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General Care Projects in Peru by Peter Browning

Day out

My name is Peter Browning, I'm 20 years old, and I'm an addict.

I'm addicted to Peru. I've been clean for three months now - and it's going OK, but it is difficult - especially at the start.

I admit I have a problem, and that's meant to be the first step to getting better, right? I realized that I have what my friends describe as an 'unhealthy obsession' with Peru when seeing someone even remotely South American looking on a bus prompts me to ask the question 'disculpe, pero - ¿usted es peruano?' - thus provoking some odd reactions from people who, in retrospect, more likely come from the Welsh valleys than those of the Andes. I also now start every story with 'Well...when I was in Peru...', trying at every opportunity possible to evangelize about how great a country it is, though I find myself confronted with a progressively less receptive audience.

The growing ennui of my friends has lead me to seek more specialized outlets for my Peru obsession. I've become a hermit who sits in front of his computer on the internet for hours on end looking up listings for Peruvian shops and organizations around France (where I am now living) - which, rather than giving me an opportunity to wile away the hours talking to like-minded Peru lovers, has in fact, been the cause of more distress.

The Sacred Valley

I found myself becoming genuinely angry upon discovering that the owner of 'Inti Productos', a Peruvian shop, not only had not a single Peruvian gene in her, but had never even stepped foot in the country - furious doesn't even begin to describe my rage, even thinking about it now sets my blood boiling! How dare she run a Peruvian shop (in which everything was ridiculously expensive - think Pisac market, but change soles to euros) when she's never been there? That incident made me realize that I didn't just want to recapture bits of Peru - which Senora "No-soy-Peruana" was flogging to the rest of the world, but I wanted to recapture The Sacred Valley as a whole.

I won't lie - I do get almost daily cravings for sublimes, lentejas and "Muse" brownies, though I was able to mentally prepare myself for being parted from them before I left. It's the little things that catch you off guard - like when you buy something from a market stall and you have an impulse to barter, or when you walk past a group of school children and you still expect them to stare - but they don't, or not having hit your head on a door frame for more than a week, or being able to walk around barefooted without being told you're going to catch your death of cold, or when your bus is on time - or when your bus actually has a time table for that matter...

With my host family

The list goes on and on, I could seriously fill a whole newsletter with things I miss about Peru, and a whole other one about the wonders of Inka Kola (a subject I've not breeched here because, in short, it's just too painful to talk about - suffice to say that the 6 bottles I smuggled home for presents never made it that far, and I'm currently on a train to Paris from the south of France in search of a Peruvian restaurant I discovered on the internet that sells Inka Kola).

As I sit here in my alpaca legwarmers and look at my Andean bracelets, I realize that far from being 'clean' for three months, I've just been in denial. Whereas legwarmers and bracelets were once enough to satisfy my Peruvian cravings, they no longer do it for me. Not even my thousand plus photos can satisfy my cravings anymore - I need the real thing, I need three carbohydrates in one meal, I need Gloria milk, I need the mountains, I need the friendliness of the people, I need combis and Grupo 5, I need torta and gelatina - I need to go back.

Going Peru cold turkey is one of the hardest things you'll have to do. I'm most definitely not 'recovered', nor do I particularly want to be - though it's an addiction that is going to cost - not just because I spend money in every Peruvian shop I see, buying anything that resembles a huayruro seed, or take every book out of the library with Peru in the title and then forget to take them back, but because I will undoubtedly have to return to get a proper fix.

What I've been trying to say, albeit in a very roundabout way, is make the most of your time, and treasure the little things whilst you can, make a list of all the things you love about Peru, ignore the things you don't, keep a journal, smuggle home liters of Inka Kola and above all 'aprovechar'. - if you thought the culture shock arriving was bad, wait until you come back home.

I must leave you now, for I'm going to a café in town that sells mate to get my mid week fix and work on my latest project, a book entitled; "No somos libres, y no seamos jamas de la maravilla que es el Peru'

My name is Peter Browning, I'm 20 years old, and I'm an addict.

Peter Browning

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