Twenty-first century America is a place of instant gratification and North-Easterners take this notion to a whole new level. I grew up in New Jersey where you can have just about anything at any time, day or night. While efficiency and expediency were part of my everyday life back in the United States, those things went flying out the window when I arrived in Peru to serve as a Jesuit Volunteer. During my enculturation process and transition into Peruvian culture, I am learning to let go and let God during my day-to-day encounters. My JV community house is also teaching me to welcome in this newfound invitation to patience wherever possible.
In reality, I am no stranger to the slow, laid-back lifestyle of Latin American culture. My mother is from Colombia and I can remember her being fashionably late to most things. While I did expect that same approach to time when I came to Peru, learning to embrace the uncertainty of everyday life is one of my biggest challenges. What time will the bus come? Will the store be open today? Why hasn’t my friend gotten the postcard I mailed? There are no apps or websites telling you if the bus is en route or what time the store will open on any given day. You just have to trust in the system, which is much easier said than done.
My community mates will remind me to “lean into” frustrations and uncertainty that arise with each situation. “Lean into it,” is a mantra that means to accept, to respect, and to embrace all aspects of a culture. I’m learning poco a poco to lean into Peruvian uncertainty. And while it can be stress inducing, I am finding a lot of inner peace when I finally let go of situations that I have no control over.
There is a lot of beauty in leaning into the slow life. Peruvians are all about cultivating relationships. If they miss the bus or are late for work because they stopped to talk to a friend, who cares? Life goes on and at the end of the day what matters the most is not how much time you have but how it’s been spent. So, whenever my coworkers are late to a meeting or the market was closed when I try to buy bananas—I’ll take a deep breath and remember to let go and let God.
Catherine (Cat) Bruno is from Westfield, New Jersey. She graduated in May 2018 from The University of Scranton in Scranton, Pennsylvania with a B.S. in International Studies and French. She is an avid runner and enjoys being outdoors especially during the summertime. She also LOVES to travel and has been to 18 countries! When Cat was 10 years old, she was on her town's swim team and took first place in an all-boys backstroke race. She will be serving as an English teacher at Fe y Alegria in Tacna, Peru.