PASEO Program Adventure—Day 46: Huaraz, Peru

On Tuesday morning, we hopped on another bus, ready for another exciting adventure (without oxygen). As we drove into El Parque Nacional Huascarán, our first stop was to see Pumapampa (agua gasificada), followed by Puyas de Raymondi, the largest species of bromeliad, and Laguna 7 Colores—a beautiful lagoon consisting of various colors. After making stops to see each of the aforementioned sites, we continued driving until we made it to our final destination.

When the bus dropped us off at our final stop, we were at a higher altitude level than the 15,000 feet mark we reached yesterday at Laguna 69. Just stepping off the bus was enough to leave you (by you I mean me) out of breath. We walked into the site of Pastoruri, and had one of two options. We could pay 7.50 (nearly $2) to ride a horse up the path and then continue walking for 15 minutes, or we would walk the full path for 45 minutes. Because the altitude was so high and given the opportunity, we decided to ride horses up the path.

Once our horses dropped us off close to the top of the path, we had one of two options yet again. You could either pay an employee of the site to carry you on their back while they walk up the path, or you can walk the path yourself. We walked on our own, very slowly. Within 15 minutes, we made it to Nevada Pastoruri and Laguna Congelada. Even though it was freezing (as we surrounded by glaciers), and even though we were 16,000 feet above sea level gasping for any breath we could take, the view (pictured below) was absolutely incredible.

As our time on the tour was coming to an end, and more importantly, as we began to turn blue and have icicles forming on our bodies, it was time to return to the bus. We walked down part of the path, and rode another horse down the remainder of the path.

As the tour concluded, we stopped for dinner along the way, and returned to our hostel to rest for the evening prior to returning to Trujillo tomorrow morning on another eight-hour bus ride at 9:30am.

PASEO Program Adventure: Day 3 in Huanchaco y Trujillo

Today was officially the start of my new adventure. Upon waking up in the morning, it took me a few seconds to remember where I was. But after the initial shock of forgetting I just traveled abroad settled down, I quickly realized that I was in Huanchaco, Peru- a place I will eventually come to call my home. 

In my short time here, I’ve come to appreciate one of life’s treasures that I believe so many of us take advantage of back in the States. Yes, I’m talking about Charmin Ultra Soft. I’ll just leave it at that and let that resonate for some time. I’ve also come to find out that maybe more people are actually reading this than just my mother and possibly my grandmother too. That adds a whole new level of pressure, seeing as I’ll have to write more than just what I’m eating and how I’m keeping safe every second of every day.

To really push myself into this new adventure ordeal, I went for a run this morning alongside the beach. (I know- I’m just as surprised writing that as you probably are reading this). Not only is Huanchaco known as a fisherman city and for its seafood, but it is also known as a surfing town as well, since the waves appear to always be in full flight. In fact, we can even hear the sound of the waves crashing down from the house we’re staying in. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices in life, and I guess sacrificing Charmin for an oceanside view will have to do. 

This afternoon, I had a pre-evaluation to assess my current knowledge of the Spanish language. I read aloud a case study and was asked to answer questions solely in Spanish regarding how I could help normalize a teenage pregnancy, how to explain depression to a teenager, and an example of a technique I would use to help a teenager calm down from nerves at any given moment during a session. My responses were recorded and will be heard by four of our professors as well as the owner of our house who is not in the counseling field and who does not speak English. The purpose is to assess each student’s needs and to see if a local would understand our explanations and techniques. This will set the foundation of our learning goals throughout the upcoming weeks. 

I had lunch at a local restaurant, where I paid 10 soles (less than four dollars) for a tamale, pollo saltado con arroz y papas, and a sweet drink made from a local fruit. I wanted to take pictures, but my hunger got the best of me. 

Our evening was spent in Trujillo (what you are looking at in the pictures), where we had our first class- Psicología en Perú with a local psychologist. I’ll have to provide more concrete details once the PowerPoints are shared with us, but we learned about mental health care in Peru, and how while even though there are laws that entail for mental health care to be accessible for all, this most certainly is not the case. For someone seeking mental health care in a hospital setting, the psychologist only has 10-20 minutes with that individual to provide an initial intake. 

The initial intake covers basic information about the person, as well as a brief assessment, in which only one question really matters. Have you thought about or attempted suicide within the last three months? If the individual answers yes to that, and apparently only that, only then will he or she return for services. However, services entail follow-ups consisting of taking other assessments each session. And you only have 10-20 minutes total for your session, if even that. Imagine any time you describe a difficult day you had at work to a loved one, or the last time you complained about a coworker or someone who cut you off on your way home. Now imagine trying to get all of that out in 20 minutes at most. And now imagine trying to discuss symptoms and issues you are experiencing pertaining to your mental health in about 10 minutes.

There are 20 inpatient agencies and 21 community agencies (focusing on medical and mental health together) throughout the country that are meant to serve the millions of individuals living here. One newspaper article showed a lady who attempted suicide three different times, but was unable to be hospitalized due to a lack of beds in the agencies. Imagine that for just a moment. 

With regards to substance abuse, the main modality of treatment here appears to be through the church. If you can put your faith into a higher power, and a higher power alone, your addiction will be “fixed.” Social workers can be found giving brief prevention-based education in the schools to that it can be said that the material has been “covered.” And if you want to talk about an individual with a severe and persistent mental illness, let’s say schizophrenia, for example, such an individual would be asked to go in for medication once a week. He or she would then be expected to continue to go in for more medication on a weekly basis. And that is your mental health care, in a condensed version. As a side note, there are great providers trying to make a difference here, just like in other countries as well. But this is the general sense of how mental health functions throughout the country.  

If I’m not mistaken, the amount of money that would be required to get Peru to where it should be with regards to mental health care is 800 million soles (less than 245 million dollars). The actual amount being spent on mental health care by the government is roughly 69 million soles (a little over 2 million dollars). The wealthy people in Peru live (viven), while those without money survive (sobreviven). Having started this post talking about a quality of toilet paper, I can’t help but think how fascinating it is what so many of us take for granted.

(P.S.- if any of the information I wrote is incorrect, I will be sure to update it and blame it on jet lag.)

PASEO Program Adventure- Day 2: Leaving Lima for Huanchaco

Seeing as my flight from Fort Lauderdale was delayed (I feel like you can no longer have expectations when using any type of transportation these days), I arrived in Lima, Peru shortly after midnight. By the way, if anyone is actually out there reading this, this post is a day behind- so as to live in the moment. (I figured writing that would be a good, understandable excuse. And if not, stop by tomorrow to see what I’m doing today.)

I was able to spend the morning with family friends from the city, as we shared breakfast together in Moraflores, overlooking a beautiful city and ocean view (top left photo). Since it is wintertime in Peru, the sun doesn’t shine as often in Lima, which explains the cold, overcast weather. 

My flight to Trujillo was scheduled for the early afternoon, so shortly after breakfast, I had to head over to the airport to make it to my final destination. The owner of the house we are staying in picked me and the other students up from the airport, and drove us to Huanchaco, which was a 15 minute drive, at most. 

We took a quick tour of the city, which is known to be a fisherman city with great seafood. (I’ll keep you posted about that). While the size of the city is small, it is seemingly filled with life, as you can hear Celia Cruz, Marc Anthony, and many other classics playing from inside the restaurants by the water. At a time like this, I’d say it’s fitting to hear the words, “La vida es un carnaval.”

The other students (from across the country) and I had dinner at a restaurant called “My Friend,” which offers a variety of Peruvian dishes, as well as hamburgers and pizza for visiting Gringos. I ordered pollo a la plancha con arroz y papas (grilled chicken with rice and French fries) for only 16 soles (around five dollars). The cost for food in the area is pretty inexpensive, so here’s hoping I eat well before any Amazon/Whole Food buyouts and mergers make their way over here. 

Tomorrow starts our first class with a local psychologist in Trujillo- Psicología en Peru. Until then, hasta pronto!

Day 4 At Canyons Village In Park City, Utah

We had to make the most of our last day in Park City, Utah, so of course, we concluded the trip with more skiing. We took multiple ski lifts and chairlifts to get to different mountains that we had not yet seen, and each sight was more breathtaking than the previous. We skid down mountains with incredible views and beautiful houses (one of which is said to belong to Will Smith), but more importantly, I barely fell! (Seeing as I had fallen so much within the last few days, this was a big deal for me).

Before it was time to call it quits and prepare to return home, we ended up at the same double-blue mountain we skid down the day before. (Keep in mind, yesterday when I skid down this mountain, I had no idea it was more advanced, and spent almost half the way tumbling down). In order to get back to the base, we had to ski down the mountain again, and even though it was difficult for me (to say the least), I managed to do it without falling!

It was such as great feeling to have learned how to ski these past few days, and to have concluded my trip with a second chance down a mountain I would have never approached just days before. And with that, it was time to leave Utah and its beautiful snow for Florida and its continuous summer weather.

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Visiting the Western Wall In Jerusalem, Israel

Although it may seem as though we had been traveling for weeks, we only spent three days and two nights in Barcelona, since our final destination was Israel. The most memorable part of our trip to Israel (besides seeing family members and loved ones) was our excursion to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. There is so much history and an overwhelming sense of spirituality as you walk around.

It is absolutely beautiful to be able to go to a place and pray to a higher power (or whatever one may believe in) and know that a countless amount of individuals travel here to do the same. We were lucky enough to come on a day where members of a certain sector of the Israeli army had completed their training, and were officially becoming members of the Israeli Defense Force. And as we walked around, the view of the surrounding area was breathtaking.

We had such a great time touring Lisbon Portugal, exploring Barcelona, Spain, and visiting various cities in Israel, especially Jerusalem. We were sad to return home and get back to the “real world,” but we have since been left with a lingering and exciting feeling of knowing we’ll be back on a plane traveling again soon—although for now, the destination is unknown!

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The Western Wall In Jerusalem, Israel

Day 2 In Bogotá Colombia Continued: Monserrate

After learning to play Tejo and enjoying a local lunch, it was time for us to continue our tour with a visit to Monserrate. Monserrate is a mountain located in the center of Bogotá, which is more than 10,000 feet above sea level. In order to get to the top of the mountain, one can walk, take a funicular train, or a cable car. We took the cable car, since it was the fastest and easiest means of transportation.
Upon arriving to the top of the mountain, we came across a type of plant called the angel trumpet bird which hummingbirds are attracted to, and which are unfortunately used by many to make date rape drugs.
At the top of Monserrate, there is a church which contains the Lady of Monserrat (Matron Saint of Monserrat), a replica of what can be found in Catalunya, near Barcelona. This replica has been around since 1630, and was fixed over in the eighteenth century. The mountain was named Monserrate due to this famous image being held here. This was supposed to be the main focal point to see (besides the view of course) here on Monserrate, but now, it is most famous for its statue of Jesus Christ being taken off the cross named “El Señor Caído,” (fallen Lord).
In 1656, the statue of Jesus, which is pictured below was brought to Monserrate. The hair on the statue is actual human hair, and if you’re wondering whose hair it is, I had the same question, but was not able to get a definitive answer.
The rest of the church was completed in 1925 and is a beautiful place of worship, not only for the incredible artifacts inside, but for the breathtaking view outside as well. As we walked around Monserrate, we spent a few minutes adjusting to the high altitude level by drinking coca tea. As a snack, hormigas culonas were passed around for us to sample, which translates to “Big ass ants.” Hormigas culonas have their name because the rear end of the ants are much larger in size. Only the queen ants are eaten, since the others are not considered edible. Often times, the wings and legs are removed, as the ants are soaked in salty water and roasted as a delicacy. I couldn’t bring myself to indulge in the ant eating, but both my brother and sister did, and watching them eat it was still quite the experience.