It was pouring rain on Sunday evening when I arrived at my site in Magdalena, Cajamarca. I had 2 years worth of luggage and miscellaneous things for my room packed into a taxi and a mattress strapped onto the roof. It has been quite the challenge getting everything there and I was both stressed and exhausted. As I walked in the front door, however, all the stress seemed to melt away as I was greeted with a big hug from my 8-year-old host brother as he shouted “Sarita!!! Volviste!!!!” (You came back!) He also told me that he missed me. I was glad to see him too.
Later that evening, in an attempt to feel more organized, I decided to put together the closet I had purchased in Cajarmarca City earlier in the day. It came in a box that read “rápido y fácil” (fast and easy) in the title, but I soon learned that this was not the case. It should have been called “slow and complicated” because my host brother and I were up until about midnight trying to assemble it, but at least I guess it was a good bonding experience.
I spent the next morning unpacking my clothes and organizing them into the closet. When I had finished I felt an indescribable sense of accomplishment and relief. At a glance, it may have appeared to be a small achievement but on the larger scale of things, it really provided me with the peace of knowing that at least one thing was in order. That feeling didn’t last long, however, because my closet with all of my nicely folded and color-coded hung clothes began to lean at a dangerous angle and before I could process what was happening the closet collapsed and all of my clothes were thrown onto the floor in a pile of metal poles and plastic tubes. I stood there for a few moments not knowing whether to cry or laugh. Rather than losing it though, I took a deep breath, got out a Nutella fun pack from my care package, and sat on the ground in the middle of the mess to ponder my next move.
Upon finishing my fun pack, I came to the conclusion that it was not worth my time nor sanity to try and reassemble the closet so I stuffed it back in it’s box and laid my clothes out on the extra mattress on the floor in my room. It wasn’t ideal, but at least I could see all the clothes I had for easy selection.
On Tuesday I decided to join my friend and fellow volunteer, Richard and his host mom to go shopping in Cajamarca City. I thought it would be a good opportunity to exchange my “closet” and take advantage of the help from his host mom. They asked for me to meet them at their house in San Juan, a community about 40 min away on the way to Cajamarca, and we would just go from there. There isn’t a regular bus that goes there, just colectivos, which are like ride shares, but just a lot more packed. The colectivos may be a van or a regular car, but they don’t leave until they are completely filled. The last colectivo-car I rode in, was a 4-door sedan and there were 3 adults and a child in the front and five people, including myself in the back. In the colectivo-vans, once all the seats are filled up, people will sit on stools in the aisles, on the floor, and anywhere where there is space.
I waited on the side of the road for almost an hour but I didn’t see any cars pass, or at least any that were going to San Juan. There was a woman I had made friends with while I was waiting and she was helping me wave down cars trying to find a ride when all the sudden a giant tour bus came around the bend and she asked me, “do you want to go on the bus?” Why not! I thought, and I told her “bueeeno!” (ok!). So she waved down the bus for me and the drivers sat me up front with them. There were three of them and they sat me right in the middle. They were hitting on me for most of the ride, asking if I had a boyfriend, and inviting me to go to the beach with them and eat ceviche. I politely declined. As with most combi rides, I thought to myself that there’s a 50% chance I’m getting kidnapped right now, but since you don’t really have another option so get to a point where you’re just “oh well!” and hope for the best. Fortunately I didn’t get kidnapped and they dropped me off in San Juan as planned.
When I got to Richard’s house he told me that they were just about to have lunch and then laughed. Uh-oh. I knew what that meant…
Moments later I was seated at their kitchen table with a huge plate of rice, beans, and potatoes in front of me. I wanted to cry. It’s not that the food was bad or anything but it was just way too much, and way to many… carbs. I thanked his host mom but told her I had just eaten lunch before leaving and if she could just serve me a little bit. She agreed and took the plate back, took off two small spoonfuls of rice and put the plate back down in front of me. I wasn’t going to win this one I realized so I took a deep breath and began to eat.
I ate until I felt like it was not physically possible to eat another bite and fortunately by then it was time to go. We walked outside, piled into the combi and were on our way to Cajamarca City to do some much needed closet shopping.