Peace Corps is sometimes thought of as a vacation. I joined, in part, because I thought it would be a fun way to travel. And then there is the omnipresent nickname “Posh Corps”.
Yes, there tends to be a lot of free time, but Peace Corps is not a vacation.
Before I came I noticed that a lot of volunteers would abruptly stop writing in their blogs, often explaining that at some point, their service became, simply, life, and that they didn’t feel the same novelty that they did in the beginning.
I think I finally understand this.
Since July, life has been a little… slow. It hasn’t really been that exciting. A few interesting things happened during July and the beginning of August, but for the most part… mild sauce.
But things are starting to pick up again, and there are some blog-worthy stories, so you guys deserve an update. Just know that, while it’s still exciting to be in Peru, Pariahuanca is my home now, and life is a little less thrilling and a little more routine.
- Party season has come and gone. It was pretty fun (and my past experience helped me to know when to attend, and when to bounce). I’m hoping to end my service around the Peruvian Independence Day, July 28 (Fiestas Patrias) next year, and go all out, party hard, and maybe even get in the bull ring a couple times…
- I’m so in love with my [family’s] dog, Canela. She went into heat a few months ago, triggering a pretty traumatic experience for me. I won’t go into too many details, but I will say that I made the decision to get her spayed (very uncommon in Peru). I cannot bring her back to the States - as much as I want to- so I want to make sure she’s going to be safe when I leave. The experience at the vet was unforgettable. My boyfriend Pat went with me and since the vet didn’t have an assistant, we basically were vet techs (just like Snooki – for my Jersey Shore fans). I’ve always considered myself pretty tough, but as soon as those guts were outside of her little doggie body, I got nauseous and lightheaded and had to sit down. Pat did well, and so did Canela. Tomorrow morning I get her stitches taken out and no longer have to worry about the whole thing.
- Speaking of animals, I’m pretty sure I told you guys about the joke gift I got for my birthday last year from my friends Jeff and Nico. The ugliest chicken they could find? Well, it grew up to be quite the ugly chicken. I would always tell visitors to watch out for the ugliest chicken in the world, and my host sister, lover of every creature and beast, would always defend her, saying how beautiful a chicken she was. We named her Cala Cunca, naked neck, and she was a loveable part of the family. [Gross sidenote: Cala Cunca has been known to drink breastmilk that has spilled on the ground. Ew.] Well, Cala Cunca got the flu last week and my host mom, who also loved the chicken, tried to see if some cold medicine would help. Shortly after, Cala Cunca passed away. I was in the middle of a meeting with some students and my host mom gently interrupted, whispering so softly that Cala Cunca had died and explaining what had happened. She told me I should go upstairs and cut off its neck to bury it. It was a pretty silly endeavor, the whole fam crowded around to watch me fumble with the knife and cut the head off the still warm chicken. I buried her head so the dogs wouldn’t get to it. We ate Cala Cunca for lunch the next day which turned out to be the worst-tasting meal I have ever had at my host family’s house. Cala Cunca’s final revenge.
- I made a deal with my school to paint a mural for them, in exchange for another wall to paint with my kids. I’ve been working on it for weeks, but its turning out nicely. It had to be based on values, but I got to design it myself. It certainly beats the ugly cement that was there before. I don't have a picture of the finished product, but here I am at the beginning:
- Oh. Cant’ forget the strike. Not a lot to say, just that a teachers strike cancelled classes from the beginning of September until the end of October, and left me, and my projects, up in the air. We’re back in session now after two months, and that’s all I have to say about that.
- September and October were especially hard for one explicit reason (and it wasn’t the strike). Rumors spread like wildfire that a girl from 4th grade had gotten pregnant. Now, my most important work for the past 7 months has been my sex-ed classes with the 4th and 5th graders (of secondary, there are also 4th and 5th primary classes). It’s been pretty great, albeit controversial, and this is information that they would never have received without these classes. So when I heard a 4th grader was pregnant, I was devastated. Not to mention the snarky comments I received from the principal about the failure of my classes. The news put me in a slump for about two whole months. Until, just last week, I found out some extremely bittersweet news… The girl was in 4th grade of PRIMARY. Meaning she was not a student of mine, but that she was also probably only 10 or 11 years old. It’s heartbreaking, but also motivational, I know there is still a whole lot of work I can do.
- I’ve been teaching English to a son of a store owner here and it’s actually been very successful. My favorite part is when we review fruits and he imitates me by pronouncing banana “bah-nieh-niah”. Makes me laugh every time.
- I celebrated Halloween this year IN MY SITE! I wanted to plan an easy, but festive activity for the kids in my town. Halloween here is kind of seen as something that only the upper classes do, as it’s celebrated in the big cities, but never in rural towns. So I did a short lesson on Halloween in each of the primary classrooms and handed out mask templates and string so that each of them had a costume. On the 31st one of my best friends in site, Zinthia, and I handed out candies to all the kids who stopped by the municipality in their masks. It was a huge success and it made up for September and October being so hard.
- In other news, while celebrating Halloween with volunteers, I dressed up as a honey bear. Here I am at our favorite bar Trece Buhos with Keren who dressed up as a dead-on Frida Kahlo:
- On November 1st we celebrated Todos Santos. Almost every family in these parts makes bread on Todos Santos for their deceased. Last year I didn’t get a chance to participate so this year I made a point to be there. We only had a short time slot at the bakery to use their oven so we worked quickly (over 5 hours) making all the different bread shapes that the spirits require (5 dolls, 5 bunches of bananas, 5 donkeys, etc.). And the bread was 100% made from scratch – we grew and dried all our own wheat. Peru defines the Locally-Grown movement. Here’s my host brother Diego with his awesome bread doll:
- I cannot speak or write in accurate English anymore.
- Oh yeah, I climbed a mountain, Vallunaraju. Ice pick and all. Bam.
- I come home to visit in TWO WEEKS. For thanksgiving. I am going to eat ALL the food in the US (watch out Ethiopian restaurants and Trader Joes). And I am expecting BIG Amurican hugs. Please and Thank you.
This has been the world’s longest blog post. Goodnight.