Thursday, June 12, 2014

Reverse Culture shock?

I am back at home now in the US and it was very weird coming back home (it's almost like I don't belong here now).  The fact that we were there for just 3 weeks, and not a longer period of time, really surprises me that I am having a "reverse culture shock" sort of experience. It is so quiet and bland here, and I am already surprised by all the differences that I never really noticed before; including the nice roads, calm traffic, nice organization of stores and professionalism of our business world.

It was hard leaving my host family in peru; I hope to go back and visit them and the country again, some time in the future. The flights home and everything went well, and we went through customs very fast. One of the highlights of my trip was the guy at customs saying "welcome home son". I almost started crying at that point, not sure why but I will never forget that moment in the airport in Texas.

The trip overall was amazing. A ton of cultural experiences as well as the ability to apply what I have learned in classes to a completely different environment. The fact that their economic environment is so much different than the United Sates adds to my diversity of knowledge.

The largest economic take away from the trip was the huge differences between the geographic areas of Peru. I was extremely surprised when we first saw the slums. I was prepared for those before we got there, but living in the inner city for a week before seeing those locations really made me think that Peru was more developed than it actually is. That experience at D1 and going through the slums made the largest impact.

The best experience of the trip is impossible to decide. I greatly enjoyed almost all of the visits and lectures as well as going to the soccer game, becoming a celebrity throughout the country and the night club scene. Overall the only thing that I would have changed about the experience was not having a translator come along. You do the best job translating and I am impressed with how bi-lingual you are; that must have been a ton of work for you and I respect that.

I applaud you for making this trip fun and not being an uptight asshole like many professors would have been. It was the best 21 days of my life and I would love to re-experience it again. i am extremely happy that I got tons of pictures, videos and peruvian artwork to show for my trip and remember the great experiences we had. I look forward to making all the videos for the class and hope you enjoy them also!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Bartering, general purchasing and miscelleneous in Peru

I have been amazed by such low prices throughout the whole trip. We have a higher cost of living in the united states, but that goes along with a higher wage. The prices here for the citizens probably do not seem low because they are, on average, paid less than those from the United States. We have to consider REAL prices with cost of living considered. I bet the prices are similar in real terms here and in the US. What that does for us though, is makes traveling somewhere like Peru cheaper because we have more money to spend. But then it seems there would be an effect on the relative value of the dollar? Wouldn't the exchange rate theoretically make up for this difference in wages? You would think, but nothing works out perfectly effecient.

Another thing I noticed is that people barter much more here than in the United States. The fact that we are tourists and obviously tourists may not help our cause in getting the lowest prices right off the bat, but the fact that you can haggle with some people makes things interesting. I have probably saved a good 30% off of asking prices through haggling with the sellers in the markets. If I were to come back I would plan on bringing much more money and much more bag space to buy more stuff here because it is cheaper in real terms. Something that really bothers me is how many of the vendors sell exactly the same items. This creates competition for the buyers, giving them more market power, but it also seems to create inefficiency because so many shops are selling the same things using more space for the same stuff. But this may spread the money equally throughout the economy not allowing people to sort of take over and monopolize, creating a larger income gap.

Something that I have noticed as an issue in the Peruvian economy is obviously government. The government plays a crucial role in, what it seems, every issue that has risen in this country. Another weakness i see is low value added jobs. There are many people that just seem to be standing around not doing much. I understand this is security and door people in most cases, which do help lower crime, but this is a large inefficiency in the economy caused by the nature of peruvian theft. Is this because the government is too weak also? Are people cautious about there belongings because they dont trust the government? Although Peru has seen growth in the last 20 years, reform is necessary in a few key areas.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Food in Peru

The diversity in the food here has been apparent to me since day 1. I have been interested to try many things and I am happy that I have been ambitious throughout this trip. One thing that I like a lot more than I thought I would is ceviche. I am not much of a fish person, but the ceviche is very good. I was happy that we had a chance to talk to and listen to elio talk about the diversity and the food systems here in Peru.

I like that peru is kind of like a mixing pot of all sorts of foods, from chinese to mexican, from italian to japanese, etc. The 3 main areas of peru are what give the country the opportunity to have diverse food choices and rich flavors. The andes, the coast and the rainforest all present different elements that can be seen as staples in different parts of the country (i.e. native fruit consumption in the tropical areas and high fish consumption along the coast).

I have been surprised at how the infrastructure and transportation has actually made delivery of fresh fruits from the rainforest to Lima, and the rest of Peru possible. It seems like such an underdeveloped infrastructure yet I see fruits that I know are not grown in the city of lima, or even relatively close to lima, for sale on the streets every day. Do the people that have the trucks full of fruit for sale on the side of the road drive all the way to the rainforest to get that stuff or are there intermediaries between here and there that sort of act as distributors or wholesalers? I would assume the latter, but would not be surprised if it worked in another fashion.

Tr3s restaurant was also very good. I enjoyed trying the diverse dishes that they offered us. One recommendation, if possible for next time, would be to give this opportunity at the beginning of the trip so that the students can sample more things right off the bat at no extra cost to them (if you dont like it you can simply share it with others). I liked the fact that we shared everything, also. It gave us an opportunity to try many things and still get extremely full.

The fact that Tr3s was in such a weird area was kind of surprising to me. For a more upscale restaurant I would think they would do better in an area such as mira flores (which has more people in their demographic, I would think). But then again, the fact that this restaurant is in an area that many locals already know about makes it more of a local destination than that of a tourist destination. SOmething that surprised me about that area was how intimidating and crowded it was in the streets, even though Elio said that it was actually a slow day in la victoria. Overall yesterday and trying all of the foods here has been a great experience.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Cusco

Over the last few days we enjoyed our stay in Cusco. This was an interesting experience culturally and economically.  Culturally it was similar to that of Lima, yet very different because of the demographics of cusco and the sacred valley. What I was really impressed/amazed by was how people were actually able to survive out in these rural areas and get the necessities of life (oil, food, water, etc.). I was also amazed at how many "businesses" there were or random shops in the areas. As we were traveling through all of these different rural areas I was constantly wondering how these people survived or how their businesses made enough money to sustain themselves.

I was also somewhat surprised by how similar the prices of everything there was versus here in Lima. I would have thought that economies of scale and easier transport within lima would keep costs lower, but it seems there is some impact on prices here in Lima that differs from that in Cusco and the Sacred valley. While I could tell that vendors started off at higher prices, I think that they were more flexible to offers and they probably needed or valued a single customer more than that of someone in Lima (the customer is more of a price maker in those areas because sellers need to take advantage of all the sales opportunities they get because they have less total opportunities to do so).

Those were some of the more interesting academic areas. I was also obviously interested in the architecture, artwork and geological variance in these areas. Traveling through the mountains via train was fun, as well as taking the buses through all of the small towns that are randomly dispersed throughout the mountains. One thing I noticed about the trains was that they were somewhat high priced compared to other forms of transportation in Peru. I'm not sure if this is because our demands as tourists are more price inelastic or if it is because they had to put a lot of capital into building and running the rails in such a remote location.

The last few days in Cusco were very experience packed and some of the best days that I have experienced. I very much enjoyed hiking over the mountain and getting a feel for how people here did it back in the days before easy transportation. I am also amazed at the work ethic that went into building some of these cities and destinations; if only this work ethic could still be present in today's society, we might all be better off.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Over the previous couple days we have done more adventurous things, but with less academic content. I am completely fine with that because it is more fun and I came more to experience the culture and live the life than I did to learn more about economics.

I did hear some interesting points of view about GLBT populations from the lecture on Tuesday. I also learned quite a bit at the fish plant. I enjoyed how they actually talked more about numbers and gave us an idea of exactly what was going on in the industry. The smell was terrible, but it was a good experience. It made me realize how much work and consideration goes into the finished products that we eat. Our adventure on the way there (somewhat getting lost) made me realize that there is a lot more work that goes into transportation and infrastructure usage than I had originally expected.

After today's lunch I don't understand how the hell Peru has some cheap prices on food... Our meal today was about $30 american... this to me is amazing because a similar meal at a similar location in the US would have atleast twice the price tag. I'm not sure this is because of more expensive value added procedures, more greed on margins at each phase of supply chain management or just because of higher wages/cost of living in general. It's just interesting to me how much cheaper almost everything here is than in the US.

I am concerned about the natural resources of Peru. While they are doing a good job of fishing safely and not wasting, it seems to me the population is just so large for the weak infrastructure to be able to sufficiently take care of use of natural resources. The weak infrastructure causes costs to be higher (for example, extra oil usage because of slower moving traffic). I could also see the mining industry dying off, but then again I do not know how much reserves are still left to be harvested. The fact that Peru seems to be so short time minded makes me skeptical that the growth that has been seen in the past 20 years or so is sustainable.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Yesterday we went to la salvidorra, one of the poorer districts in Peru. During this trip I saw first hand more of the impact of economic conditions on the people. I was actually amazed at how developed some of the areas of the district were and how advanced some of the materials and resources they were using were. I was also very impressed, and quite shocked, with how much they have grown since 1971 (when they were basically just a desert) and now they are one of the more industrialized shanty towns. While they obviously still need to grow, the progress that has happened over the last 40 years was something that was very intriguing to me.

Today we visited ILD, a think tank and business formalization advocate that tries to improve business conditions throughout the world. I thought it was interesting that business formalization was such a big concern. Growing up in the United States I guess I have just sort of taken this formalization for granted. I was also interested to see which countries needed the most help with formalization and finding out more about how long some of these areas take to actually get a business open and formalized. I have heard a lot of India being one of the hardest places in the world to start a formal business, so I would like to know more about how Peru compares to that of India and the United States (I suspect it is somewhere inbetween the two extremes).

One thing I did not agree with from today's visit to ILD was some of Rafael's Statements: in particular his bold "Misconception" statements that he did not have any proof against or numbers to back up what he was saying. I am a very data driven individual and believe that the numbers cut the fat off of what people say, so to speak. I could say that I am the fastest runner in the world, but without any time slips or data to compare there is no validity to these statements. Being a political minded individual he knows how to talk, and I think that is what he is using to form his success, more so than economic knowledge. Either way, it was very nice to see a different aspect of Peru and a nice business district similar to most in the United States.

Monday, May 26, 2014

well, it's 6am and off to another tiring day in Peru. Today we are visiting another poor part of the country. I am excited to see how different life is for other people.

Yesterday we visited a nice little get--away in ciniguilla (about a half our outside of Lima). Here we played soccer, volleyball, swam and ate the tradition "Poncha Mancha" which is a food that is prepared by the "earth". They use hot stones and leaves to cook the food in a hole. It was pretty good! The meat here is very similar to that of the US. I have noticed a definite difference between the fruits and vegatables though. Everything here seems to have more flavor and be (for the most part) larger in size.

All of my days are getting somewhat smooshed together at this point (because they have all been so jam-packed and great) but I can confidently say that every day has seemed to get better and better than the last. After yesterday's little retreat, i'm not sure if we will be able to continue this trend!

While we are visiting the poorer community today I would like to recognize that poor communities exist everywhere in the world and it is just a part of life that is unfortunate, but has to be true. As with any economic conditions there are pros and cons. The pros of a big city are economies of scale and many resources available, the cons are that the strong and smart capitalize while the weak and not as well educated scrape by to survive. This increases the inequality gap (which is not necessarily a bad thing, it is the natural thing and the market playing its force) What I am most interested in is why people that grow up in poverty seem to have the belief and follow the trend that they cannot get themselves out of these conditions.