Ashley Hack’s experience with Chatito

The sporadic online dating with my sister was growing monotonous–¬†I had to see it in person for myself.¬† I had received the full virtual¬†home tour, met her new¬†friends via facetime, and read about the personalities of her Peruvian family via email¬†but I wanted to experience first hand what Jamie now called home.¬† I have to be honest – just like online dating – the virtual story she painted was¬†rather¬†different than¬†the real life portrait I witnessed.¬†She¬†lives a much tougher¬†life than she portrays via social media. I walked out of¬†Jamie’s¬†new pueblo, Chatito, with¬†inexpressible respect for my brave¬†baby sister.
I am not the type of person to set a lot of upfront expectations. I tend to arrive somewhere with the “I haven’t thought about it yet, I’ll figure it out when I get there” mentality. To date, it has served me well…if you don’t set expectations you don’t seem to get disappointed too often…and damn Chatito did not disappoint. My eyes were wide open and I was amazed at every turn. So here it goes … my rendition of my day in the life of Jamie Hack.¬† The day was a rollercoaster of emotions so it is easier for me to break it down for you in stages & emotions.
– Feeling: anxious
– Glenn, Jamie’s boyfriend, and I rode to her village in a moto taxi. Glenn did a fab job of scaring the shit out of me with the¬†“how to fight off the random dogs who may attack you because they don’t know who you are” speech. UGH THANKS!¬† When I asked Glenn if he would help fight the dogs off if they attacked¬†he said “ya…but be ready¬†with a bunch of rocks¬†to protect yourself in case they attack me too. I’ve been attacked by quite a few before. Just don’t let them smell your fear”.¬†¬†I think I arrived with pit stains. For the record – never had pit stains in my life (I’m a glistener, not a sweater type of girl….shit – that may make a good t-shirt).¬†I was terrified but SUCCESS – those damn dogs left me alone!!!
–¬† Feeling: Shock & Awe
–¬† For the record – Jamie lives on a farm. She will argue it to her death but she has 2 horses, 6 cows/bulls, 2 dogs, 2+ turkeys, countless ducks and chirckens.¬†The livestock inventory rotates¬†on a regular basis as it’sfarm to table local¬†cuisine¬†(how trendy). Oh and there is an irritable¬†pig tied up out front at the cousin’s house. By the way, please invite me back when you cook that bastard, I’m a sucker for pulled pork.
– We were greeted by her immediate/extended family members and health post¬†friends/coworkers. Everyone was so excited¬†to meet us…even though we couldn’t even exchange words given my horrible attempt at a duolingo Spanish refresher.¬†Regardless, it was a¬†constant¬†reminder of how respected Jamie is by her community.
– Peruvian Hospitality…top notch. Our bellies were always full of food¬†(still dreaming of those tamales!)¬†and there was always another activity planned for us. While there wouldn’t typically be a lot to do in Chatito compared to the American life, Jamie’s fam made sure to jam pack our day and the best part was is how proud they were to do it. Wagon rides through the farmlands, countless meals, birthday celebrations, santa rosa fest, fireworks, chi-cha!
– Dinner: capus – three birds In a hole in earth w potatoes and plantains for three hours. Watching Juan get it out of this scolding hot hole with bare hands was half the entertainment. He¬†said he didn’t need any protection as he¬†was in the army they had to get logs out of fire w no gloves
– Marcella, Jamie’s mother, deserves a special shout out. While all her family members work hard to contribute, this woman, like many others in Peru dedicate their entire life to feeding and caring for the family. And damn, on a dirt floor/wood burning stoves/and no running water – she cooks more often¬†than my own mother. Sorry Sue – you know it’s true!!
La Festival
Feeling: Tricked. Since when did I agree to go to a 2 hour church service starting at 9pm?
– Jamie said we were going to a festival to celebrate Santa Rosa (Saint Rose). She made it sound like we were going to a party in the square. We walked into a church festival that consisted of pungent incense, church singers that could have been led by Sue Hackbarth ūüėČ , and constant recognition¬†of the guests from Estados Unidos. Jamie’s host sisters laughed¬†at me as I kept nodding off. Sorry, the florescent lights¬†hurt my eyeballs!¬† But after the ceremony was the real fun—what I like to call a jungle gym that lights off fire works…in your face. New feeling: fear. ūüôā
– Jamie said this was just how life was there…you never really knew what you were getting into….a nice reminder of my¬†own soap box about not setting expectations.
– Feeling: Contentment. Holy shit, this family LOVES Jamie
– I am the eldest sister in my family and I’ve always known Jamie to be the baby.¬†In Chatito, Jamie is the eldest and has now stepped into my role…what Jim Hackbarth¬†refers to as the place of¬†“responsibility”. It was truly a blessing to witness the smiling eyes and adoration that her 4 younger siblings had for her.¬†She is a role model not only for the community but also for her¬†sibs. Her parents and grandparents truly treat her as apart of their family and it is so reassuring to know that your little sister is safe in the home of another family who truly loves her.
So much happened in those short days that we were in Jamie’s village but one thing will forever resonate with me…love.¬†I may never meet her family again but they will always have a place in my heart for the love¬†they¬†instilled¬†in my sister. They have provided with her the support that she needs to fulfill her duty within the community and grow into the person she is meant to become.

Our littliest‚Äôs Home-Away-From-Home – Mama Hack’s Perspective

The one & only Mama Hack’s guest post:¬†

How do I put into words all the planning, anticipation, anxiety and love that went into this trip and then the discovery, the fun, the excitement, the adventure, and the love that we all experienced.

My first emotion was true comfort and relief in seeing your big smile with¬†your “Welcome to Peru” sign, hugging you so close that I could feel your heart pounding finally knowing that you really are okay, both physical and mentally. ¬†So many diverse feelings surfaced throughout our visit that I will forever cherish our visit to Chatito and try to relive and describe ‚Ķ.

Joy in meeting Glenn and feeling his ease with all of us and the support and love you have for each other.  Pride and awe as we watched you interact and converse so freely with confidence with all the locals using your Spanish fluently with a true Peruvian accent.   Pleasure and discovery as we explored Piura and the neighboring artsy town, sharing the best ceviche and sipping Peruvian beers and hauling the new guitar around that we brought from the US for your guitar teacher.

Apprehension and some discomfort in experiencing a travel day in the life of Jamie…taking the combi bus with all the locals hopping on and off with babies and packages squeezing people in like sardines.  More apprehension and uneasiness as we overloaded our bags and bodies in the crazy moto-taxii and began our next leg of the journey bumping along the dirt road and somewhat barren looking farmland to Chatito, your home away from home.

Distraction by the very barren, brown town of Chatito that consists of drab little adobe homes, some with thatch roofs or tin walls, all mismatched, stray dogs roaming the dirt roads with a few green trees here and there. ¬†Immense warmth and love as your entire Peruvian family welcomed us with open arms and kisses as they demonstrated their love for you and treated us like family. ¬†Unity and family pride as Marcella, your Peruvian Mom, Carla and Ariana, with Baby Bianca in arms, showed us your home and all the animals living in your backyard. ¬†Caution and maybe a sort of uneasiness as we took in your primitive living quarters,¬†the animals living so close to your bedroom window, the primitive bucket bath and outside potty, the outdoor makeshift washing station and clothes line,¬†baby Bianca’s hammock hanging over the dirt floor and thatched roof kitchen, the many pots and pans boiling and cooking Chi Cha and other foods, the very simple one room homes that your family and most in the community live in.

Affection and pride as Juan offered to take us out to the chakra (farmland) to see how your family and the majority of families support their families and livelihood.  Adventure and fun as all 7 of us loaded onto a wooden platform with wheels that were harnessed to the family horse and this strong horse hauled us for miles as we toured the beautiful chakra, taking in rice fields, plantains, corn, the other farmers, the primitive but creative way they grow crops in this desert land nourished by water from a canal system.  Appreciation for all of their hard work, their self-sustaining way of living so simply without modern conveniences.  The affection and bond in family and community as they paraded us around town, waving at Aunts and Uncles and friends as we passed the square and the church.

Amazed by the gracious hospitality of your whole family, especially your mom and grandmas as they prepared so many delicious meals for us using fresh vegetables from the chakra and the freshest chicken, duck and turkey from the backyard with such meager kitchen tools and surroundings. ¬† ¬†Pure satisfaction in devouring the fresh ceviche and then the delicious chicken soup after the long tour of the chakra. ¬†Caution and again uneasiness as we all shared a bowl of ChiCha, the hand brewed corn alcohol. Curiousity as we watched Juan and Marcella fill the ceramic lining in the ground with potatoes, plantains, duck, turkey and chicken and cook for hours in preparation for our delicious dinner. Compassion and appreciation as we gave the gifts we brought to all the family… baby Bianca, Ariana, Christian, Carla, Marcella, Juan, and the grandparents.

Impressed by the tour of your health post and pleasure in meeting Magdalena, your health post Socio, and Doctor, that think so much of you.  Pride in understanding the many and diverse projects that you have initiated to make life better for your community.

Peacefulness in meeting Annie and Claudia your Peace Corps neighbors and friends, knowing that you are truly the backbone for each other and realizing how much you truly need and love each other.  Affection and acceptance in getting to know Glen watching how you are both so natural and loving with each other, and knowing that he needs you as much as you need him.

Playfulness, tenderness as we observed 8 year old Ariana play with baby Bianca most of the day with the new scooter you gave her for her birthday and the music lion that we gave her.  Connection, friendship as we sat on the front porch sharing a beer glass with your father Juan, grandfather, Glen, Annie and Claudia. Fascination and gratitude for the energy that you and Glen put into translating the many conversations throughout the day and night.  Just sharing the common bond and love for you, Jamie, as we all spent hours on the front porch, sharing space, sharing a common love of you.  Constantly feeling the love and support of your home-away-from-home family, reassured that you have a solid and loving Peruvian family to love and support you.

Celebration and happiness as we sang baby Bianca Happy Birthday in both English and Spanish as the sunset and the evening was upon us.   Togetherness as a family as we all gathered in the house, eating birthday cake and meeting all of your extended family, cousins, Tias uncles. Deep affection and emotion as we listened to both Juan and your grandfather as they took time to talk about you, and their feelings, not knowing whet they were saying since it was in Spanish, but their body language and emotions were so strongly felt that my eyes puddled with tears.  More heart strings and emotions as we listened to you translate what they said and seeing how touched you were by their words.  Closeness as we just spent time sharing space, sharing the common love of Jamie, brought us all together.

Spiritual connection as we attended church to celebrate the Festival of Saint Santa Rosa.  Pride and a warm welcome as we sang and clapped and felt the appreciation of your service as they honored you seven times during the mass.  Entertainment and liveliness as we watched the handmade wire firework structure spin and light up after mass.

Constant pride and awe of you and your service, knowing that you are making a difference poca a poca in your community and your community has embraced you. Amazement at your adaption to this daily life, living in such primitive and rustic surroundings.  But mostly, I felt and took away with me the common thread of love for Jamie that united us all and I left Chatito with a positive hope that things will get better for the children, the parents, the families, the community, all of them, poca a poca, with better awareness of good health, better diet, better hygiene, improved trash system, improved sports. Jamie I am so proud that you are a part of this, and truly you are making a difference.

My heart, love and appreciation goes out to your home-away-from-home family.

My darling Jamie, loving you deeply and missing you but now I can envision you in your life and feel a connection across the miles. It was such an amazing trip and I loved our visit to Machu Picchu and will cherish it all! You opened up this adventure for all of our family my littliest, thank you for being you!

Love to your home-away-from-home family and Glen, Annie and Claudia and Magdalena!



Welcome to the stage: Hackbarth guest posts

A couple weeks back my family visited my site and got a little taste of what my life here is in Chatito. It was an whirlwind and once-in-a-lifetime experience sharing with them a little slice of my life here. Thus…The next couple of blog posts will be coming from the perspective of Big Jimmy, Little Susie and Crazy Ashley. So sit back and enjoy their stories of what my little life here is like down here in Chatito, Peru.



It is hard to find the words to describe our visit to Villa Chatito ‚Äď the northern Peruvian village where our daughter Jamie has called home for the past year and will be her home for the next 14 months as she completes her Peace Corps journey. ¬† ¬†Many words come to mind ‚Äď love, kindness, patience, fortitude, determination and happiness. ¬† ¬†While we were only in her village for a couple days we witnessed everyone of these words in watching, participating and becoming engrained into the life of her Peruvian family and her village. ¬† ¬† While it was only a snippet in time ‚Äď it provided me with further insights to our daughter who lives in an environment that many people could never endure.

The sounds of the village will be engrained in my mind for many many years.   Awakening to the daily 5AM loud speaker, village wide (wake up call) daily announcements.  To the roosters that commence crowing at 4AM and rolls thru the village like dominos.  To early morning mini explosions, that sound like gun or dynamite blasts, to mark the celebration of a religious holiday.   While it is alarming to hear these sounds it is now normal in Jamie’s daily life as she takes it in stride and no longer seems strange to her. While these and many other sounds will be remembered, the many and varied sights across her village will be engrained in my memory for a lifetime.

The ¬†sights of the bucket shower room where she baths daily on what appears to be a dirt floor. ¬† The sharing of one outdoor toilet in her home (of approximately 800 square feet) shared by 8 people; that only dispenses when you pour a bucket of water after you ‚Äúfinish your business‚ÄĚ – I understand this is called a ‚Äúpower flush.‚ÄĚ ¬† ¬†To the family horse that pulls the family cart to the chacra (farmland) daily where all work is done by hand ‚Äď tilling, irrigation, harvesting the crops – rice and corn. ¬† ¬†To the 6+ bulls, many chickens and ducks just a few steps from the dirt floor, corn husk ceiling kitchen. ¬† The “convection oven” that is in the ground as her father places and removes a feast of food cooked in hot coals (with his bare hands) in honor of our visit. ¬† ¬†While the sights and sounds can be alarming to what we consider to be our ‚Äúnormal” ‚Äď there is a simplicity to Villa Chatito that is a reminder that the simplicities of life are often stripped away by the many luxuries we enjoy in the U.S.

Where Jamie bucket bathes outside surrounded by the chicken coup
Where Jamie bucket bathes outside surrounded by the chicken coup

Coupos - the traditional delicious dish her host family cooks in the ground
Coupos – the traditional delicious dish her host family cooks in the ground
Going into the chakras (farms) with Jamie's host dad, Juan
Going into the chakras (farms) with Jamie’s host dad, Juan
Family cooking tamales, ceviche, etc.
Family cooking tamales, ceviche, etc.
The family's 8 bulls
The family’s 8 bulls

The welcome that was extended to us by Jamie’s family and her community was overwhelming.     The smiles, the hugs, the embraces and the energy of two very diverse families were united by the mutual love that we share for Jamie.    While Jamie is the only person in our family that can speak fluent Spainish, the unspoken word captured by the handshakes, hugs, glances and sitting hip to hip made the unspoken word louder than any spoken words.   We were blessed to be able to enjoy the 1 year birthday celebration of her little sister РBianca. Seeing the tears and then grasping the words of admiration spoken by her grandfather recognizing Jamie were magical.

Cheersing with Jamie's host grandpa
Cheersing with Jamie’s host grandpa
Juan, Jamie's host dad, and I getting along wonderfully even though lost in translation
Juan, Jamie’s host dad, and I getting along wonderfully even though lost in translation
Bianca's one year birthday wish
Bianca’s one year birthday wish
Celebrating Bianca's 1st birthday together
Celebrating Bianca’s 1st birthday together

Earlier that same day we visited the health clinic where Jamie works where she has several projects underway to help improve the health of her community. ¬† ¬† Her Peruvian coworkers were gracious and full of smiles ‚Äď they made us feel like the parents of a rock star!

Visiting the health post where Jamie supports in projects. Magdalena and Doctor Nelson are some of her closest friends in site.
Visiting the health post where Jamie supports in projects. Magdalena and Doctor Nelson are some of her closest friends in site.

As we travel thru life we learn many lessons and one of the most important lesson I know I have learned in my 60 years is to surround yourself with family and friends that love and care for each other. ¬† Jamie certainly has a unity with her Peruvian family and her village that is permeated with love. ¬† ¬†She has great friendships with her neighboring village Peace Corps co workers, Annie and her newest friend, Claudia. ¬† Without their mutual support of each other I am not sure how they could push forward day by day, week by week and month by month. ¬† ¬†And of course her ‚Äúprotector‚ÄĚ and boyfriend ‚Äď Glenn; I was asked soon after we returned home to Columbus to describe Glenn ‚Äď very simply stated ‚Äď a true gentleman. ¬† ¬†There are many other descriptors but as a father the most important attribute to me is seeing first hand his respect he bestows upon Jamie and that he is a gentleman.

Enjoying our first ceviche and peruvian beers upon arrival with Jamie and Glenn
Enjoying our first ceviche and peruvian beers upon arrival with Jamie and Glenn

In summary, our visit to Jamie‚Äôs village reminds me of the Robert Frost poem – ‚ÄúThe Road Not Taken‚ÄĚ – especially the verse: ¬†¬†Two roads diverged in a wood, and I ‚Äď I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. ¬†¬†¬† ¬†Jamie and her journey for the past year and for the forthcoming year is ‚Äúthe one less traveled‚ÄĚ – ¬†her journey and the journey chosen by her fellow Peace Corps volunteers and the positive impact that they have on their communities, to say the least, make a difference.


There it is folks, the wise words of the man I am lucky enough to call my father. Stay tuned for Little Susie in the next couple days.



Vacation Blues

How spoiled does that sound? I went on a marvelous family vacation and now have the vacay blues. You’re probably thinking ‚Äėget it together, there are people with real problems‚Äô. And yes I know this, I see those real problems everyday but I‚Äôve decided to take some selfish pity and gloriously wallow in my homesickness.

Let me begin by saying I will quit the ‚Äėbullshit‚Äô blogging. Although many of what I have said in past blogs has been true‚ĶI cannot lie that it was censored and many times I only portrayed the fluffy and fun moments of my service. So from now on, I will try to paint a more full and realistic picture of what really happens down here…no bullshit.

There are tough times down here. Times you want to go home, times you cry sporadically for no real reason, and times you question if your work has any real purpose. But like any job and time in your life, these moments will occur ‚Äď and it is up to you to become the final authority and CEO of your life and decide which road to take.

So from here on out, I will stop trying to impress you and write the honest to a fault, zero apology blog that only a handful of you may still be reading. Honestly, my blogs are a selfish act that help me vent while keeping track of this hypnotizing world I am living in – so if your still reading this rambling nonsense, thank you.

So why do I have the vacation blues?

After arriving back to site after an once-in-a-lifetime vacation with my loving family, my emotions are all over the place. I went from literally being sky-high at Machu Picchu with the closest people in my life to going back to the service in my small community that was driving me forward everyday. Before vacation I was doing rather well in advancing community projects and busy both socially and professionally in site… but jumping right back into it is a feat itself. Actually coming back from my trip to the US was a lot easier than coming back from my in-country family vacation.

The vacation itself was awesome. It began with Ma, Pops and Ashley visiting my community and getting to know my host family. My host family truly is my second family, and this was solidified that day through the love they showed my real family, and also the many kind words and actions they shared through the collision of two core groups that are in my life right now. It was also therapeutic having my family take a peak into my life, and meet some of the people I consider my closest friends down here. Now when I describe it on the phone, my life won’t sound like an abstract painting.

After the visit, we continued on to Machu Picchu to meet up with my other siblings, Nick and Chrissy, and started the luxurious vacation to Cusco and around the surrounding Inca Ruins and the world famous, Machu Picchu. The trip was nearly perfect, besides all my family member’s illnesses they received during the trip from vomiting altitude sickness to uncontrollable bowel movements…but they champed through it and is just another fun story to tell, right guys?!

Everyone at one my favorite site in Sacred Valley, the breahttaking Moray salt mines
Everyone at one my favorite site in Sacred Valley, the breahttaking Moray salt mines

It was a dream as we wondered abandoned cities, filled our brains with Peruvian Inka history, filled our tummies with the finest cuisine, and fell asleep on the dreamiest beds with a glass of wine not out of arms reach. The best part was being able to celebrate my Dad’s 60th birthday together in Cusco before all my siblings left. As we have all lived in different places and timezones over the past years, we have not been together to celebrate a birthday in a while, and collaborating in such an amazing place for this milestone was everything and more. I could go on and on about how perfect the trip was, and how thankful I am to my parents for being so generous along with all my siblings for taking the time off and making the long journey down here

Celebrating Big Jimmys birthday shamelessly in matching tees and doo-rag bandanas
Celebrating Big Jimmys birthday shamelessly in matching tees and doo-rag bandanas

But the best part was truly being effortlessly together as a family. Effortless is something I had not felt in a long time, and it was really nice to enjoy the bliss of it for a week. Everything here I do down here from trying to figure out my complex extended host family tree, to greeting everyone in the streets, to giving a presentation, to planning a project with the authorities‚Ķeverything I‚Äôve done the past year requires effort rather little or big. And it does tire you out, but makes you appreciate the work you do and really enjoy those ‚Äėeffortless‚Äô moments during a luxurious vacation.

Obviously, I am sensitive to poverty as I am living in the thick of it and directly see the powerful effects it has on a community. However, that sensitivity to poverty at the same time has enhanced my gratitude for the finer things in life. Even after living a year in ‚Äėrough‚Äô conditions, I will always shamelessly be swooned by the heavenly pillowy-ness of a Marriott bed, delicious dry wine, dreamy massages, amazing hotel breakfast buffets and luxury traveling accompanied with easy conversation with my favorite hilarious people. The same hilarious people that were very hard to say goodbye to, which I did not expect that as we haven’t really been all living in the same vicinity for over 5 years. But living far away from home in-country is drastically different than living internationally.

As I said bye to my parents in the Lima airport I could not help but cry as I hugged them goodbye…not knowing how long it will be until I say hello again. I walked away reluctantly not looking back and went into the sterile bathroom stall to cry it out. I depressingly crawled over to the only place that looked like the best therapist at the moment, Subway, and ordered the coveted Spicy Italian I haven’t had in nearly a year. As I sat down by the gate, I suppressed my tears and daydreamed of the marvelous memories we made together. Luckily, a familiar shadow creepily cast itself over me in the gate I looked up and was speechlessly surprised to find Glenn, my boyfriend, standing over there with a shit-wide grin on his face as he unexpectedly surprised me. He came at the perfect moment as he cheered up with his presence and the block of pepper-jack cheese he cargo-ed along for me (happily pleased as we ate it with an un-used stole sample spoon from his recent medical checks). But more importantly he helped me through the next day, as I was an emotional roller-coaster about going back to site.

I feel rather crazy for being so upset after such an amazing trip. But I think it made me realize all the emotions of homesickness and missing my family that I have been suppressing for the past year. But I guess after being weirdly emotionally stable for over a year, the Peace Corps emotional roller-coaster they talked about so much in training has finally hit me after distracting myself with work and suppressing it for over a year.

So how will I cure the blues? Listen to Eminem on repeat, attempt to jump back into the community projects, go to soccer practice, and chill with my host sisters to help distract me from the little heartache I have. This self-therapy is shockingly already helping as my host sister is relentlessly rehearsing her flute ‘My heart will go on’ routine right next to me. Ironic, eh?

Thank you to the moon and back for such an amazing trip familia. Hugs across the miles.

Until next time,

Jamie Lane