It’s going to be alright. I’ve been in Peru for one day and I can tell that this will be fine. All the hazy imaginings of the past two years are coming into sharp focus. The mountains are hard and sheer all around this place. The air is damp and smells of jasmine and industrial smoke. We are here in the bubble of a convent-turned-retreat-center that PC is using for our initial processing. From the town outside, the sound of music is constant. There are unidentified bangs— firecrackers? gunshots? loading dock doors slamming? I have slept through my first small earthquake. When I reach for language, Spanish and English wrestle for my tongue.
We have moved through a series of portals, with more to come. First there was my trip from Albuquerque to Washington, then a series of visits with my relatives in the DC area. Then, arrival at the hotel where we had staging; standing in line, signing the papers to enter on service, getting my Peace Corps passport. We spent an afternoon doing activities to get to know one another. Then a very short night’s sleep and a long day of traveling to Peru. I served as a travel group leader, so I counted noses and helped deal with travel confusions and generally enjoyed having something to do. We arrived in country late at night—another series of portals of immigration and customs and a bus driving through a tunnel of night. We arrived and ate our snack. I slept another short night full of busy dreams.
Today I woke up and went outside to meet Peru in daylight. We greeted one another shyly. It was, incidentally, an hour earlier than I expected because I neglected to inform my alarm clock of the time change. Peru is on Central time. Today we got a lot of information and completed more registration processes. The best part was the meeting of my unit: the environment team. I think our boss, Diego, is terrific. He reminds me of the guys I used to work Search and Rescue with: tough, wry, competent, reliable.
Our group is also coming into focus. We are Peru 20 and we are sharing one of the most important experiences of our lives. Today we turn to one another and say; “We’re in Peru. We’re really here. It’s sinking in. We’re in the Peace Corps.” Over the 2 years that I’ve worked toward this moment, it often seemed like I’d never get here. But I’m in Peru. And it’s going to be alright.