Archive | August, 2012

Site Visit

29 Aug

First, a geography recap:

Peru is divided into various departments, sort of like states in the US. Lima (the city) is located in Lima (the department) and it is on the central coast. Lambayeque is north of Lima, about 12 hours away on a bus. Here in Peru, it’s more common to travel by bus throughout the country. If you’ve ever ridden the Greyhound, even just once like I did, surely you’re horrified that this is the standard mode of transportation. I was too. But the bus lines are actually really nice and comfortable. Taking the overnight buses works out pretty well because you arrive early in the morning to your destination and you don’t worry about paying a hotel the night before.

Lambayeque

Lambayeque is on the northern coast of Peru. Its capital city, Chiclayo, is about 20 minutes from the beach. Chiclayo is the third or fourth biggest city in Peru, although that’s not saying much. Lima is the monster metropolis (around 11 million inhabitants) that is incomparable to any other city in the country. The next biggest is Arequipa in the south and that’s about 900K inhabitants. Chiclayo has around 600K, which is much more my style. The 29 volunteers currently living in Lambayeque visit Chiclayo at least once a month for regional meetings.  Others may visit more often, if they have banking needs, want to buy something at the mall or are craving some good ol’ McDonald’s. There’s also a nice movie theater and a Plaza Vea (the Peruvian version of Target) where we can spend our hard-earned living allowance.

Olmos

Olmos is a valley located in the north central region of Lambayeque, not quite coast, not quite mountains, but somewhere in between. For the volunteers in Olmos to get to Chiclayo, it takes an hour and 45 minute bus ride. This might seem like a long time, but in PC Peru terms, it’s easy and accessible.

Olmos has about 10,000 inhabitants within the central part of the town.  There are about 40,000 residents when you count the neighboring rural areas.

hi!

Like I mentioned in my previous post, FBT is a little taste of what it’s like to be a volunteer in any given community. After that, the big event during training is actually visiting your site! We found out our assignments on a Tuesday and that Saturday we were heading to our respective departments for a week-long trip meeting our host families and project counterparts.

The Lambayeque Peru 19 crew (which is an amazing group of people, btw) traveled together to Chiclayo where we visited the beach and took some time to walk around. The first thing I noticed, and the best thing about the northern coast, is how sunny it is! We spent Sunday and Monday learning about the region, meeting current volunteers and preparing for ¨Socio Day¨ which is when we met our socios (counterparts) and host family members in an orientation-type meeting. After the meeting, we all head to our respective sites with our host families.

hanging out in chiclayo

My host family, Luis (Lucho) and Mari Roque, are well-known members of the Olmos community. Lucho is the president of the PTA in Colegio San Agustin and Mari is a high school teacher there. She also works with Annie (my sitemate, an environmental volunteer from Peru 18) and although they have never had a volunteer live with them, they are very familiar with Peace Corps. They have two children, Marijulia (24) and Luis (12). Marijulia and her husband, Cidro, live on the second floor of the house with their four-year old daughter, Diana Nicole.

peruvians dont smile in photos, but i do! 🙂

Although the Roques are very nice and welcoming, there’s nothing quite like the awkwardness of moving in with a family you don’t know. Awkward moments are the epitome of the Peace Corps experience and this was no different. My first night at site was rough, and I’m not ashamed to admit there were a few tears shed. I missed my fellow 19-ers, I missed my host family in Yanacoto, not to mention how much I missed my life back home in Miami! The awful hospital-looking gurney/cot they put in my room for me to sleep in didn’t help either. Not only was it tiny, but when I sat in the middle, both ends of the mattress flew up. I know this is Peace Corps, but c’mannn . The good thing is I was exhausted and fell asleep before I could give anymore thought to my new living situation.

The next morning Annie came over and we went to visit another volunteer, Tina, who lives in a nearby rural community called Las Pampas. Visiting Tina really lifted my spirits. Her site is RURAL. I’m talking no running water, a latrine and bucket baths outside of the house. Yet her room is nicely decorated, has a big comfortable bed and she manages to keep everything neat and clean. She’s got a makeshift sink to wash her hands and face in (which I have since then replicated in my own room as well). Hanging out with Annie and Tina that day made me see that this is doable. Life will never be as comfortable as what I’m used to, but with some ingenuity and creativity, it can get pretty close. I also remembered that Peace Corps gives new volunteers a one-time settling-in allowance, which I immediately decided I would use to furnish my room with a good bed (I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the wonderful tax payers of America for this indispensible priviledge…)

tina’s turkey.

During the rest of my site visit, I had the chance to meet all the volunteers in the Olmos area (Hey Tina, Terraza and Sarita!) and even sat in on their radio show- -La Hora Ecologica. I spent more time getting to know my host family and before I knew it, it was Friday afternoon and time to head back to Chiclayo, to meet with our regional coordinator and discuss the events of the week. Saturday night we boarded our buses back to Lima, ready for the last week of training that would culminate with our swearing-in ceremony (finally!)

these night buses are legit, trust me.

 

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FBT in La Libertad + Site Assignments

23 Aug

Finally, more than 5 minutes with a computer and internet access!  I’ve been meaning to update the blog, but it’s been impossible the last few weeks.  After FBT (field-based training), everything has been breezing by and all of a sudden I find myself at site. I’ll recap the last few weeks:

FBT

Field-based training is meant to have trainees exercise all the skills they’ve been acquiring the first 5 weeks of training.  Youth volunteers were split up into 3 groups of 10 and each sent to different regions of Peru to meet current volunteers and have pre-arranged facilitations at different schools/educational centers.  Our group of 10 was sent to La Libertad (northern coast), while the other groups went to Ancash (the mountains) and Ica (southern coast). I was really excited the week leading up to FBT and then really stressed the week after we got back from FBT. It was a great opportunity to see other parts of Peru, because Lima isn’t at all representative of the country, BUT it’s an exhausting trip. Seriously, Im tired just thinkinggggg about how tired I was that week.

Things I liked about FBT:

  • hang out with current volunteers
  • being out of the training center
  • see new parts of Peru
  • traveling with friends
  • hot showers in the hostels
  • delicious meals
  • painting a Peru map with special ed kids

Things I did NOT like about FBT:

  • hauling luggage from one hostel to the next every day
  • carrying school supplies for our facilitations
  • waking up extremely early every day
  • only having a few hours to prepare for lessons
  • traveling twice a day sometimes

In La Libertad we visited:

  1. Trujillo (departamental capital)
  2. San Pedro de Lloc
  3. Guadalupe
  4. Puerto Malabrigo
  5. Bello Horizonte
  6. Pacasmayo
  7. Huanchaco

Trujillo is amazing! For those of you coming to visit, we’ll probably head up there. The beach, Huanchaco, is only about 15 minutes away and heavily populated by tourists because of all the surfing.

Site Assignments

Up until Week 8, the only thing on a trainee’s mind is finding out where the heck they’re going to live the next two years.  In addition to talking about it endlessly amongst ourselves, we had current volunteers talk to us about how amazing their departments are and we met with our APCD (read:boss) about our interests in projects and what kind of site we would like (I asked for warm weather, pleaseeee). We also had the priviledge of having current volunteers visit our training center and present the work they did in their communities. Speare Hodges, one of the earliest visits we had, stood out in my mind as an exemplary volunteer.  The recipient of the Volunteer Excellence Award, he dedicated himself to changing the lives of Peruvian teens by developing a comprehensive sexual education campaign that significantly reduced the teen pregnancy rate in Olmos, Lambayeque. His service would be finished in August and he informed us that a member of Peru 19 would be replacing him…

Fast forward to the day we got our site assignments…guess who was the lucky volunteer chosen to replace Speare in his site. ME! Everyone kept saying ‘oh wow!’ with a big look of surprise so you know it was a big deal. Although nerve-wracking at first, I’ve come to see the positives of replacing a great volunteer, like the fact that he left a wonderful impression of the Peace Corps and a plethora of motivated contacts to work with.

So there it was, with only a few weeks left of training, I found out I’d be spending the next two years with the wonderful people of Olmos, Lambayeque, Peru!