i’m on my way.

there are very few experiences in life where we can consciously note that they are profound and changing us, while we are simultaneously experiencing them. that is what peace corps has been for me. for the past 15 months, i have had one of the most incredible life-changing experiences. i arrived to a country not being able to express myself in the local language, with exception of two key phrases, and now i have spent the past week expressing with deep and emotional thought my feelings and gratitude to my community, family and friends.

i recall a charla during training about how individual each peace corps experience is for each person, and that for some their service is only two or three months, others it’s two years and for others it may be three, and in the past month or so i have come to realize my length of time for my service is 15 months. during my time in peru, i have learned a new language, a new way to love, how to serve, created lasting friendships with both volunteers and people in my community, and created a new peruvian family. i, my friends, am the luckiest. i fell in love with an ancient culture, and talk about it with pride as though it were my own. my views on the world have been turned upside down, and i love the new view. i feel so enriched, and hope that i can continue to carry all that i have come to learn with me always. i have given 1000% of myself, and as my projects have come to a natural end, so has my time in peru. i have come and experienced all that i set out to experience, and now i am leaving this country more in love with it than i did when i arrived. i am changed. and i am grateful.

so, i leave the dust bowl of peru with my eyes full of tears (not because of the dust irritation in my eyes), and with a full heart, and i take that as a sign of a service well-served. i am sad as this chapter is coming to a close, but also so excited for the next chapter that awaits…whatever that is. i am forever indebted to the people of tucume, to this country and to my fellow volunteers, who truly made this a transformative experience for me. peace and love. peace and love.

see you soon u.s.a.

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pause.

a8ac31100d0411e3a6de22000a1fb5b7_7mike and i both took a pause from our schedules, and we spent 4 days in lima together! hooray! but really, i am just grateful that he was willing to travel all the way down to peru for just 4 short days…which flew by way too fast. we had a blast! we stayed in a condo with an ocean-view in miraflores, walked around town a lot, went bowling, explored barranco, finally visited the ministerio de cultura to visit the shining path exhibit, ate ceviche, and drank plenty of chicha morada. we had another grand finale feast at another top restaurant in peru, this time at central restaurante. it was named as one of the 2013 top 50 restaurants in the world, and the number one overall restaurant in peru. honestly, it was incredible. personally, i thought it was better than astrid y gaston, because they paid attention to every final detail, including the presentation. i still find myself salivating over all of our dishes…mmmmmm…

enoying the ocean-view from our balcony.

enoying the ocean-view from our balcony.

exploring barranco.

exploring barranco.

one of these things is not like the others.

one of these things is not like the others.

enjoying the plaza in barranco.

enjoying the plaza in barranco.

the ministerio de cultura.

the ministerio de cultura.

i asked mike to feel how soft my hair is, and this is how he responded...so romantic...

i asked mike to feel how soft my hair is, and this is how he responded…so romantic…

i had a really hard time with the front door to our condo building...as in it intimidated me...but seriously, it was HUGE!

i had a really hard time with the front door to our condo building…as in it intimidated me…but seriously, it was HUGE!

i had such an incredible time with him, and now i have reacomstombrared myself with the life in the norte. it’s tan caliente right now, and i am counting down the days until we get to see each other again!!!

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(med)check that off the list.

just trucking my mri images around lima.

just trucking my mri images around lima.

once a year, the lima peace corps office, brings all the volunteers to lima for a week of medical checks and a couple of days of training. the training was…well let’s just say the most interesting part was learning what everyone else has been up to for the past year. the rest of the week i was in and out of doctor’s offices throughout lima. i had one day where my first appointment was at 8 and i was spent all day traveling and waiting for my other appointments, with my last one ending at 8:30pm. the results? well, i learned that my fateful fall in the jungle has left me with a torn ligament in my ankle, and i got a broken tooth cap and only had 1 cavity! the bad news, is that i have to go back to the dentist this week for some follow-up work. the good news is that i got my broken glasses replaced! and that i finally learned why my ankle still hurts…though, i would have preferred something like “a really bad sprain…” oh well.

don't worry. my friends and i still found plenty of time to eat plenty of delicious food...and by food, i obviously mean pinkberry.

don’t worry. my friends and i still found plenty of time to eat plenty of delicious food…and by food, i obviously mean pinkberry.

we also made time for gaston's amazing hamburgers at papacho's.

we also made time for gaston’s amazing hamburgers at papacho’s.

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filtered.

i think this is the point where i put a shameless plug for my amazing water filter. after my mid-service med-checks last week, i can officially announce that i am parasite free. that means i have made it 15 months of service sans parasite! which doesn’t explain everything else, but it does mean that my water filter is amazingly resilient…even after it had been cracked due to a couple of fateful falls onto concrete floor.

anyways. if you are looking for an amazing water filter, that will last forever…that’s the one!

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chaparri!

a couple of weeks ago, i received a last minute phone call from my friend, tina, who asked ali and i to join the ministerio de turismo at chaparri…all expenses paid. of course i knew better than to say no, and freely offered my help as they were looking for gringos to use in new promotional materials they are making for the ministerio de turismo.

chaparri is a nature reserve about 90 minutes from chiclayo and generally speaking is quite expensive to reach because of its remoteness. however, the reserve is famous to bird watchers and animal lovers around the world. it has partnerships with zoos in france and london, and pumas, foxes, wild hogs and the endangered spectacled bear…and of course countless species of birds. here are some of my favorite shots from the day:

letting us know we were headed in the right direction.

letting us know we were headed in the right direction.

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tree sap.

tree sap.

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enjoying the scenery!

enjoying the scenery!

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we thought we heard a cat...surprise!

we thought we heard a cat…surprise!

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the osos!!!

the osos!!!

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the photographer and bear getting personal.

the photographer and bear getting personal.

scratching his back (or) striking a pose? you decide.

scratching his back (or) striking a pose? you decide.

the bears were checking out the aerial camera.

the bears were checking out the aerial camera.

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ali getting photographed.

ali getting photographed.

just hanging out with a cobra...nbd...

just hanging out with a cobra…nbd…

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stepping inside the shaman's office.

stepping inside the shaman’s office.

the whole crew!

the whole crew!

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una noche en el campo.

dinner by candlelight.

dinner by candlelight.

a couple of weeks ago, i had the opportunity to have a sleepover with one of my lambaybesties in the campo. she lives in a caserio outside of changoyape. the next day i was going to head to chaparri, and her site is the last place before the reserve, plus we got to have some quality time!!! we ate some veggies and watched the count of monte cristo, and basically were just cracking ourselves up about how gross it is to be a peace corps volunteer sometimes…don’t worry, i will spare you the details. but it was such a fun night!

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welp.

today is the first day back to school after the two week mid-year break!!! woohoo! oh wait, there’s a swine flu outbreak? so school should be canceled for the entire week? okay. if you say so.

am i surprised? nope. at least i still have a few other meetings and projects happening at the same moment…

also, i think it should be noted that i think it shows how integrated i am as a volunteer that i am quite excited for the count of monte cristo to finish downloading. not just because of the movie, but because it’s my monday night plans that i have made for myself…and i am super excited to watch this movie for the first time, especially since i just finished the book last week!

ps. the book is awesome! it is a must-read!

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camp access.

(or) the time my face and arms got covered by bed bug bites.

the campers and their fearless volunteer leaders!

the campers and their fearless volunteer leaders!

this past week, i spent all week at el tambo with icpna and 4 other volunteers participating in camp access, an english immersion camp for 40 scholarship-sponsored students from cajamarca, trujillo and chiclayo, which is put together with partnership with the us embassy in lima. though it was quite a surprise for us to arrive thinking we were only going to be teaching a few classes, but instead were expected to run the whole camp. but we are peace corps volunteers, so not much surprises us anymore.

we had workshops ranging from english grammar, american culture, all the way to personal and professional development. we also had a number of other “american” activities, such as a talent show, kickball tournament, singing beside a bonfire, watching harry potter, and learned to dance the electric slide.

needless to say it was a lot of fun!

…minus the bed bug bites…minor detail…

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fiestas patrias.

the desfile in town.

the desfile in town, while my students were marching.

july 28th and 29th were peru’s two days celebrating its independence from spain. sunday was filled with parades and defiles (a marching competition between all the schools in town). the desfile competitions always draw a large crowd. on the 29th i went to monsefu and explored their feria where i ate every peruvian fried food imaginable…which is not many…but it was still a lot of fun! viva el peru!

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dia del logro.

fireworks...of course...

fireworks…of course…

the last day of school for the semester ended with a dia del logro celebration at the school. all the classes showcased their accomplishments and achievements throughout the semester. each subject took an hour to showcase what each and every class (6 classes to each grade…and their are 5 grades…so 30 classes) took time to share what they learned in each subject. honestly, it’s a great idea, and it was fun to see what each class had learned!

the setup.

the setup.

more of the setup.

more of the setup.

of course, we need to highlight the virgen. always.

of course, we need to highlight the virgen. always.

danza de los diablicos.

danza de los diablicos.

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my students highlighting what they have learned in their speech class.

my students highlighting what they have learned in their speech class.

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showing off what they have learned in math...it was...riveting...

showing off what they have learned in math…it was…riveting…

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