It seems I’ve neglected this blog for quite a while, so I’ll start by talking about the most pressing and important news…after 7 months of silence we finally received cell phone service! It was almost better than Christmas. I was in my site mate Gisel’s town for its 90th anniversary (we had to be in a parade for this celebration and carry the peace corps banner, but decided against marching in the hitleresque manner that seems to be the fashion for parades here) and I guess they decided to finally turn on the cell phone tower that had been completed3 months before. So we are finally on the grid again after being some of the only volunteers in all of Peru to not have cell service.
I also recently returned from a trip to Iquitos, the largest city in the world that can’t be reached by car, to celebrate my site mate Gisel’s 30th birthday. The city is built on the banks of the Amazon River and became a rich place during the rubber boom at the beginning of the 1900’s, and so now it has a derelict charm about it. The first couple of nights we stayed in a hostel build on a dock floating on the river. You could look through the cracks in the floorboards and see water, which was very cool. Our first full day in Iquitos was the day of their annual city celebration to commemorate their patron saint. So we got to eat a lot of tasty jungle food and enjoy the steamy weather after many chilly months of sierra weather. We also took a several day jungle tour and got to see a myriad of strange jungle creatures, including my favorite, an earthworm that was over a foot long and an inch thick. One of the nights we were even able to hike in a ways from the river and camp out in the jungle. Our guide entertained himself by telling us stories of the Chullachaki, or rainforest dwarf/spirit who tries to confuse people in the jungle and get them lost. My favorite part though is that Chullachaki means ‘feet of different sizes’ in Quechua, so I was amused by the idea of a little dwarf with one big foot and one little foot hopping around the jungle trying to confuse tourists.
After getting back from the jungle trip work has picked up a lot. I’ve been trying to start several projects for the past 3 months and this week miraculously most of them are actually getting off the ground. I am most excited about a garden project that I am putting together with my health promoters. We have 30 families selected, have chosen what we are going to grow, and the best part is that we are not going to use Peace Corps funding options at all. My health promoters wanted to fund the project locally, which is awesome, and so we are going to have a pollada, or sort of a Peruvian chicken barbeque, and a soccer and volleyball competition to raise money. With the money we raise, we are going to buy seeds of vegetables that have significant amounts of vitamins and minerals, germinate the seeds in a the garden of my one of my health promoters, and then hand out the small plants after we do several trainings with the families about how to maintain gardens and prepare more nutritious meals. I’m excited because the whole idea of the project and how to fund it came from the community, so hopefully that will make it a more sustainable project.
Other than this project I’m starting up a sex ed. class with adolescents in my community, making an early stimulation room for activities with mothers and children in the health post, and doing trainings for all of the health promoters in the district with my site-mates. It’s nice to finally feel busy after several months of rescheduling meetings and chasing down community leaders.
What I am most excited about though at the moment is the fact that my buddy Zach is coming to visit me at the end of July. It will be nice to have someone from home see where I live and what I have been doing. I’m planning a 3 day trek through the Cordierra Blanca with him, so hopefully he acclimatizes fast, haha. It should be beautiful though, apparently on this trek you pass by 5 or so beautiful glacial lakes (which will help me get a leg up, albeit a very cold one, in the Ancash lake jumping competition) and get great views of several of the beautiful snowcapped peaks in the area, including Huascaran the 2nd tallest mountain in South America. If you’re reading this Zach, I thought another thing you should bring, dark chocolate, just saying, I would ask for a Chic-fil-a sandwich, but that probably won’t travel too well.
For those of you who have made it thus far, thanks for still reading my blog, and call me sometime on my piece of newly acquired cellular phone technology!