Peru (part two)

I finally got to Moyobamaba. What an incredible time! While I was there my host family took in a newborn baby that had been abandoned by its mother at the airport. I looked after the baby and named her Meredyth, I will never forget her very first smile. The family sent me a picture a few years ago, she is now in her early teens and very beautiful!

As part of my medical experience I accompanied the nurses on two village trips. Each one lasted about a week. The first was a road trip, after the first day we came to the end of the road and the rest of the trip was on foot through the jungle. At each village, we would be met by a guide from the next village who would come with a donkey for our gear and lead us back to his home village. We ran clinics and health workshops at each location. I always had my Oxford handbook of clinical medicine with me… occasionally it was helpful! One of those times was when I was called to see and old gentleman who had severe Parkinson’s Disease, I wrote a prescription for the correct medication and realising that even if he found someone to do the two day treck to the nearest pharmacy, he would be unlikely to afford any of the medication, I decided to pray for him. The nurses returned the following month to find that he was entirely symptom free, and no, he hadn’t been able to obtain the medication. I was glad I prayed. Many of the villages we visited, including the one where this gentleman lived, were displaced communities due to earth quakes and the activities of the Shinning Light group.

The second trip was by river in a small boat that had a motor and oars which sometimes came in handy. This trip took us in to remote parts of the jungle where we visited and cared for the Aguaruna people, one of the aboriginal tribes of the region. I remember stopping at the bank on one occasion and being welcomed by a carpet of indigo blue butterflies about the size of the palm of my hand. What a breathtaking site! It was on this trip that I was served the only meal ever, that I truly have not been able to stomach! I was faced with a shallow bowl of clear “soup” with two fat grubs each the size of my thumb floating in it. I couldn’t do it! The nurse I was with had brought her puppy along with her, that and the fact that our host had left us to eat alone meant that I didn’t have to suffer long, though I went hungry, the puppy was happy!

One thing I observed during my time in Peru was the guinea pigs. They keep guinea pigs like other people keep chickens, and they taste remarkably similar too! I have always thought guinea pigs to have rough and scrawny coats, especially when compared to hamsters or rabbits. But not in Peru, the ones there are plump and cuddly with wonderfully soft coats! Go figure!

I became conversationally fluent in Spanish during my time in Peru. But this I do regret, I didn’t take the time to explore the Inca city and Mount Machu Picchu.

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Peru

Peru 1994

As part of my medical studies we got to spend an 8 week medical elective, anywhere in the world. I chose to head to Peru. It had been my dream to get to Latin America one day, one of the reasons I went to Spain was to learn the language in preparation. So I packed my bags and headed out to work with a Latin Link Dr in a town called Moyobamba, in the northern part of the country, on the east side of the Andes.

On my way through, I spent a couple of nights in Lima with a team member there. She took me to visit one of their friends who was interned in Lima prison. He had once been in the drug business but had come to faith during his last internment, however some drugs had been found on a bus whilst he was on it and he had been imprisoned without trial, that was a year previously. This was my first time inside a prison, he took great delight in spooking me on our way to his cell by coming up from behind unannounced.

The road to the prison took us past the city rubbish dump. This was the first of many developing world city rubbish dumps I was to see.  I looked wide eyed at the make shift shacks tottering on the edge of dump, the kids playing on the mounds of rubbish, or no, wait, they were scrounging for food and bits of scrap metal and plastic that could be sold. A whole community living on the dump and scraping sustenance from city refuse, whilst plumes of fumes, smoke and steam rose from the smouldering heaps.

I don’t recall if it was Peru or Guatemala, but one of those places, someone took me to see the poor man’s cemetery. It was a bit like an outdoor library, instead of books though, coffins drawers. Imagine row upon row of small doors a foot and a half square, stacked 5 or 10 high. Some with little bunches of old flowers on them. If a family was able to scrape together a small fee they could pay for their relative’s remains to be held (sealed) in one of these ‘drawers’ for 5 years, 10 years, depending on the sum paid. Ladders were available for visitors to reach the doors of their loved one’s burial draw. After the time had elapsed if no further fee was paid the body would be exhumed and disposed of, I don’t recall how.

After Lima, I headed off to Moyobamba. It was this journey that I disembarked at the wrong air strip!! Thankfully a small boy asked me where I was going, realised I had gotten off at Tarrapoto which was the stop before my final destination, and went running across the run way waving at the plane which had already turned around and was revving its engines!! They wheeled the stairs across the airstrip and I sheepishly climbed up and took my seat again! Otherwise it would have been a lonely, scary night at the airport or worse until the next flight came through the following day!