I just climbed a mountain overlooking my town of Mache and surrounding caseríos – I am taking advantage of the morning sun and the warmth that it elicits to see the view of where I will be working for the next 2 years. It’s a beautiful challenge I am finally embarking on – I felt ready for this during training. From the top of the cerro/mountain, I can grasp the size and topography of the campo/countryside. I think I will retreat up to here when I need to gain perspective.
After talking to my new host-mom (Juliana) and her visiting sister, Betti, in town to pursue her negocios/business, I decided to follow Betti home to the chakra with her burro/mule, weighed down with this week’s goods. About a 40-minute walk outside of ‘downtown’ Mache, we climbed, passing by a newly arrived family’s home of a tarp, supported by bushelled paja/straw. This family of four with a daughter and son, is starting to make their living in the chakra. Approaching Betti’s home, she defended me from her 5 dogs – her ‘protection’. For some reason, I can’t escape packs of overly aggressive dogs. I talked to one volunteer in the south, and he expressed his satisfaction from getting a good square kick to a dog’s face while on a run, hmmm… need to build up my defenses. After strategically finding our footing through the barro/mud and the animal dung of her livestock, we were joined by her husband, also in his 60s/70s, with poor vision and a lame hand. After the polite normalities of open conversation, we ventured into her kitchen (my prime motive for coming) to see her cooking conditions, since she had previously referenced the smoke. Sure enough, in the low-ceilinged kitchen (I had to duck to be inside), the walls were pure black. She has a ‘stove’ of leña/wood (wood-fired stove) with no chimney and hardly any ventilation. Besides already being aware of Juliana’s (my host-mom) cooking conditions when she frequently uses her stove of leña (she also has a gas stove, which is more expensive to use), I now am aware of the cocina mejorada project no. 2 I would like to actualize – with many more to come, I am sure. This is why I am here.
I think most people are aware of or can detect the health hazards of their practices, but this is what they know, this is their custom. A significant portion of the population (not sure what percentage), have only received up to primary school level education – learning to communicate effectively to this group of individuals and comprehend what is being said will be crucial for the ensuing years.