I'm finally here in Peru and it's crazy/great/exhausting. Where to begin? Hmm. How about at the beginning.
We had 2 days of orientation at a retreat center called Huampani outside of our training site. The place was sort of bizarre with like 5 separate playgrounds, some horses, a random alpaca, and a tiny trampoline which you had to pay 1 nuevo sol (about 30 cents) to jump on for 5 minutes. We stayed in little bungalows of 6 people and had introductions to in-country staff and little entrevistas with our APCDs (Associate Peace Corps Directors), language interviewers, and housing coordinators. Things were getting less awkward, but were still slightly heinously so. We were told that Sunday we would head to the training center in Santa Eulalia and that we would be meeting our host families that afternoon. YIIIIIIIIIIKES. Needless to say, as a bunch of totally stressed out volunteers, we totally took advantage of the Huampani mini-market's price of 4.50 soles ($1.40) for a 24oz bottle of beer. Good times. The shopkeeper and his daughter thought we were great. So great, they wanted a few of us girls to NAME THE DAUGHTER'S UNBORN CHILD. Seriously. She was asking us for our names, and names of our friends and family. She wanted something new and different. Everytime we mentioned a name that we thought was really nice and different, pretty much anything ending in "ia", she had at least 5 relatives/friends/associates with the same name. We were throwing out "different" names from the States, like Hayley or Chloe...but those don't really work as EHLAY doesn't sound like a very nice name. Her father was really keen on naming his unborn granddaugher BO DEREK. He had it written down and everything and he asked me what I thought. YIIIIIKES. It was all resolved later, when we returned after dinner, to drink more beer, when she took this volunteer Meredith aside and told her she thought Meredith was a beautiful name and that's what she wanted to name her daughter. AWWWW. Aside from that, general drunkenness ensued. And some guys announced their "marriage pool" a betting game where we can place our bets on a) which volunteers will be engaged/married by close of service and b) which volunteer will marry a Peruvian national. Then we all were howling outside of bungalows. And then we spied on a Peruvian wedding going on down the path from our bungalows. We saw the first dances, which looked so awkward. So we thought the wedding couldn't go on much longer. Oh man were we wrong. We could hear their music BLASTING until 5am. And some people went running at 6 and saw a bunch of wasted wedding guests hanging out in the reception hall.
So the next day was FAMILY TIME. Uh, I thought I was going to pee my pants I was so nervous. And I wasn't the only one. Like, WHAT do I say to these people. And more importantly. HOW DO I SAY IT? So we are all sent out on to a basketball court to wait. My host mom came to get me. She is short, looks like she's 55 but she could be younger, and her name is Isabel. She took one look at my luggage and looked really concerned. Then she spent the next 10 minutes looking for someone with a car to take my shitload of luggage to our house. What a way to make a first impression, by causing huge logistical problems because I brought too much clothing. Because she came alone I assumed she didn't have a family, but when we got to her house I saw that she has 2 kids. The teenaged daughter came out and took one look at my bags and laughed. Oh man. So the rest of the day was spent with them asking me questions about myself. By that I mean they basically interrogated me on every aspect of my life. My host sister is like OBSESSED with whether or not I like to dance. The concept of me being unable to dance is beyond her. So she, of course, assumed I was Pentecostal and it was against my religion to get down and boogey. They asked about my family and my religion and my responses that my parents were divorced, my father remarried in a church, and that I wasn't Catholic seemed to scandalize them a little bit. They also think that my parents are FROM GERMANY because my last name is German. I tried to explain, but then gave up. Things were starting to get HEINOUSLY AWKWARD so after we looked at photos of Isabel's wedding I busted out my photo album to show them. Which maaaaaaaaaybe wasn't the best idea. Considering I have a photo of me and Linzo licking Mothafuckin' Pete's chest and I am drunk in the majority of my photos. But they seemed to enjoy it and there were some relatively sober photos involving family members and a household pet the size of a bear. I also had a really good time trying to explain what Slim Jims were after they saw them in a photo. I guess salty, spicy sticks of meat sealed in plastic just doesn't cross cultures well.
I didn't get to meet my host dad the first night as he was traveling in the northern department of Ancash. So we had a really awkward meeting where he made me my breakfast and then watched me eat it. His name is Julio, he's probably around 60, unless he just looks older than he is, and he's in school to become a chef. He is super proud of his cooking and is always asking me how I liked it, which is sort of uncomfortable because all I know how to say is, "yes, I liked it". He shows me photos of everything he's made in class and for expositions and parties, including penguins made out of eggplants, birds made out of melons, and flowers made out of carrots. My host brother is 13 year old Julio Jr.. Julio and I both love to watch VIVE LOS NIÑOS. This super awesome telenovela, aka soap opera, about the lives of children with some adult drama and intrigue thrown in for good measure. Fun for the whole family! Julio loves to ride his bike, and apparently, to fix his bike in the middle of the kitchen. My first day we had a wonderful exchange. He asked me what is DONLAY. Then, what is HEEEEPS. Look kid, I don't know. After 10 minutes of him repeating, me saying I don't know and asking him where he heard it I realized he was asking about HIPS DON'T LIE. Julio LOVES reggaeton. And loves to watch reggaeton music videos. All. Night. He honestly will switch around to all the music channels until he can find reggaeton, and if something else comes on, he's off, in search of that Puerto Rican music he so loves. He thought that the decorated bottle of Diet Coke I bought at the Center was SUPER AWESOME. So much so that he took it too school where it was apparently a huge hit. My host sister, I thought, is 16 year old Vanessa. Yesterday I come to find that she is actually 19 year old Yeseria? Or something? I'm really not even sure. I learned this when they showed me photos, again, of things from when their last volunteer was here a few weeks ago and there was a sign with her name on it. Her name NOT BEING Vanessa. Shit. Oh well. She didn't seem to mind too much cause after a delicious meal of TOAST, using ALL OF THE BREAD IN THE HOUSE, that me and the kids made cause their parents were gone they came and hung out in my room where I showed her how to knit. Then, when Julio left, she revealed to me her ENAMORADO SECRETO aka her secret boyfriend. SCANDALOUS. She wants me to meet him, perhaps at the discoteca this weekend (she seems to be over the fact that I don't dance). So it was clear she wanted to gossip about this boy so I was asking her all sorts of questions. Then I got really confused. When I asked how old he was she said something...I thought she said some form of "nacer" meaning to be born, and 6 months. Then corrected herself and said he was 21. But then I thought she was PREGNANT and got really confused. I'm thinking she said probably said "hace 6 meses" meaning they've been together 6 months. Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I HOPE.
Living in their house is sort of strange. I shower every day, but I have yet to notice any of the family showering. It's also a very Peruvian thing to force TONS of food on people. Like, it is NOT POSSIBLE for me to eat 2 potatoes, a pound of rice, chicken, veggies, fruit, and cake for lunch. But they just don't get it and keep piling it on. It's the same for other volunteers. Sometimes the families cook the meals in a pot and I think just send the whole pot wrapped in a towel to the training center. Everyone has had some preeeetty interesting stuff to eat since being here. Somehow, nobody has gotten sick. Yet. Also, something Peruvian that doesn't have to do with living in a home, necessarily, is that Peruvians kiss EVERYONE. It is the traditional greeting, like a handshake when you meet someone. I kissed like, 20 random people I've never met today. Imagine me, who doesn't like touching/hugging, KISSING EVERYONE. Haaaaaaaaaaa.
As for the actual training...we train at this compound/building with an empty swimming pool and some open classrooms. We've had a few group sessions on general topics as well as smaller language classes broken down by ability and technical sessions where we talk about Community Health specific things. All of the sudden we have like a bajillion acronyms thrown at us and a ton of assignments due God knows when. CCE, CDA, FODA, FREESOP this week, next week. Uhhh, when are we supposed to have time to do this? I still have no idea. We are also broken into groups to do education sessions or "charlas" on random topics, my first being a group presentation on vegetarianism. Right. But it could actually be kind of fun. And my group was THISCLOSE to involving a penis costume and iron chef in our charla, but in the end we toned it down a little bit. Darn. Today we went in different groups to Ministry of Health health posts. At ours we were asked to make all of these posters about the big rubella vaccination campaign going on next month. Nobody gets vaccines in Peru and so diseases that have been eradicated in the US are huge problems. So we made these signs and then went around to a bunch of comedores publicos, which are community/soup kitchens for the poor (which means it's for a lot of the people in the town) to post the signs. The technicians from the health post were telling everyone who we were and why we were there. They started saying we were there to help with the vaccination campaign and they added more and more each visit. By the end we were going to be going door to door talking about domestic violence, organizing town charlas about any number of topics, and providing psychological counseling to the people. YIKES. We talked to some really interesting woman. This really large woman was upset with how many women kept having more and more babies without knowing how to take care of them and she even simulated giving birth and cutting the cord. She also would NOT stop talking/let us leave. At another comedor the women, who had no teeth, insisted on having their photos taken with us and them made us sit and drink Inca Kola (national beverage of Peru aside from Cristal Cerveza, bright yellow, tastes like bubble gum). After being there for so many hours, seeing so much need for basic things like clean water, feeling inadequate because everyone thinks that because we're from the US we can do all these things, and not understanding half of what was said I was ready to curl up and go to sleep. Instead we went and ate some pizza in Chosica. Aside from being completely overwhelmed, I think we can at least do something of some use to the health post. We might get to learn to give vaccinations for the upcoming campaign. Woot!
But it's not all overwhelming! Spanish classes are going well. We have some cats that live in my classroom (LINZO, YOU WOULD LOVE THEM). The mother is Pishca (5 in Quechua) and she looks like a kitten, the other is her kitten who we want to name 8 after Peru 8 . I want to take them home with meeeee. There are also TONS of dogs in the street. Most of them look pretty sad. Some of them are just curled up and look like they're dying. Some volunteers go running and they chase them down. One girl had to have a car hit 3 dogs just so they wouldn't attack her while she ran. I saw one dog sitting on the ground, another standing next to it, and a third standing over the first, trying to PEE IN IT'S FACE. OH OH OH also, I have Mormon missionaries living on my street. Another volunteer and I had a super awkward interaction with them where they told us in joking fashion that both of their names were Elder, but that really they had real names. So when we asked for them they got all serious and said, well, we kind of forget them while we're here. UHH OOPS. At least they didn't try to convert us!
OMG Linkin Park is on the radio, I'm so tired, and I have to go. I have no photos, will try to post something soon. Oh, and I just heard a colectivo aka group taxi blow it's horn. Which was the theme of the Godfather. Yep. Welcome to Peru.