The Northern Coast

The Northern Coast
The Northern Coast--photo by Zack Thieman

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

See ya next year, Thanksgiving!

Damn. It has been one hellacious month.

It has been a long time since I have struggled so much with my work, my counterparts, and my personal life all at once. I knew when the month started I was in for some challenges, but I had no idea just how hard it was going to be.

Sometimes when things get tough there’s not much you can do but “keep calm and carry on” or “fake it ‘til you make it”. Lie to yourself if you have to, just keep your head down and plow through.

And well, I’ve done a surprising amount of lying to myself this month. I told myself my insomnia came back because “it just comes and goes sometimes.” I told myself that if I was truly a good volunteer and cared about my job I would get everything I wanted to done, despite the lack of support and help from my counterparts. I told myself, “Yeah, I have the time and energy to take on a 30-day-50,000-word-fiction-novel-writing challenge. Sounds fun.” I ignored over a week of stomach issues, saying, “I’m fine, it’s normal to have diarrhea for over a week,” until I unexpectedly shit my pants. And most recently, “It’s not a big deal to not celebrate Thanksgiving for one year.” (Sue Song, if you are reading this and didn’t know already, DON’T KILL ME!)

As you all know, Thanksgiving is not a Peruvian holiday, but being as I am a U.S. citizen working for the U.S. Government I am still given three days off. Last year all of us 17ers met in the beach town of Huanchaco and had one of the most amazing Thanksgiving feasts I have ever partaken in, and the beautiful weather and ocean sunsets were the icing on the cake.

The problem is, this month year has been so unrelenting with obstacles that some of the projects I could’ve had done at the beginning of the month are just now starting to happen. The even bigger problem is the next two weeks are the last weeks I am able to work in the schools before final exams and summer vacation.

If you’ve been keeping up with me on here and other modes of communication, you may know that I have had a serious uphill battle in teaching sex education in the school. The whole idea was to train my health promoters, the 20 kids in my Pasos Adelante youth group, and they would do presentations in each of their classes with the help of the OBGYN and myself. Well, that didn’t work out as planned, but I did what I could and with or without the help of others I still finished training the whole group on sex-ed. Now, we need to focus on the rest of the school, and there just isn’t enough time to do things as we originally planned. Plan A, B, C, and D all fell through, so now I’m continuing on with whatever I can because while we have wasted a ridiculous amount of time on this, three girls ages 13-15 had to quit school because they got pregnant. I’m not going to let myself fall into the “I could’ve stopped it” trap, because that is a slippery slope. But still, I can try and inform the other kids to not make the same mistake.

I desperately want time with my friends after this month from hell, and would love to honor my culture and traditions with a feast that has little to do with the food but gathering together with those you love and recognizing all you have to be thankful for-- and lord, would I LOVE to tell a Peruvian that I can’t work because I have my own feriado largo I have to attend—but I can’t. 

It just so happens that while my friends are planning a Thanksgiving feast (one I’m supposed to be at), which I’m sure will be filled with some of the best tasting food a PCV could imagine, I have finally been granted permission to work with kids in the classrooms to teach sex education. So, instead of taking my free vacation days from Uncle Sam and heading to be with friends to gorge myself, I will be teaching sex-ed at the high school to the older students. It's not the whole school, but it's a start.

I’m not going to lie, it sucks to be missing out on Thanksgiving. I tried to tell myself, "It's not important," and "It's a US holiday and I'm not in the US," and even, "It's not worth all the work and stress involved." Let's be serious. Thanksgiving is awesome. I love Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving has no religion attached to it, it's just awesome people, awesome food, and warm fuzzy feelings of gratitude (and some cocktails). But I would be lying to myself if I said I wouldn’t regret missing this opportunity I have been fighting for literally months to have. I know I am making the right decision because today when I finished the first sex-ed presentation to a group of 16-year-old girls and I thanked them for their attention and participation, they said, “Amanda, thank you for talking to us about stuff that no one else will.”

This Thanksgiving, my heart is with all of you from Ica to the USA, but I am so so so so so thankful that I can finally do what I came here to. If there is anyway this month can redeem itself, it would be for me to be able to arm these students with information before they go off for summer vacation and possibly make a decision that could change the rest of their lives.

Friends in Peru, catch some rays for me on the beach (I’m ghostly pale these days). Loved ones in the US, eat an extra piece of pie for me and add “having a job without the occupational hazard of shitting my pants” to your list of things to be thankful for. Next year I will be home and Thanksgiving will not be skipped!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

In case you don't hear from me for awhile...

I just wanted to write a quick post to let you all know I am participating in NaNoWriMo, AKA, National Novel Writing Month (<---check it out!)

NaNoWriMo is a 30 day challenge to do exactly what it sounds like-- write a novel. A 50,000-word fiction novel, to be more specific. Participants are signed up through the website, give regular updates on the word count of their story, and are encouraged through messages from published authors, sponsors, and "writing buddies" to forge ahead and continue the story. Participants who finish in the allotted time with a 50,000 word story (that consists of more than one word written 50,000 times) can hand in their work for the official check to be considered "winners" (read: big pat on the back and bragging rights). Editing as you go is discouraged and writing at least 1,667 words a day on average is recommended in order to finish on time.

I had heard about NaNoWriMo before in the past, but hadn't put a lot of thought into it as I prefer to write non-fiction. But this year the universe spoke to me, and it said, "Amanda, spend your free-time writing a fictional story in English that even you don't know where it's going to go. That way the rest of your day will be muddled with constant questions and story ideas, as well as compromised Spanish speaking abilities."

It's day three, I have 4963 words, 45,037 words remaining, and I can already see the days ahead in which I hate everything about this story and this idea. Which is why it's going to be really fun. It's a new challenge!

So, I apologize ahead of time if you don't hear from me much this month. Cut me some slack, I'm writing a novel.