Friday, March 13, 2015

Catching Up

A year can go by so quickly (it's only 12 months, after all). One of my goals for this year is to be a more frequent blogger. We won't be here in Peru forever and it's important to record some things about this experience before it's over and I forget all the relevant details.
I don't want this to be just a travel blog, although travel is certainly something that we love to do. One of the perks of our assignment as ex-pats in Peru is a very generous travel allowance. I think that the secret to a successful ex-pat stay here is being able to get out of the country every now and then, to depressurize, to take a deep breath of somewhat cleaner air, to recharge the batteries and to remind ourselves why it is that we are doing what we are doing (and often, to question the wisdom of what we have decided to do).
A couple of months from now we'll have our second anniversary of living in Peru. Our son is in his third year of school here (because the Peruvian school year isn't the same as the US school year - here they start in March and finish in December). Having been in the same school for more than two years puts us in the league of "old-timers" who have seen many changes. In the ex-pat school, we now have our third school director in three years. With every year, people leave and new people arrive. When we arrived, the school had just a few teachers and only 12 students. Now there are more than 30 students and more than twice the teaching staff. The school is growing and we can see progress.
Our son speaks more Spanish now and is much more comfortable with the local language. Last year we went on a road trip to Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu, and there were several occasions when he was spoken to in English (because most strangers here assume that we are non-Spanish-speaking Americans), but he replied in Spanish. He both surprised and delighted us. It's really great that he is not afraid to use his developing language skills. Of course, if we ask him to say something in Spanish (usually for friends or family talking to us on Skype), he clams up and gets all embarrassed, then finds an excuse to go away.

This year our travel schedule has been turned on its head, mostly because of work commitments that will keep us here in Peru this Christmas (the last two Christmases we've been lucky enough to visit friends and family in our home country, which has been wonderful). We took a longer trip at Christmas this summer and went to both New Zealand and Australia. There really is no place like home. There was time to just relax plus time to spend with family and friends. We walked along the beach every morning (just not possible in Arequipa as the beach is 3 hours from here) and just soaked up as much of the experience as possible - the sights, smells and sounds, to sustain us while we are back here in Peru and far away from home.

We discovered last summer that there are very few ex-pat kids here in Arequipa over the summer holidays, because all the other families only have one parent employed outside the home, so the non-employed parent takes the kids back to Home Country X where they spend the summer holidays (almost 3 months) with their nears and dears. This summer there were actually a few kids here for a short time, but no more than just a couple of weeks between trips. With both parents working full-time outside the home, it's a very long summer break for N at home with our housekeeper and dog. So we try to break up the summer as much as possible with trips away, to alleviate the boredom and keep mischief at bay (at least we try).

So a few weeks after coming back from Australia, we headed off again for two more weeks of holiday (making full use of the travel allowance) in Florida and the Caribbean. It was absolutely amazing and really a fun holiday. It feels very indulgent to have had two completely wonderful and long holidays in such a short space of time, but there are no more holidays (other than a long weekend here and there) planned for this year. Our next holiday of a week or more won't be until at least January. This is where being an ex-pat is really going to get challenging, but it's also what we said we were willing to accept when we asked to have a month and a half away from work at the start of the year.

When others are flitting back and forth between Peru and established homes in the US, it's easy to become envious. We don't have an established home anywhere other than Arequipa. Now the strategizing of how long our stockpiled supplies of imported, locally unavailable products (such as my favourite shampoo, or fabric Bandaids, or a particular brand of tea) will last under the circumstances. Usually when we do go overseas I try to stock up on things that will see us through until our next trip somewhere. Right now, with no more holidays and no overseas work travel likely this year, the next trip somewhere is next year. We try to find local equivalents for things and sometimes those are good enough. Sometimes they look like the familiar products from overseas, even down to the packaging, but the contents and actual characteristics of the product leave us wanting. I'm very lucky that I have generous friends and work colleagues who are willing to bring a few extra things back in their suitcase (sometimes, the whole suitcase full, if I am really lucky!) of special items that really help to raise our spirits and help us feel more content with being here (sad to think that shampoo or crackers could make someone feel better about their life, but there you go). It's things that would otherwise be very easy to get and not a big deal if we lived in Australia or the US, like an engraved tag for the dog's collar, or an extra Wii remote. Stuff that often involves an afternoon-long fruitless search through one local department store after another as we try in vain to find something specific, to avoid having to ask yet another favour of a friend or coworker to bring it into the country for us.

So, where previous years' blog posts have been a lot about travel (I will get caught up on that and post some photos for you) and less about everyday life, this year's posts look set to be the opposite. I hope that you get some insight into the challenges, joys and experiences that make up life as an ex-pat in Peru.

Here's a fun fact for you: In my 41 years on Earth I have lived in 29 different houses, in 12 different towns or cities (some of them more than once) in four different countries on three different continents. I'm certain that I will be adding to this list before I'm done.


1 comment:

Glennis said...

you more around a lot I wonder where you are now!