I have started to settle into life in Chimbote. Things that were initially so new and exciting are starting to become commonplace. I am now able to sleep through the howling dogs next door, the garbage truck in the morning and the never-ending sirens and horns of the motos and taxis. After almost a month in Chimbote, I am starting to feel comfortable here. And while it is still too brown and dusty to ever give me the feeling of home, I am even more excited for the next eleven months of my life in Peru.
The past two weeks have been full of positive changes and exciting adventures. As I started working more in hospice, I realized how easy it would be to get burned out if that was where I would spend all my time and energy. The people I work with have been very receptive to my needs and CMMB is great at recognizing that in order to be effective, I need to be happy in my work. So, I will now be splitting my time between three different work sites. I will still be spending time with hospice, but as my language skills continue to improve, my role is going to start to change to include more education. Program sustainability is something that is very important to me throughout this year. I do not want to simply have the same role as the staff down here, but rather, want to leave a lasting impact in order to help better the future of the organization. Education will help me to achieve that goal. Secondly, I will be working at the Santa Clara clinic in my neighborhood. The clinic tends to be a mix between urgent and primary care. Specialists come in a couple days each week to give the community an opportunity to get the care they require. The project I am most excited about is a joint project with CMMB, the Bon Secours Health System, Caritas del Peru and Christus health. The Chimbote part of this project is working in an area called Cambio Puente, located about 30 minutes outside the city. Aiming to reduce the infant mortality and morbidity rates in our region, this is a pure community health project, which I never expected to enjoy. Still in its’ early phases, one thing being worked on right now is a handwashing campaign. I have never been so excited about clean hands before! As if this wasn’t enough excitement, I have decided to move in with a host family. I think the full immersion will really help me to get the language skills and the cultural experience that I desire. It also doesn’t hurt that the family has hot showers, a cook and chickens on the roof.
I realized my complete lack of cardiovascular fitness (likely, at least partially, the result of too many chicken sandwiches) last weekend when some friends and I ventured up to the top of Sierra de la Paz, the small mountain overlooking Chimbote. I was amazed by how clean and peaceful the city looked from above. I would have loved to see Chimbote in her glory days back in the 1970s when the fishing was great and the city was young and exciting. Walking around town, you can still see remnants of this era along the boardwalk and the Plaza de Armas. Since I know the whole reason people read blogs is for the pictures, here’s another view from our hike looking out over the Pacific (even more photos can be found by following the link on the left). Rumor has it that the Isla Blanca is white due to petrified bird poop. I have yet to verify this fact, but have added a visit to the island onto my ‘To Do’ list for the next year.
I have experienced a lot of ‘firsts’ in the past two weeks. My first trip by bus up to Trujillo turned out to be a raving success as we correctly navigated our way to and from the bus terminals and were pleasantly surprised by the movie choices, the comfort and the timeliness of the service. My first patient passed away last weekend. I thought it would much harder to hear of a patient’s death. In this gentleman’s case, it was a blessing as you could see the pain he was going through and the stress his condition put on his family. I know that news of a patient’s passing will not always come this easily. I received my first eviction notice this week! After some research (and lots of use of the dictionary) we discovered that our landlord was delinquent on some taxes. Thinking that the missing payment was from September of this year, we were sure that there would be no immediate repercussions. Much to our surprise, we were told that this was a pretty serious matter. Shocked and amazed by the rapidity of action taken by the city of Chimbote, we went downtown to pay our taxes. While there, we found out that the outstanding taxes were from 2006. The world was right again. I was slightly disappointed that this issue was resolved as I figured being evicted would have been a great cultural experience. I tried my first Peruvian beer and was pleasantly surprised. This first was followed by many more opportunities to sample Peru’s finest brews. One of the local drinks is mixing dark beer with Inca Kola. While it almost seems a waste to mix perfectly good beer with bubblegum-flavored pop, I am doing my best to be as fully Peruvian as possible. Just this week, I ate my first combinado and as we so lovingly call them, my first spamburguesa. Not sure what you want for lunch? Choose the combinado. It has the perfect blend of papas huancaina (instantly one of my favorite Peruvian dishes), spaghetti, roasted corn and ceviche. Now as for the spamburguesa…I typically consider myself to be pretty daring on the food front, but there was something about the pepto-bismal pink meat that seemed a little frightening to me. After some deliberation, I decided to live a little. With all the fixings, it is out of this world. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. I think I know what I’ll be having for dinner tonight…
I want to thank all of you who have supported my trip so far. For anyone else, consider sponsoring my work down here for a day by donating $5 or $10 to CMMB! Let me know which day you would want and I will add you to my fundraising calendar. On that day, I’ll send you a note, letting you know what kind of work I was able to do with your contribution!