After plenty of time away from the blog-o-sphere I.Am.Back!
I am in my last stretch as a PCV in my beloved Picsi…and once again I’m ready to go home, but at least this time it’s for different reasons. I’ve had a wonderful time, for the most part, since switching sites, so much so that I haven’t posted because I’ve been out living and enjoying this new Peru of mine. The main struggle, that included my mental health and safety has led to my current progress, the small struggles I face everyday will lead to my future progress..basically I’m progressing and struggling but it’s nothing like it was before. Everyday is still a lesson learned and at the end of the day, I’m fairly thankful for this experience-even though I DO get frustrated BEYOND belief. So what have I been doing since week 33?
May: I moved to Picsi which is about 15 minutes from the capital city (Chiclayo) in the department of Lambayeque. The first day was filled with…normalcy. I was taken to my new host family’s house, my host mother answered the door with absolutely no semblance of a bra on, and I was welcomed home. They were delighted by the fact that I was a beautiful brown, I was delighted at the fact that my mother and I looked like we COULD actually be related, and we were all giddy to be with each other. I live in a house with strong black women.
I have my mother (Kika), my sisters Betty and Milca, Milca’s 2 daughters (Alexia and Maria Gracia), my sister Marcela, her 2 daughters (Heydi and Romina), and my sister Mirianela. I also have a brother who lives around the corner with his wife, children, and mother-in-law. There’s also my Aunt Chona with her daughter and her family, my Uncle Jorge, and my Uncle Lucho with his wife.
The first day my sister Milca and I actually cried together. She could see the pain that was in my heart and the weight on my shoulders-once she showed me to my room, she told me that I would be ok here, I don’t have to worry any more here, I’m safe here, I’m home here ,here I’m family…I’m safe and loved… The sleepless nights ended that day and I slept like I hadn’t been to sleep in years. From there, it was a lot of meeting and greeting and confusing people by telling them that I was the youngest daughter of Senora Kika (my HM’s nickname), and no I’m not from Peru. What confused them even more was that I could dance, so there was a lot of dancing from this point in May until … yesterday (haha!).
The very first week that I was in Picsi I went on a tour with my mayor and other dignitaries from the municipal government to hand out gifts to all the mother’s in the district for Mother’s Day (it’s HUGE here).
June: This was a bit of a blurrr…I do recall having a wonderful time at Camp VALOR (Varones Adolescentes Lideres Organizados y Responsables) which is one of the regional camps that Peace Corps Volunteers hold for teenage boys between 12-17. I brought two boys from Picsi and they had a ball!
July: This month was filled lots of vacations. At the first part of the month I went to visit my Bestie PCV Ashley in Tumbes with two of our other good friends Diamond (Cajamarca) and John (Salas, Lambayeque). We stayed in the beach town of Zorritos (which means “little foxes”) and enjoyed the beach, trekked to mud baths, and ate amazing seafood. We also posed like pirates on a ship (yay us!). From July to sometime in August there were school strikes so I wasn’t able to help out like I wanted with any of the schools in the district.
August: One of the things that stood out the most was when I went, with my sister Marcela and nieces Heydi and Romina, to the air force base in Chiclayo for a family fun day and air show. I also went to visit John’s site when he invited everyone over to camp out for his birthday. This was the month that I officially started working more than “getting to know my community”/ hanging out. At the end of this month we welcomed a new group of volunteers (Group 19) and said goodbye to Group 15. I also discovered I love a cumbia group named Amaya Hermanos. Since I love to be in front at concerts, so as to have plenty of air and space, they noticed me and gave me lots of shout outs and free cds. Another thing to note was the beginning of WEDDING PLANNING!
September: After welcoming the new volunteers, I enjoyed a visit to Olmos to see newcomer Betty (Peru 19), Annie (Environment Volunteer Peru 18), and John. We danced the night away with one of my favorite groups, Amaya Hermanos (we even got to take pictures and give them hugs and kisses “We Love You Walter!!!”), had great fresh breakfasts in the morning and amazing chicken sandwiches at night, and even spoiled ourselves with a bacon, egg, and fried plaintain grand buffet style breakfast! This was also the month that I started working with the Obstetric nurse to train 9 teenagers in becoming Adolescent Health Promoters for the district of Picsi. We had 2 sessions a week and were able to finish in record time before the school year ended. We had another round of school strikes in this month but that didn’t stop us from putting on a very successful competition between the private and public school in the district about sexual health topics. The public school creamed the private school kids!
The last big thing I’ll mention about September was that my niece, Maria Gracia, invited me to her school (at this time she was in her last year at secondary) to see her grade dance. It was a huge cultural day with beautiful costumes, movements, and music. When it was her turn, I was so proud! She looked so beautiful :)
October: October was filled with lots of sessions with my amazing group of adolescent health promoters, meetings with my obstetric nurse partner (who is a good friend of mine now), and private English lessons (we covered topics from the solar system to fruits and veggies). For intercultural exchange: One Sunday, I made tacos for my nieces and they LOVED them.
November: In the first part of the month I was working hard to get things finished with my group of promoters. There was a final test, a condom demonstration, and a graduation. I was also fortunate enough to get my municipal governments to pay for my groups shirts so a lot of time was spent coordinating that. All in all the first phase of the health promoter project ended well and the kids are excited for the future activities.
The second half of the month was spent in Ecuador with PCV Bestie Ashley. Best. Thanksgiving. Ever! On T-day we had all you can eat crabs and all you can drink beer. We went to the movies ($5 for both of our tickets), we strolled on the boardwalk, voyaged into an open iguana park, and trekked up 444 steps through a Whoville-like community. Ecuador was amazingly different than Peru. I loved Quito, I liked Guayaquil, and I LOVED this pork-in-a-bag concoction that we bought off the street. Pork in a bag- a great dinner for a dollar. It was a little baggie that the man filled with small potatoes, two types of corn, pork chunks, and a salty sauce. After that you were allowed to scoop in another type of salsa that he had on the side of the cart. We got our pork in a bag meals and we ended up getting free Coconut Milk (sooo tasty) for free from a nice Afro-Ecuadorian named Orlando. That night was filled with discounts and free stuff. Aside from that we enjoyed Korean food, bar-b-que, and the old world elegance of Quito…I can’t wait to go back!
December- This month went by so fast it almost made my head spin. Because I had been so happy back in site I didn’t realize how quickly it crept up on me and when it finally came around… :)
I went back to my site after my trip to Ecuador so I could do laundry and pack, within a few days I was back on a bus to go to Lima for our Mid-Service conference and medical check- ups. I received a clean bill of health, no cavities, no parasites, NOTHIN! After all the medical tests we spent 2 days with the Health Program staff to learn about the new changes to the project framework. From there I ran back to site, packed up my bags, had a great time at my “surprise” birthday party, and then ran back to Lima so I could catch my flight to the States.
I went to Las Vegas, Athens (GA), Newport News (VA), and Cherry Point (NC). That might have to be a post for another time!
January 2013:HAPPY NEW YEAR!
I returned to Peru, kicking and screaming, after having had such a wonderful time in America. Once I got back to site I had meetings on top of meetings. For the following year I’ll be working on Healthy Schools’ Projects, in February we’re starting the training for a new group of adolescent promoters (the old ones will be running the sessions!), I’m part of the training staff for the Community Agents, I’ll be doing lessons to reinforce the English classes that kids receive in school, hopefully there will be a mural project and a world map project in there somewhere this year, and I’ll be doing sessions with moms. Other than that I spent a good amount of time researching graduate programs (I’ve found 5 that I like and will pursue), looking at job opportunities in San Diego (since I’ll be moving there after my nuptials in November of this year), getting in contact with organizations to volunteer, and researching graduate chapters of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.
February 1: I have 5 more days until I leave for Brazil! I’ll be with John and Ashley to celebrate Carnaval, the Rio way :)
I’m ready to go home, but THIS TIME it’s because I’m ready to move to the next phase of my life- I have a lot to look forward to and I’m really excited. I’m planning on leaving October 25th, I have a wedding dress fitting on the 29th, and the day I’m most excited for (288 days from now) is on November 16th. Until it’s time to go, I’ll continue enjoying my friends and family.
As a closing:
Today marks the beginning of Black History Month. Celebrating the accomplishments, remembering the tragedies, and fighting for a better future.
Even though we were dispersed throughout the world and our names and religions were changed, we managed to maintain certain traditions and form new identities within our new geographical boundaries.
Each generation has done what they could to advance not only our communities, but in some cases whole nations. It wasn’t easy, because there’s no progress without struggle, but slowly and surely we are leaving positive footprints in this world-whether it be with inventions, music, sports, etc.
I’m celebrating this year by visiting Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Chincha, Ica AND by showcasing Afro-Latinos- our spanish speaking brothers and sisters.
(Check me out on Facebook, today’s person is Eva Ayllon!)