Five weeks later and we’re back in the United States (or Canada if you’re Dayae). Over the past few weeks we’ve experienced and accomplished more than we could have expected. We’ve painted well over ten walls and helped to fix the plumbing and mosquito nets around the bathroom of the school in Santa Cruz all while translating games from our childhood into Spanish.
We’ve traveled for countless hours by boat and hiked over 50 miles through the Amazon rainforest. We’ve found entertainment in things like mud balls and butterfly-eating spiders. We’re so thankful to people like Emerson, Gilberto, Devon and of course Nourish International for making our trip possible. We’re so excited to continue communicating with Santa Cruz throughout the year and help another group of Rice students prepare for their own Amazonian adventure.
This week was our last in Peru! We left our field station on Tuesday morning, and trekked our last hike. We exchanged sad farewells with Ruth and Casey, the two little girls who lived with us, their parents, and Oso their pet dog. We said bye to Gilberto (our cook) in Mazàn, and finally arrived back in Iquitos around noon. I can’t express the joy I (Dayae) felt at the sight of motorcars and streets. We all enjoyed the wifi at our hotel and fans (electricity is amazing) before heading out to eat at Ari’s, a local hamburger/pizza/pasta place near the hotel. We then headed to the Artisan Market where we were able to buy some beautiful souvenirs. I ended up going a little overboard on earrings – where else can you buy anaconda vertebrae, butterfly wings, porcupine spines, and Paiche (a fish) scales?!
At night, we went to a pizza restaurant and gorged ourselves on the most delicious pizza I’ve had. Half of that deliciousness came from the fact that we hadn’t had any Western food for five weeks, but the pizza was also great and cooked in an oven right below us. We then had some fun looking around the area near our hotel – it seemed like downtown Iquitos, with plenty of casinos and brightly lit clothing and electronic stores.
The next day, we attempted to go to a Manatee reservation and took a 40 minute motorcar ride there, but sadly it was closed. We did run into the director of Project Amazonas, who was there with another group about to leave for the field site, and he suggested we go to the zoo which was nearby. Fortunately that was open and it was a fun experience. It was also a little saddening to see the small spaces they left the animals in – the pumas had a cage smaller than my own room at Rice.
The next morning, we left for Lima and made it safely to our hotel. I thought I had been over-excited to see motorcars in Iquitos, but seeing cars was a whole new experience. We walked to a nearby mall to get dinner (at Chili’s!) and had some fun with a photobooth station and giant, moving stuffed animals you could ride.
The next day, we had the whole morning and afternoon before our flight back to the States, so we went to Miraflores. Unfortunately, Avery was sick and couldn’t make it :(. We went to a chocolate museum, where we got to make our own chocolate – all the way from unroasted cacao beans! We also went to Kennedy Park, or rather, Cat-edy park. There were so many cats just lying around everywhere – so many I couldn’t even keep count. Apparently there’s an adoption campaign for these cats, but clearly it’s not working very well! We also went to a local restaurant and the group split Cui…also known as guinea pig. It’s a delicacy in Peru, and we felt like we should experience it before leaving. It was quite the experience!
Finally, we returned to the hotel to collect our luggage and get Avery before going to the airport. I was actually very sad that the trip had ended, even though we’ll all be seeing each other again in two or three weeks. Nothing like the Amazon to make a group of strangers into a group of close friends!
Sunday, 13 July
The World Cup Final! In addition to our usual Saturday trip, Juan, Michael, and I (Nick) took a Sunday trip to Mazán to watch the game. We were accompanied by Emerson, with boating by Julio and family. We arrived at 11 because we thought the game started at 11:30. Turns out it actually started at 2, so we killed some time using the internet and eating some delicious fish at the local cevicheria, El Pez Blanco. (The fish here is straight out of the river and better than any fish I’ve ever had. No annoying “fishy” taste.) Germany won, much to the disappointment of the 50 or so Peruvians also watching in the restaurant. They were all cheering for Messi, if not Argentina.
We walked back in semi-darkness without flashlights. The hike back was a little scary, but manageable. If the game had gone to penalties, though, we might not have made it back. (Emerson says there used to be quite a few jaguars around the field station, but we haven’t seen any yet.) We left Emerson in Mazán and picked up Gilberto, who just recovered from a few-day stint of malaria. We arrived back at the field station to discover that the girls hadn’t had lunch since we left with the cook! Luckily they survived on cookies and ate an extra big dinner to make up for it.
Monday, 14 July
Continued work on the school today, painting and replacing mosquito screens. Many kids are absent from school with malaria; Emerson said one class has 12 of 16 students out sick. The hike back was dreadfully hot so some of us decided to go swimming. While swimming we made 4 mudballs, and decided to name them Chachi, Tofer, Pablo Sanchez, and Pelota.
Tuesday, 15 July
Today for lunch Gilberto made us Huancaína, which is a delicious cheese sauce that tastes amazing with potatoes. We’ve asked Gilberto to make it more often. (Note by Dayae: this was my favorite food I had on the trip, and that’s saying something because all the food was amazing! I don’t even like cheese…)
Wednesday, 16 July
Watched Brother Bear and finally learned the word for the delicious ice cream things: curichi. There’s curichi salespeople everywhere. We keep calling it “helado,” but Emerson told us the real word today. The aguaje flavor (Emerson’s favorite) is made from palm tree fruit and has a really unique taste.
Thursday, 17 July
Incredibly hot today, so Michael and I (Nick) decided to jump off the boat on our way back from the school. It was slightly terrifying once we realized the current was stronger than we expected, but we both made it to shore safely. Then Juan and Dayae and I decided to run the trail instead of hiking. It was a terrible idea but surprisingly fun. We made it in 12 minutes and collapsed when we made it to the table. Gilberto had orange slices ready for us, and after a long, sweaty run they were the best-tasting orange slices I’ve ever had.
Friday, 18 July
We painted using ladders today, and bought some orange KR (a Peruvian soda) from a house store near the school. Then one of Julio’s sons climbed an incredibly tall coconut tree and threw down a couple coconuts. He hacked them open with a machete, and we drank the coconut water! It was refreshing even though it actually tasted pretty bad.
Then a bunch of us jumped off the boat again to cool off. Walked back to the field station with Emerson, and he told me a bunch of stories about working for Project Amazonas. Apparently he only took one year of English classes, and the rest of his knowledge was learned through work. Which is amazing, since he’s a pretty competent English speaker. He told me that the Mazán river has tons of stingrays. Emerson is such a wise, caring person. I’ll miss conversations with him.
It’s the end of the third week of our trip, and things are a lot calmer than they were the first few days. The hike is a lot easier now and there have been significantly less giant spiders/tarantulas in our huts recently. Rain kept us from working on Monday, which was a bit disappointing, as we were all really excited to start painting. It was nice to have another day of relaxation and sleeping in, though. On Tuesday, we had to head down to the school with a smaller group than usual, as a few of the girls seemed to have gotten food poisoning from our trip to Mazan over the weekend. I (Michael) haven’t gotten sick out here yet, so I’m hoping my luck continues!
Having fewer numbers than usual worked out, however, as when we met Emerson at the school and started painting, we had just enough brushes for the group that came. Painting was a really interesting process. We started by mixing the paint with glue and water until it was “ready”. I couldn’t really tell what made it “ready”, but Emerson was there to let us know when it was good. Next, we had to sand down the walls of the bathroom to clean off clung-on dirt and make the surface tacky for putting on the paint. Scratching the spiderwebs and bat droppings from the wall wasn’t the most glamourous of work, but we got through it pretty quickly. Then we finally got to paint! We went with a light blue for the boy’s bathroom, with a light green trim around the top of the room. Painting was a blast, and we played some music in the background to get into the zone, so it was basically like a mini painting party! We were able to get through several coats of the walls in one day, and when we came the next day, the room looked fantastic. With the whole group healthy again, by the end of the work week we had finished the boy’s bathroom, painted the wall outside the bathrooms green, and started on the yellow for the girl’s bathroom. The plumbing the bathrooms was also working without leaking now!
After a solid week of working, we actually got two chances to head into town. We went to Mazan on Saturday for internet and food, heading to Pez Blanco again, where we got a full menu this time around. We also found out they had spaghetti as a side, which literally everyone at the table ordered. The internet didn’t work out, as the laptop we were going to use died and couldn’t be charged, so we just enjoyed our meal and then headed back to the field site. On Sunday, the guys headed back into town to catch the world cup final. This was great as we had heard of Germany’s trouncing of Brazil a few days earlier and were dying to see some soccer. We came back to Pez Blanco, which had basically become our home base, and got good seats for the game. We accidentally got there a bit early (about 4 hours before the game), but it gave us time to use the internet and relax. The game was great, although a bit disappointing as almost everyone in Mazan was supporting Argentina. Still, the game was a highlight and a great way to wrap up another productive week in the Amazon.
On Monday at school, we tried Peruvian “ice-pops”. They look like ice pops, but taste a lot creamier (though there are also non-creamy kinds that we haven’t tried yet). The coconut flavor was full of little coconut pieces and was amazing, especially with the hot weather.
We also had someone else join us this week! Her name is Kate, and she’s a med student from Britain who is doing her elective with Project Amazonas. She just finished a medical expedition on one of PA’s larger boats, and will be staying with us until we leave. She’s staying for a bit longer and going on another boat trip – I don’t know if I would be able to stay here that long!
The day after Kate came, the boys had a visitor in their hut: a giant spider that we named Ivy (she looked terrifying and poisonous, so…poison ivy?). She was our entertainment for the night, as she ended up murdering 3 butterflies and making them a 3-course meal. Now that’s something you’ll only see in the Amazon.
We were waiting all week for Emerson, the constructor who is supposed to help us, to arrive but he was nowhere to be seen…until Friday! We were all so excited because now we have all our supplies and we can start working on our latrine-repair project. So far we’ve been playing games with the kids at recess (Pato Pato Ganzo, or Duck Duck Goose, is crazy tiring because all the kids are fast and the sun is so intense).
Once he got here, we were able to clean out the bathrooms so we can paint them. The boys’ bathroom had been full of bats so there were bat droppings and twigs everywhere. Emerson told Nick that the twigs are actually fruit tree branches, and that the bats eat the fruit. Anyways, next week we’ll finally be able to paint and we’re all very excited!
We’re here in Peru! It was a long journey with lots of flight delays (we had to board a plane, get off the plane, and reboard another plane in Lima), but we made it to our home for the next five weeks. We’re pretty isolated – Iquitos is the nearest mainland city and it takes around 2 hours to get there (30 minute hike, 50 minute boat ride, 15 minute motorcar ride through a small town called Mazàn, and a 30 minute speedboat ride). Speaking of, the hike from the river to our field station is quite intense. It’s only a mile long but it takes us 30 minutes because we have to step through recently machete-d trees, canoe across a flooded region, and try not to trip and die along the way. We’ll definitely get in shape here!
I think we were all a bit surprised when we saw the huts we would be living in. The huts are half wood and half mo
squito netting (so that air can flow through, seeing as there’s no electricity for fans or AC), and have thatched roofs. There are beds in the huts, and thankfully we have mosquito nets to put around the beds – I have no words to express how many mosquitos come out to feast on us here.
The first night was especially bad for me, because we had to shower in the dark. The only two showers are outdoors (though they have walls and doors) so I (Dayae) felt pretty vulnerable. Juan also found a stiff, dead mouse in one and I nearly touched it thinking it was a leaf. It took me quite a while to recover from that, haha.
But the excitement couldn’t end with just a dead mouse – not in the jungle! Vy and Laura found a tarantula in their hut and eventually moved to another hut. I also woke up to very disturbing scratching noises in the middle of the night. Turns out, they’re from harmless geckos on the thatched roof but I thought a giant bat was going to come and eat me.
Basically, it was a tough week of adjusting but I’m feeling better already. The food is WONDERFUL (Gilberto is our chef and he could probably win Masterchef), and showering in the light is a lot more pleasant. We also haven’t seen any more tarantulas (though that could change in the next few weeks), and there haven’t been any snakes on our hiking trail yet. The kids at the school we’ll be working at (15 minute boat ride down the river) are wonderful and adorable. The school even has toilets already! We had all thought that we were going to be building portable latrines, but it turns out we just need to fix the plumbing. Unfortunately the constructor we’ll be working with – Emerson, isn’t here so we can’t start yet. For now, we’ve been keeping busy by teaching English and playing games with the kids during recess.
We’re all excited for the next four weeks!
In our last post we discussed the creation of the room for the MOCHE Women. This past week we dedicated most of our time to building cocinas mejoradas or in English, improved cooking stoves, for some women in the co-op. Why would these women want a stove like this? Many women cook over open flames inside their homes, which cause asthma and other respiratory issues. Furthermore, firewood is scarce and expensive. Cocinas mejoradas use less wood, heat more efficiently, and have chimney’s which remove smoke from the home; all adding up to a healthier and more cost-effective way of cooking. These stoves consist of about 40 Adobe bricks, multiple clumps of mud (barro), and about twenty bricks (ladrillos). We contracted a local man, Andres, to help us put together each stove—we made seven. The reason we only made seven stoves is because there was a lot of labor involved—more than I expected. Each Adobe weighed around 40 to 50 pounds and had to be transported from one end of the village to the other. The mud had to be thoroughly mixed with water and placed into multiple buckets to be used by Andres. We all had experience rolling, shoving, and mentally willing the buckets to move, since each bucket weighed as much as we did. Once the mud was mixed and moved to the specified location, we became one with the mud. We slathered the mud on our hands and started laboriously working—or rather, playing—with the mud to cover all of the holes of the cocinas. At the end of the day, our hands, legs and faces were covered in mud—but hey, mud is good for our skin.
Hello everyone! This was the week it hit us hard realizing just how long we have actually been in Peru. At the time of posting this we have been here for 38 days. It’s crazy to think that we have been in this country for over a month. Our week was yet again pretty uneventful, mostly filled with relaxing in our hotel garden. We did, although, have some excursions throughout the week to take up some of our time. One day we went to the Catedral de Companiña located right next to the city’s center. This place was beautiful and filled with lots of gold throughout the entire building. When going to the back of the building we found a small chapel room (which we cannot remember the name right now) that we relate to the Sistine Chapel yet smaller. The room was hand painted from floor to ceiling using paint that they made from animal fat mixed with fruits and vegetables. Adjoining the chapel was two courtyards that are described as cloisters which had multiple little shops in them. These were also quite nice to hang out in for a short while. Some people on Trip Advisor said to look for the lady selling queso helado in one of these squares and be sure to buy some so of course I (Hannah) had to try some and the people of Trip Advisor were not lying – that was some delicious helado.
Another day in Arequipa we went to an organic chocolate shop to learn about how they make chocolate here and how to make our own. A big portion of the countries cocoa beans are produced here in Peru and the making of chocolate dates back to when Hernando Cortez came and discovered this country. The cocoa bean was used as currency back during that time because of its great value. Women were bought as wives for 3 cacao beans, but in comparison, a rabbit would cost 20 cacao beans. We were shown how the bean goes from bean form to the texture we are most used to seeing chocolate in. We were even given an Andean chocolate drink made from beans that that had been roasted and then we ground ourselves. It wasn’t the best and we couldn’t finish the very small glasses we were given due to the true bitterness. Our instructor told us that Cortez would request this drink multiple times on a daily basis. We were also able to do some taste testing to see if we could tell the difference between artisanal chocolate and store bought as well as between dark and milk. After that was the making of our own chocolates where we were able to pick from different fillings/toppings to bring home. It has taken us a lot of will power to not eat the chocolate we made as Emily and I have some pretty large sweet teeth (almost a week without eating it and going strong).
The chocolate class ended around 7PM and we were very hungry so we went to the main plaza to look around for food. The police presence had grown and we realized that all the lights in the main square were off as well as one side of the plaza. Restaurants were lit by candlelight so we were not sure if they were cooking still. I, Emily, joked and asked Hannah if she would like to have a romantic candlelight dinner with me. Safe to say I got denied. We started walking on the main strip and suddenly every light on the strip around us went out and everything was black. People screamed and grabbed their loved ones close or the nearest police officer. I grabbed Hannah and we walked quickly towards the light, which luckily forus was in the direction of our hotel. We remembered a pizza place near our hotel that we started to head for and as we neared the hotel/pizza it was very smoky and started smelling like campfire. A campfire smell in a city with tons of smoke did not seem normal, but no one seemed worried so we just continued to walk. To this day we still have no idea what happened, but everyone made it seem like it happened often or was not a big ordeal. The next day, while relaxing in the garden, there was a sudden mini earthquake. By that I mean it lasted a maximum of three minutes, if that. Hannah was a little startled and, having been my first earthquake, I should have been, but I just sat there and said, “Oh yeah, I heard earthquakes are an occurrence here.” Earthquake and blackout down. Now we are wondering what Peru has in store for us next…
We also stopped by the large market one day, which is filled with fruits, veggies, meat stands, cheese, hats, and many more different items. They have some stands where you can eat lunch and this is where Hannah and I tried ceviche for the first time!
At the end of the week we headed to the town of Nazca on an overnight bus ride so that we could see the Nazca Lines. We ended up buying the nicer seats so they were much bigger and we were provided with individual TVs for entertainment (a little luxury for a tiny bit of the trip did not hurt). We arrived in Nazca pretty early in the morning and upon arrival we waited for over an hour until we figured out that the person from the tour we booked had forgotten to pick us up. We were able to drive somewhere to get wifi and Emily looked up the tour groups information so that we could get in contact with them. Soon after calling, about 2.5 hours after the bus dropped us off, we were able to be picked up and taken to the airport. Luckily we had plenty of experience waiting throughout our time in Peru, so we didn’t stress very much over the wait. While there we spent quite a while waiting again but the flight was very interesting. Our pilots didn’t give us a lot of information on the background of the lines, but to tell those of you who are not sure what these are, the basics is that they are large archaeological lines that date back to the incas and can only be seen from the sky. They are incredible because whomever designed/constructed these had no arial views of what they were constructing. The flight was a bit scary for both of us and my (Hannah) family especially knows how nervous of a flier I am, but it went well and we were able to get some good pictures that we will try and share with you.
We also wanted to just take the time and say thank you for the comments! They were just discovered by us a short time ago and we appreciate the well wishes and prayers. We just arrived in Puno and will reside here until our flight to Cusco Sunday morning, which we CANNOT wait for!
The title of this post basically explains our past four weeks, especially this past week. We were continually told that the stoves would begin, but they never did. After sitting around playing cards a majority of the time here we figured that our time would be better spent if we left and continued onto another journey traveling around Peru and possibly other close by countries. We know that the stoves will begin at some point and the donated money is being put to good use, but it is a shame we will not see them implemented. We decided that it was in our best interest to leave Chijnaya instead of waiting for tomorrow. It was a very stressful decision, more on my, Emily’s, end, because I tried to stay positive that the stoves would begin. The stoves were to begin Monday, then Tuesday, then Wednesday, and finally Friday, which I was hopeful about. After much discussion with Hannah I emailed my father, Chancey, and those in the Chijnaya organization. After reading my fathers email, Hannah and I teared, okay or bawled, from the words of a father and the stress that we were under. By Wednesday I was defeated, we were both frustrated, and Hannah said, “Emily a decision has to be made now. We leave or stay.” Her parents are SO KIND and allowed me to use minutes on Hannah’s phone to call my father to talk to him. After our discussion, I knew it was best for Hannah and my sanity to depart from Chijnaya. We got back on the motorcycle with Jhuver to take us to Chijnaya and we spoke to Jhuver once at our home. It is hard to tell him our feelings because of the language barrier, but we told him it was in an email for him to translate. This discussion with him took place after he stated that there would be a meeting Friday (so no stoves beginning) and the stoves would probably begin Saturday, Sunday, or Monday. That statement, as Hannah pointed out, definitely solidified the decision we made, for me, and put me at ease of if we were to stay in Chijnaya our last week and a half would be wondering if the stoves would actually begin. We decided to go to Arequipa for the weekend to do research and determine where we will travel for the next week.
Hannah and I discussed that we would never take our time here back because each of us learned extremely important, yet different for both, life lessons. We learned things that will carry us through life, especially in this next chapter we embark on as graduates, and learned a lot about ourselves. As we began packing, we were bittersweet. It was sad to say goodbye as it usually is, especially since we became really close with Hannah’s host family. Lourdes got Hannah a beautiful alpaca sweatshirt as a going away present, which she was thrilled about and so thankful for. Thursday we were able to spend the day with Lourdes, the mom, and Naid, the little girl, at the market in Pucara and watch little toddlers traditional dancing in the next town over, which was pretty hysterical and adorable at the same time. One group had two coaches that were going crazy running everywhere yelling (the coach reminded us of the coach Abby from our friend Maggie’s favorite show Dance Moms).
Lourdes and Naid picking vegetables at the market.
Monday was the celebration of the opening of the cheese factory in Chijnaya. Many of us gathered in a circle to listen to the presentations and watch the “cutting of the ribbon,” which in Chijnaya is a ceramic pot full of water hanging in the doorway and being smashed by a hammer. Cerveza and food was passed around in celebration. One day this week we learned about the history of the Andean region through tapestry work crafted by the tapestry maestra of the community. Her work was beautiful and it was intriguing to hear about the history, which was detailed on the tapestries.
We left Chijnaya Friday night and it was quite sad as we departed. We suddenly looked at each other on the ride from Pucara to Juliaca and said, “We just left for good. This is so strange. I am pretty sad about this actually.” We waved our goodbyes to our home of the last four weeks and hugged our families. Salud to Chijnaya and our next journey!
Us with Hannah’s family.
Left to right top row: Alfredo, Emily, Lourdes, Hannah.
Bottom row: Naid and Miguel
After much research we figured our money and time would be best spent if we stayed here in Arequipa for the week and planned multiple day trips and excursions while here. There is much to do and see around here and one thing we are very excited about is going to a chocolate factory and learning how to make organic chocolate. There is also a lot of hiking and athletic activities here which, as most my family and friends know (oh, this is Hannah now by the way), I am not athletic in any way shape or form. Plus, there is a lot of mountain biking and as my family will most likely laugh about I somehow forgot how to ride a bike in between being 12 and last summer. Anyhow, we have come up with a list of things we can do around here such as museums and scenic areas and possibly along with outdoor exciting activities that don’t require much athleticism for me, sorry Emily! We will keep you posted on all of our adventures and it might even be sooner rather than later now that we have easy access to wifi. Hope everyone had a great Independence Day, ours was mostly spent waiting for Jhuver to come pick us up and traveling to Arequipa but we have enjoyed (actually envied) seeing everyone’s posts about their celebrations.
This week in Arequipa has been full of many things. Travel, new friends, beautiful sights, and little tastes of home. As Hannah stated in our last post, we toured the Monasterio de Santa Catalina, which was absolutely beautiful and filled with so much history. It is a city inside the city, as they referred to it, and for 391 years only nuns were allowed in! It was opened to the public in the 1970s and became an interest to travelers, which is why Arequipa became a tourist destination.
In the main plaza (Plaza de Armas) is the Cathedral of Arequipa, which is beautiful on the inside and outside. It was placed where it is because natives prayed to the mountains and the church blocked the view of the mountains, so that you had to pay your respects towards the church.
After touring the second day here we turned the corner to the main strip to find lunch and when I looked to my left I laughed and said, “Hannah I think your dreams have come true.” I don’t think I have ever seen a person more excited to see a McDonald’s in their life (she was later disappointed in McDs after her lunch there later that week). We tasted many different types of food, different from those we had in Chijnaya. This included delicious carrot cake, my personal favorite – HOT CHOCOLATE, pizza, hamburgers, and traditional Peruvian foods. Speaking of food, we took a cooking class at our hotel and made Lomo Saltado and another traditional meal. They were very delicious! The chef that taught us was very kind and funny, so we had an enjoyable time learning about the history of Peruvian food.
Throughout our week, we continually saw old beetles (the car) and we were so excited because you rarely see them in the USA. Jhuver kept telling us that he had an old car and tonight he came to pick us up in his car to buy bus tickets for tomorrow’s journey. To our excitement, especially Hannah’s, it was an old beetle and we got to ride across town in it with him and his little daughter.
Unfortunately, yet luckily because we had access to some sunshine and plumbing, Hannah and I were both not feeling our best during the week. But we ended up feel much better for our trip back to Chijnaya. We watched many World Cup games and cheered on the USA and Columbia. It was in all a wonderfully relaxing week and gave us a peek back into our westernized culture and a taste of home which is just what we needed before heading back to rural Peru.
We are off to Chijnaya tomorrow on a bus at 6:30AM and will try to write as soon as we can! We begin the stove construction Wednesday and another bricklayer was found, so hopefully we will be able to construct four stoves per day! We cannot believe we are already three weeks in and halfway through our journey. Thank you for the kind words and support throughout our trip, they are much appreciated!