I left to DC from Eugene on Wednesday morning, laid over in Seattle for a couple hours, and got into Reagan National around 10:30pm. I managed to find my way to the hotel and almost immediately met two other volunteers who were as hungry as I was and milling around the lobby. Edgar, Rocio, and I went to the world's oddest IHOP where none of the employees seemed to be able to speak the same language or communicate effectively whatsoever. They did eventually feed us though.
The next morning, all the other volunteers started arriving - only those of us coming from the West Coast had arrived the night before. At noon we started what proved to be a rather standard orientation - ice breakers, flip charts, paperwork and enthusiasm. It was ok, though, and I of course was sitting next to the biggest class clown. A bunch of us went out to a microbrewery after to have our last delicious American beers (though really they were nothing compared to the beer we have in Oregon) and had a really entertaining time trying to learn each others names. There are 54 of us in our group - so it is going to take eons to know every name, if we ever do get there.
We loaded up on Friday morning into two huge buses, left the staff behind, and started making our way to Peru. For awhile we thought we weren't gonna make it much further than Miami. We started with a three hour layover but they announced a delay or a gate change for us about every 45 minutes. We got really good at taking over the airport.
Eventually, we got off the plane, met our awesome Country Director, Sanjay, herded our way through baggage claim and customs in a rather wild and crowded airport, loaded back on buses and passed out. It was about 2am. We pulled into this weird lot in the dark. There was dense fog everywhere. We were in the middle of nowhere but there were kids bumping music from cars across the street and a dog wearing a t-shirt. We went through a huge gate, found beds, and crashed.
When we woke up in the morning, we found ourselves here:
This is a light mist day. This crazy fog is apparently gonna be hanging over the greater Lima area all winter
And here we realized that we weren't in the middle of nowhere. In fact, that lot with the craziness going on in it was actually the Central Plaza of Chaclacayo. The insane white mist obscures all. I have a feeling this will be a theme.
We spent all day Saturday and early this morning getting hugely spoiled and having long run-downs of everything Peace Corps Peru. This was our quick orientation retreat. It was 30 hours that felt like 4 days. We hadn't managed to really get any sleep for days.
The food was amazing. Breakfast is simple - bread with cheese and bread with jam, coffee and tea and starfruit juice, and, on Sunday, some eggs on the side.
This is papa de guancayina. It is common and amazing. It is kind of a spicy hollandaise on potatoes with half a hard boiled egg and an olive.
Second course of steak and pesto. Nothing else to say.
Afternoon Tea (and we were so awesomely blown away and
pleased that this is apparently a thing! A delicious thing...)
More juices and coffee and teas.
Cookies that taste just like Samoas, crackers, and this kind of guacamole that is the most amazing thing on earth. Apparently it is avocado and some sort of unpronounceable fruit. I am getting the recipe.
After tea, some of us went out to try our first Pisco Sours (the national drink) and there was some epic soccer playing. Oh, and the whole time, from airport to bars and training centers, there has been this constant scrambling around of people finding ways to watch the World Cup games.
I forgot to take pics of dinner but it was an awesome veggie soup, potatoes, and fish. After, a couple of current PCVs who were visiting the area showed us a local dive bar that was pretty great called La Taverna. The next morning (which was apparently this morning) we packed up from this little vacation spot, headed a few blocks to the training center, had more presentations, and then, after lunch, got adopted. I am not going to post pics of the training center right now. Just trust me it's very nice. I will be spending a lot of time there for the next ten weeks. I can smell dinner.
My family is great so far. My parents are Meri and Jose. I have a sister, Rosa, who is 22, and two little brothers, Richard and Alan, 14 and 8. I moved to a community who's name is escaping me now but is within walking distance back to the training center. My house is great though and the other trainees are gonna kill me tomorrow when they find out I have internet. It's pretty rare. I went to church this evening with my mom and sister (most everyone here is Catholic.) They aren't bothered that I am not Catholic however and I told them I would love to see it. Raw materials and open air, it was a pretty great church Nuns with guitars. I love that.
The days of being spoiled are over and things get a little grittier now. I will post pics of my family and town next time. This place looks a lot different from everything I have posted so far, but it is absolutely fantastic.
I am having a great time. I will go get an adapter as soon as I find a spare minute and a spare buck. Will be back in contact soon.