About Me, 6 Month Check In

So I’ve been in country for about 6 months. This is by far the longest time I have been out of the country. And I think the longest time I’ve been away from my family. I am no stranger to living on my own, but I always make it home for a week or two during the holidays. One part of me deeply misses my family and friends. The other part of me feels like it is just hitting its stride and getting comfortable. Now for an update on who I think I am in this moment.


 

1.) The first thing that comes to mind is the fact that I’m sick. I wouldn’t consider this to be a part of my identity, however it’s the lessons I learn that I think change who I am. I get sick about once a month either from food, water or travel. That’s an obnoxious amount of sickness compared to what I am used to. My body feels like it is constantly battling something. Because of that, I spent a lot more time with myself– breathing and waiting to heal. I am more patient now and I am more grateful for the times when my body is 100%.

2.) Developing fanatic of huayno music. My family has 2 channels on their TV. One for news and one for music. Huayno is the typical music of the Andean sierra where I live. Most of the times I do not enjoy it. Especially when its blaring in the morning to wake me up and blaring at night to put me to bed. However, sometimes, I catch myself singing along and tapping my feet. Here is a sample. Enjoy!

3.) Still a poet? I haven’t felt inspired to write poetry in a while. Normally I wait for experiences or certain thoughts to spur the creation of a poem. As of lately though, I’ve only been writing longer blog posts and personal diary entries. I identity strongly as a writer, but not so much as a poet right now.

4.) Along the same lines as #3, right now, the part of me that is an ethnographer is strong. My master’s research is in full swing. So far I have collected 3 interviews and have 3 more scheduled for this month. I’ve also logged about 4 months of observations. It is exciting for me to chip away at this process. I look forward to learning more and writing something interesting about my community.

5.) I identify as a rock climber now more than ever. The fact that I have been able to continue my passion for rock climbing in Peru has been incredible. Rock climbing allows me to see beautiful places, meet awesome people, get stronger in new gyms and push the limits of my physical and mental boundaries. Just yesterday I came down from my first multi-pitch in Peru. In total, the climb should have been 3 pitches, but at the top of the second pitch, we got forced down by rain. After some wet and muddy rappels, we were on the ground and racing for a bus ride home.

6.) Practicing yogi. My yoga practice has been developing for about 2 years now. Before that however, I have specific memories of thinking and saying that I would never enjoy yoga. I’m not sure what changed, but something just clicked while I was living in CO. The practice became a perfect counterbalance to the other aspects of my life such as skiing, rock climbing and cycling. Just last month I completed a 30 day commitment to yoga with my sister as part of the new year. I used downloaded videos to guide me through the process. The process helped me realize how much I enjoy a personal home practice as opposed to public classes and how much I prefer slow and gentle yogic styles as opposed to flowy and sweaty vinyasas. With that being however, limb of the yogic process serves a very valuable purpose. Use this link to check out videos from the teacher I enjoy. She is kind of a legend in the online/video/home practice world of yoga.

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Updated: About Me

When I started this blog, I thought it was a good idea to start with a few things about me. Lacking creativity I subsumed my existence into 10 bullet points. Later in my PC experience I wrote a post about my current status. Interested in the transformation of my self identification, I want to continue these ‘about me’ posts. This reflection and intrigue all began with an identity map experience we did earlier in PST.  So here goes more bullet points:
1.) Doubly-adopted son of Two Peruvian Families: My host-family here in Lima is so kind. I am comfortable with them and can be my normal self (muy gracioso). My family in Matacoto is learning quickly. They are patient with me, and have already taken me in as a son.

2.) Newly Carnivorous: I told myself that I would slowly introduce meat before I came to Peru. That sure didn’t happen. I was great for a week, and desperately ill for two. Now I finally feel healthy. When I eat meat, I look down and see fuel; energy that I need to be a successful volunteer. I thank the animal and am grateful to my family for feeding me.

3.) Reignited Soccer Player: Soccer has been a passion of mine since I was a kid. However, my actual playing of the sport has dwindled over the years. I am grateful to my host brother Anthony in Lima for bringing his gringo brother to the adult matches on Friday nights. Soccer has also helped me integrate in Matacoto, and will continue to serve as a language without words.

4.) Rock Climber: My passion for rock climbing has done nothing but grow over the past 3 years. I consider it a crucial part of my identity. Unfortunately, I have not been able to climb very much while I’ve been here. Since I can’t climb I’ve been training. I was stoked to get one day at a gym in Lima and one day outside in Huaraz. I even found a crag near where I live in Lima and will be climbing there next weekend. Rock climbing, like soccer, has allowed me to meet new people and communicate through a common passion to touch rocks.

5.) Spanish Speaker: My Spanish grows everyday. I had a rough patch with my language acquisition during site exploration, but I am feeling confident again. I feel comfortable expressing myself (in some topics more than others), exploring by myself, and talking with youth. Despite my confidence with my growing Spanish skills, I remain humble. I know that to know is to know nothing at all. I prefer to listen and observe and will continue to do so more than speak. After all I have two ears and one mouth.


I feel loved today. Grateful for this experience. Excited for the future.

Looking Glass Self

The staging and pre-service training (PST) portions of my Peace Corps experience have been extremely busy. Since our arrival in Miami, for a short but sweet staging, we have had our plates full with discussion, group work, paperwork and individual reflection. Lucky for us, each day has been insightful and encouraging. I’ve been a part of a lot of bureaucratic/institutional trainings and they are not all like this. The Peace Corps staff we have the opportunity to work with are really special. They are passionate, qualified and energetic teachers. So, many thanks to the PC Peru staff, both within the U.S. and in-country!

Perhaps some of my favorite exercises and discussions I’ve participated in, both in staging and PST, have dealt with topics of self-identity. In staging we were instructed to construct an identity map. This is a graphic heuristic where one places themselves (their name) in the middle of a sheet of paper. Growing outwards from the center are additional lines all connected to more bubbles. The idea is to fill these bubbles with aspects or characteristics that construct their identity. Once completed, an identity map’s true potency is revealed, elucidating the intersectionality and complexity of one’s identity.

identity

When we completed this exercise in staging, we had a blank sheet of paper and plenty of room to list out the myriad elements that coalesce to construct our identity. My identity map consisted of things like (in no important order): vegan/veggie, bi-lingual, spiritual, mid-twenties, extrovert, master’s student, coach, American, soccer player, rock climber, white, younger brother, symbolically ethnic, son, upper class, heterosexual, male, skier, poet, mindful, community developer and good listener. These were all things, at the time, that resonated with the identity I held and was projecting. We then were instructed to share these maps with a partner, and talk about which facets of our identity we thought were going to be easy to maintain during our service in Peru and which we were going to struggle with. I was glad to have a thoughtful conversation with a fellow trainee, Joe, who helped me unpack a bit more the complexities embedded within a person identity.

Today in PST, during a discussion about diversity, we were instructed to construct another identity map. I remember thinking, ‘oh, here we go again’, because after all, we were all pros with identity maps right? Enlightened, self-aware, soon-to-be Peace Core volunteers, no doubt.

Our instructor, Miryam, made it clear that she understood the fact that we already made a map in staging. Nonetheless, she wanted us to make a new one, but this time, with a few stipulations. After doling out sheets of paper, this time with only 8 bubbles in which to fill, she left us to our own creative devices; subsuming the infinite facets of our identity on one sheet of paper with 8 bubbles…

After some contemplation I provided these 8 elements of my identity (again in no important order): white, American, athlete, comedic/satirical, writer, male, observer/listener, and minority (in Peru). Already I saw a difference between the map I created in staging, and the map I currently had in my hands. After finishing the first version of our map, we then were instructed to cross out 3 of the 8 elements.  I eliminated: American, comedic/satirical, and athlete. We then were instructed to cross out two more. I chose: white, and male. Finally, with the three remaining elements, which for me were writer, observer/listener, and minority (in Peru), we were told to switch maps with a partner, and without talking, eliminate the two least important facets of each other’s identity. Much to my satisfaction, and thanks to the careful contemplation of another trainee, Lesia, the last portion of my identity standing was: observer/listener.

Seeing the evolution of my identity map was a valuable experience. One that I will more than likely repeat throughout my service. I appreciated these exercises for their ability to elucidate a few important points:

  • The Fluidity of Identity: Self-identity is highly dynamic. It changes with the context in which it exists. For me, the identity I shared in staging was different than the identity I shared in PST because of the setting. I shared more of my identity not only because I had unlimited space, but also because I identified with different elements, each with varying intensity, that construct myself.
    Just a few weeks later my identity shifted. Some elements were replicated while others were brand new or generalized into a broader concept. What I shared in PST was specific to my identity in Peru. Each element I shared had more importance now that the self had been moved to a different country. Charged with crossing out elements, my identity continued to shift. I had to contemplate which were most important, or more potent; which facets of self I wanted to preserve and which I was willing to let go. It was interesting for me to be left with observer/listener, a choice made by a fellow trainee. Which leads me to my next reflection.
  • The Looking Glass Self: How much of our identity is actually chosen by us? Are we really fully in control of the identity we project? Charles H. Cooley makes a point that perhaps we are not. Cooley contemplates the role of other people in the construction of self-identity; our family, friends, co-workers. The looking glass self is the idea that our identity, in large part, is constructed based on what other people perceive of us. By looking through the looking glass of other people, we see ourselves. Therefore, identity, or self, is the product of seeing ourselves as others do. This idea especially resonated with me because of the fact that Lesia chose for me, the last aspect of my identity. If I had given my map to Lesia right away, would she have written similar identity characteristics?
    I, in part, agree with Cooley. His thoughts on self-identity are extremely important for a lot of psychology and sociology. Our identities are no doubt constructed on the basis of what others see, as well as how the cultural context in which it is being seen. I would however, like to reserve some autonomy over the process, and believe that although parts of our identity are loaned to us from other things or people, we still get to choose and foster facets of the self that are most important to us.
  • Thoughts for Future Self: How will my identity change throughout the two years of my service? More specifically, what aspects of my identity will be reinforced throughout my service? What aspects of my identity will be left behind?