This time of year—winter—Limeños who tire of cold, overcast, drizzly weather can find some sun in the Peruvian jungle, or selva. The closest point, La Merced, is an eight-hour bus trip along steep, winding roads. On the journey there, travelers get a view of Peru’s three regions: the arid coast, the spectacular mountains, and the lush, green jungle.
La Merced (pop. approx. 50,000) is the provincial capital of the Chanchamayo region, which is blessed with warm weather, waterfalls, and superb coffee and fruit production (bananas, pineapple, citrus fruits, and avocados).
Two of our SSTers are experiencing that agricultural sector firsthand for their service assignments. Greg and Matt are working at a family farm on a mountain outside of La Merced, where they have been planting native trees as part of a reforestation project and helping to cultivate coffee. They have also been trying to avoid getting bitten by any more insects (Matt, apparently, has particularly sweet blood).
Naomi has been working at Clinica Elera in the nearby town of San Ramon, where she has been able to put her nursing skills to work, including assisting in the emergency room. Her host dad is the uncle of Matt and Greg’s host dad, so they occasionally have family get-togethers.
Jennifer is also in San Ramon, where she is working at INABIF (Programa Integral Nacional para el Bienestar Familiar, or the National Comprehensive Program for the Well-being of Families), a state-sponsored center where she assists preschoolers in their classroom and during mealtime.
Karina is working in the pediatric department of a clinic three days a week in La Merced, where she has administered IVs and helped to feed a premature baby through a feeding tube. On her non-clinic days, she’s working as a teacher’s aide at Centro de Educacion Especial San Manuelito, a school for special-needs students. On the day we visited, her host family took her (and us) to a nearby settlement that offers a window into the indigenous culture (and offers good photo ops with the resident parrot).