Training is over and my two years of work in the mountains begins... Instead of giving you a bunch of words about training – here are pictures to summarize:
There I am at the training center about to meet my host family. The first couple weeks of living with my host family was...umm, interesting. Imagine if someone from a different culture and background was suddenly dropped into your family, sharing all meals, the bathroom, etc. Add that I didn’t speak much Spanish other than “where is the bathroom” – things were a bit awkward at first. At meals, there was a lot of silence and looking at each other – followed by hand gestures…lots of hand gestures.
View from my room: yeah, it was nice. You can make out the cactuses a little bit – Lima is a dessert and therefore there are a lot of things desserts have, like cactuses.
Fiestas: During the religious ones, they like to have firework displays. This photo shows a guy with a papier-mâché bull on top of his head, dancing around while sparks are going every which way possible. A liability nightmare in the States. There’s my “boss” – Alfredo. I don’t really have a boss though – which is one reason Peace Corps is probably a good fit for me. I make my schedule, I get things done the way I think they should get done. I submit quarterly reports about my progress. Once I’m done with Peace Corps, I think I’ll either have to start my own business or find a job that permits this much freedom. It’s certainly where I excel – since sometimes I might be a bit unorthodox.
At the training center, there is an informal group picture of all the groups (we are Peru 9). They receive a lot of attention, because as a soon-to-be-volunteer, you're interested in who has been there before you (and who might be cute). Sooo, we decided to grow out mustaches for the photo. Everyone loves a mustache right? They’re funny (unless you actually sport a stache, then I guess they’re normal). There are 3 older people in the photo, two are staff, the other is a volunteer.
Those are the jokers that will be living near me in the mountains. At this time, I should redefine “near me” – that now means within 2 to 4 hours of traveling time. These guys are going to be my wingmen, hiking buddies, and closest American friends for the next two years. Learning the lingo – These are two of the ladies that made those conversations at the dinner table a little less awkward. The language professors here are great. I’ve never felt so cared about by my teachers before in my life. They really get you up to speed quickly. The background is a pool – that’s our training center (but we weren’t allowed to swim in it…)
Every Saturday during training we had this nuisance called “Agaria”. Since Peru has a multitude of climates – they pretty much grow everything and that's what we learned about. Usually I just zoned out during this time unless it was hands on. Did you know that asparagus takes a year or more to grow until it can be harvested? Bees are a popular here due to the flora – they are great for income generating activities. (all those dots on me are bees)
Don't just stand there, bust a move.
Straight up rocking out. Luckily, one of the volunteers was put with a host family that liked to party. The dad is nicknamed “loco chichi” – which means crazy tit. That's Ginnie and Steve grooving with me. Steve is one of the "retired" people that Peace Corps is marketing towards right now. His reason for joining, Peace Corps is always something he wanted to and he doesn't want to be one of those people who can only say that he wanted to do it.
The family! The family culture took a little while to get used to because it felt as if I were back in high school – always telling someone where I’m going, when I’ll be home, etc. After awhile you accept it and have a great time. I’ll definitely miss them – but luckily we come into Lima often and I’ll get to visit. Mama Lydia cried when I left and Papa Santiago told me to keep my key because it's my house too...
That's me on the right - slightly skinnier than my former USA-self. I've lost 8 lbs and I'm down one belt loop. Due to the food here and the heaping portions of rice and potatoes, guys usually lose weight and girls gain it. There really aren't too many gyms I can go maintain muscle either.
Motivational, right? That's where I'll be living (though it takes about an hour to get there). Those lakes and mountains decorate the entire area of where I'm living.
Now comes the interesting part for me. The Peace Corps experience is what you make it. Everyone has a different experience, but the themes remain the same. We are here to serve our communities and participate in cross-cultural exchange. One of my favorite quotes is by Shaw, “Life is not about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” To use this picture as a metaphor, all of events have led up to this and I’m getting in the boat and starting to row. Carpe diem, verdad?
Thanks for reading!