Wednesday, July 17, 2013

6/19/13 A little about work…

                So, I have chatted a lot about impressions, culture, food and the scenic view, but I do have another purpose here besides pretending to be the next Andrew Zimmerman and Samantha Brown and that is to participate in an International NGO called ProPeru (part of ProWorld) that is committed to improving health and promoting development. So, over the last 2 ½ weeks I have traveled to numerous communities, such as Yanahuara, Tamboccocha, Che’Querecc, Puma Huanca, Chicon and Ollantaytambo and each community has had similar problems being in rural Peru, but have had different approaches to how they received us as an NGO coming into their community. Some of the communities stood side by side with us on helping to build their clean burning stoves to limit respiratory infections, which was stated in the Ollantaytambo strategic planning meeting to be the number one cause of morbidity and mortality in the region followed by diarrheal related diseases and parasitic diseases being number three. These communities that were heavily involved would participate in ways such as the mom, who helped prepare mud by stomping with her bare feet for use in the construction of her new clean burning stove, while her kids gather rocks and straw for us. These days, the community participation aspect of the program felt to be in full swing and was inspiring for me as a hopeful future public health advocate. 
                We have also gone to communities in which we didn’t see a single person and they didn’t participate in the part they were supposed to contribute to be active in their own development and be able to sustain these health initiatives while we are gone.  For a while this was really frustrating for me and numerous other volunteers, but then I started to really think about this from the communities perspective…It must be hard to have someone come in and tell you that your way a life, a way of life that you have been active in, your parents, your grandparents, etc. have been active in is, well, unhealthy and that there is a better way. I could imagine what my Quechua speaking host grandmother would say about my life if she stepped into my world…”Julia, why are you so lazy? I had to carry fruits and veggies up a mountain every day to eat and you spend your time staring at a computer or television screen. Don’t you know that is unhealthy for you?” or how about this one…”Julia, what are you eating? I don’t even recognize those items as actual foods, don’t you know that proper nutrition is fundamental for health”. I can just imagine the many conversations that could be reversed toward my own unhealthy behaviors, so I can’t be too frustrated that not everyone receives my good intentions here in rural Peru with open arms as I haven’t bought into all the health initiatives that are aimed toward my unwise lifestyle choices. I have learned that in order for the work we are doing to be accepted by certain communities it will take a lot of patience and a lot of work from the local staff members, whom the communities trust, to better receive the initiatives we are proposing to help improve health and quality of life. All I can say is I am feeling fortunate to be just a small part in the projects that are being implemented here and feel really fortunate to have this global health opportunity because every day is a new learning experience.  

Walking to work in Yana Huara
Construction of a ProPeru clean burning stove
Watching to stove move the smoke out of the homes

Inside a rural Peruvian kitchen

6/14/13 Living in the Unfamiliar

                So, I had a thought today as I walked through the market on the way to work and sat in the office that hasn’t had power for days….is life without my daily conveniences, such as a microwave to cook my dinner, or fast food restaurants on every block, or pre-prepared items that we pick up in the grocery store a bad thing? I’ve been watching my host mom cook three great meals every day of the week with fresh ingredients, fruits and vegetables that she probably knows the location from where they were harvested. I also haven’t seen them once go out to a restaurant to eat since I have arrived, whereas I on the other hand have made an effort to continue my American desire to try as many restaurants as possible.  The days I stay at my host families’ house have allowed me to really taste Peruvian foods…the paltas, or avocados, taste so much richer, the mangos sweeter and the gooseberries or aguaymanto’s, so delicious. Did we get away from what made food delicious and turn it into just a convenience? Yes, life here may be a bit more harsh…okay a lot more harsh and yes respiratory, diarrheal

So many varieties of Corn

and parasitic diseases are common, but there is a richness in this little town of Urubamba, based on culture, good food, a lot of bread, family, friends and focus on community; it’s, well, an absolutely beautiful thing to be a part of. Lunch isn’t eaten in your car here, people don’t spend half their time on a cell phone here, people have real human contact and I have to say that I really love the feel of the community closeness. But, hey I am feeling inspired for the moment…I will soon miss my episodes of Anthony Bourdain and Law & Order and the privacy to hide away in my house when needed because that is my reality. So, for now I’ll appreciate what I’ve learned in the Sacred Valley and maybe bring a piece of what I learned home.. It’s amazing how up and down you can go with you ‘re living in the unfamiliar. I haven’t taken the time to write about the days that I miss my family so much it hurts, or how much I miss summertime BBQ’s as I am freezing my butt off, or the days I feel incredibly lonely as I really don’t know anyone the way I do at home. I try not to talk too much about that because, well, no one wants to hear about that and those feelings come in short spurts and then something amazing will happen or something new will come along that I have never done before and I realize that this is just part of it…miss your home…miss your people, but live it up while the opportunity is present because when will this chance in life ever happen again and when will the moment you’re experiencing ever repeat itself???

Rural community in Pacha, Peru just outside Urubamba
My temporary home: Urubamba, Peru
Peru Tidbit: Definitely no toilet paper in the toilets, the system cannot handle it so all paper goes in the waste basket provided. Oh, and many toilets don’t have a seat, so the standing technique will be used…sorry ladies, but that is just the way it is. 

6/12/13 Inspiration at the Incan Ruins

Pisac, Peru looking over the Sacred Valley

Today I am feeling better about my drastic change in reality, at least mentally. My stomach is always a bit off and I have a slight upper respiratory issue, but so does everyone else here, so why complain. Anyways…over the weekend I had a chance to wander in the hills of Urubamba in hopes of hiking to the location of the white cross, which I already blogged about, so let’s get to the Incan archaeological sites. I’m not even sure I can explain what it feels like to stand among the ruins of what was once a massive empire. It’s an amazing experience that I feel fortunate to have been a part of, and the views of the Sacred Valley….spectacular, breathtaking, massive…so hard to describe the epic scenery that looks like it is coming straight from a fantasy movie. The anthropologist in me has been in high heaven to see both Pisac and Ollaytaytambo this weekend, but to hear about the history of the treatment of the Peruvian indigenous people and the fall of the Incan empire was a part of the tour that I can’t help but ponder with regard to the choices we make as humans in the name of religion, exploration and ownership in the world. Aside from my evolution of humanity rant, Pisac and Ollaytaytambo are small communities that are nestled in the Sacred Valley among the Andean mountains and sit on both sides of Urubamba, which is where I am currently living and are a must see for those visiting the Cusco region. The history and the pre-history is so rich at these sites and even for those not so interested in anthropology or history it is still a site like none other in which you can’t help but appreciate. 
Pisac, Peru
               Upon returning from my archaeological adventure and my opportunity to enhance my cultural and historical understanding of the area I am temporarily living,  the Public Health person realizes I am in the right place for an amazing global health learning experience, so today I am feeling better about my drastic change in reality. Of course I miss my home, my husband, my family, my fuzzies, and my friends, but I have learned and will constantly be learning what it’s like to go on a global health adventure and step out of my comfort zone. After a day of plowing a garden at a school and days of constructing clean burning ovens I am hoping that I am doing as much for the Sacred Valley communities as they have done for me, thus far.

Ollantaytambo, Peru

Pisac, Peru