1,000 days later she understands that the greatest gift of all was not the chance to travel, but the chance to find life in a small town in the Northern Andes of Peru. The donkey races and pick-up soccer games. The lunch invitations that turned into hour hikes into the campo and all night parties. The process of culture shock and learning the art of enjoying alone time. The delicious new flavors and the custom of offering a meal to every visitor, even when you have no food to offer. Finding the human connection and the art of understanding foreign customs. Showering them with kindness and using love as a universal language. Turning the “fish bowl” into an opportunity to be an example, with the hopes of making a small change in life of someone somewhere, and at the same time knowing that she could not help everyone everywhere.
During my two years living in Peru I have witnessed one too many times, verbal abuse, expectations to be waited on hand and foot, expectations that the woman will take charge of the child’s every need, and many more examples of everyday machismo. That is why this Peruvian Profile goes out to the greatest Peruvian father I’ve ever met, Wilder, a change agent and example to his friends and extended family. The greatest part is that he doesn’t know it… He just does it.
The connection I have formed with Peruvians in my community is the greatest gift I will take away from this entire experience. My co-workers at the municipality who made me eat papa rellena and dance with them for a month before they trusted me to participate in projects, the 24 year old girl who is my “chat about boys and life” best friend, and the countless women who make sure I am fed, have a seat at the town donkey races and who treat me as their own daughter… those are the connections that I cannot quantify on any report.
It was crowded by people just like me. Everyone congratulated one another and it was like a small family of hikers who had achieved their goal. People canon-balled into the glacier water and other carried out the tradition of the “naked lake jump.” I was happy for them. I was happy for me. We were forever bonded together as a random group of humans who joined the Peace Corps.
They also latched on to the concept of being role models and empowering the women around them, which was so exciting to hear! Peru is going through a crucial change nationally in regards to gender equality and women´s rights, which makes our work in IGAs for women that much more important.