What’s Next

I’ve been a little distracted lately. Big things have been happening and I haven’t had the energy to turn those experiences into blog posts, so I will save time by simply bullet-pointing some highlights.

  • I helped plan a vocational retreat for Voices of Youth.
  • I was a judge for Colegio Peruano Japones’s school-wide singing competition. (Because I am clearly appropriate for such a position.)
  • I got into college.
  • I decided where to go to college.
  • Then proceeded to make goal map of where I want to go in life.

Essentially all of the things on that list were inspired by events that occurred during the vocational retreat. (Being a judge at CPJ’s singing competition was not on my newly procured goal map and I am fairly certain it shouldn’t be on anyone’s.) Earlier this month, the Building Dignity team organized a weekend retreat focused on vocational activities as well as first aid training, which was organized and led two medical students from UCLA.

The retreat was exclusively for the older group of participants (ages 15-18+). This weekend long event was a way of re-energizing the older group and to help them definite themselves from the younger kids who up until a few months ago, were the grand majority of consistent participants. It was a really fun weekend, filled with activities that creatively expressed personal interests via life roadmaps, we discussed identifying stereotypes that influence how we perceive our professional abilities, and everyone (even BD volunteers) participated in workshops that taught important emergency medical skills. Moreover, within the 48 hour retreat, new friendships were formed, old ones were strengthened and I believe that the group found a new and strong identity.

I think that the retreat was a great way of introducing how personal interests can be developed into potential career ideas. Obviously, all of the activities and workshops were designed to support the participants, but I can safely say that I came away with much more clarity about my own career and general life goals. I’ve been thinking very thoroughly about where my life is going after my time of working in Peru, especially while I was receiving responses from colleges. Although I know there is only so much one can do regarding long-term planning, I now feel like I have a very clear understanding of just how to get to the places I want to go, while also being aware that life can throw a myriad of changes my way in between any given event.

But while I can say I have a better handle on my long-term goals, the same cannot be said about what will happen in the interim. Here’s one sentence that pretty much sums up everything that sends my short-term goals into a tailspin: I have less than two months left of being in Peru.

To emphasize how affecting that sentence is, I’d like to share this screenshot of a handy-dandy spreadsheet that lets my Omprakash Grant Mentor know what’s up while I’m working with Building Dignity.

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Can we just take a moment to look at how many months that is???? (And not the way that my blogging frequency has also declined on my Omprakash blog…)

Just one more time. With arrows.

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Thinking about how long I’ve been here in my head is something entirely different to seeing a visual representation of just how my experience has played out.

With that being said, the train of thought related to my impending departure quickly raises some pedagogically complex questions about what it (meaning my time here) all means. For example: What am I doing here? What entitled me to think I had/have anything to offer? How does one foster programming with good intentions, without inflicting harmful unintended consequences? How sustainable is the work I personally contribute to the organization I work with? The list goes on. They are questions that I was cognizant of before coming here, but I didn’t have the context or experience to fully understand their weight and importance.

Although all of those weighty questions are somewhat overwhelming, I’m glad they are being asked of me at this time in my life. Instead of feeling weighed down by the complexities of these questions, I feel excited about them. The sheer element of intellectual engagement that is being asked of those questions is fueling a yearning to go back to school, to learn, find connections and build an foundation that will support my academic and professional pursuits for years to come.

I do know that in this moment, President Jed Bartlet, or otherwise known as the world’s best fictional US President, saying “What’s next?” comes to mind. Although the context may be somewhat off because when he says it, he’s really saying “[he’s] ready to move on the the next thing,” and I know that in a few days or a few weeks, I may not feel like I’m ready to move on. But I’ve realized that’s ok. I’ll be sad to say goodbye to the people I’ve come to love so much and it’ll be scary to start a new, unfamiliar part of my life. But in this moment, while writing this long, long blog post in an attempt to make up for earlier times, I can say that I’m ready for what’s next.

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Rewinding of My Summer in Peru

This summer was like running a 5k – it’s a short race (3.1 miles) so it doesn’t seem that hard, right? This summer’s eight-week programming received a similar response from myself and a few friends. Eight weeks? Workshops that are only a couple of hours long, a few days a week? What will I do with myself? Little did I know that like running a 5k, it is not advisable to go into summer programming without having any sort of mental preparation (let alone physical), eight weeks is actually pretty long, and most importantly, hydration is key. (Thank you, 80-90 degree weather and humidity levels upwards of 60%.) And despite it’s “shortness” this summer has proven to be anything but uneventful.

Undoubtedly, the most meaningful part of my summer with Building Dignity was the music program. As mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been in charge of the program since early January and it’s been full of challenges and successes that continue to motivate me to improve and expand the program. Recent developments have led to conversations about continuing music workshops in the community of Oasis, when we originally had intended on only offering workshops like music, English lessons and art for the summer. It’ll mean teaching in two communities (La Encantada and Oasis) and continuing the grand migration of instruments to and from the two locations, but I’m 100% committed. Because the music program is currently dependent on me being here, I’ve also started to compile an archive of all the materials, lesson plans and activities associated with the program, so that whoever comes after me can have a solid foundation of what the program has done and what level the kids are at.

Even though this summer has had its fair share of challenges, I am a little bit sad that it’s come to an end. When I compared the summer programming to the school year’s, I used to focus on how less tired I was at the end of the day or I would think of the all the ways that summer has been more intense. But as the summer wound down, I started to realize that the school year had it’s own set of challenges i.e. learning how to play guitar in Spanish, trying to remember how to do geometry when I barely even got it while I was in school, helping pre-teens with trigonometry…  I focused on how much I missed getting on a more personal level with the kids I helped tutor during the school year, as opposed to the less personal dynamic that was applicable to many of this summer’s programs. On the flipside, the school year is academically intense. I’ll still have music as a respite from helping research Peru’s legislative bodies and studying mathematical terms in Spanish, but the fun and free atmosphere of the summer will most definitely be missed. If anything, I’ve learned that some times ideas can change drastically depending on the perspective. By having experienced two different cycles, I’ve grown to appreciate things that I hadn’t really considered before and however stress-inducing this summer has been, I’m grateful for it.

It’s been a busy two months, with daily programming in two locations, visitors from the United States, welcoming new volunteers as well as saying goodbye to volunteers who I had known for as long as I’ve been here.  If anything, crossing the finish line (we’re back to the running analogy) that in this case, was March 1st was pretty satisfying. A pancake breakfast has not been included, but I think we can make that happen at some point.

Wrapping up 2013

After 9pm tonight, CEDED will say goodbye to the schedule we’ve been running for the past few months and be on vacation until early January. It’s hard to believe that we’re already at that time of the year, but here we are.

The past week has been a flurry of end-of-the-year activities and our plans for the last Voices of Youth meeting was no exception. With kids finishing their final exams, getting out of school for summer and all the holiday excitement in the air, it was fitting to have this Thursday’s meeting be a fun and relaxing. (For the volunteers, it was almost like an all-day Christmas party; preparing the food in the morning, listening to Radio Magica’s oldies Christmas music and drawing an ear-less Santa. Almost.) We played games, listened to Christmas music and ate food – all things that make for a good Christmas party.

We played two games: holiday themed pictionary and pin the beard on Papa Noel, aka Santa Claus. I was very enthusiastic about the whole idea because the one those games involved making a poster and I am all about the posters. All in all, it was extremely successful. The kids were really into pin the beard on Papa Noel. Voices were projected quite well to say the least. The most notable part was when a girl just simply screamed out of excitement/energy, I’m still unsure. It was good time.

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Everyone knows that a good party has to involve some good food and we made sure of that. Hannah made chocolate fudge (which we have learned is not so much of a thing here), I made snickerdoodles and we prepared hot chocolate. Despite it’s lesser popularity with the volunteers, we also bought a panetón. Panetón is a festive holiday desert bread that is really, really, really popular here. Oh the lengths we go to for the kids… All joking aside, it really doesn’t taste that bad. It’s like a less dense and taller fruit cake. Unsurprisingly, once we distributed the food, the panetón was the first to go. (But the cookies and fudge were a close second.)

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All in all, it’s been a very busy few weeks. It hasn’t left much time to really grasp how next Tuesday is Christmas Eve and that that weekend I’ll be leaving for Ecuador. With the time that I’ve had in between various other things (mainly the numerous trips on the Metropolitano to and from Centro de Lima), I’ve gotten to reflect a bit on my time in Peru so far and on the year as a whole.

I can remember quite clearly my thoughts about what the newly inaugurated 2013 would be like from last winter break. I said, “2013 is going to be so weird. I’m not superstitious, but maybe it’s the thirteen. I just think it’s going to be weird.” Hand me a crystal ball and call me Mystic Michelle. That was some pretty profound stuff. Essentially, my main idea was that all of the transitional changes that were to come i.e. high school graduation, starting college, etc. would just be different. Substitute “weird” for “different” and I think I called it pretty well. In any case, I think that this year I’ll keep my commentary on the more open-ended side of things.

Even though life is completely different than how I envisioned it would be one year ago (which totally fulfills my prediction if you do the substitution of “different” for “weird”), some things haven’t changed (or not). Like I was a year ago, I’m still churning out college applications with an anxiety familiar to someone who procrastinates as frequently as I do with things of such importance. I am hopeful that this doesn’t become some sort of pattern, even if it does put me in another country this same time next year. Applications really aren’t something to look forward to. But I digress. The fact of the matter is that despite the occasional feelings of ungrounded-ness from being abroad, at the moment I’m thinking very much about the months to come. It’s hard not to when the time has been flying as fast as it has been – it makes me think about how fast the next four will come and go. More than anything I feel grateful to have found this opportunity to volunteer with Building Dignity – an organization for which my fondness and respect grows every day I come into work. With or without a crystal ball, I don’t believe I could have ever anticipated or imagined how positive an experience I have been having.

With that said, let it be written in the books or literally, immortalized on the internet, that I simply say that I think 2014 will be eventful. (I think I’m pretty safe with that one.)

Deep Thoughts and Michael Jackson

Directly across from CEDED is a school for elementary and secondary school students. For the past few weeks, (possibly even months) they have been preparing for their school’s anniversary. We’ve gotten glimpses of the dances, decorations and all the festivities that lead up to today and to say that I was looking forward to seeing everything come together would have been an understatement. This school loves them some build up, that’s for sure.

Earlier in the morning they had a little fair with stands that displayed the different foods from the various regions/districts in Peru. There were foods from the jungle, the sea and everywhere in between. Some people were selling food from their respective region and this lead to my first antichuco experience. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was an anticucho de corazón aka heart. Not that this little piece of info could have dissuaded me from eating it – it’s just something note. It was so good though. But what I was really looking forward to was the talent show that took place at night. I knew that a lot of kids that frequent CEDED programs would be in it and I was excited to see their performances. And boy, they did not disappoint.

My absolute favorite group were the third-graders who did a dance to Thriller by Michael Jackson. They didn’t just do the dance – there were theatrics. It started off with a boy dressed in a red tracksuit number and an afro wig, which was entertaining in and of itself. Behind him there were prop caskets and tombstones as if he was dancing in a graveyard, a la the Thriller music video. After he did his solo, all of a sudden the tombstones started to move and kids were coming out of the caskets! These zombies were very zombie like – watch out actors in the Walking Dead. As the zombies crawled out of their hiding places and got into position, little Michael Jackson took off his wig, put on some kind of Michael Jackson mask and then routine really began. They basically did the Thriller music video and pretty damn well. Granted, they are third-graders but they they were so full out, it was amazing. I was laughing out of pure happiness and tears were brought to my eyes.

As I watched the kids I know perform, I was filled with a huge amount of pride. It was really overwhelming when I realized this, because I’ve really only known them for a little more than a month. Yet as I watched them do their (despite appearances) choreographed dances, I was smiling for so long and so much that my cheeks started to hurt a little. Literally.

As mentioned before, sometimes I think about what it’ll be like once I’m back in the US. I’m often reminded when people ask how long I’ll be here and sometimes it’s hard to think about the fact that I will be getting on a plane and going home. Emily told me that the cyclical nature of international volunteers can have very adverse affects on the community that CEDED works with. After all, this organization is built upon creating genuine, meaningful relationships. How can one establish continuity with these relationships if volunteers who provide input on many of CEDED’s programs, leave after a certain amount of time and never come back?

I know that this may be naïve to say so early in my trip, but I feel like there’s an inevitability that I’ll be coming back to Peru and undoubtedly, Villa El Salvador. Never communicating or staying in contact with the people I’ve met here after coming home would deprecate the development of these friendships and the idea of letting them go to way side feels careless. I don’t know what will happen in the future; if my life will be at a point where I could even consider coming back to Peru. If anything, I think I’ll just leave that train of thought for the future and continue to stay in the present. However, I do know that I really wouldn’t mind being there for this school’s next aniversario.

First Day 2.0

I have a new housemate. Technically, I have a lot of housemates considering I live with Ana María’s family. But late last night, a new long-term volunteer arrived and she’s living on the floor above mine. Her name is Roxana, she’s the same age as me and is taking a gap year as well!

Today was her first day and I got to play tour-guide. To my surprise, I wasn’t nervous or anything with having to show her around. In fact, it was almost empowering. It was really gratifying to be able to prove to myself how much I’ve learned about the community and the people who live here and I really loved being able to share that with someone new.

After a trip to the market, Roxana and I headed up to CEDED. Normally, I would go to CEDED later in the day because Voices of Youth is from 4-6pm. But due to the fact that I only had one avocado, a huge loaf of white bread and one-third of a package of crackers, I figured it was time to get some food.

Today was the Thursday group for Voices of Youth. Today we planned on having them work on organizing an economic activity, finalizing plans for their field trip that’s this Sunday to the Parque de Imaginación and starting to think about a menu for their first communal meal that will be in about two weeks. This afternoon proved to be a chatty one. The youth’s voices were heard. Very loudly and quite often. But nonetheless, we got business done and I’m looking forward to watching more than a dozen kids make arroz con pollo y papas a la huancaína in the little CEDED cocina.

All in all, today was a huge reminder of a principle that I’ve made a goal for my time here: always be aware of the “now”. As I showed Roxana around, I was mentally thinking back to when Emily was doing the very same for me only a short time ago. It may sound silly, but sometimes I think about the fact that “I live in South America” and “I am in South America” are phrases that are applicable to my life and I am filled with pure wonderment. Being as reserved as I am, I’m not one to make a big deal about things. But every so often, (mainly during mototaxi rides up to CEDED) I remember tremendous potential of this time in my life. It’s a little overwhelming, but I’m finding that any anxiety that spurs from that train of thought often dissipates once I realize how incredibly fortunate I am to be here.

Happy 19th Day Anniversary

Today was my 19th day in Peru. To be perfectly honest, I really haven’t been counting the days because 1. that seems sort of senseless considering I’ll be here for a lot of days and 2. the time has been going by so quickly that I just haven’t even thought that much about it. It’s easier to track weeks at this point. But even today, I realized that something that I thought happened last week, really occurred two weeks ago.

As told in this blog, my time here has been anything but uneventful. For almost two weeks, I hadn’t seen my host, Ana Maria because her mother became very ill and had to be hospitalized. Some of Ana Maria’s family also live in the same house as me, but because my room is more like an apartment, I don’t necessarily see them every day. I was really quite concerned for a while, but a couple of nights ago I almost literally ran into Ana Maria in the kitchen while I was getting some yogurt out of the refrigerator. After the surprise encounter, we (mainly Ana Maria) caught up on all that had happened during the past week. I’m still not sure when Ana Maria will be coming back to work at CEDED, but it looks like things are getting better.

Ana Maria’s absence has consequentially given me a lot more independence. Another reason behind that first solo-trip to the market was because there simply wasn’t anyone for me to go with. (But nonetheless, the main motivator was the aforementioned Metro trip at night.) I’ve even become a little more adventurous with spending my time in Villa El Salvador. For example, my market trips now yield more diverse products i.e. avocados, pears, a different flavor of yogurt, grocery bags, and snacks like gummy bears and these candied peanuts. Baby steps. My favorite discovery is a panadería that’s across the street from my house. I’m still not sure if it should be considered a favorite or a dangerously bad habit. Basically, this place sells delicious baked goods for not a lot of money and what more can a person ask for? This morning I had the terrible problem of having to break a 20 sole bill and obviously that might be sort of hard at the open air market (it probably wouldn’t be) so I guess I had to buy something at the panadería this morning. Shame. I ended up buying pastry rolls, avocados and one chocolate that I wasn’t really sure about. But then I tasted it and it was basically a gourmet s’more and my morning was made. I’ll post a picture later. Words cannot do it justice. These little outings are just a few examples of the things that I’ve grown very fond of.

Truth be told, I frequently think about what it will be like to come back home. These thoughts aren’t fraught with longing or wistfulness, they carry more of a curious and in some cases regretful nature. I say regret, because I have already become quite happy with how things are going and sometimes the thought of not being here brings on a twinge of sadness. But my plan is to be stay for seven (and at most eight) months, get a summer job, then begin college in the fall. But then I could argue with myself about the fact that I had a very similar plan (that’s even mentioned in a pre-departure blog post) and that one didn’t really pan out the way I planned. It’s hard for me to not over-analyze or think too far ahead, too quickly. Nonetheless, I believe that this period of my life is a very unique way of instilling skills that will help me embrace life’s more spontaneous moments.

There are definitely two clear mentalities that could be embraced while being here: counting down the days or adding them up. If that even that make sense. But at this point, I’m just trying to keep track of what’s happening today.

Lessons in Horas Públicas

Before I started working at CEDED, I always anticipated that Voices of Youth would be one of the most challenging programs I would be involved in. Challenging in the sense of integrating my own skills, the prospect of dealing with teenagers that I didn’t know at all and trying to get them to feel empowered enough to become catalysts for positive social change. Just those things. But to my surprise, one of the most exhausting programs I’ve been involved with is horas publicas.

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9-11am and 4-7pm, the center is open for kids to get homework help. The morning sessions are usually very low maintenance, as the younger kids are in school and the older kids don’t necessarily need the tutoring. However, once it hits 4pm, the community center comes alive.

I’d say that the average total number of students that come in within the three-hour session would be at least 15. Students always outnumber volunteers. For example, tonight there came a point where I was juggling probably three or four kids. (Not literally, of course.) It’s a little crazy but somehow the kids get their questions answered and homework gets finished. Somewhat ironically, I always end up helping kids with math homework. This is ironic to me because I have never felt very strong with my math skills and yet here I am, helping ten-year-olds add and subtract multivariable equations. I think we can all agree that the more impressive feat is that ten-year-olds are adding and subtracting multivariable equations.

I’ve already experienced frustration with trying to work with the kids and tonight was no exception. I worked with one girl for probably an hour on her homework assignment that really should have taken about half that time. She just completely disengaged because she originally wanted to just use the computer to get the answers, but I told and showed her that we had a book that had the same information. It got to a point where she just completely stopped communicating with me. She even started crying a little. I’m not entirely sure if this particular situation was the cause of said reaction, but nonetheless, it was heartbreaking. I made sure not to coddle her but also not completely abandon her while she was in this rather fragile state. I told her I was going to check on other kids for a minute and when I came back, she had begun to read the book I showed her and was writing down an answer. It was progress. It wasn’t smooth sailing from then on and I will save everyone the trouble of reading about that, but I can say that we did end up finishing the assignment.

To say this evening’s horas publicas was tough would be an understatement. It was exhausting. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying your very best to communicate or help someone and receiving nothing in return. You can’t over-do it and you can’t just give up. It’s made me begin to believe that learning is a two way street when it comes to the relationship of a teacher and a student, in that there has to be a willingness and enthusiasm in learning, or else it’s just harder than it needs to be.

BOM and an Editorial Comment

(Ok, so this entire blog is somewhat of an “editorial comment”.)

I’ve often joked with my friends that if my life was a musical right now, I would be Elder Price from “The Book of Mormon”. The connection is pretty tangential, but there is one element that is rings true: door-knocking.

The opening song of this musical is titled, “Hello!”.

Hello!
My name is Elder Price
And I would like to share with you
The most amazing book.

I’ve never had Mormon missionaries come knock on my door, but if you ever have, this song may sound akin to what would happen. Except without the harmonization and jazz hands.

How does this relate to what I’ve been doing during my first two weeks in Villa El Salvador? Well for at least one hour every day, various combinations of Emily, Hannah, volunteers and I, go door-knocking to various homes around Lomo de Corvina. We try to keep it to no more than two or three of us at at time, or else we look (and are) a gaggle of gringos meandering around.

Door-knocking is one of our main-stays for outreach in the community. For example, today we knocked on doors of kids that are involved in Voices of Youth to see if their parents were home so that we could give them a letter about a parent meeting regarding an upcoming field trip. Tomorrow, Hannah and Emily will probably knock on doors of kids who go to tutoring because tutoring is happening the following day.

I’ve enjoyed door-knocking, as its a nice way to get some exercise and get to know the community and those who live here. But I still feel a bit conspicuous while doing it. I suppose that I’ve become more comfortable because I know the kids better, but I’m definitely not a confrontational person so door-knocking is a little out of my comfort zone. But this is all good. Because with all things considered, I think that this experience is the ultimate test of learning about oneself by doing new and often uncomfortable things, i.e. traveling to a different country with a different language and not really knowing anything.

But back to my “Book of Mormon” parallels. I believe that I am not like Elder Price, in that I am and have not been blinded by hubris. In no way do I believe that I am here to drastically change people’s lives, especially by having them conform to my beliefs. So, I would like to take this moment to dispel any inclination or idea that I am here to “change lives”. I appreciate the sentiment and the vote of confidence, but I feel that it’s a very loaded phrase that isn’t particularly applicable to my current situation. First and foremost, I am here to learn. I am here to observe, engage and ultimately, collaborate.

With all of that said, I would like to thank everyone who reads this. It’s sort of wonky to be able to really see if anyone does, but if you do, you are appreciated. I enjoy being able to share my experiences with you and I look forward to keeping y’all in the loop as my journey continues.

One Week and One Day

That is how long I’ve been in Peru. It’s the first of many and if the past few days have been any indicator as to what the future will hold, I’m thinking that my time here will be nothing short of active, engaging and fun.

So what’s happened as of today? Well I’ll save you a long summary by directing you to previous blogs. But if there were one word to encompass my first week here, it would be independence. 

Ever since I was little, I’ve been a very self-reliant person. I’m sure this also has something to do with the fact that I am an only child, but I think aside from that, I’m someone who genuinely appreciates independence and having time to oneself. I’m grateful for those qualities, as its made this transition to semi-living-alone very easy. As many of you know, my room has its own entrance/exit, I’m responsible for practically all of my meals (save for the days I work all day at CEDED), I wash my own laundry, and I’ve been doing my own finances for this trip. I’m no stranger to taking care of myself. I had a lot of practice this summer while housesitting for friends for several days at a time, often without my mom. That has made my life in Peru less unfamiliar, so I don’t make a big deal about that stuff. However, over the past couple of days there have been some notable steps in my growing independence here and I wanted to share some of those successes.

I arrived here last Tuesday and for the rest of that week, I was always accompanied when I was going from place to place. Whether it was getting out to CEDED and back home at night or a trip to the market, I always had Emily, Ana Maria or Jesus with me. As mentioned in a previous post, I took the Metropolitano by myself on Monday night. That was a major confidence booster, which inspired the motivation to do something else sola: go to the market.

So, I wanted to go the market on Tuesday because 1. I felt super confident after the Metro experience the previous night and 2. I didn’t have any food left because I ate it all. As these things happen. After making my grocery list, I set out on my first outing by myself. I waited at the place where I would usually wait for the bus with Emily and Ana Maria. While waiting, I realized that I wasn’t entirely sure which bus to take. I figured I would wait for a blue one, because those were the ones that I’ve primarily taken. Logic. I asked the bus driver if it was going to the street I needed and he nodded. But when the bus turned right instead of going straight which is where I needed to go, I realized there was a problem. I promptly got off the bus when they picked up someone about 45 seconds later and decided to walk the three long city blocks down to the market. Now, you may think that taking a bus for only three blocks sounds pointless, but this street is on a hill, the blocks are long and it is very much worth it to just get a ride.

Once I arrived at the market, I knew what I was doing. I’m afraid to say that I wasn’t very creative in buying new food items. I stuck to my sliced wheat bread, bananas, tangerines and apples. I tried to buy another bottle of plain yogurt, but the woman who sold it to me the first time, didn’t have any of that flavor. (Today I tried again, but she didn’t have any so I bought a strawberry flavor instead.) After making my purchases, I got a motor taxi back up the hill to go home before heading to CEDED for the afternoon. When I unpacked my haul, I was pretty darn proud. While it was not my first time taking a bus by myself or buying food, it was my first time while here in Peru. I definitely have not experienced the amount of self-satisfaction I had from that trip to the market, after going grocery shopping at Safeway or Trader Joe’s back home.

These seemingly small experiences have been exhilarating. The domesticity of it has comforted me and again, given me the confidence to feel like I can really live here – not that I ever anticipated that I wouldn’t be to. I believe that there is a considerable difference between endurance and adaptability. Elements like acceptance and optimism differentiate the what is seen as something to endure or adapt to. I believe that those circumstances can determine ones quality of life and I aim to live as healthy a life as possible while I’m here in Peru.

Lluvia and K-Pop

Winter in Lima is pretty similar to winter in Santa Cruz, except for the humidity. My hair looks like it’s constantly in curlers. Today it drizzled the entire time; enough to make my hair wet after walking down the hill to the market but light enough to not make the roads muddy. It’s pretty cold but that’s going to change in about a month.

Compared to the past few days, today was very calm. I spent the morning and early afternoon catching up on blog posts (as you see below), news and listening to NPR. At home, I would listen to my iPod in the car but low enough to still be able to listen to the radio at the same. Save for my Radio Disney years, NPR and PRI are the stations that I’ve listened to my entire life and it felt surprisingly comforting to listen to the correspondents. This past summer I would keep CNN or CSPAN on while housesitting for friends and I didn’t realize how much I would miss it while in Peru. Getting news online doesn’t feel the same.

At around 3:30, Ana Maria and I set off to the community center, or CEDED, which is what everyone in Villa El Salvador knows it as. (From now I’ll be using that abbreviation – I apologize for any future confusion!) Horas publicas are 4pm-7pm on Friday evenings and I was anticipating around the same number of kids to be coming. However, after Ana Maria left to go buy ingredients for a baking class that’s on Saturday evening, and the clock read a little before 4, I became a little anxious. I hurriedly set up all the tables and chairs in preparation for the kids. As the clock read five then ten minutes past four, I was a little concerned. Soon, Ana Maria came back and she explained to me that on Fridays, virtually no one comes because well, it’s Friday night! I completely understood. Who wants to do homework on a Friday night? When it’s really cold and raining a little like today, that causes less kids to come by as well. I have to say that I was a little disappointed to hear this, because I wanted to see if Sebastian would come by and I could ask how his algebra homework went. I guess I’ll have to wait until next week.

After Ana Maria explained all of this to me, she asked me to come to the market that’s below the hill where CEDED is located. It’s smaller than the market at the Ovalo Mariategui, which was the first market I went to earlier this week. We were looking for pineapple for the pineapple cake that the baking class will be making tomorrow. We found the fruit and I bought these tangerines for two soles. They looked delicious and tasted even better. I have a feeling I’ll be going to that vender a lot while I’m here.

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When we got back, there were four kids there: Javier (7), Leonel (10), Jiomar (13) and Diana (13). I didn’t know their names on Wednesday, but Javier and Leonel are brothers and were the two boys that I helped with looking up words in the encyclopedia and writing the aforementioned ceviche recipe, respectively. Today I helped both of them with some English homework as well as geometry. I’m still impressed/shocked by the amount as well as the difficulty of work they get. Javier’s homework consisted of having to write the numbers 50 to 100 in English. About half way through the 60’s, he wanted to go sit on the other side of the table next to Leonel, who was playing games on a laptop. It was almost like pulling teeth to get him to finish the 70’s. Really, all he was doing was copying the same thing over and over again and we both knew that it was a tedious assignment. After he showed me that he could write down the one’s place number without looking at the previous ones, I told him that if he finished the 80’s, he could be done. After all, it’s due on Monday. Once I offered this deal, he whipped out those numbers in a fraction of the time. The power of incentives, right?

One of my favorite things that happened today was when I helped Diana print out something for a school assignment. I went over to her computer and it was an article about K-pop! During my year on Interact’s District Council, I learned a lot more about different Asian pop-culture and K-pop was one of the first things I was educated on. While printing out Diana’s article, I couldn’t help but think of all my friends back home.

I have a feeling that there will be many days like this one, but hopefully, with less rain.