Life as a JV in Tacna has been difficult. We´re passing 8 weeks here and I have yet to really feel like a volunteer. But the difficulty has not be in the living of life…I have done a lot of that…but rather in living in accordance with the values we ascribed to when we applied/were accepted as a Jesuit Volunteer. The values we seek to live out fall into 4 categories: Community, Simple Living, Social Justice, and Spirituality. While under normal circumstances living these ideals in community is difficult given the difference of opinions that exist in communities as well as the difficulties of living in another country, but for me in Tacna there have been even more obstacles. We´ve been tasked with the job of setting up a new community in Andahuaylillas, but we have yet to set foot in Andahuaylillas. Instead we have been living in Tacna, with host families, for the past 2 months. While it has been really useful for my Spanish skills, and for understanding some of Peruvian culture, it has made it difficult to live as a JV. To better organize my thoughts, I´m going to go according to the pillars of JVC.
Community has meant different things these past 2 months, and I think that the 2 different meanings will continue to exist even as we move into Andahuaylillas and make it our home. Here in Tacna more dominating meaning of community has been that of my host family. I have spent 6 weeks living with a family in Tacna. They are the people that I have seen every day and spent the most time with while in Peru. I love them, they´re amazing people and have really taught me a lot…about a lot of things. The only reason it will be difficult to leave Tacna is because of my host family. But with this form of community, it makes it difficult to have the other form, the form which JVC seeks to create, namely a community of volunteers. The difficulty here is that we don´t live together. We don´t see each other every day. And one of us is even living in the States for January…so it´s been difficult. To add to this, we have been watching the Tacna volunteers begin to form their community (both with each other in their own house, and with their neighbors who will be their neighbors for the next 2 years). While I can´t fault them for doing what only seems natural, especially given that they have all moved into the community house here, it makes it a bit more difficult being on the outside. When all 7 of the new Peru volunteers were living with host families, it was easier…
But you can´t really change the hand you´re dealt. And I signed up for this. I wanted to help start a new community in a new location. I just never realized how difficult these three months would be with regards to community, nor did I realize how important the idea of forming a community among the 5 of us that will be in Cusco would be to me. We´ve done our best to work towards an idea of community, but It hasn´t been easy….I´m excited and ready for the work in Cusco.
This also has been complicated given the living situation. My host family certainly did not sign up for a life of simple living when they invited me into their home. So I have been living at their life style which is not the simple life style of the volunteers. While we certainly aren´t overly extravagant at my house, we are very well to do in Tacna. Living with my host family has also clouded what I thought it meant to live simply. Is living simply supposed to be in the things we have? Or is it more in the way we live? Should we do away with all the things in life to get to the “purest” form, or is it more in how we live with each other? My family here always has someone coming through the house to chat. They spend a lot of time talking and being with people. They live simply, meaning without too much complication, but they have internet, a microwave, a washing machine, and other things that might not fit the definition of simple. Just something to keep in mind as we move to Andahuaylillas in February.
What does this mean? I really have no way to judge what this would even look like here in Peru yet. How do you do justice in a society you don´t understand? I think again, I simply have to wait until I understand where I am better and what it is that I will do once I get to Andahuaylillas. For now, I can only be present to those I am with. And once January 9th comes, then I´ll be on Mission Month with 53 high school boys…that surly has to count somewhere in this column?
This is the easiest to articulate because it comes from a language deficit. One of the surprises that I wasn´t expecting was the frustration I would have in mass. Going to mass for me is something that I draw strength from. And when the language shifted from English to Spanish I lost something. At first it was difficult to even understand what was being said (I knew what was going on by the fact that mass works the same in all languages). I didn´t get anything from the homilies and I missed a lot. It was tough for a while, but now that my Spanish is improving I´m getting more from mass and the difficulties here are subsiding. There is more to type here…but time is always getting shorter.
In summary of this I think the word is: Unsettled (thanks Walter for the word). Life has yet to settle down, and it won´t for another few months. Patience is something that I don´t usually have a lot of, but I´m learning a bit more about it every day: patience with myself, with my surrounding, with the Tacna Volunteers, with my community (however you define this).