Weeks 4 + 5

20 Jul

It’s been a while since I posted about what’s been going on this side of the equator so I’m going to touch upon the highlights of the last two weeks (there are many!).

*Training is a ten week program broken down by activities and sessions into week-by-week schedules.

Week 4

July 4th landed smack dab in the middle of week 4, meaning pre-bbq excitement dominated the first half of the week and post-bbq ‘that was so fun’ commentary dominated the second half. I was beyond excited to spend the day outdoors, playing field day games and then enjoying hamburgers, hot dogs and other dishes prepared by 19-ers. For me, it was a bittersweet experience to celebrate America’s independence outside of the country as a Peace Corps trainee. Back home I never thought about what it means to be an American or a Colombian-American, I just am.  In Miami when someone says “where are you from?” I just say “Colombia” because it’s understood that I was born there, but I grew up in the States. When I studied abroad in Paris, it became a little more complicated because Parisians would ask where I was from and then I’d have to say “I was born in Colombia but I grew up in the US, blah blah blah” and that was generally understood without too much effort.  In Peru, the stereotype of Americans is that they all have blonde hair and blue eyes, of which I have neither, so it takes some time to explain how I can be American and not be a “gringa”. That alone makes you reflect on what it means to be a citizen of the US. If its not my hair, or my eyes, or even my place of birth, then what makes me American? Well, my naturalization certificate and that navy blue passport, for one.  But the other is the ideals and values we hold dear that make our country great. Like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (!)  Those are the things we are sent here to represent, as we help communities capitalize on their own strengths to be self-sufficient. In a nutshell, July 4th was the culmination of an ongoing patriotic identity crisis, but still, so fun! I had lots of burgers and got sick the next day. Worth it, though.

gals ready for the games!

Week 5

I thought the biggest thing about week 5 would be that it’s before week 6, when we go on a 7-day trip to do field-based training.  But I was wrong! Week 5 brought quite a bit of excitement all on it’s own. For starters, we found out our regional assignments which is a pretty big deal. Peru is divided in three geographical regions: coast, sierra and jungle. The physical division of the country by topographical factors has a significant influence on the development of culture.  The coast tends to have larger cities with more progressive populations while the sierra is known for smaller communities and more rural areas. I don’t know too much about the jungle because there are no Peace Corps sites there. Just imagine a place thats hot, humid and wild animals roaming free.

Peru 19 has interviews with several staff members regarding which region and site would be a better fit for each volunteer.  They ask you questions like ‘what kind of projects are you interested in’ and ‘would you work better in hot or cold weather’. Throughout my interviews I tried to mention that I am much better in the heat than I am in the cold, so I was pleasantly surprised to hear that I’d be in a coastal region!

all the 19-ers heading to the coast

all the 19-ers heading to the coast

On Thursday we were finally issued our official Peace Corps phones.  That was also a long-awaited event. Before receiving phones, trainees would make incredibly detailed plans to hang out in hopes of actually being able to meet up without getting lost or mixing up directions. Now we can call and text without having to walk over to each others houses and ask host families ‘sabes donde esta kendra?‘ This tiny Nokia brick phone (that feels like it belongs more in a Barbie playset than in my purse) is making all of our lives just a little bit easier!

Other highlights:

Up to week 5, youth development volunteers have planned 3 different 45-minute sessions to teach at local schools. The third one was done individually, meaning that from the planning phase to execution, it was all put together by yours truly.  I am happy to say that my sessions have all gone surprisingly well, meaning that most of the time they were listening to me and not once did I have a class break out into mass chaos! I blast my favorite Jay-Z jams while writing lesson plans, so I think the swagger transfers to the sessions.

listening to meeee

listening to meeee

Nancy sent Arturo and Efrain some gifts from the States and they are over the moon with excitement.  Here they are, happily showing off their new presents!

only photo arturo has ever taken without a fight



6 Responses to “Weeks 4 + 5”

  1. Libby Bueres July 23, 2012 at 11:01 pm #

    Hi Betty! I’m so happy yo hear that you are thoroughly enjoying yourself and already making such a difference in the lives of these children. Best of luck with the rest of the journey!

    Big hugs from Miami!
    P.S. Happy very belated Birthday!!!! 🙂

    • Betty_Zee July 31, 2012 at 10:27 pm #

      Libby! Thanks so much for the birthday love! Thanks for all your advice 🙂

  2. Alejandro Cuyar July 29, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

    Amazing! 🙂

    • Betty_Zee July 31, 2012 at 10:28 pm #

      Its almost your turn!!

      • Carla August 20, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

        I need more Betty! Dont keep us waiting please…

  3. PAISA August 7, 2012 at 10:24 am #

    Hi Paisa!! Looks like you’re already making a big difference down there. I know you’re doing great and loving it. Keep up the fantastic work and well, I sorta miss you and our litto meow meow meow arguments. 🙂 Cuidate and tell the Danilo’s in town that I’m the Alpha Danilo :0P TQM

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