Generosity: this word pretty much sums up my first day in Peru.
15 hours after bidding farewell to Philadelphia on a sunny Wednesday afternoon, I walked out of the Lima airport into the thick fog that fills the streets on winter mornings. I was greeted by Einsten (yes, Einsten, not Einstein), a friend of my Airbnb host who operates a taxi service part-time. As we sat in rush hour traffic, Einsten shared some much appreciated advice about public transportation, sight-seeing, and, most importantly, Lima’s world-renowned food.
Suddenly, in the midst of his explanation about where to find the best ceviche, Einsten pulled over and hopped out of the car. He returned moments later with two bags of juice (who needs expensive plastic cups?) and a fried plantain sandwich with egg and cheese for each of us. “My treat,” he said as he handed me breakfast. Never has a plantain tasted so good.
After arriving to the house and bidding farewell to Einsten, I took a look around the home that I would be sharing with five other people for the next three months. When I went down to the kitchen, I met Domi, a student from Ecuador who’s been living in the house since January. Thus, our friendship began.
Domi took me on a five-hour tour of the Miraflores district that afternoon, during which she helped me get a Peruvian cell phone chip, introduced me to some of her friends from university, and took me to Kennedy Park (famous for its abnormally large feline population). By the end of the day, I was stunned by the amount of the city I had seen and the kindness that limeños (as Lima residents are called) had shown me.
In my first week working at UNICEF, I’ve continued to encounter ample generosity as my co-workers help me become more familiar with the organization and feel at home in Lima. During my time here, I’ll be working on two main projects:
1) Intercultural Bilingual Education: I’ll be making an inventory of the materials (reports, curricular resources, pedagogical guides, etc.) that UNICEF, the Peruvian Ministry of Education, and other INGOs have produced to support Intercultural Bilingual Education (IBE) for Peru’s indigenous children and adolescents. After collaborating with UNICEF staff and consultants to determine the relevancy and potential applications of these materials, I’ll present the inventory to the National Education Council, ministry officials, and a think tank to support further research and materials development for IBE. After having researched IBE for my policy brief, I’m enjoying the opportunity to gain a more nuanced perspective of how the program has been planned, implemented, and monitored in Peru. I was also excited to hear that I’ll have the chance to visit a school in Ucayali in the Amazonian region of Peru to observe the IBE program there!
2) Inclusive Education: I’ll also conduct research on successful efforts in Peru and other Latin American countries to make education more inclusive for children with disabilities. Later in the summer, I’ll write a report on my findings to share with the Ministry of Education and the education team at UNICEF.
Some highlights outside of work have included running along Lima’s seaside (a mere 5 minutes from my house), dancing swing and salsa, and perusing markets in search of new foods to try. This week’s winner was the tuna roja (red cactus pear), which are ubiquitous in Lima’s desert climate.
More updates (and food photos) soon to come!