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.