Well I think I’ve kept the suspense going long enough! You all probably gave up on me posting any more to this blog, didn’t you? I’ve decided since I’m still in Peru, I might as well keep it up, so here’s a stab at a new installment…
Leaving site was probably the hardest thing I did in my entire two years of service. I was really ready to leave, but also really sad to say goodbye to everyone, maybe forever, and at least for a very long time. I’ve had the good fortune since then to see a few people in Lima – my host mom and her sister, an older couple I used to visit and their daughter. But most of them I won’t see unless I go back on vacation.
There were many goodbyes – one at my final presentation where some of my counterparts/friends went out and bought a couple bottles of wine to toast when we were finished, one with everybody from the school and the nearby health promoters, one from 4th grade English, and some less formal occasions during the St. Peter and St. Paul party in my last few days. My host mom and I also prepared Thanksgiving dinner together – she made chicken and rice, and I made the weird stuff (broccoli salad, glazed carrots, and sweet potato pie). My brother was not impressed – there were trees on his plate, and the carrots were sweet. My host mom and grandpa liked it, though. Getting on the bus that last morning was so hard – I cried for a while, not the whole 7 hours, though, and was broken up for days afterward. Now two months later, especially when I’m suddenly reminded that Peru used to be so much cooler out there, I still get a little teary eyed.
So now I’m living and working in Lima, and it’s all so different. It’s this weird place where things look nearly North American or European, but it’s still distinctly Peruvian. While much improved, we still operate on the hora peruana. It’s still necessary to remind someone 4598 times to do something for you (still better than the 293872897 from before). But we still do invitar-ing (yay!) and we still welcome everyone with smiles and love, and we still take time to enjoy the really important things in life, like a long lunch with friends/co-workers for Valentine’s Day (known as Friend’s Day here when it’s more convenient).
The most difficult thing to adjust to, though, has been the pace. Having to find food and cook it for yourself 3 times a day sure does fill up your time! And then my commute just went from 5 minutes to 1 hour, and my work week became a steady minimum of 40 hours. Plus I actually have to work out now, I don’t just get my cardio in while I’m walking from one house to the next. It’s like night and day from what I was doing.
It’s also interesting working from the office. I honestly didn’t have much contact with the Peace Corps office during my service, and if I did, it was mostly to just inform them of what I was doing, not really to ask for any input. Even so, I turned in all the requested documentation, and showed up on time to all my meetings (except that last PCVC training where I confused the dates because of some confusing emails). Now being the person receiving all that documentation, I realize that was being pretty responsive. It is definitely difficult managing the different working styles of different volunteers, and keeping track of so many people’s activities. We’re currently working on training up volunteers in a selected few types of activites, but the nature of Peace Corps is that you serve your community in whatever way best fits them, and reconciling that sort of organic process with a more mainstream development agency approach to working on improving very specific indicators and providing solid evidence of your progress is a challenge that’s going to demand some creativity to overcome.
Working with my counterparts is also a challenge. Having worked on a local level, I have some ideas of what needs to be done to really make an impact on chronic malnutrition where it is the most common. However, I feel like I just skipped about 10 years of climbing the Health Ministry ladders and now to understand how to effect those kinds of changes on a local level by implementing a national strategy is mind-boggling. Unfortunately, much (I would argue too much) is expected of my colleagues at the National Center for Feeding and Nutrition, and they don’t really get to spend a whole lot of time figuring this stuff out.
In the non-work arena, I’m now living in an apartment in big building in a busy, central part of Lima. The traffic and crowds stress me out, which I have not really experienced in a long time. I really like my apartment, and the location is pretty darn good (aside from being pretty far from the Peace Corps office). It’s close to some ridiculous parks, good restaurants, and plenty of entertainment, which is great for when I’ve just gotten paid. J We also are close to a farmer’s market that sets up on Saturdays and Sundays, and my roommate and I ran into Peru’s most famous chef, Gastón Acurio, while we were getting some produce this past Saturday.
So in short, there are a lot of challenges, but some perks as well. And I love a good challenge, so once I get myself up to speed and re-adjust to the old North American pace, life should be good. For now I’ll just have to de-stress with some of that Piuran chocolate I bought last week…yum!
The Vaca Loca at the St. Peter and Paul party
Last Dance in Sicchez
Finally took a picture with most of my host family at 12am on my last night living with them...
My Final Presentation
My Counterparts at the Presentation
Farewell Gift from the English Teacher
Last English Class with 4th Grade
Goodbye Lunch at the School
Last Picture with my Peer Eduacators