Luke Wren ’14 - We are in Tarapoto now, our last place we stay until we go back to the States. It is a city in the selva (jungle/rain forest). Today was a long but eventful day. We traveled to Cerich Sacha which was a very nice village with very welcoming people. When we arrived we had to walk across a stream via stones, and then up to a building with big open doors and cement walls. From the outside it looked very plain and like all the other places we have worked, but the sound coming from inside was all but plain. There was music and talking, it sounded like a party was going on, and when I walked inside there were at least 100 Peruvians of all ages and sizes (mostly small). There was an old man playing a flute and drum and people welcome us with big smiles.
At that point I knew this was unlike any place we have been before. The people were excited to meet us and were thankful for us being there to help them. They all stared (which we are used to as ‘Greengos’) but it was in a different way, there were smiles, waves, and thanks expressed on the locals faces. Shortly after we arrived and the supplies were carried over there was a ceremony for us. They had dancers and music and after, the male leaders of the village spoke one after another expressing their thanks. Dr. Wetzel spoke as well saying how we are very thankful for the opportunity to help and learn from one another.
Dr. Wetzel concluded his speech by pulling out a red and white hand woven belt, that was given to him from the same tribe two years ago. He said that the belt represented the bond that we have shared and continued to share to this day. This was a very fitting statement because it did feel as if we had a connection with this group. The kids and parents brought us freshly chopped coconuts so a drinkable size hole was exposed. They were delicious. After the coconuts we were offered some “homemade” adult beverages. These were served in half a coconut shell. One is called “masato” and you don’t want to know how they make it, but I’ll tell you anyways. Most of the time women will chew yucca (or something similar) into a pulp and then spit it out. The enzymes in the spit aid in the fermentation producing the alcoholic properties. I will never complain about any drink again. The other was a sugar cane drink. I don’t know how they made it and I didn’t ask.
Today I worked with Weston Kitley and checked people for lice. Surprisingly there were far fewer people with lice then I expected. After the campaign closed for the day me and some other Wabash men played futbol with the kids. They were very good and made us look silly at times.
Although I am very tired and want to go to bed I still can’t help but talk about the way we were perceived in this village. I have never experienced anything like it. The music, the atmosphere, the kisses from old ladies all were great, but there was a sense of unity that crossed the language, social, and cultural barriers. I will always remember the look on the old ladies face who walked up to Dr. Wetzel thanked him, gave him a gift and told him to pray for her because the next time he comes back to the village she won’t be there. The gift was a different colored belt. To me it was as if she was handing over the reins, allowing the younger generations to step up and lead as she placed it over his head. It was a site I will never forget, but I hope it isn’t the last either.
Mark Stoops ’14 – Today we got up bright and early to travel to Tingo Maria. Tingo Maria is about 3000 feet below Huánuco which is at an altitude of 6100 ft. The bus ride, although slightly dangerous was very interesting. Huánuco is very dry and surrounded by mountains but once we crossed the mountains there was an immediate change from dry scrub to rainforest. The view on the way down was very beautiful. On the way, we stopped off at a national park that contained a grouping of mountains called “Sleeping Beauty” because of it’s silhouette. At the park we got some biological lessons from the grounds keeper and Professor Wetzel. There were coffee and banana trees growing in the jungle as well as a spikey plant that injects poison in you if you are pricked. On a tree was a giant locus type insect that blended perfectly into its surroundings. Professor Wetzel also showed us aquatic flatworms and non-aquatic flatworms. There was a large difference in their appearance and later in the day we saw parasitic flatworms at Universidad Nacional Agragria de la Selva.
We left the park and continued on to a Hospital in Tingo Maria. This hospital is the biggest and nicest of the ones we have visited so far. It was converted from a shopping center and like most buildings in Peru, is open to the weather in many places. The director gave us a tour and we learned about the hospital and major types of cases they receive. One is a small poisonous snake that latches on and doesn’t let go. This was all in Spanish, but I believe he said a hospital in another district had 90 cases of this happening in a year.
After the hospital visit we went to Universidad Nacional Agragria de la Selva. It is a gated university and in the middle of nowhere, is surprisingly large, well kept, and very beautiful. The focus of this school is agriculture and biology. On our tour of the campus we saw the lab which was filled with lots of parasitic specimens. We also viewed their nursery and a room with animals, and mounted insects of the jungle. Of these there were many that were extinct. Finally we went to a little zoo that the campus had. It was far different from any zoo in the states because you could walk right up to the cages and literally touch the animals. There were many different types of monkeys, birds, a jaguar, and some other species.
After this we headed back to Huanaco to listen to student lectures. We were on Peru time so we got their a little after 9 and listened to the University student projects. One thing I found amazing was that in our time in the Huanaco Health campaign we treated and tested 122 dogs and cats. Only two of them tested negative for parasites.
J. Dalton Boyer ’14 – Aug. 3 – For not being in a foreign country before, the last four days at Lima have been some of the most enriching days of my life. My days in Lima have been spent providing free medical care to the people of Pamplona Alta, buying authentic Peruvian gifts at the Incan Market, experiencing new foods such as the lime flavored dolphin fish called ceviche, and running along the Pacific Ocean at the crack of dawn. However, today marked the end of our visit to Lima and the beginning of our journey to the mountainous city of Huánuco. The plane ride and the city itself have proven to be the start of another promising chapter during my two weeks in Peru.
We took off today at Lima’s international airport today at 1:30 pm. Since the plane was mostly empty, everyone was given the opportunity to have a window seat for the flight to Huánuco which proved to be a blessing to the entire group. I understood that Huánuco was at high altitude, about 6100 ft, so I was looking forward to seeing the Andes Mountains. Since Lima never saw the light of day during our visit, it was impossible to see the city during takeoff. Once the plane broke through the cloud cover, there was nothing but a blanket of clouds as far as the eye could see. However, a couple minutes into the flight, the mountains started to appear. Now, I remember looking out at the Indiana’s flat geography as a child and how awesome it was to the patterns of farmland and small towns for miles and miles but nothing compared to what I was witnessing today.
Viewing the beautifully carved Andes Mountains was and is the single most amazing sight in my life. I couldn’t stop taking pictures. The pictures themselves don’t do the Andes beauty any justice. As I sat in my seat gazing out of my window in a trance, suddenly our plane was landing in Huánuco. Mountains encompassed the airport. Pictures continued to be taken while walking from our plane down the runway and into the smallest airport I have ever seen. Claiming our luggage proved to be very simple. Since we were the only plane on the airstrip, the airport officials handed us our luggage in only a few minutes. We caught taxis and soon we were speeding down a hectic and bumpy road leading in to the central city of Huánuco. From the plane ride and the drive into town alone, I can tell that Huánuco will show me much more of what Peru has to offer.
Bradley Wise ’14 - For a few days now, we have been helping and working at the campaign for Solaridad en Marcha. As of today, to make it easier for other people to reach our area, we changed locations to the higher Pamplona Alta area. To get there, we had to track through the “village” of ramshackle houses, feces and mud, and countless stairs. It was quite a sight to see, and it reminded a lot of things I have only seen in movies, pictures, or video games, like the Favellas in Brazil or the film District 9. It is hard to describe the area unless you are actually there. Photographs really do not give it justice.
The people living there were very grateful for our help. Today I manned the station for checking “Los Piojos,” the Spanish word for head lice. We finished up there, and we headed to the top of the mountain to check out the rest of the village. It went on for miles, and there was no end in sight. It is hard to imagine that so many people have to live like this everyday. It was a very eye-opening experience.
After a few hours of helping out, we headed back to our hostel and enjoyed some homemade rice, chicken, and potatoes, which were very delicious. We then went to the Universidad de Ricardo Palma and listened to a few student presentations on the work people are doing for the city of Lima, the Pamplona area, and other communities in Peru. It has been a very eye opening experience thus far. Tomorrow we are heading to Huanuco, which is supposedly worse than the Pamplona Alta area we have been visiting all week. I cannot imagine how the next few days will be.
Weston Kitley ’13 – 7/31/2012 – Today the group went to continue and participate in the health campaign which was in partnership with Solidaridad en Marcha. The goal was to give medical care to those in this region. We assisted the local university volunteers in examining and treating the patients. I spent the majority of the day checking for lice and handing out shampoo and a comb. Other stations consisted of collecting information on height and weight, giving a fluoride treatment, and helping to check for anemia. Today was very rewarding for me because we were able to provide treatment immediately for the lice, and upon viewing many scalps it was easily noticed how needed the shampoo was for these young kids. It was eye opening to see the advanced infection in some individuals. It is always great for us to realize how much we take for granted, and how much people in poor areas such as Pamplona are in dire need for basic treatments. Despite their living conditions it is also quite fascinating that some remain clean in places with such high levels of infection.
After the daily participation in the campaign the group went to Ricardo Palma University to hear two speakers: Dra. Mercedes Gonzalez, who is a Prof. of Biology and the Director of the Natural History Museum, and David Estela, a 5th year medical student who is involved with research projects in cooperation with the local Rotary Club. Dra. Gonzalez, an ethnobotanist, told us about her efforts to catalog the plants used by indigenous people in Andean zones for basic medical treatments. This was timely because many of these plants can offer modern medicines and be used for many aliments. She talked about interviewing the people from many areas, collecting the whole plant for cataloging and then beginning testing of such plants.
The second lecture by David Estela was about “CUMIS” which was a plan of attack to help rural villages receive the treatment they desperately needed. He also talked about an effort to provide sand filters for local communities. He estimated these filters cost around 100 dollars and last approximately 30 years (although they have not been in use for 30 years, filters that are currently 16 years of age still work like new). These filters can clean 10-15 gallons of water each day and they employ locals to build the filters. It was a great idea, and seemed to be working well for the villages that possessed these filters. Overall it was great to finally get to interact with the people of Pamplona, and the students from the university. It felt good to give to the community and help in any possible way possible. We all appreciate the opportunity given to us by many. This trip is extremely inspiring for all of us, and has educated us beyond belief on the necessity and importance of global health.
Chris Dabbs ’15 – Bienvenidos de Peru!
Today, as I walked the muddy, feces covered streets of Pamplona Alta, the only thing that kept running through mind was: “Poor in Peru is completely different than poor in the United States”.
During the health campaign that we have been working at in Pamplona, someone decided that it would be a good idea to take a bus up to Pamplona Alta (the poorer section of Pamplona) to go door-to-door and spread news of the health campaign. Around 20-30 volunteers piled into our bus to take the journey. Upon arrival, one could easily tell the difference in air contents. In Pamplona Alta, many people cook on open fires and it just hangs in the air causing many respiratory problems, especially among young children. Also, there were many mangy dogs (surely carrying diseases) freely playing with children. In the United States, it is not uncommon for a child to pet someone’s dog as it is strolling through a park. Peruvian children want to do the same thing, the only difference is that their playing can lead to many parasitic infections.
After our door-to-door excursion, we visited one of the premier neurological research facilities in Peru: Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Neurologicas (The National Institute of Neurological Sciences). Upon our arrival, we were told to be very cautious of our surroundings because the neighborhood that we were in was not a very good one. This is quite a contrast to American institutions. Most of our best research facilities are in very nice sections of the United States. We were at the institute to take a tour and to be given a small lecture regarding a parasitic infection called Neurocisticercosis. This infection is caused from people living in a very close proximity to their hogs and eating pork infected with a certain parasite that can attack the nervous system. The humans carry eggs and then reinfect each other and hogs through their inappropriately disposed feces. This is something that doesn’t happen in America because of the availability of proper waste facilities. The juxtapositions in impoverished culture, between America and Peru, is astonishing and is something that I’m excited to keep learning about.
Professor Eric Wetzel talking with the students about Peru countryside
Jason Farbstein ‘13 – We arrived safely in Lima after a very long journey. I think I can confidently say that it was an eye opening experience for all of us Wabash students. We took a short drive to the campaign where we had a short introduction of how we would be helping the nurses and doctors stationed there.
Our journey continued up some very large hills to Pamplona which can briefly be described as the shanty towns of Lima. This was not even close to what we saw on our tour. We could not believe that a structure about the size of a Wabash classroom fed more than 150 children a day, and that it was all prepared by one woman who cooked on only two burners. We all were given a thank you for visiting drink that was a combination of boiled water and apples.
Dr. Wetzel informed us to be very careful about what we ingested during our stay here, so we were all very hesitant about trying the mystery drink. After approaching Dr. Wetzel on the subject, he grinned and said “Sometimes there is nothing you can do to avoid welcome drinks or meals.” We all decided to not disappoint our host and to just say “Bottoms up.”
The day was mind blowing and I believe that every student can really appreciate what we all have back in the United States. We do not need to worry about having a meal for the day, safe water to drink, and living on such limited resources such as a house built out of plywood, tarp, and a few bricks. We have been in Peru for one day, and I already feel as if we as students have an obligation to help the poor citizens who live in this part of the country.