Sunday, August 23, 2009

...And then there were three

The last two weeks of training have finally come to an end, and I can now say that I am a volunteer for the U.S. Peace Corps. I definitely feel a sense of relief that training is over. Although it was a lot of fun and I learned a whole lot, it is not what I came here to do. Now I feel like my time here is really beginning. It has hit me that this will be my life for the next two years. And as long as it may seem right now, I know it will fly by and before I know it I will be writing my last blog entry. But for now, I will focus on the work I came here to do. I am feeling very motivated, and can't wait to get to started. However, let me get back to the end of training and what has been going on up until now.
I took my final language evaluation, finished my technical classes, and had some fun in between. Here are some photos of us in training, my group won second prize in the map drawing contest of Peru, also we threw a party for all of the host families and I taught the rest of the group the Thriller dance which we all performed one more time in front of all the families. They loved it.

I never thought that I would have made such close friends and come to love so many people in such a short time. I just said goodbye to all the people I have spent the last 11 weeks with and am about to start this journey all over again. The goodbyes began at swearing in where all of us volunteers said the swearing in oath and became official volunteers for the Peace Corps. It was a bitter sweet ceremony. I was so happy to finally be finished with training, but looking out into the crowd I saw all my host family looking up with smiles on their faces, proud that I was their "daughter", and I knew I was really really going to miss living with them. What has become my "normal" life here is now going to end, and I must start this cycle all over again. As the bus rode away my family waved, they were all crying. I was even crying.
The bus took us to Lima city where all of us volunteers would stay a night to celebrate before we left for our separate destinations around the country. We all went out that night and had a lot of fun. Our group became really close in these 11 weeks of training and I remember at the beginning thinking I couldn't see how we could really get to know each other in such a short amount of time, but it happened. Each person has their roll in the group, and I know that I will rely on their support over the next two years. The next day, region by region, they each filed into a taxi and by 10:00pm I was giving my last hugs, completely drained from all the farewells.
I walked back into the hostel where I would be staying for the next two nights. Because I live so close to the city of Lima, my travel to my site will be the shortest of everyone's, thus I don't have to leave until Monday morning. So here I am with Frank and Janelle, the last three left from the group. We will travel together on Monday to our sites in Ica. There I will begin my two years of service.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Site Visit

So I just got back from a 4 day visit to my new site Grocio Prado, Ica. Here I will spend the two years of my service working on various projects around the community. I met some of my community partners, the people I will be working most closely with. I still don’t know much more about any of the work I will be doing, but this is something that will develop over time. The first project I have is to conduct a community diagnostic (CD) to find out more about my community’s needs and where my work can be most beneficial. I have three months to complete my CD, so it is most likely that I won’t dive into any projects right away.
As for Grocio Prado itself, like I said in my last blog, it is not a very pretty town due to the destruction caused by the Earthquake in 2007. The town looks somewhat like a war-zone. The saddest part is that many people are living in huts constructed of woven mats. They do not have the money to rebuild their house, and the government hasn’t done a great job of helping the people of Grocio Prado to rebuild. However there has been (and continues to be) a lot of help by NGO’s and other organizations to rebuild houses and other buildings. The family I am living with was blessed enough to have absolutely zero damage occur to their house. Because of this they were not (monetarily) affected by the earthquake and have been able to continue in life without starting over. So needless to say, I am staying in one of the nicer houses in Grocio Prado. The house has 4 large living rooms that are each connected in a line, and off to the side of two of the living rooms are the bedrooms. I am staying in a fairly large room with two twin beds and a dresser. When I signed up for Peace Corps I was not picturing living in a house quite this nice. However, it should make life a little easier right? Here is a picture of my room.
The family I am living with consists of the father Elvio, the mother Maria, and their 18 year old son Elvis. They are very sweet people and were great hosts the entire visit. My father is a vigilante, or watchman for some place, I’m not quite sure… I believe my mom is a stay at home mom for the most part. Elvis is in a business tech program at the moment and seems to be a typical 18 year old. I actually feel the age difference between him and I which is scary because until now I thought 18 wasn’t a whole lot younger than me, but I guess time has passed without me noticing. He invited me out the first night I arrived but I declined because I was so tired. He never asked me to go out again after that, so I didn’t do anything each night I was there because I didn’t feel it was safe to go out alone. My father said to me right before I left that Elvis would be sure to “integrate” me into his group of friends as soon as I return. I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or bad thing. I know his girlfriend is 15 so I can only imagine the ages within his group of friends. Hmmmm, we will see how this develops… Here is the outside of my house.
I also met the mayor of my town who is a WHOPPING 24 years old. He seemed nervous to meet me, and I could tell he didn’t quite know what to say. I also got the vibe that he was confused about what exactly it was I would be doing for two years. So I am in the process of perfecting my “what is Peace Corps and what am I here to do” speech (in Spanish). I could tell that my first challenge in site is going to be explaining what I am there to do. Since the people are so used to having NGO’s come into their city they don’t quite get the difference between my position and the position of an NGO. After my brief (and awkward) meeting with the mayor, I was hurried out of his office and into a taxi. Though this was no normal taxi… This was the chauffer of the mayor. He was told to take me on a tour of the town. And so he did. We drove around for 2 hours, and by the end I realized just how large my site was. The chauffer’s name is Alfredo and he is by far the best connection I made during site visit. He told me a lot about Grocio Prado, and showed me all the different parts, he even took me to a few artisans to talk and see their work. The tour took place on the 2nd day that I was there, and for the next two days every time I saw him he would ask if I needed a ride anywhere, or if I had any “dudas” (doubts) about anything. It was nice to have one person in town recognize me when I was walking down the street. Here is the municipality building in Grocio Prado.
The majority of my site visit was spent hanging out at my house, so yes, as I had predicted, there was not a lot of preparation for my visit and no one really took me under their wing to show me around and introduce me to people. However, I am glad I had the experience because when I go back in two weeks I will know exactly what to expect, and be much more prepared for it.
Some other highlights are that I live 15 min. from the beach, 30 min. from Paracas (a BEAUTIFUL tourist spot), and less than an hour from two of my friends. I also think I will get a bike to use because there are no hills and a lot of people in the town use bikes. How eco-friendly! My house is also 10 minutes from the city of Chincha which is big and has everything I could need.