Hello everyone. This past month and a half has really flown by… it feels like just yesterday we were landing in Lima, taking in all the new scenery as we drove into the city from the airport. This past month and a half has been all about our transition into Peruvian culture through learning the language, the history and about the different organizations we are all going to be a part of. Learning the language has been a process…I did not know Spanish at all before arriving here, so that has been extremely difficult, more difficult than I could ever really imagine. We took four hour long classes five days a week and that allowed me to get a good introduction however, nothing could have prepared me for the full emersion once I arrived in Huanuco two weeks ago. But as they say, it’s getting better poca a poco (little by little). After our morning Spanish classes, we would have activities with Jenny and Jed (our amazing site coordinators) where we would visit different parts of the city, learn about the colonization of Peru, learn about the organizations we are going to be a part of here, have devotions and discuss how we have all been feeling. Our month long orientation in Lima did not really feel like much of a real transition to me. All of us girls were together constantly and we were not truly forced to leave our comfort zones. Many parts of Lima feel very familiar to the States, with cute small coffee shops, restaurants, stores, and tourists walking around. And since I hadn’t started work yet, it felt more like a trip more than a transition into a new country and culture. Now that I am here in Huanuco, I have realized that I never once was forced to really use the Spanish I had learned while there to try and communicate. I was surrounded by four other girls who spoke English and some who knew Spanish a bit better would be the ones we relied on to communicate with others. Once I arrived in Huanuco, that is when it really hit me. I am here for a year, by myself in this city, forced to use a language I do not know. It was overwhelming to say the least. I realized I had never in my life, even the years I spent growing up in Japan, never not been able to communicate. In Japan, I had always had people surrounding me who spoke English, or if I didn’t, I could easily use the Japanese I knew to get around until I was back in my English speaking bubble. I never had realized the privilege of it all until I got here and quickly realized the little amount of Spanish I had learned while in Lima was not going to get me very far. My host Mother, Marina, who is the sweetest and most patient women, picked me up from the airport on September 28th. There was so much I wanted to say to her, little things like “Wow, this is the street you live on? Have you lived here your whole life? I am so happy to finally meet you!” and I realized I didn’t know the words. I tried to make up for lack of enthusiasm in words with a bright expression on my face and a constant smile. And I made sure to have an extremely apologetic look on my face every time I had to say “lo siento, no entiendo”. It felt exhausting and still feels exhausting, the constant quick translation that goes off in my head every time someone talks to me, trying to pick up words I recognize to at least understand the gist of what they are saying. It is a long and difficult process of learning…and I knew it would be, but I didn’t really know what it would feel like till I got here and was forced into it. I know that these first few months are going to be hard and I’m going to feel very lonely, but what is giving me comfort throughout all of this is where I am working. I started working at Casa Del Buen Trato Hovde two weeks ago and the girls I have met there really put everything I am going through into perspective. Casa Del Buen Trato Hovde is the only shelter in all of Peru for children, adolescents, and women affected by domestic violence and sexual abuse. There are close to thirty girls staying at the shelter right now and each have different experiences, that I am not even fully aware of yet, but here and there I have learned some of the girl’s stories. I can not and will not ever be able to relate to what they have gone through but seeing them every day, with smiles on their faces and their kind hearts remind me why I am here. The women who dedicate their lives working at this shelter are all so passionate about what they are doing and really put their hearts and souls into everything they do. I might be having a difficult transition, but the shelter that I am a working at is positively changing these girls lives and it is something wonderful to be a part of. I am grateful to be here and want to remember the privilege I have to have had the chance to choose to completely and fully be taken out of my comfort zone. Most people do not have that choice.
I want to thank you all for supporting me this year and taking an interest in my year here. I wouldn’t be able to be here without the support of you all back home.
Below are some photos from my first month and a half of being here 🙂