Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ayacucho, Lima, Sickness, and now Huaraz

Well it has been a very long time since I have written and per usual it has been an incredible and jam packed few weeks.

Starting back in Huancavelica. I spent several days in the town visiting and talking to people working in the local hospital and making friends with a comedor owner and her daughter. After joining them in some political rallying, and then for dinner, I headed out on a 4 am bus to Ayacucho. Taking a dirt road connecting to another distant town and then on again by micro bus I finally arrived 8 hours later atmy destination. Shocking that it took so long, as the distance between the two towns is really not far if you look on a map... but the roads are just asi.

The ride itself was incredible, especially the first leg on the dirt road as it passed though some really isolated towns and the most majestic landscape I have seen as of yet (saying something as Huaraz is nothing to dismiss). The coolest part about this very early AM drive was passing though some pretty tiny, isolated villages. I was so impressed to see that almost all had Puestos de Salud- fairly basic, but nonetheless, health outposts where people could get meds and treatment by nurses or tecnitions. People are really reached in Peru, health-wise, in a way I didn't see in Guatemala.

The second leg was not so great as I was slow off the bus, realizing as people literally jumped out of their seats, pushed their way off the bus and then into another line that I might be in trouble. I was, while it could have been worse, I spent the 3 hour drive to Ayacucho sitting with my back to the driver (and windshield of the car) hunched over. Making matters worse I had 2 kids sitting across from me who spent the majority of the ride vomiting... shockingly, despite the smell, no one opened any windows!!

Ayacucho was really a cool city, a little overwhelming after the quiet pace of Huancavelica but nonetheless made another friend. This time no parade but a nice conversation in the Plaza de Armas. The man was an engineer and told me about the political corruption that was riddling the most recent public works project in the town. After serious mudslides that killed several people last year the government decided to tear up the streets so as to construct a drainage system that would prevent a similar disaster from happening again. Elections were also coming up so what the hell, nothing like a little public spending to win reelection. Turns out the rainy season starts nowish and the drainage system is nowhere near complete, leaving the potential for a far more dangerous rainy season this year. My engineer friend told me additionally that the system was poorly constructed and had taken so long to finish mainly because money seemed to continuously disappear from the project budget... hmmmm. This type of political corruption is really nothing new in Peru and is in fact the most common story I hear told when talking with people.

After Ayacucho, I returned to Lima on an overnight bus and 3 days later got really quite sick- in and out of the hospital for a week. Front row seat to how things work! Thank God for the kindness of Yevette, her family and the women in my hostel (they call themselves my Peruvian mothers- there are 3+ of them quite dedicated to my mothering). They all cared for me as well if not better than my own family would have and made being so far from home and very frustratingly sick far less difficult than it would normally have been. I´ll call the illness week character building and leave it at that.

So many amazing things over my time in Lima, I´ll give one anecdote.

I went with Yevette and a friend of hers to a free talk given by the Museo de la Nacion in honor of Intercultural week. Could I get any luckier? The evening began with 2 speakers. One was an anthropologist who had taught Arguedas- a Peruvian writer/anthropologist/hero who was really the first to write about and emphasize the need for the inclusion of Peru´s historically marginalized indigenous populations within Peruvian society. And the other was a very well known and distinguished historian/columnist. Their talks were INCREDIBLE. Not only did I learn so much about Peruvian history but also got insights in to the cultural diversity in this country and the slow but vital shifts that are going on in society to include and recognize that diversity a central part of Peruvian pride. Repeated talk of political change and transparency as essential if Peru wants to move forward also caught my attention. Both lectures really opened up social theories, perspectives, and transformations for the listeners, something this anthro major could not help but drool over.

As if that was not enough... after the talks the three best Peruvian guitar players got on stage. Each from a different part of the country, each with different Peruvian heritage and each with different musical traditions (Sierras, Criollo, and Afro-Peruvian). Never have I been so awed, moved to the point of tears by how beautiful the music was and how skilled the players were. And all so distinct!

The whole thing culminated in a highland battle dance between two beautifully and intricately dressed men, one from Ayacucho and the other Huancavelica. Each took turns and performed incredible physical feats in hopes of besting the other all the while keeping beat with a scisorlike chime. Yeah, think about that for a moment.

I walked out even more in love with Peru than I already was. As if to justtake it over the top in celebration of intercultural week we all went out for some delicious Peruvian Chinese food (huge migrant Asian population in Peru).

After several more days living in Lima- seeing the parade for Lima´s most special saint from the courtyard of one of its oldest public hospitals- I made the move to Huaraz. A highland town flanked by some pretty incredible snowcapped mountains. I think the highest range after the Himilayas. Got here yesterday AM, caught up on sleep after an overnight bus ride and today went and spoke with a guy in a local NGO... interesting approach (too much to write here, my blog stamina is fading) and again problems of respiratory illness and malnutrition... the biggest difficulty to implementation success... POLITICS! Tomorrow I go back to talk to the Health director of the organization, and then in the afternoon head onward to Caraz/Yungay/Lago LLanuco... depending how things go. Will keep you all posted!


  1. very inspired by you cielo, as usual. miss ya.

  2. Fantastic Skye! Wow - I am just so impressed! But be careful...I worry this is a little dangerous or something - out there in the wild all by yourself!! So glad you were able to be well taken care of by no less 3 Mothers!! I guess we can all use as many mothers as we can get when we're sick..ahahaha! Our news by comparison is pretty boring for doesn't look good for me about immigration - I'll write a longer email and explain it all...I'm taking the Buddahist approach..."what will be will be"- things happen for a reason, etc. etc....more later...hang in there, you're doing an utterly FANTASTIC job! Big Hugs! Donna