Well reality has finally set in. After anxiously waiting the initial 8 weeks of training, our official sites have been assigned. It´s strange the way you have preconceptions of a place before you get there. Before coming to Peru, I thought I´d be in the mountains working in a small village of possibly Quechua- speaking Andeans. Instead, at an altitude of 74 feet, a population of over 20,000 and just 3 degrees from the equator, I find myself in Tumbes, Peru, surrounded by banana and mango trees, rice fields and also the amenities of semi-urban life, including internet cabinas, a market 2 minutes away and even a "virtual library." I´m 20 hours north of Lima which makes me the most northern volunteer in Peru (luckily my friends and Peru 8 volunteers Lauren and Kate are also assigned relatively nearby...) There are 7 PCVs in total in the department of Tumbes (of 38 in the class Peru 8, around 150 total in Peru, of around 7,800 in the world for the stats people...)
My site visit here was an absolutely exhausting week of meeting and giving speeches to local municipality members, mayors, teachers, health center staff and new neighbors. Peruvian culture is very formal in that meetings and public events are a big deal with formalities and the like. All of this, plus the bus rides back and forth from Tumbes to Lima (totaling around 35 hours) make me wonder how it is--and why?-- that I am typing right now. One of the toughest weeks of my life to date. I fell asleep, sweating, exhausted by 8 pm almost everynight. I ate raw fish, Ceviche, literally everyday at my site visit, twice for breakfast. What will become of my stomach? The average temperature here is between 32 and 38 degrees celsius, which I think is pretty hot.
I am back in Santa Eulalia near the training center for the final (finally) two weeks of training and the swearing in ceremony. I´ve had so many moments so far -- on crowded buses, uneven beds, dreams, sick, walking to spanish class, eating rice in the cold mountains during field based training -- where I have seriously doubted my ability and willingness to do this for two years. I continue to reassure myself that things will be fine once I am able to establish a routine and some decent projects with my community. Actually meeting my counterpart (she´s an obstetriz at my health post -- super amicable) and next host family in Tumbes was satisfying in that it helped me put some context to what will be my life for the next two years. I have ideas for working in a adolescent-youth program at our health center, checking out the mental health system, and doing some public art projects. The first three months in-site are for doing community diagnostic work, which is fancy public health jargon for talking to people to find out what areas need improvement in the community and who would be responsible and interested in realizing the corresponding ideas or projected health goals.
Some other things. My new host family seems nice. Two brothers, 12 and 14. One flies a kite and the other does soccer. Parents both high school teachers. My room is decent and my bed comfortable, though I´ll need to get a pillow. I have a toilet and electricity and thanks to a water conservation tank on our roof, water 24-7 (so far). I am thinking of coming-out as a vegeterian again. I´ve tried eating meat during the 2 and a half months of training here but I feel I want to go to my site as a vegeterian for health reasons and to avoid getting worms.
Tourist stuff: I went to a place called Cabeza de La Vaca or "Cow Head" which is a right near my new house. This neigborhood was being built until a pre-Incan ruin site was discovered there recently. All further housing construction (all adobe and wood) has been prohibited. There is a sacrifical site here where virgens were sacrificed to the sun, Spanish Pizzarro (was there a non-Spanish Pizzarro?) was resisted, and cow heads had lined the settlements, marking the land of the Tumpis.