So, it more solidly hit home today, being gone for 2 years, and losing contact with those back at home. It’s hard to convey how much I feel for those around me, and yet to set out on my own quest. We watched a radical movie in language class this morning- it left a resounding, unsettling, feeling - how alone we are - how one can just act in his own best interest. I went for a run with one of the language instructors and we compared different perspectives on how to receive people (well, kind of, while being out of breath and speaking in Spanish :) and, in summary, there are two ways you can receive other people - to simply reciprocate kind behavior to only those who treat you well and disregard those who treat you poorly, or conversely, to press further in those who seemingly treat you poorly and pry to find why they act this way. Perhaps, the latter can lead to a greater understanding, and promote an improvement in behavioral patterns in the future. One could seemingly consider the first method as easier, a way of settling, and the second as more time-intensive and well, work. It played out last night, after passing by some young teenage boys who rhetorically yelled out inappropriate comments while I passed by. I could have seemingly continued on my way, and ignored them, but because they didn’t seem threatening, I turned back around and approached them, expressing how I didn’t appreciate their disrespect, and continued into introductions and casual conversation. Being culturally sensitive, and rather taking into the age factor, I can try to understand how they were just poking fun, and on my account, they can see there’s more to just a face of a gringa passing by.
Some interesting developments this last week were visitors. The U.S. ambassador, Mike McKinley, made it a point to come visit us in Chaclacayo, accompanied by his bodyguard. This was a notable experience, and I guess, as far as political standards go and in the South American arena, an encounter with a celebrity. He was very well composed and seemed genuinely engaged in our interactions. He lunched with us for over an hour and afterward, spoke to us for a little over an hour. Some feedback included his favorite part of Peru being the people, and that the most valuable assets we could bring to rural communities would be the English language if we choose to teach and the internet/computer skills (I feel so hindered without a functioning computer!). These two assets in essence connect them to the outer world, affording them insurmountable opportunity. ‘Internet penetration’ (aka internet access), only reaches 4% of the population here, which I find shocking. One funny remark he made was how Peru is undergoing a gastro revolution and how we should take full advantage of this, by trying the rich delicacies restaurants have to offer. We all silently laughed and bit our tongues at this because, (a) our modest wages/stipend suffices as barely sufficient to eat at the cheapest restaurants, (b) we will be stationed in rural posts, and therefore will not really have access to restaurants, and (c) how our diet is consumed by rice and potatoes. And as a side note to the rice and potatoes, I am starting to understand how these foods came into mainstream staples – they obviously are an inexpensive option, are filling (which was greatly needed to take away the hunger pains of the poor), and serve as calorie dense food (especially needed for the labor intensive lifestyle). A couple of book s he recommended were Lords of Poverty and Bottom Billionaire – and therefore added to my endless reading list. He ended with the ‘moral superiority’ that we and the Peace Corps strive to uphold, and “to learn to recognize what you can’t fix.” Hmmm, brings me back to the Serenity Prayer Sevrina would remind me of senior year of college… I consistently get frustrated with life, and she would kindly nudge me and recite this prayer:)
Some other notable visitors were Russ (from U of P) and his friend Mike who I got to meet for the first time. We went hiking in San Geronimo and it was the first time I was able to escape the training bubble and see some lush green! And, share in real, feel-good conversation. It’s such a contrast to converse with someone who knows you from before. I love proactive encounters in nature – the two unfold so naturally.
A couple of observations to report - the Peruvian work schedule and transport, aka the combi. It seems like a lot of people don’t sleep here, at least not enough. The low to lower-middle class do an obscene amount of work between the home and actual paid work. They become accustomed I guess, to going to bed around midnight and awakening at dawn (4 to 5ish). I don’t know how they do it. And, on a lighter note, the joke is, if you think a combi is full, you can always fit 10 more Peruvians – some commutes have equivocated to disbelief, like really, we’re going to put even more people on here? I didn’t think it was possible.