So ... I got home on Thanksgiving Day, and I'm sorry to admit that I've neglected wrapping up my story. Perhaps it was because I wasn't quite ready to see it close. Or maybe it was sheer exhaustion -- who knows. But I owe some closure at the very least to those who have checked back in with me and followed my adventure in Peru.
Below is the last e-mail I sent after I'd been home for a few weeks. It was the first time that I allowed myself to pause and reflect on what had just happened.
I'm now a full month into my first semester at Tulane University's School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, where I'm studying for my masters degree in health education and communication. Every day I'm finding my experience in Peru more applicable to my courses, and I'm starting to realize how much my service in PC has shaped me as an adult and chilled me out as a person. New Orleans is an entirely different challenge. But many would say it's not too far from the Peruvian truth, and I look forward to finding that out.
Anyway, thank you for following me when you have. Please feel free to look me up if you're ever in the Big Easy.
Cuídate mucho. Take Care.
I'm sitting at my parents' dining room table. There's two feet of
accumulated snow outside the window, and the windchill is supposed to be -14
today. I couldn't feel further from the hot, dusty, Peruvian town I once
I've had a month to adjust back to the U.S. I arrived Thanksgiving Day,
where I went straight from the airport to a house full of relatives and
delicious food. It was my first real Thanksgiving in three years, and I ate
my weight in my uncle's venison jerky and mashed potatoes with white gravy.
The whole thing was surreal. It was like I had pressed pause on the remote,
left to go out for an errand, and pressed play again. Little had changed,
like I had never left. And yet, a lot is different. People got married, had
babies, a new president was elected and sworn-in. The country is not the
same as when I left it two years ago.
Even so, as far as culture shock goes, I think I have gotten off easy. No
panic attacks in the grocery store over which cereal to choose. No long
nights curled up in my bed, weeping. Mostly it has been quiet reflection, a
gratefulness that I had the opportunity, and a sadness that it is now behind
Some culture shock has not escaped me, however:
I suppose I could also go on a diatribe about the small shocks of watching
- Tap water is amazing. Did you know how awesome it is to have 1. running water ALL DAY and 2. water that is already clean?! You don't have to do anything with it. You don't have to sit and wait for it to boil, and then subsequently cool. You don't have to put it in a plastic bottle and have it sit on your roof for six hours under a hot sun. You don't have to filter it or add chlorine. It's READY MADE. How COOL is that?
- Our politicians are absolutely crazy. I have no idea what is going on with our government, and I'm wondering if anyone really does. There's so much fighting and rhetoric and loudly voiced opinions with questionable foundation on both sides. And oh, hey -- Sarah Palin has a TV show now? When did that happen??
- And what's with everyone always being on their phones? It's a wonder ERs aren't full of people who have run into walls, fallen into manholes or gotten into wrecks because they wouldn't look up from that little touchscreen.
- Also, how did animal hats, pantsless outfits and these "snuggies" become trendy?
America at its height of consumerism. I won't though. We know how fortunate
we are ... And while I imagine it is always good to have a wake-up call, I
won't preach. We are a nation of wanters, takers and buyers. But we also
give. And although Christmas is a time of greed, I saw a lot of compassion
and giving this year, despite hard economic times. And that's something.
In a few days I will be on a plane to New Orleans, where my low-key
transition period will come to a screeching halt, and I'll start my next
adventure at Tulane University's School of Public Health. There, I will get
my masters in Health Education and Communication -- a good way to combine my
journalism and Peace Corps experiences. My life is already packed into two
medium-sized suitcases and a single carry-on. I'm ready to go.
When we were closing our service, a friend asked me this question: What
would I do if I were to wake up on the plane from Miami to Lima to discover
that the past two years had been only a dream?
My initial thought was panic.
It had been two years, two months and 12 days since I left the U.S. to live
in Peru. During that time my feelings flew across the board. I hated Peace
Corps, loved it, lamented it, relished it.
The past six months were some of the greatest of my life. I met some
incredible people, saw amazing things, and I had never felt more at home in
my work. I left Peru with a red, splotchy face and a lot of tears. It was
intense and at times overwhelming, and while I'm grateful to have done it, I
don't know if I'd really want to rewind and do it all a second time. At
least not yet anyway.
Thank you to all who sent me care packages and notes of encouragement. They
kept me smiling when I needed to and reminded me of what great people were
waiting for me back home. Please keep in touch, and if you're ever in New
Orleans, please let me know.
Un fuerte abrazo.
Cuídense mucho (take care),