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I’m going to Peru in January: What on Earth am I thinking…?

Yeh, so I’m going to Peru. And I am not going there to visit ancient Incan sites and pick up some cheap alpacha hats. I am joining a group of engineering students and their professor (and a few other volunteers), and we will be traveling up into several remote Andean villages to work in partnership with the people there to install solar panels (to power vaccine fridges, emergency radios, etc.), install water systems (so villages can have potable water for the first time ever), and to bring assistive tech devices for disabled individuals. Etcetera. The list of proposed activities boggles the mind. How could so much be accomplished in only two weeks?

Well, I am told that once we are there, we will have to be flexible and will find that some projects will get stalled and others will arise that are unplanned. The Village Empowerment Project has been working in partnership with villagers in Peru for over ten years, making two trips a year. Students work on projects stateside to help fill identified needs in Peru. Then, some of those students actually travel to Peru to install their systems and learn how to adapt and modify on location if their designs do not work. Flexibility is key.

And what is an English Professor like myself doing on such a trip? Yeh, I’ve been wondering that, too! I was asked by the engineering professor to join them in January in order to help participants (mostly the engineering students) to reflect more broadly and deeply on the significance and implications of their service-learning experience. We English types are pretty good at that sort of thing. Also, I am going to help document the experience by recording various interviews and sounds along the way, in hopes of creating a series of radio essays.

I have also just been asked to work with one of the students more closely. She needs one more General Education course to graduate in the spring and has no room in her schedule to take another course in spring term. She would have to miss the Peru trip and stay home and take a January Gen Ed course if I didn’t agree to take her on as a student. I don’t mind, though, as I am doing some reading anyway about Peruvian women, and so it’s no big amount of trouble to supervise the student as well and get her some credit for a Gender Studies course.

I’ve begun my search for texts in earnest and I can’t wait to begin reading. Just a few of the titles that appeal to me: The Call of God: Women Doing Theology in Peru by Tom Powers, Sellers and Servants: Working Women in Lima, Peru by Ximena Bunster and Elsa M. Chaney, Fire from the Andes: Short Fiction by Women from Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru edited by Susan Benner and Kathy Leonard, and The Gift of Life: Female Spirituality and Healing in Northern Peru by Bonnie Glaser-Coffin. I’m sure I’ll be sharing more on those later once I begin reading.

So, what on earth am I thinking…? Well, I am scared, excited, hopeful, worried, and contemplative. I keep thinking that in some yet unforseen way this Peru trip will enhance what I am doing with Grandma’s book. I really don’t have a clue why I think that. I mean, these are pretty distinctly different activities…but I still feel so completely sure that some connection will arise, that some change in me will occur, that something deeply significant is about to happen to me and I need to let it occur. Maybe this is part of grieving — gaining a radically new perspective? Maybe I’ll be gaining insight into what it’s like to live on the edge economically, as Grandma’s family had to do during the Great Depression? Maybe what I read in preparation for the journey will teach me something important about my own writing? I’ve tried to figure out why I feel so compelled to do this and why I feel so sure it relates to Grandma’s book. I still haven’t got a clue. But I’m going to Peru in January. And that’s that.

11 Responses

  1. That sounds like a very interesting project (the Peru trip). Think you’ll be able to access WordPress there 🙂

  2. Yeah, wouldn’t that be cool…bloggin at 12,000 ft in a village with no running water or electricity?! The lack of creature comforts is one of the things I am scared about, but I’m gonna go anyway.

    Thanks for checking in!

  3. Have some fun while in Peru… I got here a week ago from Utah and loving it !

  4. Thanks, Carla! I am psyched for my trip. I know it will mostly be work-related and that is why I am going, but I also hear there will be a little time for sight-seeing, etc. Plus, the views, I know, will be wonderful. No matter that I’ll see those vistas while helping to install water filtration systems and solar panels.

    Have a great trip!

  5. I would like to see a continuation of the topic

  6. Hi, Maximus,

    You will get plenty more on this, I’m sure. The Peru trip has nearly taken over my life at present and I expect to write an update soon. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. so, i bet you’re back from peru already? how was it?
    did you like it?
    i hope so, it is one of the most beautiful countries on earth, it has everything…more people should know about it…
    hope you had fun

  8. Hi, Sandra,

    Yes, I’m back now and it was an incredible trip! You can read more about the trip by clicking on “Peru” at the right sidebar under categories. I wrote over 15,000 words about the trip while I was in S. America.

    Thanks for stopping by my site 🙂

  9. i’m glad you liked it, our country is one of the most beautiful countries in the world…it has everything!!!!!!!!
    i hope you tell everyone about it…
    peru should be more promoted in the world…
    viva mi peru

    Thanks for commenting about it
    go back to peru someday…be part of it

  10. Hahaha i really love your words about peru…it’s true..in many places in lima and the whole country there is no running water…or WARM water yeahhhhh
    that’s a sad reality…
    anyway..we peruvians are really used to cold showers…or freezing would be better?
    and you wouldn’t die from drinking shower water hahaha so no painful death to worry about
    definitely you’ve visited the real RURAL areas in peru…which i think the government should help more instead of turning them more dependable of ..the government!
    anyway….lets resume…where was i?
    dogs…haha yeah fleas are an issue. not everywhere of course, in most places in lima we keep our dogs healthy and happy jiji
    lights…buses(combis)…wow i haven’t experienced that in two years now, since i left peru…i think i miss it! haha
    you went to el agustino!! my goodness…yeah places like that (sadly) are pretty dangerous and to be honest..never been there and don’t plan to…
    however, i love my peru with all my heart, and i hope to see it again….soooooooon
    i’m glad you had those experiences(though i know you didn’t enjoy them that much), that’s how part of our country lives. and hope it to change…oue coutry deserves more than that

    also, i’m glad you took home a little piece of our vast culture…which will never be revealed completely…it’s just HUGE!!!

    thanks a lot for your reviews over it…l
    viva el peru

  11. Thanks, Sandra! I agree that Peru is a wonderful country and worth visiting. My travels took me to a very different part of Peru from what typical tourists visit, but it’s a big and wonderful country to visit for fun. I share your enthusiasm!

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