attention or help Haiti does.

Education there is abysmal. An estimated 32.5% of the population is illiterate, and even the kids who go to school learn only a few subjects per day, and often in rural places do not have access to well-educated teachers. (These facts are from the CIA World Factbook and from my own experience in Nicaragua).

Maximo has expressed to me his yearning for a decent education ever since I met him in the summer of 2010. To quote him, "Bueno el que puede estudiar y el que no puede no estudia asi es la vida en nicaragua. pero yo si quiero estudiar por que quiero superarme mejor y asi saver mucho mas." or in English: "Well, the person who can study (has the resources) does and who cannot doesn't, that's the way life is in Nicaragua. But I do want to study because I want to better myself, and in that way know much more". As a university-educated person myself, it really hurts to hear about someone who can’t get access even to a good high school.

Maximo himself says that he dreams of studying engineering. Although he is already 19, because his prior education was so lacking it’s impossible for him to apply to universities. We've decided that the best thing for him is to go to a private college prep school called Santo Domingo in Rivas, close to Playa Gigante where he lives. There, he would study Math, Natural Sciences, Economics, Spanish, Technical Vocational Orientation, Physics, Chemistry, Physical Education, Civics, and English. He says he is willing to commute the few hours in bus from Playa Gigante to Rivas to attend classes.

Maximo says that $50 should cover school supplies, and it's 40 córdobas daily there and back to get to Rivas (that's about $1.73). So for 20 weeks of busses that would be about $58. The school itself is $500 per year for a total of $1,000 for 2 years. In total, it'd be about $1,108 for 2 years of schooling.

I am asking those of you with the resources to donate $1, $5, $20...whatever amount you are comfortable with, in order to help Maximo achieve the education he so desires and deserves. You may donate here:

Thank you so much for hearing me out, if you could help me and Maximo out we would be forever grateful. For those of you who plan to donate or have already donated, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping Maximo achieve a better life for himself and his family.

Thank you,
Katie Ehrlich

PS - If you can't help with donations, please forward this blog to your friends!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

To satisfy that Peruvian food craving

As with most places I go, I spent a lot of time in a Peruvian kitchen. Not to mention a restaurant kitchen! Here's my collection of Peruvian recipes. Thank you to my amazing host mom, Liliana Espejo, and my friend Mabel for these!

Chicha Morada (purple corn tea)

-1 kilo whole kernel purple corn (Peruvian purple corn is a beautiful, deep royal purple. I couldn't find any when I looked at the Mexican market, so I just used blue corn. Sometimes it's labeled purple, but it's blue in color)

-The rind of one pineapple

-1 tsp. whole cloves

-2 cinnamon sticks

-6-7 cups water (enough to cover the ingredients by about 3 inches)

-sugar to taste

-pineapple juice from 1 can pineapple

Directions: Wash corn. Put all ingredients but sugar and pineapple juice into a crock pot, and cook on low for 6 hours. Alternately, you can boil it for 2 hours or so on the stove. When the mixture takes on either a deep purple color, or a cloudy blue-yellowish color (depending on your corn), remove from heat, strain, add sugar and juice to your liking, and refrigerate. Usually this is served at room temperature without ice, but I like it a little cold.

Peruvian-Style Pulled Chicken

-2 chicken breasts

-1.5 Tbs. mild chili powder (not US chili powder with onion powder and such, the Mexican kind that only contains actual chilis). In Peru we use one called ají panca, but I can't find that here.

-5 cloves chopped garlic

Directions: Simmer chicken in water until just cooked through. Remove and let cool. When cool, pull the chicken into small strips. Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a saute pan, and add chicken, chili powder, and garlic, and cook for a few minutes. This is used for the filling for tamales, pan de choclo, empanadas, and various other things.

Pan de Choclo (Peruvian-style filled corn bread)
(for pictures, see my other blog here: Sojourner Food)

-2 kilos fresh corn, ground. (The corn here is less starchy than Peruvian corn. So, I'd recommend instead just using 4 cups corn meal plus enough water to make a crumbly dough)

-4 eggs

-2/3 c. whole milk, or more to make a loose batter

-1/3 c. butter, melted

-1/2 c. sugar (I prefer honey...and my host mom would put in 1 whole cup, but that's up to you)

-1 Tbs. salt

-1/2 Tbs. cumin

-1/2 tsp. pepper

-1 recipe pulled chicken

-10 kalamata olives, halved

-3 hard boiled eggs, sliced

-1/2 c. raisins

Directions: Mix together all ingredients up to pepper. Put half the batter in a 9x11 pan, then arrange the chicken, olives, egg slices, and raisins evenly over the top of the batter. Cover with the rest of the batter and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes, or until the dough is cooked through. Serve with thinly sliced onions dressed with lime juice and salt.

Salsa Huancaína

-3 ají mirasol peppers, halved and seeded (If you cannot find these, I like red jalapeños)

-1.3 c. queso fresco

-1.5 c. crushed soda crackers

-1 small can evaporated milk

-1/2 tsp. salt

-1/4 tsp. pepper

-1/4 tsp. cumin

Directions: Fry the chilis in about a tablespoon of oil until the skin starts to blister and the chilis take on a dark brown color. Put in a blender (both chilis and oil) along with the rest of the ingredients. Blend until smooth. This is usually served over peeled and boiled potatoes that have been sliced and garnished with slices of hard boiled egg and kalamata olives. You may also use this as the base sauce for Ají de Gallina, pulled chicken with ají pepper sauce.

This is also the base recipe for one type of the Peruvian hot sauce, Ají. Ají is also made only with green peppers, sometimes herbs like huacatay are added...but usually it'll be peppers, milk, and crackers or bread :)

This basic sauce is very integral in Peruvian cuisine and is made differently everywhere. This is just how my host mom made it.

Chupe de Trigo (wheat soup)

-5 c. chicken broth (usually made by putting half a chicken in boiling water with 1 peeled and quartered carrot, 1 celery stalk, and 1 quartered leek and boiling 2 hours).

-1 c. whole wheat grains, washed and stones removed

-1 c. lima beans (if canned, rinse first)

-2 carrots, cut into chunks

-2 yellow potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks

Directions: make chicken stock, then add wheat and potatoes, boiling about 5 minutes before adding carrots. Boil another 5-10 minutes, until wheat and potatoes are cooked through. Add beans, and serve. Usually served with ají hot sauce and lime slices.

Mazamorra de Naranja (orange pudding with meringue)

-6 oranges, juiced

-5 whole cloves

-2 cups water

-1 c. sugar, or to taste

-1/4 c. corn starch mixed with enough water to dissolve it

-Meringue (3 egg whites whipped with 1/2 c. sugar until "a punto de nieve", or until you see soft peaks and it's glossy.

Directions: Bring all ingredients but corn starch to a boil. When boiling, turn the heat to simmer, then pour in starch water mixture and stir until mixture becomes thick. Remove from heat and serve in small bowls with meringue on top. I love this hot, but it's also good cold. This is also made with chicha morada (then called mazamorra morada), which will usually have chunks of pear and orange in it, and served with arroz con leche (rice pudding) on top.

Papa Rellena (filled potato)

-1/2 lb. ground beef, cooked in the style of the pulled chicken above

-1/2 c. raisins

-10 kalamata olives, halved

-1 carrot, minced and cooked

-3 hard boiled eggs, sliced

-1/2 tsp. cumin

-3 large white potatoes, peeled, cooked, and mashed

Directions: Mix together all ingredients but the mashed potatoes. When mashed potatoes are cool, take about 1/2 c. in your hand, and form a flat oval. Fill middle with some of the beef mixture, and close potato around it so it is shaped like a football. Fry these until golden brown, and eat immediately.

For my humitas (sweet tamale) recipe, look here.

Let me know if you use any recipes!!

Al Final

So, dear readers, it's been several months since I've last written...sorry! I think I owe you an explanation.

Before that though, I've been hearing from all sorts of friends and relatives that they are forwarding my blog to their friends. I just want to say thank you for reading to everyone that I didn't know had this link!

Ok, that said, to start I will recount to you my long and arduous months of January and February:

It rained buckets, the youth center was closed because no one was working with us, and basically half the town left.

The end.

Yes, this is why I didn't write any blogs. There was nothing to write about! It's enough to say, Chris and I cooked a lot, watched lots of movies, and I worked on trying to read books in Spanish. We honestly tried to get something done; we'd try to meet with community members, I advertised my teaching services to everyone and their mother, and we'd pester people in the government offices (if they were even open, which they tended to close often). But to no avail. Everything shuts down during the rainy season, and that's that.

So unfortunately, I didn't work directly with any kids during that time. We worked on minor organizational things for the center, but that was it. However, Chris has been experiencing a whole new Cutervo now that the rainy season is over, you can see all his success here: Peruvian Pato

While there was nothing to do, I watched my saved money rapidly decrease (we found out that we had been paying for the rent for a second house for the host siblings plus paying for our own food, but that's another story), the idea that I really should be thinking about leaving nagged me constantly.

I had been job searching, and all of a sudden a job with the government I had randomly applied to said I qualified to take the initial tests required for the position. That was the catalyst that I needed. I changed my plane tickets from April to the next week (fortunately, free of charge), and in the course of seven days I packed everything, went to experience Carnival in Cajamarca, traveled to Lima, and then boarded a plane for Denver.

....Surprise!! I'm in Denver now! No more Perú blogs now, I'm deeply sorry to say.

But, now that I'm here, I've been applying to job upon job upon job. I also have a remaining 350 Americorps volunteer hours to finish, so I have been working 40 hours a week as a bilingual intern with Colorado Bright Beginnings up on Colorado Blvd. & 6th. Their mission is promoting early childhood education through good parenting practices. I started by entering very thick piles of data sheets into the computer and doing phone survey calls in Spanish, but now I'm starting to do home visits where I give and explain educational packets parents with children under 3. I'm getting very good at explaining childhood development in Spanish! They've also started me on some graphic design projects. After working with so many adolescents who are severely behind in school, it's nice to work for an organization that sort of nips that problem in the bud. Plus I love everyone in that office, I feel very comfortable, accepted, and happy there.

I've also started working on Fridays with Friendship Bridge, a microlending organization that works with Guatemalan women, and I'll start translating soon for Cooking Matters, which does cooking and nutrition classes.

In sum, I'm sad to have left Peru, but I had a wealth of amazing experiences there. It also feels great to be back and doing work (by work I mean not feeling like I'm constantly pushing on a brick wall trying to do something, a feeling that often overcame me in Cutervo). And I've returned an honorary Peace Corps (or as Chris would say, Peacey Corps) member!. I was officially knighted by my good friend, Chris Duron (read his amazing blog here: Living Above the Clouds. He has seriously had the most unbelievable bad luck in the past couple months, you just have to read his stories). I'm also glad to be in Denver, reentering the real world.

Thanks for following the blog! Keep up with me by email please!! ktehrlich@gmail.com

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Katie's Tourist Christmas Adventure!

It all began when I boarded a van to Chiclayo and began the 24 hour trek from Cutervo to Lima.

In Lima, I ate as many sandwiches as possible at La Lucha and picked my DU friend Beth up from the airport (a very drawn-out and crowded affair, but worth it because we had a new companion and I got goodies from home such as loads of chocolate and trail mix and fuzzy socks).

Then it was another 22 hour bus ride all the way to Cuzco, where we settled into our hostel and slept for as long as possible to get rid of all the bus aches. Perú may not be as large as the US, but when you're traveling through the Andes travel time is significantly amplified. From Cutervo to Cuzco is about 43 cramped hours.

Cuzco is beautiful, with some really delicious Peruvian and gringo food, gorgeous vistas, and elaborate Spanish churches (built on top of Inkan foundations, which are still stronger than anything the conquistadores ever built, FYI). We stayed for 2 days before our Macchu Picchu trek and saw many llamas, pretty buildings, and ate lots of exquisite Middle Eastern food.

Then, we trekked. We went with SAS Travel, and our guide, James Palma, was a wealth of Inkan, Andean, Cuzqueñan, and Quechua knowledge (not to mention trilingual and gorgeous). We had amazing healthy food, lots of history and Quechua lessons, and became intimately acquainted with cañons and trails (including one of the Inkan trails) of the southern Andes. We spent a day and a half in a leisurely trek at about 12,000-15,000 feet. We camped the first night, and the second day we hiked to the train that took us to the town at the base of Macchu Picchu where we steeped in the hot springs.

But Macchu Picchu itself...ineffable. Spectacular. Not just the stones that fit impeccably together without were fired and polished and hauled up mountains. It is surrounded by the Urubamba river (the biggest tributary to the Amazon) and Huayna Picchu mountain, on which are fully preserved ruins of what is thought to be an astrological observatory. And everything is in the middle of a cloud forest. Definitely worth it's position as one of the wonders of the world.

After Macchu Picchu, we spent Christmas in Cuzco and went to Huaraz, where we saw the tallest mountains in Peru, brilliant glacial lakes, and celebrated new years with Peace Corps buddies.

At this point, there's not much more that I can put into words, so I'll just leave you with pictures:

These are of Cusco: cute llamas, street art "Pachamama" (mother Earth), Spanish-style tile roofs, and my new favorite "ponche de leche con Pisco", or milk punch with Pisco (basically egg-nog)

And here's the pictures from the trek to Macchu Picchu: me and Chris in our tent, the beautiful Andean valleys surrounding Macchu Picchu and Cusco and the Inka trail, the slot cañon inside of a cloud forest.

Macchu Picchu! The vista from Huayna Picchu (the mountain that's always in the pictures) to Macchu Picchu, a gorgeous flower, our guide James, the hand-carved stairs, the perfectly stacked rocks (nothing holding them together but the rocks themselves)

And Ancash: Mt. Huascarán (the tallest in Perú at around 20,000 feet), glacial waterfalls, glacial lake Llanganuco, Huascarán in black and white, mountains Huascarán and Huandoy, a mountain I think is Alpamayo in black & white, and the sand at Llanganuco

Thursday, December 1, 2011


This month has been pretty regular--mainly working at the Youth Center and teaching classes. My middle-school classes ended this past Thursday, and I'll be finishing with my Data Mundo classes this upcoming Tuesday.

There hasn't been much happening...the biggest thing to report is that in early November, while I was washing the dishes a glass broke apart in my hand and cut me really deeply. I received 6 stitches and learned about Peruvian emergency rooms. The odd thing was that while I was laying on the gurney, Chris had to go to the on-site pharmacy to buy the materials; gloves, string, everything. It cost 11 soles for the whole ordeal--a grand total of $4. The good things were that I was relieved to understand the doctor's Spanish even while in shock, and my Chris was nice enough to knead my bread and wash my hair in the following month :)

Also, last week we went to celebrate Thanksgiving in Trujillo and a nearby beach with Chris' group of Peace Corps volunteers. Trujillo was gorgeous, it has an amazing statue in its town square and we enjoyed some great gringo (foreigner) food at a café in the center of town, as well as a couple really great Peruvian-style sandwiches. There are also lots of used book stores to explore, so we spent a good amount of time there. After, we went about 2 hours outside of Trujillo to another volunteer's site to an amazing (and cheap) hotel on the beach, and started cooking furiously. I made pumpkin pie with the spices my mom sent me, and several veggie dishes. Chris helped make a little of everything, plus a really amazing banana pudding (everyone's favorite dessert of the night). We had 3 turkeys cooked in a huge adobe oven in the back of a bakery--I wish you all could have seen the baker use his 9-foot paddle take the turkeys out of his oven half the size of a garage, but sadly I did not bring my camera. All in all, I ate some very gourmet food.

There were so many Americans and Peruvians!

I also ran in the 5k turkey trot and got a t-shirt for it, yay! I got 7th and Chris 8th, not bad for not running in months.

In a couple weeks now we'll be leaving for Macchu Picchu and Ancash with my friend Beth to celebrate Christmas, I'll let you know all about it :)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Well, it's been a month

After I last wrote life turned into a deluge of activities;

I began teaching my weekly English classes (the one from the last blog was the class I taught before vacation). I really enjoy teaching, especially teaching languages, so it's been relatively easy for me to put together classes and time goes quickly while I teach. My kids are sweet, and some of them have been showing progress in English fluency already just by speaking with me. Though while I love teaching and my kids are good people, they tend to rarely do their homework, be late to classes, or not show up at all. For example, when we had class scheduled for the Friday before and Monday after Cutervo's 101st anniversary, no one at all showed up. It's been immensely frustrating at times, no matter how much I'm told that that's just how life works here.

I've been putting a good portion of hours into working with the Kutiri youth center. We now have a blog (kutiri.wordpress.com, go check it out!), and we've been getting some very helpful individual donations. We do game nights, educational charlas (workshops), art classes, movie nights, and yesterday we pulled together a rather large Halloween party. We got to show lots of Peruvian kids traditional Halloween stuff like bobbing for apples, carving pumpkins, and dirt pudding--it was greatly successful, I'm so proud of everything Chris, Katherine and I have been able to accomplish. I even got to carve this crazy green pumpkin they've got here, the kids and my host family loved it. However, it's been exhausting (a lot of children talking to you in Spanish all at once will take it out of you), and sometimes difficult (that many children in a room at once is not usually orderly). But I really love working with the kids, and I know that the kids love our center. Why? 70 or more kids between 10-18 come EVERY NIGHT. We've hardly been open a month, so it's easy to see the need for constructive activities for Cutervan kiddos.

Baños del Inca

In between all of that, me and Chris took 3 days to travel to the nearest big city, Chota, for a despedida (or good-bye party) for the Peace Corps group that's leaving this week. It was fun to hang out with the volunteers, they've got so many stories in them, believe me. Afterwards, we traveled to the local capital Cajamarca (all of this was hours upon hours in busses mind you). There we bought games for the youth center with our grant money, enjoyed the local cheeses and some real Taiwanese food, and took a dip in the Baños del Inca hot springs. Cajamarca = seriously my favorite I've been to in Peru.

Other miscellaneous happenings: skinned a guinea pig (I couldn't kill it; I was very vividly reminded of why I am usually vegetarian), and got to participate as a judge for my school's food festival. The kids had to present in English, so we rated them on taste and English, and I tried 20 different traditional Peruvian plates, including cow hoof, cow stomach, and pig neck. My favorites are the fried bread and cuajada cheese with molasses, and a jam made from a fruit called berenjena. Other than those, I've been baking a lot--check out my favorite things at my new food blog here: Sojourner Food

Oh! And for other updates on our adventures (including lots of Halloween pictures with kids bobbing for apples, pizza, and oatmeal raisin cookies), check out the other Katie's blog here: http://illmeetyouinperu.blogspot.com/

Saturday, September 24, 2011

It's like America...but South! (and an address!)

These past couple weeks have just flown.

I spent my time in Lima eating sandwiches from a restaurant called La Lucha (roasted meat with onion-lime salsa, ají pepper sauce, and fresh fruit juice on the side, sooooo good), and generally wandering all over the city discovering churches, parks, and shopping areas.

Most days I just walked around Lima alone because Chris spent the days at his medical examinations. I think my favorite day in Lima was spent walking to El Bosque Olivar, a beautiful little nature area in the San Isidro district. Chris, some other Peace Corps volunteers and I also were there just in time for Mistura, a yearly food festival held in Lima showcasing all the different foods from all over Perú. We stayed there for a solid 5 hours trying all the different foods!

Afterwards, we took a night bus (12 hours long) to Chiclayo, the biggest city close to Cutervo. We spent the day in Chiclayo just hanging out with our friend Rob, and even went to see Planet of the Apes. Then we boarded another night bus to Cutervo, for another solid 11 hours. I finally arrived in Cutervo at 6 in the morning, and we both went to Chris' host family's house and collapsed

Chris has been keeping me busy from the start, I've already taught my first English class to the kiddos (in Spanish! I didn't think I had it in me...), Chris now has a space for his youth center that I've been working on with him, and once vacations this week are over, I'll begin teaching my English classes daily. The kids are the most well behaved I've ever worked with, they answer my requests, work hard, and are in general peaceful...! It's a little strange, but welcome.

Other than that, I've just been running around meeting & greeting and hanging out with Chris' host family. I have an apartment as a part of my English teaching job, but Chris' host family made their house available for me to stay in as well, so we've worked out a way for me to stay with the family. They are truly such kind, warm, and welcoming people that I already feel like part of the family. So, rather than furnishing my own barren apartment, I'll get to learn more language and culture from a host family, which is always better.

Also, today we climbed up to the white sand beach in the mountain Ilucan just above the city and got to see part of enormous span of Andes mountains that we're living in. It's been raining a lot, so we haven't made it to the top yet, but I'm sure that it's breathtaking. And we had 43 kids show up for Chris' first youth center activity, a movie night where we ate popcorn, drank soda, and watched Finding Nemo :)

If you'd like to send me a postcard, letter, package or watermelons with postage (which I would like very much!), please send it to...

Pasaje Yoyo Flores 180
A la familia Espejo Sanchez
Cutervo, Cajamarca, Perú

Please keep in mind that packages must be under 2 lbs and in an envelope for them to come to Cutervo! Otherwise they'll go to Chiclayo ELEVEN HOURS AWAY to go through customs!

Now to leave you, here's a picture of a cute alpaca!