Friday, May 17, 2013


Actividades Liderazgos para Mujeres Adolescentes.  (Leadership Activities for Adolescent Women).

Thanks to many of you who read this, and some who don’t, the Volunteers in my region were able to put on a super successful leadership camp for girls about a month ago.  And when I say super successful, I mean SUUUUPER successful.  How do I gauge the successfulness?  By what the girls learned; by how much fun they had; by what they took away from the camp; by what they learned about themselves; by how they acted throughout the weekend; by the number of new friends they made; by the level of excitement they showed; by their eagerness to take what they learned and share it with peers; and by their reluctance to leave come Monday morning.  My girls had a blast.  I kept checking in with them throughout the weekend and their response was always the same: “This is so fun! We’re making so many friends! I can’t wait for the next session! THIS IS SO COOL!”

I was able to take 2 girls from my Secundaria school with me to the camp: Vianca, who I’ve been close with since the beginning; and Linda, who I didn’t know very well before the camp.  Let me tell you a little about the girls.  Vianca is 16 and is in her last year of high school.  She’s vibrant, loud, outgoing, social, and a born leader.  I chose to take Vianca for obvious reasons.  During the first session at camp the girls were asked to volunteer to stand up in front of the group and say what their expectations were for the camp.  Vianca was the first one with her hand up.  I knew from the very beginning that Vianca was going to thrive at this camp.  Linda, on the other hand, is a different story.  She’s quiet and reserved, she doesn’t talk a lot, and she’s more comfortable one-on-one than in front of a crowd.  Linda has all the capabilities to be a leader, but she is often over-shadowed by her more boisterous peers.  At the beginning of the camp I noticed that she followed Vianca wherever she went.  Vianca had already made new friends, but Linda would just tag along.  I chose to bring Linda to encourage, or even force her, to break out of her shell, but my idea wasn’t working.  I didn’t know what to do.  I hoped that after she built some trust with her team and got to know the other girls a little better that she’d be a little more outgoing.  My hopes came true.  By the end of the camp, Linda was surrounded by new friends.  In their free time Linda and Vianca didn’t flock to each other but rather spent their free time with their teammates or roommates.  Linda did exactly what I hoped she’d do- she broke out of her shell and established her independence.  If she learned nothing else from the camp, at least she realized that she is her own person and doesn’t need to follow along in the shadows.

The girls may not remember every single thing they learned, but they will never forget the friends they made and the fun they had.  Those four days will be something they will talk about for years to come and reminisce about forever.  

I am grateful to every one of you that donated for providing those girls with an unforgettable experience.  Mil gracias!

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”
                   --Jack Welch

Sunday, March 10, 2013


I’ve never had a sister before.  I never knew what it was like to share my house and my life with any girl besides my Mom.  I was always the only girl, and I grew to like it like that.  I loved growing up with two brothers and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.  Since I moved to college in 2006, I haven’t really lived with my brothers, so I forgot what it was like to have siblings around every day.

Since May of last year, I’ve slowly been relearning how to live with a sibling and learning for the first time how to have a sister.  And not just any sister, but a sassy, 11-year-old, Peruvian sister.  How different it is from growing up with two brothers!  I was not properly prepared to have a sister, and it has been a constant learning experience for me.

Having a younger sister is hard!  She constantly wants to know what I’m doing.  She looks over my shoulder as I’m reading or on the computer.  She wants to know where I’m going every time I leave the house, and if she can come with me.  Her and her friends always want me to play volleyball, paint their nails, or do their hair.  She wants to go to the river, have dance parties in the living room, and watch movies on my laptop.  If I decide to skip out nightly television shows, she needs to know why and begs me to stay.  Instead of taking an afternoon nap alone in my bedroom, she insists we take one together on the living room floor.  She wants to play racing games on the computer and is constantly cheating at Monopoly.  She tickles me, picks on me, and always nags.

Usually, I love spending time with her and I don’t mind being her personal entertainment.  Sometimes I even get upset if she doesn’t want to go somewhere with me.  But other days, I dreamily wonder what it would be like to be an only child.  No one to constantly talk to or entertain; no one to follow me around; and no one to annoy me.  How wonderful peace and quiet must be.  Some days she just annoys me to no end and all I want is to be left alone.  I imagine these are the thoughts of older sisters around the world.

But for every time she annoys me or makes me mad, there are a million more times when she is the difference between a good and bad day.  Her hugs could change the world, and when she says, “Kelsey, te quiero,” my heart melts.  One of my favorite sounds in the world is her giggle, and it will always bring a smile to my face for as long as I live.  I will always look back fondly on our nail-painting sessions and our dance parties in the living room.  For as much as she nags me,  she is my favorite part about Peru.

At first I felt bad when I didn’t want to hang out or I snapped at her, but then I realized that that’s what sisters do.  Sisters fight and nag and get annoyed with each other, and an hour later or the next day everything is fine again.  Sabrina really is my sister and I love her just like I would have loved a biological sister.  She is my biggest source of joy in Peru, and she’s the biggest pain in my side.  She is a real little sister and she plays the role perfectly.  I love her and would do absolutely anything for her, much like I would do for my brothers.  She will always be a part of my family and my children will grow up knowing they have an Aunt in Peru.

The perfect example of how much we act like sisters happened the other day when my friend Kaeli was visiting my site.  Sabrina had been hanging around us and annoying me all day long.  I invited her into my room to hang out and offered her a Hot Tamale knowing that it would burn her mouth.  When she popped it in her mouth and made a surprised face, I started hysterically laughing.  She retaliated by pulling my hair and we both ended up in fits of laughter.  Kaeli started laughing and said, “You two are SO sisters!”  I guess Kaeli is right; Sabrina and I truly ARE sisters.

I never wanted a sister, but life threw one at me and introduced me to all that I had been missing.  Thank goodness for surprises.

“Even though they may drive you up the wall sometimes, there is no doubt that a good, strong, loving family can make a big difference in your life.”
                 -- Unknown

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Me Enamoré

2013.  It has finally arrived.  The year I thought would never come; the one that lingered off in the distance just out of reach.  It is here.  2013.  The year I go home.

When I accepted this gig in the Peace Corps back in February of 2011, I had no idea how far away August 2013 actually was.  When I landed in Peru in June of 2011, the stark reality hit me.  And it hit me hard.  Here I was, living in a strange country, (trying to) speak a different language, totally unaware of what was in store for me.  27 months of not knowing what’s going on?  27 months away from friends?  27 months of living far away from my family?  27 months of 24/7 Spanish?  No, thanks!  The thought of actually making it to the year 2013 without giving up was absurd.  There was no way I could make it; no way was I going to live in a different country for TWO WHOLE YEARS.  I think I came to a silent understanding with myself that I would not last until 2013.

Yet, as I type this, we are already almost half-way through January.  What?  When did that happen?  How did 2013 sneak up on me like that?  The words of one of my favorite Peruvian songs explains it best, “Me enamoré.  Sin querer, sin razón, sin motivo.  No sé como fue pero me enamoré.”  Loosely translated, it means, “I fell in love.  Without wanting to, without reason, without purpose.  I don’t know how it happened, but I fell in love.”   How true that is.  I fell in love with this country, with the way of life, with my host family, with my kids, with the stupid television shows, with Cumbia music, with mangos, with marcianos, with naps after lunch, with bailes, with trips to the river, with bucket baths, with Spanish, with absolutely everything.  Even the things that I hate, like loud speakers blasting music at 6am and the Piuran heat, have become dear to me.  I have fallen in love with all of the little things that make up my time here.  Yet still, I don’t quite understand how more than a year and a half has already passed me by.  It’s definitely true what they say, “The days pass slowly, but the months fly by.” 

2013 has arrived.  And with it, a million more experiences, and finally, the day that I will go home.  I’m ready.  I’m ready to finish my time here with a bang and make as many more memories as I can.  I’m ready to go to the river a million more times; ready to drown myself in Inca Kola; ready to make a thousand more friendship bracelets; ready to sweat profusely in this heat; ready to take a nap every afternoon with my host sister on the mattress we strategically placed directly in front of the door; ready to experience it all.  I’m ready for the months ahead, and, come August, I will be ready to go home.  Bring it on, 2013.  I’m ready.

“It is said that you don't know what you have until it's gone.  But, it is also true that you don't know what you have been missing until it arrives!”
                        --Tara Battaglia