The Peace Corps has been full of unexpected and humbling experiences. Daily, I have to pinch myself to remind myself that this is my life. I’m living in Perú. In fact, right now, I’m writing this blog post while sitting outside and watching the most incredible bright orange sun fade into dark blue wisps of clouds over the vast Pacific Ocean. There’s so much to be thankful for.
One of the experiences that I recently had that I am incredibly thankful for (althouth it seems more like a dream) was a visit from Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet on December 21,. 2016. Carrie is the 19th director of the Peace Corps and was appointed by President Barack Obama. Her experience with the Peace Corps began when she served as a volunteer in Western Samoa from 1981-1983. After that, she spent 2 decades working in public health before her career with the Peace Corps. She is responsible for many incredible improvements in the organization and meeting her was humbling to say the least.
I prepared for Carrie’s visit for about 2 weeks. This included organizing the logistics of a breakfast at my host family’s house and then a meeting with all of my main socios at the Municipality. I wanted everything to be perfect, but I also wanted that the Peace Corps could see what living in a small town in the sierras of Perú is really like, so I made a commitment to myself not to stress and just to go with the flow.
Carrie, her two children, the Peace Corps security officer, my regional coordinator, and the Director of Programming and Training rolled into Chacas around 9 AM in 2 big SUV’s that are very uncharacteristic of my small community. The first stop was my house. Everyone received a tour and raved about my gorgeous view and accommodations. My host mom prepared an incredible breakfast with local cheese, honey, bread, and coffee that she got from the Italians that live in my community.
After breakfast, we all ventured to my Municipality where we had a meeting with my counterparts. The mayor of Chacas and all other government officials gave words on their experiences working with me. I then gave a presentation about my projects and some of my findings during my community diagnostic. Carrie also gave words about the Peace Corps and how grateful she was that I have become a part of the community and the family that is Chacas.
After the meeting, I gave a tour of the town and we made stops to shop at the local artisan markets. Everyone was able to bring a piece of Chacas home with them. This is Carrie’s final trip as the Peace Corps director, because our new President, Donald Trump will be nominating the new director in the coming months. She will be greatly missed in this role and I feel so lucky to have gotten to meet and spend time with this wonderful woman.