Peru on world map

Peru – Karma

October 19, 2007 - Peru

by Steve Henrichon

Last night was a special night.  Before we turned in for the night, Rene checked his email and there was an email from I girl named Maritza.  In spanish…"You dont know me or my brother but my brother found your little black bag with your pictures, documents, etc.  How can we return your bag to you?"  Rene lit up like a Christmas tree and just started giggling with joy.  He then proceeded to stand up, hum his favorite salsa tune, and then busted out the happy dance.  Ive never seen the kid so happy.

You see, two nights ago we left from Pisco back to Lima for two days to handle some business.  Rene carries a little black pouch in which contains his notebook with all of our meeting notes, 40 post-earthquake photographs lent to us, our guide book, medical supply catalogs, an important video we obtained taken immediately after the earthquake, all of our bank information and ATM cards from our new bank account, and…most importantly…his ipod.  His only way to block me out of his world.  Sometime between buying our bus tickets at the Pisco bus station and 20 minutes into our busride to Lima, Rene lost the black pouch.  Maybe on the bus, probably somewhere at the station, possibly on the busy curb in front of the station…not really sure.  But what I am sure of is that Rene’s attitude changed.  It was like his childhood dog just died.  He fealt very bad for losing the bag…not so much because of his ipod, but more so because of the catalogs, photographs, videos, etc that were lent to us.  He was dwelling on the fact that he lost the bag and he couldnt get that fact out of his head.  We must’ve been stockpiling karma, because know the good karma is coming back around to us…with this email from Maritza.  I will keep you posted as to if all of the original contents are still in the bag when we pick it but I expect they will be.  The people who live in this area do not have much so this act of kindness is a great representation of their integrity.

It has been about 1 week since I wrote in the blog last.  Lets see, what have we done in the past week?  We actually have just been sipping Pisco Sours on the beach…an occassional dip in the pool…splurging on steak dinners.  Ha!  yeah right.  It has actually been quite a productive week, all except for last Sunday.  Last Sunday was the national census.  Everyone in Peru was required to remain in there homes.  All businesses closed.  Representatives then walk from door to door and count the inhabitants.  We took Sunday as a personal day since it was hard to conduct business when the whole country is shut down.  We actually made our way to a nearby oasis.  Before traveling to Pisco, I did not know that the western slope of the Andes is a desert landscape.  Ica is surrounded by huge sand dunes.  On the eastern slope of the Andes, it is the Amazon.   So, Peru has a very diverse landscape.

On Monday, we woke up early and took the 2 hour busride from Ica to Chincha.  The mayor of Gracio Prado, a district of Chincha, has been lobbying for us to build our clinic in his district.  He is a very sincere man and I am sure he is a great mayor.  He cares.  He arranged for us to have an entire tour of Gracio Prado, Chincha.  This is a very impoverished part of town.  Most homes in Gracio Prado whether they are adobe or conrete are marked with a large red X…spraypainted on the front of the house.  Houses marked with an X need to be torn down and rebuilt because they are unsafe to be inhabited.  They are all marked with a red X.

In Gracio Prado, they have 185 Ollo Comunes.  An Ollo Comun is basically a neighborhood kitchen.  Each family takes a turn in operating their neigborhood Ollo Comun where they have to cook rice in a black cast iron pot over an open fire for their community.  Each comun is provided with food from the town government once per week.  This is how food is distributed to the people following the earthquake.  And it will be this way for a few more months.

We were shown a brand new small medical center.  It has even been furnished with some beds and basic medical supplies.  All its missing is an organization to operate the medical center.  They do not have the help in Gracio Prado.  The building was offered to us in case we want to operate out of this pre-existing structure.  Tempting.

We visited a few schools.  "School" in the sense that it is a place where children gather to be educated.  The actual school buildings themselves have either collapsed or are marked with an X.  Make-shift class rooms have been constructed out of plywood, palm fronds, and tarps.  Children are truly amazing however.  It really doesnt take much for children to be happy.  They were running around, playing games, laughing.  I would walk into a class room…having to duck in through the low door way and then I say "¡Buenos Dias!"  Giant smiles grow on their faces and they respond "¡BUENOS DIAS!"  I dont think it is everyday that a 6 foot Gringo bursts through their little village classroom door shouting "¡Buenos Dias Chicitos!"

The teachers tell us they need a new school badly.  Its true.  They do.  All we can do is tell them that we will try to pull some strings.  Tzu Chi is actually looking to build some schools in the area so we will share our experiences in Gracio Prado.  It would be a great place for Tzu Chi to work.

We shared lunch with the Mayor at an hacienda restaurant.  I have heard about the delicious Carapulcras con Sopa Seca which Chincha is known for.  I can vouch that it was delicious.  The mayor opened up his heart over lunch and talked about the people.  He talked about his vision for his town and he does have a big heart.

On our way back to Ica, I think we had both made up our minds.  Although Chincha is in big need of help, it would be best for us to focus our efforts closer to Pisco.  Chincha is an hour from Pisco.  The epicenter of the earthquake was in Pisco and the damage is signicantly worse.  The people from Chincha were badly in need of help even before the earthquake…as were the people from Pisco, San Andres, San Clemente, La Via…the list goes on.  Wherever we put the clinic, it will be a much-needed addition to the community.  Everybody needs help!  So, we need to consider many factors: Motivation from a local partner organization, long-term potential, existing health infrastructure, emotional/physical trauma from earthquake, conveniently situated for maximum exposure and outreach.  There are many factors that weigh in.  Maybe as our presence in Peru grows, Gracio Prado will get their clinic.

I dont envy Rene, for today (skipping ahead a few days), he must call the kind Mayor of Gracio Prado, Chincha to tell him that we have chosen another location for our clinic.

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