Service Week Fourteen [Two Thousand Five Minutes]


One-sentence summary: Prepping materials, logistics, reports, presentations and managing media-blast-level communication for next week’s CED EIST (Early In-Service Training); a few small wins for me and my program goals at the local level; judging a local spelling bee where my host-nephew, Andres, won Second Place; having a fantastic meltdown over Wednesday’s lentils (note: not Lentejas de los Lunes); my first friend-visitor arrived to Oxapampa on Friday; and feeling the loss of personal sovereignty while determined to “get creative or get subversive.”

Right Now: Triage mode.

Peru 31 CED PCVs [bonus points if you’re not-PC and understood that] are traveling today for our first in-service program training. No time for reflection, processing, or explaining my soggy lentils.

Expression of the Week: My host Mom called me “pica” this morning when I passed the ahí. Trying to figure out if that was a compliment, joke, or some secret not-code I will figure out next year. Let’s rest that in the chispe file for now. [Read: Still frio at home. Hopefully the pica and the week away thaws us all out.]

On the Walk to Work

If you can’t already tell by the pacing of this week’s entry, Week Fourteen was one for the amusement park log flume rollercoaster merry-go-round category of service. I hear it’s just me. And mostly every other PCV around the 6-month mark.

LIMB, similar to NOLS’s “HALT” gives handy little descriptors of the “adjustment cycle” in acronym form. “LIMB” = Lonely, Isolated, Miserable, and Bored.

Lonely? Hell yes. I am still the new not-even-kid in town and in the culture. Apart from a few chosen moments connecting with current volunteers, I spend a lot of time running laps on the hamster wheels in my fishbowl brain. Upside? I am getting lots of exercise.

Isolated? I don’t think I have had a singularly sustained experience in my life of feeling more isolated and yet all-caps-never-alone. It’s like my inner introvert might finally quit me forever after several citations of a hostile internal work environment. Then I would be just left a Vert.

I still wake up in the mornings and catch myself for one teeny-tiny fleeting instant pissed off everyone is still speaking in Spanish. Why is that? When will I assimilate? When will that alien feeling go away?

Miserable. How can I put this: I am the happiest being miserable I have ever been.

Bored? Now that’s a trigger word for me. Growing up only-child-like and exploring the acres of woods with two big dogs that felt more like an endless fairy bug kingdom I would say no, not bored. Sometimes dissatisfied and anxious? “I have to do this report? I have to go through the motions when no one is going to read it? I have lie and not say what I mean?” Because that’s what I signed up for. Because evidently my lens is currently “seeing the world in black and white” and I need to have faith and believe in color.

The bulk portion of Week Fourteen was receiving, reading, and interpreting Peace Corps emails, texts, and phone calls on a variety of subjects. (Do you ever notice that when you schedule a vacation and your team realizes you’re going to be out of the office and suddenly every project and deadline ends on your desk on fire about 20-minutes away from setting your auto-responder?) Pre-EIST feels like a desk of other people’s dumpster fires. I think it is best if I don’t apply my Jess-Humor while sharing some of the more ridiculous points communicated, out of context, in my current mood.

But one of them included an extensive reminder on how and why to bathe. Timely.

Spelling Bee – Andres, four from right, won second place 

Since I am short on time and not about to give up my current streak of a weekly episode, here is the two-minute speed-dating version:

  1. So it turns out the Peace Corps experience isn’t the most nurturing environment for stubborn perfectionists. I found myself in a confluence of events this week (reports and expectations) unintentionally visiting the land of Not-Exceeding Not-Meeting Expectations. And so first to go overboard was my composure at the family lunch table. All over those poor innocent lentils.
  2. It feels like somewhere between 3-25 people (ahem, Peace Corps) are demanding things from me (“Nope not asking!” -Death Grip on my False Perception of Personal Sovereignty) in an impossible and oddly-not-concerted timeline. When I ask for more time, or explain priorities (such as work commitments in site, or other reports due) my request is not even validated as an option. (“Is this a joke?” was one actual response.) In the name of a social science experiment I have stopped crying from feeling one-part ignored, one part run-over, another part devalued, and a nice heap of “we-don’t-care-but-you-have-to” and I am going to see if my internal universe combusts if I don’t turn in something complete, excellent, and on-time. Stay tuned. (Spoiler: Addition from Week 16… It didn’t work out great.)
  3. My current fishbowl life is six-leagues-deep into a new program, a new program culture, a new country culture, a new regional culture in that new country, in a new dialect of a new language. (Just learned being six months in is still “new.”) Nothing seems to work the way I know. Logic, Calm, and Reason work as erratically as every single one of my partially decapitated power adapters.

    Gelato Rewards after Spelling Bee
  4. Breaking Headline: I don’t like being vulnerable. I know… profound. Like shut-down, epoxy-sealed, carbonite padlock, with a side of self-detonation when I am not willing to being pried open. Guess how that’s working out for me living with a South American host family in a culture that doesn’t directly deal with conflict? Qué super.
  5. While items 1-4 are enough for me to Google “how to run away to Brazil” I promised some happy points this week to keep Some of You from worrying about me. Happy points: a) Potential work and confianza in my site is starting to take off. People like me! People might want to work with me! b) I continue to be very grateful for my placement – Oxapampa, and my host family, feels like the best match for me. Finally c) I had some quality time with some seasoned third year PCVs yesterday and realized all these big LIMB items will shrink back down to perspective if I just hold on five more minutes.

On that note, speed-date is abruptly over. Hope I see you next week.

Vamos a ver, amigos.

Peru 27 PCVs Angeline, Megan-Eileen and That Guy in the Street

Parting Shot

Sometimes instead of hitting “send” on unhelpful Jess-evil snarky comments to WhatsApp group chats I just screenshot them for future giggles.

Sorry Phil.



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