Monday, February 18, 2013

Quick visit

This last week I spent in Ann Arbor.  I only had one interview, but I am still on the wait list at 3 other schools.  The interview was a MMI or multiple mini interviews, and it wasn’t as stressful as I would have imagined.  I am very lucky that I was able to come in for any interviews at all, because it is so expensive to travel and there are a lot of restrictions on out of country travel in Peace Corps.  Let’s just say, my bosses in Lima were not too happy that I was coming back to the U.S. so soon after spending 3 weeks at Christmas out of site. 
The interview was at 8:30 am in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan which is about 2 hours from my parent’s home in Ann Arbor.  So my dad offered to drive up with me the night before and stay at Motel 8.    The whole drive up we spent talking about potential interview questions and how I should answer.  I was nervous.  I think it was partly because when I skype called all my schools the week before to remind them I would be in the U.S. and ask for interviews the response was that several just rejected me on the spot.  So I was feeling like I wasn’t such a worthy candidate.  After all, an admissions counselor at Wayne State told me that “no respectable medical school would accept someone with grades as low as yours,” and things like that stick no matter how hard to shake it off. 
The best part of going with my dad was that when we arrived in Mt. Pleasant at around 9:45pm he looked at me and said ‘we need some snacks.’  We went to the grocery store he let me pick out chips, cookies, and beer.  It’s like we are the same person sometimes.
The next day I woke up and found myself in a room full of people in suits.  I was one of 4 or 5 other candidates/interviewees that showed up not in a suit.  They stuck as all in an auditorium and let sweat for about a 15 minute wait, but it felt way longer in my head.  I could hear people all around me making small talk; an activity in which I excel and enjoy to participate in, and I just sat there in my head freaking out.  Then came a moment when the admissions people passed around a microphone and asked each of us to introduce ourselves; name, hometown, where you studied, and where you live now.  I was happy for this moment, because as nervous as I was I knew that it might intimidate the others that I flew in all the way from Peru and that I am a Peace Corps volunteer.

On some level all volunteers know that people back at home are impressed by what we do.  The secret is that we volunteers (maybe I should only speak for myself) feel like big fat fakers.  Day to day life in Peru doesn’t feel so impressive.  I came into Peace Corps thinking that I would make big changes or at least I would be able to see the difference I had made….whatever that really means.  Then you show up and you realize; the reason a country has invited Peace Corps volunteers is probably because those kind of changes are so difficult to make happen. 
That is not to say that I regret joining Peace Corps.  This week I went to my sister Jessie’s school and spoke in front of 2 classrooms about Peru and about Peace Corps.  I think they were 7th and 8th graders.  One kid; who I suspect was prompted by her teacher, asked me if I would do Peace Corps again now that I know what it is like.  Any volunteer can tell you that that is one loaded question.  On the one hand I have received this amazing once in a lifetime experience to live in another culture, learn another language, I am seeing the world from a different perspective, and I’m supposed to get to help people too. 
On the other hand I constantly feel disappointed in my accomplishments, when I am really honest with myself I feel this sort of indifference to project work sometimes and I think it is my way of not getting too invested so that when my work falls apart I don’t feel so hurt as I used to let myself feel in the beginning.  I don’t want to be a drama queen here, but that kid really got me thinking.  Why did I join the Peace Corps?  And it reminded me that I worked very hard to get here.  I spent 2 years applying to get here and now I’m here living it while complaining about how difficult it all is for me.  Isn’t that why I wanted to do this in the first place to push myself to do something challenging? 
So, now it’s year 2 and I feel like I need to really do something I can be proud of, but I also don’t want to set myself up to be disappointed.  I need to find a way to feel satisfied with the small things that I have accomplished.  And they feel very small.  However, who knows how those small things will affect someone in the future.  After all, the people that I have met in Peru have caused a profound change in me-simply by including me in their lives.  So it’s not such a stretch that I might have changed a couple people’s ideas along the way.  So my goal for myself is to think about what I have done here in a more positive way and to adjust my expectations for this year without giving up before I even try again.
Whew, sorry for all the heavy posts recently.  Here is a interesting cultural tidbit to offset the seriousness and complaining nature of the rest of the post:
The week before I came back for the interview I was hanging out with the host family and some neighbors in front of host mom Rosa's store.  The power was out so everyone was sitting and talking instead of watching television.  Host aunt Elva decided she wanted to take a ride on the neighbor's motorcycle just for fun.  A lot of people have motorcycles where I live and there are often multiple riders. 
I remember when I first got to Peru I was shocked when I saw a baby on a motorcycle.  Yes, in fact I do know that 'a baby on a motorcycle' sounds ridiculous.  Sometimes the baby is strapped to the mother's back or if the baby is a little older they can sit in front holding on to the handle bars from between the legs of the driver.  Either way it is a little scary-no longer shocking to me, but still scary.  Anyway, host aunt Elva put Iban on the motorcycle with her.  Iban is 2 years old.  He sat between her legs and griped the handle bars (is that what you call them on a motorcycle?). 
They got about a block away and just fell right over.  Don't worry no one was seriously hurt.  It was scary, but no one was injured.  According to Elva, Iban didn't lean into a turn and started to slide off so she shifted her weight to break the fall tipping over the whole bike.  Iban was scared and so his mom took him to a neighbor's house to be 'cleaned'. 
So this is where the interesting cultural tidbit comes in.  In Cajamarca most people I know are believers of modern medicine, but they also believe in curandismo to some extent.  I guess a 'curandero' would translate to 'shaman' or 'traditional healer'.  When kids are scared or upset it is common for them to be 'cleaned' by the curandero or sometimes by any old family member.  What I have seen and heard about is kids getting 'cleaned' with an egg or with a newspaper.  Someone will sort of run the egg or the newspaper over the kids body while saying-from what I can tell-prayers.  The bad energy will leave the child and go into the egg or newspaper. 
Curandismo is not really big here in the mountains, but on the coast it is much more formative presence.  I have heard about getting 'cleaned' with a guinea pig, which sounds kind of fun to me if not a little uncleanly. 
Chau for now and thanks for reading,
*here are some pictures of my visit to Bambamarca at the end of January and a few from February.
making tamales for dinner in San Juan

the ladies helped me perfect my husk filling methods

this is where my previous host family makes cheese, with Dalila, Witman, and Eduar

Eduar's got Peace Corps and Michigan swag

goofing off with the cheese molds

waiting for a car down to Bambamarca

Some of my extended host family from Tacabamba lives in Lima and generously let me stay with them on my to the states for the interviews.  Host mom Rosa sent me with a package for little Sergio-I was surprised to find that it had an entire pig skin wrapped up inside.

I brought back Michigan shirts for all my host sibs (both families) after my visit home at Christmas

Dad and I went to Detroit during my week home

Detroit feels so big after Tacabamba

I thought the buildings were beautiful

behind me is Canada

We went downtown to see the Detroit Golf Show or something like that, it was pretty bad.  The auto show is definitely more fun.  Although there was a guy who my dad has seen on the golf channel talking about swing theory.  I mostly enjoyed walking around downtown and spending time with my dad. 

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