It doesn’t matter how comfortable the bed or quiet the room, first nights in hotels always have me tossing and turning. At 5:30am, I finally give in and rise from my restless sleep. I walk to the windows, draw open the blinds and to my surprise see a city already wide awake. By 6:00am the streets are lined with cars, public buses packed to the gills, and sidewalks bustling with people. Rush hour in Lima has begun and drivers here show their horns great affection. But what are the Limans doing awake so early?

Consider the facts: Lima is BIG. With an imprint of 1,032 square miles it's well over three times the size of New York City (305 mi2) and double the size of Los Angeles (503 mi2). The total population of Lima is 8.47mm, compared to 8.40mm for NYC and 3.92mm for LA. With no underground train system, and many unable to afford cars on their average monthly wages of roughly 1,600 Soles ($500), the public bus system is relied on heavily. Essentially, there are a very large number of people commuting each day and travel distances can be lengthy; driving the city limits end-to-end could take up to two hours. So given the circumstances, what’s the most practical solution? Wake up earlier!

On our first official day in Lima, Gustavo and I were greeted warmly in our hotel lobby by Don Victor Ganoza, TechnoServe’s (TNS) Peru country director. We hopped in his car for a quick ride to the TNS office, and after a few introductions and brief tour of the office, got straight to work. The majority of our morning was spent onboarding, which included a 90 minute conference call with our fellow PIMCO volunteers, Nicole Holsted and Alain Mandy (who have been in-country for three weeks), where we were caught up to speed on the progress of our project.

The 2015 Emerging Enterprise Program team is being tasked with identifying viable financing options for coffee and cacao famers who wish to use fertilizer for the purpose of boosting crop productivity. The main dilemma is that the vast majority of farmers cannot afford the upfront costs associated with buying fertilizer and banks are reluctant to lend them money, due to high the risks associated with farming. Nicole and Alain have made great strides thus far and Gustavo and I are excited to jump in and begin providing contributions.

After concluding our work day, we headed out for a tour of Lima to see some of the city’s attractions, including its main birthplace and site of the presidential Palace, Plaza de Armás. Another one of my favorite areas in Lima is El Malecón, a beautiful promenade that stretches three miles of oceanfront in the neighborhood of Mira Flores. It’s a popular site for running, surfing, paragliding, and relaxing.

All in all, the first 48 hours have been a success and we look forward to providing additional details on our progress next week. Ciao!

The Volunteer

Drew Mena

VP-Regional Manager, GWM Internal Sales

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