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!

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