I’m sure ya’ll probably wonder what it is I do all day or what a day in my life as a Peace Corps Volunteer is like. Being Americans, we love schedules and routines and plans and all the things that make our lives as orderly as possible. We love us some order, don’t we? And although I’ve never been the type to over plan or even be super organized, I’ve always had some structure to my day. This time last year I would wake up around 7AM, be in the office by 8AM, and work until 5:45 or sometimes longer when we had events. After that I would either go home or hang out with my friend Samantha, and the latest I would go to sleep would be about 11:30PM.
My schedule now is so vastly different than my schedule back in the States. At home I had a clearly defined role at work and clearly defined hours to be at work. Speaking specifically as a Youth Development Volunteer serving in Peru, you start off at your site not having either one of these. In the first three months primarily, you are expected to develop your own routine and identify potential projects and potential counterparts yourself. This takes time, patience, and a good handle on your sanity
Being a YD Volunteer much of our work happens in schools and when I arrived in November schools were 2 weeks away from being out for summer. The most I could do was meet with school directors, tutoria coordinators, and schools psychologists letting them know that I had arrived and was ready to work. All of them told me to come back in March when the school year starts again. I went to the psychologist in the hospital who works with adolescents and she told me her work had dried up because school was of course out of session – most of her work will pick up again in March. Womp. I tried for about all of December to meet with a potential counterpart at an NGO to no avail – she never showed for any of the meetings. Womp #2. So whats a Peace Corps Volunteer to do with their time? And let me tell you, you have A LOT of time…
You do what most people back home think of as “nothing.”
You sit outside on the curb and talk to your neighbors. You go to the panaderia (bakery) just to chat with the woman who owns it. You take advantage of the cultural heritage of your country and you visit some ancient ruins or you go on a hike
. If you have a site mate, you can help them with their projects. And you also work on your language skills. Essentially, you integrate. You learn more about your community and the people who live there. And through this process you’re doing something in your nothing.
Last week I started to help my site mate with Vacaciones Utiles which is what Peru calls their summer enrichment programs. This particular program is an environment club (my site mate is an environment volunteer) for kids ages 10-12 and we have it every MWF from 8AM-11PM. Today while helping out with activities, someone came in looking for me. He works for the municipality (think city hall) and was working on putting together a youth leadership group sponsored by the municipality of Bagua. He knew I was a youth volunteer (we had met previously) and wanted me to be a part of organizing the program and the development of the youth leaders. I was all about it – In there like swimwear if you will and we have a meeting tomorrow at 11 to discuss it more. Not 30 minutes later, I was talking to a woman who also works at the municipality and she told me that they are planning on doing a 14 day series of sessions on youth leadership development and would love to have me help. Also in there like swimwear, also having a meeting with her tomorrow.
I still don’t have a concrete schedule and I don’t know what will come of these meetings tomorrow. But I do understand that by doing “nothing” I am inviting something youth development related to come my way and that like most other things in Peru, work for Peace Corps Volunteers also arrives on la hora peruana.