Despite “self-care” being a frequent joke in our group, I have actually taken interest in observing the self-care of the locals in both the cities of Cusco and Pisac. One contrasting difference between the practices of Peruvians and North Americans is the way in which one regards public sanitation. For example, in the United States, it is possible to find hand-sanitizer dispensers scattered throughout cities and institutions along with respectable public restrooms, whereas here it is difficult to even find hand-soap and toilet paper. In North America, people are hired just to take care of, restock, and clean facilities, even in the dorms of unreasonably messy students. Some restrooms here, however, look like they haven’t been serviced in days and some children choose to use plants as an alternative relief area. Although I am not sure why this is the case, I have speculated a few plausible reasons. The first being finances and the need to prioritize spending on other amenities and infrastructures. The second being modernization and how less developed countries do not have good public sanitation systems in place. And the last being a lack of cultural emphasis on the need for cleanliness. Despite these seemingly negative observations, there are also several positives. For one, the streets in both Cusco and Pisac are kept relatively clean considering how many people travel through them on foot, the large community of stray dogs, and the small number of public trash cans. In Chicago, one can find litter in the streets, sidewalks covered in gum, and other various health concerns. Furthermore, having few public sanitation practices serves to build a community with better immune systems than those who try to decontaminate every surface (sorry, the science major in me is coming out). In the United States, many people are exposed to too little bacteria because of sanitation practices and are therefore becoming more susceptible to illness while simultaneously creating very resilient strains of bacteria (okay, I will stop with the science rant now). As long as a person doesn’t have a phobia of using public restrooms, Cusco and Pisac are what I would consider clean cities.
Regarding the more hygienic dimension of self-care, I have also witnessed noticeable differences in the habits of Peruvians and North Americans. One of the best habits I have seen from Peruvians is how they don’t smoke very much. Even though cigarettes are for sale in many stores, I have only witnessed European and North American visitors lighting them up. Furthermore, they eat a lot of soups, fresh vegetables, and less processed breads here. Aside from the Inca Cola and coca candies, the locals here having a well-rounded diet in my opinion. I honestly can say that I eat healthier here than I do in the States. On the other hand, there are areas of hygiene in Peru that could be improved. For example, they do not have sufficient dental care. Locals have missing teeth and those that are left are not in the best shape. Even though I am not sure, the poor dental care is probably a result of the faulty insurance support in less developed countries. Nonetheless, I have seen some dentist offices scattered about which means Peru is working on the problem on some dimension. For what I believe is the same reason, I have not seen many locals with glasses and have not seen a single optometrist. In North America, many people start getting their eyes checked as children because better eye-sight lends to a better quality of life. Here they either don’t share the same value, have naturally great eyesight, or simply don’t have the resources (I believe the latter is the most plausible). To end on a more positive note, I would like to touch on how I have not seen women wear much makeup here. Despite seeing a few girls made-up and the sale of some makeup products in stores, it does not compare to the amount of makeup girls wear daily in the states. In my opinion, this is not a negative because the Peruvian women have great complexions that do not need to be synthetically masked! Overall, the self-care in Peru is very different than in the United States and is so for many possible reasons.