It is starting to sink in that I just have 4 months of my service left. That’s just four months to explore all of the good, bad, and beautiful of this place that has become my home. This experience has introduced me to a different way of life so I decided to compile a list of some of the things I know I will miss when it is my time to return back to the United States. Basically, it is a list of things that Peru just simply does better than the United States. Obviously, this is a list of my opinions and if your opinions are different, I encourage a conversation or perhaps your own blog!
I am so scared for the day to come when I can’t find maracuyá in the market, yet there is a mile-long aisle of sugary cereals to trigger my indecisiveness. Peruvian fruit is the freshest, cheapest, all-around best fruit I have ever tried. In Peru, I can buy an avocado for $0.33 and it is a perfect, smooth, green color. I’ve also been introduced to entirely new fruit varieties like granadillas, lucma, and aguaymanto that are plucked right off of the plant to serve.
You know what I love to do at parties? Dance! Peruvian parties are all about food, dancing, and chicha– all things I absolutely love. I have learned so much about Peruvian culture from going to town fiestas and dancing to huayno and cumbia with the locals.
3. Public Transportation
From rapid fast combis to luxurious overnight buses, Peru has public transportation figured out. Travel between states in the United States is expensive and can be time-consuming, but Peru has established a better way. I can travel the 8 hour trip from Ancash to Lima overnight in a nice bus with a seat/bed for about $25. I go to bed in Ancash and wake up in a totally new climate! Because of the accessibility of traveling across the entire country of Peru by bus, I have had the opportunity to travel as far south as Arequipa and as far north as Tumbes.
4. Maintaining Culture
Tradition and culture are staples of the Peruvian lifestyle. The ancestral culture is constantly celebrated, rather than looked down upon or hidden into specified corners of the country. In Peru, celebration is not just defined as naming a school after a native relative (I went to Pocahontas Middle School, lovingly referred to as PMS), but there are festivals, storytelling, and traditional foods and drinks that stimulate conversation about the past. In many parts of Peru, there is even a conserved language that paints the story of a culture that still blows in the wind off the mountains or rainforest. I have even been asked why I speak English and not a native language by Quechua speakers because, to the Peruvians in my region of Ancash, culture is a way of life rather than a history lesson.
I have purchased way too many textiles since being in Peru because they are individual works of perfection. Each place I have traveled in Peru has its own form of traditional dress which usually feature colorful mantas or llicllas that tell a story while bringing personality and style to a look.
An invitation in Peru always means that the invitee is paying for the occasion. At first, I was uncomfortable accepting so many free meals and drinks, but I have grown to love this aspect of the generous Peruvian culture. The mentality is, “We may not have a lot, but there is always some to share.” Also, whenever the town has a festival, everyone can come and eat for free. At the festival I just hosted, I fed 300 people who showed up for the free food. The sharing mentality also extends to agriculture. I have community members bring me potatoes from their farms all of the time and I have seen agriculture products be traded in markets rather than monetary currency.
7. Gun Violence
I have taught a heck of a lot of preschool, elementary school, high school, and adult level classes in Peru and there has not been ONE time that I felt I needed to worry about my students’ or my own safety. However, I have spent more than a decade worrying about gun violence in the United States without seeing much change in regulation. Peru has a restrictive process to purchase guns and it is just not a huge problem in Peru like it is in the United States. Peru has its own problems with crime, but luckily the classroom remains a safe space for learning.
8. Living in the Present
One thing I absolutely love about where I live in Peru is that when I sit down for a meal or a conversation with someone, it is valuable time. People are never multitasking by texting on their cellphone while talking to me. When we go on walks or have a cup of coffee, we are focused on the present moment and no distractions exist. This
sometimes usually results in people coming late to meetings, but I have grown used to tardiness and grown to value human connection and just living life moment by moment more. I am probably most nervous about coming back to the United States and feeling rushed in the moment or having friends and family constantly distracted by cellphones and social media.
9. Human Connection in Business
I will be the first to admit that customer service in Peru is generally…lackluster. However, one thing that I have learned from local business in Peru is that businesses treat customers like people. They are small, personal, and willing to work with the customer on their needs. Sometimes this means that a customer needs to pay for diapers on payday so the business just makes a note and helps the customer out. I recently had an Amazon experience where I did not feel listened to by the particular vendor and I remembered what it is like to shop big businesses. The rules are laws and completely disregard the human to human connection of a business transaction.
Life can get so overcomplicated. Sometimes, the people in my community resist change because they want to maintain a simple life. This was hard for me to understand at first, but now I get it. We can get so caught up in technology and having the perfect systems and strategies for success, but in my community, the only real focus is family. Every decision and every purchase is with the family in mind. It is beautiful and inspirational.
I could easily do a list of 10 things that the United States does better than Peru, but I wanted to express to my readers that Peru is a pretty great country and although it is considered a developing country, it has some things figured out better than big bad United States. I am so grateful for the opportunity I have had to learn, love, and live in this country and I am going to cherish every minute of my next 4 months.