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This is actually important…

17 Feb

Hey guys, remember when I used todrive you nuts encourage you to donate to the American Cancer Society or the Children’s Miracle Network?

It’s that time again!

This May, all of the volunteers from my region will be uniting to work on a very special project– bringing together 60 teenage girls for a 3-day leadership camp, with the theme of “Peace of Mind, Body, and Environment.”

These annual camps (one for girls, one for boys) are unparalleled opportunities for young female leaders to come together and meet like-minded peers as well as a group of adults who are invested in their physical, mental and spiritual growth. In a country where 50% of the population is under 25, these camps are, in essence, contributing to the future of the nation.

 
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Activities and topics include a career fair, aptitude test, recycled arts workshops, trash management trainings, sexual education sessions and leadership habit development. In addition to helpful life skill sessions, our camps give teens a safe and inviting space to share who they are and where they see themselves in the future. The camps foster an environment for sharing highly personal topics, things they can’t really express as normal youth in Peruvian society.

Here’s where you come in.  A significant portion of the camp’s budget (40%) is coming from local community contributions and donated support.  But the rest, $2,200, volunteers are fundraising through the following link.  All donations made through this link are secure through the Peace Corps website and tax-deductible.

 
DONATE HERE!
 

Please help us meet our fundraising needs!  The Peace Corps Volunteers of Lambayeque, Peru and our adolescent campers thank you!!  Any questions feel free to email me or you can read more about the project in the donation link.

 

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-Betty

 

 

Summer on Smash!

9 Feb

‘Ya’ll know who got the summer on smash. We do!’

This is not only one of my favorite running songs off of Nas’ Life is Good CD but  it also describes the summer so far.  After a rocky start to 2013 that included broken laptops and having no money, among other misfortunes– things have taken a turn for the better.  My sitemates (Tina, environment, Peru 18 and Annie, environment, Peru 18) and I have basically been rockinnn’ all our summer projects.

Our biggest project has been teaching Vacaciones Utiles, a geography/environment summer school program, we’ve called Around the World in 8 Weeks. Starting the first days of January, we have been focusing on one particular country and environment theme per week.

So far, we’ve ‘traveled’ to and learned about:

Week 1: USA

Week 2: France/Recycling & Trash Management

Week 3: South Africa/Oceans & Plains

Week 4: Egypt & Saudi Arabia/Deserts

Week 5: Brazil/Jungles & Freshwater Ecosystems

Up next we have India, China and Australia.

The kids have no obligation to come to our summer school classes so we have to find a creative way to make learning fun, interactive and somehow more enticing than staying home and watching TV or surfing Facebook all day. The goal of VU is to communicate the beauty and vastness of the world and making it come alive for our students as they sit in dilapidated desks in a muggy auditorium. For example, aside from the lesson about the US, we also made hot dogs and taught the kids to play American football (they got it, sort of.  There’s no Tom Brady being recruited out of Olmos any time soon, you know what I mean?) For France, we made them crepes with Nutella and for Saudi Arabia, we talked about the different styles of dress and showed them how women wear the hijab. We also include movies in the curriculum, like showing Rio during Brazil week. When Annie taught them about deserts around the world, we had each student draw their own sand art landscape.  We then display their artwork around the classroom walls and give out prizes for the most creative, the most improved, etc.

hot dog line!

tina teaching eduardo the steps to wrapping the hijab.

tina teaching eduardo the steps to wrapping the hijab.

trash pick up!

Sand Art VU

spreading glue on their desert landscapes to later  add real sand.

the review game! a mix of jeopardy and tag. a fun way to go over what we’ve learned during the week.

After starting out with only 8 kids, then skyrocketing to 70 students at one point, right now we have a steady group of 30-35 kids (ages 8-14) that are genuinely interested and dedicated to the class.  We teach Monday through Thursday from 9am-12pm, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but trust me, it is.  We spend double that time putting together activities, gathering materials, downloading relevant videos and pictures from the internet and soliciting support from community businesses and institutions.  We can’t possibly provide markers, paper, paintbrushes, watercolors, etc., just from our own PC living allowance.  Several of the businesses we have contacted have been helpful enough so that we can continue our activities. We have 3 weeks of summer left and are planning to have a big ‘End-of-the-Summer’ party at the community pool at the end of February. All I want is for our students to look back on 2013 and think ‘that was the best summer everrrrrrr!‘ — Is that too much to ask?

Vacaciones Utiles 2013 Foto

Vacaciones Utiles 2013

Our other big project (and when I say ‘our’ I really mean Annie’s,  I just like to tag along and help her out because it’s so much fun and probably my favorite activity of the week) is a free women’s-only exercise class.  Annie and I both love running and working out and Lord knows the women in Olmos need something just for themselves that doesn’t include cooking, cleaning, childcare or working the family tienda. So about 3 weeks ago, we decided to give this class exercise class a try. Annie managed to reserve a community events hall every Tuesday and Thursday for 1.5 hours.  We were also able to advertise the class on the Municipality’s information channel and voila! About 30-40 women have been coming to every class. Some are a little skeptical and hesitant when they first arrive and some jump right in, as if they’ve been waiting for a free exercise class for a very long time. Being that Annie loves teaching this class AND we have an incredible turnout, I feel like this is one volunteer project that will be around for a long time.

get them sit-ups right, girrrrrrrrl

The other thing we are working on is building a mini-landfill at Tina’s house (she’s about half an hour outside of Olmos, in the campo.) A mini-landfill is a relatively easy and inexpensive option for families who are used to burning their trash (and inhaling toxic fumes).  We’re not done building yet, as there are few hours of the day when you won’t absolutely fry if you’re outside under the sun.  We hope to complete it by the end of the month. I am thinking this is only the first of several mini-landfills we will build around town.

landfill werkkk

whistle while you workkk

Other exciting things about the summer:

  • My host family brought a puppy home!

meet Princessa Preciosa Bonita.

  • I received two amazing care packages from two of the most wonderful and caring friends:
  1. Carlitaaaa sent me a huge box full of beautiful memories from our 13-year friendship and also jewelry from her recent trip to South Africa.  I am so proud of both of us, because we’ve managed to stay close since middle school, finishing high school and college together and then moving into the adventurous adult phase of our lives.  When I lived in Paris, she was in China. When I was in Miami, she was taking the NYC advertising world by storm but always managed to provide support and encouragement.  I am lucky to have a friend like her and I can’t wait to have her visit Peru.

my favorite were all the pictures she printed 🙂

  1. Dolly is by far the intellectual brainy friend I’ve always turned to when I want to talk about current events and political theory or watch a foreign film. There is no one in the world I love to ‘nerd out’ with more than Dolls, so it’s no wonder that her care package included a book on female leadership, a bookmark with a Winston Churchill quote and a stylish day planner.   I can’t wait to bore everyone else with our conversations when she visits Peru as well.

    there were more candies in the package but they were devoured almost immeadiately. woops!

Thank you guys so much! I can never fully express my gratitude for every care package I receive.  The time it takes you to put them together and mail them does not go unnoticed and I am forever in awe of your kindness and thoughtfulness.

  • I’ve decided to start training for the Lima Half-Marathon in May.  I want to continue challenging myself by running at least one half-marathon a year.  Lima is a beautiful city and I bet it’s even more special when you’re dragging your tired body across its captivating avenues and plazas. The biggest challenge so far is finding a time to run when the temperature is under a billion degrees.  No easy feat, but now I have to do it since I blogged about it. This is my way of motivating myself, so friends, please get on me about my training!

overlooking the pacific ocean in lima

  • Most importantly, my dad and Lucy are coming to visit! AHHH! I am beyond ecstatic.  I cannot wait to share my Peru life with my dad and show them why I’ve grown to love this dusty, sleepy, insanely hot little town.  It doesn’t hurt that they’re also bringing me tons of goodies from America!

This is definitely shaping up to be one of my best summers.

The Hardest Part

7 Dec

I want to preface this blog post by saying that I waited two years and three months to be a Peace Corps Volunteer.  Throughout the long, arduous process, I became increasingly passionate about being part of this organization I thought I knew everything about. In hindsight, I realize I knew nothing about the kind of life experience I was embarking on. But sitting here today in Olmos, I can honestly say I am grateful for that unrelenting blind determination–I am living my dream and the truth is, it’s better than anything I could have imagined.

However.

Peace Corps is definitely not for the faint of heart. I’d be painting an unbalanced picture of my experience if I only shared the wonderful, heartwarming moments and ignore the flip side of the coin.  The truth is there are major social, cultural and economic issues in Peru. If there weren’t, Peace Corps wouldn’t be here. It is my hope, and I’m sure that of my fellow volunteers, that one day Peru will not need a development agency like PC promoting change. Instead, right now we have 250 volunteers in sites (sometimes 2 and 3  per site) to try and improve the way things are done.

Service is hard, and not in the ways you would automatically assume. It’s surprising how quickly you can adjust to no running water, bucket baths, cramped public transportation, no air conditioning, electricity black outs…the list goes on and on. At some point, it just becomes a daily part of your life and you don’t think twice about it. Other things are not so easy to overlook and I find it hard to believe I’ll ever ‘get used to it’. Things like watching a teen mother trying to juggle her two infant children in her arms, with maybe a third running behind, trying to catch up. It’s walking into a school and seeing an environment completely unfit for learning. It’s watching a 4 year old refuse to eat her lunch day after day, but her mom gladly handing her a sugary soda with an assortment of chocolates and cookies instead. It’s seeing young girls get cat-called by any and all men, regardless of age. It’s seeing the trash that liters every street or smelling heaps of garbage being burned.

And this leads me to my next point (warning–its about to get really heavy). There are times when I look around Olmos and I see insurmountable difficulties. The place is a mess. The market is disorganized, dirty and clustered around the town plaza, heavily congesting the area. Why wouldn’t people demand a better location for their food and produce? There is no systematic method to manage waste, hence the trash burning. The health center is run-down and ill-equipped– a scary place to have a medical procedure. And there seems to be a sense of complacency for the way things are. It’s hard finding Peruvian counterparts who are passionate about improving their community. It’s like I’m here for YOU. How about a little support and enthusiasm for these projects? On the tough days, its easy to wander into a frame of mind that asks what the point of development work is anyway. It feels like no external methods ever really work. Peru receives monetary aid, grassroots/technical assistance and infrastructure support.  And yet the problems remain. Is this kind of work even worth it? Should we even bother? Then I realize that YES, it is worth it. No it’s not perfect. If anyone knew what singular thing moves development forward, the world would be a different place. But in my expert opinion (hah!) I think it’s a mix of everything, including an organic desire on the part of the community that is receiving these benefits. It’s important to acknowledge this early on, as a volunteer, because NEWSFLASH: there is no way to fix all the problems of a community in two years. It just ain’t happening. But maybe you can spark some kind of consciousness or awareness. Or maybe you can achieve the holy grail of Peace Corps service: motivating a community to change the way they approach a certain issue (pick one, because they won’t change them all) long-term.

So after realizing in my heart of hearts that what I’m doing is worthy, how do I go about developing Olmos everyday? Well aside from working with local institutions to plan youth-oriented activities and groups…I think it’s also important to set an example with my own behavior.

First of all, during training we are advised to be culturally-sensitive and above all, try to foster positive relationships in our communities.  This is important advice, as we will be living and working in said communities for the next two years. Naturally, we want to fit in and be liked. Done well, this will also spell success for our program initiatives (attendance or funding for events/groups/activities).  Nonetheless, I decided very early on that this kind of approach also had to be reconciled with who I am as a person.  I cannot pretend to support and accept everything I witness for fear of being shunned or standing out.  The reason I am here is to make a community more conscious of the things they need to improve and then help them work on it. I can’t accomplish that by being a passive observer.  I have learned to speak up and point out ‘HEY, that’s not ok.’ My friend Tina likes to joke that I’m ‘always yelling at Peruvians’ but, someone’s got to do it, no? The top phrases heard from yours truly include:

  • ‘Sir, that is not a bathroom. Please don’t pee there’
  • ‘Ma’m, did you know burning trash is toxic for the lungs?’
  • ‘Sir, please do not smoke with your two-month-old baby in the house’
  • ‘Little girl, don’t kick that puppy.’
  • ‘Sir, cat-calling is disrespectful and it makes me uncomfortable’
  • ‘Ma’m, pick up your trash and throw it in the garbage can that is right there, literally two steps away’

Being able to point these things out makes me feel accomplished. These tiny drops of awareness are a part of my contribution.

Peace Corps is hard (had I mentioned that yet?) You’d be pressed to find any volunteer who hasn’t at some point questioned what it all means.  For me, it’s the small victories I’ve had thus far. Maybe I won’t eradicate machismo, but telling a man that it is not OK to cat-call women and having him apologize, is a victory! Maybe he’ll think twice the next time he does it. Maybe a young girl saw me call him out and feels empowered to stand up for herself the next time she’s harassed. Maybe a boy in my world culture summer school class decides he wants to study in Spain when he graduates. What if a girl I mentor decides to follow her dream of being an engineer instead of staying at her mother’s stand selling fruits?

If I can accomplish any one of these small things, I will be more than content knowing that for those few individuals, my service meant something. That’s worth the hardship.

 

Here’s the mail, it never fails…(x3!)

10 Nov

Recently, I’ve felt like the Belle of the Ball every time I go into the post office to check for mail. I’ve received 3 aaaahhhhhhhmazing care packages from my favorite peeps back home.

Receiving any kind of mail, be it a postcard, letter or package filled with goodies, has a profound effect on us as volunteers. It’s like: 1. people back home remember you’re alive!! and 2. people back home still love you!!! So thank you guys, for sending your love (and the baby wipes).

From Diana, Cristi and Jenny:

I knew Diana was sending me a small package with the new Nas CD and maybe some baby wipes, so imagine my surprise when I picked this baby up!

my girls know what i really need – nail polish!

From my Mamsy:

This package saved my life! I asked my mom to send me some of my clothes from back home because Olmos is way too hot for the wardrobe I had during training.  Now I have shorts, tank tops and light tees galore!! Plus, when everything in your life is brand new, wearing your old clothes makes you feel like yourself again.

mom made sure to send me my Muscle Rub, which comes in very handy after 8 mile runs on the old Pan-American highway.

From Jojo:

Another hearty surprise from my amazing friend Joanna. Jojo asked me what my favorite candy was, so I thought maybe I’d get a Butterfinger and some baby wipes. (Baby wipes are pretty much a staple in any care package, they are so useful!!) As always, she went above and beyond to send me an incredible package that included a gossip mag and a lovely note.

got the butterfingers (and much more!)

I love you guys for taking the time to put these together, they mean so much more than you can imagine!!

This is what it looks like when we receive mail…

 

What I do in Peru (Video)

15 Oct

(The audio is a little weird 😦 but hopefully you can hear what I’m saying!)

 

 

In case you didn’t watch the whole video (too long, boring, blah blah blah) — here is the link to the YouTube channel where I’ve been uploading my videos: Betty’s YouTube Channel

 

 

 

So official! (Swearing In Pictures)

6 Oct

Peru 19 swore in as official Peace Corps Volunteers on August 17, 2012 at the ambassador’s house in Lima.

We weren’t allowed to take cameras to the ceremony, but here are some pre-and-post pictures of the day:

with the girls (day before swearing in)

leland, nanda and i and our luggage

starla, meg and i.

are we excited or what?

spending QT with lulu

lulu loves her donut.

with US Ambassador to Peru, Rose M. Likins.

 

And now…time to celebrate!

enjoying antichuchos at our Country Director’s house.

lambayeque crew!

readyyy for a night in miraflores.

i love this picture of kendra and i. 

lindsay and i rocking cardigans at the club.

woooo-hoooo!

Y-City!

21 Sep

I’ve been wanting to write a blog post about Yanacoto, the neighborhood I lived in during training, for quite some time now. I didn’t realize how much I loved the place until it hit me we’d only have a few days between Site Visits and Swearing-In to spend in our host communities.

Yanacoto is a dusty, sandy mountain-side town on the outskirts of Lima.  The entrance to the town is a long, long, looooong sloping (annoyingly stupid and exhausting) hill that curves and rises until you get to what is known as the ‘first zone.’ There are a total of five zones, each zone higher than the one before. I was lucky to live in the very first level of the first zone (shout out to Leland, Jackie and Sam who lived so far up, I’m sure the oxygen was thinner. Ok maybe it wasn’t that high up, but after trekking the hilly road at the entrance, to then have to continue upwards about another 15 minutes in order to get home—wow—you guys were my heroes).

from the first zone, looking up

from the first zone, looking up. (also, that red and white vehicle is a mototaxi…)

Y-City, as we came to call it, was seriously an amazing place. Although, at first glance that’s not necessarily how one would describe it. On a scale from A to E, where A represents the most luxurious neighborhoods in Miraflores, and E being the most poverty-stricken areas in Lima, Yanacoto was about a low C, high D. It is rough. It is rugged. There are no paved roads within the neighborhood.  MotoTaxis (think glorified motorized tricycles) zoom around recklessly, kicking up a cloud of dust in their wake. You can’t decide what’s worse, rabid MotoTaxi drivers or the rabid dogs protecting their turf, waiting for unsuspecting Americans to mistakenly trespass.  Colmillo (his name literally means fang in Spanish) pretty much terrorized every single one of my walks home. I love dogs, but this poor thing was blind and paranoid, meaning any sudden human movement warranted hellacious barking and maybe being chased down the street. Obviously, I learned to bypass Colmillo every day with the stealth of a Navy Seal.

After I moved past all those scary things (took me a few weeks), the mountain really started to feel like home. One of my favorite things about Yanacoto was my host family—Mamita Elena in particular. She is funny, smart, sassy and a little bit out of her mind (sounds like someone I know). She’s also an incredible example of a hardworking woman.  She wakes up every morning at 5am to prepare breakfast and get the family ready for the day. Then, as the janitor at the local school, she starts cleaning classrooms at 7am and doesn’t finish ‘til 1pm, when its time to head home, whip up lunch and get started on dinner.  She still finds the energy to play with her grandkids, worry about the dogs and babysit pesky Peace Corps volunteers. Mamita Elena always had crazy stories to share, my favorite being the time she got kicked out of the convent her father sent her to. Sixteen-year old Mamita Elena did not take her punishments from the nuns well and eventually gave them a piece of her mind.  Obviously she was out of there that same day.  I said “So you were supposed to be a nun?” and she responded “Yea, but I would have been a bad one” with a laugh that showed she’s very much enjoyed her secular lifestyle. I found it remarkable to have this strange familial bond with someone who came from such different and difficult circumstances.

The other great thing about Yanacoto was the tight knit group of volunteers who lived there. I loved having the girls come over for nail night, going to Emily’s to work on training stuff or going to Jackie’s for a feast prepared by her host family. Then there were the movie nights at Steven’s, soccer games at ‘la cancha’ and racing down the hill in the mornings, trying to make it to training on time with Kendra, Carlhey and Casey (and his dogs, Negro and Doggie). I got used to accompanying Mamita Elena on her nightly chore of feeding local stray dogs and loved chatting up the old ladies who worked in the ‘tiendas’ by my house. I even went as far as to try to incorporate that awful, winding hill into my exercise routine–and then ruined it all by finding a woman who sold the most delicious homemade ‘arroz con leche’ just steps from the soccer field.

nature walk

All of Yanacoto’s shortcomings fade away when I think about how it served as the backdrop to so many of my first memories in Peru. Its got a special place in my heart.

That hill still sucks though.

Here’s the mail, it never fails…

20 Sep

I received this wonderful little piece of lovin’ from my favorite bunnydove back home:

thank you, hekaaaa

thank you, hekaaaa

In case you missed it, I received:

  • baby wipes
  • a card with laughing zebras aptly named ‘cristi, heka and betty’
  • a frame with a picture of heka dressed up as marie antoinette at mardi gras ’11

I love you Angelica!!
-Betty

 

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.

 

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!