Fifty four days in. Ahhh… I remember when I was just shy of 27 days in-country! How I have emotionally brined in these last few… whodoyouthinkIamkidding each day still feels like one whole month and I am swimming upside down in a fishbowl, stuck hearing underwater. Yes, I post the “fun” pictures because we curate our lives online, not too different from when we recollect memories from our best adventures – often selectively omitting loneliness, doubt, and infected blisters.
I have had only two of those this week.
The second week of Site Exploration in Oxapampa, Pasco, Perú involved cooking, eating, sleeping, working, homework, networking, inaugural wearing of a Peace Corps vest,
eating, sleeping, going by the names Mary/Yessy/Yes/Yessica/Yenny/Sessy/Ceci/Ivy, eating, cooking, and two different sides of banana bread.
I was stood up five times in five days (don’t worry, this is culturally normal) and the meetings that didn’t turn out to be an “appointment-for-one” I nodded quantitatively more times than I registered what language we were speaking.
Señor Jorge Wuiiilsz Evahgjdus hskjdh Jejshs, Gerente Desarrollo Social de Oxapampa at desk in a sea of desks in a fingerprint-entry only section of the municipalidad.
[In Spanish, um I think]: Hello Sir I am Jessica Rice, a future volunteer for Cuerpo de Paz and we have an appointment at 9am today.
Señor: Buenas dias Jessica Rice akjadhkjsdhf;sdfihsd;khj;sdghj;kfghjsfd ldghljdhgfjlasdgf mucho sdkjfhasdkjfh gusto lsdjghafljsadhgfjlsdagfljsd Cuerpo de Paz lhgfsljhsgfjkhsdgjlsghdjhgssd sdjlhgsajhdgsjl dsaljhasljhgasdhjgas sjladhgasjhdgsa Mary McGuinn Cuerpo de Paz sjlfhgsdjhfsjldfhgsd Angeline saljdhgasljhdgsd Cuerpo de Paz fdsjlhgfsjldhgfgsd habilidades djlhfgsdljfhsdf capaciticiones skfgsdljhfgsdfjgh sjhsfgjsd sdjlgsadfljhdgs sadljhgsdjhgfsad jlsdjlhgsdjhglsdfgh, entonces, es un placer de conocer Ceci.
Jessica, ahem, Ceci: Sí. Igual. Mi tambien.
(By the way my name is not Ceci but at this point I am going to just go for it. I don’t not like it.)
[Translated for the readers at home.] “Thank you again for having us (yeah, I practiced “Us” so . . . moving along . . .) and for your time. I have a few very basic questions for my orientation to your beautiful community. Before we begin my brief interview, do you have a business card, Señor Jorge KJhkadhjKhjkahjsdds?”
[Note: This is a ploy to see his name in legible writing so I can say it correctly. Think
Señor: Oh you mean akdjhsadkjhs ksjhadljhagsfj jas dgljhgsd hay tarejta? A no.
The next forty minutes involved many passionate paragraphs punctuated by emphatic! words! I actually heard before in a similar accent and some enthusiastically blind listening on my part. Nod nod nod claro claro claro sí sí sí nod nod nod. While my recount of this fictionalized (yeah, nope) meeting is exaggerated for entertainment purposes (yeah, also nope) I understood maaaaaaybe 13-47%. It generally involved the official person of Oxapampa making several courtesy phone calls, a future calendar meeting, and the very real question of if I am going to present Peace Corps and my professional history to 10-200 people on Monday or not. After all, I have a 34-point spread margin of error.
And cold calling-strangers wasn’t even the sexiest part of my week. Here’s a list of random highlights since writing blogs takes so much time, especially when the modem/router is run by guinea pigs:
- My host family is proving to be even more awesome than the glossy honeymoon first date version I had last week
- The work appointments where I am not stood up feel like 30% abduction, 60% bungee jumping, and 10% Dealers Choice
- My host sister Jenny is an excellent cook. We made papa rellenos and ahí this week as just one of 30 other dishes inhaled (lunches are the main meal in Perú, btw.)
- I wore my Very Official Peace Corps Vest (#vestup courtesy of fellow Peru 31 Neeka) with one of my names embroidered and suddenly I wasn’t taken as some lost gringa tourist. I was a lost gringa tourist with official documents and big pockets that carry (fun fact) a maximum of six puppies
- Tuesday (May 1, 2018) was a Peruvian national holiday El Dia de Trabajado (think U.S. Labor Day) and so Monday and Wednesday were exactly what you expect as far as standing up a lost gringa tourist with an official vest (For reference, see cats 1&2)
- I went to a waterfall. I drank from a machete-d coconut. I *think* am teaching English to a town of 200 on Monday night.
- I ate more new food: guyaba, quito quito, uchucuta, cancha, gelatina de pata (cow- foot jello) (yes, people reading, for reals)
- Peace Corps goal #3 of exchanging culture: I made banana bread and Shepherd’s Pie with/for my family -and I am going to be honest- I crushed it like a grown adult #substitutedeveryingredient. (If anyone has suggestions of “U.S.” recipes to share with my host family – please message me. I’ll post the results.)
- I am now able to successfully yell at/with my family like I *am* in the family. And I hid a bundt cake in my sister’s bed and I am currently enjoying her cursing me out in brand new Spanish jerga while I type this
- The word in Quechua for mushroom is TookLeesh. Go ahead. Say it out loud. I am looking at you, Amy Rathke.
- YOU GUYS. People asked me for directions in the plaza and I ANSWERED THEM. #likealocal #itwasallthevest
Other news: I found out my house has a passable version of running hot water that has not yet electrocuted me. I have semi-successfully poached Internet from my host-brother-neighbor. I have completely tried to do my site exploration workbook but sorry-not-sorry I am busy meeting artisans…
…and producers (coffee, dairy, meat) and guides and families and neighbors and business owners and and and and and
Who: As far as I can tell, a full semi-wholesome week into site exploration, the potential socios (work partners) I have met 1) know what Peace Corps is and 2) have more work than I can possibly accomplish in two years with perfect Spanish. This is evidently rare and very fortunate.
What: Projects presented to me so far have been contributing to design/content and translation of local, regional, and statewide tourism materials (Hi Casey & Jenny & Paula) teaching English, business classes, financial education, community banks, plans de negocios, marketing, and promoting native art in tourism, event planning, and some other stuff waaaay over my head for now.
When: I return on the night bus to Lima Friday night, May 11th. Sadly I am missing my new host Mom’s 65th birthday party which is a registered regional event. I have four more weeks of PST (pre-service training) at el Centro and living with my Chosica family. It is going to be a tough transition back to a home where I feel just a fraction as welcome.
Where: Just barely started exploring the area around me. Oxapampa is lush, high altitude jungle that is both cold and hot and sunny and raining – believe it or not – all at the same time. Year round. The population is an interesting mix of original Oxapampiños and all the Peruvians who have discovered Oxa and have moved here (sound familiar, Port Townsend?)
Why: Don’t get me wrong, Oxapampa is gorgeous, interesting, and so far largely welcoming. Yet, a least once every day I think about home, friends, family, comforts, and my dog Cabot. I don’t have any “Service Goggles” on. I question daily whether I want to serve in the Peace Corps for the next two years. Is this how I want to spend the next two years of my life? Am I going to be of service here? What does “of service” mean anyway? Do they really need or want me here? Is this a good use of two years at my prime career years? Could I have more impact in my own country, own language? Do I want to spend the time, energy, and awkward discomfort to create a new norm of comfort?
I have four more weeks of training to decide.
How: Mom used to say to me (for when it gets rough, tough, or scary) “If you can’t swim then remember you know how to float.”
Gonna go float.