Thursday, December 17, 2009

¿Solita estás andando?

One of my fellow Ancash volunteers brought up an excellent point: how will two years of somewhat solitude and changed circumstances affect our personalities and lifestyles afterwards (and during, even)? I have the same conversations in site over and over, usually focused on rain (yes, I think it will rain later, but it doesn’t bother me too much) and whether I am acostumbrando (yes, little by little, I need to learn quechwa), where I’m from (USA, it’s different there), and whether I’ll marry a Peruvian (no; in fact yesterday, quite without meaning to, I lied and said I had a fiancé in the states. Oops. Of course, this was in answer to a drunken man’s question, “Two years? What if I fall in love with you? I’m single, you know.”). Day to day chats and jokes are rare, and I wonder if my natural shy and sometimes reticent attitude (at least in parties or crowds) will only develop further or whether I will compensate by chatting garrulously whenever possible. Only time will tell.
There are so many little incidents or adventures that I want to relate to people, and, when I try sharing them with my family, realize that what is hilarious to me is often incomprehensible to them. One of these areas is cooking. This morning, as a pre-teaching elevensies, I made a plantain (mashed with salt and cayenne) and tomato sandwich on toasted wheat-ish bread(I’m unsure; a woman gifted me a bag of bread the other day with the explanation that it was “from Yungay and I should try it”. It was amazing, but I have a feeling that the culinary perfection will be lost should I try to explain it to my family tonight when we sit down to a dinner of soup (on their part; my goal is to make a lentils-based shephard’s pie. I received another gift, a sack of potatoes, yesterday)
This is more curiosity than worry that drives me to ask these questions. I am confident that I will have support and affection during the next couple years, some from afar, and some from my new community and neighbors, albeit in occasionally strange or disagreeable forms (heaping mounds of potatoes and rice, yelling out gringa as I run past)
More than anything, I’d like to think that I will gain from my new social challenges. I’ve been writing this note little by little, over a week, and each day seem to discover an exception to my non-socializing norm. The other day I had settled down to read War and Peace (thank you, JC) in a beautiful, secluded glade on a hillside, when a quechwa woman, toting an absurd amount of firewood, appeared from nowhere. We chat a little, and I’m ready to say goodbye, when she insists on inviting me to her home. I help her carry firewood down the hillside, and then we sat talking and joking for 20 minutes or so.
People here describe themselves as caring and affectionate and, for the most part, I find that to be true. It would be unimaginable to have a snack or bite to eat without inviting a companion and equally strange to pass an acquaintance (or stranger) without stopping and chatting, no matter how rushed one is. Little by little, I’m learning, not only my quechwa phrases (I’ve been making flashcards and have enlisted a 13 year old as my professor), but how to use them, to make people smile, and to enjoy the small social life I have (while still embracing the ample solitude).

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