By Andrew Noh
We travelled to Iquitos and we carried over 100 kg of rocks. What drove us to stuff our backs with gravel?
Today, we woke up at 4:30 am for flight to Iquitos. In the morning we were surprised because we were asked if we could carry rocks. Taylor Dickey, a second year medial student at Michigan State, is interested in providing solutions to the several water borne diseases people in Iquitos and the surrounding comunities face. He has decided to assess whether simple and cheap water filters could solve problems caused by both biological and chemical pollutants. He plans to install water filters which other researchers will come to sample periodically. If the water filters work as well as they should then they should address many of the endemic problems these socities face.
It was our second day (august 4th) in Peru and we were surprised by the odd request in the morning. One of the doctors use a scale to ascertain how many kilograms of rocks we could carry. I got stopped at airport security and the guard searched through my bag, only to find two bags full of pebbles. She gave me a strange look.
In the plane I spoke to one of the coordinators about Peru. As we passed over the Andes, he explained to me how Peru’s Andes were separated into the eastern and western ranges, and the geographical change from the mountains into the jungle (from the selva alta to the selva baja). He also explained the economic situation in Peru: in many parts of Peru, most farmers own small land plots and live in abject poverty. The younger members of the family would often move into the bigger cities to earn more money and send it back to their family in the villages. Another option was to grow coca leaves and sell them to drug cartels to make some more money to survive.
After lunch, we moved to the clinic site to start setting up for tomorrow. I helped sort out the supplies from the medicine that was brought from Michigan. Later, I helped prepare bags of thirty children’s vitamins that would be given by the pediatrician throughout the four days of the clinic. What was striking was that these vitamins had a very familiar smell: I had taken the exact same ones as a child. I realized that I had taken these for granted while for those living here, the vitamins were a privilege. It was also striking to see that there were a few locals already gathering in front of the clinic even before we had arrived to set it up.