Hi all!! Sorry that it has been so long since I have updated this thingy but things have been well, hectic to say the least! Well, today marks about 3 weeks in Peru. Things have been anything but normal/boring.
So we had our staging event in DC the weekend of Sept 11, flew out of DC to Miami and then off to Lima, Peru. We arrived after about 14 hours of traveling and went to a neat little “retreat” called Huampani were we did some language testing and get to know you activities as always. I know this sounds cliché but even just the bus ride from the airport to the retreat was quite eye-opening. Right from the get-go we could all tell that this was not going to be a very lush and comfortable experience. Just 5 minutes out of the city and you were already looking at miles upon miles of lower-income areas, to say the least. After just a day in the retreat we hiked our way up a hill to the center where I will be training until the end of November. It is an amazing little compound-house with a pool we can’t use, some palm trees, nice little patio, etc. Big mistake that I keep making there is to lay down in the grass… those in Charleston know how swollen I get from bug bites… well these darn zancudos have absolutely torn me up! The average bit is about 1.5” in diameter with duration of about 5 days per bite. Right now I’m pushing about 140 bites total. I’m excited to see what the final count will be after 3 months of laying in the grass. It’s been quite the get-away at the training center in Chaclacayo. An average day consists of a few people playing the bongos, guitar, and ukulele off to the side, a good bit of Frisbee, hacky sack, and soccer (which is a seriously dangerous game played against Peruvians – I opt to play volleyball with the little elementary kids in my town although also a dangerous game which all too often erupts in to hair-pulling and punching by a few tough little gals). We’ve got 2-3 big organic composts going in the back, I’m in charge of feeding the worms for our big hanging worm compost J.
So after the retreat at Huampani in a few swift moments our host families came out of nowhere and all of a sudden we were shoved on to the combis with all 100 pounds of my crap (and yes out of those 100 pounds of crap I did forget to pack one thing – pajamas ugh!). Okay so the “combis” is a very interesting mode of transportation around here. They are more times than not about 35 people on one of these buses that only have 15-18 seats. They pull up next to you and the cobrador comes out yelling “get on get on get on!!!” and in those few moments you have to make sure he knows where your stop is and how much you’re paying (occasionally there is the cobrador that charges you too much money and goes right pass your stop just because he feels like it). Hanging on to one of these is the reason why we have hand sanitizer, pretty nasty. We take these pretty much all around the towns.
My town: I live in Yanacoto! Yay! I live in a teeeeeny tiny little town called Yanacoto outside of the larger city Chosica. There are 17 other volunteers in my town so I can walk around the hill to find someone if I need them. Not too much is here, just a few internet cafes, no real restaurants, no stores, just a HUGE hill settled among the hills and the dirt. We did get to take a hike up to the top of one of the hills to see my town’s version of the Nasca Lines (1hr hike up a whole ton of boulders, yikes). At the end of November is when I will be leaving here heading out to a new site where I won’t have any other volunteers in that actual town. I think I will be going to one of two departments here: Ica or La Libertad.
My family: I am living with one of the best families I think that are part of the Peace Corps. I have a 59 year old mom named Jesusa and a 21 year old brother named Alfredo. There are a few brothers, family members that are in and out of the house occasionally but mainly I am with these two. They are definitely some of the most patient people I have met as they are definitely putting up my lack of language skills (I’m in the intermedio-medio group which is good since I only need this level to pass out training but I certainly have a long way to go). I’m in a quaint little house that is about ¼ the size of our townhouse in Windermere. My room is about 6 feet by 7 feet, I’m probably one of very few that would fit on my tiny little bed (a bunch of 2x4s). My ceiling and my wall kind of reminds me of some beer pong tables, every now and then the wood that is breaking off falls on my bed so I have to make sure it’s nice and clean before going to bed. No rats yet, just a few cockroaches have been scattering around my room. We have a tin roof which makes it quite loud when the street cats fight on my roof at 3am, I think one of them has probably lost and eye or two. Dogs here don’t really have owners; they all just wander the streets eating out of the trash. There might be more dogs than people here. The announcements tend to wake me up at 6am too. A good portion of our town doesn’t have electricity so we have this announcement system that is wired throughout the hills to let us know something is up.
My first instance with the announcements was when we had a robber in the town. It was about 7pm on a school night and I was just sitting on my front dirt stoop with my brother watching people walk by when we heard something. Jesusa came running out screaming “Ratero Ratero! (rat, rat!). They kept trying to push me in to the house, to which I said no there’s a freaking rat in the house! Then all of the young guys in my town went running down the hill with rocks in their hands. Comes to find out there was someone robbing a house just a bit down from me. All of the young guys go down there and pretty much stone them. There are some times that because there really isn’t police, they thief is caught and stoned to death; I don’t think this has ever happened in Yanacoto though.
Heath has been an interesting situation around here. It is very easy to see how much work there is to do which sanitation and diet (even though I’m water and sanitation I’m pretty sure I’ll be moving in to these fields to work which I have a bit more passion for than worm composts and latrines but we’ll see). We eat rice, potatoes, rice, chicken, rice, and about 7 more varieties of potatoes. The occasional veggie is thrown in but we’re always skeptical because we know it’s being washed in dirty water which makes us so sick. I’m pretty sure all 57 of us have been sick at least a few times per week, every week. My good friend in my town has already had a parasite (we named it Polly). I’ve never talked so much about using the bathroom in my classes before. We’ve had probably 4 lectures of 4 hours each on the 7 stages of diarrhea. Unfortunately, all the girls say they gain about 20 pounds in Peru from the diet so looks like I’ll be putting on a bit of weight L
Well, I’m sitting here covered in cement from laying bricks today for my WatSan class so off to take a shower I go (my shower is outside in like a cement block, it is hands down the coldest water I’ve ever felt in my life especially when you have to shower at night when it’s only 45 degrees outside. It’s a real art trying to figure out how to not shiver so bad you can’t really wash yourself. I’ve got it down to about 3 minutes in and out and now I can even put my hold body under the water without convulsing!). I’m not gonna lie, I kind of like it when we don’t have water in the house because we only get it a few days out of the week so that I don’t have to shower.
Just wanted to tell everyone I miss them so much, much more than you know. Being away from everyone really makes you understand how important people are to you. I won’t lie that yes it has been extremely tough already, especially being away from family and friends that I love so much. Taking things here day by day and trying to get used to things is quite a tough job when it’s hard to not be able to communicate how you are feeling when you don’t know the words. I was definitely right when I said this would be a very eye-opening, testing yet interesting experience. My address is on facebook if you feel the urge to send some pictures (food!) or just a hello, it’s always nice to hear from everyone. I miss you all so much, Mom, Dad, Jo, Eli, Jordan, Windermere/Charleston hoodrats, and NoVa… I hope everyone is doing well. Can’t to hear from you all/see you!