Buzzfeed: Jacqueline’s 12 months in Andahuaylillas

I have a secret….I’m obsessed with Buzzfeed. I love the diversity of articles, it’s open to everyone’s voice, it has lists and quizzes that tell me which Chinese takeout food I am (General Tso’s because of my ‘terrific energy’), it keeps me updated on what the kids talk about and it is a healthy mix of everything. Since we are at the end of the 12 days of Christmas and having been in Peru for over 12 months, I find it fitting to make a list of 12–12 things I learned, experienced or felt during this past year of becoming a JV in Andahuaylillas:

1. This year brought so much learning, joy, laughter, slow realizations, leaning into the present, knowledge, questions…etc. It was a tremendous year of growth. It was a year where the people around me and the JV experience required a deep look inward at myself, the good, the not so good, and my desires for the future. It was the year I physically and metaphorically bumped my head into a lot of doorways.

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SO MUCH GROWTH (I don’t fit into the door frames)

2. I learned about natural remedies and preventitives this year for just about every problem I faced!

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Learning a lot…Especially how to clean ears!

3. I quickly learned that I am not perfect, and any illusions or dreams I had some were quickly thrown out the window. Within that, I learned to not take myself so seriously. My secret desires of becoming the next ‘Freedom Writers’ teacher were blown out the window this year…. Example: I had my students study a bit about world religions. Yet, somehow they translated the Buddhist idea of finding Nirvana into Kurt Cobain and the Seattle band for religion class. Takeaway: I found good people that quite bluntly taught me humility, but with a barrel of laughs along the way.

Ironic, right?

4. This year, I learned that calzon does not ONLY translate to calzone, but also underwear. So, when people were asking me if I had tried cuy* before and I was responding that I had in a calzon, the weird looks they were giving me were valid. No, I have not tried cuy in underwear, but rather cuy in the roll-up pizza.

My original explanation of having tried Cuy..
My original explanation of having tried Cuy**..

5. I learned a lot about the physics of vapor…Specifically with how much force and speed they can leave pressure pots. I actually got a first hand glance of this as it exploded into my face!

6. We really got into Bachata music videos…

7. I saw some incredible mountains up close and personal. There are fewer more humbling things on this earth than standing at the base of a 21,000 foot mountain, listening to the creaks and groans of its glacier shifting.

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8. That at the end of the day, nothing matters more than time spent together. Quality time, without distractions. But rather, time spent basking in the beauty and complexity of the person in front of me.

9. That selfie sticks are….something else. I get that there can be great things on sticks: marshmallows, corndogs, mailboxes, ice cream bars, golf clubs, etc. But cameras? Really?

2014, the year of the selfie stick. 

10. Potatoes and Corn have the potential to be really quite tasty

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***

11. Frozen is the best Disney movie since Lion King.

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12. That compassion and forgiveness are essential, and far too uncommon. That justice is slow, but is contagious. That education is the thing that needs the most investment. That I have learned many of the ways that I hope to keep growing. That at the end of the day, all you can do is laugh at yourself and shake a leg.

*Guinea Pig

**Photo Cred (and if you’re into this sort of thing): http://furaddictionstore.com/products/piggy-panties

***Photo cred: https://www.flickr.com/photos/joe3po/4280126262/?rb=1

Status: Six Months and the Living is Good

It’s been a little over six months since I left the good ol’ town of Spokane and headed down south for the good ol’ town of Andahuaylillas. Though small in size, Andahuaylillas has been a BIG change for me in just about everything. But it’s also demonstrated to me that there are shared values, struggles, and dreams in humanity across the world…which is a humbling and steadying realization (more on that later).

My experience so far has lived in an odd dichotomy, influenced by the learning curve of transitioning, cultural adaption, and slow and steady realizations. Freedom, yet with control. Control, yet with freedom. Realizing the openness and opportunity to engage in each day, but the limits of what culture and work-site politics allow me to do.

The mornings are full of juggling hope and doubt for the coming day. Some nights, I go to bed with the idea of “I’m going to be here for another 18 months!!” Other nights…the emphasis is quite contrary. “I’m going to be here for ANOTHER 18 months???”

Some days, I miss the comforts of a Stumptown cup of coffee and a Northwest berry pastry. Other days, I’m content to have a piece of pan huaro and Nestle cup of coffee with evaporated milk. Sometimes, I realize that I’m legitimately in a relationship with crunchy Peanut Butter. Our long distance relationship (LDR) is challenging and leaves my taste buds longing for something I just can’t have. Other days, I stuff my face with popcorn or potatoes and it’s no sweat (I swear…you’ve never had potatoes until you’ve had Peruvian potatoes).

There are days where I miss the access to the news, the conversations around world events and the stimulation of getting into a heated difference of opinion. Other days, Justin Bieber gets arrested or Tracy Morgan is in a car accident and I’m so grateful that I don’t have access to newspapers or television or internet as freely as I did.

Some nights, I SO DEEPLY DESIRE a fireplace to sit in front of and play Sudoku. And then there are days where wool socks and alpaca blankets work their weighty magic with their fuzziness. Side note, currently we are in the dry, winter season, and with no heating in the house, I often catch myself daydreaming about this one.

Then there are the days that I associate with certain foods or activities…Like pie with Christmas, or green bean casserole for Easter; grilled veggies and burgers and good beer (meat or bean) for the kickoff of summer. But these desires are relatively surface level, because more than anything when I start thinking about these, I miss the people and the places that house these memories.

But I also am extremely grateful for the time away. I’d like to think I’m growing in ways that I previously only had little time for. For example, I love to cook. And I’ve gotten to spend a fair amount of time throwing things together in the kitchen. I’m improving at playing the guitar, writing, and doing pushups thanks to one Yoga video and one Jillian Michaels video. I’ve become addicted to Game of Thrones, and now get to read a lot more for fun—from Tina Fey to Barbara Kingsolver to David Duncan (everyone who is from the Northwest, go read ‘The River Why’).

Here, the world is a vacuum. Andahuaylillas is Andahuaylillas…the Quispicanchi Valley is its own entity. Not many things besides the tour busses pierce the bubble that it is. World War III could start up and no one would move an inch. It’s provided immense time to reflect and get to know myself better, while also getting to know the day to day life here. Patience has not only become a virtue, but a necessary way to live life because one would go bonkers without it.

Maybe most importantly in these last six months is how my definition of success has changed. The definition and standard that I legitimately and internally hold myself to has been reshaped.  As my program coordinator put it, this is not an environment that facilitates success. The resources, the discrimination, the history here make obtaining the success that I have been used to much more challenging to obtain. My success-oriented self struggles with observing and feeling this, and at times, the powerlessness around it is debilitating.

In the times though that these moments are overwhelming or I’m just feeling a little bummed out, I find myself needed to step back from the loneliness it provides. While I entered into my time here seeking to accompany people, I didn’t expect them to be the ones accompanying me on my journey. My friends, students, and co-workers seem to lift me up relentlessly. I am gently reminded of the necessity of interdependency in human relationships through them.

So….Six month status update? Doing fine, and slowly sinking into the reality of my life here, not just a service commitment. Peanut Butter and all that air at sea level are missed dearly, but the sunrises and mountains are pretty incredible. I feel incredibly lucky to be here and look forward to the surprises, the frustrations, and the joys that the next 18 months hold for me. And while the dichotomy is a strange thing to stand in front of and hold, I know that the people and places I call home are doing fine without me.