Monday, January 3, 2011

Somos Peru!

I would like to take this moment to thank all of you great people for sending me packages.  Yes, you may have sent them out more than a month and a half ago but rest assured that as of today I have gotten my grubby mits on them.

You may be asking yourself, "why did it take so long?" and I have a pretty good story for that.  It is quite an epic story actually.  One of adventure, travel, love lost and love found... but above all, this is a story of paperwork and bureaucracy.  

To begin, you probably need to know something about the package system here in Peru.  If you send me a package that is really heavy or in a box of any sort, it will get sent to the nearest customs processing center (which for me is in the city of Chiclayo on the Peruvian coast 11 hours away from my home).  This in itself is not a problem because, lets be honest, who wouldn't want an excuse to go hang out on the coast for a weekend?  No, the real problem comes in the form of... well, forms.  I first knew you all had sent me packages over a month ago while I was in Ancash for my early In-Service-Training when my host mother called me to tell me so.  I found out I would not be able to get them on my way home (where I pass Chiclayo) because I needed the forms she was holding in Cutervo.

No worries, I can make another trip to the coast later in the month right?  So finally the day came where I could make the time to travel.  I had to do it quickly because the forms told me I had to pick up the packages by January 3rd.  It doesn't say why or what will happen if I fail to get them in time, but that "or else" clause loomed over my head like an angry storm cloud.  I arrived on the 31st only to find out I would have to stick around until Monday because of the new year.  "Ok," I told myself, "this is my bad for trying to get them on the new year."  So I made the reservations for the hotel and dug in to spend a ton of money in the big city - something I can hardly afford.

Monday rolls around and I am sitting at the post office early in the morning anxiously but patiently awaiting my chance to tear into all those great goodies.  I could almost taste the reeses and twizzlers...mmm  So I waited... and waited... and waited.  Finally, three hours later (because they don't form lines and don't call names on a first-come-first-served basis), it was my turn.  I walked into a little room and sat in front of the man between be and my twizzlers.  He took my passport copies, attached each one to the forms I had brought from cutervo, filled out three new form each with three carbon copies, stapled it all together and then looked up at me expectantly.  Funny thing was, I was looking at him expectantly too - surely this was the part where I get my twizzlers.

I was wrong.  He asked me for my ID.  I pointed at the three copies of my passport and he said "no I need the original."

"Ummm, I don't have the original."  I stammered, "The organization I work for has it to make my Peruvian ID.  They told me I wouldn't need more than a copy to get packages."

The man glowered at me from across the seemingly expanding desk.   "Well, they are wrong, the law says you must have your original and until you bring it here I can't give you your packages. NEXT!"

"Wait!" I cried, "What am I supposed to do?  I live 11 hours away, my passport is in Lima, and according to the form this is the last day I can pick up the packages."

"I can't help you. NEXT!"

I left the office exasperated and shaking.  I pulled out my phone but was at a loss about who to call.  I flipped through my address book a few times and tried to call a few numbers of some peace corps staff but no one was answering.  By the time I got to one of the Lima staff member's numbers I was close to having a nervous break down and began hyper-ventilating a little.

I may get frustrated with peace corps own bureaucracy sometimes but I they really stepped up to the plate for me on this on.  I got ahold of one staff member who connected me with three more right then and there.  They called the post office and that very mean man was outside of his office within 10 minutes acting as if I was the bloody king of jolly old england.  "Yes sir, right this way sir, here are your packages sir."  Complete 180.  This didn't change the fact that three more sheets and lots more signatures and copies had to be made and I still didn't leave for another hour.  But I am proud to announce that after 11 hours of bus travel, four days of waiting, hundreds of soles, and a near-nervous break down I have a twizzler dangling from my mouth as I write.

So I have come to the conclusion that if you would like to send me anything else (and I really do love it when you guys send me things) you should stick to envelopes (large or small).  These come directly to my house and save me a lot of trouble.  I hate that I had to learn this the hard way but at least I did learn it right?  Right?

We have a saying among the volunteers when life here get out of our control - "Somos Peru" or "We are Peru."  No telephone service for a week? Somos Peru.  Your bus just stopped in the middle of nowhere because the driver forgot to fill up with gas before leaving? Somos Peru.  Water is out and you haven't showered for a week? Somos Peru.  Some guy won't give you your packages after you traveled 11 hours to get them?  Somos Peru!

And while the small things like these remind me that I am here for a reason; attempting to education my kids on the importants of showing up on time, keeping commitments, and the importance of planning in advance, these small things also remind me of something else - namely that I would damn near kill to get a reeses or twizzler.