The Big Day is here!
Our 11 weeks of training are coming to a close, and we are ready to officially swear-in as Volunteers!
The weekend before the swearing-in ceremony, we gathered at the training center for a day-long potluck and pool party to celebrate our accomplishments. It was a much-needed break after an incredibly busy Week 10 full of reports, presentations, activities, and more. We organized ourselves in groups based on what US region we’re from to cook dishes from our areas back home. We didn’t realize how much we all missed American food! In addition to the potluck, there were plenty of games, volleyball, and it even got warm enough to use the pool (it’s technically winter here, but nothing like we’re used to back home!). We took some time to make small gifts for our host families and began signing cards for our fellow future volunteers here in 33. We also began painting a mural of Peru surrounded by our handprints, a fitting symbol for our upcoming service. It was starting to hit us that this was going to be our last big event all together in the same place, and we made sure to make the absolute most of it. Some of our best memories of training were made on this day, and we couldn’t be more grateful to be part of such a special group!
One of our last big events in Week 11 before swearing in was a big presentation to all our host families about our Site Exploration. We were divided into groups by region and spoke about things like typical dishes (with samples!), common phrases, hand-drawn maps complete with where we will be living for the next two years, and more. Each group also performed a baila unique to their own region. Our host families loved it! Afterwards, we were informed that that day was also a traditional Andean holiday called El Dia de Campesino. It signifies the Andean New Year and is celebrated by decorating a medium-sized tree with gifts and then taking turns chopping it down with a machete. Everyone got to take a swing! We had lots of fun singing and dancing (or at least attempting to) all afternoon, and when the tree came crashing down, everyone rushed to claim their gift. Not surprisingly, the adults seemed more excited about getting gifts than their kids (we can relate to that one). Overall it was a wonderful way to spend time integrating and having fun with our Lima host families and the Peace Corps staff.
Peace Corps service is all about flexibility and open-mindedness. Many of us have pushed ourselves outside our comfort zone during training in preparation for service. That being said, it is a perfect time to try something completely new and different for yourself. In our case, we took it upon ourselves, with our awesome friend Shakira, to sing the National Anthem at the swearing-in ceremony! We spent lots of time the week before practicing, because even though Bryan has singing experience, Andrew and Shakira don’t! It was honestly a bit nerve-racking at first but we got the hang of it. We soon realized the magnitude of our decision – that an interracial same-sex couple and a black woman would be singing the National Anthem at a major event. We were overwhelmed with pride for the honor and privilege to represent our country in such a way. When the day came, we pulled it off without a hitch!
The Peace Corps falls under the responsibility of the US Embassy, which sends a representative to the ceremony to conduct the official oath and swear us in. The ceremony started a bit late as we awaited the arrival of the Deputy Chief of Mission from Lima. Normally the Ambassador would attend, but he was on vacation, leaving the DCM as chief of command. As he read the oath and we repeated after him, we all became a bit emotional; it was hitting us that all of our hard work, not just in training but throughout the last year and a half (applications, interviews, legal and medical clearances, and for many of us, reassignment) was about to pay off. There were some tears, but more tears were to come because we followed the oath with the Peace Corps Pledge. The Pledge ends with “…I am a Peace Corps Volunteer,” and that’s when the tears started flowing. We were ready for this moment, and many of us have been waiting for it for several years. We felt an overwhelming sense of renewed motivation and inspiration to go return to our sites and do what it is we have just sworn to do: cultivate a sense of intercultural understanding, build each other up, promote prosperity and learning through meaningful relationships, and uphold American values of peace and friendship.
Before we left (it’s a quick turnaround – Peace Corps expects us to leave for site either that night or the next day, depending on bus schedules), there was one last opportunity for pictures with friends, family, and staff.
That’s all, folks! Just kidding, of course – we still have two years ahead of us! The best is yet to come, and we cannot wait to share it all with you (and we promise to try to be more consistent with updates!). Before we wrap up this post, we just wanted to extend our sincere gratitude for all your continued love and support throughout this journey. It is an honor to be here, and that wouldn’t be possible without each of you. Thank you! 😊
Time for our permanent move to site. Stay tuned, sports fans. Adventure is out there!