Vida y Existencia en el Perú

VEP, a medium where Miguel M explores the dimensions of global volunteer service in the context of ongoing dialogues with culture, nature, ideas, sounds, environs. While the possibility of a unified matrix of thought is here obviated by unspoken limits, VEP offers a glimpse of my volunteer experience and travels in South America.* This is NOT an official blog of the US Peace Corps nor Peruvian government, contents strictly my own *

Sunday, November 12, 2006



Well reality has finally set in. After anxiously waiting the initial 8 weeks of training, our official sites have been assigned. It´s strange the way you have preconceptions of a place before you get there. Before coming to Peru, I thought I´d be in the mountains working in a small village of possibly Quechua- speaking Andeans. Instead, at an altitude of 74 feet, a population of over 20,000 and just 3 degrees from the equator, I find myself in Tumbes, Peru, surrounded by banana and mango trees, rice fields and also the amenities of semi-urban life, including internet cabinas, a market 2 minutes away and even a "virtual library." I´m 20 hours north of Lima which makes me the most northern volunteer in Peru (luckily my friends and Peru 8 volunteers Lauren and Kate are also assigned relatively nearby...) There are 7 PCVs in total in the department of Tumbes (of 38 in the class Peru 8, around 150 total in Peru, of around 7,800 in the world for the stats people...)

My site visit here was an absolutely exhausting week of meeting and giving speeches to local municipality members, mayors, teachers, health center staff and new neighbors. Peruvian culture is very formal in that meetings and public events are a big deal with formalities and the like. All of this, plus the bus rides back and forth from Tumbes to Lima (totaling around 35 hours) make me wonder how it is--and why?-- that I am typing right now. One of the toughest weeks of my life to date. I fell asleep, sweating, exhausted by 8 pm almost everynight. I ate raw fish, Ceviche, literally everyday at my site visit, twice for breakfast. What will become of my stomach? The average temperature here is between 32 and 38 degrees celsius, which I think is pretty hot.

I am back in Santa Eulalia near the training center for the final (finally) two weeks of training and the swearing in ceremony. I´ve had so many moments so far -- on crowded buses, uneven beds, dreams, sick, walking to spanish class, eating rice in the cold mountains during field based training -- where I have seriously doubted my ability and willingness to do this for two years. I continue to reassure myself that things will be fine once I am able to establish a routine and some decent projects with my community. Actually meeting my counterpart (she´s an obstetriz at my health post -- super amicable) and next host family in Tumbes was satisfying in that it helped me put some context to what will be my life for the next two years. I have ideas for working in a adolescent-youth program at our health center, checking out the mental health system, and doing some public art projects. The first three months in-site are for doing community diagnostic work, which is fancy public health jargon for talking to people to find out what areas need improvement in the community and who would be responsible and interested in realizing the corresponding ideas or projected health goals.

Some other things. My new host family seems nice. Two brothers, 12 and 14. One flies a kite and the other does soccer. Parents both high school teachers. My room is decent and my bed comfortable, though I´ll need to get a pillow. I have a toilet and electricity and thanks to a water conservation tank on our roof, water 24-7 (so far). I am thinking of coming-out as a vegeterian again. I´ve tried eating meat during the 2 and a half months of training here but I feel I want to go to my site as a vegeterian for health reasons and to avoid getting worms.

Tourist stuff: I went to a place called Cabeza de La Vaca or "Cow Head" which is a right near my new house. This neigborhood was being built until a pre-Incan ruin site was discovered there recently. All further housing construction (all adobe and wood) has been prohibited. There is a sacrifical site here where virgens were sacrificed to the sun, Spanish Pizzarro (was there a non-Spanish Pizzarro?) was resisted, and cow heads had lined the settlements, marking the land of the Tumpis.


At 13 November, 2006 12:09, Anonymous Aunt Pat said...

Dear Mike. It is most amazing that you are holding up so well in a world so different than you are accutomed to. I can certainly understand that the food would be an issue since you were very particular before you sign up (BPC). Health issues are not any to be taken too lightly. Will it be okay with your host family and your towns folk if you do revert to vegetarianism?

PLEASE, please send me a list of items I can send to you. I want to send a gift for you and something foe you to use in your new world.

I plan to look up your location on the internet. It is again beyond comprehension that you are expreinecing that much heat (and humidity) when your body was so used to Buufalo's climate.

Grandma M. has something for me to writer back as a comment to your last blog. I will get theat to you very soon.

Uncle Dan and Aunt Claudia are coming for a weekend visit this week and Grandma and Jean are going away next Tuesday for Thanksgiving. Most of us will spend the day at your house.

It sounds like the next few months will be full and extremely busy for you. AFter that you will probably start seeing a more even flow of work and emotion.

Remember we love you. We are so very proud of you and Happy are someone I am thankful to have in my life.

At 13 November, 2006 22:39, Anonymous matthew barrett said...

hey mike sorry i haven't had a chance to personally write to you, life has been hectic, anyhow i was glad to see this new post up, sounds like life is taxing on you as well at the moment, certainly an interesting departure from expectations, I had you living in a hut eating guinea pigs for two yeras(by the way an excellent source of parasitic worms in the fine country that you now call home) if worms are of concern(look for rice grains in stool) being in a populated are you can probably find anti-helmintics in town. most common worm in your neck of the woods is tinea solium(tape worm) niclosimade is drug of choice but, you are probably better of with and more likely to find albendazol a broad spectrum drug that kills almost all parasitic worms. alright back to work good luck with the new site, I will try to e-mail you when I get a moment, drop me a line if you have the time.

At 14 November, 2006 15:32, Anonymous Grandma M said...

Hi, Mike! It's been kind of busy around here since the October storm. We are slowly making progress in the clean-up outside. We are still getting quite a few rainy days. When the sun does come out, everyone heads for the outdoors. Nov. 21 we ar taking a train to Schenectady and from there we will drive up to New Hampshire to spend Thanksgiving with Jean's grandson and their new baby. Weather is 40-50 degrees.

Love you.

At 17 November, 2006 10:01, Anonymous Akram said...

Your mother and I are looking at your blog...(playing during office don't listen to her when she complains about getting home late...)
Tell your friend, Mat, the tape worm is no big deal. Since i come from a third world country, I have had it. It can be inetresting...
But you really should avoid Hydatid Disease. I have few others for you, so if you're not paranoid enough now, Mat and I can help you get there.

At 19 November, 2006 16:31, Blogger Miguel M said...

Thanks Doc Akram and Doc-to-be Barrett... When I see something crawling out I'll let you know and try to take pictures! Luckily for us Peru volunteers we have a great medical staff, including the doctor listed in the Lonely Planet travel guide as best travel doctor in Latin America...
Best wishes... Ciao



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