I am back to my reality in the United States. While I am very happy to be home, it is a strange feeling to leave behind an entirely different life in Peru, to leave the people I met behind, unsure whether I will ever be back again. They all continue their reality, the reality I lived in for over two months, and I re-enter my bubble at Santa Clara. The idea of these two “parallel universes” coexisting next to one another has changed my perspective on a lot of things.
When I’ve gone shopping with my mom and sister at home, I’ve reflected upon the deep- rooted consumer culture of which we are a part. I think about the amount of money an unnecessary (but cute! and trendy!) shirt costs. Sometimes I convert it to soles and think about how much that could buy someone in Peru. I’ve given a lot more thought about the things on which I spend my money. I’ve realized that I often waste money on “wants,” and while it may be okay to “treat myself” once in awhile, I can spend my money in many more meaningful ways. And why don’t I? Why don’t more people, when we undoubtedly are able to do so? Rather than adding a new item to my closet, or buying an overpriced latte, I could donate that money to a place where it could go a lot further, for something that is a lot more necessary.
As I drive around my hometown of Portland and see some of the areas I had previously thought of as not very nice, my opinion has drastically shifted. A “run down neighborhood” in Portland is a completely different definition from a “run down neighborhood” in Trujillo. These areas are also much harder to find in Portland than in Trujillo. This matter of perspective became clearer to me when I was in a coffee shop in a small beach town an hour outside of Portland, and I heard a gentleman talking about how “dirty” and “run down” Portland is. He lamented: “I don’t for the life of me understand why so many people are moving there.” This is a statement I would’ve disagreed with before my time in Peru, but hearing him say that after my time in Peru, it was almost unfathomable. We in the United States do not realize how privileged we are.
Spending time in Peru enabled me not only to recognize the resources I’m lucky enough to have in the U.S., but also to recognize many of our excesses. I think of the sparsely supplied laboratory (with a centrifuge that looked like it was from the 1960s) in a small health clinic that served a very poor area of Trujillo. Yet, the microbiologists that worked their were able to perform the necessary tests for the community. One of the microbiologists told me, “We adapt to our reality.” They made it work with what they have, while sometimes in the United States I think we’ve gotten too used to always requiring the “latest and the greatest.” The stark differences between these two realities made me think that there has to be some middle ground.
I want to move forward with what I learned in mind. I want to hold onto the feelings I grappled with in Peru, and I want utilize those feelings to make change.