The report for Week Eight involves five bags of chickens.
My name is Jessica Rice. I started the Peace Corps in Peru, March 2018.
We are named Peru 31- the 31st class of volunteers in Peace Corps Peru since re-opening service in-country in 2002. There are currently 200 volunteers and trainees in Peru and ~7000 worldwide.
The initial term of service for the Peace Corps is 27 months: Three months training, two years of volunteer service.
As of May 2018, Peru 31 is currently in the final month of PST (pre-service training).
Aspirantes (trainees hoping to serve as Peace Corps volunteers) live with host families during PST during. If we pass training, and if we want to continue service, we swear-in as volunteers (PCVs) for 24 months on June 7, 2018.
I am working in Community Economic Development. Our metas are 1) Work with small businesses developing business plans, marketing, and finance skills. 2) Work with youth and women developing entrepreneurial skills and 3) Personal finance education and community banks.
During Week Five of training we were given our site assignments for the two years of volunteer service. I will be in Oxapampa, Pasco, Perú. This is a small city on the east side of the Andes, about 12 hours from the country capital of Lima in the high-altitude jungle.
Back to the regularly scheduled field report: Chickens.
As you may recall, my future host family in Oxapampa, Pasco, Perú has a granja, or small farm. During Week Seven I would have said it was more on the spectrum of a hobby, semi-retired farm rather than a full-on working farm. I was wrong.
Any given night starting at 2am.
And 2:30am. 2:50am. 3am. 3:16am. 3:25am… so on, so on.
Cacaracarah Cacaracarah Cacaracarah
Being awakened by a sound so offensive, so deeply viral in my ear drum, I started whispering murder and mentally assembled every object within arm’s reach.
For those of you unfamiliar with pastoral life, imagine a phone left un-silent (even better, a roommates’ phone) and it turns on you like some drunk alarm crime spree that no matter what button you smash, it relentlessly snooze-attacks you every six minutes and 59 seconds.)
Introducing: The two family roosters.
You already know where this story goes. Hashtag: farm life.
I commented about the damn roosters one morning at breakfast. A few days later the duo was referred to as Pacha and manca. (Pachamanca is from Quechua, pacha meaning “earth” and manka “pot”) and it is delicious.) I laughed drowsily and was less grumpy.
Last Saturday my host mother Pauli announced we were having a meal for the larger family on Sunday. After washing the dinner dishes, I stepped outside to hear Pauli and Jenny in the field, in the dark.
No lights. No sounds.
Then they call for me to help carry a couple sacks.
Peace Corps Peru does a thorough and exhaustive three-months of pre-service training in technical fields, language, social and cultural norms, and safety/security. We have yet to cover what to do when your host family asks to help carry bodies.
I was wearing my headlamp. Si se peude.
Under the cover of the South American night, back in our family/restaurant kitchen, I gently placed the weighted, unmoving sacks on the floor.
Internal dialogue: “What is this? Are they dead? No seriously are there five chickens? Who are we feeding tomorrow? I thought we just wanted one rooster? Why are there five bags? Is this because I mentioned it at breakfast? I am serious ARE THEY ALL dead? AM I A MURDERERRRRRRRRR?”
Play it cool, Aspirante.
External dialogue: “Morir? Muerte?”
The most I got out of translation was: sí and one gallo and four gallenas. (One rooster, four chickens).
Cool, cool. Big lunch tomorrow? Mass farm murder? Cultural opportunity? Maybe this is part of the farm harvest schedule? From training: my job is to observe, suspend interpretation or analysis, ask questions, and… evidently move bodies.
I admit it. I blissfully enjoyed uninterrupted sleep until the first and only crowing by the surviving rooster around 6am.
Five sacks remained on the restaurant floor. I was told to help carry bags back to the field.
Ummmm. “What are we doing? Why are we taking these dead chickens back to the field? What is happening?”
I pick up two. One bag moves.
.THE CHICKEN IS UNDEAD.
This time it is me squirming not the zombie chicken. I ask why [twelve hours later-let’s be clear] bodies are moving. I get post-mortem reflex, but not so sure about the morning after. My internal dialogue turns into a stream of Spanglish diarrhea.
No answer. (Also, how do you idiomatically approach “post-mortem reflex” in Spanish?)
Way to play it cool, Gringa.
One by one, we open each bag and release an “apparently” live (zombie) chicken into the field. My host family checks the bags and we move back to the house.
For the first time in Peru, I feel simultaneously comfortable and obligated to lose my shit. “You told me they were dead! Why are they alive? Why did you put them in sacks overnight if they weren’t dead? Someone please tell me what is happening?”
All I got back was “Go start the water.”
There was one bag left on the floor. I felt guilty.
Lunch was delicious, by the way.
Post your best guess in the comments.