I really lucked out on this whole experience. I couldn’t be more happy with it. I will miss Peru and all of the relationships I have formed. Overall, this trip was well-worth the money and time.

So when I started this journey, I didn’t really know what to expect. At first, I thought it would be so rural that I’d have to travel just
to find an Internet Cafe. It was to my surprise to actually get WiFi, even in the little town of Pacasmayo, especially when hot water is not entirely common and washers/dryers are nonexistent. Though the loss of water and electricity during my stay did not seem out of place. The graciousness of the people who allowed us to stay with them is overwhelming. Not going to lie….we are spoiled in the US. Convenient and fast have become almost necessities, while we juggle school, work, eating, sleep, fun activities, etc. It really has been a blessing to slow down and be able to take it all in and have this wonderful learning experience without all of the rush (even if washing your clothes is a day-and-a-half process lol).

Pacasmayo may be small but it is gorgeous. The beach was literally a two-minute walk from my homestay. What more can you really ask for? The weather is lovely even if they consider it extremely cold (lol like us Arizonans). The high was around 72 every day…not bad. Not only this was great, but it also was a town I could feel safe walking around in (although precaution is always taken regardless). Getting to spend some time with Celina, Juan and their family (our host family) led to some unique discoveries about the culture. They had once been to Florida and tried to send 5 people in one taxi…the taxi wouldn’t let more than 3. Here you shove people in any nook and cranny until they’re almost falling out. Lol ok. I’m exaggerating but two people usually sit up front with the driver, three in the back seat, and up to two in the back in what they call a colectivo. Apparently that doesn’t fly in Florida. Also, when they asked what was my religion, they weren’t sure what exactly Christianity believed in due to Catholicism being the main religion. Even though there have been many cultural differences, our host family has been nothing but warm and welcoming to us. You know you’re apart of the family when they start trying to feed you at random times.

Although being in EsSalud (the hospital that only caters to those with private health insurance) has more technology like US hospitals, there still is a striking difference between the two. Dentistry is uncommon, especially preventative measures. Only the EsSalud had a dentist and they only saw patients to fill cavities or extract teeth. Unlike most American hospitals, hospitals here don’t hold very many patients. Even the big hospital for the area (excluding Trujillo, which is the major city) only had about 24 beds. I worked in a small-ish hospital in the suburbs of Arizona and that had 200 beds and the census was always around 180 (depending on the season). Not to mention, surgeries would occur daily back in the states. Most people do not have private insurance but can get on a government plan called SIS, which is free to anyone with an ID. Still people in the Minsa hospitals (government-endorsed) avoid getting healthcare until they absolutely need it. That’s why I was excited about being able to participate in a free med campaign to the people of Pacasmayo. We saw 200 patients! It was an incredible experience!

And lastly…the workshops. We weekly would go out to teach the children about various health and hygiene concepts. The kids are soooooo fun and get attached to us new foreign language speakers so quickly. It’s sad having to leave without knowing when or if we will be able to return. Not to mention all 12 people from Vive Peru that I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with and getting to know. We definitely have had a ton of fun and good memories/inside jokes to go back with. I really lucked out on this whole experience. I couldn’t be more happy with it. I will miss Peru and all of the relationships I have formed. Overall, this trip was well-worth the money and time.

Alexandra Neumann
Arizona State University
Clinical Medicine Volunteer, Summer 2013