I'm not exactly sure what juncture in my life led me to the moment where I chose to spend two and a half weeks in a dominican mission in the Peruvian Amazon. Looking back, I sure am happy that I did it.
But let me start from the beginning. With my study abroad program, SIT, students must pick a theme and the location where they want to research. The fifteen members of my group ended up dispersed across the country studying traditional medicine, ecotourism, and gender roles. I chose to study perceptions of poverty in a jungle community. I wanted to see if everyone has the same idea of what poverty is, or if it is societally constructed.
I lived with four nuns, two priests, and 35 lovely teenage girls in the mission in the town of Koribeni. I'm going to let you all in on a secret--if you want to make sure you're well fed and clean, stick with the nuns. They have great beds, good food and cold drinks. That's all I really need for happiness.
Besides being a school and home for the girls, the mission is a community gathering place. If I lived in Koribeni I would hang out there too, the nuns are pretty incredible. I don't know about you, but I don't know many sisters who watch volleyball religiously (no pun intended), eat 3 mangoes after each meal, and ride on the backs of motorcycles into town.
I went with one of them, a missionary mother named Ester from the Philippines on a three day adventure deeper in the jungle. She went town to town healing people with massages and homemade syrups. This was a serious trip, we even had an escort.
I think that I've always know my study abroad experience was going to be different, but I can pinpoint the moment that I knew this for sure. We were sitting in a house made of scrap wood and metal when a seven year old boy was carried into the room. As a baby he was dropped and part of his spine was injured and as a result he can't walk and has never spoken a single word in his young life. His family has been keeping him inside and out of school, afraid that the other children would tease him.
I felt more like I was in a Nicholas Kristof article than the reality that this was a school affiliated activity. Needless to say, Ester was not pleased with the parents' decision. She insisted that the little boy be socialized or he would only get worse. It was incredible to see.
So I will conclude this unusually long post with my realization- I may not be able to galavant around South America Che Guavera style (thanks SIT), but I have accepted this because I get to witness pretty unbelievable things that not many others get to ever see. Be well everyone!!