News - November 3, 2011

Blonde in Peru

Suzanne Overbeek

Who? Laura van Donkelaar, Sustainable Food Processing
What? Internship with the R&D department at Gloria S.A.
Where? Lima, Peru
Why? ‘I was keen to go to South America and to work for a big company'

‘The first day at the company was a real experience: people there were not used to blonde girls and that was very obvious. The first time I walked into the canteen there were about 200 people staring at me.
At first I got letters every day, and chocolate or even flowers and jewelry. Many people were curious about me and tried to talk to me. At first that was difficult because of the language barrier but fortunately they were very open and they wanted to involve me in everything. Women in Peru are really treated like princesses. Doors are opened for you, your chair is pushed in for you and you are treated to dinners. And I was never allowed to carry anything that looked heavy, like more than three litres of yoghurt. If my colleagues saw me it would either be taken off me by the men or a man would be called in to do so by the women. Sometimes this was nice but I also found it annoying to be so dependent. So I usually didn't go along with it. And my colleagues found that hard to get used to.
The work was very varied. In the plant where I was working, products such as milk, cheese, yoghurt, butter, fruit drinks, soft drinks and soya products were manufactured. Work was done on all these products in the research department. I mainly worked on the development of various brands of yoghurt. For me, Gloria was an interesting company where there was plenty to see. People work hard there, from eight o'clock in the morning till five thirty in the afternoon, with a 45 minute break. And they work on Saturday mornings too. So it's not a ‘mañana, mañana' culture. The work was nice, but what I shall remember most is the people I met and the places I saw. Of the six months I spent in Peru, I was travelling for two. I spent two weeks in the jungle, a week at the coast and the rest of the time in the Andes. The mountains were my favourite. During a trek, you see the vegetation change very fast until there are only rocks and snow-covered peaks left: that was a fantastic sight.'