And it felt like that decision was selfish and there is this embarrassment I feel for being a quitter. However, having spent a lot of time thinking about the decision I know it is the right one for me. Leaving Peru is difficult, but the prospect of staying here for 4 months longer just to stay doesn’t seem worth it. When I talked with the director of Peace Corps Peru I told him I felt ‘defeated’ and that I just didn’t feel like I could start over from nothing again. Going back to school and going home certainly factored into my decision too. I just want to feel happy with my work again and I don’t think things will change in the next 4 months here.
I just spent my last week in Tacabamba. It hasn’t really sunk in that I probably will never see this place or these people again. I went to go visit my first host family recently. I didn’t stay for long, because it was too hard. When I first got to Peru I was helpless; I couldn’t express myself, I didn’t know how things worked, I got sick all the time, I was scared and lonely, but that family took care of me. Those people opened not only their home, but their family to me and I got to be a part of their lives for my time here. I had been dreading going to visit them for a while-since I made the call to my boss in Lima. I had to go thank my family for including me in their lives, loving me, and also make it clear that we may never see each other again.
I had prepared these little speeches to tell each family member how much they mean to me. I told my host brother and little cousin that they are important, intelligent, and that I am sure that they will achieve whatever they set their minds to in the future. People don’t really say those things so much here and I felt like it was important for them to hear it from me. I told them I was proud to be their sister, daughter, niece, and friend. We all cried.
I arrived on a Friday afternoon. Witman, Eduar, and I awkwardly hung around not talking about my leaving playing Frisbee and helping carry baskets of bread from the host grandparent’s adobe oven. We wanted to bake a cake, but the electric oven wasn’t working and the wood oven had cooled. We all ate dinner and after we watched the Peru vs. Ecuador soccer game. The next morning I taught my host mom how to make pancakes. And then I tried to leave, because I knew the longer I stayed the more difficult it would be. I gave my little speeches at my host family’s house, my host aunt and uncle’s house, and my host grandparent’s house (they all live close on the same little block) I kept getting choked up. The worst part was after all the goodbye’s there were no cars to leave. So I just sat waiting with my host aunt my eyes all red and wiping snot from myself. My host brother gave me a piece of bread while I was waiting and I asked him if he wanted to sit with me. He told me ‘no, it’s too difficult,’ and walked away.
I think part of the reason-and I don’t want to diminish the relationship formed with my host family- that the bonds are so strong is that when a volunteer arrives they are in such a completely vulnerable place. These deep connections are formed out of a basic necessity for human relationships. And yes, my host family would annoy me because we would have the same conversations over and over again. There wasn’t a whole lot we had in common so we had to work with what we could share; it was often jokes with us. We laughed a lot and every night after dinner my host mom Dalila and I would dance outside in the dark. Dalila has a huge crazy inappropriate made up vocabulary, her own personal ‘jerga’ or ‘slang’ she calls it.
I was really careful to use my subjunctive tense grammar to express that I don’t know when or if I will be able to visit. That was the question they asked me again and again ‘you’re not going to forget us are you, when are you going to visit?’ My host grandfather got very defensive, because last year a previous volunteer that lived with them promised to visit and he was unable to follow through on the promise. They were crushed. Although now that I have been thinking about the whole scenario I’m not so sure that is exactly what happened. I did not ever really confirm that this guy did promise to visit; I just heard it second hand from them. And things can easily get lost in translation.
This last week in site I spent a lot of time hiding. It wears you down to tell people over and over that you are leaving to be met with questions such as; ‘you won’t forget us will you?’ ‘why don’t you just stay here,’ and ‘what was your job here anyways?’ There is this snap opportunity for you to make the last impression on the people here; they will either remember me as the girl who left early because A) she wasn’t acostumbrada (accustomed), B) she doesn’t like us/this place/ and/or she is only here for money (I think they think I make money at this job), C) she worked here and liked living here/us/our country. It’s a lot of pressure.
Also I get a lot of demands. People complain to me about how they haven’t heard from the previous volunteer since she left in November. WHAT??? Why would she keep in contact with every acquaintance she made here? And yet that is the expectation that people have sometimes. I think because we (volunteers) are seen as having the ability to be mobile there is this idea that we can just travel back to rural northern Peru whenever we want to just to come visit. And no matter how many times I repeat how expensive the flights are, or how long and hard it is to travel so far, or how I hope to have a job/be a home owner/have a family the impression is burned into everyone’s minds that if I don’t visit them in their future it is because I forgot them.
I can’t exactly explain why that is such a painful thing for me to imagine. The idea of leaving family, neighbors, friends, colleagues, acquaintances behind all believing that I just forgot them or that I didn’t care about them stresses me out. So sorry for being a drama queen, but moving internationally is a little emotionally exhausting, bah!
When I started giving my things away I decided to give what I like to call my ‘big ticket items’; my dresser, book shelf, water heater, the basins I use to wash laundry, to the women that work in my host family’s restaurant. I figured they don’t have as much as my family and they could really use the stuff. They took everything I laid out, including some socks and underwear that I personally considered unsalvageable and was planning to throw away. However, when my host mom found out that I was giving my dresser and bookcase away to Dena and Miguelina she was kind of upset. She came by my room to ask me what I was doing with my dresser and before I could answers she said ‘I thought that was for my Yossy, I wanted her to have it for her room,’ and I had to tell her I had already promised to give it to her employees. She sort of lingered outside my door for a while. I felt very uncomfortable and proceeded to try to call any volunteer friend I could think of. Finally one picked up and I thought maybe I would appear to be busy so my host mom would walk away.
The weird part of all this is that I felt strangely guilty as if I owed my host family that stuff. Even Migue and Dena when they were going through my stuff where all sneaky about it and wanted to hide it from Rosa. So I caused a lot of drama between my host mom and her employees. I found out later that Dena told Rosa off when Rosa asked them about my giving them the furniture. Also that Rosa told Miguelina; who is a 20 year old girl from a small town with no electricity 4 hours walking distance whose mother has epilepsy and cannot work so Miguelina never finished high school because she left to make money to support her younger siblings and is now doing a correspondence class to get her high school diploma while she works all day at the restaurant, that she should pay for a ‘going away/goodbye’ or despedida for me since she would make money off my dresser. So Miguelina was too nervous to come to the party that Rosa and my host sister Yanet put on for me, because she was worried they would ask her to pay for the food or drinks.
I just feel really sad that my host mom treated these women like that. Why does she need to bully a 20 year old girl when she has a successful restaurant, store, her own home, 2 of her kids went to college and work as professionals. I think that because Miguelina is uneducated and she is from a small community in the campo she is considered to be less than someone from town. I know my host mom is not a monster; in fact she is a generally nice lady. I guess I cannot please everyone-no matter how hard I try someone’s feelings are going to get hurt in all this leaving business.
I feel so lucky that I have such a loving wonderful Peruvian family as well as my American one. They helped me to cope with the loneliness and the difficulties of find my way in a foreign world. On some level that is what Peace Corps is all about; forming relationships. So at least I did well at that part of the job. I am happy to be on my way back to the USA and sad for leaving my host country. The guilt hold of being an ‘early terminating’ (i.e. quitter) volunteer is slowing falling away.
See everyone soon. Thanks for reading and chau for now,
|This is my host uncle, cousin, and brother snuggled up to watch the futbol game when I visited my old site last week.|
|With my host mom Rosa and sister Yossy at the despedida party they threw for me|
|host dad Sergio and Manuel bought the first caja of beer of the night|
|Diamonte dancing with my host sis Janne|
|with my host bro|
|dancing up a storm|
|I love the circle dancing at parties-I'm totally bringing that back to the US|
|with my best Tacabambino friend Manuel!|
|he was probably telling me a joke|
|my host brother took this one while I was starting to fall asleep in my chair|