observations of a peace corps peru 13 volunteer

Peru 17

As I close up my projects in site, Peru 17 is just settling into Peru. It’s crazy to look back at when I was in their place, sitting on the green couches in Chaclacayo, listening intently to any advice current volunteers could pass on, and spending every waking minute with other volunteers. I still remember feeling excited and looking forward to every experience because it was new. Things are certainly different now. Here’s a few nuggets of wisdom I would share with the newbies:

- Stick up for yourself. PC tends to focus on two extremes regarding your attitude towards the culture: to integrate, to be sensitive and accommodating to the culture and people vs. be afraid, be cautious of anyone trying to take advantage of you. I personally think that you should do what you feel comfortable with. Don’t just do something because you think you should. PCVs worry a lot about being ‘disrespectful’ to their host families and counterparts. While obviously you shouldn’t be rude, it’s ok to say no if you don’t want to do something. When you’re in your site, no one is looking out for you, except yourself. You need to remember that you’re here for 2 years and that time is going to pass much more slowly if you’re always uncomfortable.

- Explore new things. Almost all volunteers are going to have a decent amount of free time. Staying productive can really be a challenge. Reading, watching movies, learning a new skill, doing crafts with kids - this is your opportunity to try something new. You have the time, things cost pretty cheap here, and no one will judge you. 

- Travel. We are lucky to be in a country with so many diverse places to see. Make time to visit them all, including Kuelap and Goeta waterfalls in Chachapoyas, beaches in Mancora, sandboarding and Paracas Islands and white water rafting in Lima/Ica, ruins and history in Trujillo and Chiclayo, the northern or southern jungle, Lake Titicaca, Colca Canyon in Arequipa, hiking and rock climbing in Huaraz, and most of all, visit volunteers in their sites. We all know how nice it is to have visitors meet the people we work with and love in our sites. 

- Don’t take PC too seriously. Lots of volunteers get anxious and stressed by comparing themselves to other volunteers or worrying incessantly about what PC staff thinks. It’s just a job and not your life. 

- Remember how lucky you are. 2 years might seem long, but you’ll be going back to the comforts of your home in the US afterwards.

- Keep in touch. Write a monthly email to friends and family back home. They’re really interested in your life, just like you’re interested in theirs. Don’t forget about them.



Even with just a few weeks left in site, I’m still learning and experience new things. For instance:

- Spending the afternoon pulling out fleas out of our new puppy with my host mom.

- Watching youtube videos of preteens in the US making friendships bracelets so I can then teach them to my youth group.

- Creating a community bank with the group of senior citizen women I teach exercise classes to.

The countdown has begun and everyday I feel a little more anxious about the things I need to do before I leave site! Here’s a few of them:

- Finish projects and organize despedidas

- Complete Description of Service document and submit to PC

- Sell and/or distribute stuff I don’t want

- Pass on knowledge to the new members of the committees I’m on

My group already had our COS conference (about 3 months before you officially leave Peru) in Lima as well as our medical checks, where we had to poop in a cup three times and give blood and urine samples. A lot of my group is leaving 1 month before our official COS date (which is in August) because of grad school start dates. That includes me. So in less than a month I’ll be traveling in Argentina and finally heading home to the US!

And since I seem to be on a list-making rage, here’s one of what I’ll miss in Peru:

- Host family

- All the people I’ve worked closely with and have helped my projects happen

- Food… delicious menus for 4 soles in my site

- Speaking in Spanish

- My freedom here to create my own days and schedule

I’ll update more of my overall experience in a bit (I hope)!


Reblogged from theatlantic.


Sargent Shriver spoke to Terry Gross in 1995 about his role in President Johnson’s War on Poverty: “The way out of poverty was through human  effort. People had to  have motivation to move out of  poverty. Then we’d help keep the motivation alive  and aid it. But we  didn’t just hand out money to people who had no  motivation.”


Sargent Shriver spoke to Terry Gross in 1995 about his role in President Johnson’s War on Poverty: “The way out of poverty was through human effort. People had to have motivation to move out of poverty. Then we’d help keep the motivation alive and aid it. But we didn’t just hand out money to people who had no motivation.”

“Discoveries here include gigantic fossilized teeth from the legendary 50-foot shark called the megalodon, the bones of a huge penguin with surprisingly colorful feathers and the fossils of the Leviathan Melvillei, a whale with teeth longer than those of the Tyrannosaurus rex, making it a contender for the largest predator ever to prowl the oceans. “This is perhaps the best area in the world for marine mammals,” said Christian de Muizon”

Peru’s Ocucaje Desert Attracts Fossil Hunters and Smugglers - NYTimes.com


The 50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps

November 1, 2010 Fifty years ago this month, President John F. Kennedy gave a name to his idea to send Americans abroad “to encourage mutual understanding between Americans and other cultures of the world.” A look at the numbers behind the venerable Peace Corps.

The FIRST group of volunteers, 51 strong, arrived in Ghana on August 30, 1961.

Since 1961, more than 200,000 Americans have served in the Peace Corps.

7,671 volunteers now serve in the Corps. In 1966, there were more than 15,000 in the field.

The Peace Corps’ operating budget this fiscal year is $400 MILLION, about 1% of the federal government’s foreign-operations budget.

Peace Corps volunteers here been trained in more than 250 local languages.

60% of ACTIVE Corps members are women.

Today, the Corps works in 77 Countries Over its history, the organization has served in 139 nations.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings did a TWO-year Corps stint teaching math in Swaziland.

More than 60 universities including Cornell, Johns Hopkins, and Virginia, participate in the master’s international program, which combines a tour in the Peace Corps with a master’s-degree curriculum.

SIX current members of congress-Senator Christopher Dodd as well as FIVE Representatives-are returned volunteers.

28% of applicants to the Peace Corps are subsequently invited to serve. 7% of Peace Corps volunteers serve with their spouse.

The average age of a Peace Corps volunteer is 28. 14% are over the age of 30 while 7% are over 50.

During their 27 months of service, Peace Corps volunteers are paid according to local standards in the country where they serve.

They receive two vacation days per month of service, as well as a transition stipend of $7,425 at the end of a tour.

The oldest volunteer in Peace Corps history was Arthur Goodfriend of Honolulu, who was 87 when he completed his second tour in Hungary in 1994.

The Oldest current volunteer is 85 and working in Morocco.

“In short, it’s complicated. Scharpf is engaged in a noble experiment — but entrepreneurs fail sometimes. And anybody wrestling with poverty at home or abroad learns that good intentions and hard work aren’t enough. Helping people is hard.”

The D.I.Y. Foreign-Aid Revolution - NYTimes.com

“Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa, one of the most acclaimed writers in the Spanish-speaking world, a man of letters who also braved the violence and political divisions of his homeland to run for president, won the 2010 Nobel Prize in literature on Thursday.”

Mario Vargas Llosa Wins Nobel Literature Prize - NYTimes.com

“Whether this involves going on a short vacation or taking extended time off to travel the world or volunteer on the other side of the globe — do it! It will help you spend some time alone and give you an opportunity to know yourself better. Don’t take the world’s criticism to heart; you are not wasting time or being irresponsible. To be truly happy, you need to be at peace with yourself. You simply have to find your passion in life, though be aware that it will evolve, grow, and change with you over time. Doing a nine-to-five job that you already hate will only cause additional distress, lack of motivation, and ultimately depress you.”

Quarterlife Crisis! What is It? | Wise Bread



Peru 11ers are currently in the process of leaving…(although a surprising number is extending for additional time) and they will be quickly followed by peru 12ers, which will leave the 13ers to be the “seniors” among PCVs. kind of scary. i remember during training how i would hold on to everything the volunteers would say to try to learn something about what my life would be like at site… i felt like they all knew so much. now i’m in their position and don’t feel nearly as knowledgeable as i should be. yes i know the language a lot better and i know how to use the combis and i have some Peruvian friends, but… i am sorely lacking in the concrete facts of Peru. i am not well versed in the history… i haven’t been to the museums in my capital city… i still don’t even know all the ins and outs of the informal business sector. i would certainly not consider myself an expert of this country, although i probably wouldn’t say that about myself regarding the US either… 

the second year in site is a lot more “stable”… our week-long medical checks will be the last time my group will get together for any training until our COS conference 3 months before our final day (end of August 2011 - we are allowed to leave up to 30 days before that date though). so many volunteers say that their second year is their most productive. and i couldn’t agree more. you’ve spent enough time in your site to be pretty comfortable, you’ve met a solid number of people, and you’ve done enough activities to know which ones are the most meaningful to you. 

this past year i’ve done the following activities:
- youth group with 10 year olds
- consulted 2-6 artisan groups regarding business issues
- yoga/exercise classes for older women
- english tutoring
- attempted a business directory
- offered business english classes to restaurants (no one showed up)
- computer class to 5 year olds
- connected a microfinance NGO to some artisan women i work with
- started 2 community banks 
- attempted to work with another NGO in my community

and here is a list of the following activities i will continue:
- community banks (continuing old ones and starting new ones)
- computer class to 5 year olds
- exercise classes
- working with 2 artisan groups specifically in organization and design skills
- maybe a youth entrepreneurial group 

i’ve realized i am not interested nor particularly good at teaching/working with youth. i’m also not a fan of “charlas” or lectures on any given subject. 

i’m excited for this upcoming year and know it will go by just as fast as the last one.