I visited Peru two years ago with my MEDLIFE chapter, so I was ready for the extended plane flight from my home near Los Angeles, California to Lima.
The MEDLIFE administrative assistant Amparo was waiting for me at the gate with a smile and a sign with my name on it. She was the first person I had met since returning to Peru, and she embodied the friendliness and positive attitude that I would soon learn was characteristic of everyone working at MEDLIFE. We hopped in a taxi and headed for my new home. Amparo was patient with my broken Spanish as she told me about the work she had been doing over the past year. The red, green, and yellow neon lights of the local businesses shone through the taxi windows while we drove through the lively streets of Lima. It finally set in that I would be living in Peru for the next few months.
I didn’t know what to expect when I visited the impoverished communities of Lima two summers ago. It was quite a cultural shock seeing the hillsides scattered with small homes for the first time. The people of Pamplona Alta waved Peruvian flags proudly over the walls of their brightly colored homes. Though many of them get by on very little, they seemed determined to stay positive, raising their children the best they could. Their strength and pride always stuck in my mind, and I knew I wanted to return to understand more about the people of Pamplona.
Working as an intern at MEDLIFE gives me the opportunity to reach towards several of my personal goals while exploring a new culture. I’m currently applying to medical school to build a career practicing abroad as a physician. MEDLIFE will allow me to work with like-minded volunteers and gain a better feel for clinical work in other countries. I’m also spending my down time studying Spanish. I’ve been surrounded by Mexican Spanish all my life while growing up in Southern California, but I’ve never spent a considerable amount of time immersed in the language. I’m hoping to return to the States one step closer to fluency. Most of all, spending the summer working with MEDLIFE is an adventure I’m sure I’ll remember for the rest of my life. So far I’ve only been here a few days. This week is the first time I’ll be heading back to the field, and I’m looking forward to seeing the progress that’s been made in Pamplona over the last two years. But for now I’m getting used to my new home in Lima.
My second night here I went grocery shopping down the street with Hima and Dileep, two of my fellow MEDLIFE interns. Afterwards we got separated, and I enjoyed the exhilaration of being lost in the bustling streets of a foreign country. There’s nothing quite like traveling 4,000 miles away from home and being alone in a sea of pedestrians, whose language you barely speak, without knowing exactly how to get to your apartment. Thankfully a security guard directed me to a payphone and I was able to get directions from Tim, who ironically holds the position of MEDLIFE director. Now that I’ve learned my neighborhood better, I’m excited to see what thrills Peru holds for me next. I’m pleased to say that if the next two months are going to be anything like my first two days, then this summer will be one of the most memorable of my life.