Monday, July 26, 2010

Choosing a University in Chiclayo

This coming December Maribel’s son Brian will graduate from secondary school (high school in the States) at the ripe old age of 16. Also in December if he wants to continue his education without interruption he will need to take a university entrance exam. The entrance exam requires him to apply for admittance to a specific school within the university, e.g., business administration, mechanical engineering, etc. To me this is a mind boggling situation. What 16 year old has any idea about the career path they want to take? I’m told that the first two years are general education, so I don’t understand why it’s necessary to enroll in a specific discipline. It is possible during the first two years to apply to change disciplines, but there is a substantial financial cost associated with that change.

Trying to determine the ‘best university’ is a difficult process because of the lack of quantified data. To my knowledge job placement rates, teacher experience and qualifications, graduation rates and grade point averages are non-existent. Our plan of investigation is to ask all of those people we know who are in a position to voice an opinion what choice they would make or have made for their children. So far the early straw poll results show Pedro Ruiz Gallo National University, Santo Toribio de Mogrovejo University, and San Martin de Porres University as the front runners.

Pedro Ruiz Gallo National University apparently offers a quality education, and as a national university is, we are told much less expensive than the private schools, but all of those who recommended it also cautioned about the political climate, i.e., frequent protests by faculty and/or administrators usually about salaries. Some protests have lasted as long as 2 or 3 months.

The charge to take the entrance exam at Pedro Ruiz is $125, which is non-refundable whether the applicant is accepted or not. Because it costs less to attend than the private universities, there are always a large number of applicants applying for a very few number of vacancies. The odds of being accepted are not good.

We recently visited the university – located in the nearby city of Lambayeque, to get a feel for the campus. It has been in existence for nearly 35 years and is one of 27 national universities in Peru, with 5 being located in Lima. The day we were there it was virtually deserted; the students being on vacation and only a handful of staff in sight. There are no student dormitories. To me the campus is very attractive, and most of the buildings appear to be well maintained. The library and classrooms are what I would term utilitarian, but how fancy do they have to be for a good education?

We were told to avoid both the Señor de Sipan University and the Private University of Chiclayo because of a reputation for poor education. I don’t know if we’ll visit them or not but I am eager to visit the other private universities mentioned.

Several of the people we queried about universities volunteered the opinion that Brian should not choose lawyer or civil engineer as a career because “there are too many of them in Chiclayo.” I don’t know if that advice was tongue in cheek or not, as several of them were lawyers and civil engineers.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Integra Salud…a new medical clinic

I have a lot of respect for Juan and Jessica. They are two of the first people I met in Peru nearly 5 years ago and remain close friends, so it was a pleasure for Maribel and I to take part in the inauguration last night of Integra Salud (Integrated Health), their new medical clinic. As with the opening of any new enterprise, the affair was semi-formal with speeches, a blessing on the facility and attendees by a priest (who was very liberal in dousing everyone and everything in holy water) and ending with snacks and beverages.

Juan and Jessica have been married for 8 years and have one son...Juan Diego, who had the honor of smashing the champagne bottle. Juan works at Almanzor hospital specializing in internal medicine while Jessica is a surgeon currently working on forensic cases at the city morgue. For dental needs the clinic will also provide the services of Miriam Loayza Châvez, a dental surgeon. A nurse will be on site for 4 hours in the morning to deal with minor health issues and to schedule appointments, and again for 4 hours in the evening to assist Juan and Jessica, who will continue their day jobs for the foreseeable future. For any Chiclayano readers looking for good medical care, the clinic is located at Av. Santos Dumont #101 2do piso, directly across the street from Real Plaza. The phone number is 691660.

The average doctor in Chiclayo doesn’t make a lot of money. I am not aware of any doctor earning a living solely from a private practice, simply because the average Chiclayano is not prepared or able to pay a fee of…say more than 4 or 5 dollars. Most if not all of them during the day are salaried doctors at either a national hospital or private clinic; teach at university medical schools, or make sales calls at local pharmacies as drug manufacturer representatives, and even theses positions don’t pay anywhere near what their counterparts in the States would earn. As a consequence private office hours (usually in a small room in their homes) are held at night with irregular hours, often without charge to those unable to pay.

Juan and Jessica do not have plans to limit themselves to private practice, so they will probably continue to work long hours during the day while seeing private patients in the evening, plus find the time for parenting and continued involvement with community service. They’re good people, and we wish them, Miriam and Integra Salud every success.

Tom & Maribel

(L to R) Juan, Jessica, Father Tocto, Miriam and her husband Idelso who is a laboratory technician

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Independence Day customs in Chiclayo

Though Peruvian Independence Day doesn’t fall until the 28th, much of the month of July is devoted to preparation for the celebration. While city officials are busy planning and organizing for the many community festivals and activities, private citizens are doing their part to put a bright face on the city. Painting, or in some other way cleaning up your property is the custom beginning in early July. Actually, it’s more than a custom. Up until 12 – 15 years ago it was an enforced legal requirement.

What would happen is a city worker with a clipboard and supply of forms in hand would knock on your door. If the worker felt the front of your house needed painting or cleaning up, he would ask you what your plans were to do so and when. He would record your answer on the form. Next he would ask if you had a Peruvian flag. If you answered yes he would ask to see it. If no, he’d ask when you intend to get one. This answer was also recorded on the form. The worker would then sign and date the form and you would be given a copy. On July 27th – the day before Independence Day city workers would cruise the neighborhoods in cars checking to see if you had done what you said you would. If you had not, you’d hear another knock on your door. This time the worker would hand you a summons explaining where to pay your fine.

It is my understanding that cleaning up your property and flying the flag on Independence Day is still a legal requirement, and though it seems to no longer be strictly enforced, I have recently seen ‘flyers’ placed under doors by city workers reminding residents to clean up their property and fly the flag. Public officials and other celebrities are appearing on television encouraging viewers to show their patriotism. Whatever the stimulus, I like walking through the nearby neighborhoods and seeing entire blocks of houses seemingly bloom with new life. One word of caution…’fresh paint’ signs don’t exist here, so be careful where you lean.

This pin is called an Escarapela Peruana, or Peruvian Rosette. It is an official symbol dating back to the early history of the republic. The wearing of this symbol in July is mandatory for most public employees, and also for many employees of larger private businesses. I’m told that wearing the ‘Escarapela’ these days isn’t as common as it once was. If I remember correctly from last year I’d estimate that less than 50% of the people wear it. Maribel and I don’t leave home without ours.

To the more liberally minded it may seem strange and even offensive that people living in a democracy could be legally obligated to clean up their property and fly a flag to commemorate the country’s Independence Day, but as an old school patriot I kind of like that concept. On the 4th of July the American flag was proudly displayed from our balcony. Now it’s been replaced with the Peruvian banner. Viva Peru!