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

 

Peace Corps Peru in the News

9 Jul

Evan Frazier, a Peace Corps Volunteer Coordinator, shared this article with us last week.  It came out in the newspaper on July 4th.

http://www.elperuano.pe/Edicion/noticia.aspx?key=45325

I’ve had conversations with other trainees about how lucky we are to have been sent here.  We have an incredible staff that trains us to work in communities eagerly expecting us.  The Peace Corps enjoys a positive reputation in Peru, where Americans are well-received and respected, ultimately making our efforts fruitful and our experiences memorable.

Magical Moments

1 Jul

Teaching at San Vicente: Wednesday, June 20th, the youth development volunteers were split into groups of 3 and asked to facilitate two activities (one about self-esteem and the other about sexual health) at a local high school. Emily, Connor and myself did a fantastic job! Word on the playground was that students were supposed to have a test but instead some Americans came to do activities, so that might have something to do with their angelic behavior–but who cares. I’ll take it!

Heat Win It All!: As I mentioned before, I have ESPN! I made sure to mention this to my fellow trainees. Often. For Game 5, several trainees in my neighborhood came over to watch. All of them hate the Heat but had a good time watching me get excited when it was obvious we’d be winning the championship. It was funny watching the game from another continent, when I’m usually about 20 minutes from the arena. Anyway, Go HEAT!!

Lima: That Saturday the whole group headed to Lima in two buses. It was so nice to walk around and see some of the historical areas of Peru, including Ollanta Humaya’s house (hey prezz!) It was exceptionally wonderful to have a little “Gator Nation really IS everywhere” moment. We were heading towards Larco Mar (a little slice of American-style shopping/dining overlooking the ocean) when I spotted a tall white guy wearing a GATOR RUGBY shirt walking towards me. Could it be?! I let out an excited “go gators!!” and he replied “go gators”. You can just imagine how magical it was.

The Big 2-5: I never thought I’d be spending my golden birthday as a PC trainee in Peru, but that was the case! On Sunday, the day before my birthday, I set time aside do my nails while listening to music in my room. I dont care if I’m in Miami, Peru or outer space…my nails will look good on June 25.

gotta stay flyyyyy

Sunday afternoon my host family and I went to two different food festivals, one right above my house and the other about 45 minutes away. At night I spoke to my mom and dad and went to bed early because — well, I’m 25 and tire easily. Isabel, our language facilitator, gave us Monday morning off and I took it as her special way of saying “happy birthday, go ahead and sleep in.” Afterwards, I went for a quick jog around Yanacoto. I showered (the water pipes didnt give a damn it was my birthday, water was still cold as hell) and headed to the training center for our afternoon sessions. My fellow 19-ers were, of course, wonderful and wishing me a great day as soon as I arrived. The best part came during a presentation we were having that afternoon. I was focused on taking notes on the material so I didnt notice Isabel walking in with a slice of chocolate cake, candles and a giant birthday card. They dimmed the lights and the whole room sang ‘Happy Birthday’. I was pleasantly shocked and grateful to everyone for planning such a cute surprise!!

thanks, friends!

The fun didn’t stop there. My host family made a special Peruvian feast called “Pachamanca” which was delicious. Last but not least, we had a yummy cake that was topped with strawberries, chocolate and caramel. Need I say more? It was amazing, thanks to friends and family, new and old, who emailed, text (I can still get texts from the states but cant respond), wrote on my FB wall and tweeted me. Every message made my day. 🙂

Also, we have a trainee e-board type of group that presides over weekly general assembly meetings and I was elected secretary. Im really excited for the 4th of July bbq/picnic we’re planning at the training center. Burgers!

 

Picturesss

20 Jun

My first week in Peru…in pictures:

my language group gals

arturito loves making barry bobble

kendra’s homemade birthday card 

happy birthdayyy kendra!

visiting Chosica, the closest city

heyy benjii

father´s day celebration at the local elementary

sniffling all weekend

lulu lives at the training center!

Things not pictured (but worth mentioning):

  • ICE cold showers.
  • I have ESPN!!
  • The neighbors have a rooster which means I get a lovely wake up call at 4:30 am every morning.
  • Arturo dropped Barry and he broke 😦
This weekend we’re going to Lima as a group, so I´m really excited!

 

Staging and More

12 Jun

First and foremost, I am happily livin’ and lovin’ in Peru!  The last few days have been such a whirlwind, I’ve barely had a chance to turn on this ancient excuse for a computer, much less write.

Staging and Arriving in Lima

My flight for staging left Miami at 7am and good thing I headed to the airport with plenty of time because both of my bags were way over 50 lbs each.  So there I was rearranging luggage and tossing things that would not make it to Peru when I got one of the best surprises ever! (SN:  I didn’t know then, but getting the bags slightly under the weight limit made no difference, I still grossly overpacked.  I’m black and blue all over, after struggling with these bags up stairs, down stairs, through several airports, taxis and combis.) Standing there were Ramon, Cristi, Jenny and Carla for my last farewells! Thank you guys for showing up at 5:45am to send me off, it really caught me by surprise and made my morning.

reading material

Staging started at 12:30pm at a fancy hotel in Georgetown , which gave me enough time to freshen up after my flight and looks presentable.  Peace Corps has thus far emphasized the fact that at the end of the day this is a job, and professional dress and behavior are very important.  We had sessions on PC goals, logistics in Peru and personal expectations up until 7pm.  Exhausting but exciting, if that makes sense.  Then I met up with Danny and Anne to watch the Heat dominate game 6 against Boston.  Thanks to my hometown team for sending me off the right way!

poffle!

On Friday we checked out of our hotel at 5:30am (staying up til 11 pm to watch the game was worth it, obv) and headed to Reagan Airport in two chartered coach buses.  Our flight wasn’t til 11am but PC likes to be extra prepared.  After a quick layover/delay in Miami, we were finally on our way to Lima at around 6pm.  I was lucky enough to watch as the plane descended onto Lima at midnight (or 1am or even 2am. Im not quite sure, I was exhausted and then factor a time change somewhere in there and I just have no idea when we actually landed) and was able see the coast with beautiful mountains in the background. One thing I have to mention: As we walked out of customs with our luggage, we were greeted by members of Peace Corps Peru staff excitedly waving American flags, holding signs and cheering.  I’ll never forget the effort they put into welcoming us that night.

 

more like 6pm, but ok.

From the airport we headed to a retreat center where we spent the next two days going over more procedures, asking questions, meeting our training team and current volunteers.  A lot of information but again, exhausting and exciting.

gorgeous.

Host Family

After we wrapped up the retreat on Sunday afternoon, Peru 19 headed to our training center in Chaclacayo where we met our host families! My family lives in Yanacoto, a neighborhood near the city of Chosica (about two hours away from Lima).  I have a host mother (Mamita Elena), father (Papa Nestor), two brothers (Alan, 30 & Nestor, 22) and two sisters (Kenia, 35 & Grecia, 17).  Kenia, my older host sister has two young boys that also live with us (Efrain and Arturo). We also have two dogs, Daniel and Benji.  Even with a full house, I still have my own room which is perfect for some alone time.

After taking all of two minutes to meet my whole host family, Nestor and Grecia invited me to their friend’s cookout.  We all watched the Peru v. Uruguay game and then I sat in the kitchen while Nestor, Grecia & co. cooked up a feast in about two hours.  What they say is true, Peruvians are really welcoming.  I learned two new fun games “TODDI” and “3 limones” which I can’t wait to teach everyone back home. Although I was beyondddd tired, I appreciated the fact that my host siblings were so eager to include me in their plans.

my favorite at the bbq.

We started training on Monday and it is quite the experience so far.  I’ll post some more about it as soon as I get a better feel for it.

-Betty

P.S. – Around here, they know who Beyonce is (yayyy) but no idea about Kanye West (I’ve got some work to do.)

Packing

6 Jun

I’m back in Miami for last minute details.  My car is sold (gonna miss that piece of scrap metal) and my bags are packed. Tomorrow’s the big day.

 

i spy barry!

 

I’ve looked over other PC blogs for packing list suggestions and I meant to share mine as well, for future volunteers…but I packed the notebook that has it. Woops! I’ll try to post it here once I get settled somewhere.

 

 

Last Stop of the “Good-Bye” Tour: Austin

6 Jun

On Wednesday, my dad and I left Atlanta and headed to Austin to visit my older sister, Nancy.  She’s been in Texas for over a decade, as a reporter for the local Fox affiliate (how cute is she?) With my mom in Miami, my dad in Atlanta and my sister in Austin, we’re pretty spread out but we make it work.  All of us do more than our fair share of traveling, hopping all over the country to see each other.

My dad and I both go to Austin several times a year, so this trip was more of a lazy vacation.  A lot of errands and eating.  More eating than anything, really. TexMex is my favorite thing on the planet, so no complaints here!

More from my trip:

we had ourselves a little craft night

Ever since I joined Pinterest, I’ve been trying new crafty things.  Working on projects helped to calm my nerves in the weeks leading up to my departure.  Best of all, I found these amazing gift ideas to make for my mom (similar to this) and dad (this is actually it) before I left.

Another highlight of the week– watching sports together 🙂 . We watched all the NBA playoff games and a World Cup qualifying match between Colombia and Peru. I always want Colombia to win, but hooow fun would it be to be in Peru with the team in the World Cup too?

colombia vs. peru (colombia won!)

 

Second Stop of the “Good-Bye” Tour: Atlanta

30 May

(The tour kicked off with the first round of good-byes in Orlando two weeks ago.)

I was in Atlanta Sunday through Tuesday, trying to fit in as many visits with friends and family as possible. We had a BBQ at my dad’s on Sunday, spent Monday afternoon at Piedmont Park and even found time to go to the historic MLK memorial (none of us had ever been). Most importantly, there was no shortage of hugs, kisses and well-wishes from everyone I got the chance to spent time with.

Piedmont Park with dad 🙂

yep.

MLK + Coretta Scott King

Whenever I hear Ray Charles’ “Georgia on My Mind”, it always reminds me of how much fun I had visiting Atlanta as a kid every summer.  Even as an adult, there is always something new and exciting to do. The city is such a special place…if you’ve never been, definitely plan a trip soon.

Next stop: Austin.

Sneaky Sneaky

29 May

Memorial Day Weekend was officially my last weekend in Miami before I leave for staging.  Since I was basically done with packing, I decided to meet some friends out on Friday night.  Little did I know… they were coming over to surprise me with balloons, a cake and a veryyy generou$ gift card.

Image

surprise!

Thanks to everyone involved: Ramon, Angela, Diana, Jenny, Carla, Jorge, Gaby, Cristi, Dolly, Sonia, Evelyn, Heka, Becca, Claudia, Elena, Sophia, Jessi Jo and Even.  You guys have been an amazing support system thus far.

No dice.

24 May

Long story short– the phone-in-the-rice trick did not work.

Long story — I left it in the bag of rice overnight and this morning it was as good as new! For about 20 minutes.  Then it died. Not one single functioning key.

RIP.

 

The good news is I was able to save all the pictures from the media card/phone memory.  That’s really what mattered most. And I was able to get a loaner phone for the next two weeks so…text me!  🙂

 

-Betty