I’ve been out here in Andahuaylillas for a few days now and I’ve gotten a ton done. To begin, I have more or less finished the research part of my project, as I was able to interview a nurse and a doctor here, along with others who work in the local community.
In many ways, the health here was similar to the health in the jungle. The most common diseases here are colds, intestinal infections, and urinary infections, all of which come from less than stellar drinking water and sanitation. But, the life in the mountains seems to have a few different effects on people. The first thing I noticed was that most old women seem to be very hunch backed, which may in part be due to the way they carry their babies ad other goods. They use a large blanket and put the goods in the back, then tie the corners around their neck and kind of lean forward to balance it all.
Another interesting thing (and perhaps the most interesting of all the health issues I’ve looked at in Peru) is teeth. Dental health here is pretty bad. Most kids have mouths full of cavities, crooked teeth, and by the time Bri are adults, are missing a bunch. Some people have even said that there are people who don’t have wisdom teeth and are missing molars that never grow in. This is exactly what I was expecting, as the diet consists of rice, corn, and potatoes, full of simple sugars that cause cavities and relatively soft food that doesn’t help with chewing strength and jaw development.
Furthermore, as farmers, the locals have lots of lower back problems and joint pain. Again, this lines up exactly with the historical picture of farmers. And, malnutricion is common, as the people lack vitamins and minerals from a variety of vegetables because they eat a a rather monotonous diet.
Two more things. AIDS is not very common here, but is slowly starting to increase, as a highway has been built linking the small towns here to Cusco and the tourist paths. Again, we see the effects of globalization in every part of the world. Lastly, diabetes, cancer, and heart problems seem to be totally nonexistent, or if they do exist, go undetected. In fact, I had the chance to look through the clinics records, and in the last month, they only saw two cases with diabetes. Compared to nearly daily necrotic teeth and bronchitis, chronic diseases seem to just not show up here.
But it all hasn’t been work here. I’ve ended up volunteering at the local schools in my free time, organizing libraries, teaching a bit of English, and gardening in the neighborhoods. The place I’m staying at is a retreat center for this kind of stuff, and it has been strange déjà vu doing this with another Jesuit high school.
The mountains here are just beautiful. I’ve gotten to hike around a little, and I just love the scenery. Again, the people have been incredibly kind, and the towns are small, old, and quaint. Life here is poor, but everyone seems to make due with what they’ve got. After all I’ve done on this trip, I think it’s fitting to end in a place like this, to be with the people of Peru who live simply, who work hard, and who have been placed in one of the most beautiful parts of the world. Now, I’m off to Arequipa, the second largest city in the country that is colloquially known as the “Ciudad Blanca” (White City) for its old colonial marble buildings. Hasta luego!