Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I’m not sure why but I was not looking forward to Thanksgiving this year. In general, I have a pretty take it or leave it attitude about Thanksgiving but this year it was more than that. I was thinking of Thanksgiving as one more thing I had to “get over with” before I could go home. I was too focused on the things that were coming after Thanksgiving that I wasn't thinking about all the reasons that November 24 (or in our case, November 26) was going to be awesome.

The holiday did not go off without a hitch – I received some heart breaking news in Lima, had to ride a night bus with forty hyper 10-12 year-olds, and forgot my favorite shirt in Lima (hopefully to be recovered before my trip to the States). Overall, though, it was exactly what I needed.

On Thanksgiving Day, thirty(ish) volunteers arrived in Trujillo, the capital of La Libertad, the department north of Ancash. I spent the sunny day watching two friends doing tricks at the skate park, wandering the mall in awe, eating delicious fresh fish, and, once again, having pizza for Thanksgiving dinner.

The next day, we divided our group and conquered the market, buying enough food for all of the traditional Thanksgiving dishes. With potatoes and turkeys in tow, we took buses two hours north to Erin's beach site, home of the longest left breaking wave in the world. In the afternoon, we lounged on the beach before working hard on supper prep for the next day.

Saturday was our much anticipated “fake Thanksgiving”. We woke early (for me, at least!) for a Turkey Trot 5K on the beach. I thought living at altitude would help but running on sand was still difficult. I’ll admit that I walked and caught up with friends much more than I ran.

I helped some friends prepare their contributions to the meal but my favorite part of prep was carving one of the turkeys. Another volunteer had tracked down two 13 kilo mammoths and after a quick lesson from Elke, I was put in charge of carving one of them. There was something very primal and oddly satisfying about ripping and cutting apart that turkey. I offer my services for next year. Over an hour and a half later, we had enough turkey to feed a small army.

Despite being in Peru, it was a delicious meal of turkey, garlic mashed potatoes, sweet potato pie, veggies, sweet potato biscuits, gravy, stuffing, homemade applesauce, and pumpkin, apple, and strawberry pies. We shared our meal with Erin's host family, friends from her site, and some surfers from our hostal. Since I couldn't be home for Thanksgiving it was the next best thing.

We had an awesome beach bonfire that night and spent a sunny Sunday playing cards on the beach before heading home that night (which is when I encountered the bus full of talkative 10 year-0lds on a field trip and seriously considered murder).

Lesson learned. Sometimes it's easy to become so wrapped up in the excitement of the next best thing that it's easy to miss all of the unexpected wonderful moments I experience everyday. I was so focused on going home that I forgot all about how amazing it would be to celebrate and spend time with my good friends here – people who support me and care for me like a family.

In that spirit, three things I can be thankful about right now, as I sit in a combi, in a seat that is lacking the six inches of room that would allow my legs to fit behind the seat in front of me and is full of people speaking Quechua:

  1. that I found this piece of paper and a pen so I could write this blog entry instead of being bored,

  2. that I’m comfortable in a thermal shirt I acquired today in a bag of stuff my friend Pete left behind,

  3. that I was able to catch up with some friends today that I didn't see at Thanksgiving and that I’ll be seeing another friend from a faraway department later in the week.

So as I try to focus on the here and now, I can't help but thinking about how I’ll be feeling in 13 days. As much as I try to appreciate the experience I’m having here my mind can't help but wander to how wonderful/amazing/spectacular it's going to feel to be holding, hugging, and hanging with my nieces (and, you know, other people too).

Oh well.

Monday, November 21, 2011


As the day of my arrival in the United States of Awesomeness sloooooowly creeps forward (Did you know I was coming home? Or did you somehow miss my billion Facebook updates/blog posts about that very subject?), I can´t help but think of all the reasons I´m excited to visit. It may be a cliche to say that you don´t know what you´ve got until it´s gone, but in the past few days I´ve realized just how true that statement is. Of course I am most excited to see people (especially ones named Emmeline and Elaina) but I´ve also found myself dreaming about some other basic comforts. For something novel, here´s a list (and feel free to steal any of these for your reason to be thankful this up-coming Thursday)...

- Target. Let me explain... When I´m in my capital city, Huaraz, I often have a list of things to acquire (food, art supplies, clothes, accessories, books, etc.) and it will take me a whole (frustrating) day to find everything. What takes me a day in Ancash will take me an hour at Target. Plus, they have cute shoes.

- The Piggly Wiggly. I plan on visiting the store, getting a cup of free coffee, and staring at the baking section at least once a day. Also the deli section. And frozen foods. And produce. And dairy. Okay, I´m just going to wander the store like a lost (and excited) puppy on a daily basis.

- Showering. Every day. And then being able to blow dry my hair. And wear make up. And feel like a real person. Every. Single. Day.

- Coffee. Real coffee. Not instant coffee but real drip coffee. Every single day.

- Home cooking. When I´m in Huaraz, we often go to restaurants, which is nice. But there is nothing quite like real home cooking.

- Baking. I am so excited to bake in a kitchen that is actually stocked for baking. Baking here always requires some sort of sacrafice because you are always missing some important component (a cookie sheet, cake pan, or cupcake pan; brown sugar; an actual recipe).

- Running on a treadmill.

- Greasy diner omlettes, hashbrowns, and coffee. (Dad, you said we would go out to breakfast multiple times while I´m home... I´m not going to to forget!)

- Christmas! Christmas music, Christmas decorations, Christmas cookies, Christmas trees, Christmas lights, Christmas movies, Christmas snow... the Christmas spirit. It was tragicly missing from my life last year (I more or less tried to pretend that Christmas wasn´t happening) so I am extra excited for Christmas this year.

- Internet. All of the time. I will be attempting to download a year´s worth of TV shows while I´m home.

- Canned soda. I already wrote a whole blog entry on this subject...

- Wine that doesn´t come in a box. And actually tastes good.

- No Quechua. Or Spanish. Perhaps I will even remember how to speak English (though I find that rather doubtful.) I would like to pre-apologize for my constant use of Spanglish.

- Being with people. By far, the hardest part of the Peace Corps (for me) is the lonliness. More than anything, I am excited to be constantly surrounded by people I love. I honestly hope that the drives to and from Madison are the longest stretches of time I need to spend alone. I want to aprovechar (take advantage... but in a good way) every single minute of my trip home. Because more then all of these material things and creature comforts, being with all of you is going to be the best part of this trip. 22 (painfully long) days.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Canned Christmas

I was recently watching an episode of Friends where Joey and Chandler bought everyone Christmas gifts at a gas station. The boys gave Ross a can of soda for a gift and it took me a few minutes to understand the joke – a can of soda is not considered a good gift in the States. Canned beverages are uncommon and expensive in Peru and something I rarely spend money on.

I started thinking about other canned things that I would happily accept as gifts. The list includes:
cans of peaches
cans of French green beans, cream of mushroom soup, and fried onions
cans of mandarin oranges
cans of beer
jars of Grandma's applesauce and strawberry jam (created through the “canning process”)
cans of Pringles
cans of pears
cans of tomato soup
cans of Spaghetti-Os
cans of tuna
cans of frosting
cans of orange and cinnamon rolls
cans of pizza sauce
cans of grape juice concentrate
cans of nacho cheese
and, cans of clams (for my friend Ali)

Really, the long and short of it is that I’m going to be very easily pleased when I’m home in 41 days.