Thursday, July 22, 2010

Last Day in Yantalo

Today was our last day in Yantalo. As I write this we are on a bus headed for Lima. I was surprised how sad I was to leave. It is the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. I was also surprised to see Junior and Freddy at my house to say goodbye. Freddy was crying as I hugged him. “Te quiero ver profesional,” I told him. Junior, for the first time, didn't have a smile on his face and didn't make fun of me (He`s usually like a parrot- he repeats everything I say and laughs- except parrots don´t laugh). I will miss those kids. You know, I always thought that maybe these kids were coming to our english classes, our web design classes and everything else just because they were bored and didn't have anything else to do. I now realize that it was just because they wanted to hang out with us. I have to admit, sometimes they really tried my patience. I feel like now it was never really that hard to suffer through. This has been a really awesome time and I´ve gotten really close to the people.
Dr. Vasquez called us a couple days ago and said we are the best volunteers he´s ever had. That means a lot. I know we´ve worked really hard here, but I think what has made the biggest impression is that the nature of our work has dealt so heavily with people. We´ve lived with and learned from and taught them for months- most of the other volunteers have not been here very long and have worked on projects that are a little less personal- perhaps. Anyway- it still feels awesome to hear that from him. He seems like he can be kind of hard to please.
I´m off to visit my converts and friends in the rest of Perù now. It´s the end of one chapter and the beginning of another.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

July 5, 2010

I had a productive day today, although I didn't finish everything I set out to do. I was hoping that today I could finish my next physiology and anatomy lesson- which is supposed to be about the digestive and nervous system. I also wanted to write one of the papers for my cultural proofs class and do 50 pages of reading. I started on my presentation and did about 30 pages of reading, but I didn't start on my paper. I think the important thing is that I worked the whole day without stopping. We continued teaching about parasites in the colegio. I often fail to mention these day to day things that are part of our work here. I don't know why, but I guess since they have become such routine tasks I feel like there isn't much to report.
There are some exciting things that are happening with the parasite education and treatment, however. Linnea, Xochi and I are teaching the high school kids so they can then teach the younger primaria kids. They have come up with some great ideas so far. The most exciting thing for me is to see that the kids are taking part in the learning experience. I know that this will mean that they retain and apply more of what they learn here. Another exciting thing is that the kids came into the nurses office to get their names on the list so that on Wednesday they will get their first parasite cleansing pills. The government is sponsoring this project so all the kids in school get the parasite cleansing pills in the next month.
I continue working with the students from Rochester to finish their prostate cancer research. I was able to give the surveys to 5 men over 50 this evening. If we continue at this pace we can be done in the next couple days. It's exciting that we will be able to finish the whole population so quickly. There is a possibility that we may go to a smaller village just outside of Yantalo before we leave, but our data may be sufficient with the surveys we do here in town only.
I'm excited to continue working. I want to work hard this week because we have a fun trip planned for the weekend. Wish me luck, I want to be really productive in the next couple days.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Happy B-Day Mom!

Things have been going really well down here. I started a few new things this week. I'm now going door to door with my buddies Thilan and Viral and we're talking to the men over 50 about prostate health. I grew a beard (sparce) and a left the mustache (still sparce). Photos to follow. I also started working out with my new roomies (T and V) and we're going to get ripped! haha
In other news, my Mom's birthday is tomorrow! Let's make it a special day for her! Love you mom! I miss you!
This week the PE professor, Jorge Lucana started teaching the Anatomy and Physiology material in the school! Jenny and I are really excited that he's doing it himself. Next week we start on the nervous and digestive systems. Every time I have to prepare a lesson I learn to love it a little more. :)
I'd like to close with a scripture I've been thinking about lately.
Helaman 11:23
And in the seventy and ninth
year there began to be much strife.
But it came to pass that Nephi and
Lehi, and many of their brethren
who knew concerning the true points
of doctrine, having many arevelations
daily, therefore they did
preach unto the people, insomuch
that they did put an end to their
strife in that same year.

I want to be able to recieve that kind of light. There are a lot of distractions in the world that take our focus away from what is important- and cause strife (all kinds of problems) but if we know the true doctrine by filling ourselves with light, we can solve these problems.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

After a week of Fiestas...

It was awesome to have a week off. Tomorrow it´s back to the old grind, but I´m super excited about it!
I have had the last week to go to some fiestas, go camping and be a tourist here in moyobamba. Tomorrow I will start helping two of the medical students with their study of prostate cancer.
I would write some more, but I think that´s all I have time for right now.
Peace and love!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Today I found out that because of the Fiesta de San Juan tomorrow, there is no class. There isn´t class on Friday and the President of Peru also told the whole country to take off Monday and Tuesday.
I´ve been so busy lately, this is exactly what I need! I´m going to go visit a city that´s a few hours away and hit up some of the local fiestas this weekend.

PS- I´ve invented a new sport, I like to call it Yogacycling. Photo credit: Starla Awerkamp

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Heart Problems, Tingana and Parties

I vow to never let myself get atherosclerosis (if I can help it).

These last couple weeks we've been working with a new group of students from the University of Rochester Medical School. There are 5 girls and 2 guys who have come to do a study of the population. There are 3 studies: cardiovascular health, prostate health and cervical cancer detection (or health, I guess?). Anyway, most mornings and afternoons they hang out at the municipal building and take blood pressure, height, weight, waist size (in girth units) and then they have them fill out the surveys.
Dr. Vasquez gave us some education on a certain case of artherosclerosis. A guy came in with a chest x ray that showed an enlarged heart and a wall of plaque on his aorta. I remember seeing some of those huge hearts in the anatomy lab, and Dr. Vasquez says a normal heart should only occupy 1/3 of the chest cavity, as seen from a chest x ray. After talking to the gentleman he told us his doctor told him to change his diet and lifestyle years ago, but he didn't want to.
The sad thing is that tests like x-rays, mammograms and pap smears are all free here, but nobody in the "hospital" in Yantalo knows how to read any of these tests.
On a happier note, the clinic construction continues on schedule. Dr. Vasquez's hope is to have the first phase of the clinic all up and running in 1 year. They will start treating patients while they finish the second phase.
On Saturday we went to an amazing place called Tingana. This is a small stream that feeds into the Mayo river and we took a canoe up to a lodge and then went up the river to see the jungle in a way I've never seen before. There were monkeys and tropical birds. It was rad.
That night was the doctor's last night in Moyobamba with us so he invited us over to his hotel in Moyobamba and we had a band come play for us. Dr. Vasquez is 75 years old but he still knows how to cut a rug! It was really fun but I was dead tired.
Church was good, as always. I don't know if I mentioned this, but they have called me to serve in the young men's presidency! Cool huh? Anyway, we are working with 7 or 8 young men and trying to get them all active in church. We've already had an activity with them and we had 7 in attendance! :)
This is a special time. I just realized the other day that I'm halfway through this trip and I have a lot more I would like to do. I feel like the key to the work I do here is SUSTAINABILITY. I want my work to have a sustained impact, and I think by collaborating with the teachers to teach Physiology and English, spending time with the kids and making long lasting friendships I'll be able to have that impact.
Starla and I stayed up late talking about agency, among other things. There is so much to do and we will be most useful as we use our powers for good and influence others for the same. The scripture we discussed comes from 2 Nephi 9:51
"Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy. Hearken diligently unto me, and remember the words which I have spoken; and come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness."

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The doctor is in!

So the doctor is in town. We went to look at how things are going with the clinic.
Also, a new group of 8 students will be doing studies on cervical cancer, prostate cancer and cardiovascular health. They said I could work with them! I´m really excited about this!
Here´s a photo of me and Dr. Vasquez.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Clinic construction, Sex-Ed Classes etc.

So to give you all an idea of what´s up lately:
I´ve been going to the school everyday, meeting with the teachers and teaching things like sex-ed and physiology to the kids.
We went running the other day!
I made ceviche! (Raw fish with lots of lemon juice, onions and aji!)
I did a backflip off the diving board today!
I made up a song called: Run while you can! Her Mom looks like a Man!- it will come out on the solo project of the lead singer from Goodnight Molly! (the critically acclaimed, international sensation, rockinest band in the world!)

Love you guys. Peru is great. I am excited about the time passing because that means I´m that much closer to seeing my converts, but I´m also really happy working here. We will start some more public health projects next month, dealing with cervical cancer, prostate cancer and cardiac risks. The new clinic just had groundbreaking last week and things are coming along nicely. Dr. Vasquez, the one in charge of everything here, just got into town and he has a great vision of what can be done here in this town.


Photo: Zapote, the Mayo River
Here´s a little entry from my field journal:

5-26-10 Yantalo- Soritor
I think gringos are bad luck.
Today we went with the students from the colegio and some of the professors to Soritor for their soccer games. Our 10 year-olds lost the first soccer game, but we missed the first half because we were using internet and thought the game wasn't supposed to start until later on. It was raining hard by the time they finished and we sat down on the steps to wait for the start of the volleyball game. After the net was set up it looked like they would wait a while until the rain cleared up, but there were a few girls playing volleyball on the court. I took of my shoes and went to play with them. A couple minutes later Starla came to play with us as well. We had a good game going and we had about 12 kids playing with us until we had to leave for lunch.
Jenny ran into a mute crazy man in the restaurant. It is interesting that here in this part of Peru, the people tend to just leave crazy people to themselves. The person may be walking up and down the street for hours on end, babbling about something that no one understands, but people don't seem to care. There is a man like that in Yantalo who just walks up and down the street everyday, talking to himself. As he walks past the police station and the governor's house they may watch him for a couple minutes, but usually just leave him alone. Well, in Soritor, the man who came up to Jenny kissed her on the cheek, then started touching her hair and kissed her on the cheek again while she was eating lunch. He then started making hand-motions to communicate something to her, but I don't know what he meant. I stepped between them and told him to leave my girlfriend alone. He didn't seem to understand because he started hugging me. As I gently pushed him away he finally walked away from the table.
At the stadium for the afternoon games we watched the 12 year-olds finish with a score of 1-1. There were a group of girls hitting a volleyball around and I joined them like always. I enjoy communicating through sports because sometimes I think I can tell people a lot about my personality by playing with them without needing to talk. I feel like it is often more fun and more effective. We played for about an hour while we waited for the next team to play from Yantalo.
After we sat down to rest we were bombarded with questions from all these young kids we'd played with. Their favorite game was “Say _______ in English.” “Sing in English.” “Dance in English” etc. I have to admit, it was fun to be the object of attention for this group of kids. We took pictures with them and talked with them while Yantalo was soundly beaten by the Colegio Alfredo Tejada.
Maybe it was because we were Yantalo's bad luck charm, or maybe it was because I'd kept 15 kids captivated for an hour while I sang everything from the National Anthem to Billy Jean, but I left feeling like we were heroes for the kids in Soritor.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Saturday, May 15, 2010

1 week down!

This last week has been great. We are starting to realize what a large project this is that we are embarking on. The difficult part is that we have so much we COULD do, but we can only do SOME things. And we can do SOMETHING.
We may have expected to have a little more direction from supervisors. That´s not the case. What we do is up to us. Here are some of the concerns Yantalo has with public health (from the perspective of the Doctor Luz and the professors in the school).
1 Everyone needs to have insurance (this gives them access to vacunizations, nutrition programs and other government helps)
2 Parasites (a regular parasite cleansing process. Two pills every 3 months)
3 Nutrition (too much rice, potatoes and meat-not enough vegetables or fruits. Even though the jungle is a good place to grow fruits, the people normal grow cash crops like rice, coffee and other starchy foods)
4 Healing
5 Mouth Care
6 Sexual Health (the doctor estimates that at least 90% of the public has an STD. Many of the public, typically men, show no symptoms.)

We are working with the school nurse to teach at least some of these topics in the school each day during the children´s study hall hour. We are also beginning regular english classes every weekday afternoon for students and at night for adults.

Work in the hospital is a little slow sometimes. Jenny and I have helped admit a lot of the patients this week. She does the paperwork and I take vital signs. We will be going out to the smaller villages on Wednesdays and Thursdays to help the people who can´t come all the way to the hospital. Tonight we are in Moyobamba (the bigger town that is 15 km away from Yantalo) and we will be observing in the emergency room for the evening.

In other news: I am playing the guitar like a madman! When there is nothing better to do at night besides watch bugs (which isn´t all that bad!) I pull out old trusty (or young trusty, we´ve only been together for a month)and I like to practice. I love it!
ALSO- We had another friend join our team this week! Her name is Aisan (HAY-sun) and she is a medical student at U of Illinois. She´s way cool! She is really nice to the kids and loves being here. She will only be here for a week, so we want to make this an awesome experience for her.
Last night we got some coconuts from the tree in the backyard and made a coconut fruit salad. Ingredients: Coconut, passionfruit, mandarin oranges. Mmmm. (See photo)
Well homies, I´m out. I still gotta check facebook and look for some info for the classes I´m teaching this week.
Remember that you have a great circle of influence! There is so much that you can do to help the people around you if you just look up! I´m not the best at it, but I´m really learning a lot about service down here.
Peace and blessings!
·scratch the photo thing, I can´t get it to work. Photos coming soon!

Monday, May 10, 2010


I was supposed to bring sheets with me.
As I was leaving my house I looked in the closet and found something that looked like a sheet.
I pulled it out of my bag last night and found out it was only half a sheet.
So last night I slept with a piece of sheet. :)

Yesterday was our first full day in Yantalo. We found out this morning what we will actually be doing, working at the hospital admitting patients, teaching english and physiology in the school. I´m stoked. I feel so glad that we´re going to be doing something useful and that we´ll get to work with a lot of kids.

I gotta split. Peace homies! Hasta luego!

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Hola Homies,
I'm here in good ol' Peru once again! This time, I'm doing some work with a nonprofit group out in the jungle in the Amazon. The place is called yantaló, which is about 15-20 min from any major city and has no phone or internet. I'm going to be working with a doctor at the local clinic and doing some research and public education with a few universities that are coming down. I'm stoked on it!
So far, I've made some good friends. Jenny and Starla are my buddies from the Y that I'm traveling with and I met some young filmmakers from Denmark while I was in the airport. A guy named Dr. Luis Vasquez runs the organization and he introduced us to some young medical students who will be joining us in the journey later on after they get done with finals and whatnot. I have also been praying to have missionary opportunities and have already been able to answer many questions about the church and give away a Book of Mormon! Hooray!
As I type I am sitting in our hotel on the beach in a place called Huanchaco. We are still a 13 hour bus ride from our final destination, so we'll head out in time to be there in the morning on Mother's day.
So far the goal is to take at least 1 photo a day and update this thing about once a week. If you have any questions or want me to post something up here, let me know. we're in for an awesome journey!
I'd like to close with a quote from Robert Chambers' book, Whose Reality Counts:
"Power deceives and exceptional power deceives exceptionally"
Our reality is defined by those in power. Here in Peru, reality for the lower class is defined by the upper classes. The upper class determines the standard of living, what is acceptable, what is "cool" and too many other things. This happens everywhere. It reminds me a lot of D&C 121, and we need to be careful, especially as Americans, that we don't abuse the power that we have.
In addition to D&C 121, I like to think of Moroni 7. Because after everything else passes away, when we, the wealthy, have no more material possessions, Charity never faileth.
So that's one of my goals this trip. To make it less about things and more about people; loving, helping and serving them.

Here's some surfer dudes with me and Starla at the beach in Miraflores (Lima).