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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Gracias

On Saturday, I say good-bye to Chimbote.  I am not really sure how the end of September snuck up on me so quickly.  I find it hard to put into words exactly how I feel about my time in Peru.  What I will say is that this has been one of the best, most rewarding years of my life.  Being away from family and friends for weddings, births and family vacations was not always easy, but I think the struggles made this experience even more valuable.  I have met some of the most amazing people throughout my year.  I have been welcomed as a member of the community.  I have learned the real difference between want and need.  I have learned the value of family and creating relationships.  I have learned to just sit with someone in silence to pass the time.  I have learned that my stomach maybe is not as strong as I always thought.  I have learned how to argue in Spanish (and win!).

To the people of Chimbote, muchas gracias por todo.  No tengo las palabras para decir lo agradecida que estoy por todo lo que me han dado durante este año.  Les voy a extrañar muchisimo!  Nunca les voy a olvidar y espero que nos vemos muy pronto.

To everyone back home, thank you for your support, your prayers, your laughs, your letters and emails.  You have been just as important to me through this journey as everyone I have met in Peru.  Thank you for keeping me grounded and thank you for reminding me who I am.  This little book sums my thanks up pretty well.  I look forward to seeing you all in just a few short weeks!

Friday, September 16, 2011

(In)Dependence

P9110346Over the course of six days last week, I spent a total of 29 hours on a bus.  My host family’s grandma invited the whole family up to her pueblito for the festival of their patron saint, El Señor de los Milagros or, the Lord of miracles.  Where she lives is three hours on dirt roads from the biggest city (in which I’m sure everyone knows one another) in a tiny village called Barranco.  There are no roads, the nearest neighbor lives about a 30 minute walk away, they just got electricity within the past five years, almost everyone is family and there is no indoor plumbing.  We celebrated with the locals with mass, castillos, dancing and the vaca loca (which really is crazy).  We at five meals a day sitting in the rustic, adobe kitchen while the guinea pigs P9110348were running around, nibbling on our feet (probably because we were eating their relatives) which almost always included some sort of potato, yuca or sweet potato and pork.  While the festival was great, my favorite part of the trip was spending time with my host family and struggling to understand the grandma who talks a mile a minute.  I can’t stand the thought of having to say goodbye to them in just two short weeks.

I like to think I’m a pretty independent lady.  At least I did about a year ago.  Like a three-year-old, I was always proud when I could do things “All by self”, never needing help from anyone.  Things changed a bit when I got to Peru.  This is a culture where people rely on one another.  This is a culture where you do not even go to the grocery store by yourself.  At first, this drove me crazy.  I liked to do things on my own sometimes and I saw it as a weakness to rely on other people so frequently.  Like so, so many other things throughout this year, my opinion on independence has changed.  I now realize that this dependence on others is not a way of showing your weakness but rather, a way of showing how much you value your relationship.  When it really comes down to it, my year was all about relationships and isn’t that what life should be all about?

Congratulations to Sarah and Jeremy Orem who welcomed little Mira into the world on September 8th.  You two will be amazing parents.  I can’t wait to meet her!

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Thursday, September 1, 2011

August in Review

The month of August brought a welcome change of pace for my work and life down here.  The month started out with Amber and I FINALLY getting our visas.  A supposedly one month process ended five months later with our Peruvian residency cards and a nice P8110196stamp in our passports…just in time for our departure.  While in Lima, we picked up a group of physical therapy students from Regis University who spent a little over a week with us doing home visits, free clinics, learning about PT and health care in Peru and helping out with the international conference that Amber has been working her butt off on for the past ten months (you can read about it on her blog here).  I had a blast with this group.  Not only were they a ton of fun to be around for the week, but it was great to get a view of Peru from new eyes after being here for almost a year.  Things that I no longer think about were new, exciting and often challenging for them.  Perspective is a great thing and I feel that as my life has become more normal down here, I have lost some perspective and settled into the mentality that this is “just how it is”. 

Following the PT students, I had a quick couple days back in Chimbote to do some laundry and help out with a free clinic before heading back down to Lima to pick up a friend that was visiting.  We had a wonderful time camping at the base of Machu Picchu (which is just as breath-taking the second time around) before heading off for an Amazonian adventure.  We stayed at a lodge that is part of a conservation project in the Tambopata reserve.  If anyone ever goes to the Amazon, go here:  http://www.baltimoreperu.org.pe/.  We stayed with a family, had a local guide, got to meet lots of people, see wild macaws and parrots, and hitch a ride back to town on the local fruit taxi.  The jungle is unbelievable and if it were not for all the blasted mosquitos, I could have stayed there forever.  Thank you for a wonderful trip, Caitlin!  I had a blast!

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Living far away from home has really helped me to realize who the important people are in my life.  A week ago, on August 25th, Fr. Phil Wallace from my parish at home passed away after a long struggle with cancer.  Fr. Phil was an amazing man who truly led by example and was a great inspiration to everyone he met.  The outpouring of love shown by everyone throughout this past week is a testament to what a great man he was.  I feel endlessly blessed to have met him.  I will be forever thankful for his presence in my life.  So please, say a prayer for Fr. Phil tonight.  For anyone interested, this is a wonderful article written on him in the Seattle Times.

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