So what exactly will I be doing in Peru?
My broad job title is "Sanitation and Water". While I won't exactly know what my specific project or two will be until I am placed in a site and assess community needs, broadly I'll be working on projects related to health education, water purification, latrines, sanitation projects, bringing water closer to communities to eliminate long treks to procure it, and maintenance of these things.
I won't be solely digging latrines and building what-not by myself. Rather, these projects will be done at the will of the community I work with. If they want any of the projects to come to fruition, they must collectively agree on a project and also contribute capital (human and some financial) in order to give them a stake in the project. I could dig latrines for two years, but if no one uses them or maintains them while and after I'm there, any work I would do would be pointless. Peace Corps programs like this are all about sustainability; making sure that they last long after the volunteer has left the area.
How are qualified for this? Why Peru and Wat/San?
Well, with a BA from Wooster, I should be qualified to do whatever I want...right? The BA helps, and so did the courses I took related to international development. More importantly, my recruiter saw my experience with AmeriCorps for two summers, plus my background in tech theatre. Seriously. She said that a big qualification for me was the fact that I was familiar with construction, power tools, and working/leading projects that required manual labor. During training I'll learn the what's and hows of my specific work, plus I'll have backup support and consultation available.
Latin America may have been the last place on my list of where I wanted to go (not that I really cared, just more a preference towards Africa or Pacific Islands). But the Peace Corps first places you in a job category (Water/San) and then places you based on language and departure time. Although I had Arabic skills, the recruiter emphasized my Spanish language experience + my desire to leave ASAP after graduating in May. So Peru just kinda fell into place, I guess.
Where will you be living?
For the first three months of my service (after two or so days of staging in DC), I'll be living near the PC training center (which is outside of Lima) with a host family. During my training, I'll have language classes, as well as safety, survival, cultural and technical training. After three months, I have to take tests in all of the above classes (and pass!) in order to be considered a Peace Corps volunteer (until then I am just considered a PC trainee).
About two months in, I'll get a site placement within Peru. Not sure exactly how this works, but they evaluate you based on language, cultural adaptation, and skill level in order to place you into the appropriate place and project. I could be placed on the coast (where it's usually nice and warm, but arid planes and deserts), in the jungle area (humid, rainy), the campo/countryside, or up in the mountains. I'm kind of hoping to work with the indigenous population and learn Quechua as well, but I'm really open to anything. After training, I move to my site and live with another host family for the rest of my time (unless I want to move in with another family or have to move sites).
How are you preparing for Peru?
Scheduling in the see you laters with the friends. Many are going onto grad school or other ventures, so I figured I'd try to do a little tour in order to see them before September and part of the real world hits.
I've been brushing up on the Spanish. The Peace Corps gave us copies of the Rosetta Stone online. But I got bored with them, so I read through the first Harry Potter book in Spanish. Additionally, I decided to sign up for Middlebury's intensive summer language program: seven weeks of Spanish...no english or other languages allowed to be spoken. Sweet! So I'll actually be there from June 26th-August 14th, so I won't be updating until then.
See you in August!