Archive for the ‘Peru’ category

Long overdue, but I’m home!

February 8, 2009

After a crazy month in Peru followed by one of the busiest weeks back at MIT, I am going to finally sit down and sum up my experience in Peru.

All in all, the trip was wonderful and amazing, and I wouldn’t trade it  for anything.  The beauty of the country and the people there was absolutely breathtaking, and our work there was worthwhile and we finished everything!  One of the things that struck me the most was how excited and interested all of the people we worked with were about technology, and about the possibilities of improvement that it brought.  When we were in Amparaes, as soon as we had finished building our pedal-power blender/grinder and demonstrated its use, men from the town were asking us if you could do something similar to create electricity or do some other function that they were looking for.  Tio Hibo at the Westfalia orphanage was fascinated with how motors work, and how you can use that to make a windmill or other things.    However, the part of my trip that I will remember the most, and that I appreciated the most while there, was the genuine openness, hospitality, and selflessness that all of the people there exhibited.  I have never had more accomodating and wonderful hosts, especially like those in Amparaes.  These four people who had never heard of vegetarianism prior to our arrival suddenly started cooking everything vegetarian for all of us for the entire week we were there and never once complained about it.  When we walked around the town, people we had never met welcomed us into their homes, showed us different things that we asked about, and we literally had to insist many times that they not show us some thing that we were questioning them about that would require them to use up the last of their corn or firewood.  I miss eating dinner like a family every night in Amparaes, and chatting away in Spanish to the priest and hearing all these fascinating factoids and stories about the Incas and Amparaes, and hearing from him about the town.

Since I’ve been back, it’s been pretty hard readjusting to life here in the US.  You would think that after living 19 years here, being gone for one month wouldn’t change that much, but even after a day of being back, I realized how much of a change there was.  I feel incredibly antsy all the time, and unproductive, and desicions and activities that used to mean a whole lot to meet at first seemed so insignificant to the projects and ideas that we had been working on for the past month.  Classes have helped me settle that feeling a little, since now I actually have something I need to be doing, but I finally realized the other day on the Cambridgeside Shuttle what this deeper feeling of unsettledness was.  Everything here is so easy.  I can just hop on a free shuttle and go to the mall if I want, and while on this bus, I don’t have to guard my bag and make sure no one snags something.  I can carry my computer around with me, listen to my ipod in plain sight and not have to worry.  I can brush my teeth with the sink water, and fill up my water bottle there too.  I can shower in warm water whenever I want to, without having to work the electrical system to avoid being electrocuted while in the shower.  I don’t have to struggle every time I want to communicate with people, but I can just speak freely.  And while all of those things seem like inconveniences, I miss the inconvenience, the challenge of daily living.  I miss speaking a different language all the time, a beautiful language at that.  But most of all, I miss the genuineness of my time in Peru, both in my actions and what we were doing, and in my interactions with people there.  Everything here seems so much more fake and less meaningful compared to the people I had the priviledge of interacting with while in Peru.  And while I know on some levels I need to forget about that and move forward with my time at MIT before I miss some of my short time here, I also know that I will never forget the feeling of genuity I always felt in Peru.

Parting words from Lima

January 14, 2009

Today´s our last day in Lima!  The week has totally flown by in some ways, and in others I can barely remember the time before I was here – I feel like I´ve been in Peru for much  longer than a week.  I have greatly enjoyed our time in Lima, especially living at Westfalia.  The kids there were really amazing, and they took us in right away, were patient with my spanish, and took our stumbling around in workshops well and I think even learned some things.  That being said, between being there and at La Sagrada Familia, which is in the slums of northern Lima, I still feel like I´m missing something.  I think that it´s much more difficult to see and feel urban povety, especially across cultural lines.  Being the slums, I could tell that everyone living there was clearly living in poverty, but it´s not the same kind of poverty as we were taught about in D-Lab, so in some ways feels a bit less drastic.  It´s interesting because in the US, brand names are used as a status symbol, and I´ve noticed that in Peru they are definitely not, because you see all of these people in these slum areas that you know are poor wearing Adidas and Nike clothes, which took me a little while to get used to.  I have loved working with the people in Lima that we have been working with, looking at problems of urban poverty, and everything else, but I am excited to move to a more rural area and really experience that.  I´m glad that we will be able to see both sides of the coin while in Peru, and I think that I´m actually more interested in rural poverty issues, so I´ll get to see if that is actually the case.  In many ways, I think that rural poverty is much less complex because there is often much greater room to grow for them, and the problem is less about those people´s status and ability to survive in the complex system that a city is and more about giving them access to tools and resources that they can use to simply generate more money in a lot of cases.  I suppose I will find out in a few days if it actually is what I think it is.

¡Estoy en Peru!

January 10, 2009

Hello from Peru!  It´s great here, quite warm.  I just spent the last three days living in an orphanage outside of Lima called WEstfalia.  It was the most fantastic place ever – the kids were great, we ran a few workshops and they were also awesome, and we each got assigned a “casa” that would make it feel a little more like home, and we te all of our meals in our own casa.  I think my spanish is slowly coming back, since no one there spoke English so that was kind of cool.  We also playd nonstop games, and plenty of soccer.  I also managed to get literally about 50 bug bites a night, which was slightly unfortunate.  The food was good, it was interesting to see what they ate, and that it wasn´t terribly different from what we did, just in quantity and timing it was different.  They also drank almost no water which was killing me, since I am normally constantly drinking water in the US, but they literally would have a cup of powdered milk with breakfast (which definitely took some getting used to, by the way), and then that was basically it until maybe something after dinner.

Alright, time to book all of our tickets for Machu Picchu!