WHAT TO EXPECT
Thank you for joining Jeremiah 38 Ministries on our Medical Missions trip to Peru. I am distributing this information because I remember this is all of the info I wish I had known my first time. The bulk of this letter contains general information. Clinical info will be distributed in another letter.
The food in Peru is really good. I encourage you to try the Peruvian cuisine. I would recommend not consuming food from street vendors. The Peruvians do and are fine, but for me the risk of being ill does not outweigh the benefit. Use bottled water only and this includes brushing teeth. Actually, all beverages are bottled and are served without ice. I do not recommend asking for ice because the water used is typically tap water. Although they do process their tap water, it is not to USA standards of filtration. When purchasing or ordering water you want to make sure you get “sin gas” meaning “without gas”. Any water you see labeled “con gas” is carbonated.
Do not eat any raw fruit or vegetable you cannot peel. For example, oranges are fine but strawberries and grapes are not. This also means no lettuce or salads. Many of the restaurants in Lima wash their produce well, but don’t expect it from the ones in Iquitos. If you have any questions you may ask the trip leader (David Lambert) or any experienced team member (Tim, Kirsten, Donna, Lenny)
We will be staying in a nice hotel (third world country standards). The hotel staff will be very helpful with bags and assistance, please remember to tip for bags brought to your room (1 sole per bag should be fine, or 1 USA dollar for 2-3 bags). The rooms will be clean and the beds may or may not be comfortable. It will be hot in Iquitos and the air conditioners will sometimes freeze up in the rooms. If your AC is blowing warm air, turn it off for several hours and allow to thaw before trying again. If it still doesn’t work, let Stacy (our missionary host) or David (trip leader) know.
Outside of America, washcloths are not typically used. If you use them, you will have to bring from home. They won’t have them even if you ask. Laundry services can be provided at the hotel but require a full day for turnaround. Also, this can be expensive so make sure you know prices before you send in for service. I usually bring Purex detergent sheets and wash stuff in the sink and hang to dry. This only works in Iquitos. It is too cool and humid in Lima for anything to dry overnight.
Most places will take American money, but you will get change back in soles (so-lays). There will be an opportunity to exchange money that will be determined by trip leader and missionary host.
Iquitos is HOT. The clinics will be hot, there may or may not be shade. Bring sunscreen and DEET bug spray each day. Make sure you use the bug spray, malaria is seen in this area although it is not exceptionally prevalent. We say to drink a lot of water, but the fact is you won’t want to because the bathroom situation is usually not optimal. Make sure you have a bottle of water when you go.
Lima is much cooler. You may find that you need long pants and a light jacket, especially in the morning and evening. Remember also that what you put on in Lima that morning is what you will be wearing when we get to the airport for travel.
Shorts and sleeveless tops are fine as long as they are modest, obviously. Everything should be covered and undergarments should not be visible, please. Peruvian standards of modesty are a little different. It is not unusual to see tight and revealing tops on the ladies. This is a cultural thing as breasts are seen as functional and maternal. Breastfeeding is done openly and is not an issue whatsoever. Please be prepared for this if you think it may make you uncomfortable.
Translators will be available at all times. It will not take you long to remember who they are. We have a few Spanish speaking folks on the team but most will meet us in Peru. There will also be additional translators from Iquitos joining us on clinic days. Translators available on the team are: Dave and Cyndi Jenkins and Analy Lambert. Tim can speak enough to help you with normal things (bathroom, prices, restaurants, etc…) but is not fluent.
Flush toilets will be available in every business, restaurant, and the hotel of course. All toilet paper is placed in the trash can as the Peruvian septic system is designed to handle waste only. The clinics will usually have a pit toilet available somewhere, there may or may not be a door. We usually go in groups so we can provide “screening” for each other. There will be no where to wash hands, so use wet wipes, hand gel, etc…
The toilet is usually in the pastor or church member’s home and they will be honored to have the team use their home for such needs. Last year a few of us left a small love gift as an appreciation or we will give them additional meds from the pharmacy as a love gift (vitamins, Tylenol, etc…) If you have any questions, you may ask the missionary host or even a Peruvian translator for the expected custom in this matter. The boat to Indiana does have a bathroom, but you will find it acceptable in only the most dire of circumstances.
There is a grocery store in Iquitos where we stop a time or two throughout the week. They have everything. This is a great place to get water, snacks (I recommend the chifles), toothpaste, etc… We will also go to the Indian Market in Lima for souvenir shopping.
Personal & Group Safety
*Stay with the group. Do not wander off alone. This includes the airport. Do not leave the hotel without the group.
*When walking in Iquitos, be aware of surroundings. Keep the young ladies in the middle of the group.
*Do not show or flash money, keep bags close to you while in town. Do not leave a bag unattended or you will not see it again.
*Take a photo of your passport on your phone, keep a photocopy in your suitcase.
*The risk for personal harm is comparable to the US, however petty crime is common. Your greatest risk is for your belongings or money to be taken. Be sure you have room on your credit card for emergencies.
*If someone bumps in to you, put your hands on your important stuff (passport is more important than a camera). This is a tactic used for pick pocketing or a bump and grab.
*No phones in the security lines or customs. This is a good way to get detained or have your phone confiscated. Remember, this is a foreign country and we are visitors to their home.
*Do not give money to people at the clinics! If you feel there is a need, bring it to the trip leader and it will be discussed with the local pastor. Any gifts will be handled through the local church.
*You may see people begging in the street. As a general rule it is not recommended to give money out that way. However, you may feel like you cannot pass by the very old blind woman on the sidewalk in Iquitos. Feel free to ask the trip leader or host for guidance.
*There will be people selling stuff in the streets of Lima. These transactions are for motorists and passengers. If you must purchase a novelty pen or pot holder (they sell everything!) do so quickly because the bus will not wait.
*Finally, remember the rules are different for the Peruvians than they are for us. They may safely walk about without the group. If you see them do this, please don’t think it is safe for you to do as well.