Peru Prep

On September 15th I’ll leave to begin service as a Peace Corps volunteer in Peru for two years…and three months.

When I’ve shared this news with family and friends I received all types of responses like; “Dear Lord, please keep my little girl away from narco traffickers!,” “Don’t eat the guinea pigs.,” and “They speak Spanish, right?” However, the question I get most often is how I’ll stay in contact with everyone Stateside. I thought about this a lot and decided that starting a blog would  be the best way to share the sights and sounds of my time in Peru.

So here it is. Just a forewarning, I’m not sure how often I’ll have access to the internet abroad, but I plan to post as often as I can. I also hope you all will use the blog to keep me updated on your lives as well!

This summer will be filled with finalizing paperwork, wisdom teeth removal :(, and insane packing but I welcome any and all advice, opinions, or just random facts as I continue preparing for Peru.

Hasta luego Amiga Kate!

My friend and sitemate, Kate,  has decided to end her service early. She will be heading back to the States next week and we will definitely miss her. In honor of the ways that Kate has supported and challenged  me this past year I’ve decided to post a journal entry I wrote after a long conversation we had reflecting on why we actually joined the Peace Corps.


12 de marzo, 2013

I just had a conversation with Kate about our motivations for being in Peru. She’s been having a hard time finding work and it seems like every time she tries to start a project it falls apart. She’s been feeling extremely discouraged and is seriously considering going home if nothing changes by the end of the month. While we were talking she said something that really struck me. She said that, “Being a Peace Corps volunteer is a really selfish act. We come into these peoples’ countries believing that we’re their saving grace and can fix all of their problems. In reality, they may not have asked for help.” Kate continued by saying, “We just do  these things to make ourselves feel good.” Immediately, I shot back and said “Well, that’s not why I’m here!,” and went on about how we’re providing a valuable service to these people and that we just need to figure out a way to work together for the common goal of their health.

After Kate left I started to think about what I had said more. How is what I described not selfish?! At it’s base my argument still emphasizes my superior ability to solve problems for people who didn’t necessarily ask for my help. Then I’ll leave at the end of my service, give myself a pat on the back and the community is left to figure out what to do next (more likely than not still dealing with the same issues – but now they have stories about the American that worked in their town for a few months).

I just don’t know.

I don’t know how to encourage Kate when all that she says about how frustrating working in this country can be is true. I want to be able to give her a “point of it all” but I honestly don’t know what the real point is. I know what we’ve been told the point is and what we’ve convinced ourselves it is but what is the point of us being here really? I don’t want Kate to go but I don’t want her to have to keep lying to herself about how things will get better if they won’t.

I just need to figure out how to truly live and work as a Peace Corps volunteer unselfishly.


Though I had a bit of an existential crisis moment, I appreciated how Kate helped me reevaluate my motives and be honest about my own struggles as a volunteer.

I’ll miss conversations like these, BUT we still have Skype and e-mail, and texting…so I’m sure we’ll have plenty of opportunities to reminisce about the past and encourage each other to be better people in the future.


Dear Family and Friends,

The Peace Corps volunteers in my region are putting on a leadership camp for high school boys this May. Since these kids come from rural and often extremley poor families we are raising funds to cover their travel, food, and lodging for the weekend. We hope to fully fund the grant by mid-April so any amount you give would be helpful. Just follow this link –> <– to donate and please let me know if you have any questions.




I’ve been in Tacabamba for a solid 7 months and am just starting to feeling like I’m getting a hang of things. Here is a quick rundown on how I’ve slowly become Tacabambina.

July 2012: Still disoriented from my sudden site change I moved to Tacabamba and started the process of getting to know my new host family and community partners. My site/housemate Laura, a health volunteer a year ahead of me in her service, made this whole process soooooooo much easier than it would have been otherwise. My new host mom is a widowed grandmother in her mid 60s and is one of the most adorable Peruvian adults…ever. We live with her two daughters, Bessy and Ruby, both in their thirties. Bessy’s husband Ceasar also lives with us along with their two kids Anghie (10 y/o) and Ronaldo (5 y/0). At the time there was also an accountant, teacher, and my house/site mate (Laura) all living in the house too! Straight.Crazy.


Hanging out with a beauty queen *July 2012*

August 2012: Celebrated my 25th birthday with a ridiculous outpouring of love and gifts from family/friends here and at home. I think my host family knew that these last few months had been really difficult and wanted to officially welcome me into the family. I started helping Laura teach sexual health classes along with my site mate Kate, in Tacabamba’s high school, researching possible communities to do a “Healthy Homes and Latrines” project in, and started to get to know the people who “get things done” in Tacabamba. One of those people was a health promoter who worked for a Peruvian NGO named Giovanni. She walked with Kate and I too far away and extremely rural communities to meet families and develop a health promotion project plan.

Surprise birthday breakfast! *August 2012*

Surprise birthday breakfast! *August 2012*

September 2012: TACABAMBA FIESTA!!! This was probably one of the most overwhelming experiences of my life. For two weeks our town was inundated with people who had come to celebrate Tacabamba’s anniversary. There were parades, dances…lots of dances, concerts, contests, marathons, and I went to my first and probably last bullfight. I actually had a really good time and it was interesting to see how the town transformed into this never ending party. It was impossible to get any work done that month because everyone was either preparing for the party, partying, or recovering from the party.

Bullfighting at the Tacabamba Fiesta!

Bullfighting at the Tacabamba Fiesta!

October 2012: By now all the visitors had left and everyone in Tacabamba fell back into their normal rhythm. Kate and I continued to help Laura teach sexual health classes in the high school and worked through the details of starting a “Healthy Homes and Latrines” project in the community we had chosen, Ayaque. This month was full of walking 1 and 1/2 hours to Ayaque, meetings in the municipality, and writing and re-writing project plans and budgets. The whole process was very frustrating because community members didn’t seem particularly interested in attending project meetings, the municipality didn’t seem to have money for constructing latrines, and I had little to no control over anything.


Halloween costume party for the elementary kids * October 2013*

November 2012: Poop hits the fan. We find out that the municipality is actually doing their own water and sanitation project. Translation: No one wants a latrine from a random foreigner when they can get a flush toilets from their local government. So Kate and I had to figure out how to back out of Ayaque and find communities that were excited to work with us and not a day’s walk away. After getting over the initial shock that months of project planning just went down the latrine hole, Kate and I tried to figure out what our next steps should be. This gave way to us freaking out about how we’d have to present what we had “accomplished” so far at our mid-service medical checks and meeting the following month.

Team building activity at youth leadership camp for girls *November 2012*

Team building activity at youth leadership camp for girls *November 2012*

December 2012: Finally, we had made it to the mid-way point of our service and I felt…well I didn’t really know how to feel. I guess I thought I would have “done” more by the time I reached this point. The nice thing was that  a lot of my cohort felt the same way. It’s always interesting being reunited with all the volunteers from my training group. There’s never a dull moment. By far, the highlight of this month (besides my mom sending my 9 Christmas care packages!) was the arrival of the one…the only…Nathan.Ivan.Walton. I was lucky enough have my boyfriend visit for Christmas and New Year’s. It was so nice to spend the holidays with someone so important to me and we had quite the adventure navigating Peru together. We traveled to the departments of Arequipa and Puno where we ate more alpaca than we could handle and we saw one of the deepest canyons and highest lakes in the world. It was a much needed vacation.

Nate and I at Colca Canyon *December 2012*

Nate and I at Colca Canyon *December 2012*

January 2013: Sadly, on New Year ’s Day Nathan and I separated at the airport and I was on my way back to Tacabamba. After sleeping for 12 hours straight I was ready to start my final year in Peru.

Some of my resolutions:

  • Read through the entire Bible with my friend and fellow volunteer, Jennifer.
  • Maintain better contact with people back home
  • Find motivated community partners, put together a well thought-out project, and do it to it!
  • Avoid hiding in my room
  • Enjoy all that is…Peru.
Goofing off around town

Goofing off around town

February 2013: My host family left me all alone for a MONTH. To keep myself from going stir-crazy I decided to get myself organized for what is going to be an insane last few months. With all the peace and quiet in my house I’ve actually been able to work on my resolutions. Though Jenn and I are still in the Old Testament we’re chuggin’ along. I have regular internet access so I’ve Skyped more in the last month than I think I have during my whole service. I found not one but TWO motivated community partners and I so pumped to start working with them next month. I’m also going to “enjoy Peru” the last week of this month at the “Verano Negro” festival, which is a week-long celebration of Afro-Peruvian culture. I’m still working on the hiding in my room thing…

I painted my room :) *February 2013*

I painted my room :) *February 2013*



host grandmother – Maxamilia, sister – Eliana, mother – Julia

For over a month residents of Cajamarca have been protesting against foreign gold mining companies because they are concerned that the mines are contaminating their drinking water. As a result all the schools, health center and transportation to my site have either been completely shut down or extremely limited. Therefore, protest = no work for Diamond. Considering the length of these strikes and the uncertainty of whether or not certain areas of Cajamarca were ready to work with a volunteer at this time our country director decided to change the sites of myself and one other volunteer.

I found this out during vacation…the moving sites part at least.

To be honest, I had mixed feelings about the situation. I was happy that we’d finally have a chance to start working. To start doing what we came here to do. We’d be closer to other volunteers AND the post office :) At the same time I was extremely sad. When I left for my vacation I said a quick “good bye” to my host family and told them I’d see them soon. Now I won’t. Now we have to figure out how to get my things. Now I’ll just miss them. They’re great people and it’s so unfortunate that I won’t be able to spend the rest of my service sharing their home. I also had an awesome health center with a lot of young and motivated health workers. They were accepting and patient with me and really excited for the protesting to end so that we could start working.

I know I can visit. It’s just not the same.


So right now I’m hoping for this new situation. I’m hoping that things with my new host family, community partners, and community members move from awkward to easy a little more quickly than the first time. I’m hoping that the closeness in proximity to other volunteers is an advantage and we’re able to do great work and help keep each other sane. I’m hoping that my friends in el Tambo are safe and that we get to see each other again soon.

host brother – Dayron

If you’d like to read more about what’s going on I’ve posted a link below (keep in mind I’m totally safe)

Power Ranger Rojo!!!

It’s the end of March and life has definitely started to speed up.  I bought a planner in January and this month is the first time I’ve actually had to use it. This is both a good and terrifying thing. First, I’ll explain why March has gone by so quickly. At the beginning of the month I was trying to get my life together in preparation for E-IST (Early In-Service Training) in the middle of March. E-IST is where all the volunteers from my training group were reunited for the first time since we swore in a volunteer in order to present our community diagnostics, take language tests, and get trained for the next phase of our service. So that took up half the month. Now, for the past couple weeks I’ve been trying to finish writing my diagnostic report and avoid the urge to procrastinate by playing with my host brother.

Speaking of my 5 year old host brother, he is convinced that he’s the red power ranger and that I’m his evil nemesis. So he’ll randomly attack me when I’m sitting at my desk minding my own business. His favorite moves are head-butting my in the stomach and punching me in the rear-end. I know an attack is coming because from right outside my room I’ll hear him scream POWER RANGER ROJO! Then he runs into my room and tries to kick and punch me. I say “try” because when he attempts to strike I just start tickling him and then he starts squealing and runs away. He’s probably one of my favorite Peruvians, and he knows it.

Anyway, it’s the end of March. I’m finishing my report and planning to present it. People are now expecting me to call meetings, begin large scale projects and make some sustainable change. Basically, to start being a real volunteer. This is the terrifying part. Yes, I know this was the whole point of me joining the Peace Corps, to be a real volunteer. In reality, I’ve been a “real volunteer” for over 4 months now and this little freak out over a transition in my service will give way to some other freak out over the next transition.  I’m honestly really excited March and that my schedule is getting busier. I’m also excited because I’m taking my first vacation in April. A couple of other volunteers and I are traveling to the department/state of Ica to go sand boarding, see the penguins that apparently live in the desert, and possibly go camping. That’s the plan at least, but in Peru things never go as planned.

Below are some picture highlights from the last couple of months.

This picture was taken after a serious battle with paint and water in the streets of Cajamarca city during Carnivales.

This is one of my English classes. Don’t let their innocent faces fool you. Apparently it was, “if you’re a female don’t come to class day” I wish someone had informed me!


I didn’t come to Peru with the intention of teaching English. In fact it’s not really in my job description as a health volunteer. That said, nearly every volunteer finds themself teaching English at some point in their service. This usually happens because the ability to serve as the resident expert in the English language is what we in Peace Corps Peru call an “early win.” In other words, a fairly simple way of working with the community, on a subject they’re really excited about, in an area you’re confident in.  So, since I wanted to win…early…I’ve found myself teaching English and computer classes for two months during summer vacation. Though, throughout training we were made to believe that “early win” projects would be fairly easy, that’s just not true. I know the training staff didn’t intentionally deceive us, it’s just that any project you set to do won’t be easy, period.

Let me explain some reasons why this has been harder than I’d hoped it would be by comparing my situation to what would happen in a perfect world:

Perfect World                                                     My Life

No more than 15 students attend each class. Over 30 kids come to class, and sometimes there aren’t even enough chairs so kids are sitting on each other’s laps.
The school’s director or a teacher is SOMEWHERE in/near the school during your classes Almost none of the teachers live in town and the director (who is great) is occupied with his many other responsibilities. Translation: My broken Spanish doesn’t intimidate the kids, so I need someone to help me lay down the law.
 The students are angels The students are psycho crazy. Ok, I’m exaggerating…but not by much. I think they just enjoy being around their friends and away from their parents. Unfortunately, I’m left trying to figure out how to tame all that energy.
Teaching English is a cakewalk for a native speaker I’ve never realized how nonsensical and difficult the English language. So trying to teach it in some logical fashion doesn’t always work.
The students think that everything I do is the coolest thing ever I’m the biggest dork in the class…and I love it. It’s so fun to act goofy and every once and a while convince the kids to join in too.
Everything goes the way you plan. HA! Plan?! It doesn’t matter how well I plan for a class a computer doesn’t work, I forget some prop, or kids start fighting.


Of course, much of what I’ve mentioned comes down to kids being kids, a language barrier, and me adjusting to Peruvian culture. Regardless, I know that I’m not cut out to be a grade school teacher. S

One really great thing has come out of all this. So I was on my way out of town riding in one of the 4×4 trucks that transport people to and from the nearest city, Bambamarca. As I scrambled to get inside the truck I realized that I’d be sitting crammed up against one of the students from my class for our hour long ride down the mountain. I tried to pretend that this wasn’t a big deal by politely greeting him and bracing myself for an uncomfortable trip. The ride actually wasn’t that bad but when we arrived in Bambamarca and the drive started collecting fair I handed him 4 soles thinking that he’d give me back .50 centimos in change since it usually costs 3.50. After a couple minutes of me trying get my change back and the driver playing dumb the student informed me that the fair was actually only 3 soles and helped me get me change back. It was such a small gesture by a kid who is probably no older than 11, but by golly he wasn’t gonna let his foreign English teacher get ripped off. It’s always nice to have friends, even if you’re over twice their age.

Btw: This is my 5 year old host brother’s artistic interpretation of me and my fro. To me my hair resembles Will’s Smith’s high-top fade on the first season of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air…but that’s just me.

¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

Written in January…

So it’s January which means I’ve finished my 1st official month of service. Whoop whoop! It also means that my first monthly report is due. Whomp whomp. During the first 3 months of service we’re required to submit these reports to keep our bosses up-to-date on what we’re working on and they’re sort of a means for us to process how things are going so far. The report isn’t too bad. However, there was one question that tripped me up, “What have you accomplished.” I read the question and just looked at it for a while thinking, “What have I accomplished?” Honestly, this is a fairly dangerous question to ask a volunteer only one month into service, home-sick because of the holidays, and still struggling with the complex vocabulary of her 5 year old host brother. I wasn’t quite sure what answer they were looking for. I mean, is “Not as much as I’d hoped,” an acceptable response?

I think what’s particularly hard is as I meet more people in town in the reality of how much help they need becomes more apparent. The “need” also starts to take on the faces of people I’ve met and is complicated by the details of their specific circumstances. So, when I think about my work here my mind now goes to those people and it’s hard to think of “accomplishing” anything if what I haven’t done anything for them.