Fair Trade Gloves and Mittens from Huancavelica!

Fair Trade Gloves and Mittens from Huancavelica!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Divine Intervention

Last Monday night (6/22) all the Lima YAVs and Debbie were supposed to be on an overnight bus to Huancayo for our second-to-last retreat. The bus left at 11 pm, but we didn’t go because inside sources told us the roads were blocked by protesters in La Oroya (about 1/2 way). That bus left, arrived at the blockade and turned around...at least 8 hours of pointless travel! No one got where they wanted to go, and we were snug in a real bed snickering at those suckers! (ok, at least I was).

Alex was in bed with severe stomach pain. His stomach was hurting so badly he didn´t return to his home that night an stayed with Debbie and Harry. He had severe cramping that night at dinner, and sometime in the night it moved to the lower right side. Yikes! Using WebMD, he checked his symptoms and thought he had appendicitis. Around 4 am, he awoke Debbie and her husband Harry and they took him to the Stella Maris, a private hospital close by. Appendicitis was confirmed and around 10 am they rolled him off to surgery! Of course...I was there by then to document the entire thing!

Alex getting moved onto the gurney.

Michael, Harry and Alexandra sending him off to the OR.

It was divine intervention that we weren’t on an overnight bus stuck outside La Oroya. Can´t you just picture Katie, Michael and I carrying a super sick Alex across the road blocks in search of a very questionable province hospital!!?? BUT we would´ve done it had it been necessary! Again...the hand of someone up there trapped us in Lima!

So, Alex became the first YAV to have surgery in Peru. They did a laparoscopic removal with three little holes, one in the belly-button and all went well. He actually got the head of surgery, who was also the transplant surgeon to slice and dice him. I asked him where the new appendix came from, since he was a transplant surgeon and all (as a joke!), but no one else thought it was funny at all. Glad I can at least amuse myself!
Alex models his bandages.

So, I spent the last week in Lima waiting to see if the retreat would take place and/or when I could return to Huancavelica and chilling with Alex in the hospital. Did I mention that his entire appendectomy was less than $3,000 before insurance??? Holy cow! So, to Alex´s family and friends, he is a the trooper of all troopers, and we did our best to take care of him for you!

Debbie taking care of Alex post-op.

Alex w. his IVs and Balloons.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Michael goes Grubbing

Michael and I spent our week-long vacation in Iquitos, Peru. Iquitos is the largest city in the world inaccesible by land. You must go by boat or plane. We flew in and spent a day in the city before heading out the Muyuna Lodge, three hours upriver from Iquitos. There, we were overwhelmed with the wilderness of the Amazon River and Jungle. We saw tons of bird species, three-toed sloths, iguanas, two fer-de-lances, an amazon tree boa and some spectacled caimen. Our guide, Rafael, was fantastic! I even got to play some soccer with the local villagers AND scored a goal. It was a wonderful week, and I'm so glad Michael and I got to do it together!!
In the video Michael is eating a grub worm that our guide macheted out of a dead tree trunk. I've gotta give him credit too, because it looked disgusting! The locals take the grubs home for their babies to suck on because it's believed that eating the grub worms protects the babies from bronchitis and other lung infections. In the video, Rafael takes out the intestines before Michael eats the worm because the intestines are bitter. Yes, the worm is still alive when Michael bites its head off. AND I love the disgusted look of Nat, a friend we met on the trip, as Michael tells us about the grub.

Bon Apetite!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

That awkward in-between period

Today I visited my old host family, as I've been doing every Thursday for the past month or so. To get to their house and back, I have to take a bus for about 15 minutes outside of my neighborhood. On my way back, I did as I always do and paid the cobrador (that is, the person who collects the bus fares and announces/advertises the different bus stops on the route) and told her "Avenida Lima," the name of the closest main street to my house, where I get off the bus. You have to tell the cobrador where you're getting off so he/she knows how much to charge you. She charged me 50 centimos, which was good, because they occasionally charge 80. Today, the bus was full -- I had to stand up holding a handrail for the entire ride back. I'd say there were maybe 50 people on the bus.

As we approached the turn onto Avenida Lima, the cobrador, who was in the front of the bus, yelled out
"Avenida Lima." Meanwhile I was in the back of the bus. The bus stopped and the back door opened, which happened to be close to where I was standing. No one got off.
"Do you get off at Avenida Lima?" she repeated. I suddenly realized she was staring right at me. I'm sure I looked really confused. I've taken this same bus route many, many times and not once had this ever happened. It always not only turned onto Avenida Lima but traversed the entire length of the street. However, since the cobrador was asking if I was getting off at Avenida Lima before the bus actually turned onto the street, I started to think that this particular bus was altering the route today (something that HAS happened to me before with other busses). So for some reason, I figured maybe it wasn't going to turn onto the street, so I needed to get off right there, at the corner.
"Yes," I answered her question, "Is the bus not going to turn?" I was really, really embarrassed to be having a conversation across the length of the bus in my gringo Spanish accent while the bus was stopped in the middle of the street and all of the passengers basically were a captive audience.
"Oh, do you get off further down the street?" she asked me.
"Yes, of course," I replied. And with that the driver closed the door and turned onto Avenida Lima. Relieved that the situation had been resolved and the bus had started moving again, I said softly "I might be a gringo, but I do know my own bus route." The people around me chuckled (people always laugh when I call myself a gringo). Luckily, the point where I get off was only 5 or 6 blocks down the road, so it wasn't long before I got off the bus and walked the remaining half-block to my house.

There's really no way I can fully express the awkwardness/discomfort of that situation to a North American who's never before lived in Peru. Basically, the reason all of it happened was that because of my accent and probably a bunch of other cultural cues, the cobrador realized that I wasn't "from around here." So she wanted to make sure I didn't get lost. And it's okay that she assumed I didn't live in Lima and might not know where I was going. It took awhile, but I've finally accepted the fact that I'm never going to be Peruvian. Especially not this year. I'm never going to fully fit in. I'm always going to look, sound and act like a North American. Which I've realized is fine, and very much expected since that's exactly what I am. Whereas it used to really, really bother me when strangers would see me on the street and immediately start speaking English to me ("Hello. What is your name? Where are you from?"), for the most part, it doesn't any more. The vast majority of the people that do this are just trying to be friendly. Lots of people know English - it's taught in all of the schools, plus it's the default language of world media and entertainment - so they're excited to practice it with a native speaker. And especially in places like Comas, native English speakers don't come around too often. Even though she didn't speak any English to me, the Cobrador was a type of example of this friendliness/excitement. She was just trying to help me. She recognized me as a foreigner, but she didn't overcharge me for the bus fare. Instead, she decided to let me know when I should get off, since she figured I didn't know where I was going. But little did she know, her trying to be friendly and helpful actually caused me a lot of embarrassment.

I know this seems like a silly situation to over-analyze, but just that's what I do. The last important thought I had is that I have a feeling most people who get off the bus on my street, avenida Lima, probably tell the cobrador something different than "avenida lima." I've actually only ridden that bus one time when I wasn't buy myself (don't worry, I'm never riding it at night), and I don't remember what the person who rode with me told the cobrador was our stop. Most Comas natives might just say "santa isabel" or something like that, something that also might distinguish me from the other bus-riders.

So even though I feel comfortable and well-adjusted to living in Lima, this proves that there are still a few things that I have to learn. I'm still in an awkward, in-between period. On the one hand, I'm speaking Spanish very well. I know my way around. I can do things relatively independently. I've gotten used to (or even started to like) a lot of cultural things that at the beginning of my year here annoyed or confused me. But the transition isn't over, and may never be. I still don't tell the cobradores the right things sometimes. I still make cultural feax pas. Even though I feel more and more like a regular Lima resident, I still act and look enough like a foreigner for people to continue mistaking me for a tourist. And finally, even though I keep claiming that it doesn't bother me any more, the fact that this happens still, well, bothers me a little bit.

As someone who has finished his undergrad but has not yet begun graduate school, I really shouldn't be surprised that perhaps the best way to describe this year is "an awkward, in-between period."

-- Alex

Friday, December 5, 2008

La Oroya

Hello friends,

The time is drawing near, our long time battle against Doe Run Peru and their smelting plant in La Oroya is coming to a head next week. CNN is airing a documentary about the problem. (YAY!) Please tune in and share it with your congregation, friends and family. The more attention we can draw internationally, the more change we can bring. This is our last big chance to get the Peruvian government to side with the people, not the company. I’ve been to the smelter, I’ve been to the schools, and I’ve had to breathe the air. I’ve seen the birth defects and the cancerous growths on residents of all ages. It’s time for a change. The company must be held accountable for their pollution just like they would be in the US. Planet in Peril: Battle Lines airs on CNN, December 11 at 9pm.

For a preview, click on this link: http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/living/2008/12/02/pip.gupta.doe.run.cnn

Friday, November 14, 2008

I just need to share this with someone....

I was just at the metro (the peruvian grocery store where you can also buy tv's and mattri). I was in line for a long while, and I noticed the man in front of me was buying 3 bottles of vegetable oil and 3 packages of 4 rolls each of toilet paper........I chuckled to myself. That is when I noticed the woman one aisle over buying 4 bottles of vegetable oil and 3 bottles of maple syrup........

These were my conclusions.....
1. I missed the sale sign.
2. Perhaps Peruvians just use a lot of vegetable oil (it is true).
3. There is some kind of party going on that I was not invited to (and am okay with that).

have a good weekend.
all for me, for now.