“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.” -Eleanor Roosevelt
“The mystery of life is not a problem to be solved; it is a reality to be experienced.” -Art Van Der Leeuw
On Monday morning, I was picked up at 9:30am again for another tour with Viator. We started the morning visiting a local market in Villa El Salvador, a district of Lima that is considered to be one of the city’s shanty towns. The tour guide and I picked up some breakfast food, as we were invited by a local community leader to have breakfast at her home.
Once we purchased bread, meat, cheese, and palta (avocado), we made our way further into Villa El Salvador, specifically to Bello Horizonte. Our host had a warm, delicious quinoa drink prepared for us upon our arrival, and we spent the morning discussing local “scary” stories or childhood fables, as well as difficulties that this individual faces when advocating for members of her community and ways to improve her community as a whole.
Viator provides Villa El Salvador with funding that helps support community projects, in addition to completing community service within the town, as well as other towns without sufficient resources. We walked around the district and continued talking about some of the dire needs that the community faces. In some of the pictures below, you will notice yellow stairs that lead to most of the houses within the town. Years ago, locals had to walk up sharp rocks (that often ended up cutting through their shoes) in order to get to their houses, as their were no stairs or set paths.
Many women fell on their way up the rocks, and sadly enough, many of these women were pregnant and ended up losing their babies. When a local political candidate stopped by the town a few years ago, he asked what the locals needed most. They responded by saying a better way to get to their homes. Once elected, the official made sure that stairs (known as the famous “yellow stairs”) were provided throughout the town. While the situation has improved significantly from what it once was, there are still areas in the town without stairs, leaving many locals continuing to walk up dangerous, sharp rocks. The town continues to have needs that are not being met, especially ever since the devastating huayco ( mflood) hit Peru in March, which has left many other cities in need of government resources as well.
After the tour concluded, I stopped by Parque Kennedy in Miraflores, a beautiful park named in honor of President John F. Kennedy. From there, I walked over to El Mercado Indios, a local artisan market. Keeping in mind my flight tonight was scheduled to leave at midnight, I had plenty of time to make my way through the city. Following El Mercado Indios, I took a tour of Huaca Pucllana—impressive ancient ruins from the Wari culture, which was built around 500 A.D.
After the tour, I returned to Barrancos to take in the artistic sites, and then returned to my hotel, where I enjoyed dinner before finally making my way over to the airport for my (delayed) flight. Touring the different districts of Lima these past few days was truly enjoyable, especially since each district offers something unique and exciting. However, regardless of where you go, the locals continue to remain humble, kind, warm, and extremely welcoming, which is always incredible to experience.
As I get ready to make my way to the airport now (even though by the time I publish this, it will likely be a few days from now), my experience in Peru is one that I will definitely cherish for years to come. But over the next few days, I’ll be sure to write about my “closing remarks” and highlights of the trip. So for now, it’s not goodbye. It’s more of I need to make my flight, so I’ll pick back up with where I left off tomorrow.
On Thursday (of last week), we returned to three different schools to observe whether or not any changes had been made in the classroom following the workshops we provided throughout the past few weeks. While some classrooms continued to have difficulties gaining the attention of students, other classrooms were thriving with participation, motivation, and passion on behalf of the teachers. It’s truly incredible to see such a small difference taking place, and we can only hope that these students will feel a greater level of support in the classroom setting, since so many of them lack the support they need and deserve in their households.
On Friday, we had our Spanish Grammar course, followed by a new experience that myself and one of the other students are just beginning. Today, we began a group for adolescent males at a site that provides meals to children of women (many of whom experienced domestic violence), as well as a safe space where they can play, do homework, do crafts, or just have socialize with friends and community members. Since there are no male workers or volunteers on site, myself and another male from our program began a group for adolescent males, which will focus on providing psychoeducation regarding healthy interpersonal relationships, feelings of anger, aggression, and how to manage them in a healthy manner, as well as effective communication skills.
While there is a great need to focus on possible trauma and situations that these children and adolescents have experienced, unfortunately, due to timing, it wouldn’t be fair to begin therapy and return to the States shortly after. Therefore, we can only hope that these groups will provide these teenagers with a greater level of support, as well as beneficial information about the aforementioned topics.
This afternoon (Monday), we had our weekly meeting with a group of local women and family members in El Porvenir that I spoke about in prior posts. Each week, two students from the program are responsible for teaching the group members relaxation and emotional regulation techniques for them to utilize at any given moment and teach others in their community. This week focused on psychoeducation regarding anger and ways that anger can manifest and build up if not properly released.
Due to gender roles and societal expectations, in many cases, women are not “supposed” to experience any other feelings aside from sadness (because of course men can only be angry and women can only be sad). For this reason, it’s so important to discuss and normalize feelings of anger because without doing so, it would likely continue to remain an unspoken topic that women “should not” discuss. Throughout the next week, we’ll place more of a focus on how to release such feelings in a positive and healthy manner, now that these feelings have been normalized and accepted.
After the group, we drove into Trujillo for our Psychology in Peru class. During the class, we each participated in Biodanza, “a system of self-development that uses music, movement and positive feelings to deepen self-awareness. Biodanza seeks to promote the ability to make a holistic link to oneself and one’s emotions and to express them.” Biodanza, originating from the Greek word bio (life) and danza (dance in Spanish), translates to the dance of life. The purpose of Biodanza is to focus on human integration, organic renewal, affective re-education and relearning of the original functions of life. Its methodology is to induce integrative experiences through music, singing, movement, and situations of group encounter.
Biodanza has five main tenants including: 1) Vitality: Increased joy of life, vital momentum (energy available for action), motor integration, neurovegetative balance. 2) Sexuality: Awakening the source of desire, increased pleasure, connection with sexual identity, and decreased sexual repression. 3) Creativity: Ability to express, innovate, and construct. 4) Activity: Ability to make connections with other people through love, friendship, altruism, and empathy. 5) Transcendence: Connection with nature and feeling of belonging to the universe.
Participating in Biodanza was truly an eye-opening and enlightening experience. Seeing as not everyone may be able to verbally express themselves the way they may like, being able to express oneself through natural and fluid movements in a safe and accepting group environment may be a beneficial alternative—especially when “talk” therapy is considered taboo in many cultures.
“It’s only when you risk failure that you discover things. When you play it safe, you’re not expressing the utmost of your human experience.” -Lupita Nyong’o
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”
Yesterday, my brother, sister, and I participated in the Miami Half Marathon for the second year in a row. We wanted to run in an attempt to raise money and awareness for Misioneros Del Camino—a cause that is very important to us all. After months of training, the big day had finally arrived! And go figure, it just so happened to be the coldest day of the year here in South Florida (which we were very thankful for).
We woke up at 4:00 in the morning to get some last minute carbs and protein in for breakfast, and made our way over to the American Airlines Arena, where the race was set to begin at 6:00am. When we arrived, we walked over to our assigned corral, and were in the company of 25,000 runners from over 80 countries!
Running throughout South Beach, Downtown Miami, and Brickell was invigorating, and the sights were incredible! What I enjoyed most about the event was the amount of individuals on the sidelines and all throughout the streets who cheered us on. Complete strangers spent their entire morning motivating us to keep on running. It was absolutely beautiful, and it made the event even more memorable. And running alongside thousands of individuals from all over the world, and working together to reach a common goal by pushing one another forward was incredible. After 12 full weeks of training and 173.06 miles completed, we crossed the finish line and were finally ready to rest!
This experience was definitely one to remember, and seeing how many loved ones came together to help support our cause has left me speechless. We were able to raise over $2,700 these past few weeks, which will help provide four children special education and daily therapies for an entire year—all for free at Misioneros Del Camino! Thanks to everyone’s help, we have been able to positively affect the lives of numerous children, and we will be able to help give them hope for a brighter future; one which they deserve! I could not be any more grateful or appreciative, and for that, I thank you all.
Just a few weekends ago, I attended the PMA (Produce Marketing Association) Fresh Summit in Atlanta, Georgia. The convention center where it was hosted at was filled with all sorts of exhibitors from within the floral and produce fields. As you can see from the pictures below, the displays from each floral company were beautiful, to say the least, and the samples offered at each produce booth were delicious. Two samples that stuck out in particular were fried grapes (from a grape company) and avocado frozen yogurt from Avocados From Mexico. As strange as these two items may sound, they tasted great, and had us going back for second and third helpings!
Upon waking up in the morning, we drove directly to the airport as we made our way to Cartagena, Colombia. On our way, we were told that Bogotá has one percent of all the gyms in the world. As a health conscious city, Bogotá also has what is called Ciclovía every Sunday. From 7am-2pm, many of the streets are closed for people to do exercise such as biking, walking, or running. As we drove to the airport, we saw countless individuals bicycling and running along the streets. It was fascinating to see the government support such a great idea.
After a short flight to Cartagená, it was time for us to learn more about the city as we drove to our hotel. Hotel Carribe, the hotel we stayed at was built between 1945-1950, and was the first hotel built in Cartagena. More recently, it is famously known for a scandal involving President Obama’s secret service. Before President Obama arrived to Cartagena a short while ago, his secret service (who were staying at Hotel Carribe) were caught fighting with prostitutes regarding their costs.
Cartagena has been said to have the third most important port in all of South America after Brazil and Chile. Tourism is the next biggest source of income in Cartagena after the port. In one cruise alone which docked just a few weeks before our arrival, between $400,000-$500,000 was made in emerald sales alone. Restaurants and hotels also bring in a fair share of money from tourists as well, but emerald sales are a big hit with the tourists as well.
One of the entrances into Cartagena is named Boca Grande because of how big it is. Walls throughout the city once protected Cartagena from pirates due to a significant amount of pirate attacks years ago to steal treasure and merchandise.
November 11th is Cartagena’s Independence Day, and that whole week consists of parties throughout the city. Even the government approved of the partying by offering fifty cent beers throughout the city.
After learning a few interesting facts about the city, we arrived at the hotel to drop off our belongings. As we arrived, we were greeted with fruit cocktails before the start of our city tour.