Sunday, June 14, 2009

One week down, Ten weeks and Two years to go

This is the end of week one, and so much has happened. It certainly feels like it has been more than one week. When I first arrived in Peru with the 36 other trainees (we will become volunteers after 11 weeks of training) we stayed for two days in Huampani, a retreat center about 30 min. outside of Lima. We were prepped for safety, language, traveling, and anything else we needed to know before we were handed over to our host families to take care of us. On Sunday we were taken to the training center, a large gated in house in a (seemingly) wealthy neighborhood.

Our families came to pick us up at the training center. The time leading up to this was spent touring the training center, getting in some last minute lectures, and eating lunch. I was nervous to meet my family for the first time. Was I going to be able to communicate with them? Would they be nice? Would the even like me? Well before I could finish thinking up all the worst-case scenarios, they were standing in front of me. Alan and Kenya, my host brother and sister came to pick me up. They were in high spirits and excited to meet me. This was a good sign…

We drove up to their house about 15 minutes away from the training center, they seemed to be astonished at the amount of luggage I had, and I was immediately feeling like I had brought way too much stuff. I was embarrassed, but now, only a week later, I definitely don’t care if they think I brought too much, because I know I didn’t bring enough…hah.

Anyways, I was led into the house where I met my host mother Elena, and Kenya’s two little boys Efrain, and Arturo. I also met Grecia, who, as a typical 14 year old, was not so excited to meet me. That didn’t last long though, I have spent a lot of time with Grecia in the past week, and I definitely feel closest to her so far.

Other than getting used to living with a new family, I have stayed busy through training. In a typical day, I get up around 6am (unless I haven’t already been woken up by the crowing chickens, and howling dogs all over town). I debate whether or not I am going to take a freezing cold shower, or just go without. I think I opted for the shower all but one day because it acts as a replacement for my morning cup of coffee. That’s another thing; it’s hard to get a good cup of coffee. They only have instant. After getting ready, I go out to the dining room, where my host father Nestor has prepared some type of Peruvian breakfast, usually a white roll filled with anything from jelly to avocado, to hot dogs. My favorite so far has been a fried egg and cup of warm soy milk.

Next I grab the lunch that he has also made for me, and when Peruvians make lunch they don’t just make a sandwich, they prepare a hot meal. Every day it has been different, but one thing that never changes is that there is always rice in the meal. After grabbing my lunch I run down the street to meet up with some other volunteers who live on my street, and we all walk down the hill together to jump on a Combi. It costs .50 Soles, that’s probably less than a quarter in American money. A Combi is like a bus, but smaller, and looks like it will break down any minute. They pack as many bodies into the Combi as they can, and since each Combi is run privately, they all race down the roads trying to beat each other to the next stop. It is quite the adventure… After about 10 minutes we are spit out of the Combi, and then walk another 5 or 7 minutes up to the training center. We spend the whole day going to all different classes such as language and culture, safety, small business development, health, etc...

Around 5pm we get done for the day and then I head back home. I get back around 5:30pm, usually do some homework, try to go on a run, and jump on the computer at the internet café across from my house. I eat dinner whenever I am ready, and my host mom has usually prepared some variation of soup, rice, chicken/beef, and potatoes. It is always good. I hang out with the family for a little while, watch a tele-novela or two, and by then it is 9pm, and I am ready to crash. I am asleep by 9:30 every night. This schedule is completely different from what I was doing only a couple of weeks ago. Each day I have realized more and more the reality of my situation here. It is not bad, but sometimes it is hard to realize that I will be living like this for the next two years.

Here is a list of the things that make life difficult:

No light in the bathroom, so after dark I must always use my headlamp

It is winter time here, which means I don’t know when I will be hot or cold an any given moment

My language skills are getting me by, but dang I miss being able to express myself like an intelligent adult

My diet is completely different, and consists of mostly starches and carbs, which I believe is the reason my body is rejecting me right about now

The bugs are big, they bite, and they are always around

I live in a cloud of dust

My 7 year old host brother thinks he is way smarter than me

I feel like I am at the same education level as my three year old host brother

People here don’t drink cold beverages, and rarely drink anything with their meals, so I am always the weird Gringa that drinks water all the time.

I must always carry toilet paper with me, because it is not likely that any bathroom will have any (except the bathrooms at the training center…ahhh… it’s like heaven there)

I never feel completely clean

I miss the U.S. for its hot showers, good television, and respect for each other’s “bubble”

I miss my family and friends

Here is a list of the things that make life awesome:

I am learning so much every day, more than ever before in my life

My host family is amazing, they keep me sane, and make me realize that people around the world are all the same

The other trainees I have been with since the beginning are my lifeline, they know what I am going through, and I don’t think I could do this alone

The food, for the most part, is delicious

Things are so inexpensive here

Peruvians definitely take advantage of public transportation, something I think we Americans could learn from

Life is simpler, and therefore the smallest things make me happy

I find that nothing can upset me too much if I don’t let it

Each day is an adventure, which is all I wanted when I signed up for this…

After talking with locals about the work the Peace Corps does here, I am sure that I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing in life

So as you can see, with everything comes the good and the bad, but for the record I have to say that overall I feel great about this first week. Let’s hope it stays this way J