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.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Living it out...

Next month marks my year anniversary in Peru and will thus, be the longest I’ve been away from family and friends. I spent just under a year in New Zealand. However, I did live in Italy for 3 years growing up (’89-’92), so that will still retain the record of amount of time without stepping foot on native soil.

It appears, after speaking with my family the other day that I have taken for granted other’s awareness of how I’m living. Perhaps that is because some of my closer friends when I was in DC were former Peace Corps or individuals who have traveled a bit. Or it might be that my fellow volunteers share similar circumstances and I’ve been here so long that I forget what it’s like to live in the States. Perhaps when people think of Peru they think of llamas (the pic) or Machu Picchu or the exotic Amazon.

My niece seemed flabbergasted when I told her that I did not have a refrigerator. “But how do you keep your things cold?” I replied, “Well, I don’t buy things you need to keep cold.” She then asked, “Well…but do you have a freezer at least?” “Nope, no freezer” (in the DeBerry household, I think my parents have 2 of those big freezers and 3 fridges (with freezers)…yeah, 3 people live there) I would estimate there are 3 fridges in my entire town of about 1,000 people. My niece couldn’t imagine why people wouldn’t want one, so I had to tell her, “It’s not that they do not want one, they can’t afford them…or the electricity to run it.” Plus, the electricity is unreliable anyhow. What does all this mean? Warm beer. Some prefer warm beer, so at restaurants in the main city, you have to let them know you want it cold. (pic: normal sight in the town square: pigs, goats, cows, and sheep. People don't walk dogs here.)

What also got some “eewwwss” was when I said that many Peace Corps volunteers poop in a hole in the ground…though I am lucky enough to have a toilet. I also have a toilet seat…though a toilet seat is so uncommon that when female Peruvians have used my bathroom and the toilet seat was up, they don’t even use it. I base that statement on my experience of going in after and the toilet seat being up. So, either they don’t use it, or I’ve found the perfect women who put the seat back up! (pic: if you want meat, you either kill the animal yourself or buy it like this)

Hot water?…nope! In fact, the water here comes down from the glaciers or melting snow, so it is freezing. My dad asked me if I shower everyday…my response was a laugh. The longest I’ve gone without showering is two weeks. Luckily, in the town near me we can find warm, sometimes hot showers, so about every two weeks or so, I’ll go stay the night. But, usually, I’ll take a shower here once a week…only when the day is at its warmest and I usually use my big pan to heat up water and bring it in the shower with me. The entire time I fantasize about hot tubs. Controlling your breathing is really important.

My kitchen includes a French press, 3 pans, 2 plates, 3 bowls, a knife to cut stuff, a butter knife, 3 forks and 3 spoons. And, I just added to it with a cutting board! Moving up! (that's my kitchen)

No tv, no raido, no internet.

One of the reasons people get so drunk around here is because I don’t think there is not much else to do that they can afford. Hence, they drink a lot and talk about the same things everyday. Mainly, sex. There is a group of guys that hang out on ‘the corner’, and every time I go and hang out with them, it’s the same conversation. Sometimes they ask me about differences between Peru and the US. Or how much my shoes cost, or my watch, or my camera, or my jacket. Then its back to making jokes about sex…with an interruption to say something crude to the girl that walks by.

Life is simple. Simple does not imply unfulfilling though. I’ll leave you with a quote:

“The world was simple – stars in the darkness. Whether it was 1947 B.C. or A.D. suddenly became of no significance. We lived, and that we felt with alert intensity. We realized that life had been full for men before the technical age also – in fact, fuller and richer in many ways than the life of modern man. Time and evolution somehow ceased to exist; all that was real and mattered were the same today as they had always been and would always be. We were swallowed up in the absolute common measure of history – endless unbroken darkness under a swarm of stars.” Kon-Tiki

Love,
Jake

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