June 5, 2008

I need to go ahead and take a moment to write about my bizarre day before some of the outlandish details escape me.

Today was my first day actually working at the clinic in San Jeronimo. Beth, the other medical volunteer, and I made our morning taxi-walking-bus commute and arrived ready for action. As with most things in Peru, there was little organization and much waiting. Our first opportunity was to travel to one of the local schools and give Hepatitis B vaccines to the grade schoolers. We rode in the back of an “ambulance” (a gutted van with a gurney) with two other nurses. When we arrived carrying bags of hand-rolled cotton balls, a plastic bag with syringes and a cooler with the vaccines, the children were ecstatic. As we entered the courtyard of the school, the children swarmed us and began chanting “Vaccunas! Vaccunas!” (Vaccines! Vaccines!). Much to our amazement, they were beside themselves with joy. We walked to the first classroom on our list and one of the Peruvian nurses explained that we were there to give them all their second Hep B vaccine and they all needed to get it in their left arm. Each student promptly exposed their left arm and buzzed in excitement. So two by two, Beth (who is a pre-med student and therefore cannot offer hands-on medical care) called each student up to the front of the classroom where another nurse and I gave them their shot. In front of the entire wide-eyed class. Some would bravely offer their arm, others would cringe but none complained or cried. And after, they were all so proud of their little cotton calls we would give them to hold on their arm.

And we moved on to the next eager classroom. I’ve never seen anything like it.

From the school we walked a few blocks to the San Jeronimo city center. There was a celebration going on with bands, banners, people dressed up in traditional Incan clothes. One of the nurses explained to us that we now needed to join several other nurse to “protest”. Beth and I looked at each other slightly scared and very confused. Yesterday one of our coordinators told us that every once in a while the taxi drivers in the city “protest” and go on strike. During the protests it is very dangerous to use public transportation and a month ago, during the last protest, four people were killed. So, needless to say, we were reluctant. As we walked through the city square we realized that the nurse may have used the wrong terminology. It was not a protest, rather today is Peru’s equivalent of Earth Day and they were having a demonstration in the city square to promote a healthier environment, clean air and renewable energy. They handed us both signs to hold and we found ourselves, dressed in scrubs, standing front and center for a speech given by the city’s mayor. Following the speech, all the different groups of people in attendance (school children, marching bands, grandmothers in pink Incan dresses, police on horses, etc) formed lines to march in a parade around the city. And there were television cameras there filming. So here we are, the only white Americans in the city marching in a Environment Awareness parade for the City of San Jeronimo. We will likely be on the evening news.

And so goes life in Peru. As a volunteer nurse.

We’re still leaning a lot and being stretched. Last night Josh had to come up with enough Spanish vocabulary to politely ask our house mom for a plunger due to an unfortunate incident he had with the toilet. She laughed with us.

This weekend we have off of work and will take the train to Machu Pichu.

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2 Responses to “”

  1. Sounds like you guys are having a great experience there. We are happy for you. I wanted to write out my prayer for you guys. Heavenly Father, I prayer that you will make Josh and Amber just like Jesus to the Pervian people. Protect and use them to bring love, joy and peace with every interaction. May they be given many opportunities to share the love of God found in Christ Jesus in their action and with their words only when necessary. Thank you for your love for and through them. In Jesus’ precious, holy and matchless name! Amen. Halelujah!

  2. Phil Small said

    Hello!
    My name is Phil Small and I’m considering going to Cusco, Peru with United Planet… I came across your peru-blog and it looks amazing! All I want to know is this: do you recommend it? Give it to me straight here, because I’m trying to decide.
    Thanks! Your photography is amazing, p.s.

    -Phil

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