Posing with the kids and a puppy in Zone S
It is June 1, which means I only have 30 days left of my volunteer commitment here in Huaycán. I finish my position on June 30, and as of now the plan is to leave for Chile on a long distance bus on July 1. 30 days left – how did I get here?
In the last few weeks, I’ve had some restorative time in Lima with friends, spent salsa dancing, enjoying many high-quality pisco sours, and talking about the ups and downs of choosing to live the life of a volunteer and sharing space with so many roommates (slash coworkers). I feel ready for this last month, like I am mentally preparing for it to be a hectic but good one, when everything I’ve learned in the past few months comes together and I have that volunteer experience most people imagine: loving and appreciating every moment. Now that I’m at the end of my time, I see all the things I’ve managed to accomplish, learn, and do during the past year, and I feel like it was absolutely worth it, even the hard times, the struggles, the disappointments, and the personal challenges.
Posing with my bebita (little baby), Briguete
Today, while I was coming back from the women’s English class I teach, I ran into one of our students from Zone S on the Zone Z combi and realized that this has kind of become my home, at least insofar as I can hardly walk around the main streets without running into someone I know somehow. Then, as I was walking home a bit later, I ran into another student from Zone D with her family. It will be strange to no longer randomly encounter these people whom I’ve gotten to know here.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about the things I’m going to miss when I leave. (Obviously, I could go on for days about the things I will not miss whatsoever, but we’ll save that for another day.) In my neighborhood, I often walk past a house where someone is practicing the saxophone, and it’s such an unexpected but beautiful sound in these dusty streets. I also see and hear kids playing freely in the streets and on the playground, laughing, feeling free in a way I haven’t seen American kids act since I was one. And then there are all the puppies the kids bring to class all the time, and hanging out with the adorable younger siblings of our students, like the little girl in the photo above, whom I’ve watched grow up over the past 11 months.
Posing with three of the sweetest boys ever in Zone Z
Of course, what will be hardest to leave behind are these wonderful kids whom I’ve had the privilege to get to know. In February, talking with a friend, I reiterated a common thought of mine: there is no reason that I should have ever met these beautiful kids, except that I came here, to this place, and for that, I am so lucky, and my life is the coolest. As you can see from these pictures, they have the most amazing little personalities, and we laugh all the time with each other, and share lots of affection. I remember when I first arrived and I was a little scared of the idea of working with kids, and now I know it’s something I’m good at. I can be kind and caring with them, but also strict when I need to be, and they listen to me. My relationship with them definitely helps me help the other volunteers, too.
Being silly with my kids in Zone Z
I think the hardest thing about leaving will be the fact that I won’t be able to share affection with these kids on a daily basis. They are always so genuinely excited to see me and vice versa. It’s Peruvian culture to kiss your teacher on the cheek, but usually we hug and I lift them up and spin them around, pinch their cheeks, pull on their ears, pat their backs, and just show them love. It will be weird to not have that caring interaction anymore.
I also will really miss being able to see them grow in person. Former volunteers always comment on Facebook pictures of the kids, watching them grow up from far away. I’ve seen kids learn how to read, change their childish voices to something more mature, and turn into young ladies and gentlemen. I’ve seen them go from good kids to troublemakers, from problem children to angels, from hard-working to lazy, and move from struggling to the top of their class. I imagine this is similar to how schoolteachers feel at the end of the school year.
And it’s time to say goodbye. Students do come in and our of our programs, so maybe I’ll never know what will happen to some of them, but as long as the work continues in Huaycán, I’ll be able to keep in touch with our kids. If I decide to spend more time in Peru in the future, something I’d like to do, I’ll be able to come here and visit. But I know that it won’t be the same, just as it wasn’t the same returning to visit Buenos Aires after living there. I need to fully take in and appreciate this last month, which I’ve set up to be a successful one, because this feeling of what it’s like to live and work in Huaycán will soon end, and I’ll be on to another reality. Things will change, I will change, the direction of my life will change, but for now, I’m just happy that I’ve been able to make it through to the end and experience so many moments like those captured in the photos above.
On another note, I am still working on the second half of my posts about my trip to Rapa Nui back in December, which means I am even further behind on writing about all the other moments I’ve experienced in 2013. I’m going to take a page from one of my new favorite travel blogs and not force myself to always write in such chronological order, but rather share moments as I feel like it. As I start traveling, I want to let myself feel free to write about the experiences as they happen or as I remember them, capturing bits and pieces of my time on the road. I think this will help me update more often. 🙂