Peru on world map

Peru – Random Thoughts (November – December)

January 15, 2008 - Peru

by Steve Henrichon

Scary Missionary: One day I was working in my room/office and I heard there were some American doctors downstairs eating lunch. I went downstairs and introduced myself to this huge group of Americans who I soon learned were not doctors. Instead they are missionaries from some radical sect of Christianity. I explained to them about the clinic and they were really interested. I chatted with the missionaries for about 30 minutes and then I said my goodbyes and excused myself. One of the missionaries got in my face and challenged me. “Have you accepted Jesus Christ into your life as your lord and savior?” Crap. Are you serious? We were doing so well and you had to open your mouth and blow it. I tried to deflate the situation by suggesting that that was a pretty bold question to be asking someone after just having met them. The interrogation about my faith continued and I was having trouble with my exit strategy. Soooo I just sat there like a dumbass with an unconvincing smile on my face while this dude explains to me why it is foolish for anyone to believe in evolution. He was standing about 2 inches from me and his passion from this one-way conversation was borderline psychotic. The rest of the table just looked at us but I could tell they were a little embarrassed by their brother’s direct manner. I finally cut him off in mid-preach and slapped him on the back and walked away. I have to admit, I was a little creeped out. I don’t really agree with missionaries spreading the word of God in 3rd world countries in general but I am still respectful to most. Every now and again, I meet a missionary who I just want to lock in a small cell and throw away the key.

Sara Helen:

“You have to visit the tomb of Sara Helen?”
“That doesn’t sound like a very Peruvian name…who the hell is Sara Helen?”
“She is a witch who was burned at the stake in England. They didn’t want her remains in England and they eventually ended up in Pisco. She is now buried here. I pray to her…as do most other people in Pisco. We pray to her about our troubles and she is responsible for most of the evil doing in Pisco.”

I did go visit Sara Helen’s tomb and it was covered in flowers. People were there praying to her. Witchcraft is still fairly common in the area, many people see witch doctors, many people pray to Sara Helen. I also heard that her ghost comes out at night and meanders through town.

Spanish: My Spanish was quite basic upon arrival in Peru. I certainly couldn’t carry on a conversation. Over the past 10 weeks, I have amassed enough words in my vocabulary to have an effective conversation for hours. This is when my Spanish is improving by leaps and bounds because I have a solid foundation of the language. But, just when I was getting quite comfortable, I boarded a plane and flew home.

No Entiendo!! We bought a ton of medical equipment in Lima that we had to transport on the bus back to Pisco with us. I purchased three tickets for the 8:46p bus for me, Rene, and Guillermo…but when the bus showed up, the bottom luggage compartments filled up before we could put our equipment in. So we waited for the 9:02p bus. Rene and Guillermo were in charge of seeing that the equipment gets on the bus…and I was in charge of saving our seats (seats #1, 2, and 3). I knew I was going to run into problems since our bus technically left and other people would have seats 1-3 on the new bus. Eventually some people got on and they tried to kick me out. I showed them my ticket and they quickly told me that my bus has already left. I just looked at them blankly and held my ground. They started yelling at me. Some guy in the back of the bus said “El Gringo no entiende!!” The gringo doesn’t understand! Ha!! I just played stupid and they thought I truly didn’t understand. It was my finest performance. Finally Rene and Guillermo got on and took there seats which I had still managed to save for them. They got into a yelling match with the rightful owners of the seats but we held our ground. The bus officials even tried to kick us out but we didn’t leave. Eventually everyone gave up and found other seats at the back of the bus. As the gingo, I can get away with a lot.

Competition from Soap Operas? In Peru, the majority of the people arrive at the clinic very early in the morning. The clinic is very busy from 8a-12n. Very few people trickle in after 12. I have my theories. Keep in mind that 75% of the patients are women/mothers. A) Women need to get back home to prepare lunch and dinner for their families. B) Women do not want to miss their latin soap operas called “novelas” in the afternoon. I am dead serious. We are competing with friggin soap operas. C) They are just used to coming in the morning…always have…always will. It doesn’t make a ton of sense to me because if they come in the morning, they will probably have to wait for a couple hours to be seen. If they come after 12n, they can most likely walk in and be seen within 20-30 minutes. Oh well.

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