Well, it has been a little while since my last post and that is because the past six weeks have been insane. After our three week site exploration, we returned to Lima for one more month of training. This month was filled with final reports, too much cake and emotional goodbyes. When we arrived at staging, on April 27th, the Peace Corps told us to look around because the people in that room would become some of our best friends. On that day it seemed a little hard to believe, but on July 21st when we swore in as Peace Corps Volunteers, I came to learn the full meaning of that statement.
You build a bond unlike any other with your Peace Corps training group. Of course, we have the love and support of loved ones back home, but no one will fully understand your experience like your fellow trainees. They understand how annoying it is to get ripped off on the combi because you look different; they understand what a great feeling it is to understand a joke your host family tells you; they understand the feeling of being so far away from home, and on July 21, 2016, we experienced the unforgettable moment when we were sworn in as official Peace Corps Volunteer, and what it took to get to that moment.
Our last 24 hours in Lima were packed to the max. We hosted a party for our host families, packed our bags(ugh, why didn’t we all bring one bag like Brandon did?), said goodbye to our host families in Lima, swore in at the US Ambassadors house(best snacks ever!), said goodbye to our training group, and were on our way to our sites. If anyone from Peace Corps staff is reading this, I fully support spreading out all these activities because it makes for one stressful/emotional day.
Funny/Sappy side note: I wasn’t sure how I was going to react when I had to say goodbye to my host family in Lima. Then the day came and I cried like a baby. Classic. I first said goodbye to my Grandpa. Real talk, I can’t understand him. At all. Honestly, if he was speaking English, I don’t think I would have understood him. But he is so loving and the jokester of the family. After Grandpa, I gave mi abuela a big hug and she told me that they love me and to come back and visit (glad we are on the same page, I was planning on visiting anyways). My goodbye with my two younger host brothers consisted of a simple “goodbye, see ya later, good luck with life”. They’re 12, that’s how they roll. Then the two hardest goodbyes came. My older host brother (17) and my host mom. My host brother cried when I left, he tried to hide it, but didn’t work. Soy la única and always wanted a brother and he was so fun to hang out with, he felt like a real brother. I would ask him how his day was, expecting the United States response of “good, how are you?”, but he would tell me ALL about his day. His classes, the cute girls in his classes, the drama at school (ah, high school), his job, the party he went to and how it was cooler than the ones I went to, etc. Honestly, it turn into a 45 minute conversation, but I thoroughly enjoyed them, well, what I could understand of them.
After my host brother came my host mom. She has hosted Peace Corps Trainees before, so she was used to this process. It was still very hard to say goodbye and at the end of the conversation she looked at me and said “I will see you later.” I immediately agreed with her words and reassured her I would visit, we can stay in touch through Facebook, we can text, etc. Not too long into my plan of keeping in touch, she interrupted me and said “No, really. I will see you later, in 5 hours at your swearing in ceremony.” It made for a humorous moment during the emotional goodbye.
Okay, back to our regularly scheduled blogging. Our swearing in ceremony was the conclusion of a challenging, yet incredible, 12 weeks. My life has never changed so much, so quickly. The week before we swore in as volunteers, we were eating lunch at the training center with one of our Peace Corps doctors. Side note about PC Peru doctors, they are some of the coolest people you will ever meet. Anyways, we were reminiscing on the good times we had during training but also mentioned how sad we were to leave Lima and all our (government issued) friends (una broma, we’re real friends!) The medico we were with chuckled to himself and us volunteers looked at him in confusion. How could he be laughing at our pain?! Okay, little dramatic. Anyways, he looked at us and explained that he always finds it comical that trainees get so sad about leaving. He further explained that the reality is our 12 weeks of training is just the prologue to our Peace Corps story. The prologue is never the best part of the book, and just like any book, training will not be the best part of our experience here in the Peace Corps. The best is yet to come. I’m very fortunate to have had an amazing introduction to my Peace Corps service, and based off how this prologue turned out, maybe I should start paying better attention to the prologues of the books I read, normally I skip them. Rebel, I know. But just like in any story, there is always a transition into the next chapter. And the following is my segue into the next chapter:
I, Jenna Houchins, promise to serve alongside the people of Peru.
I promise to share my culture with an open heart and open mind.
I promise to foster an understanding of the people of country of service with creativity, cultural sensitivity and respect.
I will face the challenges of service with patience, humility and determination.
I will embrace the mission of world peace and friendship for as long as I serve and beyond.
In the proud tradition of Peace Corps’ legacy and in the spirit of the Peace Corps family — past, present and future.
I am a Peace Corps Volunteer
Peace Corps Peru 27 with Ambassador Brian Nichols