Site Assignment and Exploration

The moment we’ve all been waiting for!

Well, before we talk about Site Assignment Day, we wanted to share a few of the fun cultural activities we’ve done over the last few weeks.

One of our favorites was at the end of Week 6 when our languages classes worked in teams to prepare and present typical Peruvian dishes to our staff, competition-style. The only thing we were given was a photo of our assigned dish, and it was up to us to identify the dish and its ingredients, go the market to purchase the items, use the staff kitchen to cook the food, and give a short presentation about the background of the dish. Oh, and we were only given 20 Soles (about $6) and two hours to complete everything! Needless to say, it was a crazy fun morning, between all the groups using all areas of the kitchen, to the taste-testing of all our dishes. It was an awesome bonding experience! Andrew’s team made stuffed plantain dumplings and Bryan’s made yuca with a pico de gallo-esqe topping. Neither of our teams won, though (the corn-and-cheese-on-a-stick team was the champion, highly controversial), but everything tasted great! Most teams were able to veganize their dishes for us to try, which we really appreciated 😊 Some pics of everyone cooking their dishes:

We also had the chance to travel back to downtown Lima to visit the LUM, or Museum of Memory and Tolerance. Dedicated to the remembrance of the domestic terrorism that Peru dealt with in the 80s and 90s, it serves as an icon and inspiration for worldwide peace and justice. It was a very sobering experience, as we learned about the little-known genocide of Quechua-speaking natives in the highlands during this time, as well as all the political corruption that came with it. What stood out to us, however, was the display of resiliency and courage by the Peruvian people to overcome this extreme adversity. It truly was an honor to have learned about this side of Peru’s past in such an impactful way. Some pics from the museum:

Well, before we knew it, the day was here! All 55 of us gathered for the big reveal – who as being placed in what region, and who else was going with them. We have officially been assigned to the coastal region of La Libertad, a location similar to the one we visited during FBT only two weeks ago! As soon as it was all over, we immediately began taking all kinds of pictures with each other and sharing all the details: how far are we, is it coast/highland/jungle, how long is your bus ride, all that fun stuff. Now that we had this new and exciting information, it was time to actually visit our sites for the first time. Site Exploration, as it is formally called, is a two-week period during which trainees spend time getting to know their permanent site – host families, work counterparts, regional transportation, things like that. Like FBT, it went by in a flash, but here are some highlights from our Site Exploration!

Perú 33 excited to have their new site assignments!

For safety and security reasons, we aren’t allowed to share the exact location of our permanent site placement, but, we can tell you that it’s coastal, flat, warm, and sunny! Not really a walk-to-the-beach type of situation, though one of our colleagues has been placed literally on the beach (definitely visiting you, Madison!). We are incredibly grateful for this placement for many reasons, which we’ll touch on in just a bit, but one of those is the fact that the coastal climate means that rainy season won’t be nearly as severe here as you might experience in the jungle. Buena suerte, Amazonas friends!

Traveling to our site requires a (relatively) long bus ride, which we are no stranger to from our time in India. 10 hours overnight? No problem. Especially since the fancy seats transform into fully flat “beds”! Basically like a business-class seat on any major airline, but for like literally $30. A great way to start our trip! Below you’ll find some pics of our site, new house, some friends we made, and our new host mom that we’ll be living with for the next two years! She’s an absolute sweetheart 🙂

Comfy in our lie-flat seats on the 10-hour ride to Trujillo from Lima
Smiling and feeling super excited to have met our new host mom at Host Family Day 🙂

As we mentioned earlier, our site makes us feel right at home, and in some ways, even a bit more comfortable. Why do you ask? Not because we have hot water or anything like that (we don’t, in case you were wondering), but because of our acceptance as a same-sex couple working and living together. This is an incredibly open-minded province, as our mayor is openly gay (and was elected after he came out!), and there is even an anti-discrimination ordnance that protects sexual orientation. Because of the fact that we legally have the privilege of being protected under the law (something that isn’t guaranteed in many US states even today), our minds are at ease and we foresee no issues living and working here. We consider that an amazing blessing and gift, and we could not be more grateful to the Peace Corps staff for identifying such a perfect fit for us!

If you’d like to learn more about our experience as a same-sex couple working for the Peace Corps or about our experience in general, be sure to check out our FAQ page, and feel free to send us a message with any questions you may have!

You may be wondering what sort of work opportunities are in store for us here in site. To start, we’ll mention that Peace Corps Peru outlines a schedule for our entire service with key dates and deadlines for completing certain objectives. These deadlines almost always correspond with in-service training conferences. Our first in-service training event is scheduled for mid-September, which gives us three months to complete our first objective: community diagnostics. How will we complete these diagnostics, and with whom, you may ask? First, it’s important to mention that our work is divided into three main areas, as highlighted below, so as to gain a comprehensive understanding of the water system issues in our community:

  1. Inspect water system infrastructure
    • Assess physical risks
  2. Evaluate management tools and strategy
    • Assess personnel capacity
  3. Conduct household sanitary surveys
    • Assess health risks

Long story short, the first three months in site are used to gather data that allows us to form a sort of risk matrix, which we will train community members on how to create and use. We will also organize training and capacity building sessions that enhance the community’s ability to identify for themselves which risks they would like to address, how they would like to do it, and how long they want that process to take. Throughout everything we do, we are constantly engaging with and including input from community members. Why? Did someone say “sustainability”? Exactly! This is why Peace Corps positions last for two years – sustainability and behavior change are not things you can just implement overnight. We’re in it for the long haul, and our counterparts are extremely excited to start working with us. We spent lots of time getting to know them and formalizing our work plan over these two weeks, and we cannot wait to return permanently at the end of the month!

For now, it’s back to Lima for our last two weeks of training. It’s hard to believe we’ll be swearing in so soon! We have lots to prepare for, so we’ll check back with you guys soon. Thanks for sticking with us through this long post. Cheers!

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