This is a big ´WOW´ so far!!
Trip Start Jul 31, 2010
11Trip End Aug 15, 2010
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Currently sitting in an internet cafe next door to home base listening to Peruvian musica y typing on a really old Spanish keyboard. This morning was orientation and we have a short break before our city tour, so thought I´d take the chance to journal. It´s slow going as I keep hitting the wrong button for capital letters and the keyboard takes a couple seconds to register what I´m typing.
This morning, our program director Rudy gave an overview of Ayacucho. Some highlights . . . 65% of Ayacucho lives below the poverty line which is $2 USD/day for a family of four. As a result, many get caught up in drug trafficing mainly for cocaine. Coca leaves are a big agricultural crop here and are used for nutritional purposes, to relieve altitude sickness, and for cocaine among other things. This was a big reason why/how the Shining Path came to power in the 80´s and 90´s, when the Ayacucho region was caught in a civil war between the government and Shining Path. Most people here lost family members during that time, including the staff at our home base. 50,000 were killed. Apparently, the Shining Path still has a small presence in the remote regions of Ayacucho, but it is a safe place now. As Rudy said, we're in a 'safe hot bed'. We will have a guest speaker coming to share more about the Shining Path another day soon.
After the talk, our program manager Marisol took us on a tour of the placements, which I think is a great touch. We get to see where everyone works, rather than just our own. We visited a Wawa Wasi, a health clinic, and the prison. I´ll be working at a Wawa Wasi, so will share more about that after I start work. I did find out that the Mama´s and kids may only speak Quechua, so even my basic espanol won´t go very far!
At the clinic, we got to see the obstetrics area where babies are born. It´s very basic, but has improved a lot over time according to Marisol. For example, they have a phone now and an oxygen tank and little machine to draw fluid out of the newborn´s mouth and nose. They don´t have a pediatrician and obstretricians aren´t considered doctors in Peru, so a nurse runs the show. We also met an elderly Quechua woman who goes to clinic every day claiming one ailment or another. Marisol said she´s lonely and comes for the company.
The prison is right next to the airport. We couldn´t go in, but it´s massive and looks just like a prison. 80+% of the prisoners are in for drug trafficing. The prison is equipped for 700 prisoners but houses 1400. There are also children of the inmates living there. They´ll be there until age 4 then go to family or an orphanage. I might get to go on Friday with a group of volunteers to take them on a field trip. That´s the only time they get out of the prison, or receive much attention. Their parents may be too stressed to give them the care they need. They even have to raise $$ to pay rent to be there. The prison sentences are harsh for drug offenses - 10 or 25 years depending on how much drugs and how many involved (more than 2 people is considered a ¨ring¨). The really sad part is that many get manipulated into it because they´re desperate for money for their families as work is scarce here. The cartel leaders continue to recruit peasants to do the dirty work but remain free.
Our placements are on the outskirts of town, and <i now understand what they meant by extreme poverty in CCS's placement description. The houses are mud brick or concrete squares and some buildings have thatch or tin roofs with tires on top holding them on. Very dusty, with dirt roads. Most don´t have bathrooms and use latrines or holes in the floor. That will likely be the case at my Wawa Wasi.
Well, almost time for our city tour, then Spanish lessons before dinner. So glad to be here. Ayacucho is all I hoped it would be. Will write more tomorrow after placement.