So I’ve been here long enough now that (I think) most of the shocking new stuff is probably waning. Not to say something can’t surprise me, but after seven or eight weeks in the campo now, life feels fairly normal. A few observations and events stick out.
I’m starting to get a little disturbed by how much killing, skinning, gutting, cleaning and eating animals doesn’t bother me. In fact, I get excited when I hear we’re going to slaughter another mammal. I’m learning a lot about anatomy, too. The other day, I help clean the intestines of a goat. I watched the process via the insides of the creature of turning grass into shit. It’s cool. Intestines are really fun to clean out because they’re really stretchy, strong tubes. You stretch them out, put it under the faucet and watch the pressure clean out the food/poop. I’ll stick my hand in the grossest anything you put in front of me. It’s really sweet to see how little time it takes for lungs to harden after exposure to the elements. They use every part of the goat. We skinned him, stretched the pelt on the side of the house. We ate goat head, feet and intestine soup. I’m really into intestines and liver but the head was a bit chewy for me. Couldn’t do it. Blood is my favorite part of the animal besides the meat, though. It’s so flavorful and I can almost feel my iron levels increasing with every bite. I’m gonna have to find a blood hook up in the States upon return.
So I climb a ladder to get to my room. It’s pretty much straight up, about six rungs, homemade. Typically, I ascend and descend carrying a bunch of stuff. The other day, my foot slipped and I fell straight off, backwards, onto my back and head. My mom ran over to me (she’s super sensitive) and almost started crying. I was fine, just banged up. No blood. But I had to pretend like I was better than I was because she was so worried. I had to get up, wipe the mud from my ass and tell her I’m fine. But I have a pretty deep, beautiful bruise the covers most of my lower leg on the left side. I felt like I had been in a car accident. But, living upstairs is definitely better than living downstairs in the campo. I don’t have to deal with chicken rifling through my stuff in the mornings.
However, I have started naming the mice that live in my room. I have white plastic that covers my ceiling beams to protect me from the rain. In the places between the beams, the plastic droops down a little. When my mice play on those parts, they make a hell of a lot of noise. And now they’ve figured out how to come down and play on my floor. I can tell because of the noises during the night. They’re noises of mice playing in my trash can, near my laundry bag, my shoes. I started naming them after famous mice/rats. I have Gus Gus, Splinter and Jerry. My third year volunteer told me that if I’m naming my mice already, I’m going to be ok. I was also told I had one of the toughest sites in Peru. Honestly, it’s not bad. I mean it’s a far cry from having servants (at least one volunteer has them) or cable, but I didn’t join Peace Corps to have a more comfortable life than before. I’m thinking about getting a little cat again for a completely practical reason this time.
So what the hell I am doing? Well, the kids are on summer break from school. I have two days a week of English class and two days a week of geography class. The ages range from 6 to about 15, which I tough. We play games with vocab and sing songs. My group is really too big to be very effective, but the point is more to get to know the community, let them get to know me and start gaining trust. I really hate unstructured noise. I can handle and hour or two at a time, but after that, I’m wiped. I like some kids, but in much smaller groups and with more similar ages. After the summer break is over, I’m not having open enrollment youth groups. It exhausts me. And it’s hard to discipline in a language I’m still learning. And kids here are not made to mind. I have to tell my six year old sister to say please and thank you. And I do. I don’t care if my mom or dad think it’s rude that I do that.
Speaking of my little sister, she’s a trip. Generally I like her a lot, but she whines and is an attention hog. It’s hard to get mad at her for that because most girls in the campo has such low self esteem that they won’t speak. So it’s good that she’s loud and extroverted, but I can’t stand the whining. She does whatever the hell she wants and no one (expect me now) even attempts to discipline her. Thank the baby jesus I have a door now and she can’t come in and mess with my computer anymore. ‘Unstructured six year old dirty jam hands’ isn’t covered under my insurance. She’d have to steal it before I could get it replaced. Anyway, for the first month or so I was here, she started calling me The Queen. She was a princess (did I ever like princesses? Jesus, I hope not) and mom was the cook (self-proclaimed). I hated it. It felt like white worship and I’m really not into divine rule by heredity in general. I wanted her to stop so at first, I told her the Queen orders her to stop calling me the Queen. Didn’t work. Then I had an idea. I started dropping hints that witches were way cooler than princesses. All princesses can do is wear pretty dresses and wait for some good-looking man or beast to save the day and make her a complete person. Not good messages for little girls. Also, I’m starting to wonder how much of liking that shit is in our DNA. She has no exposure to TV, the toy aisle at Target or media in ANY way. And she still likes princesses and pink and purple. And my brother still makes guns out of sticks. How hard can you fight that as I parent? Anyway… So, I started casting spells on her that she liked. It started working and now we’re all witches. It’s cool.
I feel like I look like someone else. I’m wearing the same three outfits made of knit leggings, skirts and Old Navy sweaters. I can’t stick out any more than being of gargantuan size, blonde and have blue eyes. I have to wear my glasses which I hate. I don’t wear any makeup. My legs are still covered and swollen with bug bites (and bruises). My hair looks pretty shitty and I shower once a week. However, there are thermal baths in the town down the mountain. They’re disgusting, but if you close your eyes and let the water take you somewhere else, it’s amazing. It costs 1 sole to 20 minutes. I know the water isn’t coming out of the center of the earth for me, but it sure feels like it. But, I still brush my teeth at least twice a day and floss. Sometimes when my mom gets really close to talk to me and I can smell her breath, it actually, literally, not joking, smells like shit. Not just like rank breath, like shit. It almost takes my breath away. Constant reminder to keep up my personal hygiene as much as I can here. However, two words: prison tats.
And I’ve been obsessed with American campo music lately. Lucinda Williams has been in my playlist everyday since I moved here. And Johhny Cash. And Bruce Springsteen. And Gillian Welsh. And John Mellencamp. And Hank Williams. And Nick Cave. He makes less sense except maybe that Johnny Cash loved him. I’m not exactly sure what’s going on with that, but I’m letting it ride.
I’m giving a public thank you to my former co-workers/current friends. They sent me a package with a book about mullets and a newspaper clipping of 50 reasons to love Minneapolis. You guys fucking rock. It really means a lot to me. It’s spendy to send stuff back, but rest assured I will. And thanks to all of you who sent cards, too. It’s awesome getting shit in the mail here. I know my address looks fake without numbers and all, but it works. The town where I have my PO Box is that small. And thank you so much for the phone calls. I always prefer those to emails (also cuz internet is like 1998 slow here). I love hearing your voices. And sometimes, because the phones are kinda fucked, you have to keep calling back. And it the thing doesn’t beep, the voicemail doesn’t work. Love it.