Well, October 18th, a little over half way finished with training. We’ll be traveling most every weekend from here on out so things will be going by pretty quickly. This past weekend my program took a trip to Cañete, about 3 hours from Lima to see how some of the smaller towns are starting their trash collection programs. We went to one town in Lima that has about 20,000 people living up on a hill, quite an incredible site to see them all piled on top of each other, then one more tiny little town of about 80 families which was pretty neat to see a few donkeys trotting by. We’ll be going on a nice little 5 hour hike this next weekend, then to Ica to building some latrines, then it’s off to site visits, tie up some loose ends then head out to my site for 2 years! It’s kind of crazy how quickly these weeks are going by. On one hand when I’m sitting on my concrete stoop on Sunday evenings watching people walk by I can’t believe that the week has flown by. On the other hand it feels like we’ve been in training forever. I am partially really excited to be done with training and to start feeling like I have a job and work to do, as well as make my own schedule of course (this whole 8-6 thing, mon-sat kinda stinks) but then again it’s also quite terrifying that in just a few short weeks we’ll be out on our own, the only gringo’s in our towns, there to try to change the way people have lived for hundreds of years… a little daunting if you know what I mean.
So normally I wouldn’t dare sharing this story with just anyone but it’s almost too funny and embarrassing to not share… Every since we have all been at training, I’d venture to guess we talk about pooping and going to the bathroom about 50% of the day, no matter what company we are in. It’s not that we don’t have anything better to talk about, it’s just that with all the food, parasites, and getting used to the water, going to the bathroom pretty much consumes our lives. It’s certainly made me not as bashful, not sure if that’s a good thing though! Well anyways… it’s no secret that all I have been eating here is rice. Rice, rice, rice. No matter what meal we get, normally a heaping of 4 kinds of potatoes, there is always about 4 servings of rice accompanying it (I am eating portions bigger than they give at the Cheesecake Factory yet my madre still gossips to the neighbors that I don’t eat enough and that it must mean I don’t like her food). Not sure if everyone knows that rice is what people in the campo give to children that are sick from the water because it expands in your stomach and stops you up when you have diarrhea (which has consumed about 85% of the other volunteers). Well, I, as well as a few other people in my training group, have had the opposite problem. My family is very careful about being sanitary when cooking my food so I haven’t gotten sick yet, but then again I eat about the equivalent of the amount of rice of 6 family size dinners from Hunan Tasty. Needless to say I hadn’t gone to the bathroom in over 8 days. My friend here was pushing about 14 days! When day 9 came around I decided I needed a new plan of action because my family certainly didn’t have a problem with this for their personal schedules. I knew that the next day I was going to have classes in the training center instead of in our host communities so I decided that day I would boycott (I would shock my system like Fujimori shocked the economy here in the 90s).
So on that Thursday I had a fried egg with my family for breakfast and some café (man, could I really go for some Starbucks), and skipped out on my white bread sandwich. For lunch I grabbed a HUGE strawberry smoothie in Chaclacayo then some soft serve ice cream (Jo, nothing like Carvel though), some more chocolate, a few fruits and veggies and some more coffee and dairy. Unfortunately, all that happened was, excuse my language, I had to fart, a lot. I got back to my house around 7pm that night to a huge helping of yes… more rice. I thought my plan was ruined. The next day we had our language interviews at the center. My interview was scheduled for 8:30. At 8:33 I knew I had to go to the bathroom, and quickly (I went from intermedio mid to advanced low). My interview lasted for about 30 very long and painful minutes, after which I ran as fast as possible to the bathroom where I found my friend, who I will leave nameless for her sake, who wanted to go before me. I said sure go ahead just be quick. 3 minutes later I heard some noises coming from the bathroom and I couldn’t help my die laughing since she knew I heard. Laughing didn’t help my cause. Finally, mission complete. I think I lost about 10 pounds.
Later that afternoon we had a medical session with the doctor Jorge about more STDs (we actually went outside and had a race between programs with condoms… interesting for sure). Before the med session I asked Jorge if he would be able to give me some fiber or something to take home to prevent this shocking system from becoming a weekly thing. He told me to come to him after the session to talk. A few minutes in to the session our class was back to talking about diarrhea when he got in to the subject of constipation. He started talking about causes and effects and then pulled out a huge back of fiber (looks like gerbil food) then looked me dead in the eye. “Oh weren’t you looking for this later? When is the last time you went to the bathroom,” he asked me in front of all 57 volunteers and a few tech trainers. Bright red I answered “Um, actually I went this morning.” He then asked me how many days it had been and I told him I had been at about a week and a half but reiterated I had gone that morning to which, there was a resounding applause from the other volunteers. I continued to turn bright red and grab my new bag of fiber. I will say it might be up to now one of the most embarrassing moments of my life, but who else can say they received an ovation from 60 people for pooping? If you ask me, it’s quite an accomplishment.
So besides the bathroom talk things have been about the same. Learning about water and sanitation in the program and all it encompasses and trying to figure out this silly language called Spanish. I was so glad the other day we got to go in to the local school and teach hand washing to the little 8-9 year olds; I absolutely love the hugs they give you when you have to leave. I can definitely see myself spending a fair amount of time focusing my work in site with children. I’m supposed to be cooking for my family tomorrow (mac and cheese and French toast) but I think they are absolutely terrified to eat my food so they said I should just go for spaghetti and meat sauce and will probably make some back-up food in case I have issues cooking on our makeshift stove. But apparently they want to make Pisco Sour too so maybe everyone will be drunk enough to like my food! At least we’re not having red wine, every red wine I’ve had so far could pass for very aged balsamic vinaigrette, it makes me want some Mozzarella Cheese and a salad.
Any who, I hope everyone is doing well. For all your Windermere girls I hope the move in to the new apartments goes well (Meg, enjoy my room!), Jordan and boys hope the new houses are going well, JJH enjoy the Mt. Pleasant Pier for me, congrats on your wedding Zach and Kristy wish I could have been there, Harley hope you’re behaving yourself and be glad you’re not a street dog here (my neighbor has a little black puppy of 8 weeks that is always crying and already has skin issues, I think I might steal him and name him Skippy after peanut butter which I miss very much.) Mom and Dad I hope the kitchen renovations are getting started, Jo eat some amazing cheesecake for me, good luck in school Eli! Miss you all so much, it’s definitely hard being away from everyone and wishing I could be there for all the fun events. Being here and interacting with my family has definitely shown me things about my relationships with friends and family, how sometimes we all take family for granted. I’ve really started to realize that family is something that needs as much time and attention as friendships and relationships because those are the people who are there for you through and through (I love you family J). Miss everyone so much and hope to hear from you soon!!