Saturday, March 12, 2011

That's Not My Name

One of my official theme songs in Peace Corps is “That’s Not My Name” by the Ting Tings. Somehow, I have acquired quite a few names during the past nine months.

The obvious ones:

- Beth

- Elizabeth

The not-so-obvious ones:

- Bess

- Ellie

- Bet

The I-know-you-actually-know-my-name-so-this-is-just-annoying ones:

- Gringa

- Gringita

- Professora

- Voluntaria

I’m pretty sure that I already outlined the whole Beth/Bess confusion from training earlier in this blog. And yes, being called Ellie is completely my own fault since I introduced myself as Ellie at site in order to escape another Bess fiasco. But it does all get very confusing when my Peace Corps friends come to visit and I’m suddenly trying to respond to any number of names (and languages) at one time.

While in Lima for training, I had the honor of meeting Stacy Rhodes, the third highest director in the Peace Corps. Not Peace Corps Peru… but the Peace Corps, period. Actually, I met Stacy Rhodes three times. And each time I was using a different name. Let me explain.

I originally met Mr. Rhodes at the Peace Corps office and, since I was with a Peace Corps friend, introduced myself as Beth.

The next day, Mr. Rhodes came to our training event. Since I was with my community partner my nametag read “Ellie”. I re-introduced myself to Mr. Rhodes who said he remembered me from the day before and we had a discussion about using different names.

That evening, Mr. Rhodes was in the receiving line at the Embassy and, when he saw me, said “Hi Beth… or Ellie.” I pointed at my Peace Corps issued nametag which read “Elizabeth” and said that I was actually going by a third name that night. He laughed and I smiled knowing that, for a day at least, Stacey Rhodes knew three of my names.

Now you know all of my names. I sometimes get Facebook posts from people saying that they’ve been reading my blog and it’s made me wonder… who is actually reading this nonsense I post every couple of weeks? So I have a favor to ask of everyone reading this, right now. Please comment on this entry and tell me your name. Think of it as a virtual roll call. Thanks!

To post a comment:

1) Click “post a comment” at the bottom of this entry.

2) Type your comment in the box

3) Choose an identity – if you have a Google account you can use it or else just click “anonymous”, even though you won’t be because you’ll have told me your name in step 2. Remember, it’s only fair. I just told you all of my names.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


It’s hard to believe that I’ve been back in Peru for only three weeks. It seems like it’s been much longer! I don’t mean that in a bad way… it’s just been a very busy three weeks.

Some highlights:
- A few weeks ago, I think I experienced the perfect, summer Saturday. I was in Huaraz due to our regional Peace Corps 50th Anniversary event and had a whole day to laze about. I spent the morning hanging out with some friends on a rooftop garden, walked around all day in shorts and a tank top, acquired a used bike and brought it to a shop to get fixed up, ate at CafĂ© Andino for breakfast and lunch, bought a slice of fresh watermelon from a street vendor, ate an ice cream sandwich while reading outside, went to one of my favorite restaurants (Dad, the waiter didn’t even take my order, he knew that I wanted the buffalo chicken sandwich), and saw a free live
reggae concert. No stress, no problems. Perfect summer-ness.

- My day of perfect summer-ness was definitely counteracted the following day. Some PC friends and I decided to go for a day hike to a laguna that I had already hiked. We had arranged for a taxi driver the night before and were able to secure a great deal. We left early Sunday morning, following directions from our local hiking expert, our almost 4th year and lake jump champion, Rabbit. The taxi driver dropped us off and said that we would have a bit of a walk to the trail head. We walked for awhile but I soon realized that I didn’t recognize anything. We talked to some local people and they confirmed that we weren’t on our way to Laguna Shallup but that we would eventually come across another lake. We decided to hike on. After almost four hours of hiking we still weren’t closer to a lake and decided we should stop for lunch. Will and I had buses to catch that night and wanted to back to Huaraz in time for hot showers and supper so we all decided to turn back after eating. As we were packing up the remains from lunch we noticed that the sky behind us had turned a dark grey.

Let me back up a minute. About a half hour before lunch, I pulled a muscle in my right leg. Walking was difficult but I figured that it just needed a rest and I would be okay.

As we got up from our lunch the rain started, followed quickly by hail. No one had brought clothing for this type of weather and my track jacket was quickly soaked through and sticking to my arms. The rain was coming straight into our eyes and, with my pulled muscle, walking was complete agony. Four hours. Four hours in the rain and cold. Limping and climbing over fences.
Four hours walking straight into strong wind. Four hours of misery.

When we started getting closer to civilization, we came across a combi that would be going back to the town our taxi was waiting in. We happily climbed aboard and de-thawed. To our dismay, some other people got onboard and started arguing with the cobrador and driver about a fifty cent rise in price. The driver soon pulled the combi over to the side of the road and demanded that the arguing people get out. The people refused and, after waiting for five minutes, we disgustedly got off of the combi and continued our trudge through the rain.

Luckily, our taxi was only fifteen minutes away and we were on our way back to Huaraz where the hottest, best shower of my life was waiting for me.

Was it worth it? A beautiful hike, a good story, and the sense of accomplishment that comes from persevering when you just want to lie down and succumb to hypothermia – definitely worth it.

- Last week we had conference in Lima called “Project Design and Management”. It’s about as interesting as it sounds but was full of really great information. The strange part about this trip was that each volunteer brought along a community partner. For my friend Erin that meant a 23 year old psychologist surfer boy from her beach town. For me that meant a 42 year old camposina woman who works at my health post. The whole conference was a delicate, and sometimes awkward, balance between spending time with my Peace Corps friends from other departments who I hadn’t seen since November and making my community partner feel comfortable. I think this led to some interesting experiences for my community partner such as: sharing some pitchers of beer with a bunch of gringos, learning to play Frisbee, officiating relay races between volunteers (I rocked the grapevining leg, of course), watching “127 Hours” and seeing James Franco cut his arm off, going to Jockey Plaza (the largest mall in Peru), and going to a movie theater to see “The King’s Speech”. All in all it was a great conference and I’m happy to have a Frisbee partner at site.

- By far the most interesting experience I shared with my community partner was going to the Peace Corps 50th Anniversary party at the US Ambassador’s house. I have never been to such a ritzy affair and it was fun to get all dressed up. It was intimidating to walk into this huge, grand house, especially when one of the first things someone said to me was, “Hey Beth, Toledo, the former president of Peru, is standing right over there. “ I was at a party with Toledo, a former president, and the current First Lady. Talk about classy. Also, the food was excellent.

- This past Saturday, I made a few exciting acquisitions. Number One: I picked up my bike from a tour agency where they had cleaned it and done some repairs and, I have to say, it is a beautiful, barely used Trek. I can’t wait for my helmet to arrive (PC policy) and get riding! Number Two: I bought a book shelf. Now, this might not sound very exciting but any real furniture in my bedroom makes a huge difference. Next up - a dresser so I can finally stop storing my clothes on a rock ledge. Number Three: I bought an electric bubble oven. Already it has revolutionized my life. In the past few days I have made a pizza, cookies, banana bread, and roasted veggies and potatoes.

Life is going to continue to be interesting over the next couple of weeks. Coming up: I have three days of Quechua classes with other volunteers in Huaraz, I’m going bouldering/rock climbing with another PCV, I’m taking over the Youth Health Promoter club that Rabbit has been running, Caryn, Caitlin, and Becky are coming to visit for my birthday (!), we’re having our very own Peace Corps prom, and, at some point in all of this, I have work to do on my own projects, mainly organizing a Big Brothers/Big Sisters style mentoring program with university students, finding a location for my library, and founding a Girl Scout troop.

Don’t worry – I still have time to read and write back to all of your e-mails. So write me!!!