This is where I’m supposed to say that I can’t believe that I’ve already been here for a week, but in reality, I can’t believe that I’ve ONLY been here a week! In one week, it feels like I have done a month’s worth of what I would have done back home, and that probably has to do with me not working and having a lot more free time, but I also feel like I’ve made some pretty big accomplishments. I have learned lots of Peruvian slang that has helped me to converse and make new friends faster here, and my Spanish is at the level where I can make people laugh with ease, which is pretty great (sure, I might play into the gringo stereotypes a little and use them to my advantage)! Although on the street I might stick out like a sore thumb (the other day at my hospital volunteering, a boy asked me why I paint my here blonde), I feel like a real Limeño!
I have been going to the hospital del niño (children’s hospital) every morning and volunteering as a tutor, in the same group with which I volunteered two years ago through an exchange program, and living with the same family too! Every morning I volunteer for three hours as a tutor for children that stay in the hospital long-term. The volunteer director gives us worksheets of every subject to teach the children in order to keep them on top of their school work so that they do not fall too behind. The program is called The Compañía, which simply means Company. More than anything what we are giving the children is company, a distraction from their situation. And it works! Every day I walk into the room (I’m usually placed in charge of the neuropediatrics wing) and the kids light up with smiles and are actually EXCITED about homework! La Compañía is a godsend for these unlucky, strong-hearted children.
After my first two mornings of volunteering in the local children’s hospital last week, I went out to eat a classic Peruvian favorite, leche de tigre with a friend from volunteering and her niece and niece’s baby.
It is definitely my new Peruvian favorite! It’s a mix of different types of raw fish (octopus, squid and shrimp, among others) inside a cup filled with a mixture of milk, lime juice, red onion and who knows what else! It sounds totally weird and from the picture it does not look appealing at all, but this is one of the best things that I’ve eaten in my life!!!
During lunch, they both seemed to want to talk to me most about one thing: travel. They are both very passioonate about their dreams of travelling. Both of them very badly want to travel in the United States, and Carmen (friend from volunteering) dreams of seeing Greece one day. But two things hold them back, two things that anybody living in a smaller country is well aware of. 1. Travel visa 2. The weakness of their currency compared to that of the more developed world.
My personal view on travel is that everybody was born into a huge, magnificently varied world, and everybody has every right to see as much of it as they want. But although you do not choose which country you are born in, travel dreams are much less accessible to most of the rest of the world. To me, that is utter mierda (bad word in Spanish). Sitting there listening to my dear friend that has helped me accustom myself so easily into her culture, and who even insisted on paying the bill for lunch, even though my big fat US dollars go a lot further than her nuevos soles. I promised both of them a house and loads of hospitality when they travel to the U.S., although I warned that Ohio is not much to see. As for the visa, they told me that it costs them $200, which is A LOT for a Peruvian to pay, just to APPLY for a visa. From there, the U.S. government first has to investigate every detail of your entire life and all of your intentions, and from there you find out if you won the great lottery of entering the golden gates of ‘Murica. I’m not trying to come off as anti-US, I love my country, but there sure is a lot of… mierda.