I have so many things I want to tell you about, and yet I haven’t even described my site. Well, let’s change that and start from the beginning.
My first day driving to my site I was in the back of a van that functions as a colectivo between my site and the regional capital. We passed through the capital, passed through a couple outlying towns, and within 25 minutes we were in the middle of nowhere. Or at least it felt like it. I sat slightly in shock because all I could see for miles was sand. On the left was sand, trash, and a couple dry, jagged volcanic looking mountains. To the right, flat, endless stretches of sand only periodically marked with dunes. Beyond the sand is actually the ocean, but from where I was sitting you can’t tell where the sand ends and the ocean begins. It’s just nothingness for forever. Now, if I were raised in Middle America back in the U.S., or maybe had even visited such states, this sight maybe wouldn’t be so startling. But I’m a mountain girl; I get uneasy when the land is flat. I need the mountains to hug in close. I feel vulnerable out there in the open, the wind battling the van and mirages playing tricks on the eyes.
“What do you think?” my host mom asked, sitting next to me in the van. I was probably making that face I always make when I’m thinking. My mid-brow creases and I have a look that is a mixture of confusion and annoyance, regardless of what’s on my mind.
I fumbled with a choppy response, knowing everyone in the van had their head cocked to hear what the gringa would say. “I didn’t know very much about Lambayeque before I got here,” I said. “So, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know there was desert.”
|The Panamerican highway--only paved road in my town.|
Ten minutes went by. Not long, but long enough for me to wonder just how desert my new home would be. Just as I started to think it would never end, I see green in the distance. Lots of green. And suddenly we came upon palm trees, fields of corn, sugar cane, and other fruits or vegetables I’m sure I haven’t even tried yet. My site is an oasis in the desert. It is still dry and dusty, but it is surrounded by chakras (farms). The panamerican highway was what we were drove to get here, and it actually runs right through the middle of my town. In fact, it’s the only paved road in my entire town, and it’s right out my front door. My town has a population of 4,000, and one inicial (like preschool) one primaria (like elementary school, grades 1-5) and one segundaria (jr high and high school combined). The size is closer to Salmon, Idaho, but has less stores and only a couple restaurants, like my hometown of Challis.
My house is nice and my family is pretty progressive. As is customary in Peru, especially these parts, my house is made of concrete, adobe and brick. The first thing I noticed when I walked in my new home for the next two years (aside from the “Welcome Amanda” banner on the wall) is they have two flat-screen TV’s with Playstation 3’s hooked up to both of them. This confused the hell out of me. I have friends who were sent to Ancash where they don’t even have a toilet or shower, and I am sent to a site where my house doesn’t just have one, but two gaming systems? I was starting to think I had exited Peru. But then I found out they aren’t really there for the family. One of the family members had visited the States and bought them, and now they charge kids on the hour/per game to come and play them. That’s right—my house is like the local arcade. My living room is almost always filled with teenage boys. I have a feeling this will come in handy in the future.
|Part of my room along with my banner.|
The kitchen is basically open air, save for a thin plastic roof and screen ceiling to keep the bugs out. We are still in winter right now, and it is in the mid 70’s everyday. It is supposed to get over 100 F in the summer.
My room is enormous. I have a couch and a chair in it, and I still have enough floor space to work out or work on projects. My floor is cement/dirt though, and I’m still trying to figure out the best way to keep things clean. Their method is to mop with petroleum. Haven’t quite adopted it for myself yet.
Part of my house is still under construction, but there is an upstairs that mostly consists of my parent’s bedroom. Everyone has a TV in their room (normal small TV’s—no flat screens) except for me, and my host family asked if I was going to put one in mine. I said no, but they don’t know I have tons of movies to watch on my computer.
I am the most spoiled Peace Corps Volunteer in the history of time.
I’m not supposed to use real names when talking about people, but that’s going to get real confusing real fast, so I don’t think first names will hurt. I have a host mom (Jackie), host dad (Victor), host sister who is 20 (Janmarie) and married (Manuel) with a 16-month-old baby (Luanna), an 18-year-old host brother (Victor Jr), and a 16-year-old host sister (Maricielo). My host mom is basically the person who really pushed to get a volunteer in my town, which makes sense that she would be the one to offer to house me for the next two-years. She is a high school English teacher, and she is pretty active in the community. My host dad used to be a PE teacher, and now he has a night job, which I still don’t fully understand. Janmarie and Luanna live in the house with us right now, and her husband works out of town on the weekdays and comes home on the weekends. She does most of the cooking in the house since she is a stay at home mom and everyone else is running around busy. Victor Jr is also only home on the weekends, as he attends University in a different town. As I said, my family is pretty progressive, and everyone shares in the chores of the house. When my host brother is home on the weekends he cleans up in the kitchen and sweeps the floors. I’ve even seen him cooking. My host dad does a lot of cleaning, and he gets back from work at 6:00 am so depending on the day he’ll make breakfast in the morning for everyone. It’s not typical for both genders to share in household chores, as Peruvians are more traditional with women doing domestic work, and men working out of the house.
To say the least, I am having a very different experience than a lot of other people. I have hot water in my shower. My family has a computer with internet (even though it’s so slow I want to punch the screen sometimes) and a printer. And, something I recently discovered, my host family has an “at home gym”. I think they are the only Peruvians with dumbbells and aerobic steps. As I said, most spoiled PCV. Ever.
This is my own little slice of Peru. All of my compañeros were spread out along the coast of Peru, so some are in the mountains eating guinea pigs and speaking Quechua, while others are having experiences more like mine. Peru has so many extreme differences in geography, climate, traditions, and languages; there is no way for me to describe Peru in these blogs. I will only be able to tell you about my little town in this incredible country.
And while I have things like water, electricity, internet, etc, (God, I feel spoiled listing all of that out) it doesn’t mean I am not experiencing other extreme cultural differences—au contraire. Some of my best stories have yet to come. But while I can’t wait to riddle this blog with ridiculous anecdotes and observations, I hope one theme will stand true; that regardless of all of our cultural differences, we do have a lot in common.