Friday, January 30, 2009
Two In One Week!
2. Is it safe for you to walk around there at night?
Ah, safety…I have heard some very wise people (even recently) talk about the fact that what most people fear is the unknown. For example, we don’t fear public speaking but rather what we fear is the unknown reaction the audience members will have to our topic, our dress, and/or our delivery. We’re not fearful of spiders, per say, but of the unknown: if they will bite us, if they are poisonous, if we’ll die, etc. I think you get my point. So a lot of people have chosen to not travel because of concern for their own personal safety. I’m not saying that is bad, but I’m saying that given the right information and safety training the fear of the unknown in terms of safety and security can be overcome. In the Peace Corps we are given a ton of training in safety and security during our first three months in the country. This has been very effective in helping us understand and try to avoid potentially dangerous or compromising situations. With that said, nothing is perfect. And every year Peace Corps volunteers are robbed, assaulted, pick pocketed and even (sadly and rarely) raped.
Do I feel less safe in Peru than I do in the United States? The honest answer is that it depends on the situation. Most days (or nights) walking through my relatively small town I feel fine, but if you add even one drunk man to the mix, I get a little nervous. As I believe I have written about before in my blog, there is a huge problem with alcoholism in Peru and combine that with machismo and sometimes you have a very dangerous combination. I have been grabbed by drunken men and not given the option to escape (although I did figure out how to do it eventually). I have also been chased by a drunken man back to my house in Catilluc, Cajamarca one night after a dance. In both cases, I hadn’t touched a drop of alcohol. Being a white girl in the middle of Peru can make you a walking target sometimes it’s only wanted or unwanted attention, but sometimes the attention can change to comments, whistles, and undesirable actions on the part of those around you. Peruvians on the whole are great people, and the rare occasion that I don’t feel scared to walk by myself at night usually involves someone else drinking alcohol. The amazing thing about being a volunteer is that I always have a group of other volunteers around if we decide to stay out late. If I want to go home early from dancing, there is always another volunteer or two who will want to go back themselves or will at least escort me back and then return to the dancing. This is the family aspect of my time in Ancash. We try very hard to take care of each other here especially in terms of safety and security.
So to sum up, for the part I feel safe walking around alone at night in my sight, but in places that I don’t know well I choose the buddy system or a taxi (which has its own safety concerns, but I’ll leave that for another blog). I wish I could say I feel absolutely safe all the time, but that’s neither the reality in Peru nor anywhere else in the world.