A week of trial and error, I’ve done my best to be open and keep going when I just don’t feel like it. There have been some cultural clashes. Little things, when I just feel so clueless; moments that make me uncomfortable because I just can’t do anything about what is happening, and it feels so strange. My body is doing alright, my stomach is becoming accustomed to the food, mostly potatoes and rice, but I’m beginning to cook for myself a little. Today is market day in the nearest city and I plan on taking advantage of this to get some fresh green veggies, I sure need those. I’ve been lonely. Each day I make a point to get out and explore, meet various people, have conversations. This occupies me for part of the time, and then I’m back in my room, with only myself and my wits to keep me company. My host family has been great, but the reality is that they work all day and come home after sun-down to prepare meals and eat. I spend time with them during mealtimes and we chat a bit. My role in the family is yet to be determined. I’m part child, part guest, part stranger; this will take some time to develop.
A major challenge at this point is trust. I know that some of the people I meet are trustworthy, genuine, and positive people. Some are not. But it is difficult to distinguish; in Peru people have a tendency to be very inviting and friendly in their initial encounters. They’ll give me some fruit to take with me or invite me into their homes, but this doesn’t always mean they are sincere. Some are being friendly only to “get some dirt” on you that they can tell their neighbors about. Unfortunately, this is something I’m waking up to. I’m an anomaly; there have been some foreigners in this district from the mines, cell-phone companies, and religious organizations, so it’s important that I explain who I am and why I am actually here. There was even a rumor going around that I was from a driving school here to teach people to drive! No sir, that’s not my purpose.
At any rate, my days are also filled with many moments of wonder and excitement. I climb the mountains slopes and look out towards Huascaran and Copa Grande and am reminded of why I am here, and how special a place this is. The challenges may never go away per se, but it’ll get easier. Staying in touch with my fellow volunteers and hearing news from home will help remind me that I am not alone here, that I have support; and eventually bonds will grow with the people of this community, helping me to call this place home.