Where Everybody Knows Your Name (Chachapoyas)

Like every state in America has a capital, so do the departments of Peru and the capital of

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White buildings and Spanish influenced balconies of Chacha

my region is Chachapoyas. Most volunteers live in departments where their regional capitals are fairly large and they can access all the things that make the hearts of Americans living in the middle of nowhere go pitter patter – Starbucks, shopping malls, movie theaters… you get the point.

Well Chachapoyas, isn’t one of those cities. Chachapoyas only has a population of about 20,000 and is 24 hours away from Lima by bus. Although it has so many things to offer in terms of tourism, the city’s isolation doesn’t make it a hot spot for tourists. It isn’t large, there are no Starbucks or movie theaters, malls or typical American comforts but I really must confess that love it anyway.

Chachapoyas’ white buildings, tiled roofs, and beautiful wooden balconies gives it a quaint, homey feeling that I think is unique to my sleepy little mountain capital. Unlike other larger regional capitals, The City of Balconies (a nickname for Chacha) is low in crime. So while I still keep my wits about me, I don’t feel unsafe or overwhelmed when walking around. And sure, we don’t have American food or coffee chains but who needs that when the city is filled with charming little cafes with great food and regionally grown coffee – and nothing beats Amazonas coffee. Not to mention, the feng shui of these cute

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Inside one of the cafes frequented by Amazonas volunteers

as a button cafes is on the proverbial “fleek” – a relaxed, chilled ambiance where you can just be which is exactly what the doctor orders when you always have to be “on” 24/7 in site.

And since my beloved Chacha is so small, when you’re in for a visit you’re bound to run into another volunteer. You could be sitting in a café enjoying fried eggs, toast, and papaya juice and chances are other volunteers are bound to waltz right on in and join the party. Now for an introvert like myself, normally this is my worst nightmare realized but honestly, I’ve grown to really appreciate it. For the most part, the volunteers of Amazonas match the laid back, mellow vibe of their regional capital and so I really don’t mind when it happens. Real talk, if Chachapoyas had a volunteer theme song it would probably be “Where Everybody Knows Your Name.” And ya’ll can call me cheesy all you want but that’s real right there.

In PC Peru, a lot of the volunteers have collective reputations varying by region. Amazonas volunteers are known for being a hardworking, supportive group of PCVs. I think part of that has to do with our region being more isolated than most. We’re so far out here that I think somewhere along the line the PCVs consciously or subconsciously started a chill, welcoming, and supportive volunteer culture which makes it easy to just come together and kick back.

Chachapoyas is here for me when my sanity is not. It’s a place where I can escape the fish bowl I live in and I don’t have to be “on.” It’s a place where I can choose to spend time alone in my hotel bed but at the same time it’s also a place where I can shoot the breeze and laugh with other volunteers, talk about all of the things make being a PCV hard and

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Shooting the breeze at another restaurant frequented by Amazonas volunteers.

not feel so crazy. For me there’s no doubt that Chachapoyas has a centering effect and I always leave more tranquila and balanced – and there’s nothing more important than a little equilibrium in your life says one of our PCMOs, Dr. Suni.

So, Chacha, thank you for the R&R, the poppin feng shui, the good coffee, the fellowship of other PCVs, and for serving me with a little inner peace throughout my own service – I’m looking forward to the rest of our time together.

I Love You Like a Fat Kid Loves Cake,

Brittany

You wanna be where you can see your troubles are all the same. You wanna be where everybody knows your name.

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