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.
FIRST UP…BIG JIMMY:
It is hard to find the words to describe our visit to Villa Chatito – 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 – 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 – 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 “finish your business” – I understand this is called a “power flush.” To the family horse that pulls the family cart to the chacra (farmland) daily where all work is done by hand – 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 “normal” – 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.
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 – Bianca. Seeing the tears and then grasping the words of admiration spoken by her grandfather recognizing Jamie were magical.
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 – they made us feel like the parents of a rock star!
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 “protector” and boyfriend – Glenn; I was asked soon after we returned home to Columbus to describe Glenn – very simply stated – 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.
In summary, our visit to Jamie’s village reminds me of the Robert Frost poem – “The Road Not Taken” – especially the verse: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – 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 “the one less traveled” – 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.