Apart from the holiday season, December is the month where it officially becomes summer vacation here in Peru! It is the beginning of 3 months of excruciatingly hot temperatures, I’m not even in one of the hottest sites and I constantly think I am going to die of heat stroke, AND, more importantly, it’s the beginning of 3 months living with my 8 year-old host cousin, Irma. It was also supposed to be the month where El Niño arrived in full force and washed our towns away with tons of rain, but thankfully that didn’t happen.
I thought I knew what hot was, I mean it gets hot as hell in the summer in the States, but this is another form of heat. It’s not humid heat; it’s dry heat. The sun burns down on the town and bakes it all day long. There’s no breeze here in Zaña, there’s definitely no air conditioning and I haven’t purchased a fan for my bedroom. I’m not even being dramatic when I say I wake up sweating, sweat all day long, go to sleep sweating, and sweat all through the night. I think the only time I am not sweating is when I take a cold shower, but don’t worry, the second I step out I start sweating again. I have never been in a constant state of sweat/dehydration before but let me tell you, I am living it now. But perhaps the worst part of this heat is soup for lunch. I can’t even explain the wave of irritation and disappointment that swells over me when I see a bowl of steaming hot soup. I want to cry/kill myself even more than when I see a mountain of rice on my plate. Getting through soup for lunch is literally the hardest thing I have to do as a volunteer.
Irma is a nice addition to the house; she’s helpful to my madre and in general she’s a really cute little girl. I make an effort to play with her……..sometimes because most days I don’t want to move. Irma likes to stand in my doorway or next to my bed and stare at me. She won’t say anything, sometimes she like laughs a little to get my attention, but usually she just watches me do whatever I am doing, and that’s fine. She also likes to watch me eat during breakfast, lunch and dinner. Again, I know I have said this before, but I literally do not understand how I eat differently and what is so damn fascinating about it. Maybe she can see the pain in my eyes while struggling through bowls of soup and mountains of rice. IDK. Irma comes with me every night to our dance practice and sometimes it feels like I am a babysitter/mom, and it’s not looking like I am going to be a very patient mom.
At some point I decided that I would spend Christmas in Zaña with my host family and New Year’s Eve in Lima with friends, which turned out to be a great decision. I was told that Christmas in site is a pretty magical time and that I would really be able to appreciate the holiday if I was close to my host family, which I am. For those of you who don’t know me well, I am kind of a Grinch. I don’t like Christmas music, and I am very particular about Christmas decorations, but I was actually thankful when I saw that the municipality had decorated in the park and when my madre put her decorations up around the house. It never felt much like Christmas here, but the decorations definitely helped. Even if all Christmas lights when plugged in also play Christmas songs on repeat until unplugged.
Ti’Era and I also participated in a Secret Santa, or Amigo Secreto, with our dance group! On the 23rd, we had a party to hand out gifts and celebrate with each other. I think I can speak for both Ti’Era and I when I say it was so nice to be able to participate in something like that. I felt like I actually belonged and I actually had friends, which is not typical for new volunteers in site. It was a really, really nice experience all around, although Ti’Era and I had spent hours trying to come up with the right gift to give two guys we don’t know that well.
In Peru, they celebrate more on Christmas Eve than on Christmas Day. So my madre made a yummy salad, chancho, hot chocolate, bought some Paneton and champagne and at midnight we had a cheers and ate! It was much more low-key in my family than I had anticipated after talking to other volunteers, but in general it was low-key in Zaña. A friend here explained that Christmas time used to be a much bigger event in Zaña, but as the economic situation worsened, people started to celebrate less and less. On Christmas Day, I FaceTimed my family as they had our normal Christmas morning and that was awesome. I am still so thankful that I was able to do that, I felt like I was still apart of Christmas even from thousands of miles away. The Holidays were good.
And then we went to Lima! I hadn’t been to Lima since Swearing-In at the end of July, and this was my first actual vacation. I thought I loved Huanchaco in November, but my true love is Lima. We stayed in Miraflores, which is by the beach and is a really nice part of Lima. When I went to the supermarket for the first time, I almost cried of happiness when I saw all the cheese varieties available. We drank Starbucks and IPAs, ate falafel, sushi, pizza, and lots and lots of cheese. There were tons of other English speakers and blondes walking around. I felt like a normal human being again, it was soo refreshing to be anonymous and not having people constantly staring or asking weird questions. It made me realize even more how different I am as a person in Zaña compared to other places when I feel more freedom, but that’s hard to explain.
For New Years Eve we spent the evening at Joe’s sister’s apartment. It was me, Joe, Ayla Tim, Erin and Peter, all of us Peru 25 volunteers, and then Erin’s boyfriend, Davin, and friend, Jane, from the US. We made cheesy paninis for dinner and watched the fireworks across Lima. Joe’s sister has a beautiful apartment in Miraflores with a balcony and at midnight we could see what seemed like hundreds of firework displays going off throughout the city. It was honestly magical. Although, my midnight was a little bit ruined by the fact that the BRAND NEW pair of heels I had bought earlier that day and had only been wearing for 15 minutes broke literally 5 seconds before midnight. Luckily I was able to return them the next day, but still starting off the New Year on a broken heel is pretty shitty luck. The last day in Lima was probably the best day of the trip though. Ayla and I got drinks to go, which was soo normal, like the bartender didn’t even flinch when we asked for alcoholic beverages in to-go cups. And then we went to a Brewery in Barranco, which is close to Miraflores. We spent the day drinking actual beer; normally all you can get in Peru is piss-water beer aka Cristal or Pilsen.
Though when it was time to leave, it was hard. I wasn’t ready to leave the normalcy of Lima, or the good food and good company. But once I finally got back to Zaña, it did feel like I had arrived back home.