back in Peru for the last six months!

It’s hard to believe that I’m more than halfway through my time in Peru at this point!  As mentioned in my last post, the end of the year flew by with Thanksgiving festivities, end-of-semester field trips, last classes, and activities, and two major trips to Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and home to Boston/NH.  I’ll be recapping all of these things in the next few posts – yes, with pictures!

But for now I just want to capture how it feels to be back in Huaycán and back in Peru after an eight-day trip to Rapa Nui and two weeks in the US.  My trip to Rapa Nui was life- and perspective-changing – I really started to appreciate how lucky I am to have the opportunity to take a year (or more…) out of what seemed like “real life” back in the States and experience these amazing things.  Watching gorgeous sunset after sunset, spending solitary time hiking, biking, and wandering around ahus seeing moai, and meeting amazing people helped me to appreciate everything I’ve been experiencing over the last six months. I feel incredibly blessed that I’ve been able to spend time here, meet wonderful children, connect with adults in the community, and do something unique for a long period of time.  It’s not that I didn’t appreciate it before, but when you are in the day-to-day routine of a somewhat stressful life, it’s hard to step back and see what you are doing for what it really is. Not many people make this kind of leap, and I’m so proud of myself for doing it.

I’ve been back in Huaycán for 10 days now (I just shocked myself looking at that number…didn’t I just arrive?), and it was wonderful to reconnect with all of our students, especially the adorable children.  As it turns out, the director and I are the only familiar faces around here, and the rest of the volunteers are all new.  I’ve been impressed by their energy and their interest in seeing how they can make a difference – they’ve jumped right in, even when it’s hard, and gotten our programs running again.  I’m looking forward to seeing how they grow and change over the next few weeks and months (depending on the length of their stays!).

We have moved into our new house and are starting to get settled here. I like our new place a LOT better than the previous one – there are plenty of little nooks and crannies to get work done, relax a bit, and socialize, depending on your mood.  My favorite part is our roof – it makes doing laundry a lot easier, and I’ve been going up there most mornings for my yoga practice. I love it.  I got to choose my room, and though it is small, it gets good light, it’s away from the street noise, and there’s better storage for my limited possessions. 🙂  I also feel a little less exposed even though my security guard told me the community of course knows where we moved to – just that illusion of privacy is reassuring. 😉

I was also surprised by how I don’t feel quite as uneasy in Huaycán as I did in the last six months. Of course I am under no illusions that it is perfectly safe here, but I do not feel as uneasy as I did before. I am sure I will have some experiences that will remind me that we still live in a developing community with lots of issues, but I feel just enough more relaxed to appreciate it better here.  I’m hoping the new group of volunteers respects the image we’re trying to maintain in the community, but with time I think they’ll understand why it’s necessary to keep a low profile. I had a wonderful two-hour chat with one of our security guards who told me that as long as we continue to be a nonprofit helping kids, the community will look after us, and that they have a certain amount of pride that “even gringos” live here.  He also reminded me that new volunteers who are younger come here with a different expectation than I do after my travel/work/life experience, and that they’re going to want to explore the area in ways that might make me nervous.  I’ve decided I’m not going to focus on it, and redirect that energy back into the program I’m improving.

Since I’ve been back, I’ve really been able to embrace my responsibilities here. As a “veteran” of the organization, I’m helping people get settled, introducing them to our students and their roles, and explaining our expectations for their participation in the English program. I am still very busy attending classes, but my role is different than it had been in the last six months, and I am enjoying it while it lasts.  I’m starting to make progress on the list of things I’m here to improve, and hopefully I’ll make even more in the next few months.  Now I’m actually at the point where I need to set up some guidelines for the person taking over for me in a few short months, which is a great opportunity to see all I’ve accomplished (even though I will always feel that could have done more, because there’s always more to do!).

In any case, I’ll have a clearer sense of how everything will look as we get established in the next few months. I’m trying to see the big picture and learn the lessons about adjusting to a new group of volunteers that I experienced myself back when I arrived. I’ll just keep being myself, keep showing people what we’re doing and why, and hope for the best. 🙂

So here are some pictures of the lovely students I was so excited to come back to.

Zone S Field Trip to Zoologico Huachipa

Zone S kids just about to depart on their field trip in August!

Making and Flying Kites in Zone Z!
My Zone Z kids showing off the kites they made in September!

Zone Z Kids
Our adolescent group in Zone Z posing with their lovely personalities in December!

Zone Z Kids!
Posing with my students on the last day of class in December!

End of Year Party in Zone R!
Some of our students in Zone R!

Jefferson

Jenga with Alex
Jefferson and Alex, two of my favorites (though I love them all!)

More to come, with lots of pictures of the activities we’ve done during my time here! 🙂

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