September 18, 2011
That unnecessary stream of hellos is supposed to represent the overall state of my blog: barren and desolate. Smart right? Hope I got the message across.
Forgive me if this gets boring right off the bat, but I’m feeling the need to be nostalgic, if not only for a moment. I’m horrible with dates, therefore it’s important for me to physically record as many significant dates as possible while they’re relevant and still occupy a minute space in my massive and ever churning mind. The truth is I envy the recall ability of every elderly person I’ve ever seen depicted in a movie, or a “film”, as I imagine is the diction preference of the cinematically elite:
“March twelfth, nineteen hundred and fifty one, yes indeed. THAT, young man, was the day I first saw Lucille, the most beautiful woman I had ever in my entire life laid eyes on. I still remember that day like it was yesterday– her glossy shoes, her dazzling white dress, her favorite red ribbon streaming from her well-conditioned hair. ‘Herbal Essence’ I believe was what gave her brown mane that extra bounce and volume. I remember it all. And for the record, it was a Wednesday, at approximately three thirty-two in the afternoon…”
That’s my goal. That’s what I’m working towards people. Senility free at eighty-three. When I finally do turn eighty-three, and I expect you all to be in attendance at my birthday soiree, you can ask me what it was like the first time I saw my theoreticalwife. Ask me what it was like when I boarded my flight from San Diego to Washington DC to officially start my work in Peru. Inquire about my first impression of sheep head soup, or the awkwardness of meeting my new Peruvian family, or when I found out that the “A-Ok” hand gesture in Peru has absolutely nothing to do with being “A-Ok”. (As a brief but relevant side note, I’d like to inform you all that I am compiling a list of dedications to people for hypothetical moments that may or may not pan out in the somewhat near future. When the time is right, it’ll be published. That is all.) I am personally guaranteeing, with the help of this written record, to have the ability to recall such events as if they happened to me mere moments ago. It’s a bold claim, I know, but one worth striving for. If I cannot fulfill the aforementioned pledge when I am old, feeble, and withering away, I hereby grant you, the reader, the incontestable right to slap me across the face.
Let’s begin, shall we?
June 8th, 2011- I believe is the date when I actually began my traveling, leaving originally from San Diego airport and landing in Reagan International in Washington DC later that day. My oh my how time flies. The first of several flights to come.
June 12th, 2011- The day I had my first awkward meeting with my temporary host family. A mother, a father, a twenty-three year old son, a sixteen-year old daughter training as a nun, and a twenty-one year old son whom I have yet to meet because of his commitment in training to become a priest. As it turns out my fears were wholly unjustified, as I quickly determined them to be some of the nicest, most down to earth people I have ever met. Ever.
July 4th, 2011- Twenty four hours of pure, fun filled, American turmoil celebrated on foreign soil by Peruvians and Americans alike. As part of this merriment, my friends and I tested our fate on a Peruvian carnival ride. To help put things in perspective, please imagine first how sketchy carnival rides generally are. Finished? Ok good. Then imagine that you are in a third-world country on what even the Peruvians consider to be a dodgy carnival ride, clinging to the side with every bit of strength you have because there is nothing to strap you in. Needless to say, one of the best park rides I have ever been on. Additionally, I would like to add that this is a day that will go down in the record books as “We-just-ate-the-best-damn-cake-in-Peru-day”.
July 18th to July 24th, 2011- The week of field based training. I went off with a group of roughly eleven other trainees to the beautiful department of Ancash. I changed some lives, ate a quarter of a guinea pig, swam in a muddy spring, and did some naked glacier lake jumping. All in all a solid week.
July 28th, 2011- Peruvian independence day people. Fireworks starting promptly at 5am. Fireworks ending promptly at…well, actually not ending at all. I would summarize this day as bitter-sweet, bitter because it marked the end of my supply of Chewy peanut-butterchocolate chip granola bars. Sweet because I received a solid dose of Peruvian culture while attending “La Carrera de los Caballos”, a wicked horse race down a mountain on a precariously narrow dirt path. I asked my host-mom if there were any doctors or nurses who volunteered for the event. The answer was a no, accompanied with a giggle that essentially said “Wow, what a silly question!” I followed her giggle with another naively sympathetic question of my own: “What kind of treatment do the racers receive when someone gets hurts?” Her prompt response was “Well, cerveza.”
August 18th, 2011- This was the day of the host family appreciation party, and the world premiere of a song that may have altered the course of history and changed everything that we have come to know and love, composed by none other than the infamous Zachary Thieman and yours truly. If you were so lucky as to have witnessed its debut, I can only hope that your face was not too terribly melted whilst in the presence of its beauty.
August 19th, 2011- The long awaited swearing-in ceremony, the day when all trainees officially became “Volunteers” after 10 weeks of intensive training. The ambassador rolled in with her protective posse of Peruvian security, gave us a few words of wisdom, then swore us in as peons of the US Government. Yes, I admit, I’m working for “The Man.”
August 21st, 2011- I arrived to my site of Independencia at roughly eight in the evening with my “socio”, or community counterpart. It was misty, and there was a slight chill in the air. My socio gave me a very brief tour of the town, the tour being brief due to the weather and the fact that we had already seen a large majority of the town in the five minutes we had been there. My host mom, an accountant in the municipality, happened to still be working even though the hour was late. Hector introduced us, and then suggested that we meet the mayor whose office was nearby. At this point, I’m going to lay out the picture as clearly and dramatically as I possibly can for you, with the sincere hope that you can accurately envision the scene that I was led into. Ready, go:
Hector, my socio, roughly forty years of age, a full head of slightly wind-blown hair combed straight back, the color of which matched his black leather jacket and carefully polished shoes. I follow him through the town’s municipality building, dark and deserted for the day, up a narrow set of stairs into what at first appears to be another abandoned room. I walk in to the dimly lit area directly behind Hector and first notice the wooden ceiling fan centered directly in the middle of the room, laboring with each rotation, as if its task carried a moral burden far greater than that of the average fan. I then see two men sitting in the back left corner of the room conversing in low tones. The man on the left is the mayor, a hefty man planted behind a desk of sizeable proportions, a desk which I deemed very appropriate considering his own sizeable proportions. The other man, a shifty-eyed, curly headed little figure, sat directly next to him, his posture strongly suggestive of someone well accustomed to groveling. Unless one counts the quick, fleeting glances of the mayor’s curly-haired companion, neither of the men truly acknowledged our presence until we were directly in front of the massive desk.
Hector introduced me, and from here on we went through the usual formalities that are extended in welcoming a new and potentially valuable member of the community.
Here I end this scene, the rest of which is both mundane and transparently normal. You may pose the question as to why I cared to share this small moment with you, the reader, the interested party, and what significance it all seemed to hold. Go ahead, pose the question. Truthfully, it may have held very little significance in the overall scheme of things. However, whenever I encountered this moment while sifting back through my first memories of site, there was always a strong association with that introduction and the word “pitboss”. I’m not even sure that I understand the types of circles in which I could legitimately apply the term, but if I were ever to meet a real, authentic “pitboss”, I imagine it would go a lot like the meeting I had with the mayor of Independencia.
August 22nd, 2011- I met the rest of my new Independencia host-family. Good crew. Host mom, sixteen year old host brother, and a grandma or as they call her “Mamita”, who I would describe as a cute, Peruvian version of Yoda. Our family shares a house with the my host-uncle and his family, an additional six people, this number including the other Peace Corps Volunteer who happens to be living with them as well.
August 23rd to September 18th, 2011- A whirlwind. During my first three months as a volunteer, my duty is to integrate and get to know the community, then report my findings in an organized diagnostic that Peace Corps can read, save, throw away, publish, make an army of paper planes out of, or otherwise manhandle in whatever way they deem fit. Things I’ve done to integrate myself into the Peruvian community: attended a fiesta in a cotton field, introduced myself to random people, taught English, sat in every drinking circle I’ve been invited into, distributed a LOT of surveys, given talks at schools about issues that people here are too embarrassed to talk about, danced purely for the entertainment of the locals, sang (what??), and have literally eaten every meal placed in front of me. The reactions I’ve gotten from the people here have varied widely, from cheering wildly and chanting my name as I leave the vicinity, to complete and absolute silence when I ask for just one person to participate in an activity I’m leading.
Each experience I have here has thus far brought something new and different to my perspective on life. While the positive experiences are what I strive for, it is from the negative ones where I truly learn the most.
If you’ve read this far, I hope that you’ve found the recap of my last three months at the very least mildly entertaining, if not equally as informative. I’d like to conclude my first Peruvian blog post with something that helped pick me up the other day when I was feeling down, with the hope that if you are reading this and feeling blue, it might make you smile, even just a little:
I once knew a cross-eyed teacher. He had trouble controlling his pupils.