Friday, December 12, 2008

Hola de Peru!

Hola, fourth graders of Cameron Elementary School. My name is James Tvrdy and I graduated from Cameron High School in May of 2004. You might know my brothers, Tyler and Travis, who are juniors in high school or my mom, Mrs. Tvrdy, may have substituted for your class sometime. But if not, it’s nice to meet you via the web. Right now, I’m sitting on my bed, high in the Andes Mountains of Peru because in September I left the United States to volunteer in the Peace Corps for two whole years plus the three months of training I just finished. Yes, I realize it seems a little crazy to leave home, the US, and everything I know; however, I have learned so much here and it has already been the experience of a lifetime.

First of all, I’d like to give you a little background myself and the Peace Corps. After I graduated from Cameron High, I went to the University of Missouri and earned a degree in International Agribusiness Management. During my time at Mizzou, I was very involved in my fraternity, Alpha Gamma Rho, the College of Agriculture and Mizzou’s Homecoming. I also studied abroad in the Czech Republic for a summer and in the rainforest of Costa Rica for four months. My degree, campus involvement, and international experience helped me in being accepted into the United States Peace Corps.

The US Peace Corps is a government agency that was started in 1961 by President Kennedy that promotes international development on a community level around the world. There are three main goals of Peace Corps.

1. Provide trained men and women to developing countries interested in receiving help.
2. Promote a better understanding of American culture to people in the countries served.
3. Promote a better understanding of the peoples served on the part of Americans.

For the last three months, I have been participating in the Peace Corps training program that was located just outside the capital city of Lima, Peru. I had classes covering Spanish, Peruvian Culture, History, Health, Security, and Environment. Currently there are five different programs of volunteers in PC Peru: Health, Small Business, Youth Development, Water/Sanitation, and Environment to which I belong.

My entire group of 47 volunteers officially swore-in as Peace Corps Volunteers on November 28. From Lima, we all left to our individual sites. I’m now living in town called Pashpa, in the department of Ancash, Peru. My town is a small rural village of about 3-400 people high in the Andes Mountains, about 12,000 feet above sea level. I can see several snow-capped mountains from my new home which is unbelievably gorgeous.

I hope each of you are enjoying the Christmas season back at home. It just doesn’t feel the same down here, but I’m excited to learn what kind of traditions the people in my town do for Christmas. The cultural exchange is one of the most rewarding parts of the Peace Corps service and I’m glad I get to share it with you all as well.

Please feel free to send me any questions you have and we can coordinate with my local school here in order for your own cultural exchange.

Season’s Greetings and a Happy New Year,
James Tvrdy, PCV Peru

My host family in Lima at the Swearing-In Ceremony.
Juan Carlos, my mom Lucia, me, and Raul

A group of 4th graders that I helped collect trash with during Training. We were in the coastal/dessert area of Peru, much different from where I live now.

My Village of Pashpa!