A true friend is the greatest of all blessings. Meet Adrienne, a fellow Peace Corps Peru 23 business volunteer who spent her two years of service in the cute coastal town of Moche. Her resume includes expert listener, sturdy shoulder to cry on, and delicious brownie baker… as well as IBM consultant, super volunteer and future Peace Corps director. Basically I would not have made it the whole two years without her support!
Even though our sites were almost six hours apart, some of my fondest memories took place in her town and with her host family. Support is a key to success as a volunteer and the “government issued friends” you make during training turn into your lifelines and family throughout service.
Here are some highlights of Moche days and a little peek into some of the amazing projects Adrienne facilitated during her 27 months of service:
Community Bank Panel and FBT for Peru 27
Adrienne helped facilitate numerous community banks for groups of adults and kids. She taught them how to save as a group and take out micro-loans to complete income generating activities or make life improvements. The groups worked so well that some of the parents decided it would be a great thing for their kids to learn about, so they formed a Saturday morning kids bank with children as young as 4 years old.
As part of the field based training for Peru 27 Adrienne organized a discussion panel with various members of the community banks to talk about the benefits and challenges of the program. My favorite part was watching the elderly representative from the nursing home bank fall asleep in her chair while one of the other guys was talking.
That Moche day also included a delicious breakfast at one of the small businesses Adrienne works with, a group of women who run a small restaurant to make money for the little school next door.
Weddings and Birthdays
Having a home away from home is priceless during the Peace Corps experience and I found a home with Adrienne’s family in Moche. It just so happens that her host dad is originally from Contumaza, my PC town, so we hit it off from the start. They opened their doors, their kitchen and their hearts to one more gringa and I am forever grateful for that.
When their oldest daughter got married Adrienne was recruited to be the “brownie slave” and make over 400 brownie bites from scratch. Then I was recruited to come in a few days early to help craft, and then we all ended up cutting tree branches and flowers until a few minutes before the ceremony started. It was such a fun locura, and we earned our night of Peruvian dancing and celebration by the end of it.
I also celebrated my 24th birthday in Moche and when we decided to stop by Adrienne’s house for a quick second, her family quickly turned it into a live music show with guitars and singing.
One of the most impressive accomplishments of a PCV is the ability to integrate with a host family, and Adrienne never ceased to amaze me. The way she handled the difficult times, shared cultural experiences with her host family, and really became one more daughter is not an easy thing to do.
Batan Mochero Restaurant
The majority of my Moche memories include delicious food, as Moche is known for is gastronomy, and my restaurant of choice is the Batan Mochero. Adrienne decided to venture to the outskirts of town throughout her service and worked with restaurants close to the tourist archeological site, among these was the Batan Mochero. It is a family run restaurant in the farmlands that prides itself on using the batan, a Peruvian way of grinding peppers with a giant rock, and fresh ingredients. The ceviche is to die for and they make a vegetarian version of a Peruvian classic called Ají de Huevo.
The couple has one daughter, two if you count Adrienne, and they worked with Adrienne to improve marketing, their menu, and various other aspects of the business. They would travel into the town of Moche to participate in classes as a family and became star students. It was so fun to explore their farm and get to practice using the batan.
It was so obvious that they consider Adrienne a part of the family. I mean look at that mother-daughter kitchen bonding going on in the photo below! The giant stone Adrienne is using to crush ají is called a batan.
English for Tourism Class
As an English speaking person in a Spanish speaking country, the number one thing we are asked to do by everyone we meet is teach English. This is not one of the goals of Peace Corps Peru so we generally try to steer away from becoming the resident English teacher. After months and months of requests Adrienne found a way to incorporate English into the economic development goals by compromising with an English for Tourism class for local artisans, restaurants, tour guides and business owners.
She worked with the municipality to teach basic greetings, common directional questions, and product or menu specific vocabulary. I happened to be in town on the day of their final project presentations and it was very impressive! All of the class participants had to translate their menu, product advertisements, or catalogs into English and then give a welcome speech and talk about what they were offering to a pretend tourist. All of the projects were perfected and are now used in the actual restaurants and businesses around town.
At the end of the presentations the municipality presented all of the participants with certificates and showed off their products on a table. One restaurant owner even brought a plate (fuente) of ceviche and cecina to share with the group! If you notice, the Batan Mochero family made up a third of the class. They even went a step further and posted their English menu to the Batan Mochero Facebook fan page.
It is not everyday that you meet a volunteer who is willing to give up their Saturdays, put their community needs before everything else, and work through integration and cultural adaptation so seamlessly. This is just a small peek into the incredible service of Adrienne and you can read more on her blog, Human Denominator.
Her spirit, town, family and work ethic was a big factor in my success as a volunteer and I am forever grateful for that. I know it is just the beginning and I can’t wait to see all of the amazing things Adrienne accomplishes as a Return Peace Corps Volunteer!