In case I haven't made this completely clear, Lambayeque is the department I live in and there are something around 30 volunteers here (over 200 volunteers in all of Peru including all of the departments). My training group, 17, is the group I arrived to Peru with which is comprised of small business and youth volunteers, and there were five of us from group 17 that moved to Lambayeque. In Lambayeque we also have volunteers from other programs, like environment and community health.
|Site assignment day in training, we found out we'd be new Lambayeque volunteers August 2011|
|Lambayeque 17ers at COS May 2013|
Before I joined Peace Corps I was pretty sure that I would be making lifelong friends in Peace Corps. In fact, I counted on it. And when I first met my training group I was like, "Okay...these people will be my best friends eventually...right?" You know, it's really weird to meet a bunch of strangers from all over the US and to suddenly be stuck with them for 9 hours a day, day-in-and-day-out, and have them be your only compatriots in a completely foreign land while you're dealing with a lot of stressful adjustments. You bond quickly, but you also get on each other's nerves real quick. In fact, many times during training all I could think was "get me away from these people!"
|Peru 17 from beginning to end. From Sabrina!|
I couldn't even pinpoint exactly when it happened, but there came this point when the people who were once strangers and acquaintances that seemingly had nothing in common with me prior to Peace Corps suddenly became the people who understood and appreciated my feelings and experiences better than anyone else. The "older" generations of volunteers gave sage advice, while my fellow 17ers empathized with me as we seemingly went through all the same phases of ups and downs. And soon after that it wasn't just that we could bond over how tiny the poop-sample cups were at the lab, or funny parts of being a foreigner in Peruvian culture-- like judging beauty pageants and drinking endless cups of hot chocolate at parties on hot summer days-- but I came to appreciate their company, understand and admire their strengths, and love their quirks.
I don't know if I could ever write anything to do justice the strength that is the volunteer connection, how great my friends are from Arequipa to Tumbes (two opposite ends of Peru) or just how truly proud and honored I am to have worked and lived in Lambayeque with such hard-working, dedicated volunteers. All I can say is we have shared a part of this life that has forever changed me and I have learned many lessons from them.
So to my fellow volunteers: you have been there for me when I was down, you've celebrated with me when I was up, and you've weaseled your way into my heart over boxes of Gato and fuentes of ceviche chatting about life, love, Peru, and poop. I have made connections and friendships in my Peruvian community that have been life changing, but this experience wouldn't have been what it was without you. And honestly, I don't think I could've done this without you.
And now the hard part-- returning home where we will all be spread out over the span of a country that is far bigger than Peru!
To my predecessors, thank you for all the advice and friendship you've given which has made a huge impact on my service. I totally expect to continue receiving it as I embark back into US territory. To my 17ers, NAILED IT. I don't care how far apart we'll be, lets talk real soon and road trip, mmkay? To my 17ers staying for a 3rd year or extending, you guys are badass and I have mad respect for you and know you're going to continue to rock it. To my Lambaysexies, keep up the Lamba-legacy of awesomeness and success! 18ers, soon this will be you so aprovechan this experience all you can, the last months fly by fast! 19ers and 20ers, I'm so glad great people keep joining Peace Corps so that even halfway through my service I could make fast friends with awesome people like you! One more year, and you guys are going to rock it! You're the old and wise ones now, wear that badge proudly.
I won't be able to see a lot of volunteers again before I leave Peru, and that is really hard to believe and I get pretty emotional just thinking about it. But it's all going to be okay. Just remember, it's not "adios," it's "hasta luego."
|a photo so good I need to post it on my blog twice! Love you Lambayeque!|