Thursday, May 14, 2015

I've just been here for a couple of days now, but it seems like much longer. The first two days Google Maps was my best friend, now I'm navigating my way round the city (at least the small part around where I work and live) without any technical help. Knowing that, if I should get lost, I'm sure to find a friendly helping hand rather sooner than later. I guess that's the first lesson learnt, and it's a nice one too: Peruvians are very friendly and helpful. My very first experience to this extent was actually quite a funny one: I arrived on Mothers Day. In Peru, Mothers are the most important thing here. So I walk into a supermarket, quite lost in thoughts, when a voice, right next to me says: "felicitaciones!" I get such a fright that I just stare at the friendly smiling man who had said this. He carries on saying: "Feliz dia de madre, hoy es su dia"! (Happy Mothers Day, today is your day!) I still have not found my words so continue to stare at him, whereupon he says, a bit less sure of himself this time: you are mother, right? I just shake my head and stutter something to the extent that no, I'm not a mother. Whereupon he says, equally enthusiastic like before: "eres extranjera!" (You're a foreigner!) It's not a question, its a statement. I just nod again. He then proceeds to grab my hand, shakes it enthusiastically with both his hands and says: "Bienvenida"! After asking me how long I'll be here for (2 months is "muy poco, que pena), he finally lets me go, wishing me all the best and a lovely stay. Quite overwhelmed, I get on with my shopping.

I've got a couple more anecdotes just from the first days here:

- when you want to cross the street here do not wait for a car to stop for you, or you'll never get across. Just run for it. Maybe you might get a car flicking its lights at you, but without slowing down a bit. This also means: I've seen you but I won't slow down, so run, now! The rule on the streets is quite easy: be biggest and strongest always gets right of way.
- it's normal that security men, police men or other workers standing on the street greet you with a friendly "buenas dias" when you walk by. By day three I am greeting them before they get to greet me :-)

And now a couple of anecdotes from my working life: 

- you think our internet is slow? Actually it is fast! Oh and the EuroSDS is getting on your nerves? After a couple of days here I love it! Practical action does not have any common server or folder for all its documents or pictures. Everything sits on the intranet. And because the internet is sooooo slow it takes you about 10 minutes to look at 5 pictures, and then half an hour per picture to download them. Oh yes you learn patience here!
- I noticed that, on their website, Practical Action (here they are called "Soluciones Practicas") does not have a page dedicated to their flood resilience project, rather all the documents are scattered over the whole website. As flood resilience is one of their key projects I was rather astounded and asked for the reason. Well, 10 minutes later we had discussed where the flood resilience page should be and what it should look like, and half a day later we had it! Wow no legal feedback needed, no long approval rounds. If everything goes so fast here I'll get a lot done ;-)

Tomorrow I'm going to the "field", I'm going to Chosica, a place in the greater Lima area which was very badly effected by the heavy rain falls and subsequent flooding in March this year. My job is to speak to people and take photos - that sounds right up my alley :-)

Apropos photos: I know, I know, I still haven't posted any here, But I plan to take some at the weekend and then you'll soon see where I work and where I live. But a couple of words to where I live: it's a beautiful little guest house with 3 rooms and 2 studios. In the top part, where I live, we have our own kitchen and living room area. I share this with a German girl (who's been here for 2 years, which is most useful I can tell you) and a Swiss guy (who's also been here for almost 2 years). Both very nice and very sociable - and after speaking Spanish the whole day at work I am quite glad to be able to speak my "own" language in the evenings.

Oh no - I have written so much again! Well I'll stop now :-) But you'll here from me again, next time with photos!

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