I have one day until I head off on a plane back to the land of the US of A for a week, and I cannot lie I am a bit nervous to be living with first world amenities as I have oddly enough adapted to life here. I am about to hit my 6th month mark of being in Peru (3 months in training, and 3 months in site), and to be honest I do not miss the amenities of the US (of course, I miss the people). The rawness of my life here has made me seen humanity in a new way, and how adaptable we can be. My US life was the coziest of lives and now…let’s just say it’s a bit different.
Human adaptability is crazy. When I first arrived to my first host family in Lima during training, I remember being in shock of their living conditions – and now I feel like they are very successful and their house is very nice compared to many or all of the houses in my town.
When I look back at my first three months of service in my site, Chatito, I realize I am pretty good at adapting to change in my life. It did come with some tears, longing for running water, or wondering why the hell there is never toilet paper anywhere when you need it. And as I walk through my average day compared to my past US life, I feel rather proud of my personal adaptability and can’t help but chuckle to myself of the very odd things that I am so very used to.
I wake up every morning at 5am to the rooster, pop my ear plugs in and then wake up an hour later to the sun beating down on me starting the sweat for the day that never really stops (I am currently sitting in my underwear writing this with two water bottles on my feet with my fan essentially lying on me to cool me down…that’s how hot it is here). I rise out of cozy sand-filled bed, grab a mug and scoop up water from one of the jugs. I go outside and brush my teeth with my mug, like I used to do when I went camping. Now it’s my everyday life as I hold my sink in my hand, and my drain is the ground. I am used to using the outside toilet (don’t you dare put the toilet paper in the toilet), and afterwards force flushing it. I am used to washing my hands out of an upside down water bottle. I am used to not having a sink, and glorifying the one little water spout we have in the backyard which brings water the two days a week it comes, which fills up 15 jugs around our house and backyard. I am used to filling up a bucket, carrying it to my little shower closet outside between the chicken and rooster coup, and pouring a pitcher of blissful water over my sweaty body. I am NOT used to a chicken poking its head in while I am doing this, still scares me and makes me feel very odd.
On that note, I am used to being surrounded my farm animals all the time. I am used to picking up a duckling went it has gotten out of it bin, or yelling ‘PASE!’ at the chickens who have made their way into the kitchen. I am used to the tense relationship the baby bull, Mochito, and I have. I do feel like I am making headway in this though, as he sat about a foot away from me the other day when I was painting my nails…should’ve painted his hoofs. I am used to finding two unknown kittens eating food off of our table. I am used to the donkey that makes the absurd scream, like he is about to pass out from a hernia, at me every time I walk by him. I am used to, but still rather alarmed, by the very large wieners I have seen on all types of animals. I am used to pigs aggressiveness towards me; they are some feisty mofuggas. I am used to holding a rock in my hand when I go on runs to throw at a dog if they chase me. I am used to seeing a chicken slaughtered. I am used to eating mysterious fish. I am used to drinking fish flavored water, because the bin where I guard my boiled safe drinking water sits next to the fish – I can’t lie I do gag probably three times a day to this. But after accumulating enough water bottles for the next month for the tippy-tap project, I felt like it was time to make a sustainable change in my life. So boiled fish-tasting water it is. Speaking of our animals, I am used to eating the most organically and farm fresh food I ever will in my life. Everything we eat either comes from our farm or our animals, and it is so delicious. I am spoiled being in the northern region with mangos, bananas, avocado, tomato, and more coming straight from my family’s farms.
I am accustom to the little children yelling my name, with whom I used to try start conversations thinking they wanted to talk to me…. and no they really just get a huge amount of amusement of screaming my name over and over again until I am out of view. I am used to handing my announcement for the meeting to the store lady, and hearing it over the loud speaker that informs the whole town what ‘La Senorita de Cuerpo de Paz’ is up to for the day. I am used to the whistles from the outsider construction workers in town, even though I haven’t looked pretty once in site. I am used to the respect my whole town gives me with the ‘Buenos tardes Senorita Jamie,’ and if I have a favor or question their willingness to bend backwards to help me. I am used to getting giggled at when people don’t understand my gringa Spanish. I am still not used to knowing when to greet people with a kiss on the cheek or just a handshake, it is a constant struggle, and I am very awkward at it.
I am used to constantly being sandy, and walking all over town to find one person for about an hour. Even after I received my Peace Corps bike, I prefer walking because it is very difficult to ride through thick sand with beaming desert sun. It had resulted in two bike falls for me already. Thus transportation by foot is better for me I think.
I am used to working in the health post, with children constantly coming up to me and just staring at me for sometimes up to a hour. I am used to waiting an hour or longer for a meeting to start, due to the infamous ‘hora peruana’ – I still do find it a bit irritating and think I always will…one of my US characteristics I won’t give up is punctuality. I am used to being super busy one day, and twiddling my thumbs the next.
I am used to lying on the porch floor with my little sisters and falling into a daze.I look forward to ending the day with my family watching a dramatic telenovela, and playing with baby Bianca. I go into my room around 9pm, and depending either continue work, read a book, or study Spanish. I usually find my eyes heavy around 10pm. I sleep better than I ever have in my life, I think due to the overwhelming amount of cognitive ability I am using speaking and working in a second language and a third-world community.
Through it all though, the things that shocked me during my site visit are now a part of my comfort. I have adapted, and this is my home and will continue to be for the next two years. The hugs from my little sister, Ari; the shy smiles from my brother, Christian; the worry and care from Mama Marcela gave me today because I was vomiting all last night; and the laughs from Papa Juan exclaims when ‘OOLEY’ – baby Bianca smiles at me have made this place not just my site, but my home.
I have adapted to this life, and hope after I live the ‘good US life’ for a week, I can emerge right back into it. With that being said, I am very excited to spend some great quality time with my friends and family, eat delicious food, and laugh my ass off. And more importantly, I am looking forward to commemorating and celebrating the life of my beautiful Grandma Jeannie, who passed away on my first day in Chatito.
Hasta pronto US,