While my students filled out their final evaluations:
One-sentence summary: Saturday night I was my family’s guest to my first Perú (25th anniversary) wedding; I over-prepared, over-supplied, over-panicked for this mandated business workshop; I taught ten Peruvian teachers for ten hours a day for two days and we all came out none-the-worser; this marks the completion of my first activity that counts as a measurable goal for Peace Corps; a recovery paseo to visit la sierra (high mountains); met another PCV’s host family and municipality in Junín; and I continue to be deeply appreciative of my fellow teammates who in all the different ways have me on belay.
Right Now: Being my own champion of self-care by taking a moment to rest.
Expression of the Week: No me gustan los preservativos en mi yoghurt. = “I do not like condoms in my yogurt.”
Week Nine: I worked hard and splurged with a mini-adventure in my region. Note: I wrote the bulk of this draft from bed at 3am, when I was still so. past. tired. that I couldn’t even sleep. (Or it was revenge of a street sandwich, tbd.) Now week nine seems like a far-off dream and I am preserving it here for those of you readers who want more than the shiny-pretty-rainbow version of my life. This week had some teeth, grit, a handful of literal and figurative struggle-buses, and rounds out with a more confident and hopefully savvier Jess.
Excerpt of Thursday’s text conversation with Megan-Eileen, recent co-star of this blog and 3rd year volunteer, after my two-day presentation:
Megan-Eileen: “How do you feel?”
>>Like I can go home to the U.S. now. Done and done.
“In a ‘I am done with this’ or a ‘I am proud of what I did and feel complete’ way?”
I did a happy dance in front of my family on Thursday morning (the first time they have seen me separate from my books in ten days) when I realized I no longer had this presentation consuming every oxygen molecule of my day. With a couple days of rest, recovery, and distance, I’d say I feel mostly proud.
I am also feeling relieved, like I just finished a rock climb (a pushy-dangerous / just outside my skill level climb) and I am now safely sharing photos and comments about the route. I did it. Yes. Endorphin rush now that the terror is all over. It doesn’t make the overcommitment any less stupid or dangerous.
I also feel exhausted after making it through two, ten-hour days of teaching solo — and somehow pulled off the entirety of those two days in Cookie-Monster Spanish. I wouldn’t have thought it reasonable for any teacher (or their participants, for that matter) to have to tolerate that length of a technical workshop in their native tongue.
I am still joyously grateful (and indebted) that I accepted the help of my site-mate Briauna to have me on language belay. And she sat through those two long days in full. And helped teach fun games to refresh energy. And continually reassured me I was doing a good job and speaking some form of a language other humans were understanding.
But mostly I am glowing from my freaking awesome students.
By “students” I mean I had ten CEBA teacher participants. CEBA (Central Educación Básica Alternativa) is a Peruvian education program for students (ages 14 and older) who are no longer “able” to attend regular secondary school. My profesores were gracious, patient, kind, enthusiastic (well… eventually, it was obligatory training during their winter break after all) and fully bought-in to ridiculous dinámicas (team-building games) and made creative, thoughtful, and comprehensive presentations. I may not have been able to communicate at the level I would like, but I am pretty sure they understood when I was perched on the edge of my seat cheering for them during their classes.
Have you ever had a dream where you urgently have to get somewhere and you’re paralyzed or trapped from moving from an invisible force field? That is what it feels like presenting material in a second language… even after at least 80 hours of preparation for over 150 slides. Those handful of punctuated moments when I did breakthrough, or magically answer a question off-Google-translated-prepared-script, or just put down my notes to shout Cookie Monster at the participants… it was like flying. That was the best part– when they got it. I saw the lights turn on.
The other major part of having to present is the energy demanded and consumed in listening (I have to be 150% ON 100% of the time) for basic comprehension and conversing intelligently. Luckily the group was kind and helped me when I fumbled. And I fumbled a lot.
Fumble favorite was when we were discussing a group’s sample businesses, I agreed “I also don’t like unnatural preservatives in my yogurt” and the room broke out into loud chatter and laughter.
I was confused and already two steps ahead trying to come up with another dinamica to re-focus the unruly room. I looked at Bri for help. According to Briauna (remember, she had me on belay for a reason) I said, with emphatic enthusiasm, I didn’t like condoms in my yogurt.
All in all, I still have some questions at a programming level about how things went down and why. I’d like this win to be more easily won next time. [Insert a large LOL from any PCV anywhere right now.] This was a series of hard lessons in that’s not my job and that’s not my business and a swell dose of Jess shut the hell up. My job and my business is to show up prepared, positive, and only expect to be ‘ready for anything.’ To surf.
All good notes moving forward.
As reward for completing this ridiculous endeavor, I treated myself to a working paseo. I went on a long-promised visit to a fellow volunteer in Huancani, Junín:
Fellow Peru 31 Ivy’s site is a town at 10,800 feet, about 850 people, and is located in beautiful, cold, harder-to-breathe sierra. Ivy lives with a family of two: her host-mom Victoria and her 28-year-old host-brother Fran.
I spent the day riding various forms of public transportation (luckily we had regionals nearby so it wasn’t all new again) to be met by an excited Ivy and then personally escorted to Huancani. This was especially meaningful to me since I was worried about figuring it out to make it in time for a muni meeting with her teammates.
When we got to her home, Ivy’s family was making and serving calentitos (a delicious hot beverage of fruit and pisco) and cancha (popcorn). It was my kind of welcome. We played cards (Peace Corps goal #3, exchanging culture) and met visiting family in from Lima.
During my too-short visit, in addition to getting a history and tour, I also met the key players in Ivy’s site-life. The bodega shop owners who made a fuss to hug me “un otro blancita!” and experiencing Louis, in person, were particular highlights. (Luis is their attack duck. He is a complete evil asshole. I thought Ivy was exaggerating. I love Louis.)
I also really appreciated experiencing the difference in our sites both in physically (elevation, cold) and emotionally (culture, family norms) as well as being an obvious stranger and being watched. One woman came out of a door in a nearby alley and have me a full body hug and 100 words of hellos. Ivy did not know her, but everyone knows Ivy.
I understand that I never would have found or experienced Huancani if it weren’t for Ivy’s invitation, placement, work, and the generosity of her family. This is another immeasurable gift of being in the Peace Corps.
Newer volunteers (yup still a newbie even after surviving an attack duck) are not allowed to take “vacations” during the first three months of service so this trip was a combination of work and personal shopping… and maybe a splash of eco-tourism investigation into the rumored quality of mountain-sourced papas fritas. We got in some hiking, paid our respect to pacha mama, did some lesson planning, and went to have some big city adventures in Huancayo.
After an hour-long bus ride that involved a creative Duke of Hazzard style bus chase through the plaza (yes we were the bus) Ivy and I found espresso to fortify our way through not one, but two malls. I was able to buy some hiking boots (to which Ivy will never cease to wonder why a NOLS instructor didn’t bring her boots to Perú) and business clothes in my sizes, which are major wins since if you haven’t noticed, in Perú I am evidently a monster giant.
I am looking forward to a slower week ahead with less post-it notes, less papelotes, and hopefully zero preservativos in my breakfast. I am taking a night in San Ramon at the PC hostel to send this off and veg out after a fellow volunteer’s 50th birthday celebration. Tomorrow I go to La Merced to grab my mail on my way home to Oxapampa and I hear there’s something with my nun name on it! Let’s place bets on if SERPOST even opens…
Vamos a ver, amigos.
Yucca Clothes Dryer at ~11,000ft
Below Ivy (very graciously humors me and) explains making an offering in the high sierra (mountains).
Theoretical Mailing Address
Rumor has it first Hermana Jessica package has arrived in La Merced. And Briauna’s got mail too.
Known in-transit: 6 items
Un-confirmed delivery: 1 item as of Saturday, August 11.
Hermana Jessica Rice, Cuerpo de Paz
Apartado NO. 120 SERPOST La Merced
La Merced, Chanchamayo, Junín, PERU
Please note: 1) This mailbox is 2 hours away 2) It costs a lot of money to send me stuff – (like $23 for $5 of candy) and only send through USPS to SERPOST 3) Keep packages under 1lb (or to not appear worth $100) or they get sent to Customs Jail in Lima. 4) Customs Jail is as arbitrary and random as my blog posts, so don’t send me anything that you’ll be sad goes missing. 5) The last numbers are my Peru cell phone and they will call me if it gets lost. Place them in the spot you would look if you were lost. 6) New rule: Turns out you can’t send me spices (USPS doesn’t like powders) but sometimes I can source another volunteer’s visitors and they are bringing me a NOLS spice kit end of August! Getting creative round here.