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 😉 , 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. 🙂
– 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.

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Peace Corps Volunteer Peru

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