So I've been home for about a month now and it is the strangest thing. It is so amazing to see all my family and friends, but it does not feel like I have been away at all. If you'd told me the morning after I got home that it was all just a dream I probably would have believed you. But then I look back at the photos and realise that no, it really did have that hectic and incredible and unbelievably life-inspiring year of my life that I will never forget.
I feel like a part of me has been ripped out and stayed all those miles away in Peru. It actually pains me to think that that beautiful part of my life is now over, and that I have to now face reality and go back to the ordinary world that everyone else is so bizarrely used to. I sometimes have to pinch myself that it actually happened, that it's over, and that I don't see our gorgeous children every day to look after. Some people think it's just one of those volunteering things you do for a couple of weeks or a month and have loads and loads of fun and then go home and it was amazing. They can't even try to understand and what I'm trying to emphasise here is that those children and babies we looked after almost every day for over 10 months - that's over 300 individual days - became genuinely like our own children. And then we had to go and leave them there in the aldea in a place that is miles and miles away from where I am now. Imagine having to leave your children, but 60 of your children, all of whom you love to pieces (even though you hate them sometimes...), all of whom you have gotten to know individually and can tell which toddler is crying just from a wail through the window. Having to leave them with the thought that you most likely will never see them again, or at least not until they are grown up children and adults and they do not remember you. I am heartbroken not to be with them right this second and to know that I won't be with them next week, or next month, or even next year, either.
I miss the weirdest things about being in Peru. I miss speaking in Spanish 24/7, dreaming in Spanish and laughing in Spanish with friends that understand and speak our bizarre version of Espanglish with us. I still come out with an occasional "como?" when I don't hear what someone has said. It has been engrained into me the language and culture and way of life of a completely polar-different continent and country, and I have no way of trying to express that to anyone from the Western world who has not had that same experience. I miss the food (even the mass quantities of rice!), the traditional dishes - ceviche, cabrito, pescado sudado, aji de gallina, chicharrones, lomo saltado. I miss the biscuits and chocolates (classic sweet tooth that's me all over) - Casino biscuits, Sublime, Vizzio, the delight that is manjar blanco and the vast array of fruits we can get from giggly wee Sylvia in the little corner shop across the road from the aldea! I even sort of miss the cold showers and the cockroaches and the daily intrusions from children through the windows that never seem to shut properly.
Most of all though I miss just being in the aldea. I miss having the the Tias there as a wealth of knowledge that I can talk to about anything, from babies to how to make our favourite food to whether we've met any cute Peruvian boys recently (Tia Flor...). I miss our little girlies in the morning where we'd draw and watch cartoons and play with Barbies and teach Jandi to walk and to say something that actually resembles a word instead of just "bubaaah!" and "popoooow!". We'd deal with tantrums and jealousy (yes, even in 2 year olds...) and dancing babies and scribbled drawings and insect-in-mouth incidents and being told to lift each toddler up and spin them round and round, and then start again with another one, over and over again. I miss our wee pequeñitos (4-5 year olds) who came in to draw on a bit of paper or make a little toilet roll fish with you and then ended up plotting some evil plan against you in the corner. They'd drive me crazy sometimes but I loved every second of it. I miss the older kids who were so much fun just to chat with. It was like having a huge family of brothers and sisters always available to talk to, something I really miss. You could never feel alone in the aldea and that's the beauty of it.
I cannot get over the kindness of strangers in South America. It is nothing like the looks you get here in the UK. Over there everyone will look at you with some sort of weird curiosity, sometimes whispering to their neighbour "look, there's two gringas over there!", but they are always willing to help out with whatever issue you have and are always wanting to know what brings you to their country and how you have come to know their language so well. I can remember so many times on the combi or on a bus somewhere that I have chatted to the person next to me the whole journey, about the naughty wee child in front or the town or city you're travelling to, because they just so happened to have lived there their whole life and could tell you how to get to your hostel and where is the best place to eat that night. It is a wonderful thing being able to have a conversation with a local person who has a wealth of useful information at their fingertips. In the UK and the Western world we do not appreciate the knowledge of everyone around us, and I wish that people were more friendly on the street and in public transport instead of the steady glares I sometimes get whenever I get on the bus. I could rant on for hours about this topic because it's something that really bugs me, but I'll spare you the boredom and stop now!
Something I should say about the aldea is that all the houses have been bulldozed and new ones have been bult to replace them. They kept mentioning this when we were there but we never saw anything come of it, so apparently they eventually got round to it! Classic mañana mañana lifestyle. It's really sad to think that our little volunteer house that kind of encompassed everything all the previous Project Trust volunteers have ever done is now gone. But I do feel priveliged that we were the last ones to live there and have that experience in the aldea. This year's volunteers Amber and Tory will undoubtedly have a very different year to Amy and mine's and the volunteers before us, but that is not a bad thing! They'll be able to shape the project into something else, and that's something I'm actually kind of jealous of!!
Here's a link to Tory's blog: http://torylindsay.blogspot.co.uk/?m=0
I have learnt so many things about myself that I never thought would be possible. I found out that I actually do like (and love) every type of eggs, beans, raw red onion, chicken liver and kidneys, yuca (cassava), mutton, and camomile and lemongrass tea. Okay, not just food...
I have become so much more aware of the little things in life that we take for granted and that we should stop and appreciate more often. We actually have a decent plumbing system. We have teachers and an education system that does educate us, and the vast majority of us have the possibility of going to university and getting a better job than becoming a street seller. We have homeless people, yes, but these homeless people are not nearly as bad off as those in Peru and South America, living in the middle of the marketplace covered in foodscraps and 6 year old boys and girls trying to sell you chicle (chewing gum) or sugared peanuts. We have friends and family and people around us supporting us all the time - in Peru children would come to the aldea with nothing or little, and have to start all over: the aldea is all they have. But these are the lucky ones - there will always be more children who are homeless and hungry and on the streets with nothing. That's something I really want to help tackle in the future.
Whenever anyone mentions anything about Peru or South America I feel a little tug on my heartstrings, and I just want to say I've been there, I know what it's like there, I want to tell everyone everything about what I've done in the past year and never shut up about it. That is what Debriefing was really good for. Some of the Peru girls came up to Coll again and we were able to just chat about our respective years alongside fellow Honduras, Botswana, Nepal, Cambodia and Sri Lanka volunteers. Even though some of their years were vastly different to everything we had done, there were still things in common and it's amazing how much we were able to compare our years. Even though the majority of them taught in primary and/or secondary schools and lived with a host family throughout the year whereas we were in social care projects living in our workplace, even though some projects were entirely rural and others in big cities, there are always similarities between each and every Project Trust year abroad. Debriefing also allowed us to give feedback to the staff so that they know how to improve the process for volunteers in years to come. We found out about ways to keep on spreading the word about the amazing things they do (eg. doing school talks and Global Citizenship sessions), and how to keep in touch with the Project Trust family for years and years to come.
This will be my last blog post, and I just want to say that although I have sometimes (like now) been very delayed in writing posts, I have thoroughly enjoyed writing down some of my thoughts and experiences for everyone else to see, especially in a year that has completely changed me for the better. I would strongly recommend anyone going away on a big trip like this to write a blog. It is a fantastic thing I have now, that I love to be able to look back on and see how much my opinions have altered during the course of the 2 years I've had it.
So goodbye for now, and thanks for being loyal readers over the last year or so!! Chau xoxo
"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page" Saint Augustine
"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." Mahatma Gandhi
|They were having SO much fun that day!!|
|Jandi doesn't like having a painted hand!|
|Jandi's typical toy of choice|
|Esmeralda and Margarita <3|
|Luis Fernando, Amy and Elvia|
|classic hospital trips with Dina|
|Tia Carla <3|
|All the amazing Tias and the direccion staff|