I just noticed today that you never see migrating birds here. That is I think you do, but I suck at ornithology so I wouldn’t recognize them individually. What I mean is that you don’t see the flying “V” made famous by the Mighty Ducks. Not sure why I thought of that.
This past weekend I got to watch Michigan play in the Final Four, which was amazing! But then I didn’t get to see the championship game, and I didn’t even find out that they lost until today. It was disappointing.
In other news I’m teaching a lot of English classes right now – Ty and I are teaching one in the elementary school in Sicchez, another for the general public in the Health Center, and I’m helping with two more (which are fortunately identical) in the secondary school in Oxahuay. If you ever tried to teach English just because you speak it, you would find it is very difficult. Especially when you teach students who are trained to copy and not think too much. The difference between the coastally-educated and the mountain-educated is striking recently. The health professionals we teach were educated on the coast and get what we teach pretty quickly, but teaching in schools probably needs to be slower than it has been because learning another language is not as formulaic as you might think. Beyond repeating or reading pre-prepared text, students have a really hard time understanding even the grammatical rules of Spanish so that they can understand how what they want to say in Spanish relates to what they’re saying in English. Hopefully with some more writing and speaking assignments that will improve.
The Monster Game! Teaching body parts, clothing and colors at the Health Center
Parade for International Women's Day
Other than that, it’s been more of the same. More rain, more preparations for projects, more getting girls ready to go to Camp ALMA, etc. And I hope this makes sense – I’m also catching up on my Star Trek movies. That’s right. Preparing for Qapla’.
I got the best text tonight from a fellow volunteer friend:” I just listened to [Thrift Shop]. And it’s even more funny now because I’m a little drunk…Oh funerals!” I love Peru.
Summary of my day: Breakfast, walk 2 hours, do 3.5 house visits, walk 2 hours, shower, eat soup. At least there was still water at 6:30 tonight! I am so exhausted I just confused who I was trying to call and asked my friend Leidy if she was one of my health promoters. All I’ve been thinking about all day was a giant plate of nachos and a Coke, which of course was never going to happen, but I was at least hoping for chicken in my soup after having 2 oranges, a sweet lemon, and an icee pop for lunch.
Wow I never wrote anything about going on vacation at the end of March! I went to the beaches of Tumbes and Piura with my friend Christina and we met up with Sonnet and Jennifer in Tumbes to have stir fry and watch Ice Loves Coco before they headed out for a longer trip to Ecuador. While in Tumbes we visited the mangrove forest at Puerto Pizzaro as well, and had some delicious fish on a little spot of ocean-front sand. We also spent some time in Mancora getting pancakes, rotisserie chicken, shopping, and relaxing on the beach. We were disappointed to find that they no longer sell Snickers in Mancora because they melt! At least we found some other American candy and pop where we were staying in Los Organos.
The beach at Los Organos
Birds in the mangrove forest in Tumbes
I just realized I also never wrote anything about Camp ALMA. It was a great success! We had about 50 girls attend the camp and they learned about studying at a university, career options, money management, healthy relationships, and sexual health. More importantly, our girls came away feeling more confident in their own ability to achieve whatever goals they set for themselves. My girls are getting ready to present a plan to the school administration so they can share what they’ve learned with the other students in the school. Hopefully we’ll be able to coordinate some of the replicas with what our sex ed peer educators will be teaching once we get that project underway again in June.
My girls and I with their "letters to yourself" at the end of Camp ALMA
Speaking of the sex ed project, I’ve been much better about including the project committee in the planning process this time around. We’ve had two committee meetings during which we’ve analyzed the current situation based on the results of the last project, and come up with goals, objectives, and activities for the next project. Now I’m just typing up all the things we planned out on the whiteboard so we can have one more meeting to finalize the plan, put dates in our timeline, and assign responsibilities. If only I had such dedicated (and permanent) people to work on early childhood health!
In other news, all of the SERUMs (the recent graduates doing their year of rural service to be able to work for the Ministry of Health) left last week. It was a sad couple of days – over the last year we have become good friends and it’s been refreshing to have young professionals who are dedicated to their work and who are going through the same adjustments you are. The next bunch will come along around the 15th of this month. I hope their as awesome as the last ones!
SERUMs, Me, and Ty
So here I am in Piura again, and not a moment too soon. People were starting to get on my nerves for doing things that they always do and I’ve come to expect, if not always accept or understand. I snapped at an older man because he got impatient that I wouldn’t drop everything and go up to the highest caserio with him just for the hell of it. He was doing that thing where someone doesn’t ask where you’re going they just try to guess and don’t give you a chance to respond until they’ve guessed right. Usually I just shut up until they frustrate themselves, but I was irritated because earlier in the day I got behind schedule for things beyond my control and the mom I was trying to find had already left her house because I was so late, so I told the man, in a less than patient tone, that I was working, I had two other people to look for, and I couldn’t just drop everything to go on a two hour walk with him. I don’t even know him! Not to mention I was exhausted from all of the hiking I’ve done this week trying to finish the evaluations that I need to do with all of the moms and health promoters that I’ve worked with so far (47 total visits of 45 minutes-1 hour each, plus walking and hunting people down). This was also in part brought on by the fact that earlier in the day a drunken man snuck up on me and walked at turtle speed ahead of me down a narrow path, even though I told him I was in a hurry, telling me that “amor de prisa no dura” (hurried love doesn’t last) or something like that. I tried to tell him I was in a hurry to go to work which has nothing to with love, but that just seemed to piss him off. So then I passed him on the path and he started running to keep up with me and almost fell down into me, especially when I stopped suddenly because there was a medium-sized snake in the path. Luckily he turned off on another path to go home and I managed not let him give me a sloppy drunken goodbye kiss because I could say I had to go!
Speaking of snakes I saw a gigantic (like 6 feet long) dead snake a few weeks ago that they killed near the Health Post in Oxahuay. I didn’t know snakes that big existed! I’ve only seen little green snakes before.
Another thing about that day that was frustrating me was that one of the people I went to visit seems to have gotten really depressed since I started working with her last year. In the beginning she was somewhat enthusiastic to work with me, even though she didn’t feel confident as a health promoter because she was new at it and there were so many experienced health promoters around her. I tried to assure her that it really didn’t matter because a lot of the things I was teaching were new even to the health promoters that had 10 years of experience. And she did a great job of studying and learning and making improvements to her house and generally being just a great example for her community, even though admittedly her confidence in house visits never really improved and she’d usually wait for me to accompany her before she did any on her own. But then about half-way through the project she had some family troubles. Her father-in-law got sick and soon passed away. Caring for him, and then having to prepare a funeral, and subsequently having to take care of his widow as well took its toll. On top of all that, she found out she was pregnant again (she already has 4 children), which maybe wasn’t welcome news. So now she is moving back and forth between her house and her mother-in-law’s house up the hill, getting ready to have a baby, and still caring for her other children, cows, and chickens. So with all of this going on, she has lost interest in her work as a health promoter, and was less than excited to participate in the evaluation interview, just immediately saying “I don’t know” or “I forgot” even to the questions that were about her opinion and have no single right answer. It is so frustrating to see these things come down on someone who had such potential in the beginning, and be powerless to do anything about it. I think a lot of what is depressing her is that she never quite got her self-confidence up, and she’s had to give up two leadership positions as a result of all that’s happened, so she probably feels like she’s failing in many ways, even though I think she’s doing the best she can, given the situation. It’s especially hard for me because I can’t empathize and I don’t know how to help her see that she’s going through some tough times, but they will end, and although a lot of it is out of her control, she has the right to take control of some things, like insisting that her mother-in-law move into her house or that her family move permanently to her mother-in-law’s house because moving back and forth is just way too stressful and it is far too difficult for a pregnant woman to maintain two houses. Not to mention her mother-in-law lives in much less hygienic conditions than she has created in her house. Unfortunately, it’s extremely taboo to ask someone who is allowing you to live in their home to change anything about it, even if it will improve the house, because it is ultimately their house, not yours.
Well that’s all for now. Time to rest up for another market place adventure tomorrow – my bubble oven burned out and so did my host mom’s cell phone charger, so I’m off to seek out some sort of electrician to fix them for me! …And maybe look for a cheaper hotel – the prices got raised at our old hotel so much that we can’t afford to stay there anymore, but the place I’m staying now isn’t much better. Maybe something will open up at the one by the mall…one can only hope.