It’s taken getting sick for the umpteenth time, making it to the latrine (sort of – I will spare the details), to realize I need to change my situation. I came to this final decision when cleaning up my bodily fluids with newspaper and bleach and feeling rather ungrounded, yet again, but this time not willing to accept it. I have been treated extremely poorly by many individuals in the Sierra town of where I work – the ‘professionals’ who work in the health post, municipality and schools. For being such an underdeveloped site, we do have these institutions, but rather a superficial representation of them – a most ominously, malformed skeleton of them. These institutions carry professionals brought in from other more developed areas/cities, and the majority of them (I will not say all of them) regard this place as the last place they would like to be in this world. But, because they need work, they need some sort of income, they get sent here, and are always in search of a better placement. So I get stuck working with people with the most pathetic attitude who could care less about the population they are serving. Again, I will not say this for everyone, and this isn’t how they act all the time, but for a good majority, and a good portion of the time, this is the case, and this is the crap I have to put up with.
As far as the functionality of it all… corruption runs rapid in the municipality (the local government). People lie, cheat and steal – and I guess this goes for most politicians. But, it has to be worse here because they can more easily get away with it? Especially when the grand majority of the adults here are uneducated or if educated, only up to the 5th grade of primaria (primary school). The money they do receive from the state, they invert into physical buildings – what is tangible. Obviously these physical devices of infrastructure serve nothing if they are not maintained or are lacking services within them. They utilize this spending to line their pockets (since they can more easily falsely report the cost of construction). For the amount of religious presence here (Catholicism and Evangelism) it’s rather disturbing how much corruption there is. Does a religious presence diminish what would be a little bit more of immorality? Besides the alcalde (mayor), who I definitely have words for, especially for how he treats females, those working in the municipality are in their early 20’s, likely because they can get paid dirt cheap, and probably so the alcalde can get away with more ‘activities’.
As far as school, kids are hardly in school. There are so many days off, fiestas, holidays, vacations, it’s ridiculous. And, when there even is school, teachers are sick, they just don’t show up, their transportation breaks down, etc. Aka, again, if there is a complete school day, hail to the heavens! Because the teachers are brought in from more urban sites (Otuzco – 1.5 hours away, or Trujillo ~3-6 hours away), again, they have little to no interest in staying, so right when the opportunity arises, they vanish. Extracurricular activites? Mmmm not so much. The current alcalde is getting into building schools, which sounds great, especially when kids have to walk over an hour to get to school, not have enough time to return home for lunch before having to go back to school, and they are extremely malnourished (making the extra exercise that much more taxing) – but not when selecting to build a school where only 7 kids can attend (all in different grades), and the teacher that is hired can’t even correctly teach the alphabet.
The health post has the same sort of game going on where all of them are from different places (primarily cities), have never had any experience or desire to work in a rural setting, and are constantly looking for better placement. They live here solo, while their families (spouses, kids, etc.) are in a different part of Perú. They are expected to serve as practitioners for all ailments, from the prostate to the kidneys, to the lungs, to the eyes (let’s keep going), since they are the only ones available. Least to say, there is a high turnover rate, and health professional are coming and going. It’s common for rural volunteers to see the cycle of perhaps 10 doctors in their site during their 2 years of service, and also experience times where there are no doctors so técnicos work as doctors... So far I have crossed paths with 4 doctors and also been here during a dry spell without any doctors. The funding here is so ridiculous also (we are part of the public healthcare system – Ministerio de Salud/Ministry of Health), that we can go months without any funds. How do we function? Good question. You can imagine that the sanitation practices are severely lacking…
We do have NGOs that come through every once in awhile that try to put in their temporary ploy of making the world better. It’s kind of like a whirlwind of an attempt which in this uneducated, slighted, unmotivated society. Typically no real sustainable, noticeable impact is made and accustoms people to expect free food, money, or things when these organizations sweep through, giving them less motivation for creating and working for their own improvement.
Perhaps I will spare you more details of this messed up world I am tangled in… I am definitely going through a low bout, experiencing negativity, cynicism, but am trying to learn how to pull myself out of it. Because that’s the challenge of it all right? Trying to figure out how to work in a place such as this… Constantly finding yourself saying, this isn’t working, so try this, and well, this isn’t working, try this, and this too isn’t working, so try this… and so on.
Ohhh, and in reference to the title, ‘exerting all my efforts’ – I feel like I have, by trying to take so many different approaches, that I am exhausted and rather need to recuperate. I am learning ways to make myself happy – like a volunteer recently said to me, which you hear over and over again, and which I thought was rather selfish before now, is that the most important thing you can do is make yourself happy. Only then can you draw more strength from your energy reserves. As a result, I am trying now not to work so much and take more time for myself. Will let you know how it goes… Still trying to change host families. Surely having a healthier home life will make my outlook much more positive and wholesome? Maybe to go so far as to say idealistic once again?