Saturday, October 2, 2010

This is my Life

My initial thoughts upon riding into Chimbote of “What have I gotten myself into?!” have since (mostly) subsided.  If you thought that Chimbote looked like the picture I have under my blog heading, you are sorely mistaken.  In reality, Chimbote looks exactly like this:


And while I don’t exactly enjoy the moments when the strong smell of fish wafts through our drafty house and I’m sure the nice brown color I have on my feet is from the dust rather than a tan (especially since I’ve been wearing tennis shoes), there is a certain amount of charm to the city.  Donkeys with trailers share the roads with motos and taxis and the abuelitos are always sitting in front of their houses to wish you a good morning.

This week has been one of adjustments.  I started working at the hospice center Santiago Apόstal.  I have spent the week going out into the community with other nurses to do house visits for the patients who still live in their homes.  It has been a really great way to start to learn my way around the city and figure out all the different modes of transportation.  Hospice in Peru is still a very new concept and is very different than hospice in the States.  They are still working on the concept of creating a good death for their patients.  Quality of life is notion that has yet to fully take hold, but they are certainly trying.  Most of the patients have bed sores that are painful to even look at.  For all you nurses out there (or anyone brave enough to Google it), most of the patients I have seen have multiple stage IV ulcers where the surrounding skin is necrotic.  I had my first patient who had melanoma all over his legs.  I saw another woman who has an external tumor on her neck.  Her quality of life would improve so much if she could afford to have it removed, but the surgery is too expensive.  Besides the initial shock I felt with the patients I have seen, I have been told that nursing down here is like nursing in the US fifty years ago.  That being said, I cringe when I watch their ‘sterile’ technique.  There is almost no application of evidence-based practice.  I am hoping that as my Spanish continues to improve, I will be able to do some education with the nurses down here so that the patients really do receive the best possible care.  Even with some of their less than desirable practices, the nurses here are offering a needed service and their patients are better off in their hands than they were before.  There is an admirable resourcefulness in everyone that I have worked with so far.

We went out into the farmland to see a patient earlier this week.  As you start to get further and further away from the center of town, the dogs start to get meaner and more territorial.  So there we were, four nurses, off to see a patient, each carrying a huge stick to fend off the rabid dogs.  It was at that moment when I looked around at my co-workers and started laughing that I thought to myself, 'This is my life’.

One of my favorite parts of travelling is eating all the local food, and let me tell you, Peru has some pretty fantastic food.  I have not been disappointed with anything I’ve tried so far.  Avocados the size of cantaloupe, fresh coconut from the corner vendor, pulled chicken sandwiches with french fries on top from the street cart, fresh bread and of course, the Ceviche in Chimbote is said to be the best in all of Peru.  Now granted, I obviously haven’t tried all the Ceviche throughout Peru, but the dish I had today was definitely worth the expensive price of 10 soles (about $3.50).  Far and away, though, the best thing I have eaten is lúcuma.  This, my dear friends, is a lúcuma:


A very unassuming fruit, it has a little pumpkin flavor to it and is nice and creamy, making it great for juice and desserts.  With all this good food, I have to hope that my pants will still fit by the end of the year as there is no way I will be able to find pants long enough for such a gringa alta.

A big thanks this week goes out to Allen and Marcel Ballinger whose spirit and joy of life I have admired since I was lucky enough to meet them three years ago.


  1. It sounds amazing and what an amazing job you are doing...We are very proud of you and can't wait to visit and try a lot of the new foods...

  2. Sounds like you are having quite the adventure. Be careful of those dogs!!

  3. Thank you for explaining the hospice thing. I was going to ask you about it in the email I just sent but decided to check your blog first. And, lo and behold all I needed to know was right here. Loved reading the latest blog. Miss you dear!