This is not an official Peace Corps Publication

Sunday, July 1, 2012


Quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived- that is to have succeeded.”

A lot of things change when you don’t update your blog for 4 months. If I were a Peruvian (which at times I believe I am after 2 years in this country), I would whine the following: “Disculpame por favooooooor” (forgive me PLEASE).

I have 2 weeks left in San Clemente. 2 semanas. Two weeks. 14 days. WOW. When you start Peace Corps, you feel like 2 years is an eternity and you’ll just never reach those final few months, weeks, or days. And then Peace Corps Peru life kicks you in the trasero with pounds of rice, treasured nights watching Peruvian sitcoms with the host family , fabulous vacations, US visitors, hostel stays, hours spent at the Starbucks in Piura , trips to the beach, dancing at the Discoteque, the morning after the Discoteque, long runs, sweet hugs from my babies down the street, heart-to-hearts with my host mom, countless sex ed lessons at the high school, long afternoons spent reading with my door closed, singing with Baby Angeles, watching my host brother literally climb the walls, and the millions of memories that no one can truly grasp but that have shaped my days, my perspective, and ultimately the rest of my life.

I finished my teen mom’s project successfully with 6 months of weekly lessons to a group of 10 mothers ages 18-26. YEAH! FIST PUMP! YEAH! I was nervous at first about the attendance, but week after week, my mamas kept showing up. They listened intently and became progressively more participative. As part of the monitoring and evaluation of the project’s success, I made personal visits with the women, slowly gaining their trust and friendship. My favorite moment was watching my most timid young woman jump up and down when she saw that I’d come for a visit. She said she just really missed me. I watched my teenage mothers transform from timid girls to determined young women: determined to go back to school (eventually), determined to feed their baby nutritious meals, determined to be a supportive, involved mother, determined to demand better treatment from their spouse, determined to love that man as best they can, and determined to feed their families on less than $3 per day. They learned a lot and I believe their lives and the lives of their children will be better because of their participation in the program.

Now that is it over and my departure is approaching, they often comment on how much they miss our weekly meetings and how much they appreciated the visits with the psychologist or the nurse. Mostly, they miss taking an hour per week for themselves. Their whole lives revolve around their babies, husbands, housework, meals, and telenovelas. I only wish I could offer all of them more, even if it’s just to sit around and chat every week. Fortunately, I’ve also watched several friendships grow, and I hope that these women will continue to support one another long after I’m gone.

I am happy to report that the project went so well that my boss requested that I write a manual in SPANISH so that my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers can replicate this project for years to come. I’ve been plugging away at that for a few weeks now, and I hope to have a printed copy in my hand before I leave the country. Also, I’ll be training the new volunteers in Lima on the project as their “volunteer of the week.” I’m really excited about this opportunity, because I remember when I first got to Peru and all I wanted was to corner some poor tenured volunteer to yell questions and demand explanations about what the hell my life would be like once I reached that scary, foreboding place they call “your site.” I feel bad for those young pups. I wouldn’t trade places with them for the world. As much as I loved almost every minute of my Peace Corps service, I’m glad all those lessons are learned and all that rice is eaten.

So what now? My last day in San Clemente is July 17th, when I will cry hysterically all the way to the bus station with my host family, and my Close of Service date is July 21st, when I will bawl like a baby all the way to the airport with my best friends. THEN, I go home to Arizona for a month before I start my graduate classes to earn a Master’s degree in Public Health from the University of Arizona… FOR FREE because I am a Peace Corps Coverdell Fellow!!! YEAH! FIST PUMP! YEAH! As a Fellow, I’m required to complete an internship at a local community organization that works with an underserved population. I’m looking forward to the next 2 years of my life. I’m ready to drink coffee with my mom and speak Spanish with my dad. I’m ready to be stuffed full to throwing up with new information and papers and projects. I know that the last 2 years working in community development will provide a strong foundation for my classes in community health theory, epidemiology (oh my!), and biostatics (yikes!).

This may well be my last blog post. I can’t sum up my Peace Corps service in a blog or even a conversation. And of the plethora of things that I learned, perhaps one of the most important things I learned is that as an American, I am so fortunate. And if you, Reader, are reading this from a nice laptop on a comfy couch with a nice Starbucks in your hand, so are you. See you on the other side.

PS check out this sweet video my best friend Sarah Wagenvoord made for me when she came to San Clemente. It’ll give you a little window into my world.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Changing It Up

4-3-2-1 months until Libby arrives in the United States of America on July 20th! Welcome to my Count Down. You may want to ask me, “Libby, how does it feel to be leaving your incredible host family, your precious host sister that lights up your life, and the community that you’ve called home for the last 2 years? And you must be ECSTATIC to be returning to all that you hold near and dear, such as your family, Dr. Lee Hall Stringer, beautiful friends, Mexican food, coffee shops, intellectual conversations, clean bathrooms, and animals that you can cuddle with without getting flea bites and/or parasites.”

To answer the questions listed above, my best friend Juliane and I have made a little (long) list of all the things we’re going to miss and the things we’re looking forward to.

I'm looking forward to...
·       Driving with the windows down and singing at the top of my lungs
·       A plethora of restaurants and food options
·       Air conditioning
·       Anonymity
·       Pest control
·       Lunch dates with friends
·       English
·       Curling up on a couch to watch a movie
·       Baking and cooking
·       A schedule
·       Dishwasher
·       New clothes

I'm not looking forward to...
·       Gas prices
·       Pop culture obsessions
·       The election
·       Crying every day because I miss Peru
·       Superficiality
·       Cost of living
·       Trying to remember what is socially acceptable
·       Rules and regulations

I'll miss...
  • Sitting on my front porch at dusk with my host family
  • Swarms of children at my window
  •  Having too much free time on my hands
  • Being the most popular girl in town
  • Fresh food and produce
  •  Mango season
  • The most delicious fruit to ever touch my taste buds
  • Fresh fish
  • Speaking Spanish
  • Eating Pizza Hut with reckless abandon because it’s the only American food I can find
  • Strangers gifting me watermelon
  •  Peruvian food
  • Dancing with my fellow volunteers and making fools of ourselves at the Discotheque
  • Ease of travel and leisure time

I won't miss...
·       Parasitic infections
·       Silly old wives tales
·       Feeling unsafe in the city
·       Swarms of blood-sucking mosquitoes
·       Mean, scary street dogs
·       Scorching heat with no relief
·       Having the same conversation over and over and over again
·       Unpunctuality
·       Relentless whistling and pick-up lines
·       Waking up in the middle of the night, soaked in my own sweat
·       Machismo
·       My "Peace Corps" clothes (I want to burn them to nothingness)
·       Lack of creativity in children

In recent news:
I'm so excited to report that Lee got the residency position in Pain Management and Paliative Care at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy. I’ll go ahead and brag a little about my very special boyfriend. He’s been slaving away in Billings, Montana for the last 9 months learning all he can about the field of clinical pharmacy, while giving countless presentations, writing long reports, and effectively limiting himself to 5-6 hours of sleep per night. You’d think he’d be sick of this residency thing, but my baby can’t get enough learnin’, so now he’ll be slaving away in Maryland instead of Montana, and specializing in pain management. Our long distance relationship has been subjected to poor skype connections, bad internet signals, and 2 full years of 2 lives lived separately, while trying desperately to maintain that magnetic connection that neither one of us can ignore. So…. I’m going to Baltimore, too.

The original plan was for me to get my Masters in Public Health at the University of Arizona. Well, despite my proudly received acceptance letter, I decided to decline and try something new in my life. I have every intention of accomplishing my goal of studying a graduate degree, but I’m going to take some time to learn more about the field of public health. I’m eager to get a real job, live in an apartment, have a schedule, and even pay real bills. It may be hard for you to relate, but most Peace Corps Volunteers  begin to crave these mundane things after living on $300 per month, sharing a home with a host family, and trying to fill hours of free time.

Besides being able to see my LeeFace every day, my dad and his family live in nearby Bethesda, giving me the opportunity to finally play a role in my brother and sister’s lives. Hannah and Joey have already been telling their friends that their sister is moving to Baltimore, and that just melts my heart. All in all, I feel like this is a good move for both Lee and I, and while it HURTS to think about a few more years away from my Arizona family, skype and a spanking new iphone will help bridge the gap.

 My last few months at site are going quickly. I'm halfway through with my adolescent mothers group and am only teaching 2 days per week in the high school. My mamas' group is going well. 8 women attend on a regular basis and we've made it to Stage II, where we focus on building mothering skills. We took a field trip to an educational institute and went to a mall while in the city. Most of the girls had never seen an escalator or ridden an elevator. They shrieked with fear and delight as they rode the escalator up and down. I'm hoping to maintain their interest and finish up the program successfully. 

  I’m spending 3 weeks traveling in the south of Peru, where I’ll be meeting up with my Nana and Aunt Rosie to explore Machu Picchu. I consider this trip to be the crowning glory of my Peace Corps vacations and I’ll be able to leave this country content. Hasta Luego Amigos. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

The first little piggy had none.

Hello all,
With less than 6 months left in Peru, every day that passes is bittersweet. I'll be home soon with my family and friends, doing all those things I've missed for the last two years, but I'll leave behind a unique, precious experience. San Clemente is currently rocking my world. 18 months at site has me feeling comfortable, integrated, and happy. I know almost everyone in town, if not by name, by face.  I visit several families on a regular basis, accepting free popsicles and huge cups of cold juice. The dogs that used to bark at me and chase me down the street now only give me a cursory sniff and a glance. I'm really part of the community now! I've spent a lot of time with new friends and we've become quite adventurous: traipsing through the fields looking for mango trees, eating free popsicles made from unclean water (it's rude to not accept gifts in Peru!), or experimenting with different kinds of cakes (we failed at a marble chocolate/vanilla cake but have perfected the classic chocolate cake with chocolate icing). 

 It's summertime and it is hot as HELL, literally. It's about 95 degrees average and you can only find air conditioning in the big cities. With school out of session until March, my days get long and I have to struggle to fill my hours. On the weekends my friends and I scoot off to the beach. I've made a vow to make it to the beach every weekend until March. My host family is on vacation for a few months visiting family, so I'm living alone. Sometimes I get really lonely, but there are definitely some pros to the situation.  I'm able to cook for myself and I've been experimenting with all kinds of dishes. I also really enjoy my mornings. I sleep late, drink a big cup of coffee, go for a run, and by then I'm excited for my cold shower. Also, there's no shortage of visitors ranging in ages from 3-50, coming round to visit the gringa. My projects are going well. I've kept up with my literacy club for small children, but we've switched gears and now are focusing on the writing aspect. Peruvian culture and education system don't really foster creativity and individualism, so I'm trying to bring those things out in them. It's difficult sometimes when they can't even write a little story. They want me to walk them through every step and can't just pull crazy kid ideas out of the air and put it on paper like American kids can. My patience is tried on a daily basis, but I just love spending time with my babies (they're actually ages 8-11). 

If you've followed my blog in the past, you know my BIG project for my 2 years here is my educational program for teenage mothers. I received grant funding to pay for supplies, psychologists, an educational field trip, and a family outing once the program is completed after the 5 months. Right now, 8 women attend regularly with their infants attached to the breast. Have I shared with you all that it is culturally acceptable to breast feed in public? Needless to say, I see a LOT of boobs. These girls are also my babies, most of them are 18-19, and have a rough road ahead of them, with no education and no skills. The point of the project is to provide them with knowledge and skills to be strong women, good mothers, and loving spouses. I'm very excited about this project, I believe it can and will do a lot of good.  We had our second session with a young female psychologist, who spoke to them about assertive communication. We discussed several frustrating situations that they encounter in their everyday lives, such as how to ask their husbands for money for food or how to handle a meddling mother in law. Following the session, the women said they valued the session immensely because it pertained to their real lives. I was thrilled! This is exactly how I wanted it to go, not theoretical or lofty self-help ideas, but real, tangible tools to help them improve their lives. So.. that's what I do with my time. 

In regards to my future, I applied to U of A for a Masters in Public Health specializing in Health Behavior and Promotion. and applied for the Peace Corps Fellowship (funding!). If I get the funding, I'm fairly certain that I'll be in Tucson come July. I love the program because they offer a variety of internships with the Latino population and I'll be close to my family. Cross fingers!

Until next time my dear friends, I leave you with a story from the campo (countryside): Sometimes in the early morning I hear loud, chilling screams and then within a few hours there's a pile of pork in the fridge. You put it together..

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Dile NO a la Violencia Familiar (Say NO to Domestic Violence)

Arriving to my site on the northern coast of Peru, I was no stranger to Latin American culture: the good, the bad, and the machismo. It did not take long for me to witness the negative impacts of machismo culture in the lives of my students and their families. Male dominance and power is manifested in the division of household labor, decision-making, personal expression, and overall freedom and liberty for the women. Perhaps the most frustrating and extreme example of machismo in my community is domestic violence. Rumors of men abusing their wives and children are a daily occurrence in my volunteer life. However, the men are not the only aggressors; I overhear mothers screaming obscenities and calling their children terrible names. My students tell me horror stories about parents pulling their hair until they bleed and plastic pitchers hurled at their heads. My biggest challenge as a Peace Corps volunteer is watching my beloved community members hurt and batter each other physically, emotionally, and psychologically.
            After witnessing and observing these disturbing behaviors, I struggled to understand how and why people can hurt the people they love. I came to understand that for some families, these occurrences are generational and considered normal. Children observe their mothers endure physical and emotional abuse doled out by their father, and they do the same with their own families later in life, becoming either aggressors or victims. For lack of better instruction and example, abuse is considered to be an effective form of discipline. Children are subjected to violence when they misbehave or fail to succeed in school. Finally, alcoholism is rampant among men and it is not uncommon for spouses to arrive home and become violent after a long afternoon and night of drinking.
            I refused to stand by and watch my students and their families suffer; I decided to dedicate my work for the month of November to awareness and prevention of domestic violence.  My community partner, a professor from the local high school, and I worked with the mayor of the municipality, who agreed to fund and host a campaign against domestic violence.  We began with a parent workshop led by a psychologist and lawyer, who described the psychological and legal consequences of domestic violence, and possible solutions and treatment. The high school students also received workshops, and participated in an art contest to create informational pamphlets to pass out during the final town parade. We took advantage of the annual town fair and the students performed domestic violence-themed skits with the entire town in attendance. My community counterpart and I wrote and performed four “episodes” over the town loudspeakers. Finally, the students and staff from the high school, staff from the health posts, and town officials gathered for a town parade, touting posters, banners, and loudspeakers demanding an end to domestic violence and peace and harmony among families and community members.
            I consider this project to be one of my most successful endeavors during my Peace Corps service. For my students that are victims of domestic violence, it was an empowering experience because they were able to express their frustration and speak out against the aggression. Surveys and commentary indicate that people are better informed and are less afraid to expose and draw attention to cases of domestic abuse. Multiple women and students have requested information and advice on how to denounce the aggressors in their household. Finally, I was amazed at the level of support received from the community members and town officials to complete this project; ultimately, it must be the community who will demand change and make domestic violence unacceptable.  

Friday, September 16, 2011

1 yEaR dOwN

Hey Amigos y Familia,
Sorry I’m a busy Peace Corps volunteer and haven’t updated my blog in a bazillion! I’ll just go ahead and get down to business. My host mom gave birth to a gorgeous little girl named Angeles Valentina, and I had the pleasure/shock of being in the delivery room at the time. We’re talking pushing exercises, breathing coaching, and relaxation techniques… I did all of it but the birthing. That precious bundle of joy came out purple and screaming and I was crying instantaneously. You may ask, and I will answer: Yes I am now TERRIFIED of giving birth. Yes, I have considered adoption. No, I can’t imagine having six children like my mother did. And yes, an epidural could be a woman’s greatest friend. Angeles Valentina is now 4 months old and she’s the fattest, happiest joy in my life. She’s learning to sit up on her own. She wants to taste everything she touches. She’s smiley and giggly and makes my host parents, host brother, and myself go limp with love. She has us all wrapped around her fat little finger. 

My brothers Rafael and Enrique came to visit me in June for 10 days. We explored the touristy spots of Lima, tried all the typical Peruvian dishes at swanky restaurants and street vender carts, and then found our way to the bohemian area of Barranco where we indulged in our first experience with Absinth. No worries, we didn’t hallucinate, but we did have the time of our lives. Next we headed up to the Andes to the city of Hauraz, in the department of Ancash. We climbed a mountain to get to the amazing glacial lake Laguna Churup. After a 4 hour hike up and 2 hour descent, our lungs were burning, our legs were trembling, and we were so hungry we could have eaten a herd of cuyes (guinea pigs). The photos prove how awesome it was. Following our badass hiking in Ancash, I brought the brothers to my slice of life in Peru: San Clemente, Piura; where the sun is always shining, the crops are fruitful, as are the women, and “pescado” (fish) is the word in everyone’s mouth. My little brothers (I say this jokingly because they both tower over me) loved my host family and they loved them back. My host mom cried when they left. The little kids still ask me where my brothers are. The girls are faint at the thought of them. They called them “The Chon Brothers”, like the Jonas brothers and they were pushing each other out of the way to get a photo with one of them, or sigh…. BOTH! To finish out the trip, we bussed our way to Mancora, a beach town where foreigners and Peruvians alike flock to for good ceviche, good surf, and better dancing. You could ask them, but I’m pretty sure they’ll both tell you that Peru showed them a good time.

Skipping ahead to August, my best friend Juliane and I took a 7 day trip into the Amazon jungle. I managed to find a cheap tourist package ($35 for transportation, 3 excursions a day, and meals!!!) and we spent 4 days in a lodge with no electricity, giant tarantulas, and a pet duck named Piki. But first we had to experience the jungle city of Iquitos, known for its grilled crocodile dish, other-worldly markets, and loose women. Well, I tried the crocodile and it was delicious, better than chicken.  At the market of Belen (located in a “floating” village that is accessed only by boat during the rainy season), we discovered exotic fruits and enormous fish. And the women were not loose. They were beautiful. Is there a supposed correlation between the two? Perhaps Peruvian women from other places are just jealous. For dinner, we found ourselves at the Yellow Rose of Texas, the most American establishment I’ve found in Peru, even better than Kentucky Fried Chicken. We were served up buttermilk pancakes, chili cheese fries, and chicken fried steak. Now, off to the Jungle Wolf Lodge located deep (4 hours by canoe) into the jungle. With 3 excursions per day, our jungle guide kept us occupied, and ripe and ready to fall into bed at 7:30 pm, when the sunlight disappeared behind the trees and we were left to ourselves in the dark. Excursions included: swimming with pink dolphins, monkey scouting, caiman hunting (Amazon alligators), moonlight search for nocturnal insects, baby sloth hugging, raw larva eating, and tarzan vine-swingin’. You can check out these photos on my facebook: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10100480976226682.2784471.10124973

Just because I’ve gushed about all my vacations doesn’t mean that I’ve been slacking off at work, quite the contrary. Let’s start with Club L.E.E.R (READ) “Reading with Enthusiasm, Energy, and Regularity”, a literacy program designed to promote a love of reading and improve reading comprehension skills. The International Book Project, Darien Book Project, and private donors donated over 750 books. A private donor donated 500 of the same 5 books, with the express wish that these be distributed to the children of San Clemente. I use those books as prizes.

 This is easily one of my best projects, if only because my kids come to all the meetings, show up early, and jump up and down to get in the door, pretty much making it a Peace Corps Volunteer's dream. Anyway, my club is pretty basic because I've got about 30 kids coming and I'm usually alone. It is hard to keep kids 6-11 years old and all reading levels entertained and under control. I've gone with the old "sit down and read" approach, with lots of incentive to keep them sitting. My kids love to read, but it helps that we have a sticker/prize system to keep them interested.

 We meet 3 times a week for a little over an hour. Each kid chooses a book and sits down to read it. Once he/she is finished, which I've attached for you, and they fill that out. The books that I received from International Book Project have comprehension questions in the back of the book for the upper reading levels, so the older kids have to answer the questions on the back of the sheet. For each book/sheet completed, they get a sticker by their name on the sticker poster. After getting 3 stickers they get a book to take home for their personal library.

My last claim to fame is the Career Fair that I organized with my host parents for the youth and parents of San Clemente. The objectives of this project were to provide information to youth and their parents about different careers, help students decide which vocation most appealed to them, and start a dialogue between students and their parents about their futures. About 90 students and 40 parents attended! Three universities and twelve professionals presented on a career panel: policewoman, military officer, doctor, teacher, accountant, director of a the school board, obstetric nurse, lawyer, civil engineer, industrial engineer, engineer of fishing industries, and a psychologist. Following the panel, students and their parents were given time to visit personally with the professionals to ask questions and hear their stories. The universities attempted to seduce them with colorful folders, light-up pens, and attractive stationary. The students were euphoric as they passed room to room to hear about all the different career options. I overheard conversations between parents and their children, perhaps the first of its kind: “Son, what do you want to be when you grow up?” or “Honey, do you want to be a police woman?”

It was a beautiful moment for everyone involved. To put it into perspective, most people in San Clemente subsist on 600 soles per month, or about $250 US dollars. Most merely manage to survive. Savings is non-existent and a college education is an unattainable dream. Most people have never met a professional, aside from the nurse at the health post or the teachers of their children. Don’t fret! Fortunately, times are changing in Peru. There are more and more scholarships being made available by colleges and the government. One can also work while studying. There are dozens of technical schools all over Piura that offer 1, 2, or 3 year programs. Unlike their parents and grandparents, San Clemente’s youth has the opportunity to become the leaders and professionals that they so admire. I can’t wait to see what my kids do with their dreams.

PS. Here’s a video that my friends and I made while on our 1 year annual meeting trip in Lima. By the way, I’ll be finishing the Peace Corps in just over 10 months! And my next blog will be about me applying to grad school…. YIKES

Monday, February 21, 2011

Please help promote literacy in San Clemente, Peru

Hello Friends! As you may know, my big project for 2011 is the improvement of the community library and the creation of a youth center. Fortunately, the municipality has provided a great building and some help with furnishing, but we need help filling our library with books! I am in contact with several NGOs and Tucson schools that are willing to help with books donations and book drives. The International Book Project is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that will provide the books; they only ask that people donate to fund the cost of shipping, which works out to about $200 for 32 pounds of books.

Please consider donating to this cause.

1) Here is the link: www.internationalbookproject.org

2) Please include "Elizabeth Salerno, Peace Corp Volunteer" in the notes section.

Thank you very much on behalf of the children of San Clemente.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Summertime and the livin's easy

These are the little babies that hang out outside my window. At any time of the day, I can hear "Senorita Libby! Un ratito..." (give me just a minute of your time). They come to borrow the basketballs that Lee left or to play puzzles or to borrow a book.

It is summer time in San Clemente and I think I could fry an egg on the pavement and then put it on a flavorless, styrofoam-like piece of bread with a bit of avocado and salt to spice it up. Breakfast anyone? But seriously, HOT and with no relief because air conditioning just doesn't exist. I have a little fan that I carry from room to room with me. The women say it will get cooler by the end of March and I am counting the days. For the first time in my life, I am wishing for winter and scarves and sweaters and layers. Despite the heat, I notice that this place comes alive in summer. The heat keeps people inside their homes from 12 to 5 pm, but then everyone comes outside and people sit in front of their houses chatting until 10 p.m. Ice cream men come with their obnoxious horns and women set up little snow cone tables. They have parties every weekend with "junses", which are an activity where someone pays to have plastic products like bowls and tupperwear hung from a tree and the kids come and climb the tree to take the prizes back to their mothers. And no... I haven't quite figured it out yet. In March begins Carnival with water balloon fights and paint smearing competitions. It is all anybody talks about. I'll report back as soon as I find out what all the fuss is about.

Like I said, summer time is party time. I was a invited to the 46th anniversary of the town of Bellavista, about a 20 minute walk from my site. The night was celebrated with entertainment for the entire community, which included singers, dancers, and artists from the region. Two clowns came and told nearly harmless dirty jokes to the crowd. I was proud to note that I understood about 90% of the jokes, a long way from the blank stare I used to wear when I watched Chilean movies or saw comedians when I was first learning Spanish in Chile; and even later in Guatemala and Mexico, I had trouble with jokes and troublesome cultural innuendos. Now, I can understand a lot of the babble over the town loudspeakers and on the radio. I remember thinking “I’ll REALLY know Spanish when I can listen to it on the radio or watch the telenovelas on TV and understand.” Well…I’m there!

Anyway, back to Bellavista. After the clowns came the famous comedian. He spoke in voices, imitating perfectly a small girl child, a silly little boy, and an angry housewife. Being the only gringa for miles and sitting in the front row I knew instantaneously I would be part of the show. Sure enough, in less than 10 minutes, he’d plucked me from the crowd and started asking me questions, swearing to me he’d marry me one day and off we’d go to the United States. He set me up in a little skit with other participants from the audience. I was to be the wife who finds out about the other woman. He whispers for me to slap him when I find out, and I do exactly as instructed. With exaggeration he stumbles away from my “slap” and blubbers to the audience that he had told me to simply push him and that I had slapped him. The crowd is delightedly shocked by the gringa’s crazy antics (are you noticing a pattern here?!). For days all I’ve heard is “Senorita Libby is it true you slapped the comedian?!”

I had a really hard time after Lee left. I thought I’d be fine, but being that my host mom and brother had left for the south indefinitely and my host dad is always in the city, I’ve been left alone in this little house to fend for myself. For a girl from a family of 8 who lived in a sorority house with 50 other girls and has had multiple roommates at a time, living in a little house in Peru with myself was quite an adjustment. Worse yet, it is summer here and without school in session, I had very little to occupy my time. Thankfully, I’ve more or less adjusted and things have picked up a lot. I’m working in the summer school program in 2 other communities, plus San Clemente, teaching little kids how to like themselves (self-esteem building). I’m also facilitating a youth group.After trying my hand at different topics and finding my teenagers incredibly bored, I tried the sex topic. Within seconds, I had my kids on the edge of their seats and hanging on my every word. Needless to say, I think I’ve found our niche. These kids are anxious to learn about puberty, menstruation, STDs, and birth control. I will gladly facilitate that learning if it means keeping these girls and boys from being teenage parents or getting venereal diseases.

Despite missing my host family, it is nice to be able to cook for myself. I haven’t eaten rice in weeks! I cook with lots of different vegetables and I’ve been filling my extra time with cooking experiments. I know how to cook with eggplant and pumpkin now J I’m also teaching a local woman to bake and sell cakes; call it my own small business project. Being lonely has pushed me out into the community even more. I’ve been visiting more families and making new friends. I still hang out with my same little kids. I really adore them. I swear 10 year olds are my favorite. They are just discovering who they are and they love to participate in activities and answer questions. The girls are still willing to fight with the boys, aka they haven’t succumbed to that machismo inferiority complex as yet and they don’t care if the boys like them or not.

I'll be home in May! Ticket is officially purchased for May 9th through the 19th. Please feel free to take me out to breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner. I prefer Mexican food. Just kidding, but seriously, I want to see everyone! Love you all