When hindsight is very real:
One-sentence summary: Monday morning I woke up feeling happy “Woah did I figure something out and finally belong?” [insert maniacal cackle of condescending jinxing laughter here]; watching the results of midterm voting in the U.S. from afar; the sweet relief and self-care of turning my phone on airplane mode; and seeking the wisdom of when to not engage, trust my gut, and keep my peace.
Right Now: Just back from a family-issued assignment to seek and find one-hundred pine cones, in the jungle, for Christmas decorations. Never underestimate the gift and satisfaction of a concrete and achievable goal. I got this. Finally.
Expression of the Week: Miércoles. Literally means “Wednesday” but is commonly used in polite company (similar to “shoot!”) in the place of mierda (shit).
Week Twenty-Two: It started off great and then it hit five weekdays to sideways.
The saving grace is I have U.S. friends arriving this coming week (Port Townsend’s very own Sarah and Justin) and the texts with packing updates bring me joy. THREE MORE NIGHTS.
In the suitcase bounty (currently being surveilled by Justin for excessive abuse of add-ons) are wool socks, bobby pins, EmergenC, a few “key” clothing items in American/European sizing, and a bag of Pacific Northwest pine cones. You know. Because I am an overachiever.
In preparation for the social supernova of their visit, I am hoarding content to keep my bizarre accident of a weekly blog streak going over Thanksgiving “vacation.” And so I will save the highlight reel from last Sunday, spent with host family cooking and eating crepes, banana dumplings, escabeche, picarones, ahi, y anticuchos (all you need to know: good food) for a future scheduled post.
Time, conversation, and laughter flowed easily and this week in site had a happy weekend.
It was the first time I set down the thought I didn’t belong.
Work this week was largely consumed by tears, tantrums, and my upcoming site visit next Wednesday. Let’s just say, once again, on the doorstep of an externally placed deadline, I find myself reacting to a confounding Miércoles show, of which I can’t turn up from sideways since no one agrees what direction is upright.
The editors of the original draft of this post (waving, thank you) advised that unless I really wanted to spend Thanksgiving in the States, perhaps I should wait and see how next week turns out and gain more perspective before hitting “Publish.” And then maybe take ten days off and visit happy toucans.
It is not that I want to slander and rant. I try to speak objectively about all the players in the room, with our sticky cultural and local biases, the road rash of clashing cultural norms, all in an honest effort to be transparent about the raw layers of service. It’s not all worms, redundant government reports, and pooping pants here. I tell you, this real immersion mierda ain’t easy.
But we aren’t supposed to talk about that.
First, I serve in a country where it is 1) contrary to primary core social values and 2) unforgivably disrespectful to question or second guess authority. And as a volunteer, close to everyone — including Peace Corps staff, site counterparts, host family, and pretty much any host country national– is above me in this hierarchy.
Second, I am a guest here. I am a guest of Peace Corps Perú and I am a guest in my community. I am a guest of the municipality that sponsors my placement. I am but a passing guest in a long history of Peace Corps service.
Third, this is the Internet. Hi.
This week I wondered if I should still be here when my core values of loyalty, honesty, and integrity were challenged. I felt ignored, run over, dismissed, incorrectly corrected, my hand forced, and my personal favorite side dish, a splash of lies (my bias) for some pica. And that just from the players directly supporting me.
But since I’m cooling off rewriting this post, I also felt the cool, solid bedrock of other support teams. My host-family plotted refrigerios for the presentation guests. Long voice messages were fielded from rage-running up stairs at 4am in the jungle rain. A long-lost friend sent text updates from the U.S. election results since he knew my Internet is falta. And today, my site mate walked from one end of town to the other so I didn’t have to deliver invitations alone.
I also heard directly from Wyoming about dearly admired friends who won political races. I read the articles about surges in voter turnout and explained what the firsts in our country meant to my host-sister in Peru. That was a very cool moment.
So I guess it wasn’t one long week of a tailspin like it felt Friday after all. Much better than the original doomsday post titled “No Escape from the Escape Room” my editors left pinned on the cutting room floor.
The accounting of details feels important now, but I’ve been in this rodeo long enough to know the urgency, like a nasty bout of food poisoning, will pass. Hopefully it is growing pains. Hopefully I will get quicker not responding and not engaging. Hopefully I will figure out the secret knock of a successful service.
Hopefully this time next week I will be eating some Tilamook Extra Sharp White Cheddar, playing board games, and showing my visitors how much I belong.
Vamos a ver, amigos.
A Parting Shot
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.