Peace Corps Job is Learning Experience

By Amanda Alexander

Hello, everyone at home in Michiana!  Right now, I am on an adventure of a lifetime.

Around December 2001, I attended an information session about the Peace Corps at the University of Notre Dame.  At the time, I was living and working in South Bend and was enjoying it very much.  I had worked at Teachers Credit Union for two years, but ever since I was a sophomore at Indiana University, I was curious about the Peace Corps.

I decided that night after the information session to fill out my application for the Peace Corps.  It wasn't that I wasn't happy in South Bend.  It was more that I had dreamed of making a change and doing something different for such a long time that I felt if I didn't take the plunge, at that moment, I probably never would.

So after a long process of about one year, I arrived in Lima, Peru, to do two years of Peace Corps service.  Originally from the small town of Silver Lake in Kosciusko County, I didn't think the Peace Corps would be hard for me.  I figured, "Hey, I grew up in the campo ... dirt, bugs, no electricity, or running water won't bother me."

Ha!  I was wrong.  Anyone who has been in my situation knows that it is hard no matter how or where you were brought up.

That brings me to my job here in Cajamarca, Peru.  First, I received three months of training near Lima,

Peru.  I had one lady ask me if it was in Peru.

But one thing is for sure, they had all heard about the troubles the U.S. was having with other countries in the world.  Most of the time when I tell someone that I am from the U.S. they would ask me, "Isn't there a war with your country."  Sometimes these people wouldn't even know where the U.S. is, but they sure know about the war.  My response is always, "yes," and that is all.  I really don't like to give my opinion about the war or problems with the U.S., because I feel I should remain neutral.

For one thing, I am here as a representative of the U.S., and that can be hard during times like these.  Sometimes when the people here ask me specific questions or say something that is totally wrong, I try to give them information about the situation.  I just feel it's not my place to say if the U.S. is doing the right thing or the wrong thing.

With all of the artisans that I work with, I realized that they really didn't know what was going on, so I bought them all world maps to show them exactly where Peru is in relation to the U.S. and Iraq.  They were all very interested in learning and knowing about the world.  It made me feel better that I was educating them, even if it was the smallest thing.

On the other hand, there are some very educated people in Cajamarca who watch the news, and know what is happening in the world. 

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where the volunteers studied the culture of Peru, languages, basic needs of the people and technical skills to help along the way.  Since the Peace Corps was just asked back to Peru by President Alejandro Toledo after a 30-year absence, the Peace Corps staff was very thorough.  After the interviews and all of the classes, they decided where each and every one of us (27 in total) would be placed in the country.

For me, that was Cajamarca.  Mainly my placement in Cajamarca was because of my background in art.  I was a business major in college, but minored in the arts and graphic design.  Here in Cajamarca there are a lot of artisans.  My job is to help these artisans increase sales, look for new markets, help them learn advertising/computer skills, or whatever they might need to help improve their quality of life.

Since I have been here, I have been amazed with the artisans.  They make the most beautiful ceramics and textile weavings that I have ever seen, and they do it
all with unsophisticated techniques.

The ceramists use potters wheels that they push with their feet, and the weavers use belts that go around their waist to make blankets.  It really is incredible!  Along with learning about the people, I have learned what they think about the U.S.

While working with the campesinos (farmers/artisans), I realized that most of them really have no clue where the U.S. is in the world, or how far away it is in relation to

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Volume 14, Issue 2

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