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!
One week since we landed in Uganda, and it’s been quite the experience! Everyone at RHCF has been wonderful to us and made us feel at home. It took no time for us to get settled before we were out in the field working along with staff members and the communities surrounding Mubende. One of RHCF’s primary goals is to make sure there is no more open defecation by December 2014 through teaching sustainable hygiene and sanitation practices to all. We went out into the field to do baseline studies in different villages to assess the extent to which they already follow sustainable practices, for example looking at whether they use latrines or have hand-washing stations (which they call tippy-taps). The point of this is to assess the potential impact that a well would have on a community; if villagers do not practice sustainable hygiene and sanitation, then the water will be contaminated and the well will become useless.
After doing studies in four villages, we analyzed our data and selected the two villages where we feel the wells will have the most impact, Kiseza village and Mazooka village. The community in Kiseza was so grateful and excited about the project that they started digging the next morning at 8am and have been tirelessly working since It’s been amazing to see their progress and to watch the community come together to oversee its completion.
Having the chance to experience and learn about a new culture has been great for all of us. Paige has been our leading language expert and we’re learning that simple phrases like “my name is Paige” and “I like jack fruit” go a long way with the children, though they rarely choose to respond and rather giggle and look away. We have quite a fan club of children anywhere we go, normally there are about 20 trailing kids on any walk. The company has been great, and despite the laughs, it’s helping us improve our Luganda.
One of the funniest moments of the past week has been introducing peanut butter to the RHCF staff, it was a big hit. It’s asked for at every meal and has been put on everything from potatoes to beans to egg sandwiches. We’ve gone through half of a huge jar in two days, and we’re expecting it to be gone in a few more. After trying so many new dishes made by the staff, it was nice to share one of our favorite foods with them too!
This weekend we will be in Kampala and hopefully we will be able to get up some photos!
During our last weeks in Orissa, we were primarily focused on bringing our English classes to an end, coordinating the final workshops with the village women, and just enjoying the time we had left. Samuel, another intern, and I continued to gather interviews of the village women and translate the footage for the project documentary. On our last teaching day in Orissa, we had a party for the students. It was a great way to say bye and leave our students on a good note. On our very last day in Orissa, we took part in a day-long marathon of activities. In the morning, we led a meeting with the women thanking them for their support, in the afternoon we participated in a foot rally encouraging the villagers to send their kids to school, and at night, we concluded with a cultural program led by our students.
Overall, my internship in Orissa was an enlightening experience. Experiencing the adversity and poverty in the villages we worked in gave new meaning to the work I was doing. The people I met, the relationships I created, and the work I took part in all contributed to the transformative nature of this experience. On the surface level, I was able to teach my students six weeks of English, empower the village women through constructive workshops, and implement various interventions aimed at improving life in the village. On a deeper level, I hope my presence in Orissa positively impacted the villagers, the same way they have positively impacted me.
This past week, we were able to get our project finished. Talking to the kids about what they wanted the future to look like, many of them said that they wanted a cleaner Bali. But then we would see them throw trash on the ground or in a stream. There was just no connection between their actions and the concept of a “Clean Bali.”
So last week we started our beach cleaning initiative. During our time in English class,we talked about environmental initiatives and how the kids can make an impact in their daily lives. One class was soon chanting: “Environment! Reduce! Reuse! Recycle!” We discussed not getting a plastic bag at the grocery store and refilling reusable water bottles. The kids came up with their own ways to make an impact. We felt like it was important to try to instill them with passion because any big change that is to be made on this island will have to come from the locals. And in my humble opinion, these kids will be some of the ones to do it.
On Wednesday and Thursday, instead of holding class, we took the kids down to the beach to clean up. Clearly, kids will be kids and there was some wrangling to be done but for the most part, they were invested and down to roll up their sleeves and do some work. Laughter abounded as we worked our way down the beach, filling bags and bags with trash. Everything from styrofoam to flip flops was dumped unceremoniously into the garbage bags and then loaded into a trailer to be taken off.
Chatting with a tourist from Australia, he thanked Slukat for cleaning and said that it looked 100 times better. The plan is for the kids to do the next cleanup in three months and at regular intervals from then. It’s not a huge difference but it’s something. And hopefully it will be a shift in their mind sets more than anything.
Tomorrow is our last day in Bali and at Slukat. For most of us, the feelings are bittersweet. The students have found very real places in our hearts and they will be missed terribly. However, everyone is excited to go home and eat some familiar food and snuggle our pets. Looking back on our time, we have had a really sensational experience. The laughter and smiles were frequent, as was the sharing of knowledge. Our time in Indonesia has been beautiful and we would like to thank each and every person who got us here. Terima kasi! See you soon!
It’s the last couple days before the UW group takes off for Uganda, and we couldn’t be more excited!
- 5 interns
- 5 weeks
- 2 clean water and sanitation sources
- 2 amazing organizations
- 1 incredible project!
After working so hard throughout the school year on everything from establishing our chapter, to fundraising, to spreading awareness, it’s hard to believe the project is about to start! It’s been an amazing process working alongside our partner organization, Rural Health Care Foundation (RHCF) and learning about their mission and the communities they work with. Our project this year is the construction of two clean water sources in the Mubende district, where currently two-thirds of the population don’t have access to safe water, and even less have adequate sanitation. It’s our first trip for the University of Washington chapter and we’re looking to start out with a big success. Good luck to the fantastic interns, and thank you to everyone who supported our chapter in having a great first year. Keep updated on the interns and our project through this blog to see all of the amazing things they accomplish while in Uganda this summer!!
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.
Guatemala, UPAVIM, children, you.
With such a large world, it becomes easy to think that one person cannot possibly do anything to invoke positive change -so it is easy to sit back and watch.
This summer I realized just how easy it is to help. I became involved in a trip to Guatemala through Nourish International, and my experience as a volunteer teacher has been so much more than I expected it to be.
Even at first glance, the level of poverty in the area surrounding UPAVIM -the school in which I worked- is evident. However, there is something about La Esperanza that holds true to its translation: Hope. It both amazed and inspired me to see that those who have so little, yet they are still grateful for all that they have.
I think that was my favorite experience: the cultural change, especially with regards to school. As a first-generation Filipino American, I think that I was more used to different cultures than some of my other organization members. I have visited the provinces in the Philippines in which my dad lived the majority of his youth, and it was actually a bit worse off than the area where we stayed in Guatemala. However, I was never able to experience Filipino schools, and although it was stressful at times, this became my favorite part of my experience in Guatemala.
I worked in Reforzamiento (“Reinforcement”), an after-school program which provides opportunities for learning to those who cannot afford school. However, unlike in America, there are no laws against truancy. Children are not dragged to school by their parents. Children came to Reforz voluntarily. Most always had notebooks with them, always came in smiling, were always happy to be there.
This is not to say that teaching was always easy. Surprisingly, teaching in mostly Spanish was not the difficult part, rather the culture in which students were raised, combined with the lack of schooling, made teaching tricky. Most days, I would help kid of the appropriate age level in writing letters, reading, multiplying and dividing. However, there were days where I would teach a twelve-year-old how a sentence has a period at the end and the difference between certain letters. After a good twenty minutes, repeating “espacio” (“space”) multiple times to show the difference between a letter and a word gets tiring.
But that’s the beauty of it. While there were few who did not want to cooperate fully, there those who would not stop no matter how long it took. My fondest memory (but also most frustrating) was when I had to teach a seven-year-old how to write the number one. Our supervisor – a native Guatemalan- wanted them to write the number one a certain way (like 1 without the base line), and the little boy I was working with could not seem to get it; his numbers kept turning out oblong, even after his friend and I drew examples. I even had to resort to drawing out dots for him to trace, but he still could not write the number one. After an hour of attempts, the moment he finally drew it made me ecstatic! Through cheering and smiles, I made him high-five me plenty of times to show him how proud I was of him.
THAT, is how one person can make a difference.
It was not always instructional time for the kids, as we often went to the canchas, which was the cement area where kids played. Even in the Reforz room we often played games with the kids. We came to realize that anything was good for them, as long as they were not on the streets. In Reforz, they were not exposed to gang violence.
And at the end of the day, many students voluntarily give the teachers a kiss good-bye on the cheek out of respect and gratitude. As an aspiring teacher, I think this is the one thing I will truly miss the most, as I know this would not be considered “okay” in America. Even if the day was exhausting, you were left knowing the kids appreciate what you did for them. Some days, your cheek would be more slobbery than others, and the “Gracias, hasta manana!” was always worth it.