Day 3: Monday, Mar 21
Today we woke up at 7, but the lobby was bustling before that, so I woke up around 6:30. Breakfast was already in the dining room. Today there were scrambled eggs and peanut butter in addition to the bread, butter, jam, and bananas. I had a roll with eggs and a glass of orange juice. Then I went back to our room and got ready for the day.
We got on the bus at 8. We drove for a while in pretty bad traffic, and we had to circle back because Matt got left behind.
Our hostel, Hostal Pukara, is in Miraflores. Miraflores is the richest district of Lima’s 43. Today we drove to San Juan de Miraflores, one of the poorest. Our day today is called the "reality tour," because we’re supposed to be finding out about the realities of life in the communities for which we do service. Our bus lumbered up into the mountains of Lima. San Juan M. is to the south of the city center and far above it in altitude. Our first stop was at the police station for the community of Pamplona. Pamplona is a city of brick and tin, mostly self-built, that houses 46,000 people and 50 police officers. It’s relatively safe during the day, but very dangerous at night. The roads are very steep and made of rocks and sand. Dogs roam the streets.
Police here receive very little compensation, about $300/month. There is about one policeman for every 950 people in Lima, which is about 3x the people/cop ratio of NYC. Thievery is prevalent in these poorer districts. Neighborhoods have been organized into community watches that punish piranas (thieves) when they attack at night. That’s partly why presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori is so popular. Her father Alberto was president in 1990 and he sent the army into the Peruvian countryside to quell terrorism. Unfortunately, due to the recruiting tactics of the terrorist groups, the armyy mistakenly killed many innocents, so Alberto was prosecuted. He fled to Japan, where he ran for Congress, citing his experience as president of Peru. After he lost, he went to Chile, where the Chilean police arrested him and brought him to Peru, where he was jailed. He’s still in jail. A lot of people think his daughter will release him if she’s president.
She promises to be tough on crime, which communities like Pamplona really want. There are a lot of election posters around in every district because elections are in April. They recently released the list of election officials (here it’s mandatory and decided by lottery, like jury duty in the US).
Anyway, so we’re in Pamplona. Our second stop was at the cemetery, which was cluttered and colorful. It’s overflowing its bounds and creeping up on some of the houses. Visiting the dead is a celebration here. People bring beer and music to the gravesides, especially on Dia de los Muertos.
We piled into the bus and continued on to visit a soup kitchen. There are 3400 such kitchens in Lima, serving 500,000 people. They are subsidized by the government based on the number of people they serve. This one served about 70 adults and 20 children. Three women do all the cooking and are paid in food. Chickens and dogs run around near their house. The ladies were very nice and they brought out a small child to say hello.
Kids whose parents work elsewhere stay at child care facilities called wawa wasi’s (Quechua for baby house). These are staffed by well-trained goverment employees. We walked outside a few but didn’t go in. We got around the community on precarious roads and steep staircases. Medlife builds staircases in these areas for evacuation and water carrying, otherwise there would only be steep, sandy footpaths. Taxis don’t go all the way up, only little three-wheeled vehicles calledtrepadores. Water trucks drive up and fill buckets for residents, and they pay extra for the transportation costs even before carrying the giant buckets way up the hill where the trucks don’t go.
Communal buildings like the community center are built on weekends. People get together and play music and build. They are very involved in improving their communities.
There’s a district of animal farmers who have lived there for a very long time. They feed the animals garbage and a lot of people don’t like having them as neighbors.
There is a health center that offers some basic services, but the public hospital for South Lima handles more major issues. Most people in these districts are on SIS insurance, which is available to the unemployed without debt. Others have Salud. People with fancy jobs have EPS, which is taken at private clinics.
Around 10:30 we went from Pamplona to Valle San Pedro, a "model community" organized by Medlife. It had a beautiful clean wawa wasi and staircases snaked up and down the hills. The houses were more colorful and there were fewer dogs and less trash. We hiked up stairs for 15 minutes, and stopped by a house that Medlife built for an elderly lady. There was a beautiful view and we could see all the staircases Medlife build. Stephanie H had some degree of heat sickness, so we paused and poured water on her neck.
We went back to the bus and drove to Miraflores. They gave us lunch on the bus – 1 piece of fruit and 2 breaded chicken sandwiches per person. I had already eaten my snack – water, Lay’s, and a cereal bar. I gave away my Oreos.
When we got back it was about 12:40, and I wanted to go paragliding (which only operates in the early afternoon). I scrambled to get a group organized. I probably could have relaxed a bit, but that doesn’t sound like me.
The place we wanted to go paragliding had 2 locations. We wanted to go the the cheaper one in San Isidro so we took taxis out. When we got there, we could not find the paragliding (parapente) establishment. Nobody knew where it was. They kept pointing us down the coast, toward Miraflores. So we walked. And we kept walking. We probably walked for half an hour and finally, after asking many directions, arrived at the (more expensive) paragliding establishment in Miraflores. There were 8 Techers and 3 U of Illinois students. At least we got to walk along the beautiful ocean cliffs for many miles.
And, even though we got to Aeroxtreme at about 2:30, it was still open! We got to fly! Thy strapped us to silly-looking backpacks and we each ran off a cliff with an instructor. We sailed around over the coast, watching surfers and the tops of buildings. When we were done, they gave us SD cards with video of our experience. We had to wait a bit afterward for one of the instructors because he accidentally took someone’s hat with him into the air with another client.
We walked over to Larcomar, got coffee, and relaxed. By then it was about 4, so we went back to the hostel so people could shower before dinner/meeting.
Our meeting at 5 was about Medlife’s medical role in Peru. Malnutrition (especially due to parasites) and early cancer screening seem to be major parts of the mission here. I probably should have paid more attention, but I mostly journaled during the meeting. The presentation was given by a Medlife year-round intern.
Dinner was provided at the hostel by Medlife. It was steamed vegetables, aji de pollo, and palmiers and jell-o for dessert. It was good. My plan for the future is to eat less lunch so I’m hungry for dinner.
At 7:30, we went to the other hostel and I helped with Spanish lessons. When we got back, I journaled, showered, and went to bed around 10.