sábado, 19 de septiembre de 2009

Arrival (from ?)

We had orientation in D.C. the 9th-11th where all the Peace Corps volunteers gathered before departing together to Peru. There are 57 of us – from all over the states and predominately in our 20s and 30s. We arrived in Lima around 9pm Friday the 11th (Ken’s birthday!) and I think I may have brought the least amount of possessions, which so far has worked both to my benefit and left me hanging... We took buses to a retreat center in Chaclacayo about an hour east of Lima for the weekend. There we were assessed for our spansish skills, met with our respective programs (health, water and sanitation- ‘watsan’, and the environment). A few of us ventured out and went running along the river – felt so good, and danced at the local discoteca one night – such a hoot. Sunday, the 12th, we were divvied up between our host families. My host family has a mother (Ana Maria Ramirez) and three kids (Lizbeeth- 20, Junior-15, and Graice-5). They are wonder-filled and like all Peruvians I’ve met, most amiable. We are living in Yanacoto (un pueblo outside of Chaclacayo); Chaclacayo is where the Peace Corps training center and some of our classes are during training. Ana Maria is a busy bee- owns an internet café, works at the school of her youngest (escuela inicial), and is going to school to receive her teaching degree. Lizbeeth is going to university in Lima, and therefore commutes 4 hours roundtrip by 3 buses (or rather combi’s) a day to go to her classes! Don’t think I’ll ever complain about commuting to work/school again. Junior is a total sweetheart- we totally hit it off with similar interests. He’s so responsible- while going to school, he helps out with the internet café and the household, his youngest sister, and cooks! He always is sure I have what I need and shares a love for music, art, and sports.

We’ve started week one of ten for training- breaking out into our language classes, our programs/projects (mine is health), and meet all together as a group for certain activities. Again, such a dynamic group – the volunteers and instructors. Lovin’ it!

Getting to this point… (from 9/15/09)

Some background on the application process…

I submitted my application August 24, 2008, and shortly after, had an interview with the Peace Corps recruiter while I was “conveniently” in Seattle. Thereafter, I started the lengthy stepwise process to more supplemental application materials, extensive medical and dental clearances, a nomination for a health position in the pan-American region, more interviews, the final assignment, and departure date of September 9, 2009. Each step has surrounding stories to how they became, such as being counseled by an Ethiopian woman at lunch at the NIH (National Institutes of Health) when accepting the nomination in September. And… gracefully showing late to a Peace Corps meeting in D.C. in April with a visiting friend, when my name was surprisingly called to receive my final assignment. I have had guardian angels guiding me along the way when deciding to commit to Peace Corps service. By receiving the preliminary acceptances throughout the year, such as the nomination, it never was guaranteed: throughout the process, the acceptance to the Corps, the region, position, departure date, etc., could always change or never happen. The waiting, throwing myself into the nebulous, and trusting the feeling side of me instead of the rational side, was very testing. But, the instinctual feeling that it would work out in the end is finally happening. I have felt a draw to explore the Latin American region since elementary school, when awestruck by tropical rainforests, and a draw to the people since preschool, when befriending a Latina in southern California – we formed an unspeakable connection, especially since we didn’t speak the same language:) I feel engrained with this need and desire to explore and fulfill a pervading sense to serve. I’m hoping for Africa next… then India, the Dominican Republic, Tibet, Nepal… and perhaps the southwestern United States during grad/med school and the southeast for administering demonstration projects in health. I continuously feel restless to see more, experience more, and meet more people - I don’t feel like I quite belong anywhere for a lengthy period of time. Peru feels right for now.

On the cusp of reality… (from 9/9/09)

Or not, since how I’m sitting in the hotel room of a Holiday Inn. Just got to D.C. for orientation and it’s funny, along the way, I could tell from the passengers, that a couple of Peace Corps volunteers were among them. One accompanied from Portland, although we didn’t meet until we were at Reagan International Airport. And another jumped on during our layover in Chicago. What can I say, they just dressed and acted the part so I went up to them and asked when proceeding to the baggage claim.

I’ve really been excited coming up to this point. I continuously was asked if I was nervous/ anxious, but perhaps due to my naiveté, I did not feel either. The turning point was in the plane when doing some reading that arguably should have been done much earlier (thought I read the PC Peru Introduction booklet, but when my dad could answer some questions better than I could, I realized I really just skimmed through it). I started to feel a bit ill-prepared, but I am reminding myself I did the best I could in preparation for leaving for two years and I am where I am.

I always enjoy meeting flight attendants and the one on the flight was a male who had taught English in the past, near Busan, South Korea. So shout out to Erin and Isaac who were in Chungju for the past year! I naturally was excited to talk to him about the culture after travelling there this past March/April.

So here I am ready to set out for the journey, with a lot less baggage than others which I am proud of:) With all the support I received from family and friends, I was able to pack efficiently and mindfully. Still pulled the near all nighter before leaving (30 min of sleep counts for something), but in the good company of Derek and Anya. Hmmm, sounds reminiscent to leaving D.C. mid-August for the west coast with the support of Patrick, Peter, and Cristina. How lovely it is to have true love and support in your ventures.

I have to say the sendoff with having family and friends this past Sunday, was one of the most memorable, meaningful, and impressionable experiences of my life I will take with me.

Love you all!