Week Two [Stuff and Things]

peeps.jpgHappy Easter Blog Peeps!

Current mood: I am still semi-identifying with the one bug-eyed peep on the far left… with an occasional flash of a Very Hungry Godzilla.

>>>Several of you sent words of support and encouragement after last week’s post. Just keeping the shiny-happy side of things real. Such is life. Thanks for the hugs. (And the purse-cookies.)

It’s been a suspiciously quiet week, so here’s some glitter-filler of stuff and things. Graze below if you’re interested in acronymology, my new life full of policies, and

Peace Corps Boot Camp: aka “PST”

How to briefly answer “Qué es el Cuerpo de Paz?”

“Comprehensive” is a grossly understated descriptor for the Peace Corps’ PST (Pre-Service Training). The PCPeru staff of ~30, the majority of whom are Peruvian, operate El Centro de Capaciticiones (aka the training center) where currently 48 aspirantes (aka volunteer “hopefuls”) attend full days of programming. Five to six days a week.

>>>Sidebar: Except this week. It is Semana Santa in Perú and we have “trainee-directed activities” to spend with our Peruvian families, who (some) also have a long holiday weekend.

Our PST schedule changes weekly. It is primarily broken up into two-hour or half-day blocks for a variety of classes. We have technical, language, policy/administration, safety/security, culture/diversity, and medical sessions. For a handful of us lucky ones, we have individual tutoring three nights a week.

Content is often cross-integrated through training platforms. For example, in our technical classes (CED: Community Economic Development, or WASH: Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) we were introduced to Perú’s education system. This is important for CED candidates because one of our “metas” for CED is to co-facilitate with local educators to offer entrepreneurial classes for students – in alignment with nationally mandated education goals.

Still with me? Buckle down. Here’s a taste (and keep in mind this was disseminated in Spanish): The MINEDU (Ministry of Education) oversees educational programming at a national level. Moving along the operational ladder to district, province, regional, and local administrative components such as DRE, UGEL, and educational structures in IE, APAFA, EB, EBR, CEBA, and CETPRO, which basically explains who does what, where, when, and how.

Lost yet? Yeah. We were too.

So that’s when our Language Team picks up the bat and re-introduces the same curriculum through various exercises and dynamicas (activities) until our spinning heads stop and we are Jedi-ed into absorbing the new information.

Now (albeit, very tentatively) I have a context to approach a couple educational leaders in my future community. I am prepared to introduce myself and explain what I have to offer. Perhaps most important, I have a better sense of the type of questions to ask with my flailing hands, Pictionary action stick-figures, and my special blend of pigeon Fr-anishJapanenglish.

Meanwhile, Team CED: Presentations

CED Presentation #1
Tyler, Jack, and Elaine present a unit from our Emprendadoro Manual

So, in the spirit of being thrown in the deep-end (a general over-arching theme of Peace Corps service, it seems) this week we had our first assignment of small group presentations for CED.

Qué eso? What. that.?

Hey get up in front of class and tell us some technical businessy stuff! Keep us all well behaved and engaged. And if you can, do it all in Spanish. Also we are officially evaluating you to decide where you will spend the next two years of your life! Mkay… thanks.

This week’s exercise divided the group of 22 CED candidates into two & three-person teams to write a MIPA (aka lesson plan) and present to the class. This is one (of many) criteria in our TAP manuals (Training Assessment Protocol) in order to pass training and swear-in as volunteers.

“Design thinking refers to creative design strategies designers use during the design process of designing.” – Courtesy of Wiki’s Redundant Department of Redundancy

Our group (Jazmin, me, Tim) presented a delightfully minor subject in business called “Design Thinking” – in *30 minutes. I think I have already taken two grad school classes on this component alone. The objective however was to learn, practice, and apply classroom management, create engagement and class (M)otivation, communicate new (I)nformation, (P)ractice new concepts, and (A)pply (MIPA) them to a real-life, familiar situations. You know, just a quick crash course in Teaching 101, 201, and 501.

Thirty-Minute Timer

30 minutes = *Nailed it.
Foreshadow: Week Four is FBT (Field Based Training) where Peru 31 heads to “the field” for a week and CED teaches a 9-hr business curriculum to students. More about that in the next couple weeks. Because I will be having a full-time affair with Google Translate.


I Used to be a Fully Grown Adult: aka Peace Corps Policies and Babysitting Rules

For those of you at home, here are some Peace Corps policy fun-facts (while I am always little snarky, it is meant to keep all of us safe, and the statistics shared are harrowing enough, so disclaimer this and take my humor with a second grain of salt):

  1. We are not permitted to go “off-site” except a) with our host families or b) with PST for the first six months we are in Perú. That’s official lock-down and full-time immersion until September 14th. Please mail me anything you’ve eaten in shame when you were single.
  2. After swearing-in as a PC volunteer (June 7th!) volunteers move to their assigned communities and new host families. Ahi, we accrue two vacation days a month.
  3. Volunteers may apply for “vacation-leave” at least two weeks out from the requested date and await written approval from PC. This is for us to travel to another district, meet friends/family at the Lima airport, or leave the country. We earn ~48 days of leave in two years of service. If we go without permission (and get caught) we risk administrative separation (i.e. get fired, permanent government record.) The last time I experienced this was in high school when we had to get Out of Town Permission (O.O.T) slips. *face. smack*
    Food Slang
    This is a list of Peruvian slang that is related to food. 10pts if you can translate one into the comments.
  4. Volunteers are considered to be working 24/7. (Just like NOLS field instructors!) Day excursions within our departamento (= kinda like our “states” in the U.S.) are permitted and we need to text our location to Command Central so PC Peru knows where we are at at all times for safety and security reasons (natural disaster, civil unrest, general keeping an eye out for our safety and well-being.)
  5. No drugs, sex with minors (<18), students, or staff, getting into a physical fight, gathering in a group of 20 PCVs or more… and I have no political immunity if I do something else really, really stupid.
  6. Since technically I work for an agency of the US Government, I am not allowed to comment, write, or participate in anything politically related in the US or Peru. So you’re just going to have to Google all on your own what happened last week with the president of Perú.
  7. We learned there is an actual job / department in the US Government to find and read our blogs for sensitive materials. [Insert wave.]
  8. Driving. Anything. Ever. Until COS (Close of Service) in June 2020.
  9. Still not allowed to use tourniquets.


Do me a favor and hug your washer. [Hi Ariel] Not a complaint. Just a suggestion.

Sundays are for buckets of cold water, hand-scrubbing on a plain wooden board, wringing, rinsing, and hanging. Future volunteers: Consider this before you pack that extra shirt.

Other Classes and Events: Tuesday Shots #2, Diarrhea and Peruvian Food

  • Language Class: Accost strangers on the street and ask them if they know what Peace Corps is and if we can tell them all about it! MY FAVORITE. (Where we practice the phrases shared in image #2 of this post). I am currently at “Novice High” for my language level and need to get to “Intermediate Mid” in order to swear-in. We are evaluated over the phone by an independent language proficiency interviewer (LPI) in Weeks 5 & 11.
  • Rabies Shot #2 = Another lollipop. Sidebar: PST is basically shots, lollipops, handouts, and coloring.
  • How to Use your Peruvian Cell Phone. You may recall last week’s veiled comment about this phone being less than intuitive. I learned I need to go to the drugstore and fill it up (SUPERCARGA) with some soles! It is still pure evil.
  • Sexual Assault Class: This was a very serious, intense, and quiet class. One of the shocking facts shared in this three-hour program was there is an average of two (2) rapes and two (2) aggravated sexual assaults per year for Peace Corps Peru volunteers (Data from 2012-2017). I don’t share this to freak anyone out (Hi Suzie) but rather to underline how serious the PC team takes this risk and the extensive training and support program they have in place. Upside? The statistics for diarrhea and public shaming by pooping our pants is about 99% higher. I haven’t had to listen to as many poop jokes since teaching a class of fifth grade boys.
  • Four hours of “Diarrhea and Eating in Peru”. Not sure they should have combined the title of these classes. But we did get to try out some pretty cool fruits from la selva (jungle.) Peruvians are very proud of their food – rightfully so.
    Two drops of bleach for fifteen minutes to treat raw fruits and vegetables. *Not bananas.
    Sanci: These seeds are jungle fruit’s procreation equivalent of glitter
    Pitahaya: Dragon Fruit. Also, Dr. Suni is wearing a Perú futbol t-shirt. Perú won 3-1 that night against Iceland in NJ. Pretty sure these facts are directly related.
    The Valenzuela Family Plot – Carachacra Cementario

Sábado Aventura: Carachacra

This is the cemetery plot of my host mother Maria’s family.

Saturday morning she asked if I would like to accompany her to [enter a bunch of Spanish, locations, and nouns I didn’t understand] and a couple hours later we were hiking into the foothills of the town she and her nine siblings grew up in.

I then was honored to be introduced to Maria’s parents.

Maria y Jess on an adventure into the mountains to meet her family

Maria and I changed out several family member vases with fresh flowers, washed the stones, shared some chancho y papas, a chirimoya, and talked a little about where my parents are (also) laid to rest.

Afterward, we hiked down a mountain path back to the highway where I finally felt myself again. It was just the holy connection I needed in my perfect kind of shared church.


Week Three: Level Up

The upcoming weeks of training are pretty exciting and important. For Team CED, Week Three is bulk preparation for a series of entrepreneurship classes for secondary school students in their native language. Week Four is FBT, Field Based Training, where CED candidates will go to Cajamarca or La Libertad (see coloring below) for “an intense week” to experience what it is like to live and work at site. Week Five includes a language proficiency interview (LPI) and our site placement decisions.

Eating a chirimoya (custard apple) on a Micro-bus

[Insert a screaming pooping fruit-eating emoji here.]

It is going to be a la costa, la sierra, or la selva come June for this libélula. Stay tuned.

Peace Corps Peru Service Districts
Amazonas, Ancash, Cajamarca, Junin, y La Libertad

Once again, thanks for reading. You just helped me with my homework. ♥


10 Replies to “Week Two [Stuff and Things]”

  1. Hi— love this, thanks for sharing. Can you eat custard apple and cows milk in the same meal? Because in Guinea people thought you would die. I really wish you did this 20 years ago so we could have compared notes. Sounds like you are having so much fun. 💜💜💜

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know! I have been getting into my Mind Tardis to teleport back to you in Sierra Leone to be like HI ELI OMG I GET THIS NOW HOLY CRAP SORRY I AM GONNA BE TWENTY YEARS LATE AGAIN. (And yes, I would be using all caps from my Tardis and an inappropriately long scarf with Dr. Who hair.) Re weird customs: evidently if I eat ice cream when I am sick I will just die. There is oddly a lack of actual dairy product around here. I am having as much fun as I am having “WTH have I done” thoughts. I hear I will be happier in 6 months. Thanks for these notes – they cheer me so much. xjo


  2. Hugs! What an adventure! New food, new friends, and a new life for 2-years. Live in the moment. Don’t look forward, don’t look back, just live in the day. We’re so proud of you!


    1. Hi James! Well I am certainly not bored. Thanks for your note, good cheerleading, and I will keep working on taking it all in each minute at a time! xoxo to the entire team – love.


  3. Hey Jess Rice! It’s so awesome to hear of your adventures and all of the craziness of the Peace Corps. I attempted to join Peace Corps in 2005, but I broke my wrist right before I was supposed to leave the country, and then a military coup took over the Mauritanian government. You know how life happens. Though I managed to live in S. Korea for two years instead, I never ended up on the Peace Corps train. Keep writing about your experiences. It’s amazing to have a record of all the good and the bad, and it’s such a thrill to live abroad. Best of luck, Jess. I look forward to reading more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hellllloooooooo Alison! So great to hear from you. I still feel guilty about not getting back to you roughly 12 years ago over a FB message that got lost in the shuffle. Disculpé me! That’s crazy about a broken wrist followed by a military coup – sounds like someone / something may have been watching out for you. And that you found another (maybe better?) adventure after. I feel pretty lucky even after the days that leave me wondering. Thanks for reading and sharing! It’s like a hug across the hemispheres and decades! xo Jess


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