Half Way to the Beginning
Half way through training! This weekend we are breaking up into smaller training groups to do some field based training in different parts of Peru. We'll get to see more of the coast and some of us, including myself, will also spend time in the Andes at about 3,000 metros (9,000 feet). I am excited, as are many other trainees, to have more hands on training like latrine building and "cocinas mejoradas," which is a project designed to assist communities in building safer ventiliation systems for wood-burning kitchens. All volunteers will be finding out their permenant site locations within the next week and a half which is also exciting. I'm under the impression that I might be placed in a larger community, possibly semi-urban, and likely splitting my time between a larger urban health clinic and a smaller rural clinic, doing something related to mental health. I'm still torn between wanting to be rural Andean for two years versus having the relative structure of something more familiar. Of course this decision is not in my hands at this point so I'm preparing myself for a host of different scenarios.
Aside from the field based training coming up, my routine continues to be structured by technical sessions and language courses. Spanish is coming along -- I'm advanced enough to be sworn in as a PCV-- but much work needs to be done on my part when it comes to comprehension and conversation and especially where slang is involved. I also continue to work on developing charlas for local health posts with other volunteers to better my spanish and to improve my understanding of the workings of the health system here. Also, I have been helping out with the Peruvian National Campaign against Rubella here at a local health post, along with others from our group. The campaign goals include vaccinating those between ages 2-39 and promoting and educating the public of the benefits of receiving the one-time vaccine. According to El Comercio approximately 12 million people have been vaccinatated thus far, representing 80% of the target.
In other news, I've had the opportunity to visit Lima a few times recently which seems pretty much like other cities in that it has the dynamic of organized-chaos and excitement all in one. There are sections of the city that are Exurban mall, USA in Spanish instead of English. In other areas, as in the US, there is the sharp juxtaposition of extreme urban poverty and dirth of resources and services. Here however, as it is in Europe and other places, the suburban areas are often the most strained economically and have the greatest social needs, for example in a pueblo joven named San Juan de Miraflores which I visited. The outer rural areas are where many volunteers will be working for the next two years. In general, there has been an influx of people from the sierra coming to the larger cities looking for work and opportunity, but often they find scarce resources, strained health care services and limited infrastructure and amenities such as water and electricity.
In closing, I've been really happy to be receiving mail here, whether they be newspaper clippings, letters, etc. It really helps when I'm getting caught up in all the work and training here. I'm also relieved that the snow at home is melted and that the Sabres were 6-0 last time I checked. Hope to talk to you soon...