Surprise visit to the states
First Impressions: When I arrived to the Chicago Airport, I bought a blueberry cream cheese bagel, and enormous Starbucks coffee, and sat and people watched while waiting for my next flight. Sounds terrible but, my first impression of Americans was that everyone was tall and beautiful. True right? I realized Americans really invest a lot in their appearance. Toilets in Perú are pretty disgusting, no toilet paper, rarely will you find a toilet seat, and most definitely no soap. The airport toilet had a plastic wrapper to reduce the transmission of diseases, I was blown away!
What I missed the most was eating delicious food cooked by my mom and sister and seeing old friends and family. The ability to get anything and everything you want almost instantly! Speaking in English all the time. The grocery store cereal isle! Everything was a complete sensory overload! It was also incredible to drive for the first time in 16 months! And listen to what I wanted to on the radio.
Wealth: Perú has really really poor people and wealthy people, not much in between. The rich Peruvians are really rich, but there are very few of them. The United States on the other hand, considering Peruvian standards everyone is really wealthy.
Assets of US$2,200 per adult placed a household in the top half of the world wealth distribution in the year 2000. To be among the richest 10% of adults in the world required US$61,000 in assets, and more than US$500,000 was needed to belong to the richest 1%, a group which — with 37 million members worldwide — is far from an exclusive club.
What’s more seeing the wealth my friends and family have and comparing it to the people I work with on a daily basis. Living here in Perú it doesn’t shock me but seeing this in the states blew me away. And the way Americans think they are struggling, ha it’s almost humorous. They’ve never seen struggle like the poor people here, but I guess everything is relative.
Greatness: So the above might have been a little negative and condescending . But the truth is that the United States is incredible. A friend of mine joked how the Peace Corps was really an organization to round up all the hippies who hate America and send them to a foreign country for two years make them suffer, hate life, and then bring them back to the states. And when they return they love America! Well, he might be on to something because not that I hated America before but now I ABSOLUTELY LOVE AMERICA!!!! It’s incredible and don’t you ever forget it! The fact that you can get anything literally anything you ever want. It’s safe, if you have the drive you can make something for yourself.
People: One of the biggest things that I learned is that people don’t change. Some people I noticed were doing really well for themselves, others were on the same path as when I left the states. I am sure that people also realized that I hadn’t changed much either. I also realized that your relationships with people who are close are simply put on hold. And my true friends and I just picked up right where we left off. The close friends who I met up with reminded me of who I was before I left, and reminded me of what kind of life I had. I also realized how many incredible people I had in my life back in the states, and it made me feel really good that I was able to find people like that.
I also learned that everyone has problems, and everyone thinks that their problem is bigger than everyone else’s. This is not true. I saw this personally, thinking to myself during my rough times down here, if only I could be in the states it would be easier. And I realized in talking to some of my friends they thought that it would be easier for them to be in Perú or traveling in some other part of the world. Well, the truth is that everyone’s got problems and the only difference is how people deal with them.
I guess, when you take yourself from a environment which is comfortable it makes you realize these differences in your life. You reinvent and changes come whether you like it or not.
10 months to go: The United States was a shock. And really comfortable at the same time. I’ll be honest, before leaving Peru to visit the states I was thinking of doing a third year in Perú with the Peace Corps. Upon returning to Perú after my visit home, I didn’t want to do my second year! I have found a middle ground between those two, and it was my friends, and work projects that I have created here that made me realize I can easily make it another year, and perhaps thrive?!? Although the transition between the two was rough, I am really glad I went back to visit and hopefully in about 10 months I’ll be heading back to a developed country for good. It was a good opportunity to see some incredible people, reflect on where I want to go and what I want to do. And at the same time give me the energy to have another incredible year here in Chachapoyas!