Greetings from Lima, Peru! I’m Michelle Long, an EHS student in Environmental Quality and Health doing my internship at DIGESA in Lima, Peru. DIGESA is a sector of the Ministry of Health here that deals with envionmental issues, primarily water and food samples. I will write another blog post about my internship work, but for now I will explain the cultural experiences here in Peru. I have been here a month now and every time I open my eyes in the morning, adventure awaits. No, I don’t go mountain climbing and scuba diving every day, but everything else here is almost as adventurous.
One adventure I experience daily is the food. I’ve been trying native Peruvian dishes and trying to get past my norm of being a picky eater. I learned I have an intolerance to MSG, a food additive used to enhance flavor. Here they call it Ajino Moto and they add it to every food at restaurants. I learned the hard way by eating Lomo Saltado (salted meat with vegetables and rice) and got a terrible migraine. Yesterday, I went to a Chifa restaurant, basically Chinese food with a Peruvian twist, and the only food on the menu without MSG was plain white rice, “diet” chicken, and vegetables. It was tasty. I also have tried ceviche multiple times. Lima is known for its gastronomy so I am trying to embrace it, although a Papa John’s pizza every once in a while is tasty too.
Ceviche Mixto- a typical dish made with seafood cooked in lemon or lime juice. The acid breaks down the proteins in the fish and cooks it.
Another daily adventure is navigating the bus systems. It’s not the same as the Ann Arbor or University of Michigan buses. The roads here are pure chaos. There aren’t many traffic laws other than “Don’t hit the other cars.” I have to walk a block to the bus stop, read the side of the bus (or Combi- like a big van) to see if it drives down the street I want, hope it isn’t completely packed so that I can stand and not be pushed up against the door. My “sea legs” have developed so I can stand on the buses. Some days I try different buses and go to different stops, but end up walking around lost for a few miles until I find my destination. One time I walked 3 miles but was right by the ocean, smelling the salt water and hearing the waves crash. I didn’t mind getting completely lost there.
I took a lot of Spanish classes throughout middle school, high school, and college. Studied abroad in Ecuador for 4 months. But then, didn’t use Spanish for 4 years. Needless to say, my Spanish is rusty but is good enough to get around, order at restaurants, and ask for help when needed. My understanding and speaking are slowly improving, but the language barrier has been frustrating. Just have to keep improving it and learning more Spanish.
Pacific Ocean from Parque de Amor, Miraflores, Lima, Peru
Exploring Lima has been interesting. I really like Miraflores, the “gringo” area because there are other English speakers and it’s a really nice area. I went to one of the Inca Markets and bought some souveniers. I’ve been to Parque Kennedy and hope to explore that area more. Also, I’ve driven around with the internship to different areas of Lima to collect water samples. I’ll explain this more in my next blog post! I have a lot of items on my list of places to go in Lima and throughout Peru- so much to see in so little time!
With all the good comes the bad, too. Every day at SPH, I learned about diarrhea in some way. Of course, within two weeks here, I got the diarrhea after drinking an iced lemonade. Note to self: don’t drink anything here with ice. Ice is often made with tap water, which is not clean and contains many microorganisms because the water treatment process does not kill all of them. My apartment also got infested with fleas after my roommate and her dog left for 10 days on vacation. I had bites from head to toe, but cleaning everything and vacuuming daily has decreased the flea population size. During this time, I could only think of the potential vector-borne diseases I could have contracted. Luckily, no sign of them yet. Public Health knowledge at work! I also have been homesick, a feeling I haven’t really had since I was 10 and went to summer camp. Studying abroad and working abroad are completely different. I don’t have my normal support system here, but have made some friends. It’s definitely a growing experience and all the introspection has been both scary but fulfilling at the same time.
This weekend, I went on a trip to Ica, Huacachina and Paracas. These are towns in the south of the country with big sand dunes, islands, and a different sense of Peruvian culture.
In the Islas Ballestas near Paracas, Peru. Look closely and you can see a Humboldt Penguin!
Right now, at 8:30AM, all I want is a Zingerman’s sandwich and big glass of iced tap water.