A big thank you to one of my best friends from college, Alex Franchella (more commonly known as Franch), for coming to visit my weird little life down here. Words cannot express how awesome it is having people from your life back in the states take the time out of their travels to come experience your bizarre Peace Corps life in a tiny Peruvian desert town. Here is her guest blog post on her couple days in my community.
How could I put into words the feelings/anticipations I had during my journey into Jamie’s village, Chatito? I couldn’t. Jamie and I had already been on our fair share of adventures throughout Peru – Lima, the Amazon and jungle. Not going to lie either I was having a difficult time adjusting between the language barrier, Peruvians and overall culture. I was in shock and couldn’t be more thankful to Jamie for helping me through it all. Now it was time to visit the place she has called home for the past year plus.
My experiences in Peru thus far had become a compilation of shocks so I decided there was no sense in visualizing what Jamie’s village would be like because I knew I’d most definitely be wrong. Proven that fact as we made our way through the desert on a bumpy dirt road in a moto, we were surrounded by palm trees and green rice fields. Definitely didn’t expect to see so much green in the middle of a desert. I was greeted warmly by her extended family, including Nala, and introduced as Jamie’s “prima” (cousin), which I still find hilarious. Getting the tour through her home and village, I tried to grasp the fact that this was Jamie’s home. You’re constantly covered in sand, stray dogs everywhere, houses made of straw, mud or brick, it’s constantly hot, no running water, bucket bathe-ing, force flushing the toilet, a farm in her backyard… Despite all these crazy elements, I realized almost immediately how truly happy and in tune Jamie was with her surroundings/community. It was amazing to see Jamie interact with everyone in her village and how excited they all were to have her back from vacation.
I shadowed Jamie for the next few days and was able to get a real sense of all the work she is doing for Chatito’s community. She has a few projects going on and it was cool to see all the progress she has made with most of them. She works closely with their local hospital and school. Her days are filled with constant activity whether it be sorting through recycling, holding community banks or meeting with various people such as the school psychologist to help promote healthy lifestyle to the children. The people she is working with seem to really want to partake in helping Jamie make life better in the community and I can see they look to her with so much respect. I noticed that getting things done in Peru is anything but easy yet Jamie has found a way to make it work.
Throughout the time I was there, I was introduced to so many people who were friendly and welcoming to me. Although I can’t tell you exactly what they were saying, thank God for Jamie’s translating! Her Spanish is incredible. I’d say completely fluent but she will argue against that. I experienced things I never would have dreamed of including witnessing a chicken being killed and then eating it at lunch. I’ll tell you one thing, they start their day very early. I’m talking at about 5am. Well that’s when the roosters are up and a loud speaker blares throughout the village announcing what is going on for the day. Jamie’s earplugs really came in handy. I was able to watch her host mom through the process of making chicha, which is beer made from fermented corn. Tried some it as well and it’s pretty good. Jamie’s a huge fan. Didn’t surprise me considering it is beer! Bucket bathe-ing seemed so foreign to me and never would I have thought I’d be so excited to do it every night. Honestly it’s something I looked forward to, so refreshing!
Like all my time in Peru, my visit to Jamie’s home was surprising but in a good way. It was comforting to see how easily Jamie fit in with her host family and community. I will never forget their kind hospitality toward me. I couldn’t be more happy or fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit Jamie’s village and see her work firsthand. Everything she’s done and is continuing to do for the community is truly incredible especially with the different elements she battles daily. Being in Chatito for only a few days I have so much respect for her and it sounds sappy but I couldn’t be more proud to call her my friend. I was so sad to leave and know that soon I would be separated from her but knowing and witnessing all that I did I know that for the moment she’s where she’s meant to be.