For the past two weeks, I have been in Chincha. I tried looking for wifi everywhere, but couldn't find it. Next week I'm taking my own device, it's very necessary! I had been in Chincha before, but never for such a long period of time and never by myself, so this was definitely a new experience. After a three-hour bus ride, I got to Chincha from Lima at around 2pm. I expected a very bumpy bus ride, but it was surprisingly safe and calm. It even had numbered seats! Straight after getting there, a moto-taxi drove me to Mr. and Mrs.Grimaldi's house. Mr.Grimaldi is the mayor of one of Chincha's districts, Sunampe. I contacted them through my high school, because groups of students go every year to build houses and they stay at their house. They have a beautiful house, and as soon as I got there, Mrs. Grimaldi was expecting me. The moto-taxi drive felt like forever, but only days after I would learn that the house was five minutes away from the bus station. Mrs.Grimaldi quickly showed me around and then disappeared to her previous doings. She has received people from all over the world, and she was clearly used to this process. That day, I catched up on my thesis readings and rested.
The next few days I spent at the municipality. Luckily, Mrs.Grimaldi knows everyone in Sunampe -not only because her husband is the mayor- but because she basically coordinated NGO help when the earthquake of 2007 occured. She introduced me to everyone at the municipality and I stayed in the office of Mrs.Auri, who works with the most in need. She organizes government programs that help children and the elderly. Here, I obtained very important census information that I will use for later analysis. However, what was most interesting was talking to the people who came into Mrs.Auri's office. Some days she had to go into the field to get some documents and I took advantage of the time to do some surveys and interviews.
My first interview was done in the location of the picture above. It changed my perspective on everything. This family lived on a house made of straw and cardboard, which didn't even resist rain. My first question to the mother of these children was: "If you could choose the material of your house, which one would it be? Earth, concrete, cane..?" Her response shocked me. She said: "No... (laughing) that would fall and kill my children. I like straw." This was my first interview, and it challenged all my assumptions.
The second week I spent going to PRONOEIs, which are community centers built by NGOs and government agencies. Most of them are used as schools, where mothers leave their children when they go to work. I was amazed at how many children these families have! I knew families in rural areas of Peru were larger, but I didn't expect 6 to 8 children per family. Anyways, I enjoyed being with these children (I love kids!), and I took their input for my research, asking them about their living conditions, what they liked and what they didn't like. Here came another shock: the priorities of these families, in my perspective, didn't make any sense. It is a completely different mindset. Many live in houses made of straw and plastic, but own huge televisions and audio systems. They live by the day, and don't have any longer-term plans. This cultural idea, plus the fact that they experience earthquakes every so often which can potentially take everything they own away from them, propose a problematic dynamic for development.
Tomorrow I will talk with an expert on earth construction, and the following day I will meet an NGO that worked in the area. Hopefully they will answer some of the many questions I have right now!! I will be going back to the field on Monday.