Peace Corps’ Core Expectation #3 states, “Serve where the Peace Corps asks you to go, under conditions of hardship, if necessary, and with the flexibility needed for effective service.” Most folks don’t join Peace Corps without having marinated in this statement countless times. What if my bathroom is a hole in the ground? What if I get parasites? Am I ever going to get used to bucket baths? And, Sweet Baby Jesus, what is my site going to be like?!
If you didn’t already know, you don’t come to Peace Corps training knowing what your site is. In Peace Corps Peru, we were told we would find out in the middle of week 6. The staff wants to make sure that you are the best fit for the community and that the community is the best fit for you. We have multiple interviews with our Program Managers discussing our preferences and training progress. I also believe we are watched, Big Brother style, in order to asses our personalities, how we work under stress, problem solve, work with others, our level of professionalism, etc. The staff even does what they call a round table where they get together in a room and discuss each trainee’s progress, one by one. So anyway, all this to say that a lot goes into how they select people for their site. They tell us that they do their best to match people.
It didn’t help that right before they announced assignments, they gave a long serious speech about potentially being disappointed in your site, about how to adhere to Core Expectation #3, and how not to disappoint John F. Kennedy by griping and moaning about our site placement. So I’m sitting there with my stomach making its way through my intestinal tract and the first region to be called up was Amazonas — and don’t you know, the universe had mercy on my poor anxiety ridden soul and put me out of my misery early. They announced, “Going to Bagua, Bagua, Amazonas — Brittany White.”
At that point, I felt like who gives a crap what Bagua, Bagua, Amazonas is even like — I was just happy someone spared me from pooping out my heart. The only thing I knew was that Amazonas was extremely far away and I could tell by the format (Bagua, Bagua, Amazonas) that I was in the provincial (think county) capital. So what is Bagua like? Well, let me tell you what I know:
Location: Bagua is located in the Department of Amazonas which is way in the North of Peru – about 20 hours (by bus) from Lima. Although a large chunk of Amazonas is selva (jungle), my site is not in the selva. Sorry to disappoint.
Geography: Bagua is 3 hours away from the capital of Amazonas, Chachapoyas, and its 900 meters above sea level. I know you’re probably thinking who the heck cares about sea level, right? Well no volunteers from my group were placed on the coast due to El Nino. We were all told that we were going to be placed in the mountains at higher altitudes – meaning less than optimal climates for the hot weather jawn that I am. So the great thing about Bagua is that its lower in altitude and since its closer to jungle its pretty much hot year round — which brings me to my next point…
Climate: Its about to be like Will Smith’s Summertime video 24/7 because in Bagua its an eternal summer. My Regional Coordinator even said that Bagua is called the “little selva.” I checked the weather, 90 degrees right now – I’m about to be all all about those freezing cold showers now.
Population: I asked for a larger site and that’s exactly what I got. I know it might not
seem large to you guys but my site is 10,000 people and its the largest in the department. Its even larger than the department capital!
Potential Work Opportunities: The community specifically requested help on giving sessions on sexual health for youth and prevention on teen drug addiction. There is also a note about the the community wanting someone to work in the area of diversity
and intercultural relations. I haven’t asked directly but I think its because my city has a mix of cultures from the selva – it even has an office of cultural unity.
There is also an environment volunteer from the Peru 25 training group already living there so I’ll have a site mate — It’ll be like having English on demand when it hurts to continue on in my improved but still marginal Spanish. He also tells me that there is *drum roll* INTERNET. Alas, the sweet taste of being in a remote part of the world but still feeling connected is on the tip of my tongue! We get to visit our sites during week 9 for the entire week so I’ll be sure to hit ya’ll with a little preview of the Bagua remix when I get back from my site visit. Most importantly and above all else, now I’ll legitimately be able to call myself an Amazonian woman — You’re jealous, I know.
Until next time!