lunes, 11 de abril de 2011

What if (03/16/2010)

What if I told you you could be doing anything right now, at this point in time, without inhibition. In many ways this is possible in the States – at our finger tips we have a wealth of resources and opportunities. But, for some reason so many are unhappy and get stuck into the rut of pursuing something they realistically don’t desire pursuing. Here, there isn’t a wealth of opportunity. You are most likely born into poverty, and depending on your situation at home, are malnourished and have to walk over an hour to get to school, one-way straight up a mountainside. Your options are taking care of animals (which would be lucky if your family has any) and/or working in the chacra/the fields, growing potatoes. Fortunately, if born in this generation in rural Perú, there are more schools (and depending where you live, access to these schools). There may be the possibility of making it through primary and secondary school, and if available, attend an institute to become a técnico in agropecuaria (a tech in agriculture) or receive training in accounting. I guess receiving a title in either of these two may lead to some opportunities for jobs, but realistically speaking, it most likely would lead to, well, working in the chacra. For accounting, there is the possibility of working in the municipality, but this could be a course, depending on who the mayor is and how fiscally responsible he is… and well, this is kind of looking glim…

Unfortunately, if looking for opportunity, you would have to leave here (rural Perú) to attend a college/university, and that’s if the educational training here was adequate, and for some pure strike of luck – your family has enough financial backing to send you to a more urban area where the real opportunity is, or has a family member already there to host you. And sadly, if you were to pursue a career, such as a health career, usually deemed as a more esteemed pathway in many places (and typically has a rotation in the rural areas when you start out) – be it técnico (perhaps the equivalent of a licensed practical nurse/LPN combined with a pharmacist), an obstetriz (similar to a nurse practitioner, and specializing in maternal care), a nurse, or doctor, you get paid a ridiculously small sum for a monumental amount of work. For example, if working for the public health care system, el Ministerio de Salud/MINSA, a técnico may only get paid about 500-600 soles/month, a nurse or obstetriz 900-1200 soles/month, and a doctor 2000-2400 soles/month. Now divide this by 3 to convert to US dollars. Doesn’t leave much opportunity to excel does it? And many work 7 days a week, from 8am to 8pm. Apart from this, they are on call for emergencies during the night. One example of a week in Mache for the doctor was being called out to emergencies every night in addition to his regular work hours – one night out to the town of Nuevo Paraiso (1.5 hours) for a patient with severe pregnancy pains, the next night for a twin birth, the next night for a guy who tried to commit suicide with pesticides, and the following, for a 1-year-old child with meningitis. Each emergency lasted a good part of the night and at times resulted in having to bring the patient to an urban area 3-6 hours away. But, remember, the next day, he has to be up and ready to work at 8am. The health post personnel do get off 5 days a month… if that counts for anything, to visit their families that typically live in more urban parts. And fortunately, after working for a significant number of years, acquire 15-30 days leave per year…

Health personnel could seek to work for the private sector of ESSALUD, but you have to have connections and money to enter the game. It supposedly is a very corrupt system… However, you could get paid twice as much…

The health post personnel kind of chuckle inside, or really try to fathom what it’s like in the outside world. There is a NGO that recently started coordinating with us, that brings in pre-medical students from the U.S. to get some sort of introspect to what the medical life is here, in a developing/part third-world country (I don’t really think Perú is – parts of it rather). So far, from my experience, a lot of these kids don’t speak Spanish, and they come in with their Western attitude of middle to higher class, to watch, somewhat impatiently, the spectacle of poverty with campo (field/country) folk coming into a building made of real construction materials to receive healthcare. They are dressed very well, with fancy cameras clipped to the outside of their bags, speak English and loudly, laugh and joke and point at the cute old woman bent in half because of severe osteoporosis and just overall malnourishment. I’m being very crude, but it’s a spectacle and the health post personnel have a hard time fathoming the purpose of this entourage. And how these kids could afford to hop on a plane, to come here, and just observe to gain this ‘experience’.

Walking to Vista Alegre (a caserío/ small town) today (up a mountainside – but really the vista/view is alegre/happy), I was accompanied by initially two little girls, later to also be joined by two boys. I have to say I was a bit ecstatic to cross paths with one of the little boys – one of them named Brian Cleyver. ‘Brian’ is pretty cute when said with a Spanish accent. I had met Brian in the past when taking my kids from the classes I offered during their ‘vacation’ on a hike up to the top of the cerro/hill/ridge. We ran into him when at the top, looking for the ‘Pozos de Madre’ – supposedly there are a couple of small holes that are profoundly deep on top of this mountain ridge. Brian, who introduced himself to my previously as Cleyver (having two names can be complicated – depending if there are inconsistencies in what people call you), was traipsing across the chacra, with clothes that had been sewn and resewn and resewn again, and shoes, too large, very well worn with toes fully exposed and with random strings for shoe laces. I could immediately detect his innate curiosity and sincere good spirit. He immediately assisted us in our search for the ‘pozos de madre’. He was impressively knowledgeable about the plant life and scat of different animals we came across. He also aided in the search for an herb for tea – panisara. He ended up making it to one of my classes in the following week, but couldn’t thereafter because of the work he had to complete in the chacra.

I had returned to his home on another occasion while conducting my diagnostic to see what the living conditions were – although I didn’t know he belonged to this particular family. Sadly when entering the ‘kitchen’, there was a cat warming itself, on top of the burning leña/wood stove, and two of their five to seven dogs, were drinking from the same baldes/buckets that the kids were also drinking from (as an aside, when doing my diagnostic, and asking about health problems, his dad responded that he has problems with his nerves, in his left arm and leg and pain in the lower part of his head; I observed some gnarly scars and asked him what he thought the cause was… he responded that he had been struck by lightning 2 years ago! Makes sense since he lives right on top of a cerro/mountain. And he definitely looks like something struck him…).

In my walk to Vista Alegre, I conversed with the four kids and found it really delightful, I was especially excited since I was starting to better understand young kids – a difficult Spanish to understand (of youth and those that live in the campo). Brian was asking me how I arrived here from my country (by what means of transportation), and speaking of an airplane to go from the States to Lima, a bus from Lima to Trujillo, and then a micro (smaller version of a bus) from Trujillo to Mache, and here I was walking from Mache to Vista Alegre – something very mystical to him. He wanted to know what other countries were ‘up there’ by the United States. I had brought an umbrella that had been sent from the States and he was absolutely intrigued by it, how it worked (differently from the umbrellas that you could buy in a bigger town near by), and I took a picture of him. He, of course, then, wanted to learn how to take pictures. When we got to where I was hosting a town meeting that day, I taught him, and he made a spectacle for the next hour, taking about 60 pictures, while we were waiting for those from Vista Alegre to arrive (I am working on punctuality – would be helpful if people had watches). I’m thinking of bringing a whistle with me and blowing it as I’m rising to Vista Alegre to let people know it’s meeting time. I’m hoping we can get financial support to install some sort of bell to advise the ‘town’ it’s time for a meeting.

After having a rather successful meeting with the health promoter, touching on ‘caca-a-boca’/poop-to-mouth diseases, personal hygiene, and hygiene of the house and public places, I listened to music while descending the mountain to return to Mache and came onto a sound-bite/ people talking as part of an intro to a song in my music player, about what people wished they would have focused on more before passing/dying.

Some people went around interviewing dying patients, and not one person said they regretted not making more money or working harder – they all seemed to say their regrets were not spending more time with the people they love and not traveling more and relating more to the world and to the planet.

How liberating would it to be doing what you want to be doing, to pursue what drives and speaks to you?