One of the many reasons I chose Karikuy over other volunteer programs in Lima, was that it afforded me the opportunity to live like a real Limeño. I really loved the fact that I would be living in a local neighborhood that wasn’t known for being touristy, and in addition, I’d be dining on traditional food. So far, the program has definitely lived up to those expectations. Living in Julio’s childhood home and neighborhood has given me a good idea of what it would have been like to grow up here.
One of the other things that have really enhanced my experience here thus far is that all of the volunteers are made to feel like family. Not a day goes that we don’t encounter at least one member of Julio’s extended family, and we are always greeted with warmth. Each day we eat lunch with Juliana, Julio’s auntie who lives downstairs. We also share meals with uncle Cecilio, get taxi rides from uncle Freddy, and regularly run into Julio’s niece Patty and her adorable daughter Aracely, and son Alex. On these occasions, we are always treated as part of the family, and we are always asked how we are enjoying our time in Peru thus far. They even have patience with me as I struggle to regain my mastery of the Spanish language!
Last night was one of those wonderful occasions. Tía Juliana turned 79, and the family threw a party in her honor. After coming back from evening church service, the family invited us downstairs to celebrate with them. To start the night off, tío Antonio gave a speech, and everyone toasted to Juliana’s good health. Then, heaping plates of delicious lamb, rice, and yucca were passed around.
The night was filled with photos, jokes, and dancing. We were even invited to take a picture with Juliana.
Later, cups of a local wine were poured, and we sang Happy Birthday (once in English, once in Spanish) before enjoying slices of a both massive and delicious cake.
All in all, it was a fun, festive evening which I felt served as my official induction into the family. Being invited to such a personal gathering was both an honor, and a treat and I look forward to many similar occasions over the next 7.5 weeks here.
Kate is a volunteer and researcher for the Karikuy Volunteer Program in Lima, Peru.