Coming into this year I had a pretty clear idea about what community life was all about because I spent last year volunteering in the Bronx. I was somewhat leery of my new community because I knew they wouldn’t be the same gals I had come to know and love last year. They would have different expectations for this year, and I would be coming into the year with my own set of pre-conceived notions. These were my thoughts before orientation in August.
Then I went home to California for the next four months while I waited for our departure in January. Just during those few months, I easily slipped back into life outside of community. I was excited to move back into the community lifestyle, but at the same time I was worried about losing the independent lifestyle I had lived for the last four months! However, that desire for total independence quickly lifted when we landed in the Lima airport. It was clear from the moment we got off the plane that community support was absolutely necessary.
Unlike last year in the Bronx, here in Peru, we did not live together for the first month, so our community wasn’t formed first by becoming roommates and scheduling out cooking, cleaning, and prayer. Instead, our community started out more as a support group. When we met up with each other we would vent, talk about interesting events, people and sometimes weird bugs and animals. We have faced cultural differences and challenges together and we’ve met to support each other spiritually all through the time we were living separately. Our small community of three has been my first resource in many decisions and preoccupations. And in particularly, as a community of women in Chulucanas we are in a unique situation and we often find ourselves supporting each other after experiencing remarks or situations in which are treated differently because we are women.
I’ve also come to recognize communities outside of the three of us, who have offered our volunteer community a sort of home in the larger Chulucanas community. Those people are first the host families with whom we shared the month of February. They taught us a lot about the culture and the simple life that people in Chulucanas live. Secondly were the people at the Obispado, where we lived for two weeks. The third group I mention in hopeful anticipation- the Augustinian Friars, who we will be meeting on a weekly basis, now that we have moved into our permanent community home.
To sum things up, my expectations about the new community were quickly redefined by my experiences thus far. Every day is truly a whole new adventure, and the support system we have with each other has probably been the only stable element in our volunteer year thus far. Since we have finally moved in together, I’m excited to get to know them on a different level. As a community we have yet to face the little conflicts that roommates always encounter, however I feel like our community of three will remain my strongest form of support and understanding throughout this experience.
Chulucanas, Peru 2010