Last Christmas in Perú

My first Christmas in Perú was spent with my host family. My second Christmas was spent back with my family in the U.S. My last Christmas here in Perú was spent here in Huaráz and at the beach!

From my group, Perú 25, only 3 of us remain. And so, we all decided to meet up to spend a few days at the beach, have some great seafood, and catch the latest chapter of the Star Wars Saga. However, before heading out to meet my friends on the playa, I had some Christmas obligations to take care of here in Huaráz.

My counterpart for my 3rd year as PCVL is SERNANP – Parque Nacional Huascarán (essentially the Peruvian National Park office for Huascarán National Park). As an office, we had a Chocolatada (literally a “Hot Chocolate Party”, but essentially a Christmas party) where we sang Christmas songs, drank hot chocolate with Panetón, and partook in several Christmas games which included dressing up two of the Ingenieros of the park as Sierra women. It was a good time all around.

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Within our office, my main socia is the Environmental Education specialist, and we work with an environmental youth group composed of local university students (Los Hinchas de la Conservación) who help spread Huascarán National Park’s message. We meet almost weekly with the Hinchas to hold classes, learn about different aspects of the park, and to practice our various techniques/methods to spread our messages of environmental stewardship. However, we also do fun stuff.

In talking with my socia one day, I suggested that we should hold a Christmas party with a White Elephant Gift Exchange. It took a little while to explain how a White Elephant Gift exchange works, but once she understood, she was sold. And so, on December 23rd we held our Christmas party. It was a roaring success, and the Hinchas loved the concept of a White Elephant Gift exchange. We played by my special rules where people could bring nice gifts or gag gifts, all gifts must be wrapped, and gifts could only be opened at the end of the exchange. At the beginning of the party, everyone chose a number to determine the gift selection order. It took some convincing, but I eventually convinced some Hinchas to steal gifts from their friends rather than just picking out of the gift pile. Stealing always makes a white elephant more fun. We had lots of food, danced, sang huayno, and played some Super Smash Brothers Melée.

 

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Playing Super Smash Bros. Melee

 

 

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Group photo!

 

After a day of great fun, that evening I hopped on my bus and on Christmas Eve, I met my friends at the beach. We had lots of ideas of places we could go and things we could see, but we settled on just taking lots of time to relax (and go see the new Star Wars movie, of course!). Enjoy some pics of my Christmas beach adventure in Huanchaco!

 

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Beachfront at Huanchaco

 

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Christmas dinner…we made it work (Turkey, potato chips, & guacamole)

 

 

 

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We had dinner at a nice Italian restaurant to finish up the vacation

My last Christmas in Perú was a great one. Hope you enjoyed seeing how I spent it.

 

Until next time,

MGB

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Location, Location, Location

While there are many things I enjoy about living independently in Huaráz, I think my favorite is my new view. My apartment comes with a lovely terrace area that gives an unparalleled view of the city of Huaráz and the surrounding mountains. I enjoy many a morning and evening watching the sun rise and set along the glistening peaks of Huascarán National Park. Enjoy some photos of my day-to-day view!

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Until next time,

MGB

3rd Year Update

It’s been a long, long, long time since I published a blog post, but I’m finally ready to get back in the game to keep you all updated on my last few months here in Perú with the Peace Corps. Enjoy this brief update, and the blog posts to come in the next few weeks.

Now that I am the PCVL (Peace Corps Volunteer Leader) for my region here in Perú, my life and my lifestyle have changed significantly since completing my first two years of service in Yuracoto/Caraz. This newfound independence has come with many positive changes, but also with some negative ones. As the quote goes, “you never know what you got til it’s gone”.

I enjoy many perks of my new lifestyle: having my own, slightly larger personal space, having hot water, having control of what I eat day-in and day-out, and having regular internet access. Nearly anything I could want is available at my fingertips now. However, life is a game of give-and-take, and while I enjoy many aspects of my new life, there are also some downsides. I love being able to cook for myself, but this also means I have to plan out my meals and take the time to prepare/cook them, rather than just wake up to food as was the case when I lived with my host family. Additionally, while I have regular Internet access and hot water, I no longer have a host family nor a community to which I feel strongly connected. I miss seeing my host family every day, I miss knowing all of my neighbors, I miss the conversations we would have during the day, I miss visiting my students at my schools, and I miss being constantly invited to play soccer and volleyball. It’s been weeks since I’ve played either, mainly because it is hard to meet people to regularly play with living in a city as large as Huaráz.

Honestly, while it is nice having hot water and internet, I think I would willingly give them up to return to the strong feeling of community I had during my first two years of service in Caraz/Yuracoto. When I signed on for the third year, I intellectually understood that it would be a lonelier livelihood than what I had experienced before, but I didn’t really emotionally understand it until I started it. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy with my decision to stay a 3rd year with the Peace Corps. I love my role supporting my fellow Volunteers, I love being involved in the Site Identification process for future Volunteers, and I absolutely love my work with SERNANP – Parque Nacional Huascarán. However, it is a change, and after several months, it is a change that I am finally getting accustomed to. In a way, I think this greater independence and responsibility I’ve enjoyed so far during my 3rd year will help make my eventual transition back to the U.S. much easier than if I had just returned home directly after completing my service in Caraz.

So, I’m about 8.5 months into my 13-month extension, and if all goes well, I should finally be finishing my Peace Corps service here in Perú around August 24th. However, I’m hoping to be able to explore a bit more of Perú and South America before making my return to U.S. soil after service since I haven’t traveled much during my service. If I’ve learned one thing along this journey so far, it is that people and relationships are far more important than things. A person can learn to live without certain amenities, but it is hard to live without meaningful, human contact and valuable relationships.

Until next time,

MGB