For my first few weeks, finding friends was a struggle. I have become accustomed to making friends in the university setting, but that avenue was unavailable to me here. My luck has improved since. I now have two groups of friends here in Peru. The first group consists of other internationals; we naturally bond together when no one else speaks our first language or shares our skin color. However, I also have a group of Peruvian friends whom I enjoy immensely. It is with this group that I learn about the true daily life in Peru instead of the typical flashy tourist attractions. As great as the stunning Incan ruins and colonial architecture have been, the raw Peruvian experiences have proved formational to my understanding of this country.
The first group of friends I will describe for you here are medical students from the clinic. Their names are Andy and Wilson, and they have helped me tremendously with learning Spanish and Peruvian culture along with navigating the clinical setting. I now work in obstetrics and neonatal, so they described both processes to me entirely. They took the time to teach me every component of the physical exam of newborns so that I am not entirely confused throughout the visits to each patient. I can now read patient charts as well, which gives me a deeper understanding of each examination. What before seemed like nothing but chaos and disorder has now been made clear. Yes, this clinic does look and function a lot differently than what I am accustomed to in the US. However, because of these friends, it is becoming obvious to me that the people making up the system are very knowledgeable and there are reasons behind everything I see.
Some other great learning experiences have been with my friend Kevin, who I met through a local church. I expressed interest in Peruvian cuisine, so he invited me to his father’s restaurant to learn some traditional dishes. I have eaten in plenty of restaurants here, but entering one as a friend instead of a client gave me a better grip on what the lives of restaurant owners is like. In the United States my mother owns a restaurant as well, so I was able to compare the two experiences. In Peru many restaurants are family businesses, as was the case for Kevin. His dad and cousin were the only two other employees in this place meaning that it was basically their home. I have put in my fair share of hours in Vibrant Grains, my mom’s award winning restaurant in west Michigan, but I do not play a vital role in the same way as Kevin. My mom’s restaurant requires other cooks, bakers and servers that have no relationship to our family other than business. I am learning more and more every day how Peruvian values manifest themselves in the culture and systems of Peru.