Sunday, September 24, 2006

Adios Estado Unidos and Hello Peru!

For those who are not family and friends, I will not to bore you with too many details about our farewell tour of the Pacific coast of the U.S. If you are family and friends, we probably saw you along the way. It was wonderful to leave the country having received good wishes and embraces from so many dear ones. If we didn’t manage to meet you on our way out, we’re sorry we missed you. We think of you all often, even if you have yet to receive any emails, we miss you, and if you feel like making the trip to visit us we will do our best to make the journey worth it.

Here we are just before leaving Colin and Carol`s house in Corvallis, Oregon with all of our worldly belongings.

We flew from Portland, Oregon on September 10 to Washington D.C. We were able to stay for three days at the home of Cynthia’s cousin Jane Sherbourne and to tour the capital a little. More last minute visits, with friends in the area and with Jane, her husband Bob Van Heuvelen, and their daughter Elizabeth, made this a very full two and a half days. We ran out of the house too fast to write a proper thank you note, so here it is now: Jane, Bob, Elizabeth, you were the best hosts imaginable, and gave us a better look at our nation’s capital than we could have thought possible. Thank you for everything. In Peru or wherever else we end up, our home is yours.

Staging began on Wednesday September 13. Looking up to the top of this page, I find it hard to believe that that is eleven days ago. My sister joked that staging sounded like the Peace Corps was gathering a collection of luggage into a pile in preparation for loading, except of course that the luggage included us. Yes, it was a little like that, but I’m not sure that baggage goes though the emotions we went through. We met the rest of our current group of Peace Corps Trainees, aspiring to be full fledged volunteers. We total thirty eight, aged from 20 to our mid fifties. We come from all parts of the U.S. There are three married couples among us. We can be divided roughly in half by sex, there are a few more women, or by program goals. Twenty of us will work in Community Health, and eighteen in Environmental Education and Action. At the risk of sounding utterly schmaltzy, I can honestly say that I am extremely proud to be part of this eighth group coming to Peru. Our fellow volunteers are a wonderfully capable, energetic, optimistic, adventurous, and knowledgeable group. We are still getting to know each other, but we have great mutual respect and friendship. I could go into too much detail about silly icebreaking exercises, moments of bonding with our fellow aspirantes, last meals in the U.S. (Ethiopian food!), or the very long day of travel from D.C. to Lima, and thence to here. Suffice to say, we got here, with no more drama than a lost bathroom bag. I suppose a separate entry on impressions of Washington and our adventures there might serve, but that all seems like another world, years ago, even though less than two weeks have passed.

The on going emotional theme that began somewhere around the time we got ourselves packed, said goodbye to our apartment and most of our worldly goods, and set out on the road has been the inevitable clash between normal daily life and the fact that our current course in life is not quite normal. While feverishly liquidating our household there wasn’t much time to think about what this was leading to, and once on the road, we have often fallen into our normal rhythms of travel. But the fact is, we have left home, and we aren’t coming back for a while, and we have traveled to a new and distant place, which we will call home for the next two years. Leaving Los Angeles (cue music by X) I got a strong attack of emotional vertigo. For a moment, I felt dizzy as the reality sank in. And then that passed. I wasn’t at the wheel, and no one would have noticed if I hadn’t mentioned it. For Cynthia it didn’t hit until we were near the Oregon border and she realized that she was going North, and wouldn’t go South back to California for a long time.

Heading north, somewhere near the California/Oregon Border

During staging our lead trainer would occasionally mention something that we would discuss in greater detail on Saturday or Sunday. Which of course meant, in Peru. Every now and then Cynthia or I would turn to the other and say with varying degrees of wonder or excitement “We’re going to Peru!” Now we are here, and we have a routine of sorts, but every now and then we find ourselves saying “We’re in Peru!”

The view of Santa Eulalia from our host family`s rooftop