Tag Archives: boss

Doin’ the damn thing (If I do say so myself!)

26 Jun

I can’t remember when I came up with the “Birthday Game” but it goes like this– at some point during a friend’s birthday, I like to ask two very specific questions:

  • What was your favorite memory of (previous age)?
  • What are you most looking forward to this year?

I think everyone around me is used to my quirky little ideas and inquiries, but I enjoy these questions because the answers are insights into friends’ th0ughts and feelings, even if I’ve known them for a million years (hey Carla) or we’re brand new buddies.  We share almost every aspect of our vies quotidiennes with anyone who will listen but seldomly take the time to really ask what’s going on in the hearts and minds of our closest companions.  And what better day than their birthday, si o no?

So with that in mind and seeing how this is my blog and yesterday was my birthday, I figured I might as well join the fun on the flip side and answer the questions I’ve posed to all of yous through the years.

What was your favorite memory of 26?

  • Where do you begin with a full year of life spent in Peru?  Twenty-six took me from Ecuador to Cuzco, from Chachapoyas to Tumbes, from having a drink at the wealthiest Country Club in Lima to respectufully looking on as one of my student’s mother guts the chicken that will become my lunch.  Almost every day brought a moment or a memory that will stay with me forever.  Because if we’re really honest here…the choice we make to become Peace Corps volunteers is just not normal.  I don’t mean normal in a good or bad way, just something completely foreign for a majority of the  American population. This abnormality makes for more outstanding memories in one single year than the past four years combined.  I have countless anecdotes of time spent with students, my host family, successful projects and traveling around this magnificent country.  But 26 for me is too much to be defined by one single memory.  It’s more defined by something that’s been present for about the last two months.  I find myself waking up every day with an overwhelming sense of peace and accomplishment and success.  An effortless happiness has blanketed over me, something I can only explain as a result of finally internalizing the things that have been said to me since day one in the Peace Corps.  I can’t express how much its meant to hear things like “I’m so proud of you” or “what you’re doing is amazing” or “not just anyone can do something like this.”  Who doesn’t love to hear these encouraging words from friends and strangers alike?  But nothing compares to the feeling of knowing them to be true yourself.  I’ve realized that I’ve made it.  I am finishing.  I voluntarily embarked on an immeasurable challenge of commitment and determination and heart and not only did I survive…I crushed it. I did the damn thing (if I do say so myself!)  I have given everything for the wonderful youth in my site, done the best I could with the resources that I’ve had.  Did I get tired? Yes.  Did I get frustrated? Lord, yes.  But I am immensely proud of what I accomplished on a professional level,  especially yesterday’s college fair that, with the support of local counterparts, went miles above and beyond last year’s event.   On a personal level, I think it’ll take years for me to understand the full impact of my time here.  I read something recently: “Some experiences are so big, they change your DNA.” That’s exactly what it feels like.  Secretly, quietly, I sometimes wondered if I’d face a moment when I’d decide that I didn’t want this for myself anymore.  If I’d question whether the hardship wasn’t worth the reward, and that I’d be better off going home.  There are so many unknowns in our lives here, it crossed my mind that maybe any one thing might one day be too much.  But today, I can speak candidly and openly about my fears because I know for certain that my heart was in-it-to-win it until the very end.  The often-cited “Hardest Job You’ll Ever Love” motto is point-blank and spot-on. I am lucky in that I didn’t face some of the unfortunate situations other volunteers did, but I also stayed committed, in the moment and lived with my heart on my sleeve.  I know so many of you are proud of me, but nothing feels better than being able to write that I am proud of what I’ve done and who I’ve become.  Now I know, without a doubt, that I posses the grit to do anything I set my heart to. This feeling, as simple as it is powerful, is what I’ll remember the most about being 26.

celebrate your accomplishments

What are you most looking forward to this year?

  • As I gracefully cross into offical “late 20s” territory, gone is the dread of inching one year closer to 30 and feeling like an ol’ biddy whose best days are behind her.  Who here hasn’t heard me lie to a complete stranger, and say that I am, almost comically, much older than I really am (‘I’m in my late 30s, I swear’).  Because that’s how I felt. Now,  I’m learning age is insignificant when you’ve got so many things to look forward to, starting with a well-deserved three week vacation that includes a Jay-Z and Beyonce concert in San Francisco.  Talk about a homecoming!
hey bey

hey bey!

It’s interesting that my birthday coincides with my last days in Peru, starting a new year and a new life all at once.  Twenty-seven seems full of promise, positivity and optimism.

airplane gif

 

 

 

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Close of Service

11 May

 

we did it!

we did it!

I just got back today from a week in Lima with all my 19ers.  We had our Close of Service conference which included final medical checks and detailed explanations of the administrative processes necessary to terminate our time as Peace Corps volunteers in Peru.  Of course, it wasn’t all business, as we had plenty of time to hang out and celebrate!

 

i dont know why heidi and i ended up as leland's chariot horses for the 'do something silly!' picture, but there it is.

i dont know why heidi and i ended up as leland’s chariot horses for the ‘silly’ picture, but there it is.

Peru 19 Youthies

Peru 19 Youthies

with Lucia, the Youth Development Associate Peace Corps Director (APCD)

with Lucia, the Youth Development Associate Peace Corps Director (APCD)

this is going up somewhere.

this is going up somewhere.

ladies dressed up for the occassion

ladies dressed up for the occassion

:) :) :)

🙂 🙂 🙂

 

My Time With The Gloria Guys

1 May

A few weeks ago I got the opportunity to do one of the coolest things I’ve done outside of anything related to my volunteer work.

But first—a confession: when this years Vacaciones Utiles  ended in late February, I consciously decided to take an extended work break. I was so exhausted and overworked after teaching summer school all by myself that I didn’t even have time or energy for the little things that I love about my town and my host family.  All of a sudden, I became very aware of the importance in accepting lunch invitations from my neighbors, or sitting down to watch “Frozen” with my host niece (beautiful movie, btw).   It wasn’t like I lounged around in my PJ’s all day; that gets old after, oh, 3 days.  Our women’s workout group is still a top priority every Tuesday and Thursday, as well as training for this year’s half marathon in Lima with my best friend in site, Daniela, and a slew of minor commitments here and there.

Back to my unexpected adventure with the Gloria Guys.  So there we were, my friend Pochita and I, on a Tuesday night setting up for our workout class.  Out of the shadows, we see two well-dressed gentlemen in crisp collar shirts and slacks approaching us.  “Are you ladies from here?” they asked.  Initially I was taken aback by their determined approach, and also,  their exceptionally dapper attire.  Mis Olmanos are many wonderful things, but ‘dapper’ is not one of them.  While I remained mentally preocuppied with their fashion, Pochita answered for the both of us. “I am, but she’s not”, she replied while signaling to me.  Then they asked “Do either of you speak English?  We’ve been told there’s a Señorita who speaks English.”  Snapping back into real time, I presented myself as said Señorita.

It turns out the men are agricultural engineers with Grupo Gloria, one of Peru’s biggest and most successful companies.  They are starting an immense sugarcane planting operation nearby and Olmos has become the project headquarters.  Since it is still in the early stages of implementation, an independent consultant from Britain was brought in to survey and revise their work plans.  The translator they hired quit on them after the first day and they were desperate for anyone who could help them communicate with Brennan (the Brit.) Part of me was interested in helping them out as they seemed to be in a tight situation and part of me was just nosy curious to learn more about the project that will change the landscape of the region in its entirety.  And would you look at that? My schedule is clear!  I heartily agreed to join them the next morning at 6:30 a.m.

Walking over to the hotel-turned-headquarters, I wasn’t really sure what I had signed up for, but as with everything else in this life…you just roll with it.  After a hearty breakfast, Brennan, two project managers and I set off to the future sugarcane site.  It was then I finally understood the magnitude of the project. From inside the comfort of the air-conditioned 4×4,  I watched as the hills around Olmos disappeared and were replaced by, well, nothing.  An hour and half later, we could have been in the middle of the Arabian desert and I would have been none the wiser (really. Brennan has lived in Saudi Arabia and said “this reminds me of the Arabian desert.”)  It’s hard to picture these massive sand dunes being replaced with greenery and sugarcane but I’ll chalk it up to the modern marvels of agriculture.

And, as I learned, it really is a marvelous process.  Through the translating, I learned so much about the actual genius and logistical miracle it takes to put something like this together.  Everything from technical specifications of heavy machinery to the exact planting distance necessary to ensure maximum crop yield, I translated it all.  From Brennan’s conversations with project managers I learned about negotiating contracts with landscaping companies. From his conversations with civil engineers, I learned about road-building specifications and how to determine the tonnage that any given road can sustain.  From his conversations with the planting manager, I learned about every machine used in the planting process, varying irrigation systems, plant beds, fertilizer, the current state of the international sugarcane industry, etc.  Anyone who knows what a nerd I am can just imagine how this crash course in agriculture made me absolutely giddy!

And it wasn’t only about the crazy amount of knowledge I was acquiring every day.  For a week, I felt like I was part of this massively important project.  Every day, the team would gather for breakfast and off we’d go, on to the adventure of the day.  Just me and the guys, in our 4×4, sharing sunscreen to protect our skin against the intense mid-day sun or working together to get the truck out when the tires got stuck in the sand.  Ok, in all fairness, they worked together while I stood by and took some pictures.

IMG643

“really get in there, guys”

One day, the big company boss was visiting and wanted to see the progress made on various parts of the project, which meant visiting different points within about 15,000 hectares.  It was a long day filled with hopping into the truck, driving half an hour, hopping out, conversing, hopping back in, on to the next site, hopping back out, translating some more, driving to the next site, and so on.  This started at around 7am and lasted way after our designated 2pm lunch time.  It wasn’t until 6pm that we headed back into Olmos for a meal.  At one point during the ride, we were so hungry, I emptied the contents of my Longchamp bag to see if I had anything edible.  Luckily, I found some candies I gathered at the last baptism I attended.  The guys were grateful!

After our daily rides out to the desert, we’d go back to the ‘office’ in Olmos and I’d help Brennan translate some documents or put together a presentation he’d share at the end of the week with insights and recommendations.  One of the project managers Miguel, would bring us snacks and soda to keep us going.  Finally, long after nightfall, the guys would drive me to my house and drop me off.  It’s a strange feeling riding around your town in a private car with the windows up.  My townspeople also found it weird to see me in a private car with the windows up and soon enough the questions from my neighbors started: “quienes son?

“Son mis amigos de Gloria!”

All in all, it was a great experience and I’m glad I agreed to help them out. Not only did I go on some unexpected adventures in the desert that surrounds Olmos, but I also got to meet some brilliant, interesting, successful people.   It was one of those moments where you realize you would have never had the opportunity to do something like this at any other time in your life.  Just because I can speak two languages, all of a sudden I’m part of this super important team working on a groundbreaking project.  When else would I ever be hanging out with global sugarcane experts or the nation’s top engineers?  One of the things I really took away from this were the inspiring conversations I had with Brennan about his extensive international career that has taken him from Swaziland to Papua New Guinea and everywhere in between.  It seems fitting, as I make decisions regarding my own future.  I also love that I made new friends in town, and whenever I see the guys around they always stop to saludar and chat for a bit.

i'm her.

i’m her.

Are you wondering if I made tons of money off of this week-long gig?  I bet you are. The answer is a big fat NO.  As a Peace Corps volunteer I cannot accept payment for anything I do in Peru, especially if it is from a private company.  So that’s kind of a bummer, but the great thing is Miguel, Daniela (co-leader of our women’s workout group) and I are looking to see if they can make some sort of donation to buy us some new equipment like yoga mats or resistance bands.

Vamos a ver!

***If you want to learn a more about the Trans-Andean water irrigation project that is transforming northern Peru by bringing water to traditionally arid desert lands, click here: Proyecto Olmos