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..