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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…