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.