This year’s Halloween costume I went as a Well Adjusted Volunteer.
One-sentence summary: The return-to-site readjustment hangover (“Why can’t I be left alone? Why is everyone speaking in Spanish? Why are you making me eat again!”); my first soiree with Peace Corps medical; the joys of being sick in a fishbowl; prepping for a pending site visit whilst coordinating a “municipality sponsored” community charla public event; and continuing to be in awe of how lucky I am to have been placed at this site and with this family.
Right Now: It’s not raining and it’s a free
Friday. (Day Two of a four-day weekend – All Saint’s Day.) I may still be under the weather and inside the fishbowl, but I am not unhappy wedged in-between the two metaphors.
During Week Twenty-One I almost made it out of the hanger.
After last week’s adventures in Huancayo, I woke up to jungle deluge-level rains, an aggressive dumpster fire of an Inbox, and more texts than even Captain Avoidance felt like responding to. The countdown is less than two weeks to my second Peace Corps site visit and subsequent community presentation. Oh yeah. And a couple more reports TO BE SENT IMMEDIATELY. YESTERDAY.
Recall the looming creature called Community Diagnostic I burned your retinas with for blog minutes on end? The pending presentation 1) presumes me having completed said dissertation (in Spanish) and 2) defending said dissertation (did I mention in Spanish) to all the community experts I manage to woo to my presentation. Throw in some light snacks, light shows, and dry ice. Dancing. Multimedia presentations. Live Facebooking. Pretty much deliver “The Best Show on Earth.”
Except that it is 100% not that.
Turns out, what might be actually happening is some staff members of Peace Corps and our CED program are stopping by to visit each volunteer at their site, offering support, professional light shows, and to manually break trails wherever we may be stuck finding work partners and opportunities. Don’t get me wrong, there is still the same level of jazz hands and flaming hoops, just maybe a little less me-sticking-my-head-inside-the-lion. And I have to get people to the party. I make a quick speech but I don’t have to host the party.
That is, if hay pase on the one road to Oxapampa.
Meanwhile, somewhere between the northwest corner of Delusion and the southern pole of my Theoretical Reality, my physical body decided to covertly manifest a massive immunity breakdown flare-up shit show in my body.* Imagine rogue white blood cells evil-tweeting “Now what do you think of all those stupid things you are stress making up now, huh?” Mwa. Ja. Ja. Ja. [My immune system laughs in Spanglish. Doesn’t yours?]
Perfectly timed with blooming sickness, this is when I have scheduled face-to-face conversations with the players I need on my team to discuss logistics for official invitations.
I don’t know about you, but when I am feeling and looking like death warmed over, I love to be questioned about how frightening I look, be told all the reasons why I am sick, asked why I could possibly be stressed or sick (as I have no husband or kids, direct quote) and then field queries such as “have you tried rubbing chocolate butter all over your body?”
One thing to clarify is “getting stuff done” in Peru, such as the task of reserving a meeting room, takes days. It isn’t just sending a text, making a call, or signing up on a clipboard list. [Insert soundtrack chorus of my immune system.] It involves social talent and charm. Monday I pop-corned my way around the municipality satellite offices, not popping my insides out in uncomfortable desk chairs, laughing at jokes I don’t understand, being questioned about my leprosy until I realize –suddenly, mid-conversation– I have arrived at the top of the discourse rollercoaster, that fleeting tipping point to deliver the bullet points screeching in all-caps in my head.
“Oh hey. Now that I think of it, I need this stamp on this letter. Hey thanks.”
You know. Casual.
One of the fault lines shifting in my personal infrastructure is budgeting an hour or two for conversation to complete a task. That’s terrifying enough in my native language. Try doing it in six-year-old level Spanish in a work setting. (Not kidding, it took me one month to deliver my bi-monthly reports.) It is not about accomplishment, it is about time, connection, and conversation. Here in my site, relationship is more important and valuable than task. Not a bad lesson for a Type A Introvert Perfectionist to learn. And if that doesn’t work, break out into Russian Typhoid Flu Shingle Black Plague Leprosy.
In the case of this One Stamp on this One Letter, I uncovered I need to write three more letters, get two different signatures, acquire four more stamps to announce I am hosting a charla. Next, invite the entire community by hand-delivered official letterhead stationery and untangle the clerical maze to reserve the auditorium… all for a moving target of a date two weeks out (the dates and times changed twice via text while I typed this.) No te preoccupes.
“By the way, have you set fire to palm leaves and bathed in smoke on the mountain top by full moonlight to fix your plague? My aunt swears by it.”
On it. Immediately. Yesterday.
Vamos a ver, amigos.
A Parting Shot
Leaderboard: A postcard from Seattle/PT made it to my sickbed. Thanks Payton! Thanks KB!
Hermana Jessica Rice, Cuerpo de Paz
Apartado NO. 120 SERPOST La Merced
La Merced, Chanchamayo, Junín, PERU
Please note: 1) This mailbox is two 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.
*No wait Jess what happens when you get really sick? Well, if you’re not emotionally handfasted to being the most stubborn volunteer put in Pasco and determined to not call for two years, you call the Peace Corps Medical Officers (PCMOs). There is a 24/7 hotline. We have three dedicated doctors we know and love (think contestants for the category of Best Humans on Earth) and they make it better. Even if it sucks and they can’t they will just say something right. And then they check on you. And you send them pictures. And they tell you you’re the best patient ever because you send them SOAP notes from your EMT and WFR training, complete with a snapshot of self-determined vitals.
Seriously, I would stay on a third year just to have medical care such as Dr. Suni or just audition to be her stunt-double’s best friend.