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The Greatest Vacation: Cuzco

22 Dec
Cuzco 14

and we’re off!

Cuzco 26

the eagle has landed.

Cuzco 3

welcome to cusco!

Cuzco 6

plaza de armas

Cuzco 2

learned to play ‘chasing the 2’ and our lives will never be the same.

Cuzco 7

guess who’s up to their old antics?!

Cuzco 19

views of the plaza from our breakfast table.

Cuzco 4

silly hats. serious beer funnels.

Cuzco 15

the sacred valley

Cuzco 24

beautiful green landscapes at every turn.

Cuzco 16

14 years of best-friendship across 3 continents ❤

Cuzco 12

cholitas guapas.

Cuzco 18


Cuzco 17

heyyy cristi

Cuzco 11

ollantaytambo, “the living inca city”

Cuzco 20

a living inca princess. i got quechua on my body!

Cuzco 8

modern construction built upon ancient inca stonework.

Cuzco 21

literally every view from any angle in the valley is breathtaking.

Cuzco 25

leggings crew.

Cuzco 13

a few centimeters back and the ground drops off, ensuring certain death. maybe the danger adds to the beauty, no?

Cuzco 10

harv’s girls!

Cuzco 22

dinner at a fancy pisco bar where we did NOT consume any pisco. everyone: “let’s go get beers at the irish pub”



The Greatest Vacation (Video)

22 Dec

This is not hyperbole. This was literally The Greatest Vacation. Carla, Cristi, Diana, Dolly, Jenny, Leland and I went on a 10-day trip that took us from Andean peaks to Amazonian jungle and everywhere in between.

Peru is beyond-words beautiful. And to share it with some of my favorite people in the world was nothing short of incredible.


Viajar es Regresar

9 Dec

Viajar es marcharse de casa
es dejar los amigos
es intentar volar.
Volar conociendo otras ramas
recorriendo caminos
es intentar cambiar.

Viajar es vestirse de loco
es decir “no me importa”
es querer regresar.
Regresar valorando lo poco
saboreando una copa
es desear empezar.

Viajar es sentirse poeta
escribir una carta
es querer abrazar.
Abrazar al llegar a una puerta
añorando la calma
es dejarse besar.

Viajar es volverse mundano
es conocer otra gente
es volver a empezar.
Empezar extendiendo la mano
aprendiendo del fuerte
es sentir soledad.

Viajar es marcharse de casa
es vestirse de loco
diciendo todo y nada con una
Es dormir en otra cama
sentir que el tiempo es corto
viajar es regresar!

Gabriel García Marquéz

viajar 2 viajar 4 viajar 5 viajar 3


Touching the Void

6 Nov

This week I immersed myself in two vastly contrasting tales of gripping non-fiction. The first was the very true story of two men who summit one of the most remote peaks in the Peruvian Andes only to have one of the climbers plummet off an ice sheet mid-descent. Assuming the worst, his partner guiltily goes back to base camp without him.  And so the fallen climber, with his shattered leg, endures one of the greatest survival journeys ever recorded.

The second was the very true story of one woman whose perfect storybook romance comes crashing down after her fiancé admits to infidelity.  An excellent writer, she solemnly conveys the agony, anguish and hurt that comes with such bone-crushing betrayal.

Then I realized these stories are not so different after all. For anyone who’s ever been really and truly heartbroken, doesn’t the feeling of having a strong grip on the mountain one minute, and the next everything in your life is out of your hands, sound familiar? Surely the void of helplessness and loneliness is comparable. In the end, they are both testaments to the power of human resilience; physical, mental and emotional.  The man survives and continues to climb, years after his near-death experience.  As for the woman, her story of recovery continues and the hope is that she too will be able to regain that which she once held so tightly in her grip.

As humans, we never know what we are capable of until faced with the worst.  Just know that even before you have been given the opportunity to show your resilience, it is undoubtedly within you, too.  Whatever your fall, we’re cheering for you.


touching the void


Brand New Me

25 Oct

The Deepest Calling

21 Oct

This poem was passed on to me a few months ago by my good friend Mandy. There are certain lines that, after having read them for the umpteenth time, still sink in my chest and remind me of the privilege and the history that comes with this experience. As I say good-bye to some of my closest friends that are finishing their 2-year commitment and realize I, too, am in the single-digit “months left” category, the phrase little do you know, you are in it for life, is taking on a whole new meaning.

To all the RPCVS, current and future volunteers, and anyone associated with the mission of promoting world peace and friendship–enjoy.

50 years of Peace Corps: A Message for Soon-to-be Volunteers

Peace Corps is a twenty-seven-month-long-commitment,

Little do you know, you are in it for life.It all starts with that spark from someone, “Uncle Dave served in Peace Corps and he loved it”, “Do you know they work in Thailand?” or the best and the most simple, “You would be great in the Peace Corps.”

The highest compliment, the deepest calling.

And then the paper trail begins, blazing a path through a dense bureaucratic network of uploaded dreams and poorly stated ambitions.

We trace every spark believing that it will one day lead to a full fire of intention.

Really, it’s your first endurance test, and it is not a smooth process-believe me.

When volunteers start, their minds are wrapped around 1,000 different words for help, ..empower, assist, aid, facilitate, uplift,
yet no idea how to use them in a sentence.  Let alone in life.Yes, we open borders, but more importantly, minds and hearts.
Winning them, earning them with the skills of our training and the purity of our efforts.
This is something those who are new to the family realize, and eventually, eventually, 9-12 months eventually..
You will go forth from this time, and this place, toting all that you can carry of your past life and loved ones.

And then,
you serve.

Never, will you feel more alive – it will surprise you.It is a progression of connection.
at first, you are in your head and it’s
American, meets other.
Then you get more grounded, and
volunteer, meets villager or teacher, meets student.
And then, if you are lucky, the simplicity settles in, and it’s
human meets human,
heart to heart.

It’s all right there.  It’s tucked into the humble corners of each day.
Two years- will fly by.
Watch carefully or you might miss it.
Blink twice,
and it’s gone..

And then,
you will leave those same coveted, carefully packed objects turned artifacts in the fault lines of all your cultural earthquakes.

And then,
you come back.

You are returned volunteers, never former, and you try to trace the patterns of home and you stumble, and get dizzy, and people from the place you once knew ask…

How was Malawi?  Ecuador?  Mauritania?  Poland?
How was Nicaragua?  Mali?  Panama?  Vanuatu?  Romania?  How was Tanzania?
And what did you do there?

and you will pause.

I changed the world.
I changed myself.

It’s been 50 years of sweat and smiles, moments and memories, adventure and admiration, respect and realization
and waiting and waiting and waiting,

It’s been 50 years of imagination and inspiration.

Fifty years on paper,
but we are a part of so much more.
We bring hope to the forgotten corners of the world,
and find peace at our core.

Meleia Egger
RPCV Malawi 2008-2010

 PC 2 PC 3 PC 4 PC 5 PC 7 PC 8PC 6

What I Do In Peru, Part Two

15 Sep

As a group, Peru 19 just a hit a major milestone.  Held in Lima during the first week of August, our Mid-service conference is literally our halfway point.  It means one entire year in site has come and gone, and now it’s time to prepare for my last 12 months in Olmos. I was looking forward to Mid-Service conference for several reasons: we have one-on-one appointments with our doctors (“Dr. Suni, I think I’m going crazy”), a whole week of gallivanting around Lima, spending time with my besties and eating delicious food we only dream about while we’re at site. One thing I was NOT looking forward to was our five-minute Year One Work presentations for staff in the office cause ughhh, I wanted to pretend I was on vacation.

But alas, every member of the youth development program had to prepare a presentation to show the staff what we’ve been up to this whole year.  The curious thing about putting this presentation together was realizing that I’ve actually had a ton of fun working this year!  Gretchen Rubin describes this sentiment perfectly in her book, The Happiness Project. “The days are long but the years are short.”  Sure, I’ve gripped about having to go a meeting from time to time or felt like I’m not doing enough, but in putting together a display of my work since August of last year, I’ve realized it’s flown by because of all the different projects I’ve had the privilege to be a part of. I think when all is said and done, regardless of the hardships; I will always look back at my accomplishments and be proud of my first year in Olmos.   Without further ado:

Year One in Olmos, Lambayeque

Youth Development, Peru 19

Primary Projects

Community Diagnostic

  • An in-depth analysis of the local community, with a special focus on youth
  • Anonymous 20-question surveys completed by sophomores, juniors and seniors at each of the six local high schools.
  • Survey questions focused on the major themes of adolescence: interest in school, alcohol, drugs, sexual behaviors, violence, family life and plans for the future.

There were a total of 460 respondents to the surveys, which I didn’t realize at the time, is actually an incredibly rich source of information on the youth in community.  This research has since served several purposes in my work. First, teachers and parents were all eager to see what was revealed when students were anonymously asked direct questions about taboo topics like sex, alcohol and drugs.  I was able to present my findings at several PTA and teacher meetings.  This elevated my status early on from “frivolous American volunteer” to “serious youth development professional”. It also set the stage for what kind of youth-oriented projects I could focus on during my service. And lastly, the surveys gave me an opportunity to introduce myself and my future plans to the schools, students and parents who I hoped to work with eventually.

The last question of the survey asked students “if you could change three things about Olmos, what would they be?” This infographic represents the themes most frequently mentioned. Drugs, sub-par education, violence and alcohol abuse.

The last question of the survey asked students “if you could change three things about Olmos, what would they be?” This infographic represents the themes most frequently mentioned. Drugs, sub-par education, violence and alcohol abuse.

Pasos Adelante

This is a popular project for many volunteers in Peru, especially those in the youth development program.  Pasos Adelante is a structured youth group program that trains teens to be Peer Health Promoters.  That means we use the official Pasos Adelante manual to teach teens about sensitive health topics like teen pregnancy, STIs, HIV/AIDS, family planning, drug and alcohol abuse and safe sex practices. After going through the 12 sessions in the guidebook, a staff member from the Health Post and I certify they are ready to give workshops to their peers on these topics. Pasos Adelante employs the ‘multiplier effect’ where we train x amount of Peer Health Promoters and they in turn give x amount of workshops to x amount of students in their schools, and that way, the information multiplies itself several times over.

The Health Post in Olmos has really taken to this program and has made it a staple of their mandatory Teen Outreach initiatives.  Since I’ve been in Olmos, we have certified one group of Peer Health Promoters and are close to finishing with our second group.

I have to admit at first I was hesitant to start working with Pasos Adelante. Sex education, taught to giggly teens, in Spanish? I was pretty terrified at first, but I powered through because as I’ve mentioned before, teen pregnancy and lack of information is rampant in Olmos.  Here was my chance to do something about it.  Now I can honestly say it’s been one of the most rewarding projects I’ve worked on.  I vividly remember sitting in the back of the classroom as one of our first Promoters gave her classmates a session on safe sex. I felt like a proud mother at a dance recital, except this was about sex and maybe some of the girls in the class would end up pregnant anyway. BUT MAYBE AFTER THIS PRESENTATION THEY WOULDN’T! And that’s why I love working with Pasos Adelante.

Because Pasos Adelante addresses sexual health topics, we decided to plan a big event around World Aids Day on December 1st. Here, Angeles holds the sign she made for our parade through the streets of Olmos.

Because Pasos Adelante addresses sexual health topics, we decided to plan a big event around World Aids Day on December 1st. Here, Angeles holds the sign she made for our parade through the streets of Olmos.

Damas Adelante

I’ve previously mentioned my women’s empowerment project here and I’m proud to say, now it has a name!  Because some of the curriculum is based off the Pasos Adelante program, and it’s specifically for girls, I decided on the name Damas Adelante.  Since I last wrote about this project, it’s expanded tremendously.  After starting with two classrooms, I had a serious influx of interest from other teachers who wanted to learn more about my activities.  As of today, I am working with a total of 150 high schools girls in 6 different classrooms.  Because I started this from scratch, it’s been an interesting process trying to figure out what the goals for this project are, or how I can measure progress. I am still focusing on topics like critical thinking, sexual health, gender equality, college counseling, health and financial education. The goal is to promote independence, healthy lifestyles and leadership among the girls. I am currently working on trying to quantify results and measure changes in behavior (more surveys!) but if nothing else I have had an incredible time working on this. Through our activities (group discussions, journal entries) I’ve gotten to see the potential in each and every one of them.  This project has brought me some of my greatest challenges in site, but also some of my greatest fulfillments.

We start every class period with a 5-minute writing assignment, usually a thought-provoking quote or question. I like quotes that give hope and inspiration for the future. One class period I asked them to reflect on Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous “The Future Belongs to Those Who Believe in the Grandeur of their Dreams” quote.  A few weeks later, I entered the classroom to find that they had chosen to decorate the usually-barren back wall with this very same phrase.  :’)

We start every class period with a 5-minute writing assignment, usually a quote or question. I like quotes that give hope and inspiration for the future. One class period I asked them to reflect on Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous “The Future Belongs to Those Who Believe in the Beauty of their Dreams” quote. A few weeks later, I entered the classroom to find that they had chosen to decorate the back wall with this very same phrase. :’)

Vocational Orientation Campaign

Vocational Orientation Campaign is just a mouthful to say College Prep activities.  One of the most interesting facts I found through my community diagnostic research was that almost all the students were interested in higher education of some sort.  Yet, when I look around, almost all the students are not pursuing further education. What’s the missing piece here?

I’ve learned there are actually many, many missing pieces. It takes a Herculean effort to promote higher education especially when there is no tradition of it. You have to involve the parents, you have to convince the students that MORE school is a good thing, you have to remind the teachers to promote it, not to mention explaining the financial commitment it’s going to take.

Luckily, the volunteer I replaced, Speare, had already started working towards this goal by hosting a college fair in June of 2012.  This was the first ever in Olmos and it had a really positive turnout. I’d also attended another volunteer’s college fair in the town of Monsefú and learned a lot from that volunteer’s experience.  I knew I’d love to have a similar event this year and add on to it by having college-related activities leading up to it. This included several sessions administering the official Ministry of Work Vocational Exam to more than 75 high school students.  After students received their results, I would sit with them and have a basic college counseling session discussing career and school options. I was also sure to mention the upcoming college fair, where they would have the opportunity to talk directly to the institutions they were interested in.  In hindsight, I wish I’d been able to administer this test to more students, since they would be more engaged at the college fair if they already had a career in mind. Food for thought for next year.

Alumnas spending their Saturday afternoons taking the Ministry of Work’s Vocational Exam.

Alumnas spending their Saturday afternoons taking the Ministry of Work’s Vocational Exam.

After two months of planning and coordinating with representatives from colleges, universities, technical and trade schools, the military, the high schools in Olmos, the Ministry of Work and the Municipality, Olmos hosted its Second Annual College Fair on June 25, 2013!!!  The event, which lasted from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., surpassed all of my expectations.  Overall, we had 18 higher learning institutions travel up to two hours to set up informational booths and greet over 400 junior and senior high school students from the community. We were also able to host a guest speaker on behalf of the national government scholarship program Beca 18, which many of our students will need to apply for in order to afford going to school.  Most of all, I was proud of the fact that the whole thing had been funded locally.  Usually the municipality is tight with the purse strings, but having them fund the whole endeavor proved to me that they too see the importance of an event like this.  I also used the fact that June 25 is my birthday to my utmost advantage. “It’s my birthday, so you’ll be there right? If you support this event, it’ll be the best birthday I’ve ever had.” Peruvians are very eager to please, and I was prepared to use every weapon in my arsenal, in the name of education!

The point is, for my first college fair it was a huge success and I know next year’s will only get better.

Opening ceremonies: Segunda Feria Vocacional de Olmos

Opening ceremonies: Segunda Feria Vocacional de Olmos

Besides these three projects, my sitemate and I continue to lead our women’s only exercise class and soon I’ll start preparing for next year’s summer school activities (January-March).

So there you have it, folks. This is what I do in Peru, Part Two.

25: A Year In Review

30 Jun

What better way to say farewell to 25 than creating a list, à la Buzzfeed, of the 25 most memorable moments of the past year?



25. Right after finding out I’d be taking my talents to Olmos for the next two years.



24. US Ambassador to Peru, Rose M. Likins, making it official at our Swearing In ceremony.




23. Traditional Thanksgiving dinner made in a traditional Peruvian kitchen during our vacation to Arequipa.




22. Tina and I sharing a laugh (probably at someone’s expense.)




21.  End of Summer pool party for our summer school students. Any excuse to escape the heat!




20. John, Annie and I tatted up and ready for our half-marathon race in Lima. Beat my own personal record by 20 minutes. Just throwing that out there. #champ




19. Gender equality workshop during our boys leadership camp. Our department-wide leadership camps are my favorite!




18. Papa Bear and I enjoying the view from the rooftop pool at our Cartagena hotel.




17. Being fun and young, for a change! Right before we hit the party streets of Huanchaco, a popular tourist beach town.




16. Helping Tina’s zoo team catch caymans so they could be transported to a new zoo.

*helping = observing from a safe distance and occasionally snapping a picture.




15. Lambayeque volunteers gathered to watch the presidential election.  You did great, America! O for Obama.




14. Leland (aka LeeLee, Looshkies, Leelusha) and I celebrate America’s Independence with some July 4th field day activities.



13. Hey llama lady! A casual stroll through the plaza and look who we run into…



12. We have a weekly radio show discussing a variety of environmental issues. “Bienvenidos a la Hora Ecologica con Cuerpo de Paz!” 



11. My favorite picture of Olmos. I never thought I’d be living in the very foothills of the Andes!



10. My super official business cards.  I came here to WORK, people.



9. Ready for a day out in the campo! Love the serenity and tranquility of nature on the outskirts of the city.However, the snakes? I dont care for ’em.



8. Ol’ buddy here probably has no idea what he’s wearing, but…MIAMI DOLPHINS #1!



7. The incomparable Kimmyyy Cole and I putting in some real effort to look like human beings for Peru 16’s going away party.



6. Scott and I hanging out for a few minutes before a meeting with the Municipality.  I’m almost positive Scott’s diet includes small children.



5.  Our youth health promoters! They are high school students who give their peers workshops on topics ranging from self-esteem to safe sex practices.



4.  The two day hike into and out of the Colca Canyon, one of the deepest in the world, is the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life…but I got some cool pictures out of it!



3. My brother from another mother, Casey, and I promoting safe sex during a World Aids Day event. (We like to coordinate outfits on a regular basis).



2. Host mom preparing our Christmas feast.  My only request was to have the turkey killed when I wasn’t home. Sure enough, there was no trace of any animal slaughter when I arrived. Then I was kind of scared…



1. Nothing like a good thermal mud bath to keep skin fresh and rejuvenated!



…And one for good luck!

So there you have it! 25 was incredible in every way possible.  Among the many things I’ve learned throughout the year is this:

change you

This has been the most challenging but also most rewarding year of my life. I am markedly changed, for the better, forever.  I feel a connection to people, places and environment more than ever before.  I think it has to do with the lack of distractions during Peace Corps service. It’s made me more in tune with the range of emotions we, as people, are capable of.  I’ve felt everything from intense love, happiness and satisfaction to heartbreaking loneliness, disappointment and frustration.  These experiences have made me feel stronger at times, fragile at times, but always more human.  I think there are few opportunities in life to experience something that powerful. I’m grateful.

Cheers to 26!!!

birthday drink!


Let’s talk about LOVE, baby

22 May

Peru is for lovers.

You’d think soccer was the national past time, but you’d be wrong. It’s romance and Love, with a capital L. Ask any other volunteer who’s been pursued (incessantly) by a Peruvian. I mean, you are getting ‘te quiero’ within like 10 minutes of meeting. Guy, please. Even among older people, almost every introductory conversation I’ve had explaining Peace Corps and my two-year service usually ends with ‘well, maybe you’ll meet a peruano, fall in love and stay forever.’ I laugh politely and say ‘maybe’ when I really mean ‘doubttttttt it.’  I find it amusing that strangers are so concerned with my relationship status, but they also seem to be just as concerned with my weight (estas gordita/flaquita!) and my diet (come mas arroz!) I chalk it up to funny things people say here.

Recently I realized the implications of this constant topic of finding a novio in Peru. Being single and 25, I am officially spinster status. I even had one lady at a tienda suggest I must be barren since I don’t have any kids yet. Excuse me!

Which leads me to my next point: since my arrival in Olmos nine months ago, I realized I wanted to spend a considerable amount of time working on gender equality issues.  In my past pre-PC life, I was curiously drawn to this topic, reading about exemplary women who changed the game or broke the barrier. We all know gender inequality is still a real thing all over the world, including our beloved America. But I’d never felt it as strongly as I did when I arrived in site. The second you walk through the lime colored arches grandly decorating the town entrance, the machismo hits you smack in the face like one of those red boxing gloves on a spring. POW!

Boxing gloveBeing Latina, I recognize the patriarchal culture that characterizes South America and even Latin immigrant populations in developed countries. Los hombres Latinos siempre son un poco ‘machista.’  In reality, seriously misogynistic American men are the exception, not the norm and most will be immediately chastised for their bonehead opinions. Not in Olmos. Here, in a small town like this, it is not only normal, it is expected and encouraged. From a young age, girls are assigned very specific roles which they will be expected to fulfill, come hell or high water. It’s probably the reason my neighbors think something is wrong with me. I am 25 and still not fulfilling my roles. The women themselves have come to accept and perpetuate these beliefs, forever solidifying behaviors that favor males and subjugate females.

What do love and machismo have to do with each other? I’ve only begun to understand the deep connection after I started teaching a girls-only class at one of the local high schools.  It’s obvious that this male-dominant environment greatly affects young girls’ development in many ways. Recognizing this, I started putting together a 6-month curriculum that uses a holistic approach to empowering female youth. The program, taught in two classrooms (junior and senior girls) once a week for an hour, includes lessons on critical thinking, self-esteem, reproductive health, nutrition, sex and gender, fitness, financial literacy, career counseling and learning about positive female role models throughout history. I’m not only telling them that girls run the world, I’m going to teach them how!

I imagined that the second I stepped into my classroom I’d have a whole army of girls ready to fight the powers that be and take over Olmos, Arab Spring-style. Except– a strange thing happened.  The more time I spend getting to know my students, teen girls from 14-16, I realize they are only minimally interested in what I have to say and totally engulfed in their teenage love affairs.  I know that’s normal for teenagers everywhere (except I don’t remember being particularly consumed by these things. Maybe I was, but my memory doesn’t recall? I can’t really say, it was such a long time ago.) Anyway, the whole thing is very Romeo-and-Juliet-esque. Case in point: the first thing the girls wanted to know about me was: Do you have a boyfriend/husband? How old were you when you had your first boyfriend? Did you leave someone behind in the states? I was all ‘Ladies, ladies, settle down. I’m here to talk about important things, like college and the future.’ But that’s not important to them right now; LOVE is the only thing that matters.

“Patriarchy is not men. Patriarchy is a system in which both women and men participate. It privileges, inter alia, the interests of boys and men over the bodily integrity, autonomy, and dignity of girls and women. It is subtle, insidious, and never more dangerous than when women passionately deny that they themselves are engaging in it.” – Ashley Judd

And therein lies the problem. From a young age, a woman’s education is not emphasized as say, learning to cook, clean and tend to household chores. Lack of support grows into lack of interest and motivation by the time they reach high school.  Then here comes Prince Charming in his mototaxi with his sweet words and love ballads and the girls are smitten like kittens.  I feel like girls are taught to believe that the most important role they’ll play is mother and wife, and are ready to play that role as soon as men start to show interest in them.  From then on, their life is dictated by their relationships.   If they graduate high school, they surely will not leave town to go to college if it means leaving their boyfriend behind. Worse, many young couples make uneducated and unsafe decisions to start having unprotected sex, which is how way too many of them end up pregnant before the age of 20. Given that the couple stays together, the chances of the woman finishing schooling and starting a career are slim. My host sister, who is 23 and married with child, told me she had one semester left of college before she dropped out.  I was like ‘why?!’ and she replied ‘well, I got engaged to my husband’ and I said ‘so what?’ and she just looked at me like ‘what don’t you get?’ I dropped it after that. At such a young age, her life is already completely rigid. Childbearer and caretaker.  If, like many cases I’ve seen in Olmos, the ‘sweetheart, love of your life, gem of a man’ books it out of town faster than a speeding bullet, the uneducated teen mom is now almost completely dependent on her family to provide for her and her child forever.  The idea of a ‘single working mom’ is absolutely non-existent in northern rural Peru.  It’s a grim scene, people.

And it all starts with that teenage love obsession back in high school. One day they’re in lala land with their novios and then reality sets in.  I don’t want to see my girls LOCKED IN for life.

I get it, obviamente, no one wants to die alone (fingers crossed over here!) but I just want to give my students the luxury of options and making their own decisions. It’s ok if you want to marry your sweetheart and be a stay-at-home mom at the age of 18 (it’s really not), but it’s also ok to follow your dream of becoming a doctor or president. As long as the choice is hers — not society or family or boyfriend. Of course love is beautiful, wonderful and fulfilling, but so is independence, freedom and reaching your goals. And I want them to know that at 15, they will have pleeeeeenty of opportunities for both in their future.

proof women can have it all. si o si?

proof women can have it all. si o si?


March Madness

13 Apr

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

Let me explain. I don’t know what went on in March but its been the weirdest month for me as a volunteer. Let’s pick up where we left off, shall we?  And you can see what I mean.

Rewind to the end of February and there I am, volunteer extraordinaire! I was feeling pretty good after finishing our summer school geography class with an amazing “END OF SUMMER” pool party for our kids. By far, one of the most rewarding activities of my service. Even better, my dad and Lucy were almost due to arrive in Peru for their big trip.

Then the bad news. Lucy was not feeling well while they were in Colombia and they would n0t be able to make the trip to come visit. After months of planning their trip to Peru, I was really sad to think I would not be able to see them.  My first thought was “If they cant make it here, then I guess I’m taking a trip to Colombia!!’ Not seeing them while we were both in the same continent was absolutely not an option. Immediately I contacted Peace Corps Peru and asked for special permission to fly to Bogota, even though it was short notice according to the current vacation request policy (must ask at least two weeks in advance.) Fortunately, they granted me permission and I was off to my homeland!

Although I loved teaching summer school, it was exhausting and I reeeeally started to miss family. This trip to Colombia was without a doubt the break I desperately needed.   Once I arrived, Lucy was feeling a little better and her, my dad and I ended up having an incredible time. We went sightseeing and did fun tourist-y things throughout the week.  I can’t decide what I loved most: the delicious food, Bogota’s stunning landscapes or just spending quality time with my papa bear. Ok, all three were the best! Colombia is really wonderful and should you get the chance, you should definitely visit the greatest country in the whole continent! I’m not biased at all. But really, this time around I saw Colombia with a new set of eyes. It’s like not wearing your glasses all day and then you put them on and all of a sudden the world is beautiful and vibrant!  This is a country that really has its priorities in order and its shit together (I’m looking at YOU, Peru!).

me and dad in the plaza de bolivar (bogota)

me and dad in the plaza de bolivar (bogota)

with lucy, enjoying the view

with lucy, enjoying the view

arroz con coco y sopa de mariscos. to diiiiiiiiiiie for.

arroz con coco y sopa de mariscos. to diiiiiiiiiiie for.

that's right!

that’s right!

una bandeja paisa bien rrrrrrrrrrrrriiiiccaaaaaaaaaaa

una bandeja paisa bien rrrrrrrrrrrrriiiiccaaaaaaaaaaa

bogota's oldest neighborhood with the Andes in the background

bogota’s oldest neighborhood with the Andes in the background

After coming back from Colombia I had about two weeks before my next Peace Corps vacation.  It might sound like volunteers are always out and about traveling and yes some of it may be true but also some of it has to do with our work schedule and in this particular instance I just so happened to be able to schedule two vacations in a month. Poor me!

No, but really, poor me.  Those two weeks in between vacation were very weird and random.  I love working in Olmos but I just couldn’t catch any kind of inspiration in any direction, as far as work projects are concerned. I couldn’t answer the question ‘what should I do next?’  That particular sentiment is especially frustrating for me because this experience is most fulfilling when I’m working with jovenes. I spent the two weeks mulling over this and not getting much done. Finally a few days in mid-March I realized I want to put together a vocational orientation program for local youth. Yay! Inspirtation and direction back on track! But then, it was time to leave site again and head 4 hours south to the groovy beaches of Huanchaco.

Huanchaco was another great getaway.  I was able to hang out with my amazing PCV friends and spend time relaxing and hanging out. No complaints or weirdness when my Peru 19 girls get together.

After Huanchaco, I had about 5 days back in site and then I was heading to a completely different part of the country, the beautiful mountainous city of Huaraz, for a Peace Corps project management training.  Don’t get me wrong, I love all kinds of nerdy training events but I went into this already  tired.  After a few days, the intense schedule and constant overfeeding  (portion control, what is that?), my body was starting to break down.  I spent the last few days of training sneezing, shivering and trying to bundle up in the cold weather. Finally, training was over and I’d be on my way to mind-numbing heat–my favorite!  Just when things were looking up and I thought this weird  month/mood was over and I was finally heading home to Olmos for good with no travel plans in the near future…


That’s right. MY STUFF WAS STOLEN! Forget about ruining your day. More like your whole week or month! I was taking a Movil Tours overnight bus from Huaraz to Trujillo (nearest city with routes to and from Huaraz) and I handed over my luggage to the luggage counter, as I have done ten billion times before, every single time I travel. Fast forward to 5:30 am and the baggage dummies are telling me, and 7 other passengers, that our things are not anywhere to be found.  Somehow, between Huaraz and Trujillo, 13 pieces of luggage belonging to 8 passengers disappeared into thin air and no one knew about them. Not the dummy drivers or the brainless baggage fools.  Obviously I was extremely calm and gracious. NOT.  I went all ‘Linda-Blair-In-The-Exorcist’ on them. HOW CAN A WELL KNOWN NATIONAL COMPANY just wash their hands clean of our losses? Seriously. 13 pieces of luggage. That doesn’t make any sense.  So after several phone calls to the manager, one small protest where we may or may not have blocked the entrance gate so that no more Movil Tours bus could enter the station until someone listened to our demands, and two trips to two different police stations, we have filed complaints hoping to get compensations from the company  itself.  As with everything, I’m sure the whole process will be long and tedious but I dont care, I’m going to stick with it until I get back some value of what I’ve lost (favorite Gator Tshirt!) MovilTours will RUE the day they were vicious enough (or careless enough) to steal (or lose) my things.

better days with my pack before it was STOLEN!!!

better days with my pack before it was STOLEN!!!

Right now I’m trying to move past this March slump so I can focus on being productive and not frustrated or bored.  I can’t decide if I want to focus my efforts on my Peace Corps work or bringing down the evil enemy empire known as Movil Tours. I’m sure my PC work will be much more rewarding.

(Or will it?!)

evil face

P.S. – Never take Movil Tours anywhere! There’s something off-putting about them, every time I’ve traveled with them. Especially that one time THEY STOLE MY LUGGAGE!!!!!!!!!!

movil tours red