Friday, July 12, 2013

July 12, 2013

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost two full weeks since I last updated… but I guess it has. Happy July, Happy Independence Day, and Happy Last Week of Data Collection (that last one is only recognized by the three of us and those directly involved with our project here, in case you were curious). July has been pretty action-packed so far, let’s see if I can re-cap…

Junín - Work:
            The project has continued to go well, for the most part. It’s been sort of hit or miss with organizing focus groups and interviews, but we’ve got a lot of really good information. We made it to all of the communities around the lake except for one, because the president of that community gave us a phone number that was short one digit. After guessing a few times unsuccessfully, we decided to just let it go. Most places have just been interviews with the president of the community and frequently another member of the community as well, either the VP or someone who is said to know a good deal about the lake. Much of the information is the same from each place, but it’s still really good to get.
            This is not to say that the past two weeks have been a walk in the park (even if they had, it would be a huffing and puffing walk in the park, thanks to the fact that there is something like 2/3 the oxygen here as there is at sea level – how nice!). On the 4th of July, we had an interview set up for one of the communities on the other side of the lake for 9am, meaning we would leave Junín at 8am to make it in time. Now, I’m not much of a morning person, especially if I can’t run, shower and have coffee. I managed to run (though it was super early) and we were on the road in plenty of time. We arrived shortly after 9am to find the president of the community had not even read the letter we’d hand-delivered probably a month prior. He asked us what we were doing and what we were hoping to accomplish, why we wanted to talk with him, etc. Never mind the fact that we had anticipated a group of 8ish people waiting for us to hold the focus group, this was a bit of a disappointment. Finally, after we managed to convince him that we were not working for the municipal government, he agreed to let us talk to someone else. And this someone else wasn’t going to be in town until 12, supposedly. So we waited around (doing surveys and drinking lots of coffee at a cute little café) for 2.5 hours until 12, when this man, who, we were told, knew much more about the lake, was to arrive. At 12:30, the president emerged from a meeting and told us that the guy wasn’t there yet, but he would probably be there around 1:30… so we got his number and called him to verify, and to make sure he knew we were waiting for him. The weather was awful – raining/hailing off and on, fairly windy and just unpleasantly cold – so we sat in the car for another hour. At just about 2pm, we were tired of waiting (at that point, it had been almost 5 hours of waiting), so we started to pull away, and finally the lake-smart man appeared. Needless to say, we were all slightly upset. Not only had the president of the community not read the letter we dropped off weeks earlier, he told us 9am, knowing full well we were coming from an hour away, and then he wouldn’t even talk to us, he pawned it off on someone else (who did know a fair amount, and I’m glad we got to interview him, but still). Thankfully that has only happened once. The guy we did talk with was very helpful and agreed to arrange a focus group for us, so we’re returning to that community tomorrow morning to finish up. Hopefully we’ll leave there on a more positive note…
            After that meeting tomorrow morning, we’ll be heading to another community whose president has also been very helpful. He took us out to lunch a couple weeks ago to get more information on what exactly we’re doing, and see how he could help. I’m fairly confident that tomorrow will be productive, but I guess time will tell!
Sunday will be an easy day, a non-work day (I hope), though probably a planning day. We’ll have 10 days to finish transcribing and translating and then compile our report and get our presentation ready… Like I’ve said, I think we have a good amount of information for a very rich report; it will just be a matter of making sense out of it all and forming it into a report. Next week we have an interview (as interviewees, not interviewers!) that will be broadcast on the radio and probably also the local TV station to promote our report and invite people to the presentation, which will be on the 25th in the morning… I’m slightly nervous about presenting in Spanish to a full room of (hopefully) very interested parties. It’ll build character, I’m sure.

Junín – Non-Work:
            I’m almost finished knitting my first scarf, and I must say, it’s quite pretty. It’s been a learning experience for sure, a couple screw-ups plus my stubborn perfectionistic tendencies have been a bit of heartache and lots of backtracking on several occasions, but I have no regrets. I wish other things (like hats or mittens or leg-warmers or anything with a non-rectangular shape) were easier to make… Not sure how much I have left, maybe a foot, maybe less. Next up: another scarf! (And I’ll have to be very careful since Janelle, my saving grace when it comes to knitting, probably won’t be with me to help me fix my mess-ups…)
            Food continues to be very starch-heavy, but every Tuesday, I load up on the good stuff at the market. I have a dozen tangerines, a kilo of apples, half a dozen bananas, several kiwis and grenadillas, a handful of limes, and a bunch of avocados to tide me over when I can’t stomach the starch. I also finally got around to toasting the peanuts I bought several weeks back, not realizing they were raw. I also discovered that there are a couple women who sell almonds at the market. They’re expensive treats, but they’re totally worth it. I’ve also tried a couple new fruits – one of the perks of being near the selva I guess! One is a lucuma, which is just… heavenly. I don’t know how else to describe it, but sometimes we have it blended with bananas for breakfast, and it is seriously, dangerously delicious. We’ve also had it in pies and cakes and it is absolutely delicious.
Another is the chirimoya (sp?), which I only tried yesterday. It’s a strangely lumpy green fruit that you break open, and there are lots of white sort of stalagmite-looking things that form the flesh of the fruit. There are a few black seeds, and you don’t eat those or the skin, but the white flesh is really very sweet. Another is the grenadilla. I’ve had grenadilla-flavored things before (Lesotho loved it), but never the actual fruit. It’s sort of like a pomegranate in that you eat the seed-things, but it’s a lot easier to open – you just smack it hard on the table so the shell cracks, and then scoop the insides out. I got scolded when I chewed them, so I’m still not exactly sure the proper method of consumption, but nothing bad has happened to me as a result of chewing the seeds, so oh well.
            There are also lots of herbs they make tea with (including celery leaves – bleh!). Each has its own purported purpose, but I drink them because I just like drinking warm things when it’s this cold outside and inside (so long as they taste like herbs and not celery water!).

Running has continued to improve, even though the mornings are considerably colder now, and it’s still hard to get out of bed. I have to catch my breath less frequently, and my lungs don’t hate me quite as much as they did several weeks ago. I’ve been seeing some cool animals on my excursions, too – lots of birds! The latest (and most exciting since that of the flamingos) sighting was the famed (and endangered, unfortunately) zambullidor de Junín (grebe), a small fluffy duck thing with red eyes, almost loon-esque in shape and diving abilities. I saw two in the canal along the road where I run, both yesterday and the day before, and when the close one saw/heard me, it dove and came up maybe 20 feet away. They make a cute little noise as they swim. When I got back to the Parroquia, I was excited for having just spotted them, and one of the hermanos here told me that if you see a zambullidor, it means you’ll have good luck, especially in love. Ha, I guess we’ll see about that…

            I’ve started making travel plans for after we finish here, and I am getting really excited. After our presentation, overnight on the evening of the 25th, I’ll take a bus down to Lima to meet up with a friend from home, who will have arrived the evening of the 25th. From Lima, we’re bussing to Cusco, which will be a solid 20+ hours in a bus – but we have second floor, front row seats, so hopefully we’ll at least have some good views! We’ll spend a week in the south of Peru: Cusco, Puerto Maldonado, Ollantaytambo, and (of course) Machu Picchu (with an added excursion up Huayna Picchu, which also looks stunning). I’m counting down the days. It’ll be nice to only have to wear one pair of pants at a time, and not worry about layering up quite as much. It’ll be nice to be able to breathe more normally, to be able to run a more normal pace and maybe even get my legs tired after a run (instead of just my lungs), and to be able to (hopefully!) run with people. It’ll be nice to be able to be active during the day and not be completely exhausted as a result. I’m hoping for good running, plenty of hiking, maybe some biking, possibly some canoeing or kayaking and lots of photography.
            There’s still a good amount to plan, and I love seeing everything come together. With that said, we’ll still have a good deal of flexibility with what we do each day… I’m stoked to see another region of Peru. At the end of our week, the plan is to fly back to Lima (90 minutes in a plane sounds better than 20 hours in a bus, no?) and then home!
Time is such a funny thing – right now, two weeks sounds like a long time to wait until traveling and adventures, but if the past two weeks are any indication, the time will surely fly, which is a good thing since the temperatures have dropped even more. There were several mornings we heard the overnight temps dropped to -10 C, around 15 F, no big deal (BRR!)

I think that’s really all I have to report; the countdown to the end has begun, but we definitely have plenty to keep us busy until then! Fingers crossed for no more sickness (food-related or otherwise) and lots of sunshine (cloudy days are rough).
Love from Peru!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Five Weeks Down...

Buenas tardes and happy last day of June!
It’s sort of a strange feeling, realizing that we’re done with five (of our nine) weeks of work – on one hand, I feel like we’re only barely past halfway done. On the other hand, I feel like we have a ton of work left to do! We’ve decided that we will be done with data collection by July 13th, which will leave us with two weeks for going through all our data: our numerous interviews, focus groups, and surveys, as well as the reports and documents we’ve received from various parties over the course of our stay. There is a lot of information to sort through, but I think the diverse nature of our sources will make for a rich final report (or that’s what I’m hoping!).

This past week was a mostly pretty alright week. Monday we went to a celebration in Ondores (a few pictures are up) to a) see what it was all about, and b) try to get some of our surveys done. Naturally, the ride that was supposed to leave at 8 either didn’t have room for us or was going to the wrong place (or was non-existent from the get-go), so we waited around another couple hours and finally headed over around 10. There were plenty of people to interview, and we got a good start on our surveys. We also climbed a large hill (hence the view in some of my pics), which sort of reminded me of my time in PC, going to a friend’s house to hike up his or her mountain. This one was pretty small in comparison, though it did allow for some astonishing views of the lake as well as the town of Ondores.
Tuesday and Wednesday we worked around home for the most part, transcribing interviews, organizing data (I’ve taken this on primarily, I enjoy compiling data and looking for patterns, etc.), exploring the big market on Tuesday and going to a nearby town on Wednesday for what ended up being a very long interview. I got to Skype with Brian a bit on Wednesday night, before he went in for surgery Thursday morning. For what it’s worth, I find it really difficult to be away from home when big things are happening. My stepfather having brain surgery to remove a (benign, thank goodness) tumor between his inner ear and brain constitutes a big thing in my book, so I was sort of distracted much of the week.

On Thursday morning I woke up feeling slightly off. I figured I’d feel better after a run, but after only about two minutes of being vertical, I realized I just needed to go back to bed… but I couldn’t get comfortable and I sure as heck couldn’t sleep. I like to think I’m a pretty healthy person. In the States, I don’t get sick very frequently, and when I do, it’s usually because I haven’t been sleeping enough and my body freaks out. Here, if there is one thing for sure, it is that I have been sleeping enough. It’s like in Africa – it gets dark outside and I start to get sleepy. I easily bank 8-9 hours a night. I have absolutely no idea why I got sick, but oh boy, I got sick. No appetite, no energy, both Thursday and Friday. I am amazed at how much I slept, and I am, as my parents will tell you, a champion sleeper. The cherry on top of all this (being sick and being away from home while big things were happening) was that this Sunday (today, I guess) was the half-marathon in Concepción for which I’d already registered and planned to run. Needless to say, after two days of not eating, I wasn’t going to try to run a half-marathon at 10,000 feet, even if I have been “training” at 13,400 ft. Seriously disappointing, but definitely the right choice.
Back to the surgery - thankfully, everything went well. I got periodic updates from my mom (technology is absolutely a wonder and a marvel), saying the surgeon had made the first incision, or that they had started to remove the tumor. Brian spent just over a day in the ICU where they monitored his neurological functions hourly and was moved to a regular hospital room yesterday (Saturday) morning. Mom must have also brought him his phone on Saturday since that was when we started texting – again, technology is amazing (as is modern medicine). He’s hoping to leave the hospital tonight to begin his 6-8 week recovery at home (hello, Netflix!). I’m sure he’d be happy for recommendations of books/movies…
Like I said, it has been especially difficult to be away from home this past week. When I’m sick, I crave the familiarity of my mom taking care of me – cuddling up on our couch and watching Disney’s Robin Hood while sipping Sprite, nibbling on Saltines and popsicles, dozing in and out of sleep, but always having her there to check on me. Obviously those days are long gone, but being sick in an unfamiliar place is never fun, especially when people try to care for you differently. For example: I grew up drinking cold water (and Sprite and popsicles) when I was sick (even adding ice cubes to room temperature water), even healthy people here don’t drink cold water. I was actually scolded for drinking cold water. Furthermore, they believe that Sprite (or other sodas) are actually really hard on your stomach, so I have been hiding the Sprite I have and graciously accepting cup after cup of random herb tea (one was made from celery – probably the last thing I want to think about eating/drinking when my stomach is upset!), and dumping some down the drain.
Enough on being sick. Thankfully, I’m feeling much better. I only took a short nap yesterday and then had problems sleeping at night, so I think I’m caught up there. My appetite is coming back slowly and I’m getting tired of white rice, bread and crackers. I’ve actually been productive today (other than the hours and hours of knitting I did yesterday) – I managed to run 3 miles (and was thankful I hadn’t tried for the other 10). I sent some emails and tidied my room. My major accomplishment, however, was my shower…
I got back from my run and flipped the hot water switch to “on,” as I’d been instructed some five weeks ago. The shower in my room is nothing spectacular (temperature is a bit erratic and the pressure is way less than desirable, but hey, it’s a shower, which is way more than I could say in Lesotho). I waited a few minutes, turned the water on, and waited another minute to let it warm up to a civil temperature before getting in. Not only was the water still freezing, it was barely even a dribble. I climbed out of the shower and got my hot water bottle (I would have my shower), dumped its contents into my large bucket, and started scooping (very cold) water onto myself. I’d just come to grips with the fact that this would be a very quick shower when the hot water started coming back… and it was definitely hot. Then the showerhead started steaming and sputtering and sparking… I flipped the water back to cold and began filling my bucket again. This went on for some time, between cold water and warm water, which became hot water, which apparently initiated the self-destruct function on the showerhead. Not exactly sure why today was such an adventure in bathing, but I think it might have something to do with the fact that we are in the “dry season” (even though it still rains occasionally, and ice pellets fall from the sky other times), so water may be more of a scarcity, especially into the afternoon. Tomorrow is another day.

This coming week, we have plenty to do (no surprise there). I haven’t looked at the team calendar in a few days, but as far as I know, it’s just going to be more interviews, focus groups, surveys, transcribing and translating. If I get my way, we may start outlining bits of our report to take some of the pressure off the last two weeks, but that will depend on how much else is going on and what the other two think. As of right now, I don’t think we have any solid plans for the 4th of July, but perhaps we’ll have to plan something with the PCV in town, even if it’s just the four of us. I’m always proudest of my American-ness when I’m out of the country… something about the grass always being greener? But for real, think about it – America is pretty cool.
One more exciting thing! I get to start planning for my week of travel post-Junín! So far, I know it’s going to involve a lot of hours on a bus (20 hours between Lima and Cusco!), probably some pretty touristy things, but ultimately Cusco, Machu Picchu, and hopefully some other towns in that area of the country. Though plans are still in the making, I’m hoping to catch a flight out of here August 4th, so I should have just less than a month of real summer vacation before going back to school in September. I can’t wait!
Now time for another chunk of work before watching Brazil take on España in the World Cup Qualifiers… we’ll all pile in to the living room and crowd on the couches to watch the tiny (black and white) television… totally living the dream!
Hasta luego,

Sunday, June 23, 2013

One Month In...

Well, as promised, here is the update, but it might be shortish...
First, to put things into perspective: I arrived in Lima on May 21st, so Friday marked one month in Peru. We’re planning on being done in Junín on the 26th of July, so today is right about halfway (not including the little bit of travel I’m hoping to do after finishing). Technically we have five weeks of work left: three of data collection and two of reading, analyzing and writing for our final report.
Now, a recap of the past week or so… Gosh, where to start. Maybe an update on our project…
Ok, so we’re still doing an assessment of the understanding and perceptions of the effects of water contamination on lives and livelihoods of the various communities here and around the lake (what a mouthful!). We’re using several “tools” to conduct this research – interviews with leaders in the community (each community has an elected president as well as a mayor) and other prominent figures (the Agricultural Agency in Junín, Director of the Hospital, Father of the Church, etc); focus groups with members of the community; and random surveys (also of community members). This sounds like a lot of work, and yes, it has been, but I think we’re all pretty pleased with the progress we’ve made so far.
On Thursday the 13th, we took a spin around the lake. This was to introduce ourselves to the various community leaders and actually see the lake (since we hadn’t up until that point). Like I mentioned – check out my photo site for pictures of the lake. There are somewhere between 10-15 of these communities, depending on how you define them, and I think we made it to 13, dropping off a letter, introducing our project, and getting contact information of the community leaders in order to get in touch with them again in the remaining weeks. Just about everyone we talked to was very enthusiastic about meeting with us again and seemed eager to help in any way he or she could, which was really encouraging. We set up appointments with some of them, and others just gave us a week that might work, so we’ll call them when the time gets closer.
Our project advisor came that weekend and stayed for several days to help us out where we had questions and make sure we’re on track. We showed him the lake on Monday and filled him in on as much background of the project as we could. I found it especially helpful to be able to talk things through with an outsider (and native English-speaker!) to see what we’re doing well and what we need to take into account for future research. Overall, I think he thought we were doing well, and he was able to offer a lot of ideas for our work moving forward, and eventually, our report. I’ve gotta give him big points – he came to Peru with no Spanish language skills, and was a champ at handling the altitude (which is, as he would tell you, pretty brutal for the first few days).
Whereas the first couple weeks were a mix of developing interview/survey questions and trying to come up with an overall plan of attack, the last week and a half or so sort of fell into a pattern of actually acquiring information. We’ve done many interviews and several focus groups; we’ve gone to several places around the lake and set up many focus groups and interviews for the next couple weeks. Our work feels pretty productive (even if I’m not patient with “la hora Peruana” – Peruvian time – sometimes), and each interview or focus group feels much less intimidating than the last (even though I usually am content to sit in the note-taker’s chair). It isn’t uncommon for a community president to hand us a document or two about the lake, frequently one that the provincial government doesn’t even have. In that way, it feels a bit like sleuthing. Needless to say, we have (what feels like) a TON of information. There will be plenty to read and sift through in our final weeks.
This coming week will be similarly busy. On Monday, we’ll go to the town 20km away since they’re having a sort of fair/festival much of the week. We’re hoping to find people from many places around the lake, and gunning for a good chunk of our surveys. Plus, there’s supposed to be music and dancing and (hopefully) good food! Tuesday is the “Feria Grande” (big market) in Junín, and I recently learned that they do sell almonds in Junín (even if they are 3 almonds for 1 sol – exorbitant), so I’m hoping to find some of those as well as the natural yogurt I’ve been hearing about from one of the guys who also stays in the Parroquia (all the yogurt I’ve had so far has been incredibly sweet and very thin, nothing like the thick, plain yogurt I eat so much of at home!). On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday we have interviews and focus groups in various communities around the lake, sometimes two places in a day. I enjoy keeping busy (to a certain extent), and seeing the other communities has been really interesting. It is especially nice to climb into a truck when the sun is out – I think that may be the warmest place I’ve been in Junín so far!
Next weekend, Janelle and I are going to go back to Huancayo for a night so I can run (jog) the half-marathon in Concepción. I don’t anticipate running fast or doing anything even close to resembling racing, but I have participated in a race on every continent on which I’ve spent any extended amount of time, so this will be a way to keep up that trend. If, as in Italy, by some fluke, I finish within the top 5 women, I guess I win money (though in Italy it was pancetta and salame)… so that wouldn’t suck. I’m definitely not counting on it though! It should be a nice break from Junín’s altitude and cold though – I only have to wear one pair of pants and three layers on top in Huancayo!
Otherwise, running has definitely been improving, slowly but surely. I made it 4 miles without stopping on Friday – I was pretty stoked. With that said, it is slow going, 2-3 minutes per mile slower than I’m used to at home, and boy do I miss the Mississippi River Trails! I asked our advisor to bring my heart-rate monitor when he came, so I’ve been able to use that along with my watch. I’d never really used it in the States (since I worry much less there about pushing myself too hard), but I’m learning a bit about the various zones and how much harder my heart has to work here. (I found a website the other day that said that at 4,105 meters above sea level, there is somewhere around 63% of the oxygen that is available at sea level… that is crazy to me. It also means that once I get back to MN, there will be roughly 150% of the oxygen I’ve gotten accustomed to up here…)
I believe I continue to get used to the cold as well. I’ve been plenty warm at night (a hot water bottle full of boiling water helps a lot). I think running helps a lot, to be honest. It’s really hard to get up in the morning, but if there ever was a reason to get up, it would be a run (followed by a hot drip-shower and a couple cups of coffee). I am so thankful for my continued running health and lack of injuries (shout-out to Run’n’Fun!).
What else? The food continues to be very starch-heavy, but I’m eating less of what they prepare and finding more fruits and vegetables (and non-meat protein) to supplement throughout the day. I found my stomach is able to tolerate avocados again (thank goodness!) so I’ve been buying those at the market. So delicious, nutritious and filling! It’s all about compromise. I learned to knit, as I mentioned, and have actually made 4-5 inches of progress on a scarf. It’s certainly not professionally done, but considering it’s my first knitting project, I’m pretty proud. It’ll be a nice brainless activity for all the time we spend waiting around (which is a considerable amount). Laundry continues to be painfully cold. Never take your laundry machines for granted. Never.
I don’t think there’s much else to report here, and it’s time for me to get my butt outside since the sun is out! Hope all is well at home (or wherever), and I’ll write again soon.
Love from Peru,

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Hi all,
I just realized exactly how long it has been since I've written anything -- normally I try to not let this go more than a week. Apologies! I'll get an update out ASAP (maybe tomorrow or Friday), but rest assured that we're keeping (very) busy and making progress...
In the meantime, check out the photos of our voyage around the lake!
¡Hasta luego!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Día de la Bandera

Happy weekend!
Today marks the end of our second week in Junín – hard to believe it! It was also the first day (since my very first day in Lima) that I was able to sleep in as late as I wanted, which was pretty great (even if I only made it until 9:15). The rest of the day has been similarly relaxing, though terribly cold - rain off and on, and sort of windy. I managed to do some laundry (which was probably fairly stupid in retrospect, since now I don’t have enough layers on to keep me sufficiently warm, and my clean clothes aren’t dry yet – oh well!).
Work has been going pretty well. I’m amazed at how timely people here are! If we have a meeting scheduled for 8:30, that meeting happens amazingly close to 8:30, especially if it’s with the mayor – nothing like my time in Africa! We’ve completed several more interviews with various members of the community and have a good chunk of transcribing to do.
After two weeks, we’ve secured a hefty amount of reading material, both from the Mayor and Municipal Office and an organization here called SERNANP, which is in charge of the Reserva Nacional de Junín. The guy in charge there has been tremendously helpful so far. He invited us to a meeting in Carhuamayo (a town about the size of Junín, roughly half an hour away) this past week – all the presidents from the ten communities that surround the lake met with some authorities (representatives from the power companies and others) about getting compensation for the land the communities lost as a result of the installation and poor regulation of the electricity generating facilities (for lack of a more eloquent explanation on my part, the communities lost land due to flooding, which is a problem they are still facing). The meeting was… interesting, for lack of a better word. It was in a big, echo-y room (which certainly didn’t help my comprehension of the goings-on); people had no problem coming and going as they pleased (through a squeaky door), and silencing of cell phones was clearly not part of meeting protocol (indeed, it’s apparently acceptable to answer and have a short conversation on your cell phone, even in the middle of a meeting, even when you are the one “moderating” the meeting). The three “main” guys (I guess?) sat at a table at the front of the room while everyone else sat in rows facing them; it was very obvious that they (and a few select others in the audience) were in charge, and not to be messed with. It was fascinating (if a little disheartening) to see the power dynamics and how all the men interacted with each other (not many women in the bunch); it sort of seemed like an “us vs. them” sort of thing. It was hard not to get worked up when the leaders were very clearly disrespectful to these community leaders who have the best interest of the members of their respective communities in mind, but it certainly was not my place to say anything.
At the end of the meeting, the participants resolved to gather data on their respective communities and bring it back to another meeting in three weeks, with the hope (as I understood it) that this information would help in their attempt to get compensation for the damages done to their lands. I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to attend the next couple meetings, so it will be really interesting to see how things unfold; I’m cautiously kind of optimistic that this is the beginning of a big change for the lake and surrounding communities.
Another big thing this week was that we managed (on the third try) to conduct our first focus group; this too proved to be very interesting. We had a group of 8 late high school/early college-aged students from schools nearby sit around a table and Zoila prompted them with questions about their communities and the lake. They were fairly quiet, responding that yes, they knew about the contamination of the lake, and yes, it affected health and livelihoods. When Zoila got to the last question (“Is there anything else you want to share about the topic?”), several started asking us questions. What are we doing in Junín; why we’re here, from a different country, only to gather information and then leave again; why we couldn’t actually give them a real solution. It was sort of tough trying to explain ourselves, especially because I know it’s something we’ve all struggled with individually as well. It’s hard because our purpose here is really only to gather (primarily qualitative) information regarding the awareness of the contamination in the lake, not to make any sort of change or snap our fingers and have the problems go away (as much as I would love to be able to do that). It’s hard (for me, at least) to fully mentally grasp our project’s role in the grand scheme of things (if it will indeed be used in the grand scheme of things) because even though the mining companies have been contaminating the lake for decades, we’re still at a relatively early stage in trying to make this all right. Also, we’re not trained hydrologists (or whatever water scientists are called), health experts, agriculture experts, or in any way really trained to be able to offer solutions. Above all though, we’re not from this area, and possibly one of the worst aspects of international development is when people go to a place and tell the people living there what to do and how, in order to develop economically or socially. This approach has failed time and time again, so I think our project definitely has merit in that it is all about the local knowledge and perceptions (that’s what I’m going to tell myself at least). We’re working in the community, with the community, for the community.
Ok, enough on that.
Friday was Día de la Bandera, Peru’s Flag Day. After a run, a shower, a quick meeting with the mayor, and breakfast, we headed out to the plaza right in front of the Parroquia (where we stay) to watch (what seemed like, and very well may have been) every school-aged child in Junín participate in the parade. Some carried banners, some carried flags, some just marched (straight-legged, which didn’t appear very comfortable), but everyone was out in the plaza in one form or another. I took quite a few photos - check em out! My favorite part was definitely the small children, bundled up and watching the festivities with mom or dad (hence all the photos of small children), or the old women in all their colorful layers. It’s really cool how patriotic this town is. It’s also pretty neat how quickly we’ve gotten to know the place – the people, the markets, the family we have at the Parroquia… It’s hard to be away from home-home, yes (especially when it’s winter here and summer there), but it’s also going to be hard to leave; the people here are incredible.
Last night we huddled in the living room with a (very smoky) fire in the small woodstove and watched the Ecuador/Peru game (in black and white). It never ceases to amaze me how huge soccer is in countries other than the U.S. Zoila spent the first dozen years of her life in Ecuador, so naturally she was supporting her roots, but the others were cheering for Peru (who ended up winning, 1-0). It’ll be fun to be in Peru for the next few games of the World Cup qualifiers. It was such an amazing experience to be able to go to World Cup games in South Africa. Not sure if I’ll make it to Brasil 2014, but maybe some other year…
I’m hoping to get a long-ish run in tomorrow, assuming my lungs hold up; I found a gravel road that eventually winds up around the west side of the lake, and even though I won’t get close to the lake (that would be a long long run), I’ve enjoyed running on that road. It’s wide open and quiet, there are no barking dogs and few people, and the ground is more even than the “streets” in town. Along that road, its 20km to the next town (Ondores, another town where we’ll be working); I definitely won’t make it that far tomorrow, but maybe as a long run in a few weeks. I’m also hoping to find a place in Junín that rents bicycles so I can go exploring on wheels. I’ve seen plenty of bikes around town, so I’m assuming (and hoping!) that it’s a possibility.
I am proud to announce that I am learning to knit (much thanks to Janelle’s patience). My (wonderful) sister Caroline has tried to teach me (at least once), but to no avail. The fact that I have now knit several rows (of practice, but still) should say something about other options as far as entertainment goes. I’ve already finished the one book I brought, and am well into the book Janelle loaned me (Mountains Beyond Mountains, very good so far!). Yes, I have movies and TV shows on my computer, but a) I don’t usually watch a lot of movies/television and b) when I do, it’s usually as I’m multi-tasking. Knitting could be the perfect complement!
Next week will wrap up the first three-week “trimester” of our work. We have an interview set up with the director from the hospital here in Junín, in order to learn about the effects of the contamination from a more medical point of view (which, I think, will be really interesting, but then again that could just be the scientist in me…). We’re hoping to have a second focus group, this time with people involved in agriculture and animal-raising (Ranching? Livestock holding? Not sure what the English word is?). We should also be able to actually go around the lake, which, I’m told, will take the better part of a day. I’m not sure when we’ll be able to really dig into working in these other places in terms of talking with people, but I’m hopeful that will happen next week too.
Well, I think that’s a pretty solid update on most aspects of my life. It’s now almost 9pm, and I’m getting hungry – might be time for a snack since I guess we’re waiting until after Saturday night Mass for dinner…
I’ll write more soon!
¡Abrazos de Peru!