Saying Goodbye

Are we really ever ready to leave, to make a big transition? I know I wasn’t when I started the whole Peace Corps experience. I recently went back to read my very first blog post in August of 2013, and I was scared out of my mind to leave the country, I hated the goodbyes and the fear of the unknown.

Isn’t it funny that I had those exact same feelings in my last few weeks of site? I cried with each goodbye of close friends and neighbors knowing that I might not ever see them again.  I sat in the place I have called home for the last two years and became overwhelmed that I don’t exactly have my next steps planned out-I only got as far as booking a flight home.

A friend asked me in Lima, if I was ready to leave Peru, and I responded “not really, but I guess it is time” she replied, “I don’t think we are ever truly ready for anything.” And in a sense I suppose she is right. But, maybe it is supposed to be like that to be sure that you are dependent on the Lord to provide and to be your comfort.

It is really hard to believe that two years in site has already passed, and I am still taking the time to comprehend it all and trying to put into words the impact this experience had on my life. I just had my last two days at the Peace Corps office where I was asked questions like “Did your service meet your expectations?” “What was your greatest professional accomplishment?” “What was your greatest personal accomplishment?” “Are you satisfied with what you achieved?”

These types of questions I often look to others to answer for me, begging for some type of feeling of accomplishment by their approval. Do they recognizing the time and effort I put into this project? Do they appreciate the time I sacrificed to be here with them? Which, I realize is a dangerous game to play, always seeking others approval, because after all, our works here on earth really aren’t about our glory, but about serving the Lord and bringing Him glory through our actions.

Wrapping up my experiences over the past two years into a short elevator pitch will be difficult. The impact my time here has had on me hasn’t even fully registered. And so, I am taking some time in Colombia, exploring the beaches, eating amazing food, reflecting on the past two years and preparing for this next season of life.

And on a less serious note, some pictures from my last week in site:

The finished world map!

The finished world map!

Milagros, one of my favorite high school kids, who has a love for speaking English, Taylor Swift, and baking cupcakes. We obviously bonded quickly.

Milagros, one of my favorite high school kids, who has a love for speaking English, Taylor Swift, and baking cupcakes. We obviously bonded quickly.

Getting an award from the mayor and the city hall workers, I was super surprised to receive a medal-you can tell by the fact that I am definitely not dressed for the occasion.

Getting an award from the mayor and the city hall workers, I was super surprised to receive a medal-you can tell by the fact that I am definitely not dressed for the occasion.

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Being serenaded by a fellow Faiqueño as we watched the sunset, drank wine, and exchanged stories.

Luchita, the incredible woman who I have called mom over the past two years.

Luchita, the incredible woman who I have called mom over the past two years.

The last morning I woke up in site and got to see the rising of the clouds for the last time.

The last morning I woke up in site and got to see the rising of the clouds for the last time.

Getting a flat tire on the journey to Piura made me more excited to be heading back to the States.

Getting a flat tire on the journey to Piura made me more excited to be heading back to the States.

Makenzie’s Faique Bucket List

A few months ago when Mayra (my site replacement) came to site, she asked me what I wanted to do before I left Faique. A great question, and something I had given a little bit of thought to since I hate thinking back and saying, “Man, I wish I would have had time to do that.” So with that conversation, “Makenzie’s Faique Bucket List” was born. 12 things that I had always thought about doing in site at some point, but never did for one reason or another.

Mayra and I have been working on accomplishing this list together over the past month, which has kept us busier, gotten us into more adventures, and expanded our horizons a bit.

  1. Wine night at Huayanay-This has been on my list since day one of arriving in site and seeing Huayanay-the mountain in site with the perfect sunset view, I have described it as the prettiest place in Peru, which might be a slight exaggeration. I have always wanted to drink wine up there at sunset, because I guess I am a romantic at times. I tried doing this with Franklin during his visit, Sydney during hers, and for some reason it never worked out. So, Mayra and I are going to accomplish this one together.
  2. Ride a horse-I know, I have ridden a horse before, and even in Peru I have ridden one. But not in site, through the mountains in town, so it was put on the list. Someone Mayra has been working with in town let her know that she has a horse, so one day last week we went out to ride her horse. It turned out to not be exactly how I had imagined, since friends had heard about this activity and decided they wanted to join. Six people to share one horse, was more like an amusement ride, and less like a jaunt through the mountains, but it was still fun to include other people in this activity!                                                             IMG_1970
  3. Milk a cow-I think I remember doing this once on a kid’s petting farm, or at least pretending to, but I wanted to give it a shot here in Faique, since there are so many around. This one was really fun, and actually a lot harder than I had imagined. My hand and arm hurt that day after helping milk six different cow. And the milk we got from the cows was delicious!!                    IMG_1779IMG_1802
  4. Successfully raise a chick-This idea came after we had Mr. Chick and it died exactly one day later. Then Mary, a little girl from Collona, gifted me her chick, and we have been raising it ever since. I think it will be considered a success once we build it a shelter, so she can survive through the rainy season. But, she seems to be happy so far. Except for, it turns out she doesn’t exactly like to go on walks with us. IMG_1406
  5. Take Jose Carlos to the beach-This one might have been my favorite to complete. It was such a joy watching Jose play with the sand, slowly get over his fear of the ocean, and enjoy a day with his mom (which doesn’t happen too often because she lives in a different city). Jose still talks about the beach and asks when we will go back.IMG_1940
  6. Spend the night on the hammock-The best $50 I ever spent was on my hammock that sits on the family porch, and I have spent hours in over the last year. It is so comfortable, and gives you the perfect view of our little town. So, I decided I wanted to sleep in it one night, which sounds cooler than it actually is. I would definitely wear socks next time I do it, but I guess it was cool I got to watch the sunrise.
  7. Climb the church bell tower-I haven’t completed this one yet, but it should be an easy one to do, and will give a cool view of our plaza. Maybe I’ll even get to ring the church bell, that would be a bonus!
  8. Cook enchiladas-This one was inspired and carried out mainly by Mayra, her parents are from Mexico, and she has learned a few of her parents and grandparents cooking secrets over the past years. The family loved our enchiladas, except for they commented that black beans made them too gassy. IMG_1219
  9. Make chocolate from cacao plant-I love chocolate!! Don’t you ever wonder where it comes from? How to make it? I have been to a chocolate factory, and seen the processing of it, but never seen it from the moment it grows on the tree to how it becomes chocolate. And the first time we tried to do it we screwed it up because we wanted chocolate and we didn’t wait long enough. So we are now on round two to trying to make this happen. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.
  10. Hike and picnic at “Pike’s Peak”-There is this one mountain that you can see from Collona that I have always wanted to climb, so I named it “Pike’s peak.” I was told it is just a few hours from Collona, but that turned out to be wrong. Our attempt to reach it included climbing mountain ridges, rolling down a mountain, fighting our way through brush, and many hard hours of rigorous up and down climbing, I think we crossed two mountains, and it turned out we were still two more mountain passes away from being at the bottom of “Pike’s Peak” so we didn’t exactly make it there. But, we got to see some very beautiful views along the way, and had a great adventure-so I would consider that a success!804498_10104575769403338_1101791897_nIMG_1979
  11. Sleep under the stars-I have always wanted to wander up a mountain in site, set up my sleeping bag and enjoy a night of star gazing until I slept. Our camping adventure went pretty much like that. We had heard about some cool rocks on this one mountain a few hours away, so we went to find them, and then decided to climb to the mountain peak and camp for the night. Did I mention we set up an awesome fire for s’mores?                                                           IMG_1983
  12. Complete a town World Map-A town world map, something I had always thought about doing during my service, but then convinced myself it would be too much work. Turns out I was right, it is a lot of work. Which is why I am glad that Mayra and I decided to tackle this town project together, with some high school seniors. We have spent many days perfecting our world map, and we still have one more work day left. It is coming along just nicely, except we got too many complaints about the shape of Peru, so we had to bring in an expert to fix that one for us.IMG_1968

5/12 left to go, with a few those well underway. 8 days left in site, I think I can finish them all!

All the emotions and pictures instead of words

It seems like blogging has become harder as my time is finishing up, because there has been too many emotions to process it all, not enough time to write, and no internet on my computer. However, I put together a small update on what I have been thinking about, and some pictures I have taken lately.

At the beginning of September, I traveled to Lima to be reunited with my training class, Peru 22. It had been almost two years since we had all been back together. There were fewer of us now, some dropped out along their service for various reasons. We spent time reflecting on our service, discussing what it would be like returning home to the States, and seeking advice on how to get a job when back home. The week was bitter sweet, sharing those memories with a group of individuals from all different backgrounds, with all different experiences over the past two years, but the bond of understanding what it is like to go through this journey.

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The group of 10 volunteers who I lived with in the same small community for three months.

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My program, WASH, group and our boss, Jorge.

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Flags are fun!

I also found out that I will be leaving my site at the beginning of November, which is seeming to creep up quickly. I have decided to leave that early so that I can travel for three weeks and still make it home by Thanksgiving. I am excited about the next stage, about being home again, but as the end approaches the transition seems hard. And I have to remind myself, that I was just as scared to leave the comfort of my home in the States two years ago. The transition will always be hard, but without the change, you leave yourself little room to grow, experience, and be challenged.

I can now count the weeks I have left to spend in Faique, just seven, and at times that number seems too small. How can it be that I have already served two years here? Doesn’t the end always seem to sneak up on us? The end of summer, the end of the school year, the end of a phase of life; and as we look back, we almost always wish we had just a little bit more time.

What I would do with more time in Faique, I’m not sure, read a few more books on my hammock, watch a few more sunsets, teach a few more English lessons, and I could be very content doing that. Yet there always comes a time to move on. So, over the next seven weeks, I am going to try to do my best to take it all in, enjoy the silence, and prepare for the leap to the next stage of life-wherever it may bring me.

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Mayra and myself helping make mud for the newest addition to our house!

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Walking our chick, Mary.

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Painting with Jose Carlos and Mayra.

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IMG_1446 Helping teach the steps to hand washing to kids and adults in one of our caserios.

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Visiting one of the farthest and poorest places in my district. It took three hours to get there by car.

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The bathrooms are now complete!!

Dear Mr. Chick

Dear Mr. Chick,

You were given to us as a birthday present for Mayra’s birthday. We promised to love you and take care of you. We wanted to have you as our new pet, and keep you healthy and loved for all our days in Faique. We knew that most people would eventually want to kill you and eat you, but we wanted to prevent that from happening. Since neither of us really wanted to raise a dog or a cat, we thought a chicken would be an easy pet to raise.

The first hour of the car ride you were really scared, shaking a lot and trying to tell us something through all of your chirps. Once we got to Faique, we immediately bought you the best food we could find, and started right away on making you a new house. We both spent a few hours cuddling with you, trying to calm you down and get you used to your new mommies.

Your first temporary home.

Your first temporary home.

Although, at times we had to keep you in a small cardboard box, we let you run out and play when we were around to watch you. We were even working on building you a better house, one that was safe, and more like your natural habitat. We were new mothers, asking advice from everyone we saw, even though we often got conflicting answers. You stole our heart in the first few hours.

Meeting your new aunt, Bianca.

Meeting your new aunt, Bianca.

The first night was difficult, we weren’t sure if you would be warm enough in the towel wrap we made for you. We wanted you to feel safe and comfortable sleeping in Mayra’s room. We were relieved to see you in the morning, even though you woke Mayra up a little earlier than normal, by jumping out of your box for more snuggles.

Hanging out with Mayra.

Hanging out with Mayra.

When we had to leave for work that morning, it was hard to say goodbye. We made sure to come back after two hours to let you out of your box and run around in the garden. You were slowly warming up to us, jumping into our hands instead of running away. People told us we needed to feed you more, so we did. We didn’t want anything to happen to you, so we kept a close eye on you, making sure you always had food in front of you.

How could we not love that cute face of yours?

How could we not love that cute face of yours?

By lunch, we had built you a new home, and you seemed happy to see more sunlight and get to play in the dirt. We let you out after lunch to play in the garden, and stopped watching you for five minutes. In those five minutes, we don’t know what happened, but we are sorry for not keeping a better eye on you. We are sorry if we overfeed you, or you got attacked by an animal, or if you choked on something on the garden, and we weren’t there to help you. In those five minutes, our lives were changed once again, as we came back and saw you suffering and on the verge of death.

Mr. Chick, we are sorry we were unexperienced mothers and you died under our care. We truly loved you and mourn your death. Although, we may try again, no other chick will ever take your place in our hearts. I hope you know we tried our best to care for you, and the pain you experienced we also felt.

All our love,

Mayra and Maki

The journey isn’t always smooth

Since the start of construction in Collona, I have been out there many time. Sometimes, I ride along in a truck to bring up materials, sometimes I catch a ride out there with whoever is passing by, and sometimes I just decide to walk it. I have pretty much gotten used to the journey, however, I have learned, even if you know the road you can encounter many unexpected things along the way.

One day last week, I was trying to bring out cement and other necessary materials to the community, so I was coordinating with the municipality to lend their trash collecting truck one afternoon. We coordinated to leave early in the morning, which eventually turned into right after lunch. My host mom served me a meal of fish, rice, vegetables and a salad, which I inhaled and then immediately jumped in the truck. The journey out there took twice as long as usual since we were also trying to carry a cement mixer to another community for a school project going on there. The cement mixer broke off the truck twice in the journey, and we eventually just decided to abandon.

About half way up the mountain, I started to feel a little nauseous, and I wasn’t sure if it was because of the driving, being in such a large truck, or lack of water for the day. I just tried to get some fresh air and concentrate on making it to Collona, where surely I would feel better. We finally make it up to Collona, and I immediately jumped out of the truck eager for some fresh air. I politely shook everyone’s hand and tried to make small talk, but my nauseous level was getting worse not better.

I made the excuse that I wanted to go check out the progress of the bathroom, so I went behind the house that everyone had gathered in. I hardly made it to see the bathroom before I threw up my whole lunch. Besides not facing the community, I wasn’t exactly secretive about it because being quiet while throwing up was not my biggest concern. I then used some water to wash my face and try to make myself look a least a little presentable once again. The house dog helped out because he came right behind me to clean up the mess I had made.

I walked back to where everyone had gathered and it was fairly obvious what had just happened. They immediately started creating some type of natural medicine for me, and told me to just sit down and wait. I was then handed a wet, green wad of mysterious healing ingredients and told to sniff it. I watched as they prepared a second batch of some type of plant, rubbing alcohol, and breast milk, which was then used to be rubbed all over my body.

In the meantime, the materials had been unloaded from the truck and was ready to make its descent back downhill, I wasn’t so sure my stomach was ready but they assured me the medicine which was all over my body would help. I jumped back in the truck, sure to get a window seat in case the medicine hadn’t fully set in. As we were making our way down the mountain the driver could tell I was too embarrassed to ask him to stop again, but that I was still struggling to keep anything down. He pulled over to the side of the road where I emptied out whatever remains I had left in my stomach, and polietely waited as I tried to put myself back together.

We eventually made it back to Faique, which to me seemed like the longest journey ever, and I cleaned myself up and made my way to bed hoping that sleep would be the cure. Sure enough the next morning I felt fine, and I made my way back out to Collona in the same truck with the same driver smoothly (I gave the driver a chocolate bar to thank him for putting up with me the day before). According to the locals, I just caught some bad air that day which upset my stomach, but I still am leaning towards it had to do with something I ate for lunch.  Over the next two months, I’ll have many more journeys to make up to Collona and I am just hoping that this incident doesn’t repeat itself.

Finally, the start of construction.

I am used to things moving really slowly here in Peru, especially in regards to progress on a project or paperwork. So, I am still trying to figure out how things came together so quickly this past week. Whatever the magic of last week was, here is what the progress looked like in Collona.

Monday morning: The morning started off like a typical Monday morning, lurking around the municipality to check in on papers and see if there was any change in the status. To my surprise, the paper I had been waiting for, what seemed like my whole service, had been signed by the mayor. This meant the project was officially approved by everyone in the municipality and the project could get underway!

Monday afternoon: My spirits had been lifted due to the success of the morning, but I knew I still had to schedule an official groundbreaking ceremony in Collona with a lot of the top official municipality workers. To my surprise, they wanted to schedule the meeting for the following afternoon, I was expecting to wait at least a week for all for all of the starts to align.

Tuesday afternoon: As I was sitting in the truck heading up out to Collona for the groundbreaking ceremony is when I knew this project was actually going to come to fruition! The ceremony we had in Collona was short but a nice touch to the project and made it official.

The mayor giving a very inspirational speech!

The mayor giving a very inspirational speech!

At the ceremony, we talked about the history of the project, how many people from all over the world (that’s you guys) have been very active in the project and have made it possible. Each invited member of the muni gave a short speech and talked about different details of the project, including myself. Afterwards, the mayor and I had the honor of shoveling the first dirt, representing the start of the project. A few other people shoveled some dirt afterwards, and then some rock was also lifted up, I am guessing it also symbolized the start of work. Lots of pictures were taken, hands were shaken, and tamales were eaten. The community members had worked together that afternoon to cook us tamales, with cheese, and hot chocolate. It was the perfect welcome ceremony, and more official than anything I had planned on doing.

Struggling to hold the rock, notice how I didn´t help with this part.

Struggling to hold the rock, notice how I didn´t help with this part.

Shoveling the first dirt.

Shoveling the first dirt.

Wednesday morning: I headed out to Collona early in the morning with the municipality truck, filled with the first few tools we needed to bring up there, such as helmets, shovels, picks, and chalk to mark the ground. I went out with Mayra, the volunteer who will be the next WASH Volunteer in Faique, Henry, the head contracted engineer, and Fidel, the head contracted construction guy who is in charge of all of the community workers.

Fidel, the head construction guy!

Fidel, the head construction guy!

Wednesday afternoon: After a full day walking from house to house in the community and marking the exact spot of where the bathroom will be, we gathered together to have the celebratory drink of rompope. We wanted to recognize the first day of work on the bathrooms, and introduce Mayra to the traditional drink of Alto Piura.

Check out that hole for a bathroom!

Check out that hole for a bathroom (and my sweet hard hat)!

Helping make the rompope.

Helping make the rompope.

Mayra and myself with rompope!

Mayra and myself with rompope!

Thursday: I spent Thursday in Faique showing the new volunteer around and teaching English class. Luckily, this didn’t meant the progress in Collona had stopped. The community members of Collona decided to work in shifts of five people, 8 hours a day, for 6 days a week, and then they would change workers. It is a lot of physical labor, but luckily the municipality put in the budget enough money to pay each of the community workers for the hours they work-an added bonus to the project!

Friday afternoon: Another trip to Collona with the engineer to drop off 15 bags of cement and check on the progress. For this trip I spent more time in the car than in the community, but it was still good to check in and answer the few questions that the community had.

How Peace Corps volunteers get paid...food from the field. I recieved at least 20 ears of corn.

How Peace Corps volunteers get paid…food from the field. I recieved at least 20 ears of corn.

Saturday: I didn’t have any transportation out to Collona, but I still wanted to make it out there to check on the progress of things and see how I could help. The walk up the mountain has become one of my favorites and after a really busy week, I enjoyed the time outside and the chance to do a bit of exercise. Once I got to the community, I checked in with the workers and played around with kids. It was a good afternoon, and even though I wasn’t of the most use, I still felt like my presence was appreciated out in the field. I also made a note of the materials we need to bring up on Monday.

The base of the house of the bathroom.

The base of the house of the bathroom.

The first half week of building went pretty well. I can already tell I am going to learn a lot by being the “supervisor” of the project and the head liaison between the community members and the municipality. Of course there will be problems and situations to solve during the 60 days of construction, but hopefully the trust I have with the community members and the municipality will help resolve these problems without too much headache.

It looks like I will be heading up to Collona at least 3-4 times each week to check on progress and see what other materials I should have the muni send up. I know the next two months are going to fly by due to being really busy coordinating everything for Collona and trying to keep up with the rest of the projects I have going on outside of Collona.

Potentially the best month ever!!

It is only the first few days of July and already I am so excited about this month and the potential it holds! Here are a few things I’m looking forward to this month!

  1. Bathrooms being built-I am always optimistic that it will be the month to start building, but it finally seems like all the municipality stars are aligning and we are actually going to start construction at some point this month! We have already purchased the toilets, sinks (which were an added bonus), bricks, and lots of tubes. Even though the right people haven’t signed the exact document yet, I have been told by various people it will happen, and the project will get going. The community has already dug their holes and just waiting for the materials to be brought there. The projected start date for construction is July 6th (Monday!), and they are telling me ¨si or si¨ (yes or yes) we will start that day.
  2. My replacement volunteer-She comes to visit Faique on Wednesday! I am heading to Piura to meet all the 25ers on Sunday and then they have two days of training. Which means, Wednesday through Friday, Mayra (the replacement volunteer) will be visiting Faique. Not exactly sure what we are going to do, but it will be fun to have her here, and I hope she likes it!! She is moving here for good at the end of July, and we will have a few months overlap.
  3. Soap Trainings-I have installed some soap dispensers in a few schools that I have been working it, and next week I will go to visit the schools to see if they are using them correctly and I will also train more students on making liquid soap!
  4. The sun is out!! Finally it is starting to be sunny in site, after six months of rainy season! The sun means many things, like playing volleyball again, and going on runs whenever, and hanging out at the pool, and beautiful sunsets, and dry clothes, and just everything wonderful!
  5. MY SISTER GETS MARRIED!!! Well technically she gets married August 1, but we are all heading to Costa Rica at the end of July, so it basically counts as July, right? I am so excited for her and so excited to see many wonderful friends in Costa Rica!

Happy July 4th weekend, yall!! Hope you also have big things to look forward to this month!