It has officially been three months (tres meses) since I arrived in Peru. It has definitely been a rollercoaster of emotions being here. Like I said in my last post, I have completely experienced the shock of leaving my comfort zone, and that still affects me. Spanish still continues to be a daily struggle for me, but I am learning, even though it’s hard to realize that at times. At the same time though, I’ve been able to start to find the comfort here, in Huanuco. I’ve found comfort in the girls at the shelter, who come and visit me at my desk everyday at work. I’ve found comfort in my host family, who are so patient and kind towards me. I’ve found comfort in the women I work with, who make me feel welcomed everyday and who have taught me how easy it is to laugh about things that don’t require a language to understand. I’ve found comfort in knowing there are four other girls here in Peru through the YAV program who are experiencing similar emotions as I am.
One of the girls who was at the shelter had to leave, out of nowhere one afternoon. She was the youngest girl there at six years old and although I had only known her for about a month, it made me realize how much I want to be here. Saying goodbye to her was sad of course, but what really touched me was the way that all the girls gathered around her as she left. While the girls are at the shelter, they become each other’s family. And I feel blessed to be a part of that this year.
This morning I came across a story that really touched me and kind of inspired me to write a blog post today. The story is the one of the Buddha and the Beggar. I won’t explain it all here, but if you want to read it fully here is a link. There are a few main points of the story. The first is that you have to be able to give something up to gain something, whether that be your comfort zone or shell (as the turtle in the story gave up). Another is that in order to find true love, we have to be become someone who is able to put others before ourselves. And the last is that it is easy to get in your head and think that your problems are so big, but when you compare your problems to others, it may make you realize your problems are actually small in comparison. I often get in my own head. My thoughts drift to the future and the past and I get frustrated. I focus on things and problems that don’t hold much significance and forget to be present in the moment that I am in. The story says, “If we’re willing to lend a hand to those who are struggling more than us, willing to help them, it may change the course of your life, your destiny. And the universe may repay you in such a way that you never would have imagined.” I don’t want to act high and mighty by saying I am coming here and doing so much to help others, because that is not necessarily why I am here or what I am doing. But this story helped remind me there’s a bigger reason why I am here and it’s important for me to stop focusing on my own struggles and be more present with the people I interact with.
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 🙂
I realized that I did not fully explain yet what the Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program is all about. The YAV program is a faith-based year of service for people between the ages of 18-30. There are 22 sites within the United States and internationally where people can serve. The program was created with five main goals in mind:
Intentional Christian Community
YAVs explore what it means to be a Christian community with one another and their neighbors. While some will live in housing together and others spread throughout their country, all YAVs will reflect together on their service and explore their relationship with God, the church, and their ministry in a broken world.
YAVs are challenged to practice simple living – living an abundant life with less. Living simply pushes YAVs to evaluate their true needs with their lifestyle and beliefs.
YAVs will intentionally explore the diversity of God’s creation, living and working outside of their comfort zone. YAVs will work to confront the systemic challenges of race, class, gender, and power, while learning to examine their own lives and actions.
Leadership Development through Faith in Action
YAVs develop their leadership by serving in marginalized communities alongside local people of faith responding to poverty, violence, and injustice in their communities, sharing the gospel through word and deed.
Through theological reflection and spiritual practices, YAVs will participate in the process of vocational discernment—unearthing God’s desire for each person’s life and work.
All of this information and more is available here, on their site.
I first learned about the YAV program in high school. One of the girls who was a few years older than me went to serve in the Philippines and talked about it during church. I automatically was intrigued and have kept it in the back of my mind throughout the past few years. During the winter break before my last semester of college, I was thinking to myself, what will be my next step…and I really did not know. Although I didn’t know career/school wise what my next step was, what was clear was that I had a strong need to volunteer in some sort of way in an effort to help others and grow as a person and in my faith. The YAV program seemed like a perfect fit. I applied in February and by April, I was offered a placement with the site in Peru. I could not have been more excited. I will be working in Huanuco, a rural city northeast of Lima at Casa Del Buen Trato Hovde. Casa Del Buen Trato Hovde is a shelter for women and children who have been affected by domestic violence and sexual abuse, with a focus in development of skills, exercise of rights, and relationships of gender equity from a Christian perspective. I will be working in their psychology department but I am not exactly sure what that will entail yet. I am sure this year will be challenging in many ways, but I am excited to be able to help in any way I can and believe this coming year is going to be an amazing experience.
I am officially leaving for orientation in just two short days… it does not feel real. So much has happened prior to this moment, that I never thought this day would actually come. I am beyond excited to start this year. Even though we’ve been given all this information about our placements, I do not want to go into this year having any of my own expectations. This way I can adjust accordingly to what I experience in the moment and not be disappointed because something is not how I thought it would be. Even so, I know that this year will have it’s own difficult moments no matter what and that is okay. Every transition is tough at times, even ones that do not seem as daunting. But I am ready to embrace all of the experiences that are before me. !!! Still can not believe this is happening !!! Thanks for reading my blog and get ready for a year of adventure… I have never really journaled before (I’ve tried to start multiple times and have stopped after a few days) or been much of a writer in general so this will be an interesting experience for all of us.