The Many Sides of Peru

This summer marks the third College of Education faculty-led study abroad trip to Peru. Dr. Melissa Gibson and 11 of our students are studying and learning in Lima while also traveling the country. Their blogs are originally posted on Marquette Meets Peru, and we’re excited to share them with you!

By Mary Kate Jezuit

It is hard to believe that we have already been in Peru for a week. This week has been very eye-opening and has made me excited to continue with the program. I have realized what I want to get out of my time in Peru and how I want to approach our experiences here. I have learned a lot about Peruvian culture, but also about the inequalities and various faces of Lima, and Peru in general.

The theme of this first week for me has been acclimation, but also centering myself through reflection. Visits, tours and lectures were overwhelming in the moment, as I found myself trying to take in every last detail. It is more important, however, to think back on the things that stand out and stay with me hours after I leave. Those are the things that are inspiring curiosity within me and that I can elaborate and reflect more on. Through seminars, long bus rides, my own journaling and these blog posts I hope to be able to process what I have experienced and think of questions I have and connections to things I am familiar with in the United States. Through reflection, I have come to realize that my goal for this program is to be present and take full advantage of everything I can learn and experience here, but to also use down time to think more deeply about what I have seen and what it can mean in the systematic context of education and on a personal level.

City_of_Lima,_PeruFrom our introductory lecture at UARM on the first day, I got a sense of why Peru was an ideal location for our studies of education. I was surprised to hear how the geographical diversity of Peru contributed to the education system and the socio-economic classes of Peru. Education and other resources are far more accessible and well-resourced in Lima, for the most part. In the Jungle and the Highlands, communities are usually poverty-ridden and high-quality education is scarce, so only the very best students continue to a college education, in Lima. The development of pueblos jovenes, however, has changed the dynamic of education and social class in Peru. Many people moved from the Highlands and the Jungle to these pueblos jovenes, located in the hills of Lima, for better opportunities for employment, claiming land and starting again with almost nothing. Overtime, these pueblos jovenes become more developed, but it is still hard to access education, or the residents cannot afford it.

Visiting one of the newest pueblos jovenes, Pamplona Alta, made me realize how difficult it can be for their residents to access water and the rest of Lima. This was probably the most powerful experience I have had in Lima thus far. It was a long journey, but it showed the stark contrast between the wealthy areas and the pueblos jovenes, separated by the Wall of Shame. I was surprised at how quickly the scenery changed from extravagant homes on the ocean to small homes with metal roofs. In the United States, I feel like it is more common for there to be a greater separation between classes. The Wall of Shame sends a very obvious message that there are certain people who the wealthier side of the wall does not only not want to associate with, but also to not be able to have the resources or potential for economic mobility. This is a blatant display of power that reminded me of what we read in Nyberg’s “A Concept of Power.”

Nyberg discusses how power exists anytime there is a relationship between two individuals as well as the four forms it takes. This example of the Wall of Shame reminded me of the fiction form of power, where the party with more power is able to create the narrative of the people they have power over. The people with more power were obviously the ones who built the wall, which begs the question of where their power came from and who consented to this power. This is obviously a loaded question, with no clear answer, but the general answer is usually along the lines of power being associated with economic wealth. In this situation, the people of the pueblos jovenes may seem next to powerless; however, they are able to exercise power through creative means. The residents of Pamplona Alta installed fog catchers to repurpose the water from the fog for their own use. They also are able to begin to exercise their own power by opening up stores and installing dry toilets for themselves, which symbolize upward mobility and progress. Though these neighborhoods may be poor monetarily, they are rich in so many other things, which was quite striking to me. From walking around for a few minutes and meeting some of the residents, it was obvious that they were family-oriented, driven and positive people. The community shared a close bond and there were signs of innovation and progress everywhere. A teacher of mine would always discourage us from using language like “poor/bad” to describe low-income neighborhoods because it diminishes the assets that these communities already have. I kept being reminded of this when visiting both Pamplona Alta and El Augustino and through our discussions of looking at what strengths a community has as opposed to all the things that need to be fixed. Seeing these assets first-hand gave context for this idea and I could not agree with it more.

All that I have experienced this week, brings up a topic we discussed quite frequently: Why are we here? It is true that we are neither tourists nor simply volunteers. We are here to learn. Volunteering has a connotation of serving somewhere for a certain amount of time and then leaving and returning to your normal life. Learning means that we are taking what we see and do in schools and communities in Peru back to the United States and using it to inform our studies at Marquette and professional lives. We are studying both the pedagogy we encounter in Peru and how it comes into play in the context of vast socio-economic inequalities. This idea is central to the way I will approach future experiences and will ensure that I am truly learning.

Dear Future Teacher

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Just the Beginning…

This summer marks the third College of Education faculty-led study abroad trip to Peru. Dr. Melissa Gibson and 11 of our students are studying and learning in Lima while also traveling the country. Their blogs are originally posted on Marquette Meets Peru, and we’re excited to share them with you!

By Allie Bosley

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We’ve been here for 6 full days now and yet it seems like it’s already been a month! When I decided to go on this trip to Peru, I truly didn’t know what to expect, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. The people are so kind, the food is better than anything I could ever make and I am already learning so much. We came to Peru to experience, something that seems so simple but I’m sure some of you reading that this includes volunteering or being a tourist. We are not here on a mission, this is not charity work nor is it a site seeing voyage, but it is an opportunity to understand a different way of life, to hear from people that are so similar yet so different from myself. I think one of the most important things I have taken away from just experiencing is that this is not a time to pity, to feel bad, or to have a privilege check.

In the The Voluntourist’s Dilemma by Jacob Kushnerit discussed the way that people often times come on a one week trip to underdeveloped countries, with no skills in building and with no invitation to come help, yet take it upon themselves to build a school or play with the orphanage kids. These things can cause serious economic and social disruptions in the communities because they are not sustainable contributions. Life is so vastly different here than it is in Wisconsin or Vermont, that it’s not a matter of who has more or less, but rather a comparison of ways of living. There are simple differences like not being able to flush your toilet paper down the toilet, cars honking constantly, and people being open to greeting you on the street. Then there are the complex differences such as building homes out of scraps, having a water supply from fog, or using sawdust toilets — we really need to jump on this water-saving technology.

The biggest connection that I see between Peru and the US is inequality amongst the citizens. There are people with enough money to eliminate hunger in their country and there are people that do not have enough money to buy food every day. In Inequality in Peru: Realty and Risks by Oxfam, which we read before we left, it talked about the differences in rural versus urban living. There is a lack of resources, opportunities and education in rural areas that makes being successful that much harder. One thing that was very striking is how inaccessible clean water is. Billions of houses are not connected to a clean water supply and if they are, it costs 3–10 times more money than it would for those living in an urban area because of the challenge getting the water to those locations. Another inequality is the income gap. Those living in the highlands and the jungle are twice as likely to be in poverty than those that live in the coast. This is, again, thanks to the lack of opportunity and resources. It is harder to find jobs that will pay a livable wage, when you also need to spend a good majority of your time caring for your children and parents, growing food, and finding water. One last large inequality we see here in Peru is based on how indigenous an individual is. Those that are 100% indigenous are twice as likely to be poor compared to those that are not. Education can also much easier to access and of higher quality on the coastline, and specifically more urban areas. Tomorrow we will visit one of the nicest schools in Lima, called Colegio La Inmaculada, and we will get to experience what schooling is like there, with the context that there are places where school can not even be in session for a full day because there is not enough money to pay the teachers. I am curious to see what differences and similarities we will encounter.

Today, I had the opportunity to go to Miraflores, which is a very nice district on the coast of Peru. In the 15 minute drive I noticed just how different the city was street to street. This part of the city was very green, there were beautiful skyscrapers, and like the article notes, more light skinned Peruvians. While it was clear to me why it was like this, it was still very surprising to me. Differences like calmness in the streets, less people and stunning houses were all indications that this district was very financially stable. While it was cool to see this area, it also made it very clear to me that this city is divided and that not everyone is being given what they need to thrive. I think things like inequality are so important to talk about when studying abroad because it follows you everywhere. There are few places in the world where there is no inequality. Especially in a country where there is presidential corruption, you can see how it affects the people. The interested of a small percentage are put in front of the interests of the entire country because of finances. We must look at this and understand this is and be aware of the fact that there are people that are not being given the same love as others and that their voices are being taken away from them because the government knows if they get those resources and opportunities and find their voices they will take back their power as well. It is important to recognize these inequalities so that you can also realize how important your voice is, how meaningful it can be and how much we all deserve to have our voices.

As I look back on this week, I have found that reflection has really helped me. We have been encouraged to try multiple forms of reflection. For my internal reflection, I have been journaling and taking time to myself through meditation. The journaling has been a great way for me to be able to remember the things that take place during that day and really process all of the emotions I went through. The meditation part of my internal reflection, I use are time to clear my head and turn down the outside world. We do external reflection as a group and bounce our thoughts off of each other. I think this is vital so that you can hear what other people’s experiences are and learn from what they saw and heard.

All and all, this first week has been even better than I expected! Another update will be out in a week, chau!

New to Peru

This summer marks the third College of Education faculty-led study abroad trip to Peru. Dr. Melissa Gibson and 11 of our students are studying and learning in Lima while also traveling the country. Their blogs are originally posted on Marquette Meets Peru, and we’re excited to share them with you!

By Gabriela Oliveras-Bonaparte

Buenas Tardes de Peru,

Those that are reading this may know that I am in Peru for a month through the education program at Marquette University. What you may not know is what exactly I am doing while I am here. In what feels like the shortest week of my life, I have been wondering the same thing. We read a piece called “The Voluntourist’s Dilemma,” which talks about the dangers in going somewhere for one or two weeks and working on some sort of project like building a school. The issue with this is that often when people do this they are not properly trained and are taking away work from locals who are more qualified. Also, more often than not these voluntourists do not think about the future like, for example, who would be staffing these schools. Fortunately, I know for a fact that this is not what we are here to do. This past week I have gotten to know the city in which I am staying, played sports such as soccer and other games for the international day for the right to play which was this past Saturday the 25th. We have also listened to many stories from various community members. I have come to the conclusion that I am here to learn as much as I can from the people I will be working with and meeting. I am also here to reflect on my experiences and connect them to what I already know and dig deeper to find a greater understanding.

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Pamplona Alta, a pueblo joven

Coming on this trip, I think I have a bit of a different perspective than my peers because of my Puerto Rican background. Not only do I compare and contrast Peru with the United States but I also do so with Puerto Rico, which is a territory of the United States. Since Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, we depend a lot on the States for aid and protection when we need it. But since we are not recognized as a state, we do not really get a say when it comes to the United States government. I never really put two and two together to realize Puerto Rico is not the only place that depends on the United States for things. Here in Peru I was having a conversation with one of the students from the University with which we are partnered on this trip. This student was asking me about my opinions on the U.S. governments and how I felt about certain political issues. Finally I asked how they knew so much about a country that felt so far away. This student informed me that Peru depends a lot on the States for certain kinds of aid. I never realized how much the United States impacts other countries but it has been interesting to see what kinds of things the people of Peru do when depending on one another.

First things first, I want to share some things I have observed during the time I have been here. We were fortunate enough to visit Pamplona Alta, which is said to be a pueblo joven (young town); this is where some of the poorest people live near the city. These towns are created usually by people migrating from the jungle trying to get closer to the city for better educational opportunities for their children and better health care. While visiting this pueblo I was very impressed with the amount of innovation I saw, such as people building their homes out of scrap metal. Although things like electricity and water pumps are more scarce than in the city, the people of Pamplona Alta seemed to have high spirits, or at least the people with whom we interacted. Our first visit was with an older woman who had a little tienda (store) with some basic snacks and fresh fruits. She originally worked long days in construction, which was rare for a woman, but then decided to open a shop close to home to protect her two daughters during the day. Her graciousness and openness to tell us her story was something that I admired and am thankful for. Next, we visited a casitas program near the store. Casitas (which translates to little house) is an after school program. Our visit to Casitas was very brief, but in the short time we were there you could just feel all the love, joy and excitement that was in the room. We were greeted by hugs and smiles from several children from the program as I am sure they were happy to have a distraction from doing their homework. Even though we were only there for maybe five minutes they wanted to show off their English skills so one boy said to me, “Libro es book, si?” Their eagerness to learn seemed so pure. Even though these people had very little material-wise, they seemed rich in so many different ways.

In terms of power, I tried to analyze this community and how power is inflicted on them and ways they are able to take back power. According to Nyberg, “A Concept of Powe,” there are 4 types of power: force, fiction, finance, and fealty. I believe one type of power to be inflected on pueblo jovenes is force and finance. In terms of force, there are literal walls built separating these communities from more affluent areas which are put there to prevent them from infiltrating. Also it is apparent that the poor stay poor so I would believe something as well known as the poverty cycle might reflect what I would say is force in terms of power. The government seems to want to have little to do with these communities except to keep them away and on the outskirts of the city. Although force is being acted upon pueblo jovenes, we know that this type of power is not sustainable, which we have seen before with terrorist groups in Peru like the Shining Path who killed in efforts to try and get the government to recognize their needs. So if this type of power is not sustainable, I wonder what lies ahead for these pueblo jovenes and the city of Lima in general.

Getting to Know Our Students: Meet Hannah Lubar

This summer, we are continuing our series getting to know our students! You can get to know more of our students and our faculty/ staff on previous posts. Read on to meet Hannah Lubar, one of our Student Affairs in Higher Education graduate students!

IMG_2913Hi and thanks for your interest in getting to know me! I’m going into my second and final year as a graduate student in the Student Affairs in Higher Education (SAHE!) program, working as a Graduate Assistant in the Business Career Center. I’m also a proud alumna of the College of Ed.

I grew up in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, but including my undergraduate years at Marquette, I’ve lived in Milwaukee for around nine years now. After getting my Bachelor’s Degree, I knew I wanted to stick around Milwaukee, and I taught high school English in the city for four years.

I come from a family of educators: my dad is a middle school music teacher, and my mom and sister both teach special education in the Chicago area. I’ve also got two very cool brothers and an incredibly loveable nephew and niece. I met my kind and hilarious husband, Eric, at MU.  He and his sister both just graduated with their master’s degrees from MU, so you can say the three of us are big fans of our school and of Milwaukee (and very blessed).

Major highlights of my educational experience include being part of the Dorothy Day Social Justice Living Learning Community and then my time teaching, which gave me invaluable memories, experience, and relationships. Both my extracurricular time at Marquette in undergrad and my time teaching high school sparked my interest in higher education support services as well as community engagement.

This upcoming academic year, I’m excited to explore new areas of higher education at UW-Milwaukee through my summer and fall practica.  I really appreciate how the SAHE program helps us foster connections with other institutions and gain new perspectives.  It’s something that drew me to the program. Additionally, I chose Marquette – the second time – because of its Jesuit values and commitment to others, and because I felt that my undergraduate teacher training from the College was truly quality.

Outside of education, I enjoy biking, rock climbing, trying new restaurants, watching Parks and Rec reruns, going to concerts/shows around Milwaukee, being in community with my church, gardening, and yoga. I think it’s important to make time for rest and personal interests so that we can be our best selves in our work – so I’m always trying to work on all of the above!

Dear Future Teacher

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Week 1 in Lima, Peru: What Makes us Human

This summer marks the third College of Education faculty-led study abroad trip to Peru. Dr. Melissa Gibson and 11 of our students are studying and learning in Lima while also traveling the country. Their blogs are originally posted on Marquette Meets Peru, and we’re excited to share them with you!

By Lily Regan

Holy cow…talk about an overwhelming week — from Chicago, to Miami, to Lima! And now even within Lima, moving from Pueblo Libre, to the city center, to El Agustino, to Pamplona Alta, to Miraflores. Within just the past week, I have seen so much more of Peru than I thought I would see in my entire month here. From rich to poor and everything in between. From sitting in hours of traffic and listening to the constant symphony of honking horns to driving up unpaved roads with dogs wandering the streets. From places with no running water or electricity to the bustling marketplaces selling everything alpaca. From the seemingly endless levels of homes housing who knows how many relatives to a small shop that can only fit about three people comfortably. This trip has been a trip of stark contrasts and surprising similarities; every place has had something totally unique to teach me about Peruvian culture but has also shed a light on what it is that connects and unites all of us as human beings despite geographic location or class differences.

The first stark differences that I saw when first arriving to Peru were mostly in regard to the collectivist mindset and the way people live. For example, when I first got to my host family’s house, I was extremely thrown off. As I was getting a tour of the home, I noticed that some of the house was exposed to the outside. As I walked from the living room into the dining room and kitchen, there was an external wall to the left and a roof over my head, but there was only a half wall to my right. I could feel the light mist in the evening air on my face as I walked through the hallway towards the kitchen, yet I was still walking through what they called their home. As I peered over the half-wall to my right, I saw what appeared to be other houses all situated around the central courtyard. This was very confusing to me at first. I wondered who the people were that were living in those other “houses.” I could not wrap my mind around why the wall was not built all the way to the ceiling. Was the courtyard that was in the center of all the “houses” a common area? And where was the privacy? Who would want to live with neighbors surrounding you? In the past week, I have begun to fill in the gaps and now have a more complete understanding of how crucial family is to the Peruvian culture and why exactly the house is laid out in this way.

I have come to understand that there needs to be spaces open to the outside; there is no air conditioning, so having the constant air flow is crucial. Because the temperature in Pueblo Libre rarely drops below a temperate 13 degrees Celsius, there is no need for air conditioning or heating, and the outside air maintains the house’s comfortable temperature. In addition, rain other than mist is very uncommon here in Lima, the second driest capital in the world, second only to Cairo, which means that full coverage of your house is not completely necessary. Also, what I assumed were other houses surrounding the courtyard are all connected to the “main” house and essentially function as different apartments within the house. The different sections of the house actually are homes to many of our host family’s extended family members. This was very much a shock; coming from the United States where independence and individual achievements are praised, I was not expecting to see adults choosing to live with their extended family. However, Peruvians have traditionally valued the success of the community and familial relationships over individual achievement. In addition, while there is not as much privacy in the house, it does not seem to be an issue for anyone living here. Privacy and personal space do not exist here in Peru as they do in the United States, which can be seen based on their typical greeting of kissing total strangers on the cheek and families living together long after they “should have moved out” according to the United States’ standards.

These things were all especially confusing to me because before the trip I was told that I would be going into a middle-class neighborhood with a middle-class family. However, middle-class families living in the United States do not have portions of their home exposed to the elements, and middle-class families do not all live together unless absolutely necessary. Certainly, this was not a middle-class family.

But it was! My host family, and the surrounding neighborhood is considered a “B-” neighborhood. In Peru, the classes are classified by letters, with A being the most affluent and E being the most impoverished, so this was a solidly middle-class family. These people did not necessarily need to be sharing all of their space or having so much of their home open to the air; yet, these were all choices that the family was making based on their culture. That was one of the things that took the most getting used to. It was a difficult hurdle to leap in my mind that independence does not necessarily equate to a better family or a better individual.

But despite all of the seeming differences, I have also seen so much that reminds me of home. The values that people share regardless of geographical location or class and the commonalities that make us all human are so much larger than all of the physical differences that I was able to see.

The neighborhood that seemingly had the most differences from the life that I live in the United States was Pamplona Alta; however, it was also where I was able to see the most connections to home. The “pueblo joven,” or young town, which is situated on the hills in the outskirts of Lima is considered a class E neighborhood. They do not have running water or electricity, and the roads are unpaved. Many people have to make an hours long journey to get simple necessities such as food and water from more accessible parts of Lima to their homes. This, in my mind, gave everyone living in Pamplona Alta the right to be miserable. But I actually found quite the opposite to be true. Every person that I saw on our short visit to the district was smiling, waving, welcoming us with open arms. I saw parents and grandparents working hard so that their family might have the opportunities that they did not have when they were growing up. I saw kids smiling, drawing, and playing with friends. All around me, if I looked past the physical objects that become the center of attention all too frequently, I saw people who reminded me so much of home and so many values that I strive to live out. I saw people that were determined, hard-working, grateful, happy, proud of their accomplishments, loving.

But it did, admittedly, take me quite a while to recognize all of these similarities between my own town and this newly developing community. When I initially saw the physical differences, I was immediately saddened by the “desolate” community that I saw. I wanted nothing more than to donate money to the schools, to help people fix their homes, to pave the roads, to install running water and electricity…but then I had time to reflect on the very long, trafficy bus ride home. And I came to realize how wrong I was about all of my initial reactions to the community. First of all, upon reflection, I was able to identify just how similar the community really was to my own community, and secondly, I was able to recognize the fault in my initial instinct to help the people in Pamplona Alta by making it “better” according to my own standards. I thought back to the article that we read for class written by Jacob Kushner titled “The Voluntourist’s Dilemma” that explains why these well-intentioned thoughts and subsequent actions by “well-off” people may ultimately cause harm to the “less fortunate” community that they are trying to help. Instead of asking the community what they need, volunteers come in and supply the service that they deem to be the most urgent; they take jobs that could be done by members of the community because they naively try to help the community. With these actions, the volunteers place themselves above the people they are trying to help. They do not see the members of the community as humans; they see the community as a project and the people within the community as helpless people that NEED help. I realized that this was my gut reaction to seeing the neighborhood.

Based on Kushner’s article, my own experience with the people of Pamplona Alta and the time I took to reflect, I have come to recognize that these ideas could not be further from the truth. I had to imagine how I would feel if someone that was not from my country or culture and did not even speak my language came into my community and began “fixing” everything they saw wrong with it; they began to go over all of my hard work with what they thought was better. From this perspective, of course these hard-working, proud people do not want me to come in to “fix” their community! It is this simple shift from sympathy to empathy that allows me to be able to truly see the communities that we visit in Peru. Understanding that even impoverished communities are rich in culture, history and relationships and finding the similarities has aided in this transformation.

Despite the language difference, the cultural difference and the geographical difference, it is incredible to me that there is so much that connects us all. This past week in Peru has really taught me how to value the similarities just as much as the differences in communities. From what I have seen from my time here in Peru and my time living in the United States, humans are humans. We are hard-working, take pride in our work, and want the best for our children. Children are children. When they are nurtured and cared for, they are happy; they love to play; they are filled with hope. No matter the number of physical belongings, in the end, we are all humans. No matter the cultural background or longitude and latitude, it is good to be reminded that at the core we have so many similarities that far outweigh the differences.

 


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