This week, Maria and I are wrapping up phase one of our infant stimulation project in Peru – the individual home visits and infant assessments. We’ve visited five different towns in and around Huancayo, each with a very different feel and personality. Some random thoughts and experiences to summarize it all…
- We gave a workshop in Paucar (one of the more rural towns) teaching moms how important it was to sing songs to and with their babies. I gave my first introductory lesson on the importance of singing to your children (speaking completely in Spanish – okay, it only lasted 2 minutes), then sang song after song, hitting the dry grass like martillos (hammers), pretending to be gusalinos (little worms), and acting out Dinky Dinky spider (no joke, that’s Itsy Bitsy’s name here!) Even with my sore throat, I belted out tune after screechy tune, not fully believing that there I was, leading this group of moms and their babies, singing in Spanish.
- It was an adventure in every town, locating the mothers as most of the houses are S/N (sin numero = without number). Sara and I had a particularly interesting morning walking back and forth across chacras (farms) because different people we ran into told us that the other street was Avenida Andre Avelino Caceres. As there usually aren’t any street signs in more rural areas of town, street names are often painted on the sides of houses – and even then, we never found the street we were looking for. So we piled into the colectivo (like a taxi, but they let anyone on), thankful that we weren’t one of the five packed into the trunk, and headed on to the next home.
- The moms in Chupaca had a bit more money and almost every family, good hosts as they were, either fed us or at least served us coke. I have never had so much gaseosa (pop) in my life and I don’t even particularly like soda. On top of all this, I already have a bladder problem and try to make sure not to drink too much when we’re going out to the towns all day. Little good that did.
- Animals are a general theme of the houses we visited. There always seem to be dogs, hens, pigs, and cows running around, participating in the assessment sessions. Often, one can find guinea pig pens with guinea pigs of all kinds of colours, shapes, and sizes. And can someone tell me if the gallinas (hens) lay eggs wherever they want to since they’re running around all the time? =)
- The oldest babies we see are 30 months old (2 years, 6 months), and moms are still breastfeeding at this age.
- I was surprised to see some babies with natural stark blonde hair – super adorable. Sara later mentioned that the hair colour could possibly be from malnutrition. Didn’t even think of that.
- In Molinos, the furthest town, almost two hours away from Huancayo, we got caught in a mini storm. We could hear the thunder as if it boomed right beside our ears. The rain came suddenly and in spurts, sometimes sprinkling then other times intense with huge droplets almost like hail. Sara and I conducted an interview standing under a tiny awning with the mother, trying not to get our papers soaked. With another family, we huddled with them under a tarp in the middle of their farm, sitting on wood chips, getting bitten by fleas and tiny spiders, watching the father carve Jesus’ face out of sections of tree trunk.
- For those of you that are wondering, I am almost always wearing a toque now to hide my silly haircut. =) It works out well for the weather – protects my face from the UV rays, but doubles as a head warmer when it randomly gets cold out. And no, I’m not the only one here who wears a toque under the blazing hot sun!