Thursday, August 26, 2010

So it's official

as of Friday, August 20th, 2010 I am now a Peace Corps Volunteer (as opposed to my previous status of 'trainee'). We all had to pack up and be at the center by 8am to go over some logistics and pick up our mosquito nets (no joke – they made us all grab one). We were given an hour lunch to spend with our families but since it takes 20 mins to get to and from my house I said my goodbyes the night before – and made them dinner as a thank you.
My sad last night with the Chacrasana family.

We all packed into two big buses and headed to the U.S. Embassy in central Lima for a swearing in ceremony. The whole thing started with us singing the national anthems of both Peru and the US. I have to admit it was a little awkward when neither group could properly sing the other's anthem – not that we did our own any justice. The ceremony was short and sweet with five minute speeches from a trainee, host family father, business representative of the Embassy, and our program directors. We were called up to the stage to take an oath of allegiance to the US government (some people were a bit put off by the whole “defend against all enemies foreign and domestic bit” and I can't blame them we are called the Peace Corps for goodness sake). We finished by taking a group photo and gorging ourselves on the awesome snacks provided.

Swearing in Ceremony at the Embassy.  I am with two of our doctors here.. very cool people.

That was it. We headed back to the hostel in Lima and were left to our own devices at that point. Most of us went and had US style meals. I went with a huge group to TGI Fridays and had Fajitas and a Margarita – and paid the same amount as I would in the US for it. I won't be doing that again. Sure the food was good but when you were making only 8 Soles a day (about $2.50) it is hard to justify spending that much. I am making a little bit more now (about 11 bucks a day) but I also have to pay rent, food, transportation...etc. Since I live in a larger city where the cost of living is more, that leaves me with little breathing room as far as spending money goes. I expect to learn and grow a lot for it. Here is the only scary thing – my school debt will be growing rapidly while I am here.
Found some colorado license plates in a karaoke bar...
yes, we made our signs backwards...

After three days of travel and shopping for things I will need I have finally arrived back in Cutervo. My family picked me up at the corner I was dropped off on and showed me to my room. They did a lot of work while I was gone by adding another light, fixing outlets, giving me some more furniture, and moving their daughter's personal items out (yes I am the jerk that took her room and I feel awful about it). Then we sat and joked around about Peruvian transportation for a while before bed.

While I have heard a lot of volunteers say they arrived at site and said “now what?” I woke up this morning feeling inundated with things to do. I need to buy items for my room (like a dresser and lamps), finish editing my Human Trafficking paper (A.K.A. the never ending paper), write blogs and emails, unpack and set up my room, finish my power point for our televised conference coming up soon, and begin the long process of gathering, organizing, and recording the information for our three month community diagnostic. This is good, I like to stay busy and would not be comfortable if I were just sitting around – of course even then I have spanish to study, guitar to practice, books to read, exercise to do, and people to meet.

If you are still with me here is the boring logistical part of the blog. I have a cell phone that anyone can contact me on. It is free for me to receive calls but I assume that means you will be paying quite a bit. Here is the formula for calling me:

011 + 51 + 76 + 970913716

We are discussing getting internet in the house, but until that happens I will have to go to a local internet cafe to check emails and skype with people. This means we will have to decide by email or phone when to skype. I am one hour ahead of those of you in Colorado.
Also, here is my new address so I can receive mail and packages. The original address you all have for Lima will make it so I have to either wait two more weeks or, if it is a larger package, physically go down to Lima to pick it up... which will only happen about 3 times in my two years.

Chris Huey
Pasaje Yoyo Flores 180
Cutervo, Cajamarca, Peru

I am excited to get started with my work here. And I am lucky that my community partners seem excited as well. I am still not sure exactly what I will be doing but I know that the community diagnostic combined with just meeting and talking with people will turn up quite a few opportunities for me to stay busy and, with a little luck, help someone.

As always, I miss you all. I expect to go through a hump by month two, when I realize what I got myself into ;) Please send me your photos and emails about your lives.

PS - I will edit with pictures when I get a better internet connection...

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