(Photos from a recent leadership retreat we had at a beautiful campsite. It was such a treat to visit somewhere so clean, with grass, with all the awesome youth I work with.)
Wow, it has been a while since I posted an update about my daily life in Lima.
Reflecting upon the past two and a half months, I am so glad to be where I am. The first two months here were a very hard adjustment, to say the least. I didn't know if I would make it abroad for five months in an environment where I really didn't have a strong dominion on the local language. Yes, I could go about all the basics, but not much more than that. Now I am very happy with everything I am doing, my Spanish has improved exponentially thanks to my daily work, but more so than that, because of local friends I have made. I even feel comfortable where I live and have become less fearful of all of the catcalls and glares from the local population of males. In my work I am making connections with the youth and love to see how they love to learn what I teach. :D
I love that I love what I do! Every day I am excited to wake up and share my talents with others, knowing that I am offering services that the youth here are interested in receiving.
On a daily basis, what am I doing here exactly? Well, Tuesdays and Wednesdays I teach a small English conversation class, teach contemporary dance at a high school, assist with acrobatics classes at a primary school, and also teach a dance class to grandmas! Then on Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays I lesson plan, teach a photography workshop, and help lead two youth leadership classes. On Sundays I go to a different district to take free Latin dance classes in the park for three hours then I spend time in Lima with one of my local friends. My Sundays end with church in the evening. I really enjoy my church because the priest is Italian, so when he speaks Spanish it isn't faster than a Nascar race, but I can actually understand his words. On Mondays I have another day off. I typically go to the market, go out with friends, and/or sleep like a mama bear. Every day is an adventure. :)
One more reflective point, sometimes it is hard to know your place as a volunteer. The difficulty comes between the balance of self-fulfillment, and offering what is needed to a recipient. I always want to make sure that I am not just volunteering for self-enrichment, but I want God to use me as a tool so that I can offer what a community needs. In this, I hope to have always leave a positive imprint which others can continue growing from. Thus far the most affirming moments for me have been:
- After my contemporary dance classes, there is a small group of girls who want to continue learning additional dance steps and moves
- Being told by youth that I work with that I have positively impacted their lives, and they are glad they have met me and can grow and share their life with me (I find this interesting because it is actually me, as a person, that they are attracted to, not what I have done or what I can do.) :)
- Being told by local friends that I have positively impacted their lives and that they are glad to have met someone who shares similar mindsets and goals and aspirations
- Being told that I have made others feel important and loved
I am not sure which is the most important, nor in which order I personally rate these words of affirmation that I received. However, I do know that I feel fulfilled and am seeing that I am having a positive influence on at least a few lives through the work I am doing here in Lima, Peru. Among all of these wonderful things that are happening to me here in Peru, there are also very sad things that I am learning, specifically about the history of the grandmas that I teach dance to.
Hearing stories from the grandmas' childhood makes my heart sink and my face go numb. Many of these women come from extreme poverty either in the jungle area or the mountain area of Peru. I have learned of so many stories of abuse and non-existent childhoods that I don't know how to react when I hear yet another story from them. For example, most of the women don't know what childhood play is because as children they worked from sun up to sun down. Many of the women were abused and hit, I learned about a woman who, as a child was stabbed with keys, was forced to drink urine as a punishment, was hit with a wooden panel, was nearly lit on fire, and was dragged across the floor, pulled by the hair. Even more shocking is that they say these stories are not uncommon. I can't even imagine what this means. How many children behind closed doors are being abused at this level today? It really brings me to appreciate my life, childhood, and family even more than I do. I look at my life and at their lives now and am in awe that people can live on the same planet but in such dramatically different circumstances. I knew this in theory, but working alongside these women have shown me the reality of this previous "statistic." Today, these women are strong, and are "enjoying their old age" as they have told me.
Every day in Lima is a learning experience where I give and receive. At times it is surreal to know that I am actually here.
And above all things have fervent love for one another,
Waiting today for what comes tomorrow,
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