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tracey in peru [my pictures!] Below are the 10 most recent journal entries recorded in the "uhmno" journal:

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January 18th, 2008
05:51 pm


Ok I know I said I was logging out, but I think about Peru a lot, so I wanted to post one more time, and I don't think the story really ends until I make it back to America. I'm not sure my Peru story will ever end. I’m also not sure anyone will ever read this.

So I didn't freak out. America welcomed me home with open arms. Maybe it helped that I came home with John who understands - so I'm not the only one thinking out loud about how strange some things seem.   My mother is overly obsessed with her pets and spends way too much money on them. Target seems so big and I curse when I realize I forgot to pick up something at one end of the store and need to walk all the back over there.   Most of the new TV shows seem even stupider than the new shows airing when I left. I'm always rushing. I try to remember to turn stuff off but I never unplug anything ever – the small draw on electricity by leaving things plugged-in all day no longer makes me seem wasteful.

My Peru story doesn't end because I left Macys flustered and almost in tears the other day when I couldn't bring myself to spend my $200 Christmas gift cards on a new suit for work.  It was even on sale - down from $300 - but I’m convinced it was no nicer than the 2 suits I got in Chiclayo for $30 each and I can't spend half of one month's Peace Corps salary on just 1 suit for myself.
It's a bad habit to start (because it will never end) but I want to send money back to Peru. I get uncomfortable thinking of some of the kindest poorest people I left behind, when the money I spend on beers one night at a bar could be far more useful buying them their medicine and school supplies that they can't afford.   Don't say "aww" and think I've become this great altruistic person – I haven’t and you should definitely call me if you’re going to the bar – I just think my perspective has changed.

My Peru story doesn't end because I started work last week.  I joined the opposite of the Peace Corps: Corporate America. My Peru story is ridiculous because I earned more money in my 1st week at Deloitte than I earned ALL YEAR last year as a Peace Corps volunteer (only because of a sign-on bonus, but still).  And you know what else is weird... having lived in Motupe actually makes me appreciate this job so much more. I have long days and a long commute but at least I get to come home and take a hot shower.  And it's nice to work in a building that has heating and air conditioning.  If nothing else I'm always comfortable here.

My Peru story can’t end yet because I went apartment shopping and needed Spanish to be able to communicate with some of the supers in the buildings to see the place. My Spanish is slipping but luckily I still understand everything and I keep reminding myself to read Spanish and listen to Spanish tv/radio but like everyone I’ve become busy and forgetful. And I didn’t pick the apartment with the Spanish-speaking super so practicing with him is out.
My rent in Peru was $30/month. My rent starting Feb 1 will be $2000/month. But to be honest the price discrepancy seems worth it. This new apartment has a closed roof (no need for an open roof if you don’t need sunlight to come in and line dry your clothes). No cockroaches or lizards or beetles (hopefully). It comes with appliances like a big fridge that even has a water filter/ice dispenser, and it has a dishwasher. There’s a washer/dryer on my floor a few doors down. The closest washer/dryer to Motupe was probably in Chiclayo over an hour away, not counting the lady down my street who washed my clothes by hand for the first year. My apartment has a big clean bathroom with water pressure and hot water and water that runs 24 hours a day. No more cement floors either. And I’m walking distance to the path train that runs 24h/day to bring me into NYC. I use to be 13 hours by bus away from Lima. That’s like comparing a week at an all inclusive resort in the Bahamas to a hummus veggie wrap.  They’re both good – but one is way better.
New York is funny too though. Every day I hop off the Path train and just start running (literally) with the crowd to transfer to the NJ transit platform. I laugh every time we take off madly down the ramp. Funny to think I would sit and wait for a car to bring me to Chiclayo for HOURS sometimes. And every day I admire the building I work in – on both my walk in and my walk out - it’s so big and beautiful and I’m so lucky to be here.
So sometimes I miss Peru, just like how I missed America when I was in Peru. I want to go back to visit but can’t imagine using any of my 20 paid time off days this year to do so. But I get nostalgic sometimes and just think I should buy a ticket.
p.s. Pictures from Chile/Bolivia/Ecuador and India were all posted here if you want to see the end of my travels http://traceyclarke.shutterfly.com/action/  I HIGHLY recommend traveling through South America, even more than traveling through India, and of course I'm biased towards Peru, but any country down there would be great

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July 23rd, 2007
06:18 pm


Well my mom has arrived to Peru and I’ve left my site, so this is it.. I’m logging out.  729 days ago I landed in Lima for the first time, and I haven’t been home in 570 days.  America seems like a fuzzy memory.

I wonder if I’m any different now, or if people will think I’ve changed.  I feel like I’ve learned so much, so I must be different, but I wonder if I’ll even notice.

I do some things weird now, and you might think I’m weird.  I haven’t used ziplock baggies in 2 years, and I don’t think it’s strange to drop a sandwich into a plastic supermarket bag.  I get nervous walking past groups of dogs on the street, and I sometimes pick up a rock (to threaten them) if they get aggressive.  I consider a sofa a sign of wealth and I only know 2 people in my town who own a car.  I think its ok to be in over 100 degree heat and not have an air conditioner.  I think it’s weird when juice comes out of a box, but it’s normal to take fresh fruit, water and sugar and throw them into a blender.  I have a new found appreciation for good water pressure.  I kind of like sleeping in my mosquito net.

I’ve lived for 2 years in a town where I walk simply because I have the time.  I could count on 1 hand the number of times I’ve used an alarm clock (although I still went to bed at 11pm and woke up at 7am because there was nothing else to do…).  I lived in a town where there’s no stress and no deadlines.  It’s going to be a tough adjustment back.

Lessons learned?  That I can do it.  No matter what happens in life – if I can live in Motupe, Lambayeque, Peru for 2 years, I can do anything.

I learned that I’m up for the challenge.

I learned that I can live without.  Live without running water 24 hours a day and sometimes without electricity.  Without veggie burgers and Old Navy.  And I learned what are actually the things that are hard to live without, and that it’s not running water or veggie burgers.

I’ve learned that I can adapt -- to anything.

I learned that there’s a whole other world outside of the tristate area, that it’s a big, sometimes depressing place, but it shouldn’t depress me - it’s big and beautiful, dirty and poor, and I’m lucky to have had this experience.

I’ve learned how to flush a toilet with a bucket of water.

I’ve learned that I can live with lizards, ants and spiders, but NOT cockroaches or beetles.

I learned the value of a gift from someone who barely has enough for himself.

I learned that you get a truly efficient language when you combine English and Spanish, and some things just can’t be expressed in English the way I want them to, and so you’re going to have to excuse my Spanglish.

I’ve learned that NOTHING is garbage.

I had some really bad days too, and more difficult lessons learned.  I know now what it’s like to feel completely alone.  To feel completely out-of-place.  To feel so alone and so out-of-place that all I could do is cry and want to go home.  But I hung in there, always telling myself this wasn’t supposed to be easy, and now, after almost 2 years, when I leave Motupe I miss it.  I miss my room and my dog.  It took almost 2 years, but now it’s home.

And now life here is coming to a bittersweet end.  I miss veggie burgers and Old Navy, and I feel ready to go, but I’ll miss this place.  The warm and lazy afternoons, my friends.  Everyone says they’ll miss me, that they’ve grow so accustomed to having me around, and that I shouldn’t forget them.  Everyone asks if I’ll come visit.  So I tell them yes, that I’ll be back in five years or so, because I’ll need to check up on them and see if the mayor ever finishes paving all the roads in town.  Saying that usually gets a good chuckle, we all know the mayor won’t pave anything, but I’m looking forward to coming back here one day.

p.s.  I will make fun of Peru until I’m blue in the face, but don’t you ever do it

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July 18th, 2007
10:47 pm


the best books i've read since i've been here:

Life of Pi - Yann Martel (thanks to isabelle for sending me this one)
Slaugherhouse Five - Kurt Vonnegut
The Red Tent - Anita Diamant

other amazing reads:
Confessions of an Economic Hitman - John Perkins
Half Asleep in Frogs Pajamas - Tom Robbins

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10:29 pm


things are really winding down.  i've sold or given away all of my stuff (i gave priority to the poorest people i know) and my room is practically empty (not that i had that much stuff in here to begin with)

today the little town i work in helping them to get their work on the computer had a little lunch for me, they bbq'd fish it was pretty good, and we of course drank some bathtub liquor which wasn't sitting well by the time i got home.

my last day in site is friday.  brandon is still peeing all over my moms house, and i miss him

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July 17th, 2007
01:33 pm


this is pretty funny..

Peru: Shawi Natives Kidnap Mayor in Loreto, Peru

the photo on the article is even worse, i really doubt thats what a Shawi native looks like. i'm sure they wear jeans and tshirts. it would have been funnier if they had scalped the mayor, or shot him with poisonous blowgus. why kidnap the mayor anyway?

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01:00 pm


From: Tracey Clarke [mailto: traceymarieclarke@gmail.com]
To: Judith Clarke
 hows brandon been doing?  did he make friends with snowball? 


On 7/17/07, Judith Clarke <JClarke@njha.com> wrote:

He keeps pooping and peeing on my carpets.  He's slowly warming up to snowball and he's a little bully.  He's eating snowball's food…pushes her out of the way and starts to eat her food.  And Snowball moves and watches while he eats.  And Brandon doesn't listen.  You call him and he doesn't come.  He comes to me because I have that "stern" voice but he doesn't to dad or Debbie.  I just need to get him toilet trained and we'll be fine.  Plus he doesn't understand that he just can't run out on the road.  He's not street-smart.  I'm left wondering if I'm going to have to clean up your rotten spoiled kids… 


From: Tracey Clarke [mailto:traceymarieclarke@gmail.com]
To: Judith Clarke

he grew up on the streets of hard knocks in motupe!  remember he got bit that one time?  hes not a bully and he always comes when i call.  maybe try calling him brandito.  and there aren't yards in motupe so he never learned the difference between a house and a yard and the street.  in motupe dogs just run on the street.  it doesn't really matter cause theres also no traffic

 he'll learn its still his first week


Judith Clarke <JClarke@njha.com>
 to  Tracey Clarke <traceymarieclarke@gmail.com>  

You’re going to raise your children to be whatever and then send them to me and excuse all their rotten behavior and I’ll have to clean up their manners…I can see it now.

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July 16th, 2007
10:18 pm


ok so my dog is at my parents house in NJ. it wasn't super hard to get him home, but it was a pain in the ass, and i could write a book on shipping dogs from peru to the USA at this point, but i'll spare you the boring details. so peru is in protest, the teachers are all striking, every public school in the country has already been closed a week and is closed indefinitely. The teachers are mad about a bunch of things, we'll talk about them later. so when people strike here they block the roads - you know typical third world style, they leave rocks and debris in the highway and light fires and march around with megaphones. so i had bought a bus ticket with one bus company the week before my trip to lima with brandon, but i've been reading about the strikes and watching them on TV, so I wasn’t sure I’d make it there. I tried calling the bus companies, but up until the night before the 8am bus they couldn’t tell me for sure whether they’d be leaving or not. Well I show up in the morning and sure enough they’re not leaving. I knew of another bus company who also had a day bus to lima (most buses here are overnight) so I quickly went to their terminal, and they said they were leaving. So I had to make a quick decision – do I risk getting stuck in this bus, possibly in a violent protest, or do I stay in chiclayo and send Brandon some other time. I decided to take my chances. So we took the day bus and to my surprise the ride was totally tranquilo. At one point in 1 city we diverted off the main road because the teachers were marching, but nothing crazy or violent. I actually arrived to lima thinking that first bus company was a bunch of pussies. So I got Brandon to lima, the next day I brought him to the airport to run between cargo offices and customs buildings, and after 3 hours they said he was good to go. $400 later he arrived to NJ and my dad and sister picked him up. apparently he's chasing the cats and peeing in the house but my mom thinks he’ll be ok.

so peru in protest. The MP train was shut down because people were leaving debris on the tracks. All the roads around Cusco and Puno (Lake Titicaca) – tourist capital of Peru, if not south America – were totally blocked and tons of tourists were stranded. Idiot locals live on tourist money but this is peru so no one is thinking that high. The government says they won’t talk to the teachers until their strike is over. Teachers say that’s blackmail and they’re not stopping until the government talks to them. They’re protesting a bunch of stuff – mostly their low wages, which I’d back them on (although they really need to stop blocking up the highways), and also because peru implemented competency exams for them this past year and they want to do away with them. This is where they lose my support - if they are too retarded to teach, they shouldn’t be teaching. i have no clue when classes will start again in this country but i've only got 1 week left (in my site)

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July 5th, 2007
09:52 pm


Describe your greatest achievement to date. What effect has this achievement had on others? (500 - 750 words)

god bless fordham and essay questions that are waayyy too easy to answer after living in motupe for 2 yrs

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July 3rd, 2007
11:50 pm


is an uphill battle against fleas in motupe. i bath him, i frontline him, i bath him again, and some how the little suckers manage to hang in there. i've actually chemically flea treated him twice in the past 2 weeks. the stuff is supposed to last a month! its unbelievable. maybe my dog is especially prone to fleas? more likely motupe is just filthy. sam if you read this don't mention this problem to mom, she'll freak out

speaking of brandon.. his big day is supposed to be july 12. but i emailed the peruvian cargo company today and the email bounced back saying it couldn't be delievered. i was emailing them to ask for the 10th time for some sort of instruction regarding what i need to do (starting with what is their address/phone number so i can find their office)

i have been a peace corps volunteer for 22 months and 1 day and i only have 1 month left here. you would know i was lying if i said this had snuck up on me but its still weird

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June 28th, 2007
10:19 am


its only 10:30 and i'm already having a peru-is-fucking-retarded day!  this morning i went to get copies of a project plan i wrote up with the womens association.  we added one page of small color photos to the write-up, and the copy machine lady didn't want to copy the page with the pictures!  at first she told me it wouldn't come out.  i was like ok well try it i'll pay for it even if it doesn't come out.  then she changes to "it'll use up too much ink".  i figured it wasn't worth my time to explain a copy machine isn't the same as a printer, and offered to pay double the price for the 1 copy.  she still said no.  i asked her how much she wanted for the copy.  still said no.  at this point i realized i was up against a brick wall and said ok and left.  (then went to my other copy place and they made the copy no problem at normal price).  incident number 2:  brandon is following me on my bike.  he usually stops to sniff other dogs butts and such, and 2 dogs approached him, but they didn't seem aggressive (although this was the corner where i've had my biggest scenes of screaming in the middle of the street at dogs who are getting aggressive with him) so i let them sniff each other.  then out of nowhere the bigger dog got aggressive and bit brandon!  poor brandito took off down the street wailing!  there was no blood, the big dog didn't break the skin, but i can tell brandon got bit by the way he reacted.  so what the fuck whose dogs are these and why are they running around the street.  i was so mad!  on the way back i carried brandon through that intersection and i saw the dog who bit him and i was pretty tempted to ride over his paw with my bike

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