Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Adios Guate, Hola Peru

It has been a while and so much has happened! Will give a very abbrevuate overview... After spending the last bit of my time in Guatemala, doing some interviews with people working for Mercy Corps in the Coban area and then traveling to one of their principle sites to see how things were going, I headed to Antigua and then finally out of the country to Peru.

The last 2 weeks have been spectacular. The heaping portions of food, the incredible scenery and the friendliness of the people have really made time fly. I started my time here spending a few days in Lima, seeing some of the sites, enjoying the city´s position on the clifsides above the ocean, and making some wonderful Peruvian friends- the friendliness first became obvious. What a wonderful city Lima was I really fell in love, found myself repeatedly thinking how I might be able to live there more permanently... thoughts for a later time...

The real success of my time there was that I got the chance to talk to one of the PARSALUD administrators. ParSALUD is a organization funded in part by the peruvian government and in part by the World and Interamerican development banks. Its goal is to reduce maternal and infant mortality in Peru and has clinics in 9 of Peru´s poorest "regiones." Firstly learning about their organizational structure- they work jointly with reignoal governments in an exchange system where the local govt builds and provides the clinic and PARSALUD offers technical and managerial advice often providing some of the equipment to the clinic as well. And secondly hearing also about their approach to actually lowering the maternal and child mortality rates- working in the clinic by proividing the equipment and managerial skills necessary, in the community through education, and in the governmment educating the "community leaders" on what must be done and demaning their cooperation and joint commitment to lowering the levels- I was left curious to see how things actually go... and out of Lima I went.

Traveling by train (what a freaking train ride) to Huancayo I made some friends from the area and learned about some of the really gross political corruption in the area-politics is really on peoples minds as the elections in Peru are coming up and there is plenty of campeighning going on. One such example was of a local guy with hopes to become mayor of Huancayo. He owns the enormous building in which the (incredible) local market is held, renting spaces to people who depend on the market for their livelihoods. He not only charges 1 sole per person- a friend estimated that makes about 1,000 to 2,000 soles everyday (500USD to 1000USD for doing nothing!)- but also holds an enormous power over a very weak and dependent population. I was told that this guy is essentially blackmailing the people with stalls in the market into voting for him, forcing them to rally and campeign at his meetings if they want to continue renting their market stalls. Pretty sick and it leaves me thinking government involvement in the PARSALUD approach might be really quite challenging... corruption seems to be quite an issue.

After spending 2 days in Huancayo, it has the biggest sunday market in all of Peru I think, I headed through shocking Andian scenery to Huancavelica... nestled in a valley sided by huge mountains it is the town where PARSALUD has as a project hospital. This afternoon I have plans to meet with people working in the hospital to see if I can learn more about what the problems are in Peru and how local culture is intergrated in their medical approach (I´m really interested in this as natural remidies are HUGE, people know so much about various herbs and medicnal plants and the markets are filled with such folk remidies). I am also curious to hear more about the mental health problems that are emerging in Peru, mentioned by the PARSALUD guy and the friend from Huancayo. Each mentioned emerging problems of alchoholsm and familial abuse, problems, interestingly enough that Guatemala also suffers from. I really believe that these issues to be linked to historical violence, the guerra civil in Guatemala and sendero luminoso here in Peru; the fact I am currently in one of the areas in which sendero luminoso violence was most centered makes me think mental health problems would be most noticeable... I have already seen several public education posters talking about ways people can deal with their depression.

All for now more to come perhaps in a few days!

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