❤WORK THE WORLD-AREQUIPA
I guess it has been quite obvious that last month I hung out in no other place than South America’s Peru. Together with two girls from college I did a medical elective in a town called Arequipa, or better ‘The White City’. The organisation that makes all of this possible is Work The World, which is UK based. They organise electives for medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, nursery and midwifery students in Africa, Asia and South America. After hesitating whether we’d apply for an internship in the Philippines or in Peru, we finally made a decision and went for Peru!
There was one barrier though. A language barrier. It was necessary to follow a five day intensive Spanish course before our placement would start, since practically nobody speaks English in Peru, except for some young interns at the hospital. When we applied for the elective we weren’t really worried about our lack of Spanish skills to be a problem, and just followed our yolo programmed minds. Anyway, I must admit that with our take off to Peru coming closer and closer, we began to think more and more about the what if’s. We quickly installed Duolingo (an app to learn Spanish step by step) on our iPhones, but that’s when realisation kicked in. We would never ever master the Spanish language before our intensive course would start!
Luckily, on our first day we noticed that our teachers were really friendly and patient. We learned that actually no one speaks a word or really few Spanish before their arrival in Peru! You can imagine our relief. Each day we came home to the Work The World house with our housemates, we were so exhausted. Spanish was digging holes in our brains to stock all knowledge we built up during those five days. I was surprised by how quickly we adapted to the language. Afterwards it was getting easier and easier to understand Spanish speaking people. And yup, it was finally possible to make ourselves clear by the time we started the placement!
I initially chose for a placement on the gynaecology and obstetrics department, but from day 2 on I decided to go have a look at different departments also. Why? Because first of all, sometimes I had the feeling that -however I’m a proactive and spontaneous person, an absolute MUST for the placement- the staff I followed did not always like to teach me something. It happened several times that they wouldn’t let me do something that I had hoped for to do while my internship there. Some doctors but also nurses preferred to do something theirselves instead of letting me help them in order that I would learn and improve the skills I had obtained during internships in Belgium. Luckily, not everyone in the hospital shared that kind of mindset, and in time I found the right people to follow that actually DO wanted to tutor/show me. I did rounds on gynaecology and helped whenever I could, watched some echo’s, deliveries and a cesarian. In other words, I went on a hunt for the interesting cases. Afterwards I went to the operation room every day, and during my second week of placement I also visited the emergency department where my friends were placed.
We spent our day at the hospital every day from 8 am to 1 pm, afterwards we went into town for drinks or sightseeing together with the other housemates. The thing I like about Work The World is that there is room enough during your stay to do some trips or to get lost in town, because you can go to the hospital whenever you like and as long as you want to. Even at night!
I listed some restaurants and bars that are worth a visit when in Arequipa.
❥ Chaqchao: cosy chocolate bar. Try their banana-chocolate smoothie or the good old hot chocolate. You can also follow workshops to make chocolate here!
❥ Ecobar Vino: nice wine bar with sympathetic owners!
❥ Inkari & Mixtos: two great rooftop restaurants located in the same street.
❥ Museo del Pisco: NOT A MUSEUM haha, I entered the establishment saying that ‘we would like to do the tour’. You should have seen their faces! You can taste Pisco (typical peruvian alcohol, similar to tequila) here anyway if you ask them. Beautiful café with the possibility of eating tapas.
The perfect words to describe my time in Peru are definitely eye-opening, boundary pushing, and scary yet magnificent. It’s true that I had hoped for a more practical-related learning at the hospital, I’m not going to lie about it. But however, I think that I got something in return that is way more important in life: I got to see with my own eyes how health care is like on the other side of the world. I saw how doctors, nurses, midwifes and med students like me gave their all trying to heal people, even though they don’t always have the high tech equipment we ought to be normal and basic. Sometimes I talked with the patients about their anxieties and their hope for the future. It’s something that I could only imagine myself by watching movies or documentaries. But the real deal is far from the things you see on television, lying in the couch. So yes, I did learn a lot and I grew as a person. I won’t say the whole Peru thing massively changed my life but I definitely became a slightly other girl than I was before. I don’t know why, it’s hard to explain. Maybe I see things differently right now.
And if they’d ask me if I’d do it all over again, knowing what I know now? I wouldn’t hesitate a second. These are the once in a lifetime chances we should take!
Now that I told you something more about my placement and experience with WTW, I’d like to take you with me on one of the weekend excursions we did! We did three in total: Puno & Titicaca lake, Cuzco & Machu Picchu and Colca Canyon. I’ll tell you something more about the first two in the upcoming weeks, can’t wait to show you the beautiful pictures we shot!
Colca Canyon is the 2nd largest canyon in the world. You can go hiking in it from the top to the bottom and back, but it was our last weekend in Peru and we were too lazy for that,
oops. Instead, we did a tour with stops in several little villages around the canyon. On the way, llamas and other animals walked freely around so ofcourse we stopped to take some pics! We slept in a -shitty- hotel that night without warm water or heating, so when we woke up we were not in a really good mood. On the program that day: spotting condors flying over the canyon! We were hoping for the best since we heard it’s possible we wouldn’t even get a glimpse of them. Luckily the odds were in our favour: I think we saw at least 20!
This canyon is really a must-do when in the neighbourhood of Arequipa. It’s not that far by bus (3,5 hours) and definitely worth it, but if you’re in a good condition I would recommend you the hike instead of a guided tour. It’s gonna be way more memorable!
Enjoy the pictures and I’ll be back soon with parts II and III of my South American adventure 😉