Friday, July 30, 2004
"U.S. Will Cut Farm Subsidies in Trade Deal"
Now that is the kind of headline I like to see. Looks like there is some good progress happening at the WTO negotiations. Farm Subsidies and other destorting economic practices in the developed world such as export subsidies are truly injust and need to be eliminated to help the developing world achieve economic growth and reduce poverty and hunger. For example, millions of West Africans suffer because of the distortedly low price of cotten caused by billions of dollars of subsidies to America's wealthy cotten farmers.
On a related note, Peru is in the final stages of negotiating a free trade agreement with the US. It is interesting how popular free trade is here in Peru and in the developing world as a whole. The anti-globalizer, anti-free trade crowd typically comes from the developed world (i.e. Seattle and SanFrancisco), not poorer countries such as Peru. I have yet to read a single editorial here in Peru against the free trade agreement. Almost all the pundits here are for it and the economic growth it would bring.
If you are interested in stuff like this, I recommend reading In Defense of Globalization by Jagdish Bhagwati, a very influential economist. It's a really good book.
Thursday, July 29, 2004
Here is a good article from the Economist on malnourishment. Read it soon as it is likely to become pay only soon.
UPDATE: The link is now fixed.
We are in Lima and enjoying it. It is fun because we really know our way around and have been able to get around without problems. Let me tell you. McDonald's has never tasted so good. We are going back today. The great thing about McDonald's here is that it is exactly like McDs in the states. All the way down to the ketchup. We have been taking it easy and not doing a whole ton. Tuesday I got all the computers that are staying in Lima ready to go there. They plan on using a few of them in schools in the communities they work in because the schools have absolutely no budget for something like a computer. Yesterday was independence day here in Peru. It was pretty quiet here in Lima. A lot of people travel to the provinces from Lima during the holiday. Well that is all for now. When we get back we have another team coming so we will hit the ground running. I don't have class next week either so I will be with the team along with Tricia most of the week.
Friday, July 23, 2004
The last couple weeks have been quite the blur. I haven't had much of any time to blog. I finally finished getting the computers set up here in the office that my brother got donated. Also, the 8 computers that have been locked in customs were finally released which is a bit of a miracle in my mind. My opinion towards the government here is slowly improving just a little bit. I found out that the professor I teach with is payed by the government which is cool because the refuge could never afford to pay him.
It is fun to have the computers all set up here in the office. The staff really likes them I think. They are all WindowsXP which is nice. It should cut down on the time I have to spend helping people with problems.
Tricia and I are heading to Lima for Peru's Independence day next week. To say I am looking forward to it is an understatement. I can already taste the Big Mac that I am going to eat. It has been almost 4 months since I have eaten at McDonald's which I believe is an alltime record for me. We are also planning on going to the best seafood restaurant I have ever been to...at least the best value seafood restaurant anyway. I get this amazing crab and shrimp dish that would blow you mind for $7.
Another team is coming the week we get back (the week of the 2nd of august) from California. As classes are off that week I will be with the team most of the time. Tricia is also in charge of teams here in Pucallpa till another Hunger Corps volunteer gets here later this year and takes over so she will be quite busy with the team. They are building a schoolroom I believe. After that team, a team from Japan will arrive to build another building.
At this point some of you are probably thinking..."Why fly 10-15 people half way across the room to build a building? Wouldn't it be cheaper to just send the money and have the community build it themselves?"
First of all, the community does build it themselves. They have already started on it and will largely complete the frame of the building before the team arrives. The team just usually puts the finishing touches on the building like painting and siding (there are exceptions to this like the last team from Oregon which did quite a bit of the siding, roofing, and framing). The team also provides the cost for the materials which here is the large majority of the cost (80% or more?). If this support was not provided the building would not get built. Also, the community is always impacted when they see people come from other countries to help them. It is a very cool thing for the community and provides a lot of hope and blessing to Food for the Hungry. Finally, it is frequently a life changing experience for the team members themselves to come on a trip like this. That, in a nutshell, is why I, who was until recently a big skeptics on short term teams, now think they are a good idea.
Oh, one final thing. I marched in a parade today for independence day. It was scorching hot, but the parade was only 100 meters so it wasn't too bad. The parade was for the school that Refuge of Hope operates. I don't really understand why everyone gets all dressed up and then marches 100 meters, but regardless...it was fun. I'll post pictures.
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
Big news! A new Peruvian restaurant is opening in Seattle. Here is the link!! http://seattleweekly.com/features/0429/040721_food_peru.php
Sunday, July 18, 2004
Woke up to a thunderstorm this morning, the tin roof making every rain drop sound like a rock hitting the top of the house. Even when it cuts a night’s sleep short, it is a cool sound. When it rains here, it really rains. The storm knocked our power out for most of the day, thankfully it came back on before the sun set tonight. (Have we ever said anything about how amazing the sunsets are here?)
After spending 10 days up the Ucayali river I should add my two cents to Mark’s comments on our time away. Although my legs will never be the same after the scars and bug bites go away, the trip was an amazingly blessed time. We were sent along to help translate for a team from Oregon to the community of Betania, about 2 hours by speedboat up the river from Pucallpa (at least it is 2 hours when carrying 14 American-sized men!). We were touched by our time up river- touched by the team from Grace Community Church in Oregon, by their flexibility and humor in a “not-so comfortable” environment, touched by the Church in Betania, touched by every precious child that we got to meet, teach and play with.
It is a powerful thing to look into the eyes of a child and see such amazing potential, and it is painful to wonder what will become of them as they grow up in an environment of poverty that does not convey or nurture the amazing hope and potential that God has planted in each one of them. I think we understand better why the message of hope in Christ and the challenge of healthy development that FHI presents to families is priceless in this environment.
We are thankful for the time we had there, the lessons learned. We are also thankful to be back in Pucallpa! After 10 days without a bathroom or shower, we were thankful to make it back to our little house and to be away from such maddening amounts of mosquitoes, chiggers, biting flies, poisonous snakes and spiders. I have seen my share of “jungle” spiders now, and will be just fine to go without them for the rest of our time here! Makes the little frogs in our showers seem so “normal!”
Pictures will be up of our time in Betania very soon. Stay tuned!
Monday, July 12, 2004
We are back from the jungle! (Well we still live in the jungle, but we're back from being right in the jungle rather than in a city in the middle of a jungle...if that makes sense)
The trip overall was great. I am really glad I was able to go. We went with a team from a small community in Oregon west of Salem called Dallas. They were all men and were a lot of fun to hang out with. The majority were in the late twenties to early 40's. We built a classroom (pictures of the trip will be posted to the website soon) as well as did a Vacation Bible School for the kids. I enjoyed doing both of those even though the work out in the heat and sun was quite tiring.
The community we stayed in was called Bethania and was very interesting and a clear example of poverty. Everyone in the community farmed bananas which does not bring in much income. If I had to guess I would estimate that the average family there made between 1 and 2 dollars per day. They also had some animals such as ducks, chickens and a few pigs. The FHI promoters (people that work in communities) have spent countless hours trying to get people to chlorinate their water because the river water is full of bacteria and parasites. But we still saw children drinking out of puddles and Juan Roman, the promoter in the village, told me that the majority don't treat their water because they say it makes it taste bad. When you ask them, they know that they should treat it but they just don't do it. Chlorine is provided free at the health post operated by the government. Practically everybody has at least one parasite and the majority of the children under 5 had the bloated belly indicating that they had fairly severe parasites. They don't take parasite medicine because they say that they just get re-infected again. Getting potable water to these communities is tough because the water table is so close to the ground that when you dig you hit water in a few feet and none of the water is potable. Nevertheless, chlorine is available which would greatly reduce the problem but people just don't use it even though it is free.
It was really the first time in my life where I have spent enough time amidst poverty to really begin to see and understand what has been drilled into us in training. These people don't lack resources. They have fertile land, plenty of time to work the land, and access to agriculture markets in Pucallpa. What they lack is a vision for what is possible. FH calls this a biblical worldview where people recognize that they are sons and daughters of God and are called to be co-creators with Him and make the best of what He has given them. For example, FH has worked in trying to get people in the community to coral their animals as free roaming animals spreads disease but the majority remain free. Young girls are often forced by their parents to marry at 13 or 14 because their parents don't value their education and feel they are a burden to feed. It is really tough to work in this environment and development takes many many years. There is just a strong current of the "give me" mentality and a laziness especially in the men. It is tough because I really could see this community thriving if they really wanted to. Juan Roman said he's seen changes in the community over the past few years and is optimistic about their future.
I guess the thing that this trip drilled into my head is the extreme difficulty of development. It is not easy and the battle is exactly where FH has said it is: in people's beliefs and values. Change the beliefs, priorities, values, and (growth inhibiting parts of) culture and you will see development. Otherwise no matter how much money you throw at it, it will be thrown down a rat-hole.
As far as what life was like living there I will briefly touch on the highlights. Imagine the most mosquitoes you've ever experienced and then multiply that by 2. Add in flies that bite and draw blood, chiggers everywhere, poisonous snakes, piranhas with teeth the size of 5 year olds, and plenty of bees and wasps and you begin to get the picture. The people were not unwelcoming, but were not welcoming either. The men leave during the day many days and go work the banana farm and the women stay and cook and care for the children. All cooking is done over open fires. There is no electricity. There are no latrines, people just do their business in the jungle. But there are also beautiful trees, incredible sunsets, a very peaceful environment, and the cutest kids you can imagine.
I'll probably blog more later on the trip but for now that's it!