This week was filled with many Peruvian firsts – my first neighborhood hike, my first visit to Lima, my first Peruvian birthday party, my first time making juice, my first Peruvian election day and many more. The first of many first’s to come within the next two years.
I started the week with a hike with my older brother, Gustavo, up a near by cerro (small mountain) to a shrine. It was breathtaking seeing the contrasts between the pueblos from Chaclacayo to Huascaran to the wealthy side. It was a fun adventure, and always nice having Gustavo help me with my horrible Spanish. The only challenge was coming down the cerro, which I basically crouched the whole way down in fear of tumbling down the whole thing.
The training schedule continued on with the 8am to 5pm protocol of language, cultural and technical training. This week was highly enjoyable as the directors did a fantastic job in making sure we have practical application during our training. From doing house visits with mothers and community practicums for the health program; to traveling into other communities like Chosica to practice Spanish with strangers in the streets – it is hard to get bored here. There is also the goofy stuff to keep us entertained such as Iron Chef competitions (my team won!) and entertaining general elections for our PC counsel. Another week down, and 8 more to go in training!
On Saturday, as a volunteer group, we all traveled to Lima for the first time to tour the Palacio de Gobierno and get our tourist fix in. It was a beautiful and lavish building, with guards with stone faces and chandeleirs weighing more than two tons. Afterwards, my language small group went to the Iglesia de San Francisco (Saint Francis), a famous church in the middle of the city. Beneath the beautiful yellow structure, lies catacombs 26,000 people’s bones lie. It was crazy walking through the heaps of bones/skulls that go down 10 meters throughout the massive building.
We then spent the rest of the day walking around all the plazas, mercados and Lima’s ‘Barrio China’ – also known as China town. I do have to admit that I got all the cliché American fixes in – with Starbucks, pinkberry and a Chili’s cheeseburger…and damn did it taste good. Overall it was a great visit, and I am excited to explore more in the future. There is so much more to see and do, especially with some of the visitors I am expecting :).
When I arrived home last night from Lima, my little brother, Gabriel, greeted me by whisking me away to his primos (cousin’s) 12 year old birthday party. The Peruvians sure know how to throw a birthday party. I walked into find a DJ, a clown, and three dancers ready to entertain 20+ youngens, their family members and friend for the night – also filled with endless amounts of food and candy for all. They put on a quite the show with fire juggling, to a fog machine, and many kids breaking it down on the dance floor. It was a really fun night and enjoyable meeting my host family’s relatives.
Today, I woke up and went to the mercado with my host mother, Teresa, to buy fresh tamales and bread for desayuno. After a relaxing morning with Teresa, I hand-washed my clothes which I find pretty soothing as well. It gives me time to think about what has all already happened, and how much yet is to come. Later on, I helped her make lunch, and she taught me how to make homemade juice out of a local fruit called, mawacuy. The meaning behind freshness of food in Peru reigns true, as I just returned from my 2nd Mercado visit of the day with Teresa. We went to gather the ingredients for dinner, and returned with 2 huge 15 pound bags of verduras y frutas for the week. Along with the fresh chicken in which they cut of all parts right in front of you, and give you all the insides as well. She said she rarely goes to the Mercado just once during the day, as she prefers to serve the food as fresh as possible.
I am lucky to have her as my mama peruano and teacher of everything Peruvian. I am so thankful for her and my host family’s extreme patience in teaching me the simplest things as I adapt. It makes me realize how lucky I am to have them as my support system here in my first months in Peru; but also how blessed I am to have such a wonderful support system back home – thanks to my family and friends back in the states, who have been there throughout my whole life. From my wonderful and inspiring parents, to my supportive siblings, and my friends who are my backbone back in the states, I am so thankful for all of you. Everyday I think of you all and it helps me through the day – and gives me hope and will power to build a similar support network like that here as well.
Everyday here is truly a learning experience – from learning a new word, a new cultural context, a new health fact or even something new about my personal self. The quote has never felt truer in knowing I truly will never be done learning.