This statement has never rung more true to me after my site visit to the small village, Chatito, where I will be living for the next two years. It was an overwhelming yet inspiring week, and the first test of many to come within the years ahead.
I arrived to Chatito, after the 18-hour bus ride from Lima, which sits in the scorching hot desert of Piura in the north of Peru to be welcomed by hundreds of friendly community members, who light up the dry and sandy streets where they live, work and play. To my surprise, they began a welcoming parade for me where I was introduced to numerous people with hugs, kisses and signs welcoming me into the community. We walked from the municipality building to the health post, where I will be doing the majority of my work throughout my service. The mayor presented me to the community, and also thanked Kelly, the prior volunteer, for her dedication and hard-work that has positively changed the community. Afterward, I was asked to speak, which I attempted to show my overwhelming gratitude for their welcoming, but I am not confident if it came across with my broken Spanish.
The parade ended with all the community members accompanying me to my new home, and directly into my quaint room. I entered from the backyard where 8 cows, 2 horses, 30 chickens, 15 turkeys, 10 ducks and more live directly outside my window. I learned of my living conditions, such as only having water 2 days a week, which means we collect the water in tubs around the house to use the other 5 days of the week. I will be bucket bathing outside in an enclosed area right by the chickens, along with using the toilet in a structure outside as well. I will be living with a family of 8 including 2 grandparents, 2 parents and 4 younger siblings (15 year old girl, 12 year old boy, 7 year old girl, and a 2 month old baby girl) who exemplify the power of a supportive family.
As the community members stood in the common-area, I received a call from my mom back home. Excited to share the news of the grand welcoming I had just received, I excused myself to take the call. I was hit with the sad and surprising news that my beloved Grandma Jeannie had passed away from congestive heart failure. It was one of the most emotional moments of my life, as I was taking in all the exciting information about my new life but also knowing I had lost one of the most influential people in my life as well. I was filled with regret and shame that I could not be with her during her final moments, but remembered how blessed I was to spend a whole wonderful week with her this summer. I decided to keep the news to myself until the following day as I needed time to process it individually.
The next day I shared the news of my Grandma’s passing and I found support through the experience through my family, socios and the current volunteer Kelly. The days carried on in which I continued to meet with numerous community members at the health post, high school and municipality whom I hope to collaborate within the coming years. It was encouraging to see how Kelly has already changed the community, and I hope to continue positive change in my own manner. It is inspiring to see a community that is genuinely open and excited for more positive change in their village, and I hope I can help in anyway possible.
Overall, after the crazy couple days in site I am excited to begin my Peace Corps service. As I only have five more days in my cozy trainee lifestyle, I cannot lie that I am scared out of my mind for the next two years that lie in front of me. But then I remember, this has been my dream for the past four years and I am lucky enough to be living it. And I also remember my favorite quote… “if your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough” which remind me that I am on the right path.
So here we go life…let’s begin.
In loving memory of Grandma Jeannie, one of the most inspiring women throughout my life, you will truly be missed but never forgotten. Thank you for always supporting me in my hopes and dreams, and showing me the power of being an independent women with an assertive voice. I know you will be with me throughout the coming years, and I hope to make you proud up there. You have made a lasting impact on your family, friends and strangers and your legacy will continue to live on through them.