When I was sixteen, I was confirmed. My patron saint was St. Rose of Lima. I think part of the reason I chose her was due to the fact that my family always jokes about how I was supposed to be named Rose, but when I was born my mom said I just did not look like a Rose. I have never fully recovered. I can give you the full sob-story later. The main reason I chose St. Rose was her love for the poor and her humility. Last summer, before I knew my placement for this year, my mom had a dream that I would be going to Peru. I kind of laughed it off and thought, “Yeah, I’d be okay with that” and then moved on without giving it a second thought. Now, I do not know if I really believe in fate or destiny, but I do know that I am (obviously) in Peru right now. I also know that over these past eight months I have had a lot of déjà vu. I take all these things to mean that this is exactly where I am supposed to be. Why I am supposed to be here, is a question that may never be answered. So on those days (which have been happening more frequently these past couple weeks) when I realize that I kill an average of eight bugs in my bedroom alone in one day and when the smell of fishmeal wafts into my bedroom from the factories, I start to wonder if it really just was coincidence that I picked St. Rose and that of all the countries in the world, my mom dreamed of Peru.
Anyone who tells you that volunteer work is not stressful has obviously never worked in Peru. Throughout the past couple weeks, it has not been uncommon to work five 12 hour days in a row, followed by a Saturday in order to catch up on everything that was not finished throughout the week. I’m not complaining (ok, maybe a smidge), the project is cool and when I actually take a second while I’m walking around Cambio Puente it really hits me all the great things you can do with public health. These realizations have not only made me thankful for this opportunity down here, but have also made me thankful that there are people who love public health as much as I love the idea of public health, because I could not do this forever. With the start of our nutritional workshops about six weeks ago, everyone has been a little stressed out and a little more on edge. Thankfully, we seem to have finally settled into our schedule and the end of the workshops in July no longer seems so far away.
This week was a nice work break for me. Early Monday morning, a couple co-workers and I headed up north to Trujillo to help out with their project. For all my complaining about having too much to do with our project, I am thankful that there are three of us to spread out the workload; the Wiñay project in Trujillo has only two and I admire their work ethic and spirit. Its amazing how doing something we do every month (weights and heights) can be so different in another environment. We were able to learn a lot from the Wiñay project and share some of the ideas that have been successful with our project. On Wednesday, my fellow CMMB volunteer, Amber, came down to Chimbote with a couple of her friends who are also PTs. We were able to do some home visits with some families in Cambio Puente as well as hold a workshop for teachers about identifying disabilities in children. In the evening, we had a workshop for the staff at the clinic about proper body mechanics to prevent back injuries. The whole day was a nice change of pace.
This week I am thankful for fresh bananas straight from the tree in our tree, big, sweet mangos and a host family that (vainly) keeps trying to convince me to stay for just one year longer.