I have packed up my bags, and with Lady in tow, moved to a new house. Somehow, along the way I managed to accumulate double the belongings I had when I came to Peru a year ago... Needless to say, I haven't completely unpacked, but I feel at home already! The new family is way different than the one I was with before. They are honest and seem to live up to a higher standard of morals than most Peruvians. I hate to put it that way, but it's the truth. The family consists of the mom and dad and their son (19 yrs) and daughter (14 yrs). The son is studying Law at a local university and their daughter who is still in high school attends classes 8 hours a day 7 days a week, which is more than double the amount of time an average student is in school during the week in Peru. They are much more relaxed and seem, in a general way to put it, a lot more in control of their lives and what happens to them. My old host family was great, I don't want to construe that point, but they had so many issues that were fairly easy to fix, however, they just chose to be reactive rather than proactive in every situation. This all related to their level of honesty as well... Anyways, I got to know my first family really well since I spent a year with them, so I'm not being naive, I am aware that I hardly know this new family and who knows what I'll learn within this year, but lets just say, I have a good feeling about it.
The daughter Cristel is a great kid. She has already latched onto me and always wants to chat about what went on during the day, life issues...etc. It's a nice change from my old host brother who always wanted random advice about his girlfriend (I'll add that he never once took my advice...). She also has come to the gym with me twice. She really looks up to me, which makes me a little nervous. I remember that age, I had so many questions... For example yesterday she asked me about my nose piercing. What could I say? I'm sure her parents don't want her getting one so I didn't want to encourage it in any way. I just told her it was something I did but that it's not for everyone. Another example that's a little more embarrassing is she picked up my birth control and asked me if I was sick. I guess I take after my mother, because it's hard for me to lie (even in situations where maybe it's best not to say the truth), so I told her it was for in the event that I got raped, I wouldn't get pregnant. I think I scared her S****less with that answer. Good job Alana. But it's the truth, Peace Corps suggests females take birth control during their two years for that very reason... Anyways, lets just say I'm sure I'll be claiming her as my 4th "sister" in no time.
As for my new host brother, his name is Jean Carlos and he is also really well behaved. He always calls me senorita which cracks me up, and just says really quirky things. He studies a lot and surprisingly knows quite a bit about America. Which I'm finding he probably learned from YouTube because he's always on it.
The family seems to have become fairly comfortable with me in a really short time, but that's probably because I was a lot more comfortable when I first moved in and knew exactly what to expect (in comparison with the first family I lived with). I can tell when they need reassurance or when I need to explain certain things about myself to them so that they understand me better. Also a lot of people in town already know me, so they don't feel like I'm a complete stranger coming into their house. All of which, has sped up the "getting to know you" process.
As for my first host family, things are great. I have been back to visit a couple times and there isn't any tension with them at all. I'm really thankful that this whole transfer went smoothly.
I have been working on some new projects. First I formed a youth group called Jovenes Lideres Voluntarios/JLV (Youth Volunteer Leaders). I've organized it after a group I was a part of called Peer Helpers. We would meet every week and do fun activities as a group, as well as invite community members to teach us various topics that we could then use to help the community in some way. It was fun and gave me something to do during the rough stages of middle school. We have had 3 official meetings so far and the turn out isn't bad. I have at least 5 or 6 youth at every meeting and sometimes more. For Halloween we watched a scary movie called House of Wax on the projector. We laid out on some blow up mattresses, popped popcorn and drank soda. It was a lot of fun, and they really seemed to enjoy it. Next we are going to do a raffle to raise some funds for more activities.
Second, I have been working with two artisans to get ready for the annual Embassy Artisan fair that Peace Corps Peru hosts every year. I am taking a who makes candied goods and pisco, and another association that make woven baskets among other woven items. I am on the planning committee for the artisan fair so I have also been taking part in organizing the workshop the day before the artisan fair. Photos to come...
The other project I recently completed was a photo exhibit in the main square of Chincha (the main town of my province) for tourist week. Myself and some local professionals got together and formed a group called Colectivo Enciende, with the objective of realizing activities in the Province of Chincha that promote the art and culture of this area. This was our first activity. By soliciting the financial support from local municipalities and other entities we were able to print out 10 large banners of photos with support frames to present as a photo exhibit in the main square of town. It was a huge success, people were really happy to see the photos (both historical and current). There were many comments on how that was the type of event that should be happening in Chincha, and that it was about time people take a larger interest in the local culture. I was really happy at the response we got from the community and although logistically it was a stressful event, I am glad to have been a part of it. Coming from a small native town and growing up in the Tlingit culture, I feel I have a large understanding of the importance of traditions and culture, and because of my experience, I can offer ideas in ways to help it flourish. Oh, I cannot forget that I also had my official 15 minutes of fame. I believe I gave 5 T.V. interviews and 2 for local papers. I purposely didn't watch the local news all week in order to avoid the embarrassment. However, a few people have told me (with a giggle and grin) that they managed to catch the few minutes I aired.