The content of this webpage, and everything associated with this webpage, is independent of the Peace Corps and the United States Government, though I think they should read it too. This blog solely reflects the experiences and observations of Jake DeBerry.

Friday, August 10, 2007

My new home - the long voyage

Upon arriving in Peru, all the volunteers haven’t the slightest clue where we might be going for our two years of changing the world. I can write with confidence that we are all wide-eyed, excited, confused, scared, thrilled, and uncertain. The best comparison I can think of is the move-in day at college. The best assumption you can make about this group of people is that they are all risk-takers – which makes for a good group.

After arriving with a group of complete strangers, we undergo a fairly intense training schedule. The actual training isn’t that tough – but when you add the fact that you have just turned your life upside-down, things take on a different difficulty level. After 8 weeks into training, that group of strangers becomes a little less strange and the unique experience you are sharing creates a distinctive bond. The big event in week 8 though – we find where we’re going for two years. (pic: some of the business volunteers)

Most of us have an idea of where we’d like to go, but our idea is confined to coastal or mountains – hot or cold. In my case, I didn’t really care – I just wanted good scenery. The day before learning your site you remember what it was like to be a kid the night before Christmas – and what a refreshing feeling that is. One of my personal fears as I get older is that all those emotions that I enjoy are crowded out by experience as we get older – and this gave me a certain feeling I haven’t had in awhile.

The long voyage of where I’m living is not that it takes a long time to get to my site – it doesn’t. The long voyage is the road that has led me to receiving my site assignment. Peace Corps – once you wash away the stereotypes or your feelings of the American government, is a an amazing opportunity and experience. A tough question is who gets more out of the Peace Corps - the communities where we serve or the volunteers? Once deciding to join the Peace Corps, the voyage of getting to this point is long and arduous. The voyage to making the decision to join the Peace Corps is even longer and tougher – which will be for another blog entry.

My site assignment is Tarica, Ancash (pic to the left is Huaraz - the main city, I'm 30 minutes north). What does that mean? That means the second highest mountain range in the world. It means living at 11,000 feet with breathtaking snow-capped mountains surrounding me. It also means working with very poor individuals who do not welcome change – though they want better lives for themselves and their children. While I’m learning Spanish, I’ll also begin learning another language, Quechua –the native language of the Andes and the Incas. My primary work will be with an association of potters (ceramtistas). My secondary work will be whatever I decide to get into – though it’ll probably deal with the school in the town and other small businesses in the area. I will have electricity and running water - but that's about it.

What does this mean for people who want to visit? Tarica (Huaraz) is an 8 hour bus-ride from Lima. I am quite lucky, most other volunteers are twice that. It also means that if you happen to be in Lima, it might be possible for me to come and meet you there. As I already mentioned, I’m in the mountains. This area is arguably the best trekking spot on the continent – if you like huge snow-capped mountains that razor their way through lush green valleys decorated with crystal glacial lakes.

Ancash is a difficult spot for volunteers due to the conservative mindset of the people who live here. Superstitions abound and getting a good education is like catching a butterfly. The Peruvian hour lives strongly here (think island time) and things happen very slowly. My mom has always told me I need more patience - so this will be a great opportunity for me.

I have two weeks of training in Lima – then I move up to the mountains to begin my two years of service at the end of August. That's a picture of Peru - the shaded is the department of Ancash.


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