PERU, THE FIRST YEARS
So there I was in Ilo, Peru. Happy as a pig in a mud hole. Russell had a great job, the girls loved the company school, and I began to relax. There were ladies who played bridge, which I love, and some who ran every morning, and even a few doing a little yoga once a week. I woke up in the morning, stood at the front door looking out at the Pacific Ocean with my coffee and couldn't believe my good luck.
Within a few weeks, I started joining the ladies practicing yoga and began running with another group. I knew I still needed to learn how to relax, but my body was finally beginning to let go of my fears, I thought. The yoga we did was basic and I enjoyed it each week, but I needed more. After a few months I suggested we practice twice a week and everyone was in agreement.
Life was very easy for me with a full-time live-in maid and gardener. Food shopping was different and challenging, but I loved every minute of buying fruits and veggies off the ground at the Friday feria. A few years before, my mother-in-law had given me a book called "The Save Your Life Diet" that had changed the way I cooked dramatically. Lots less meat, lots of fruits and veggies and I made everything from scratch. It's a good thing as there wasn't much in the company store besides mayonnaise, ketchup, packaged soup, canned milk, a few tinned vegetables and fruit and baking supplies. Most new ladies were frustrated by this lack of ingredients, but I saw it as a huge challenge. And it occupied much of my time. The whole family was home for lunch so that became our main meal of the day instead of dinner. The other ladies were already used to making things like flour and corn tortillas and I loved learning how. I don't think we've ever eaten better or healthier. I was having one little issue though: the meat smelled so bad that I had a hard time cooking it and eating it and the chickens tasted like fish. I had had a problem for several years of not being able to eat if too much was said about the animal that had provided our meal. It got harder and harder for me to eat meat there. But I learned to eat fish and like it for the first time in my life. So from the outside things would seem to be just peachy keen.
I was still troubled with the religion question, but I just couldn't bring myself to immerse myself back into "the church". My girls went with friends to Catholic mass and we talked about things occasionally, but I couldn't say much since I didn't know what I believed. I did a really good job of denying it all most of the time.
I began to feel as though I was an appendage of Russell. He was loving being Assistant to the Area Manager, the smelter, and knowing that he would be Area Manager after a year. He loved being called Jefe and being the big cheese. I again struggled to find my place in his life. He never criticized me, but then he never complimented me either. I was being taken care of in all ways except emotionally. I desperately needed something, but didn't know how to get it. There was no one to help me so it was just easier to not think about things most of the time. Denial is a lovely place to live! From the outside things continued to seem peachy keen, but I was slowly dying on the inside.
After that first year, Russell did get promoted to Area Manager and he became responsible for running the smelter and everything that pertained to it. I became responsible for the social life of the area. That was fine with me. I wanted to make some changes and try to bring the Peruvians and ex-pats together more socially which I did accomplish. I was liked and respected by most and enjoyed my spot in the limelight, albeit still in Russell's shadow. I was more active than I had ever been with sports and social engagements, and I enjoyed the charity work we did as a group. My confidence in my skills as an organizer grew, but my self-worth stayed in the toilet. I just couldn't understand why Russell couldn't give me the affection I thought I needed. As usual, all our fights were still about this same subject. He also didn't understand my angst as he was doing all he thought he needed to do by providing for the family and being successful. We were riding the same train, but sitting in two different cars.
About our 4th year in Ilo new couple arrived and I instantly liked the woman. We became friends, but not close. A year later they were transferred to Toquepala and I got my first inkling of what this woman really meant to me. I felt as if my heart would break when she left and I cried buckets of tears. I was shocked at my reaction. She certainly didn't feel any discomfort at leaving me. I was devastated by her leaving. I had gotten very good at letting go after all the moves I'd made in my life so I adjusted and went on about my business but definitely felt I had lost something valuable. I had no idea how this woman would impact my life in the not too distant future.
Among some books I brought back were several about food and feeding the planet, being a vegetarian, etc. We were traveling someplace by road and I was reading one of the books. It graphically described the meat industry and it's impact on the planet and our food supply. "Diet for a Small Planet" or one similar, I think. I remember clearly reading a paragraph at the bottom of a page about 2/3 of the way through the book and decided right then and there to stop eating meat. I wish I could remember what it said, but then it probably wouldn't seem like anything earth shattering after all. I was already grossed out by the meat in Peru and whatever was in that paragraph touched me so that I had to make that decision. And I did stop eating meat that day and am still a pesca-ovo-lacto vegetarian now after 25 years. There was something in the book about fish having given us their permission to be used as a food source so I continued to enjoy the lovely fresh fish. After all, Jesus gave fish and bread on the mount, not steak or chicken wings! (I know, a little hypocritical of me.) I struggled to eat enough and ended up gaining 10 lbs by filling that meat void with lots of other goodies. I was a little self-righteous and complained each time I ate somewhere where my dietary preferences weren't noticed. I was a bit of a pain, I'm sure. I think, looking back, that this was one way I could be different, stand out. And it pissed Russell off royally and embarrassed him. Some part of me loved that he couldn't control me here. It was better than becoming bulimic or anorexic. It took a few years, but I finally got my mind right and understood that I was the one who had to adjust to the meat eating world, not them to me. I never tried to make the family vegetarian or convince anyone else. This was my own private protest of the meat industry.