I trained in rural Kansas in the fall of 1966 but ended up in a city the P.C. director had called "The armpit of the world." In those days Chimbote produced over half the fishmeal in the world (I was told). It had grown from a small town of a few thousand to 200,000 in a very brief period. Neighborhoods were very organized because only a few years had passed since government troops would forcibly expel settlers who would "invade" a piece of land and create a community. At age 21 I didn't have much of a clue but I was able to help because I had skills like being able to read, use a typewriter, drive a car etc. I helped get a school built and got started on street lighting. Jobs weren't always well defined in those days. My instructions from the regional rep were to go find a place to live and help the people. There was a "golpe del estado" when I was there, but at least outside the capital it seemed to have no effect on day to day life or local bureaucracy.
Though I wouldn't have joined if the draft hadn't been hanging over me, I tried to do a good job and believed strongly in the goals of the Peace Corps. It was an unforgettable experience. Two years in another culture is an invaluable experience which more people should have.
I've remained in contact with a few volunteers from those days and recently got Googled by an old Peruvian friend. We are emailing back and forth now and she filled me in on my other old friends - who's married, has kids, is dead etc. I've never gone back, though I went to Chile a couple of years ago. I keep up my Spanish. In fact, I probably speak even better now. I find that's quite important to me. Some final pontifications - Peruvian food is one of the world's great cuisines. And, Andean music has always been great and became a favorite of mine. I find it humorous that is has become so artsy nowadays - playing in the background at New Age bookstores and saunas etc. Because back in those days it was for Indios and was considered very unsophisticated - for hicks, sort of. And I never would have guessed a pure Indian would become President - especially a Chimbotano. He's here in the Bay Area now, though I haven't met him. He met the PCVs who were just a tad after my time, I think.