Social Impact Design

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Thoughts and reflections as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer

On  December 18, 2013, I returned to American, having just completed my 2 year service as a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Volunteer in Northern Peru. Upon my return, I was thrust into peak consumerism aka Christmas. I found the inundation of savory meals, libations, family and friends to be both overwhelming and welcoming. I had a similar experience back in the summer of 2011 when I returned for my sisters wedding: I soaked in all that I had missed and filled every second of my days (and nights) with the comfort foods and friends that I had loved and missed while I was away.
My nieces first time in the waves. So much fun
Friends for life
Very happy to see my family
Christmas time with the fam
Then came the question: what next? On a whim, I moved to Seattle. I wanted to continue the adventure of the unknown (which is the Peace Corps norm). Why Seattle? I had a general sense that the progressive culture and access to the outdoors would help with my transition from life in a developing country (plus my sister Anna lives there, so I had someone to help me with the transition). I also have thoughts of going to the University of Washington for a Masters of Architecture (more on that in my next post).

So how have the last 4 months gone? What have been my most difficult issues with readjustment? Those of you unaccustomed to Peace Corps life may be wondering why readjustment may be difficult. I mean, shouldn't it be a relief, returning to normalcy? Well lets just say that after living in a different culture for 2 years, what initially was strange and alien slowly becomes your new baseline. All of those things that used to annoy me or throw me off; I had gotten used to them. So when volunteers return, they find that America has stayed the same (for the most part), and that their worldview of what is "normal" has been drastically altered.

Some things were easy to switch back. Showering daily for instance, with warm water, GREAT! Drinking water and eating food without the worry of getting sick, A BLESSING. Other things have been harder. Why aren't people saying good morning to me? Why does a simple meal cost so much (gone are the day of $3 menus)? 40 hour work weeks?! Wait, I don't have a personal doctor that I can call at a moments notice?

But the most difficult part of finishing the Peace Corps has been the simultaneous move to a new city, new job, and new lifestyle/pace of life and new friends. Until yesterday, I have been focusing on the next day, the next thing to do, the next bar to check out. This post is my way of revisiting the things I miss the most from Peru. (Granted, after 4 months, I am seeing thing with rose-colored glasses)

My Piura family
I miss my Peace Corps friends. When you go through all that we have (the struggles, the accomplishments, the adventures), VERY strong bonds are formed. Its impossible not to make such strong connections with the amazing people that the Peace Corps attracts.
Training for life in Peru
I miss the altruistic purpose that filled everyday. I woke up in the morning knowing that I was working toward making REAL improvements to the world around me, working collaboratively to teach and build and improve. It has been very difficult to fill that void.

I miss my host family. Mateo and Daniella looked up to me as an older brother. They always came storming into my room with so much joy and energy and I had so much FUN with them! They kept me sane in those hard and troubling times that I went through, so I miss that affection and love that came without bounds.

I miss the deliciousness that Peru had to offer. FRESH food, free of preservatives. Yes, we have a LOT of variety here, but nothing beats a $5 plate of arroz con mariscos from Pedritos (you know what I'm talkin about Tekela)
6 types of ceviche. yummm

Tacu tacu with lomo saltado :)

I miss the adventures and the views that came with it! Peru is such a beautiful country and I was fortunate to explore the variety it has to offer.

Deepest Canyon in the world
Longest river raft race in the world (112 mile in the Amazon)
I miss the culture of Peru. The dancing, the fiestas til dawn, the rompompe after meetings, and the giving nature of everyone. Hora loca, paneton and hot coco during Christmas. 

Carnevales in Cajamarca

Preparing cuy (guinea pig)

Notice anything strange about the last supper?

La hora loca
Paneton and christmas cookies

Plaza de armas, Ayacucho

I miss the simplicity I came to appreciate. Enjoying a hammock, or sitting with the guys, playing soccer. Many days seemed uneventful, but I learned that it was OKAY to not accomplish something daily. That was a hard thing to accept at first, and I find the constant action of America to be quite tiring at times (even if it is exhilarating and exciting)

All said and done, I am very fortunate to miss these things. I was able to experience so much and expand my conception of the world in ways that I am still discovering. I have grown to learn to be extremely adaptable, patient and flexible with plans and expectations. I will continue to hold my altruistic philosophy as I move forward here at home, because one does not need to go abroad to find a community in need of help. Thank you all for following my blog, I hope to share more with you soon.

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