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Entries tagged with: "lima"

Breakfast of Champions

Aug 22, 2011 by Cory Ventres-Pake in Latin America

Those lines on the street? Just a suggestion. And the one-way arrows? They must have been painted in the wrong direction!

I spend an hour every morning mesmerized by the traffic. Cars, buses, taxis, and mototaxis weave in and out of the lines, speed up and slow down as they please, and miraculously stop just at the right time. Every day, we travel about two-thirds of the sprawling city of Lima, watching the neighborhoods change while dancing the traffic waltz. Sometimes I plan out my day during the commute; other times I just stare out the window, hoping to take it all in before I'm gone.

Sometimes I’m combing my hair in the mirror when the bell rings. Other times I’m in the kitchen, snapping the lid on the Tupperware I bring for lunch when the call comes: 6:50 am, my ride has arrived.

I arrive at the office at 8 am and prepare the lesson plan for the day with my supervisor. We run programs at the community center from 9 to 11 am and again from 3 to 5 pm, working with 12 to 35 kids. The youth health promoters provide support in daily activities, in addition to designing trainings for children and their parents about health-related themes.

Every day at snack time, we sing the champion song for the kids who finish all their food. I extended the meaning of "championhood" to all small victories in life. For example:

  • I was picked every single time in "heads-up seven-up."
  • I managed to eat fried liver twice for a snack, and convince my school-age companions that not only is it my favorite food, but they also love it!
  • Small children jump up and down and scream my name whenever I walk through the community, “Cory MORY cory MORY cory MORY!!!”

I am tired at the end of the day when I get in the car to start my commute home. I watch the houses change as the city moves by slowly in the night traffic. When I step out at my apartment, only the dust on my shoes is left to convince me that this is not just the dream of a champion.

"When in Rome, Do as the Romans," but Not without Some Forethought!

Aug 01, 2011 by Rebecca Neubardt in Latin America

Look! Guinea pigs!

The other day, I went all around Carabayllo with a representative from the Department of Education to visit ecological schools in preparation for a report about recycling in the area. One elementary school had all sorts of cute animals, like the cuyes above. Unfortunately for the little cuy-nea pig, he is not only adorable, but tasty enough to be a typical Peruvian dish. Seeing as how I have broken my vegetarianism since arriving to Lima, I may be getting to know Señor Cuy quite intimately soon...no disrespect to the four guinea pigs I had as pets growing up. Actually, along with the chicken feet, intestine, and beef heart I've tried, opening my mind and mouth to guinea pig is just one small attempt at showing respect to my Peruvian friends and acquaintances.


I can't count the number of times people here have generously offered me heaping plates of steaming hot homemade food. During my first few weeks in Peru, I would politely decline the meat dishes, no matter how good they smelled. I was determined to keep my vegetarianism as I had last summer in the equally carnivorous country of Spain, even if I had to be inconvenienced, inconvenience others, and explain what I would and would not eat a thousand times. Strangely enough, it was actually rewarding to be a vegetarian living in Spain. I took the seemingly endless hunks of blood sausage shoved in front of my face and the puzzled looks as I smiled and said no thanks as opportunities to share my ideas about vegetarianism.


On the other hand, after talking over and over again with ex-vegetarian American volunteers and meat-loving Peruvians, I came to understand that eating meat in Peru is compounded by the question of respect of the local culture as an American. In Madrid, the people cooking and I, the meat declining side-dish eater, were from wealthy countries and often from the same socioeconomic class. Here in Peru, I am again the white American outsider, but there is a greater difference in positions of privilege than there was in Spain. Denying the meat dish that a community health promoter from Carabayllo has prepared for the group, including me as a volunteer, can potentially be received as an embarrassment or a waste in the face of poverty. I don’t want anyone here to think that claiming vegetarianism is an excuse to avoid the promoter’s “questionable” kitchen hygiene. I don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable if I enter their home and cannot eat the food they’ve made. And I certainly didn’t want my pride to suffer any longer as a long-standing member of the Clean Plate Club every time a bowl was filled and passed to me personally before I could stop the ladle from even entering the pot.


I admittedly still had trouble making the final decision to start eating meat after a two-and-a-half-year vegetarian stint, but I’m satisfied for the most part now. In a way, it’s all balanced out. It may seem that I have temporarily given up some values, but it's been in exchange for developing other ones. While I’m here, respecting Peruvian culture (and people’s time, resources, and efforts at welcoming me into their culture) have taken precedence in my life over rejecting meat for it's environmental impacts and frequent disregard for workers' rights. I can find other ways to maintain my commitment to those issues while still participating in as many aspects of life in Peru as I can in the relatively short time I'm living here.

Un abrazo,

Hi, My Name Is American Volunteer

Jul 10, 2011 by Rebecca Neubardt in Latin America

Hey there everyone!

The above picture is from our third day with Socios En Salud. Cory and I are giving a presentation to a group of community health promoters about the environment, focusing on how they can plant trees and veggies in their homes. In the past four weeks, I have given several presentations to both women and youth community health promoters, covering various environmental topics.

Interestingly enough, it often feels like my role as an (white, upper-middle class, semi-college-educated) American volunteer, despite being 19 and a half years old and an expert in nothing, automatically makes me capable to be an authority and a bearer of knowledge to community members and leaders here. Yet, contrasted with mornings spent cutting, pasting, taping, coloring, photocopying, formatting, cutting, pasting, and taping and cutting some more, I have learned that being a volunteer here means doing whatever needs to be done, no matter how under or over-qualified you might be. The time and resources I have as a volunteer allow me to do some of the work that community members or Socios employees might not be able to complete as quickly among all the other responsibilities they have.

But, this experience has never represented one-sided "helping." The reciprocal nature of the volunteer-Socios relationship has been clear since the day I arrived. (Quick shout-out to my Intergroup Dialogue crew, my Grassroots Community Development class, and the Community-Based Learning folks for creating safer spaces for dialogue about reciprocity and identity!) Although I sometimes hold the unofficial position of trainer, thinker, and talker, I have already learned far more from the people I work with than I have taught them. Whether it’s by chatting with a six-year-old at the community center, or by sitting in on one of the health promoters’ meetings, every day brings new perspectives, ideas, skills and information.

Hasta la próxima amigos!

Besos, abrazos y más abrazos,


Introductions: Rebecca Neubardt '13

May 27, 2011 by Rebecca Neubardt in Latin America

Hi there! My name is Rebecca Neubardt and I'm a rising junior, class of 2013. I'm studying Spanish and I'm also on the pre-health track. I'm originally from White Plains, New York, and this summer I'm heading to Lima, Peru, for an internship with the health NGO Socios En Salud/Partners In Health. Fun perk: I'll be living and working with another Moho and friend, Cory Ventres-Pake '13! We will be developing an educational curriculum for the cultural centers that Socios En Salud runs in "urban shantytowns" outside of the capital. This is the first year that Mount Holyoke is sending students to work with Socios En Salud, so we're excited to see where this partnership takes us! As an avid baker (and eater), I will also be reporting on my adventures with cookies, breads, and muffins. If anyone has some good recipes, please send them my way!

Ciao! Besos y abrazos!