We are at the end of our first full week and so far we have had a wonderful time in Peru! Until last Monday, we were enjoying Peru to our hearts’ content – surfing, eating ceviche, speaking Spanish, shopping in the local convenience stores. Tuesday, we finally started to get our hands dirty [literally].
That day, we commenced construction on the medical clinic in the Bello Horizonte and although it was Day 1, it was a rather slow one. After greeting the maestro (the head honcho at the site), we were put to work cleaning the trenches around the clinic. We picked up trash and moved heavy rocks out of the ditches dug for the foundation. We lifted rocks, pushed rocks, rolled rocks, threw rocks – we basically spent all morning manhandling heavy rocks! That was it for Day 1. Day 2 consisted of some hole-making (for the electrical outlets) in the walls the old fashion way — with a hammer and large nails. Thursday and Friday, we plastered the ceilings of the two existing rooms and we painted over graffiti on a wall across the street from the clinic. Although we accomplished several tasks over the past week, I felt like we spent a lot of our time thinking about what we could do next with the few materials we had.
Within the first week we experienced something that just about every other non-profit is familiar with: that work is never steady. Work is never steady because it depends on how many funds are available to a non-profit’s disposal. After finding out last week that we would not receive the money we had been expecting from the local government in Bello, our first few days on the job were a bit lackluster. We didn’t have the money to bring in much needed construction materials. (definitely no hard hats, dynamite, drilling or wrecking balls!) 😉 In fact, we actually had quite a bit of downtime at the site. But instead of lying around waiting for word on what to do next, we decided that our downtime would be the perfect time for building community relations.
After meeting several community members this week, I got the impression that the community is somewhat skeptical of our work in Bello. It seems contradictory that a community would not fully support the construction of medical clinic, but it also comes as no surprise. The Peruvian people, especially those living in the rural Andean Mountains, have often been promised many things by the Peruvian government but have seldom ever seen the objects of those promises. Knowing this, we ourselves have discovered one more challenge in addition to the challenge created by our low funds. We are trying to do something good for the community, but the community doesn’t seem to be with us. Oh dear…
So why do we have this apparent lack of support? I would think that medical attention would be at the top of anyone’s list! For one, the community may simply not know what is going on and thus not show any support. The two clinic rooms have been sitting unfinished on the west end of the town for almost a year now. Second, the local government may be telling us that the community wants something that, in actuality, they do not. While talking to people around town, we learned that many wanted a secondary school in the community because right now they only have a primary school. No one mentioned a medical clinic. And third (also what I find the most unsettling) is that the community may just not have enough faith in the project. Our group works seasonally, with student volunteers only coming once a year – some of us coming once and never returning. Not only is the clinic taking longer to complete than it should (a year is really too long for the type of clinic we’re building!), but each year a new group of students come with apparent interest in the community.
We have thus learned very quickly that our work is really two-fold. We are no longer just building a medical clinic in the rural Moche Valley. We are also restoring faith to a group of people who have too often been misled or felt forgotten.
Hello and welcome to the official 2012 summer blog of the Nourish International Yale Chapter! We are now just two days away from departing for Peru and we can’t wait to see what our journey holds in store. We invite you to join us this summer as we tackle public health issues in the forever fertile Moche Valley of Peru.
The group consists of five students who range in familiarity with this wondrous country (more on its wondrous- ness in later posts!) – two of us each have a Peruvian mother while some of us know enough Spanish just to get by! Regardless of our previous experiences with Peru, full-blown or innocently non-existent, I hope that this trip will be equally gratifying for every one of us. We will arrive Thursday morning in Lima, Peru, and together spend the rest of the day getting to know as best we can all that Lima has to offer. Disappointingly, I think it may be more than we could possibly fit in one day! Lima has the country’s highest concentration of museums, along with grand beaches, beautiful cathedrals, interesting archeological sites, a vibrant nightlife, and a cuisine to die for.
In the late evening we will leave for Huanchaco, a beautiful beach town about 360 miles – or an 8-hour bus ride – north of Lima along the Pan-American Highway. Luckily, we’ll be flying. J I think by then we’ll have been exhausted from long flights into Lima and a day spent traversing the city.
Our temporary home for the next six weeks is in Huanchaco, but most of our work will occur about 25 miles inland in the small town of the Bello Horizonte. Every day, we will commute there by bus and continue construction on a small medical clinic erected last summer. This year, we will add a pharmacy and small park area to the already standing waiting and examination rooms. From what I’ve heard, the weather in northern Peru is pleasantly mild during this time of year. Despite it being winter (it’s winter in the Southern Hemisphere right now!), temperatures will be in the mid 70’s. I can’t wait to work in that type of weather!
Until now, the team has been preparing for the trip by learning about Peruvian culture, working on Spanish vocabulary, and discussing what we hope to come away with after spending six weeks in Peru. I, for one, hope to come away with a better understanding of what it means to have an impact on global health.
Until then, I still have much packing to do! I plan on travelling light which in many ways, I will sheepishly admit, could be the death of me. (Before I get to Peru?! Oh no!) “Packing light” for a six-week trip to an area I’ve never been to before is not exactly my idea of ‘a walk in the park’. Yet, in light of all this nervousness, I can’t help but feel excited — excited for six weeks of all that may be called Peru.
Until next time,
It’s been a long six weeks but five of us have finally made it home! After deciding to spend the day in the municipality of Miraflores in Lima, we headed over to the heavily American-influenced Larcomar mall to eat and see Harry Potter at the movie theater. It was all at once an extremely exciting, tiring, and nostalgic day for us. We had few things left to say to one another but how much we would miss being together and sharing such wonderful experiences. We realized there were so many people who had left such an impression on our lives but would probably and unfortunately never see again. From the community members of Bello Horizonte to our Huanchaco friends, to even a number of MOCHE volunteers, an inherent part of being a world traveler or volunteer is meeting many people heading in different directions.
On the last day of work, Tuesday, the Bello community members held a snack break for us at lunch time with Inkacola and soda crackers. A few speeches were given, one of which included a line that many of us will never forget. One woman told us that Bello has not been a very united community and has trouble agreeing all the time or even working as a team, but when they saw the Nourish team standing in an organized line, passing each rock down at a time to the pick-up truck, they were inspired to work as a team in the way we so easily functioned. It was at this moment that many of us realized how much is to be taught in both directions. Experiences like these are not all one-sided.
Overall I think this is one of the best summer experiences most of us have ever had. Although we had our moments when frustration with the country, the people, or our group took the best of us, I know I will always look back and remember how much was accomplished in such a short period of time and how much I learned about my surroundings, my friends, and myself. Peru is a beautiful country with a culture whose depth is beyond belief. The opportunity to return would be a blessing for many of us.
I wish the best to David, Breanna, Carol, and Murat whose journeys across Peru still continue for about another two weeks. I know they’ll have an incredible time and fall in love with yet another region of the country. Hopefully we’ll all hear from them soon!
Last week, the group broke the work routine to take a four day trip to Cajamarca – our first experience of the Peruvian highlands. On Thursday, a seven hour bus ride sped us northeast through the coastal desert and into the mountains, where we rapidly climbed in elevation, up to a height of 2,750 meters! The final descent into Cajamarca was stunning, as the bus afforded a panoramic view of the massive green valley in which the city is nestled. All of the sudden, a large cluster of red roofs came into view at the side of the valley – our first sight of Cajamarca.
After setting foot in the heart of the city, we realized that we were seeing a totally new side of Peru – the Andean highlands are a world away from the coast. We looked up to see an unprecedented, piercing blue sky, and the clouds hung tangibly overhead, making it evident that we were in a different part of the atmosphere. Most noticeable, though, was the lack of oxygen in the air. An uphill walk left most panting for several minutes, and every inhalation felt thin. If I didn’t know better, I would claim that I was several thousand miles from Huanchaco, in a different continent, not several hundred miles away in the same country.
Knowing some of Cajamarca’s history added a startling amount of depth to the trip – one would hardly guess that this peaceful, isolated hamlet was the epicenter of events that would shake South American history. Originally called Caxamarca in Quechua, the town was home to pre-Incan civilizations dating back to at least 1,000 BC. No better way to get a sense of this than to visit Cumbe Mayo (a derivative of Kumpi Mayo, meaning “Fine River” in Quechua) – an ancient irrigation canal about an hour’s drive up from the valley’s basin. The perfectly straight, needle-thin canal, turning at right angles and accompanied by mysterious rock carvings, is located in a forest of peculiar, tall rock formations (known as the Bosque de Piedras, or “Forest of Rocks”). Add to this the vast rolling green and tan fields, the blindingly bright sky, the sound of miles of grass rustling in the wind, and you have a site that must rival the much-better known ruins of Machu Picchu.
I chose to walk back from Kumpe Mayo to Cajamarca; it was fun to explore the land a bit, and to see the highlands from outside a car window. Far from Cajamarca, the only indicators of human existence were small paths in the grass, as well as the occasional grazing cow. Closer to Cajamarca, I began to pass campesinos with their donkeys and horses, every one of them polite, although a bit puzzled by the sight of a lone gringo walking through the countryside. The dogs there are not as kind as the ones in Huanchaco – most of the ones I passed would snarl, and three or four chased me down the road! I guess they are trained to defend their households against intruders. Other than the dogs, there was nothing to worry about on the walk – as long as I continued downhill, I would inevitably make it to Cajamarca.
While the area’s pre-Inca history is prominent, Cajamarca is best known for its role in the Spanish conquest of Peru. In 1532, Pizarro and his men met the supreme Inca Atahualpa, who had just returned victorious from the northern campaigns of a bloody civil war. The supreme Inca, surrounded by 80,000 troops encamped on the hillside, must have been confident in his ability to defeat 100 or so weary Spanish adventurers. However (perhaps because of his overconfidence) he was ambushed and captured in the main square by Pizarro’s men, who frightened the Indians with gunfire, charging horses, full steel armor, and swords. The Spaniards rode out into the fields surrounding Cajamarca, massacring over 7,000 Indians in just two hours.
I was reminded of Cajamarca’s tumultuous history when I visited the Cuarto Del Rescate, or Ransom Room. The last surviving piece of Inca architecture in the city, the room is where Pizarro kept Atahualpa prisoner. It was here that Atahualpa said he would fill the room once with gold and twice with silver in return for his release, and there is a line demarcating the height to which the Inca reached his arm when indicating how much gold would fill the room. The Cuarto, although missing its roof and isolated from any other structure, is clearly part of a great Incan complex, There are fine, angled lines between the stones, reminders that the Incas did not use mortar but rather shaped stones so well that they would fit perfectly together without adhesive. There is also a row of trapezoidal windows, characteristic of Inca design. It is a shame that the rest of the Incan buildings were destroyed and used for scrap material by the Spaniards.
That is not to say that the Spaniards did not contribute to the splendor of Cajamarca. The Plaza de Armas, the most beautiful I have seen so far, is buttressed by two admirably ornate colonial churches. There is also a quaint church on the hill overlooking the entire city, which affords some amazing views and a good perspective of Cajamarca’s size. Also on the hill is the “Inca Chair,” a strange seat-like carving on a large stone – it may have been a royal or sacred spot from which the leader of a pre-Columbian society overlooked his village.
Another link between the old and new in Cajamarca is the hot springs (“Banos del Inca”) – Atahualpa bathed in the steaming, mineral laden water as he made camp in the sixteenth century, and we followed suit. There is a bathing complex that takes full advantage of the baths’ tourist potential, charging a minimal fee for plenty of time in the hot water.
With its colonial architecture, cobbled streets, and mountainous borders, it is easy to think that Cajamarca has no connection with the rest of the world. However, soccer showed us otherwise. On Saturday night, hundreds of Cajamarquinos flocked to the Plaza de Armas, where the Peru-Mexico match (part of the Copa America) was displayed on a big screen. Peru had several extremely close offensive opportunities against Mexico, and every near-goal was followed by a burst of excitement in the crowd. When Peru finally scored for the win, everyone danced in the plaza – it was quite an experience. Murat was the only person rooting for Mexico, and we were both glad Mexico didn’t score, because he probably would have been lynched by the Peruvian mob if he had shouted “Goal!”
Cajamarca was full of brand new experiences – from whiny, begging children (“SenorITA, un proponITO!!!!!”) to kind campesinos and jubilant crowds; from bustling markets to quiet stone forests, it was more than I could have expected or imagined. It was also a fine introduction to Peru’s astonishing ecological diversity, or “verticality” – dozens of ecosystems and ways of life, nearly stacked on top of each other due to the country’s rapid incline from coast to cordillera.
Happy Belated Fourth of July!!!
Even in Peru we still managed to celebrate an American tradition. We had a cookout with hamburgers, french fries, fresh veggies (the first couple of vegetables we have had in the past four weeks!), apple pie and vanilla ice cream. Unfortunately, we did not have the opportunity to see fireworks that evening, but a couple of the group members managed to get their hands on a couple of sparklers. Every member of the group helped prepare the dinner: Carol, Rachel, Megan, Breanna and Leopoldo peeled potatoes, Sammy and Cammy made vinaigrette for two people, when there were about 70 people present at the dinner. Those who got to enjoy it thought it was delectable. Out in the patio Patrick and D-cotes set the bacon on fire which gave the burgers a nice charred taste. Despite the unfortunate turn of events, Eloisa’s apple pie saved the night!
This week we also ventured into another archaeological site called, “El Brujo,” which is about an hour and a half from Huanchaco. It is one of three popular archaeological sites in the Moche Valley. The other two are Chan Chan and Huaca de la Luna y Sol which we have also visited. Highlights of the trip included the well-preserved body of the Chimu Queen with prominent tattoos of snakes on both arms and the museum with hundreds of Chimu artifacts.
Our project currently includes rocks. Exciting, right? We spent the past couple of days moving rocks into four different piles and then loading then into a dump truck. In order to maintain a positive outlook, we keep telling ourselves that each rock will eventually save a baby’s life. How does that make sense? Well, let us explain. The rocks help us build the medical clinic and the medical clinic saves lives. When the medical clinic is completed the clinic will provide much needed maternal care to an area that is plagued with high mortality rates. The clinic will also be staffed by a full time doctor and nurse and will offer basic emergency care, but primarily focus on maternal and infant health.
Tomorrow morning we will be traveling to Cajamarca, a city in the northern Peruvian highlands where the Spanish conquistadors captured Atahualpa, the last Inca Emperor. It’s an 8-hour bus drive, but the Inca baños and the artisan markets will make the trip worth it. We’ll let you know how it goes when we get back!
Hey guys, we have experienced a bunch of super-fascinating, update-worthy happenings over the last few days. First for the good news: today, the group finished loading the last load of rock from Cerro Blanco (seriously this time… we hope). After lifting three dumptrucks worth of rock, we were ripped, rugged, and covered in dirt. The rocks were as heavy as last time.
On Saturday, we toured the Chan Chan archeological site. The site, composed of more than ten palatial compounds, was once one of the biggest Chimu cities in what is now Peru. That is, until it was conquered by the Incas in 1472 (Disclaimer: Estimate). While walking through the maze of walls and artifacts, our group experienced its first brush with the food poisoning beast.
On Friday, we ate, in Ciudad de Dios, an exorbitant feast of chicken, a potato chili mixture, corn, and … cucumbers. The cucumbers (we think) spread through our group’s intestines like wildfire and decommissioned several members for parts of Saturday and Sunday. The unaffected made sure to extra-enjoy their days off in honor of the sick. After a trip to the clinic in Trujillo and a few IVs, we are happy to report that everyone is up-and-at-‘em.
On a lighter note (‘lighter’ even though it required the heaviest labor), we are nearing the completion of a 1.1 meter (1.1 meters is approximately… a lot of inches) deep trench behind the clinic. We will build a retaining wall in the trench to protect our creation from falling rocks during the next El Nino. We were more than halfway finished with the trench on Friday morning when the architect determined the foreman had instructed us to dig in the wrong spot, so we spent the rest of the day augmenting our work.
That’s all for now. Check back later for more updates, and stay-tuned for a post about Caja Marca (hint hint).
Rachel and Dakota
Throughout history, people have traveled to the region of South America now known as Peru for a number of reasons. At first, adventurers were interested in the prospects of a new world to expand a great empire. The land was then visited to somehow find a better life or start anew. Often Peru was admired for its beauty and culture. Slowly as time passed, a new wave of conquistadors came to find the next world wonder or the tourist attraction that would bring them fame and the region an economic boom. While these were all the obvious potentials in the Peruvian air and soil, there’s one group that is often left unrecognized: those who come to Peru to find something in themselves.
The MOCHE staff provided us with a paper published in The SAA Archaeological Record in January 2004 called “Tomb Raiders of El Dorado” by Warren B. Church and Ricardo Morales Gamerra, which for me sparked these thoughts. The article outlines some of the problems that exist in archaeological exploitation in regions of Peru and how they can be solved. Once many of these historical sites are discovered, looters come in and destroy what is left to be learned. The “adventure tourism” that mimics heroes such as Indiana Jones, or non-fictional Hiram Bingham has made Peru a land of fantasies, the pursuance of which sometimes more important than the prosperity of the history itself. MOCHE as an organization has worked hard to ensure the maintenance of these bastions of fragile information by offering something more to these developing regions. In exchange for the protection of these sites from looters, MOCHE promises to provide communities with funding and volunteers for improved infrastructure and services. Thus, we are here this summer contributing to one leg of this non-profit’s mission, promoting and allowing the maintenance of public health through a clinic so that MOCHE is able to safely extract information from the priceless ruins that exist in the area, later in turn bringing waves of tourism for ruins to a region that would benefit immensely from the money and job opportunities such a sector brings.
So for many this is a trip hopefully accompanied by the discovery of key historical information that explains Moche culture by finding a certain pot or engraved tablet. Others admire the slower speed of life on the Pacific Ocean where a smaller amount of money can buy a whole lot more. Maybe a few are even looking for someone or something to love. But whether we know it or not, and whether we’re part of MOCHE’s archaeology team, UNC’s Engineers Without Borders, or Yale’s Nourish International, we’re all finding something only Peru could expose in us. Without a doubt, each one of us in Peru this summer is finding something within ourselves that like Maccu Picchu before 1911 had yet to be discovered. And unlike the adventures of the day that we put to paper each night or the shard of pottery placed in a box in the staff house for documenting after a long day of work, these additions to our lives may not have a description.
Hey everybody! It’s been quite a while since our last post, so we’re here to fill you in on what’s happened. During the beginning of last week, our group finished hauling rocks at Cerro Leon, a remote desert area surrounded by craggy mountains This was done in several ways. Some of us who wanted to flex our muscles decided to carry large rocks directly to the truck. Others created an assembly line to move the rocks. However, we were all humbled by the strength of the local community members, who easily hoisted large rocks upon their shoulders After several more days of grueling rock lifting in Cerro Leon our group focused its efforts on digging trenches for the clinic’s foundation in Bello Horizonte. As easy as this may sound, do not be misled. The Peruvian ground is as cruel as it is beautiful. Every other shovel full of dirt was met with a gigantic boulder and took a minimum of twenty minutes to remove. After much effort, we succeeded in digging trenches suitable for a rock and cement base.
Meanwhile, some of us went to local schools in Menecucho and Ciudad de Dios (nearby towns in the Moche Valley) to teach kids in grades K through 6. During the hour spent each day with the children, volunteers taught everything from the english alphabet to personal hygiene techniques. It was a treat to see how enthusiastic the kids were upon our arrival, although they often tested our patience in the classroom. Spending time with them has shown us just how eager they are to learn – the room buzzes with excitement when we walk through the door, and nearly all of the kids volunteer for any activity. We are excited to continue working with the kids both inside and outside the classroom
Other cool news: yesterday professor Billman took us on a tour of the Hauca de la Luna, the biggest Moche site in Peru and probably the third most visited site in the country (after Machu Picchu and the Nazca Lines). It is an astonishingly huge temple mound in the middle of the desert, made of over 40 million adobe bricks and dating back to around 400 AD. It was restored very recently, and enormous murals (still with original bright colors) depicting a fierce, bloodthirsty deity have been unearthed. The craziest part about the Huaca is that over ninety brutally mutilated bodies have been found beneath a certain platform. This means that the Huaca was a center of mass human sacrifice. The Moche power center clearly liked to make an impression on its subjects!
Tuesday saw the arrival of more Nourish volunteers. A group from Ohio State University is here and ready to work! Although they have only been here for two days, they are embracing Peruvian life. With them here, our project will move at full speed.
Breanna and David