So, turns out Week Twelve was not boring. And now that it is over, the first thing I would like to do is sleep for three days.
I am now an official / U.S. Government non-employee / Peace Corps Volunteer; my host-family learned their father’s cancer is terminal and was sent home from the hospital; I said goodbye to fellow trainees, friends, staff, host family, and neighbors; and I left for Oxapampa for two years. And that was just on Thursday.
For those of you placing healthy side bets of which way I’d go… I am [also?] surprised I made it back to Oxapampa. After all, I have a wonderful WY home, deep roots, friends & friends’ quickly growing babies, a mortgage, a business, and a dog I miss dearly – all so much closer to me and normalized when I am back home. But when we were asked (again) (for the umpteenth-thousandth time) (again) “Why do you want to serve?”
Well… Honestly? Selfishly?
Because I am a better version here.
Not perfect, not at peace, not enlightened – but messy emotional stress-eating overweight cranky brand-new-again uncomfortable and wide-eyed ME. And every single moment is a straight-jacket / vice-grip / non-apologetic hug holding me irreversibly in the present. And the work? My lights are brightest when I am helping someone turn on theirs.
And, like all good chapters of topsy-turvy, self-suffering adventures, I am sure the! recent pointy! extremes! of! emotions! will fade into a fond, mushier mixed-bag of hazy soft-edged memory. But maybe give me a week to wax warm and fuzzy from my-front-porch-rocking-chair-lemonade in Oxapampa.* (Or according to the data, 6-12 months to get comfortable. I will let you know when I arrive at the sweet bliss of Oh That, Hindsight, Perú.)
Back to proper blog chronicling… yawn… insert pictures… sneak some snide comment… Week Twelve was a gauntlet of paperwork, signatures, oaths, policy review, thank you notes, last dinners, and therapeutic angsty doodling.
I passed technical, language, and cultural simulation training exams. I had a ten-minute exit interview with the training director to finalize my condition of “Readiness to Serve.” (We agreed it would be best for everyone to just let me start. Finally. Already.) Additionally, a bit jarring and a bunch of sad, three more fellow Perú 31 trainees chose to return home, including one of my favorites. We are now a cohort of 43.
I will skip along to Thursday, June 7. Trainees packed belongings (yes, even professional backpackers pack too much) and hauled bags to the training center, adding ~15 kilos of books, manuals, and PC gear (e.g. the First Aid Suitcase). My largest bag weighed-in at 51 kilos. (Recall we were allowed two, fifty-pound bags at entry.) We filled out another “final” survey in BLUE PEN (an event as urgent as it is random) and self-directed ourselves, in one last cruel act of a dynamica, into alphabetical order per program to rehearse our swearing-in ceremony.
By Thursday afternoon, we swore-in with a US Oath of Office [“…solemnly swear… defend the Constitution… against all enemies, foreign and domestic… without purpose of evasion…”] and a slightly more on-point “Star-Trekkie” pledge: [“I will embrace the mission of world peace and friendship for as long as I serve and beyond. In the proud tradition of Peace Corps’ legacy, and in the spirit of the Peace Corps family past, present, and future- I am a Peace Corps Volunteer.”] Speeches, formal procession, followed by stage choreography with ambassador staff, photo-pose-with-certificate, obligatory social media photos, feet hurting in heels, and dancing with family and staff… until the first group’s bus arrived at 6pm.
And *poof!* just like that it was off we go to be of service. Just three months of impatiently waiting patiently and a dash of emotional whiplash.
By 8:30pm the same evening I was on board a 12-hr night bus to Oxapampa from Lima. We slept well. I rolled into the station and onto a moto taxi with my bags and books to join Pauly and Jenny in time for breakfast. It was like I never left.
So I am here. I am ready. Thanks for sticking with me.
Now it is time to figure out which foot to put in front first.
Harper’s Index of Fun PST Facts**
Total Months of Traditional Peace Corps Service: 27
Months of Pre-Service Training: 3 out of 27
[June 10, 2018] Days Since Starting Peace Corps Peru: 91
Days Remaining of a Traditional Term Service: ~730
Percentage of Service Completed: 11%
Overnight Locations Since Training: 6
Ceviche Places Located & Tested: 5
Tortas (Cake) Places Located & Tested: 17
Percentage of Training Days to Probar-ring New Cake: 18.9%
2018 Annual Budget for U.S. Peace Corps: 398 Million U.S. Dollars
Percentage of the U.S. Budget: .00097%
Projected Volunteers Active in Peace Corps by September 30: 7,470
Annual Budget for PC Region, Inter-America and the Pacific $63,400,000
Inter-America and Pacific Region Percentage of Annual Peace Corps Budget: 15.9%
Projected Volunteers in Inter-America and Pacific by September 30: 2,140
Percentage of Inter-America and Pacific Volunteers: 28.6%
Annual Budget for Perú: $5,800,000
Projected Volunteers in Perú by 9/30: 200
Percentage of Peace Corps Budget, Regional Budget: 1.5%, 9.1%
Peru 31 Positions Offered: ~50
Applicants for Peru 31 Positions: ~900
Percentage Acceptance to Peru 31: 5.6%
Annual Cost for Training Operations at Peace Corps Peru (includes staff salaries): $600,000
Number of Trainings per Year: 2
Number of Peace Corp Trainees per Year: ~100
Average Cost per Peace Corps Volunteer per 27-Month Service: $60,000
Cost per Peace Corps Peru Trainee per training: $30,000
* Untrue ** Likely All Untrue Too, Here-say, Rumor, Speculation, Estimate
Farewell to my home in Santa Maria. I wish them light this next chapter.