reflections on EIGHT months in Peru and photos of the kids from December!

Today is March 1st, which means I’m two-thirds of the way through my one-year volunteer commitment. I have just four more months left in Huaycán, and I am certain that these four months will fly by. Though March has just begun, the end of the month brings Semana Santa and a five-day trip to Huaraz, so I think looking forward to another escape will make the time fly by.  We’ll be welcoming two new volunteers in the next week, so things are sure to be busy!

I am already starting to feel a little bit anxious about what the end of my time here will look like.  While I still will never feel like Huaycán is truly my home, I do feel at home when I am with our students.  Being part of the lives of these kids makes me feel connected to the community in a way I didn’t expect.  Knowing I will see these kids for English class or for library time and receiving affection and love from them makes each day that much brighter.  I know my heart is going to break when I have to say goodbye to them.  I also realize that I should not think about the end, and appreciate each moment while I am living it, so I’m just embracing my time while it is here.

End of Year Party in Zone R!

Banner hung by the students/staff in Zone R in December thanking us for our work!

That all said, I am excited about what is in store for me once I finish in June.  This past “weekend” (Wednesday and Thursday, since we work on the actual weekends) I spent many, many hours mapping out the backpacking trip I intend to make around Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, and the rest of Peru.  I had thought I’d cut out Chile due to budgetary constraints, but then I realized that flying to Buenos Aires isn’t as cheap as I thought it would be.  Right now the plan is to take a 19-hour bus to Tacna on the Peru border, cross over to Arica, and then do a tour of northern Chile, including San Pedro de Atacama, a spot that landed on my must-visit list in 2002.  I’m pretty excited about these plans and about the prospect of visiting Chile again.  From Atacama, I’ll cross over to Salta, Argentina, my favorite city/region in the world (I’ve been three times already!).  I have an ambitious travel plan, but I’m so excited about all of it that it will be hard to narrow it down.  We’ll see how the plans develop in the next four months!

So what kind of reflections do I have after eight months here?  Things are easier than I expected them to be at this stage in the game.  I have been marveling at the fact that I am able to coexist with 9-12 people in the same house as if it were a completely normal thing.  I have enough space to do my work and to be a good role model in a leadership position, which means that my program is doing so much better.  I have to take a step back at times and just notice and appreciate how far things have come since I first arrived.  There is more to be done, and I will not be able to accomplish everything I thought I would, but I’ve done the best I could with what I was given.  For the next four months, my goals are to finish the projects I’ve started and leave a strong, clear framework for future English program managers. 🙂  And of course, appreciate every moment I have within this community!

I had a great opportunity to see what kind of community has sprung up around the organization in December, when we held a Tienda de Navidad (Christmas store) for the families we work with.  We invited the parents of each of our students to come pick out a gift for their kids.  I was in charge of making chocolatada, Peruvian-style hot chocolate, and running between the kids and their parents.  I also got to take pictures and give hugs to children from all the zones we work with.  It was overwhelming to be around so many kids I love at the same time, but in a good way!  Here are some of the best shots.

Scenes from Tienda de Navidad

Jefferson playing chess with his brother, Enderson

Scenes from Tienda de Navidad

Junior and Kevin, two more brothers!

Scenes from Tienda de Navidad

Briguete with her gift

Scenes from Tienda de Navidad

Me with a pot of chocolatada!

Scenes from Tienda de Navidad
Luis Angel looking adorable

Scenes from Tienda de Navidad
Gabriel enjoying panetón and chocolatada

Scenes from Tienda de Navidad

Scenes from Tienda de Navidad

Posing with Darwin and Joseph David, two adorable Zone S kids!

As you can see, these kids are the reasons I have made it through 8 months in Huaycán, and each moment I get with them is special. As I keep saying to people when talking about how lucky I feel, there is no reason that our paths would ever have crossed except because I decided to volunteer here. So each moment I get to spend with them is precious. I wouldn’t trade these moments for anything.

Next up: posts about and photos from my time on Rapa Nui (Easter Island/Isla de Pascua)!!

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