First South American thoughts

I somehow ended up taking a work related week long trip to Peru – made the decision thursday, and here I am! This is exciting for me, as I have never been to South America, and I am beyond thrilled to discover this continent (or at least a tiny part of it). Working for CGSGI, I have been researching and writing about poverty in Peru and Colombia (where we work), but this trip will be an opportunity to get a much more holistic and real understanding of the dynamics at play. In Peru, the stats are staggering: over 40% of the population lives in poverty, and that in spite of strong and sustained economic growth – 9% last year, the highest rate among South American countries. In one of the regions we work in, Cajamarca, mining is the economic engine. Nonetheless, nearly half the children under 5 in that region suffer from chronic malnutrition…. Meanwhile, the central government collected nearly $2 billion in tax revenues from mining companies, but this has failed to translate into improved quality of life for impoverished Peruvians.

Anyway — I cannot wait to visit the sites of our project work, and to experience it for myself. It’s 2:20 am, and I am wired! 
In terms of first impressions, the Lima airport at midnight was chock full of American missionaries… There were probably 200 missionaries, mostly middle aged/older people. I have no doubt that they come and do work in good faith here, probably contributing to poverty alleviation in some way or another. Regardless, I have a fundamental issue with aid that is tied to religious proselytizing. Particularly in this part of the world, where Christianity wreaked such havoc. While I was waiting in line at immigration, I kept wondering how the Peruvians perceived this. Perhaps they are despondent, and this is just part of the landscape. Maybe they think Americans are mighty, mighty strange. Who knows. In the mix, we also had an enormous tour group of older Japanese people, most of them wearing those fancy face masks… 
To finish off, a collection of infuriating stories from this past week: 
Firestone and workers’ rights violations in Liberia (and their $30 million Superbowl ad…)
– This isn’t so much infuriating as disappointing – ECOWAS gives $100K to Liberia to fight the invasion of caterpillars which is decimating the country’s agricultural sector. $100K? Seriously? Not that ECOWAS should be giving more, but perhaps more substantial help should be making its way….
– And, of course, another story of refugee abuse. I long for the day when people fleeing tragedy will be treated with dignity and respect.  

Long Time No Read!

I admit, I have been majorly slacking on the blog front in recent weeks, but I have some excellent reasons (no, really, I do). Following a year long search for the perfect job, I was offered a position as Program Associate for the Vancouver-based Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative in early June. Since then, I have been multi tasking more than ever, trying to wrap things up in Paris before moving to Canada, and with World Refugee Day events and all the Niapele work that needed to get accomplished, it was a challenge!

I’ve been in transit since late June, seeing family and friends in various locations before settling in Vancouver – a city that I had never set foot in until this past Monday. Needless to say, since then, it’s been a mad race to find a place to live, figure out my way around, etc. As a result, I unfortunately had to put my blog and other personal endeavors on the back burner for a while. But I’m getting back on the proverbial horse, and will begin writing substantial posts again next week.

If any of you have any Vancouver recommendations for me, let me know! I don’t know anyone or anything here, and welcome any friendly advice.

Since I have been by myself for the better part of this week, I’ve been having meals alone – so as not to feel like a social outcast, I’ve been bringing a book to the various eateries I have graced with my presence. The book in question is entitled “The Wisdom of Whores” by Elizabeth Pisani, and in spite of its seemingly R rated title, it’s a fascinating read. Written by a journalist-cum-epidemiologist who has been involved in the fight against AIDS since the early 90s, it provides a really interesting perspective on HIV/AIDS, and the international response to it. I’m only half way through, and I prefer to have read the whole thing before giving a fuller account of it, but if you’re in need of a summer read that will surely attract raised eyebrows in public settings (trust me on this one), “The Wisdom of Whores” is for you.