Day One - Up Front and Center

I recently wrote a blog piece over at my current organization's  blog.  Check it out...

Peru and Tourism

The World Economic Forum just released their yearly "Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report" which reviews roughly 140 in all aspects of tourism - environment, sites, infrastructure, safety/security, price/cost.

Peru came in around the middle of the pack (73rd overall).  From the report:

"Peru is ranked 13th in the region, placing 73rd overall. Peru’s natural and cultural resources remain important assets for the tourism industry. The country has one of the richest fauna in the world (3rd) and hosts several natural and cultural World Heritage sites. Peru has seen a continuous growth in tourist arrivals and international flights, even during the global recession.  The effectiveness of marketing and branding to promote the T&T sector shows improvement, and government spending on the industry has increased slightly. However, in order to raise its T&T competitiveness further, safety and security must be improved (118th) and ground transport infrastructure must be upgraded (121st). Additionally, the country has lost some price competitiveness because of higher general and tourism specific taxation, most notably the high ticket taxes and airport charges (where the country ranks 135th). A more in-depth analysis of the performance of the T&T competitiveness of Peru will be conducted in a dedicated publication to be issued in April 2013, on occasion of the World Economic Forum on Latin America 2013."

Not really new information here.  Roadways could stand to be improved, and things are just that much more expensive at tourist destinations such as Cusco.  But more importantly, security is a big thing.  Not even in terms of an upcoming revolution, but violent crimes such as assaults, robberies, attempted kidnapping, and rape are becoming more common (or at least getting reported moreso).  Just this morning, there was a reported rape on an American tourist in Arequippa, and there was a string of incidents here in Trujillo the past month.

Peruvian Government Holidays

Reason # 763 why Peru is actually pretty great and has their s*** together.

The government released it's list of public sector holidays and beyond just having off for the normal government holidays, they also have two or three long weekends planned.  Why? To encourage in-country tourism!

The first "feriado largo" is this Monday and Tuesday, to allow for a long weekend for people traveling in Peru for carnavales - a pretty big event here in Peru.  While not as uhhhh fabulous(?) as Brazil, carnavales are popular here in Peru, especially in the sierra (mountain) regions in the central and northern parts of the country.  Cajamarca is probably the most-widely known and copied, where all day Saturday people throw paint all over each other, all throughout the town and the streets.  It's a mess! And who likes taking a night bus on Friday, getting there grumpy on Saturday only to have to sleep one night in a hostel and then return on a bus Sunday exhausted. Mondays suck a little bit harder after that kind of trip.

I'm not sure how great an effect this feriado will have, as a lot of people didn't really know about it until recently, but regardless it'll be appreciated by all !

Free T-Shirts (As Long As You Don't Care Who Won the Super Bowl)

Well it's Superbowl time yet again, and this shall be my fourth Super Bowl here in Peru (Saints, Packers, Giants). I've always made a point of watching it as it's a good 'coming together' event for volunteers...and more so helpful that the Steelers were in one of ém. But ever since undergrad (Thank you Matt Krain for ruining the Super Bowl), I always think about 'T-ShirtTravels'  aka 'What Happens to the Pre-Made Championship T-Shirts of (the Losing Team)'.

The short of it though is that there exists a surplus of of apparel that can't be sold in the states – used clothes, factory errors, New England Patriots Superbowl Championship t-shirts, etc. That surplus winds up shipped to developing countries all over the world, and donated or sold in local markets. This all sounds wonderful, right? Free clothes for all the poor people!

But who is actually naked for lack of clothing?

The UN Is Actually Relevant, Change the Lenses

Spending my formative years of higher learning in the International Relations and Political Science Department, it was quite common to get into a disparaging debate with others about the perceived usefulness of the UN. The debate largely came from the US perspective, where the UN was simply a periphery and largely toothless actor, passing resolutions and actions that had little impact in the real world. At best, it served a humanitarian cause and gave an arena to discuss world issues. At worst, it allowed the status-quo of North-South relations and was at the mercy of a few power players.

While I was a defender of the UN, it was hard not to recognize all the weaknesses and criticisms that surrounded it. Failed attempts at an international scale due to US and other super power vetoing on issues like solving global warming (Kyoto Protocol), humanitarian intervention (Sudan), or even something simple as equal rights (LGBT or persons with disabilities)were hard to personally resolve.

But after spending three plus years in Peru, the lenses changed slightly and I started understanding the UN in a different light. Peru is a supporter of UN resolutions and in fact uses them as basis and direction for their own national laws and programs. Legal documents frequently site UN Resolutions, Conventions, and Agreements as a legal base for other laws or legislation. Furthermore, resolutions and agreements passed in the UN are used to directly guide national agendas and laws. Even Peruvian law and legislation is written in a remarkably similar style to UN Resolutions with ambulatory clauses then moving on to declarations and 'action items' (the meat of the legislation). This format could be based on a previous template or rule style, or could simply be common practice in other countries as well.

It makes sense on a lot of levels. For one, with limited resources available, it's a form of outsourcing for Peru to use the UN to write legislation that the country can later adapt instead of having it clogging up the already congested Peruvian bureaucracy. Most of what is passed in the UN is technical, as well and considers marginalized populations, so that makes it passing in Peru that much easier. Further, a mountain of international organizations work in Peru; such as do-gooder NGOS, the United Nations Development Program, UNICEF, UNESCO, but also 'hard' organizations such as the International Labor Organization, the International Court of Justice (country to country disputes), the World Trade Organization. Operating under UN legislation makes it easier for organizations to function under known framework – but maybe that's a bit stretch as Peruvian bureaucracy and the legal system are challenging. Regardless, with so many international actors and organizations working with the Peruvian government, it makes sense to be working under international norms and standards.

The Model UN Geek in me content, and I'm sure Kent Kille is as well.   

Happy Volunteer Day

Let us also remember that volunteering can embrace all people, from the activist who works full-time for a cause to the occasional citizen who reaches out when he or she can.  Each sets an example of the spirit of compassion we need.  Each makes a valuable contribution to reaching our common goals
Founded on the values of solidarity and mutual trust, volunteerism transcends all cultural, linguistic and geographic boundaries.  By giving their time and skills without expectation of material reward, volunteers themselves are uplifted by a singular sense of purpose.  
 Ban Ki-Moon
Secretary General of the United Nations 

Dusting out the cobwebs

Sure is quiet over in these parts….

There’s been a hiatus of posts around here.  What happened? Unlike most of my cohorts from Peru 14, I’m still here in Peru. I’m still a Peace Corps Volunteer.  But most of you reading this probably already knew this. 

So why the lapse? No real good reason, really.  There’s always a million excuses. Maybe it had to do with me working at a computer full time, thus throwing off the shin of sitting down to churn out blog posts? Maybe it was that I was living in the big city, and had many other bright shiny distractions? Could be.

But I’ve, in a way, missed writing here.  Blogging during my first two years allowed a more analytical side to come out. It allowed me to keep writing (something I did a ton of at Wooster), making it easier to jot out entries.  But after lapsing for so long,   it’s hard to get motivation and jump over the first big hurdle to anything – starting. So I avoided it.  It’s usually easier to not do something, right?

This isn’t a vow to return to blogging, nor is it me waving goodbye.  I’m planning to stick around Peru for a little whiles longer, but more on that later. Maybe, if I get around to it.