Happy 1st Day of December! Can you believe it’s already here? Time has been doing some funny things to me lately. There are days when it feels like I just left the Charleston airport to begin this adventure. Then, there are moments when I feel like a seasoned traveler, fairly well prepared for whatever the next adventure holds. And, there are also times when I can’t wait to be home, sharing all of these experiences over a glass of sweet tea with lots of ice!
For me, this December 1st is special because it is the first time since September a new month hasn’t found me in a new place. With the holiday season rapidly approaching, it made more sense to spend some additional time in Peru, rather than trying to get settled into a new place before the hustle and bustle of Christmas got everyone off schedule.
Peru has surprised me in a lot of ways. When I was planning this trip over the summer, I felt the most confident about coming here. After all, I’m a Spanish major, I’ve been to South America before, and I was going to be working with kids. What could possibly be more “me”? And, Peru has been wonderful. I’ve had a chance to put my Spanish to good use, as I’ve become chief translator of all American music at the shelter. I’ve made new friends, not only with the girls, but also with the other volunteers and the members of the staff. I’ve woken up every morning with a gorgeous view of the Andes mountains and then spent the day working alongside Peruvians determined to make Peru a better place.
But, I have to admit, I wasn’t as prepared for Peru as I thought I was in June. Sure, I speak the language, but I didn’t have the words (in English or Spanish) to comfort a crying child who only wanted life to be normal again. I’ve studied organizational structures and best practices to help communities, but I’ve never shared a meal with someone who depended on those community services. This summer, two months at the shelter seemed like time to hunker down in the trenches and really see what life was like as an international volunteer. I knew it would be difficult to work with victims of physical/sexual abuse, but I didn’t know my heart could simultaneously ache for the troubles I saw and rejoice for the accomplishments being made. In my wildest dreams, I didn’t think rocking a baby to sleep would make me question so many things about the world around me.
I couldn’t have anticipated all of these experiences. But, I am thankful for all that they’ve made me think about. This leg of the trip has pushed me out of my comfort zone, in a place where I anticipated being most comfortable. And, with those not always gentle nudges, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing change and contemplating what it takes to bring about that change.
So, now that I’ve been sufficiently mushy about my first month here, I thought I’d catch you up on what the last few months have looked like. Here are some of my favorite pictures from my adventures thus far:
This was the view from the roof of Auntie Alice’s house in Ghana. Outside of the top edge of the top of the picture was Abura (pronounced like abracadabra!). From Abura, I took a taxi into Cape Coast to volunteer each morning. Normally, by the time I made it to the building in the top left corner, I was joined by some of the neighborhood kids heading to school. They thought it was hilarious that I carried a lunch to work, just like they carried one to school.
I took this picture during my last weekend in Ghana. Interestingly, this was the view from a restaurant. While we were eating, we could hear the conversations going on in the house (yellow building on the right) next door. Below us, women were washing clothes and bathing children.
I snapped this photo on my first full day in Tanzania. At that point, I was working with Jifundishe, and we were visiting schools that kids in the sponsorship program attended. This is the supply closet for all chemistry, biology and physics classes for an entire high school.
One thing that I loved about Tanzania was the incredible beauty. From the flowers to the mountains, everywhere you looked, there was something wonderful to see. This is a photo of some homes in the village where I stayed. It made me smile every time I saw flowers carefully planted in someone’s front yard.
Here’s a view of downtown Huanuco. If you were to travel in the direction of the red sign, you’d be heading out of town and towards the shelter where I spend my weeks.
Here’s my room at the shelter! For privacy reasons, I’m not able to post any pictures of the kids I’m working with. However, the room I’m staying in is the same style as the ones the girls use. It makes me smile every morning, when I wake up to the sound of Peruvian music blaring on the radio right outside my door. The girls just laugh at my early morning dance moves!