I have finished my first week here in Lima, working with EPAF. The work that they do is incredibly interesting and I am constantly asking questions to learn more about their methods. The team is quite large, made up of more than twenty people, including archeologists, forensic anthropologists, human rights specialists, and even a veterinarian and a historian. They have worked on projects in many countries outside of Peru, such as Bosnia, Rwanda, Colombia, the Philippines, and others. Their work doesn’t stop with forensic anthropology, and it extends far into the realm of human rights and advocacy.
EPAF spends a lot of time searching for the remains of people who have been forcibly disappeared in Peru, but it is also trying to use what it has discovered to advocate for the victims’ families and for the victims themselves, by not letting the acknowledgement that those terrible events took place disappear as well. EPAF hopes to help strengthen and amplify the voices of the families of the victims of disappearances and to link the victims together into a network, while helping them to create a means to preserve the memory of the victims and the events that lead to their disappearance. It is also working with a development organization called Vecinos Peru to help with development projects for those areas that were affected by the violence.
After spending a week here, I am getting used to living in Lima. I have taken the local bus (or ‘Micro’) several times on my own to get to work, after going with a coworker the first few times. It is really not that simple of a bus system, and for me it was quite an accomplishment. There is more than one bus that I can take, and each one takes a different route with various turns onto roads that are unmarked at times. I have taken all of the different micros that can get me to work, and I feel pretty comfortable moving around the city. I have also grown accustomed to eating lunch at a Peruvian restaurant a few blocks from the office in Jesus Maria. They have completely different food every day of the week, so each day it is like going to a new restaurant. The food is very inexpensive and tasty, and aside from one day when I strayed and ate at one of the ubiquitous Chifa restaurants (Peruvian Chinese food), I have eaten there every day. I have met most of the people in the office at EPAF, and everyone is very welcoming and friendly. Every day at lunch, a different mix of coworkers go out to eat with Jess (my advocacy project coworker) and I, and we are getting to know them little by little.
Jess and I arrived with Carmen Rosa, one of the senior anthropologists, in Abancay yesterday to take part in a workshop that EPAF is putting together this week to train civil servants and prosecutors in basic forensic anthropology. We flew into Cuzco, the staging point for any trip to Maccu Piccu, and traversed the mountains through breathtaking vistas to arrive at Abancay, which is nestled in a valley in the mountains a few hours west of Cuzco by car. The training will last until Sunday and I will be able to tell you more after it has been completed. Jess and I are here to document as much as we can of the workshop and meet some representatives from organizations in the area, and possibly meet some families of victims of disappearances who live in the area surrounding Abancay. Stay tuned!