Now that we have semi-regular Internet access, I figured it was time for an update. Blogging was much easier when A) I wasn’t learning another language, and B) I had regular access to Internet / electricity. I digress. This is the Peace Corps.
So, about November. In sum November kept a smile on my face and happy tears in my eyes. Here are a few of the highlights:
November 6, 2012 – Ian and I left Lima (and access to CNN’s election-day coverage) for field-based training during the final chapter of our Pre-Service Training. (Unfortunately, we were sent to separate locations for the first half of this trip.) I fell asleep on the overnight bus to Cajamarca not knowing who our president would be. The next morning, we woke up in the capital surrounded by newspapers announcing Obama’s victory. People in Peru congratulated me. All politics aside – this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It gave me goosebumps, and I kept a copy of the newspaper to show our (way-in-the-future) children and grandchildren.
November 10, 2012 – One of my dear friends got married. All I wanted was to Skype/FaceTime into the wedding day preparations or reception. I was occupied with giving a charla about heart health in the morning, and then that afternoon I was stuck on a bus. I sat in a hostel hoping for a WiFi or Internet signal before the night bus to Chachapoyas departed. I cried because I couldn’t see my friend on her wedding day, but she’s one of the most thoughtful people I know, so she found little ways to include me during the day. Again with the bittersweet.
November 12, 2012 – I wrapped up field-based training in green (and rainy) Cajamarca with some of my fellow health volunteers and headed to my future home in Amazonas, Peru. I met Ian and his fellow water and sanitation volunteers at a bus station for the final leg of the trip. After another overnight bus, we arrived in Chachapoyas, Amazonas. We were greeted by a few of our future fellow Amazonas Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs). After dropping our bags off at the hostel, we began a three hour hike up to Gocta Falls, which is one of the tallest in the world, for our first regional activity. My amateur photography does not do this place justice. After a picnic lunch at the top of the second fall, we headed back into Chachapoyas for an evening meeting.
Socio Day in Chachapoyas
November 13, 2012 – We were introduced to our new host families and community counterparts / co-workers (also known as socios) during a day-long workshop filled with ice breakers, presentations, coffee and empanadas. Our Country Director, Sanjay, was even there for the event. Later that afternoon, Ian and I hopped in a cab with our new host mom, Neli, and one of our socios, Karina, to begin the stunning hour drive up the mountain and through the clouds to our new home. I’ll talk more about the drive and our home in another post.
First Day, First Cuy & A New Niece
November 14, 2012 – We started the day at 8 a.m. and didn’t stop until well after 10 p.m. Ian and I had several meetings with various health center workers, city council members, NGO coordinators, teachers, and community members. Our first full day in Luya was a big happy blur, and we felt very welcomed by the community. We mentioned that we had not tried cuy yet, so our host dad made us cuy and papas for lunch. (It’s a lot of work for little meat.) Oh, remember that earlier blog post about my pregnant sister-in-law? Erin went into labor that morning, and the baby arrived at the end of our first day in Luya! Late that evening we received a text from Ross to tell us our new niece, Catherine Grace, arrived. (Again with the spotty cell reception and no internet.) My heart hurt that we couldn’t be there to love on that little girl immediately, but my cup truly runneth over. Instead of sleeping that night, I thought about my new niece, Luya, and the crazy, beautiful life Ian and I get to live. We left Luya a few days later feeling immensely blessed.
A Peruvian Thanksgiving
November 22, 2012 – On Thanksgiving Day, our training group, Peru 20, held a pot luck for 80 people. We fed each other and 25 members of the Peace Corps Peru training staff. It was bittersweet to be away from home, but we were still happy. To me, food is love. Cooking for others makes my heart sing, so I prepared my mom’s harvest dressing and baked apples for 80. It was a way for me to keep my family with me during the day. Other volunteers made Thanksgiving staples like green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, and gravy. The training staff bought and prepared (!) several turkeys and chickens for everyone. Dinner was served on a ping-pong table.Volunteers and staff alike shared sweet sentiments and heartfelt thanks with one another. It was unlike any Thanksgiving I’ve had before. I missed my family and friends in the US, but I felt so very loved and thankful.
November 23, 2012 – After 10 weeks of intense language, cultural, and technical training, Ian and I joined 54 other volunteers at the Ambassador’s house for our Swearing-In Ceremony. Pardon my French – but we worked really damn hard just to get there. It’s an indescribable feeling to accomplish one of your dreams. And to do it with your best friend by your side? With 54 new, unexpected friendships? And host families who beam with pride? At the Ambassador’s home? And of course with the love and support of so many family and friends back home? So, yeah. It was a day we dreamt about for years, so naturally I happy-cried most of it. Especially when we said this:
I (name) do solemnly swear or affirm that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, domestic and foreign, that I take this obligation freely and without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge my duties in the Peace Corps by working with the people of Peru as partners in friendship and in peace.
Later that afternoon we said teary good-byes to our host family, and then we were bused to a generous (and fabulous) party* at our Country Director’s home. We danced the night away with staff and said a lot of good-byes.
November 24, 2012 – The next day, we soaked up a little bit more of Lima before beginning our 27 hour commute to Amazonas as official Peace Corps Volunteers. Pinch me so I know I’m not dreaming.
*As silly as it sounds, one of my highlights that evening was our Country Director’s miniature Schnauzer. Of course, Wilson is much more handsome, but I love that I got to give belly scratches to one of Wilson’s cousins….