Thursday, December 23, 2010

The last memories at Taricaya

Heather and I left Taricaya on December 14th and I already miss it like crazy.  I still have a lot to write about the last month or so at Taricaya that I haven´t written about.  So much has happened and I haven´t written about it in my journal yet so the order of which I´ll write about them will be off.

A week after Thanksgiving we visited Lake Valencia, a lake about 2 hours away.  We got the whole day off to go and hang out.  Our boat driver specialist, Gigo, took us through this creek in which we dodged branches and logs.  The branches of the trees would scrape the side of the boat and we would have to bend over in a rush to avoid getting smacked in the face by them.  I must admit, I got smacked in the head a couple times because I was distracted haha.  When we got to the lake we could immediately see the change in the water color.  The water was green, but only because of the reflection of all the trees surrounding it.  We saw the brown water of the creek be cosumed by this delicious looking water of the lake.  Gigo drove us a ways up the lake and then stopped the boat and said this was where we were swimming.  I thought he was joking because we were in the middle of the lake.  Apparently we couldn´t dock anywhere.  That didn´t matter to us with adventurous spirits though.  We jumped right on into the lake from the boat.  Oh, by the way, this lake contains giant otters and caiman... luckily we didn´t see though hehe.  One of the volunteers, Zack, snuck up on another, Lucy, and grabbed her leg and she started screaming bloody murder.  We for sure thought something had got her until Zack popped up right beside Lucy.  It´s terrifying to hear someone scream in the water when you can´t get to them to help them.  For lunch the staff had packed a traditional Peruvian meal.  The name escapes me right now, but it was rice, chicken, egg, and some vegetables wrapped in a banana leaf.  It was delicous!  They also made this extremely spicy salsa from onion that kind of kicked my butt haha.

When we were headed towards home, we stopped at a little village at the head of the lake.  It was extremely small, but we walked around a bit and took pics.  Every small village we´ve seen has a soccer field but this one had huge bulls on it!  We saw them and they seemed to be unteathered so we walked cautiously by them... and then got brave and got closer to take pictures haha.  We saw little farm animals, such as ducks and chickens, and a huge mango tree I´d love to have at home.  I could eat a mango every day for the rest of my life:)

A week or so later, we went to another village called Palmo Real for a celebration.  They are of the tribe Ese-Eja.  This village was a little bigger and had 300 people living in it.  We ate, played soccer, and joined in competitions of soccer and volleyball.  All the volunteers were playing soccer against each other and all these little kids joined us for the game.  They were really good and super cute.  The girl volunteers wanted to compete in the  soccer tournament later, but sadly we could only play volleyball.  It was still a blast though.  For those of you that don´t know, volleyball is a big deal in Peru.  For never having played, our team did really well.  Sandra, Nando´s (one of our directors) wife, coached us a bit and it was great fun.  We lost in the tournament, but we weren´t killed like we thought we´d be.  We gave a good fight:)

Now, back to adventures at Taricaya.  Cockroaches have a strange way of getting into the wrong places.  I have mentioned that they would be in our room constantly at night, but one night, while we were in the kitchen, one of the volunteers started yelling and taking his pants off.  A cockroach had crawled up his pants!  It was a good laugh, but he kept saying how he felt so violated.  I definitely am glad that didn´t happen to me hehe.

One day, while we were collecting old leaves from the tapir cage for the compost, Heather and I had a true rodeo experience.  The tapirs have never been agressive and have always seemed pretty harmless.  They would go up to you sometimes and you could pet their plump body and touch their long, overactive nose.  However, we believe that the female tapir might be pregnant now and so the male tapir is getting defensive of her.  Heather and I were picking up the old leaves with not a care in the world, but then Heather bent over to pick a bunch up and we heard heavy running and bushes breaking because of the powerful body of the tapir.  The tapir was charging at Heather.  I yelled her name and she stood up.  The tapir stopped short in front of her and then started biting her leg (they don´t have a hard bite).  He went away then so I went over by her and we started picking up leaves again.  But then we heard the intense running again and the tapir was headed straight for us.  I have never jumped over a fence faster!  I just grabbed the other side and flung myself over as quick as possible.  Heather did the same.  It was a true jungle rodeo!

An activity that Heather and I were able to do was go on a frog hunt.  Frog hunts take place at night.  All the volunteers are split up into teams and go in different sections of Taricaya to collect frogs.  Heather and I were with the frog master, Daniel.  We hiked to many spots looking for frogs, and I was always cautious for snakes because of our ferdalance experience.  We saw and heard the frogs, but only caught one.  We got back and joined with the other teams in the lab to identitfy the frogs and take pictures.  Some were so cute, while others looked like squished piles of pooh.  It´s all in the name of camoflage I guess.

In our last times at Taricaya, there was a lot of mud fighting happening.  I, of course, didn´t mind it at all:)  We had a mud fight on the bank, in the creek, and on our last day on the soccer field at Amazon Planet.  The mud on the creek is the best because it is so slimey and gooey that it becomes a mud slide right into the creek.  I slid in like a caiman many times hehe.  Well, after being thrown down there by Gigo of course.  It was like a horror movie:  I was already muddy, but he was dragging me across the field to the creek.  I was trying to grab on the grass to hold on to something, but to no avail.  He just kept dragging me closer and closer to the creek.  Finally, I gave up trying and he picked me up and we both slid into the creek hehe.  On the soccer field at Amazon Planet it was quite perfect.  We had about 16 people playing handball/rugby/no rules just get the ball in the goal game.  It was storming and raining all around us.  We were covered in dirt and mud and were tackling each other to get the precious soccer ball.  I couldn´t have asked for a more perfect last mud experience at Taricaya.

What I don´t think I have mentioned is No Shave November.  At home, usually only the guys do this...well, at least publicly haha.  They don´t shave their facial hair for the whole month of November.  So what other perfect time to do this then when you are in the jungle and no one cares what you look like anyways.  Therefore, Heather and I preached the value of No Shave November and tried to convince everyone to do it with us.  We succeeded in convincing 5 other volunteers to do it, 4 of them were guys though.  At the end of November we have some hilarious pictures of us posing with our hairy armpits, legs, and for the guys mustaches.  One german volunteer was so disgusted by mine and Heather´s long hair on our legs and armpits that he wouldn´t hug us until we shaved hahahaha.  It was truly disgusting, but I´m glad I did it.  I do prefer my shaved legs and armpits though;)

At the beginning of December, Heather and I had the honor of welcoming Tjos to Taricaya.  It was great having him there and showing him the little sliver of our experience there.  We are greatful to him for making the effort to come visit us and hope he loved it at Taricaya as much as we did.

On our last day at Taricaya a very sad thing happened.  Sid, our beloved otter who we had just swam with a few days before, was found dead with a whole in his shoulder.  I am not saying I´m glad he´s dead at all, but I was able to help with the autoposy and it was fascinating.  Sid will be missed though.  Love you Sidders.

Two new activities were added  the last week we were at Taricaya; Bats and Rodents.  Rodents was hard work because Tjos,  Heather, and I had to help build the traps to catch them.  The traps are this long piece of tarp perpendicular to the ground with buckets places in the ground at intervals.  What happens is animals reach the tarp, cannot pass underneath it, so travels to the side of it until they drop into the bucket that is in the ground.  We check the traps everyday to see if any animals are inside that we can identify.  The bat activity was a late night activity running from 5:30pm to about 1:30am.  We set up 7 mist nets to catch them and would hike to them multiple times to see if we caught any.  If we leave the bats in the mist nets they could die.  It was exciting to see these creatures of the night.  If Hugo, the Batman hehe, already new what species it was we´d release them.  This was a magical experience.  You´d hold their wings by their strong bones and throw them up into the air to watch them fly away.  Heather had an epic releasing pose hehe.  If Hugo didn´t know what species it was, then we´d put them in material bags and take them back to the lab to identify them.  A couple years before, Hugo found a new species to the bat world at Taricaya.  He still needs to find more specimens to prove it is a new species, but that is super exciting!  That night, we saw a bunch of bats that were pregnant, too.  We could feel the babies inside of them!

The last month I was at Taricaya I got brave enough to drive the boat a couple of times.  And I didn´t do too bad! haha.  I might have killed the motor once... but we got to shore safely;)

I am never a fan of creepy crawly things... especially ones that look as freaky as caterpillars in the jungle.  We had a caterpillar activity that I hoped I would never get because the caterpillars wiggle and search with their weird head to eat food.  They also have spikes on their back.  It was okay though because I finally faced my fear of them!  I did the activity probably 3 times and I never freaked out.  I´m glad I faced my fear of the caterpillars. 

Heather and I have been traveling around since we left Taricaya December 14th.  Our first stop was Lima.  Lima is one of my favorite cities!  Of course, we were in the really touristy part of it and I didn´t experience the whole thing.  Lima gets a lot of bad rep though and I don´t see why.  I loved it.  We also saw tons of people in Lima.  The first day we got there, Heather and I took our time in the hostel and finally decided to explore a bit.  Our first stop was Park Kennedy for our dear friend Zack Kennedy who said we had to go there.  Within the first 10 minutes, we met this group of 4 Americans and a woman from Dubai that we befriended.  We spent a good 4 hours just hanging out and getting to know these amazing people.  They were volunteering in Lima for about a week.  One of the volunteers was traveling the world with his 72 year old grandma!  It was an inspiring story.  The woman from Dubai is a famous fashion designer there.  Her story was also really inspiring.  Everyone was so kind and outgoing.  We danced a little bit at the place we were getting dinner before they had to head to a movie they bought tickets for.  After that, we were able to hang out with my good friend Rodrigo who just happened to be in Lima for the same days we were.  Rodrigo grew up in Lima and so knows the ropes:)  It was great hanging out with him and he and his cousin showed Heather and I endless amounts of kindness.  Later that night , Heather´s parents, Andy and Jan, flew in to join us for a few days.  It was great to hang out with the Dappen family and they welcomed me with open arms.  I am eternally grateful to them.  I can´t wait to see them tomorrow when we head to Arequipa. 

Now that I actually remember the dates... I´ll start using the past couple of days.

Monday, December 15th
Monday morning we had the great opportunity to see one of our other friends from Wenatchee in Lima!  Chelan is on an exchange in Lima so we got together with her and toured some things.  We started at the Plaza de Armas (if I haven´t mentioned this before, every city has a Plaza de Armas) where the President lives, La Catedral de Lima is, and where the Monestereo de San Francisco is.  Ew, that was a really badly put sentence haha oh well.  We went to the Catedral de Lima first.  That is where Francisco Pizarro´s body is... well, bones now.  The Catedral was beautiful and very interesting.  The tour was great.  We learned about Saint Rose, which is honored throughout Lima.  She did intense things though like hang herself by her hair so she wouldn´t sleep and could pray more... maybe I should do that to study.  We also strangely saw and read stuff about Saint Francis of Assisi.  Assisi is a town and church that Heather and I visited in Italy.  That was one of our favorite towns!  This world is too small haha.

To break up the monotamy of museums, we went to a market with tons of Peruvian souveniers.  I love their multicolored things!  I wanted everything, but alas had to save my money for the long year ahead.

Next, we went to the Monestary of Saint Francisco.  It was a lot of repeat of the same information from the Catedral de Lima, but the Monestary had bone lined catacombs underneath it!  It was crazy seeing all these bones that came from people.  Even the paths we walked on were tombs.  The bones were not found how they were placed, they were placed as a display.  They had so many bones because they would reuse the same tombs for the common people.  They would put three bodies in at a time and cover it with certain chemicals and lime to not allow the odor to spread.  The chemicals would make the bodies decompose faster so they could reuse the same tomb.  There is more to be found in the catacombs, but it is now too dangerous to dig. 

For lunch we ate at the Lima equivalent of McDonalds; Bembos.  I gladly ordered a bacon burger.  It was the first time I had bacon in 3 months!  It wasn´t as good as the stuff at home, but was very pleasing to my tastebuds.

I´m not finished with Monday, but I sadly have to go for now.  I´ll write again soon:) Love you all!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

It`s Been Awhile

To the family and friends that read this blog I must apologize because I have not written in awhile.  I have not even written about Thanksgiving which seems like such a long time ago!  So we`ll start there:) 

The week before Thanksgiving the three Americans at Taricaya (Zack, Heather, and I) came up with a brilliant plan.  We were to prepare a Thanksgiving feast for anyone that would chip in 10 soles to buy supplies.  It turned out everyone wanted in... which means we had to prepare a meal for 32 people!  We were up to the challenge though, even though none of us had ever made a whole Thanksgiving meal and supplies in the jungle are rather scarce.  So the day before Thanksgiving Zack, Heather, and I went to the market with one of our cooks (Reina) who led us to all the desired supplies.  We were in the market for what seemed like forever and had a ridiculous 10 minute conversation in our broken spanish about how many kilos of gord (our makeshift replacement for pumpkin in our pie) we needed.  We don`t know kilos and we didn`t know how much we would need for 3 cups of pumpkin away so we debated and debated.  Finally, we got everything all sorted out and overall the experience was rather fun.  A big surprise is that we actually found a turkey!! We couldn`t believe we found one because a lot of the staff members said we wouldn`t find one this time of year.  Reina was a huge help in finding all our supplies and we owe her a lot of credit for the success of the meal. 

That night Zack, Heather, and I started preparing for the next days feast.  Heather and I made our pumpkin pie filling, while Zack brined the turkey and 2 chickens we got.  Thanksgiving Day started out with a bunch of us having to unload wood from the boat at 5:30am.  After that was done and we showered (it would have been gross to cook like that, yes we do have some civilized thoughts in the jungle) Heather and I started the pie crust.  I had to leave before it was done because I signed up for bow and arrow making.  How perfect for Thanksgiving!  Enrique (we go to his farm for Papaya), his son Melvi, and his son`s wife and beautiful daughter all came to show us how to make bows and arrows.  Enrique is part of a native tribe, but they started robbing to make a living so Enrique decided to become a farmer instead.  He speaks his native tribe`s language while Melvi speaks both the tribes language and spanish.  They started out bow and arrow making by cutting a certain type of palm.  The palm is very hard to cut horizontally but rather easy to cut vertically because theat`s the way the fibers run.  They each gave us a long piece of palm and we were directed to cut the inside of the palm out by making diagonal slices.  After that was done, Enrique shaped the bow for me and showed me how to scrape the outside bark layer off.  I was one of the first one`s done so went back to help Heather for a bit. Heath was finishing up making up an apple crisp and her and Lucy had finished making the pie crusts.  She popped the apple crisp into the oven while I put the pie filling into the pies.  Then I went back to bow and arrow making to get my bow strung.  I really want to learn the knot used because it`s crazy.  By the time I got back to the kitchen it was time to put the pies in.  The pies took longer than expected to cook so we had to take them out a little early because the turkey was supposed to take 7 hours to cook!  All we could do was wait until later to make all the other stuff so Zack and I went back to bow and arrow making.  Enrique had sadly already made the arrows and we were just going to decorate them.  I really was sad I didn`t get to make the arrows.  The way we decorated them was pretty cool though.  They had this black tar from a tree in a chunk and you smeared it on the spot where the arrow connected with the longer wood.  Then you chose the string you wanted and bit the end to hold it and smear the tar on that too.  After that we just wrapped the string around the arrow.  I chose purple and gold (Panther Pride!!) and neon green and pink because it looked sweet haha.  After we were done making them Victorian tought me how to shoot it.  I really want to learn how to shoot a bow and arrow well. 

At 5 we started to cook again.  Zack started pealing potatoes with some other volunteers, while I cooked the pumpkin seeds and Heather cooked the popcorn.  It got dark rather early so we were cooking by headlamp haha.  After the popcorn was fully popped we started shelling peas with Lucy.  It was great because then a bunch of people started volunteering so we assigned them to different things like moving and setting tables and pealing and cutting carrots.  I started boiling the peas and carrots while Heather assigned various tasks to make her stuffing.  Time was moving by fast, but with all the help we got we got everything done on time.  It was a really fun time and it felt like we were a big family all cooking together.  There was such a good vibe everywhere:)  At about 7 Heather set out the popcorn and seeds as appetizers, while we put the finishing touches on everything.  When everything was finally ready we gathered everyone together and explained that everyone had to say something they were thankful for.  We all held hands in an odd shaped circle and gave thanks.  Everyone`s thanks were really heart felt.  I almost cried of happiness when Nando said thank you for believing in their cause at Taricaya and volunteering.  When everyone was done we served up the grub:)  It was delicious!!!!  It was one of the best Thanksgiving meals I`ve ever had.  We also made this amazing apple cider.  We used pear juice, apple concentrate, cinnamon, clove, various tea bags, and pressure cooked apple and orange skins.  I don`t even like apple cider, but this was addictive.  It was also very heart felt beccause we got so many Thank Yous from all the volunteers.  It was most of the volunteer`s first Thanksgiving and first experience with pumpkin pie.  One of the volunteers from England said she is taking that tradition back home.  Oh and for dessert we had jello, chocolate cake, apple tart, and pumpkin pie.  People raved about the pumpkin pie.  It was the best I`ve ever had. 

It`s amazing as you travel you realize how small the world is.  A couple weekends ago, 10 Americans were staying in our hostel.  Their leader knew where Wenatchee was!  He is from Arizona, but was a forest ranger in North Bend.  They had also volunteered at the school in Cuzco where me and Heather will volunteer starting in January!  And one of the German girls staying at Taricaya has an older sister who did an exchange in Wenatchee 10 years ago.  It`s a small world after all (song stuck in your head now?)  ;)

Sadly, this is all I have left written in my first journal.  I`m a couple weeks behind, but have a list of events that have happend; I just haven`t written about them yet.  I`m out of room in my first journal, but my wonderful mother, who I love dearly, sent me another one.  This will be my last entry for awhile because Heather and I will be traveling until January 3rd. 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I´m Alive!!!

This post is just to clarify that I am indeed alive.  I haven`t been able to call people this weekend and last weekend I said I would do a post after lunch and then didn`t have time haha.  So just wanted to say I am alive and well:)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Crazy Life

Thursday, November 4th was a very exciting time for everyone.  Jack Hannah, a zoologist from Columbus, Ohio and who has his own TV show called Into the Wild and who is the director of the Columbus Zoo (which just surpassed San Diego Zoo as the best zoo in the U.S.) came with his camera crew to film a show at Taricaya.  It was quite the experience :). I am starting to believe more and more in fate.  I wanted to do turtles that day, but Bridget, a staff member, put me on animal feeding instead because there weren`t really any turtle activities.  It couldn`t have worked out better.  The film crew wanted to film us preparing the food in the animal kitchen.  So as me, Bridget, Sam, and Sarah were chopping things up and preparing food the camera crew came up the stairs and started setting up.  They didn`t give us any direction so we just tried to act normal.  Earlier we were saying we should all chop really stupidly and do stupid things, but none of us ended up doing it haha.  The camera man would zoom in really close to the food we were chopping and then zoom in really close to our faces.  It took all my strength to not crack up laughing.  I think I made a really serious face that was kind of bug eyed instead hehe.  One of the volunteers tried to play it cool and toss a piece of apple into the scale and just knocked it over.  It was all very funny.  Then Jack Hannah`s wife and daughter came up and started helping us.  I didn`t know if I was supposed to interact with them or not on camera so I kind of just laughed when they said things.  After the camera people left we continued to prepare the food.  As I was animal feeding the parrots the male parrot attacked my head because his mate is pregnant.  So if you can imagine me trying to be quite because the camera crew was near and wacking away a bird and putting the feeding bowl on my head to protect myself... please do.  Jack Hannah wanted to film some of the baby turtles that had hatched being released so me and Laura went up to the lab to mark them.  We mark them by cutting a little triangular section on their shells.  When they grow up the turtles will still have that mark so we can identify when they were born.  Then Jack Hannah and his family came up and me and Laura were filmed telling him about the turtles and showing his family how to mark them.  It`s funny how they pose you doing things.  After Jack`s (yes, I can call him that after I introduced myself lol) family released the turtles and no one was by the boat, me and Laura were directed to pretend to be looking at them releasing turtles so they could get a shot.  Before Jack left he was telling us how he has been all around the world.  He said he`s filmed some 400 shows and that only about 20 have been about a single place.  He said he thought they definitely had enough footage of Taricaya for 1 show.  The show is supposed to air in January or February.  I can`t wait to see it.  It`s going to be hilarious! 

As everyone was waving goodbye to Jack`s boat, a giant grasshopper landed on me.  I didn`t want to freak out so I just stood there as it crawled up my arm and behind my neck to my other arm.  Finally, Stuart decided to get it off me.  Instead of just swiping it, he pushed it against my skin.  It has little hooks all on its legs so it did not feel good lol.  Then the grasshopper bit me!  I didn`t know they could bite but it actually pulled my skin with it until it let go.  It was such a weird sensation I got shiveries!

Friday, November 5th was Taricaya`s 9 year anniversary so we were going to release the turtles that were born in our beach.  We marked 547 of them that morning.  When we were marking them Heather found a turtle with 5 legs!  On the fifth leg it had 2 feet!  We called it the 5 legged freak haha in an endearing way of course.  After we had marked all the turtles we went to the turtle beach to check it out and make sure everything was okay.  It rained a little so there were muddy spots.  Zack, Simon, Heather, Amanda, and I just had to go mud slidding in the oh-so-perfect mud.  Then we pretended to be turtles and crawled into the water.  It was a lot of effort haha it`s hard being a turtle. 

Later that day we went to release the turtles.  It was a beautiful experience.  It was funny though because some turtles went the complete opposite way of the river.  We had to correct them.  So when a whole bunch of volunteers pretended to be turtles again, Heather and I were the confused turtles and just went around in circles.  I put a green bucket on my back as my shell.  I was wearing my last pair of clean clothes... but it was well worth getting them dirty and wet. 

That night was a huge BBQ to celebrate.  It was delicious!  There was Sangria, different meats, bread, guacamole, chips, and potatoe salad. 

When we were driving into Puerto on Saturday we hit a sandbar.  Everyone got jolted forward.  Heather, a couple other volunteers, and I jumped out of the boat (my jeans got soaked) and helped push the boat back to water.  It was really funny.  Also on the way to Puerto Heather and I made up this whole medieval story that included everyone on the boat.  We had princesses, princes, jesters, witches, love, evil plotting, and more!  hehe it was quite fun and people were wondering why we even started the tale... but then they remembered it was me and Heather and expected nothing less haha. 

There is a new favorite restaurant I have... El Hornito!! It is a pizza place.  Oh. My. God.  It is so good!  I got a hawaiian pizza and I almost died with delight from good food.  The restaurant also has mexican food that I am going to try tonight. 

As you can imagine, in the jungle there are many creepy crawlers waiting to surprise you.  So it is not uncommon to be getting ready for bed and hear a scream from a few bungalows down.  ¨What is it!?¨ we yell as we go running to the bungalow that is getting attacked by an unwanted visitor.  This happened to our neighbors one night and they screamed for Heather and I to go help them.  We rushed to their room to find a gecko crawling around.  The capturing of the gecko was a lot of us running around, screaming, and laughing.  Heather finally grabbed it behind the neck and threw it out the door.  The gecko was still on the deck though so one of our neighbors tried to get it in a bucket, but ended up just chopping off it`s tail!  The tail twitched insanely for about 10 minutes.  Heath grabbed the gecko and put him in the forest, but that didn´t keep him away!  About a week later, when our neighbors had moved out, Heather and I went in their room and saw the tailless gecko on the wall again.  He´s a persistant little fellow hehe

We recently got 3 new spider monkeys to rehabilitate.  One older one used to be a pet so it is super clingy.  The other two are 4 month old baby spider monkeys.  They were stripped away from their mothers too early so they are also clingy.  One day when I was feeding them it took me 10 minutes to get out of the cage because I had monkeys clinging all over me.  I one point I had two monkeys stacked on top of my left sholder.  Both of their faces were on my cheek.  It was super cool.  It broke my heart when I left because the older one just did not want to let go.  I wanted to take him to my room and keep him, but I sadly had to refrain. 

Some of the new volunteers don´t like Muneca, our yound howler monkey.  I love Muneca!  We were all in Nicol´s and Muneca´s cage and they were trying to get Nicol´s attention and would cringe when Muneca came because she was being a rascal.  She bites a little, but it doesn´t hurt too bad.  She was biting me, but then I took her tail and bit it to show I was dominant.  To my surprise it worked!  After that she was really clingy towards me and kept licking me hehehe it tickled.  She also kept trying to go down my t-shirt.  Finally, I opened my collar a little more for her and she just crawled right in.  She chilled in there a moment and then crawled out the bottom like I was giving birth to her.  I love that monkey:)

In the jungle, we get quite inventive for games and activities to entertain ourselves.  One night, when me and Heather got back from our second caiman hunt, we invented board running!  There was a piece of wood leaned up against the lounge´s roof at a slant.  We entertained ourselves for about 30 minutes by just running up this piece of wood.  It started out as who could get the most steps up the wood.  Then it was how high you could get.  Then we were really getting to be dare devils and slidding back down it while standing up and doing tricks.  It was great fun.

As Heather and I have both mentioned before... we miss and love food haha.  Heather and I attempted to make s´mores one night.  After dinner, we snuck away to our bungalow and prepared the feast.  We lit 4 candles in the middle of our room for the heat we needed to crisp our sugary mellow of marsh.  It was a weird blend of flavors, but it worked.  For some reason the marshmellows had a fruity aftertaste even though they were original flavored.  We were also using Peruvian vanilla crackers, Peruvian chocolate coins, and asain peanut butter haha.  It was a treat though and I would probably do it again on a special occasion. 

That same night, Heather and I had a very unwanted visitor in our room.  As we were getting ready for bed Heather saw a huge spider, slightly bigger than my palm, underneath one of the flaps of her towel.  It was like a baby tarantula, but with thinner legs.  It took us a half hour of getting mentally prepared and warmed with boots, pants, gloves, a broom, a dustpan, shoes, and our neighbor, Anna, to kill the monster.  Heath ended up killing it with my shoe as Anna and I watched in fear of it scurring if she missed.  Heath is the best. 

Every Sunday we unload the boat for supplies.  So as we were finishing up unloading, somehow mud throwing got involved.  The girls were being attacked by the wrath of a frenchman!  Not really, we were just messing around, but it sounded better.  Anyways, all the girls were getting mud smeared on them by this one guy.  We of course retaliated.  When we were through we had to take tribal jungle pictures.  So armed with machettes and posing in the trees we took pictures of tribe hen house.  Then we decided to chase random people with the machettes.  Some people would actually get legitimate fear in their eyes as they saw 6 mud covered, machette clad, crazy women screaming and running towards them.  3 of us then decided to run through the kitchen filled with people.  We all got stared at as we ran from the front door of the kitchen to the back screaming and flailing our weapons.  Only one word can describe it... AWESOME.

Later I had forgotten something in the kitchen so was sprinting from my room to the kitchen.  Heather had just walked down the steps and one of our neighbors was sitting at the top one smoking.  As I got right below the kitchen to the wood planks, my foot got caught in the space between the planks so I lost my balance.  My other foot went in between the planks too and I rammed my stomach/whole body into the first step.  It must have looked hilarious, but our neighbor kept asking ¨Are you okay!?¨  I was too busy laughing  to answer and ended up upside down on a step I was laughing so hard.  I learned my lesson though... slow down before you reach the planks haha.

A new project we´ve been doing is setting up motion sensor cameras to spot wildlife.  I felt very scientific as Heather and I programmed the cameras to put them up.  I imagined myself doing something like that sometime in the future. 

As a break from Taricaya, we occasionally head to Amazon Planet for a breather.  A group of us headed their when it had just gotten dark.  We were walking in a line on the path and didn´t think anything of the walk we have made hundreds of times.  It was Simon in front, me, Jeremy, Heather, and Anna was last.  We are just walking along when I see this coiled snake raising his had and his moth open right by Simon´s leg and me heading straight for its open mouth with my next step!  I screamed and pushed everyone back.  We thought it was a posonous snake because the poisonous ones usually stand their ground, which this one definitely did.  And the crazy thing is that I wouldn´t have seen it if my mom hadn´t sent me a new head lamp in a package which I received a few days before!  We thought that the snake was a Bushmaster and were freaked out because that is an extremely poisonous and aggresive snake.  Simon was the only one on the other side of the snake and we couldn´t get him to our side because of the forest around us and the snake was too close to us.  Therefore, we sent Heather and Anna to got get Daniel.  The people that were left watched the snake carefully in case it moved.  We also made a lot of noise so nothing came and attacked us from the forest.  Nando ended up coming back with Anna and had brought with him a long green branch.  He had cut all the leafs off of it.  He told us to back up and with one big downward stroke of the branch the snake was dead.  We discovered the snake was actually a Ferdalance (The 3rd most poisonous snake in our area.  The 1st is the coral and the second is the Bushmaster.) and showed us its fangs.  They were as long as my finger nail.  If it had bitten us and injected all of its poison we would have died.  Nando also said that when people are walking the first person wakes up the snake (Simon), the second makes it angry(Me), and the third usually gets bitten (Jeremy!).  It flucuates a little so me, Jeremy, or even Heather might have gotten bitten.  And the only reason I saw the snake was because of my new headlamp... THANK YOU MOM!!!  Later, I saw a pic of someone´s leg that was bitten by a Ferdalance.  Their whole leg was black and grey and rotted away by the poison.  Considering the hospital is two hours away and it´s not that great of a hospital someone could have died. 

Here we are not only learning spanish, we are learning the different dialects of english speakers.  It is so funny to hear and say the differences between British english and American english.  They call their mom´s ¨mum¨ and spell it with a u too.  Heather and I were talking about q-tips and one guy thought we were talking about a cue from a pool table and putting it in our ears.  They call q-tips cotton swabs.  There are many  more but I can´t think of anymore at the moment.

Sending mail internationally is an interesting experience.  My mom sent one package on Oct. 30th which I got on November 12th.  She sent another package before on Oct. 14th and I didn´t receive it until November 14th.  The second package I got had Halloween masks for me and Heather, but since Halloween had passed, we couldn´t resist but to use them anyways.  We put them on and pretended to be birds outside.  We then ran through the kitchen full of people and decided to attack Zack because he had bread and we were birds haha.  We chased him over a table and around the outside of the kitchen.  Thank you Ria and Mom for the masks:)

I will write again after lunch!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I dislike coming up with titles...

One of the worst things here is having to deal with ticks.  Those sneaky little buggers get everywhere.  I`ve found them all the way to the top of my leg when I`ve been wearing pants.  So when one of the staff led us through the forest on a wild goose chase and off a trail I got a little peeved.  I was especially peeved when Heather and I got back and found baby ticks all over our clothes.  Heather counted over 50 on her.  I was too angry to count.  We spent a long time picking them off ourselves and smashing them between our finger nails.  Luckily, I didn`t find any embedded in my body.  The staff member made up for it later by giving us chocolate haha.

The Friday before Halloween we were having a Halloween party because a lot of volunteers were leaving on Saturday.  Earlier that day Heather and I made donuts for the party.  And of course... lost in translation... I screwed up the recipe a tad haha.  One of the cooks, Shelya, handed me a container with white stuff in it and said a sentence in spanish.  I heard the word ¨half¨¨ and so poured half the container in.  I actually was only supposed to put half a spoonful and the white substance was salt... ooooppppssss haha.  We tried to get some of the salt out and put more sugar into the recipe, but then we ran out of sugar.  Just my luck.  Guess I should study spanish a bit more;)  The donuts turned out pretty well though.  When they were done we attached them to string for a game.  That night, everyone had a partner and as one held the donut attached to the string, the other partner tried to eat the donut without using their hands.  Then they would switch.  Everyone had fun and enjoyed the game. 

Everyone`s costumes were really creative.  Heather was an African woman and I was a Native American Indian.  There are some bows and arrows laying around the bungalows that some old volunteers made so I strapped some to my back, put my hair in braids (thank you Heather), put some feathers on, and marked myself tribally.  I would have to say the best costumes were the ones that people made from the jungle.  Most of the volunteers were in the kitchen, when two leaf covered boys with patterns drawn on their chest charged into the room.  Another boy and a girl followed a bit later.  It was great:)  We took videos of them dancing and yelling tribally. 

The next morning, I woke up to Yuri asking me for help.  Some tourists had come and wanted to go to the canopy but an elderly woman wouldn`t be able to make it and so was inquiring about a tour.  I searched for Alejo and asked him if he could do a tour, but his english isn`t that good so he said I should do it.  So with my hair still in braids and my face still slightly painted from the night before I gave my first guided tour.  It was really fun and a good experience.  I was actually surprised how much I knew about Taricaya and the animals (I must admit some of it was b.s.ed a tad haha).  I also found a whole new respect for people that give tours... they really have to know their stuff.

Lunch that day was absolutely delicious!  It was a very American meal.  The staff said they would do the regular tasks if we made lunch so Heather, Laura, Yuri, and I went to work on making lunch.  I grilled chicken (I burnt my leg because oil popped on me, but I learned my lesson!) while the others cut vegetables and made a pasta salad to die for.  We made chicken sandwiches with cabbage and tomatoe on them. A staff member also made mayonnaise (which Peruvians put on everything... fries, pasta, rice, salad, etc.).  Heath even set the table and Alejo bought Sprite and Sublime for us.  It was a great meal!

That night Alejo made us PIZZAAAAAAAA!!! I love pizza and miss it a lot.  It tastes even better when you haven`t had it in months. 

There was another Halloween party on Halloween.  Our fellow American, Zack, really got in the Halloween spirit and got a gord (basically a pumpkin) in town and carved it.  He also cooked the seeds.  It was a real treat.  We went to Amazon Planet for the party.  That night I was a ninja with a buff covering my face (thank you Hanna for the buff you gave me!) and a machette strapped to my back.  Heather was a banana.  Both of our costumes were highly creative considering we decided to go to the party 2 minutes before the boat left hehe.  At Amazon Planet there were some guests from Puerto Maldonado, too.  There were 3 Peruvian girls and they could DANCE!  I was so impressed and tried to learn from them.  My hips just don`t move like theirs haha.  They also have this type of dance where a girl sticks a piece of something (at the time all we had was toilet paper, hey we`re in the jungle) in their jeans and dance while a guy tries to light the something on fire with a lighter.  I don`t understand how this can ever end good. 

The stars have been amazing lately.  I honestly believe I have never seen so many stars in my life.  It is strange too because the constalations are different.  Even the moon is different.  It is sideways down here haha.  Here it sometimes shines like a smiley face. 

This past week I got to clean Sid`s pool.  Sid is our otter.  Cleaning a pool in any cage is hard work.  You get buckets and fill them up with water and pour the water into the forest.  As you can imagine, Sid`s pool was pretty big.  When we had finally emptied almost the whole pool, we had a break and I played/ wrestled with Sid in like a centimeter of water.  Sid would get out of the pool and sort of run away, but then I`d crouch down to his level like an animal and he`d come charging at me.  It was awesome.  He`d bite me and I`d ruffle him up.  His bite only really hurt when he started going for my stomach.  He is just playing though.  Sid has very sharp teeth and if he wanted to do some damage he definitely could. 

I was also part of a team that cleaned the monkey cages and put branches back up that they had knocked over.  I was in the capuchin monkey cage and those devils are sneaky!  We all had gone to one side of the cage and they were kind of near the door (that was closed) and we had all turned our backs.  But a minute later when I looked around they were quietly sneaking toward the door.  I had to barracade the door with branches so they didn`t have a chance. 

One night, a cake was made for a volunteer that was leaving the next day.  We were all eating the cake when I picked up a bite with my spoon and saw an extra dark brown section.  ¨Oh, a burnt piece of chocolate,¨ I thought.  I was definitely wrong.  As I bit into it I got the most awful taste in my mouth.  I spit it out to find a bug.  I didn`t want to look at it too much but I think it was a cockroach.  I ran to the bathroom to quickly dispose of the taste.  It was extremely disgusting at the moment, but now I think it`s hilarious haha.

Hope all is well with everyone!


Tutatuta, Parapapa

Above are two songs that are quite popular at Taricaya.  I found out there names yesterday and couldn`t stop laughing at the sound of them.  If you can, you should listen to them.  The song tutatuta has a special dance to it where everyone gets in a congo line and dances.  The song parapapa has a beat that gets stuck in EVERYONES head.  As soon as it gets out of my head someone else starts singing it and it instantly is back hehe. 

Toast is delicous.  Not just any kind of toast, but the grilled toast in a pan.  You see, we don`t have a toaster.  So how else to make toast but smother it in butter on both sides and plop a slice, or two, or three, into a pan until it is slightly blackened on either side.  Yummmmmmm.

As I continue to bird watch I enjoy it more and more.  I wish I could just see them and identify them immediately like most of the staff.  Some can even identify them by their call.

A very fun activity we have recently been assigned is collecting turtles from the artificial turtle beach.  Our turtle program is a very big deal to us.  We are protecting the Taricaya turtle (the turtle we are named after) from poachers.  Volunteers before us camped out all night on beaches to protect the turtle eggs and find them.  Once found, the volunteers brought the eggs back and put them in our artificial beach where they are safe from harm.   They just recently began to hatch.  We check the 45 turtle nests we have by uncovering them to the first layer of eggs.  If the first layer of eggs haven`t hatched then the ones below it haven`t either.  If an egg is very dark then it is about to hatch.  We also check each nest for rotten eggs that worms have gotten into.  It is truly amazing to see these little turtles hatch.  If they are part way out of the shell then you just leave them in their nest and they start scurrying out.  Once one starts to hatch then more usually follow.  What is it about baby things that make them so cute?  I named my babies coming out of the nest I was checking.  My first born was Tortuga, after her mother (my nickname here and also means turtle). 

One afternoon I was part of a team that had to rebuild the steps from the boat to Taricaya.  We joked we were rebuilding the stairway to heaven.  I say ¨steps¨ but I really mean terraces.  We chopped away at the hillside and filled sandbags to put in strategic positions so when the hard rains come our hill doesn`t become one slippery mud slide.  We worked hard on our steps, but when the rain hits it`s hard not to slip. 

Things decompose very fast in the jungle.  On the hike to the spider monkeys, Heather, Rachel, and I were searching for a dead snake that Yannik had seen the night before.  We were searching for awhile when we came upon a swarm of all different types of bugs.  We knew thats where the dead snake had to have been.  After searching through the dense layer of leaves on the ground all we found were snake ribs spread in different places and two snake fangs.  Those bugs had had a feast all night.

Heather and I have a roommate from Japan now.  Her name is Yuri and she is a very sweet girl.  She is here for a month and although our room is small it is perfect for the three of us:)

Killing big or fast bugs is always an adventure in the jungle.  When Heather and I were deep cleaning our room for Yuri`s arrival we came across this medium size (I say medium but it was actually the size of three quarter sized coins) black spider with my toiletries.  Not only was it on the larger side of medium, it was extremely quick.  It took Heather and me 15 minutes armed with empty pringles cans, a water bottle, and gloves to kill the spider haha.

I will return after lunch with more to say on my blog!

Monday, November 8, 2010

I don´t know what to title this... so PAPAYA.

We now have a swing!  Well... more like a long piece of rope tied to a tree with a stick at the bottom to sit on, but still a swing!  A couple of volunteers who are always creative climbed the tree that holds our water tower and attached the rope.  I swing and try and grab things off the ground and see if I can grasp whatever it is I´m aiming at... Just call me Tarzan:)

I have never smashed an egg on anyone´s head... that was until Laura´s birthday!  I think I have mentioned the Peruvian tradition of smashing eggs on the birthday person´s head and pushing their face in the cake.  I was honored to be one of the people to smash an egg on Laura´s head hehe although she might have not felt too honored by it.

We are starting a new crop experiment at New Farm.  Most of the farmers that have grass on their land don´t know what to do with it after they get rid of their goats or other farm animals.  Therefore, they just move on to another plot of land and cut down more forest.  If we can find a sustainable crop to plant into land that was once covered by the long grass then the farmers wouldn´t have to cut down the precious forest.  What we are doing at New Farm is planting different types of plants in meter wide by 100 meter long sections cut into the grass.  Guess who got to cut the meter long sections with machettes?   We did!:) It was 20 volunteers cutting for 2 hours with machettes in the hot sun and with the over friendly flies landing in our ears and sneaking into our nose to only cut one fourth the grass we needed to cut.  It was hard work, but always rewarding when I think about how this project will aid in saving the rain forest. 

Stuart gave a caiman presentation that was fascinating!  The group Crocodilians, which includes Gharials (they have a long, thing snout and are found in India and Pakistan), Alligators, and Crocodiles, are the second oldest group.  The first is turtles.  Caiman are in the same category as Alligators and are found in the Americas.  Caiman have a bony plate over the ribs which alligators don´t have on the stomach.  Here are some interesting facts about caiman, but I am just going to list them so if they bore you feel free to skip over them haha: if they are not moving they can sit under water for 20 minutes without coming up for air, but if they are swimming they have to come up sooner for air.  They have a secondary palat in their throat which blocks the water from entering their  throat and drowning them when they open their mouth under water.  They have two eyelids, one is an invisible membrane so they can see under water.  Their front feet do not have webbing in between their toes, but the back feet do.  To swim they tuck their from feet under themselves and the back feet work for steering.  Their tail provides the force they need to swim.  Caiman are not slow like many people think.  On land they can ambush predators.  They are quick but if are chasing their prey for 50 to 60 meters they get tired.  Caiman grab their prey side ways.  They cannot pick up food off the ground.  They can influence the sex of their offspring by controlling the temperature the eggs are at.  Out of a nest of 30 to 40 eggs only 1 or 2 survive and that is with mom looking out for them in the first 6 months.  Out of 40 that survive the first 6 months, only 5 will make it to 5 years old.  And just a little warning, if you only see the head of a caiman... their body is 7 times the size of their head.  So beware! 

After Stuart´s caiman talk... WE WENT ON A CAIMAN HUNT!  We have to look for caiman at night because that is when they are awake and hunt.  All the volunteers were squished together on the boat with Gigo driving and Stuart at the head of the boat with a flashlight.  The volunteers were directed to not make a sound and be very still.  We also couldn´t have our lights on and couldn´t move until the caiman was on the boat.  When Stuart spotted a caiman (their eyes reflect orange when you shine light at them) he directed Gigo to get closer.  When the boat was right by the caiman, Stuart would lean over and grab the caiman right behind the neck.  One time he chased one into a bush.  I swear that man is fearless.  He ended up catching two caiman.  The first one was a spectacled caiman and then a smooth fronted caiman.  As the hunt was going on there was a lovely display of lightening to the northeast.  It was a perfect night.

I am not sure if I have mentioned this... (i probably repeat stories all the time and I apologize) but one of my new favorite snacks is peanut butter and rellena cookies.  Rellena cookies are fantastic!  They have many different flavors but I love the ones that are a chocolate cookie on the outside and have a mint creme of delightfulness on the inside.  And with peanut butter it is GOLDEN.

Ok so as many of you know BASKETBALL IS THE BEST SPORT IN THE WORLD!!!!!!... at least to me haha.  So one normal (well, normal for the jungle) day when I was taking a siesta I heard this hammering outside and went to check it out.  I walked out to find this beautiful basketball hoop being built.  3 volunteers, Sally, Simon, and Zack, were building it.  The pole was bamboo and the back board was wood.  Zack had bought an iron hoop for it in town.  Simon had dug a 6 ft hole in the ground to support it.  I helped a little by picking up the extra pieces of bamboo and getting the hoop in the hole but i felt guilty for not helping even more because the basketball hoop is one of the most excitingly beautiful things I have ever seen.  I can´t help but get this big feeling of glee when I look at it.  The ground is pretty good for bouncing a ball, too.  I was so happy I attacked the 3 volunteers with hugs.  After it was put up we measured how tall it was and it was exactly 10 ft!!!! It was fate:)

Lately, our generator has been a tad faulty.  But as we tend to do in the jungle... we turned a situation that could have been bad into a great thing.  One night the generator went out an hour early.  We lit candles around the kitchen to give some light and distract the bugs from attacking our bodies.  Then two volunteers with angelic voices, Lucy and Cecile, played guitar and sang.  It was beautiful.  It felt like we were at a summer camp or something haha.  Raul drew this really cool picture that is hanging in our room now (he was going to get rid of it and I couldn´t let him do that).  It was of everyone watching Lucy and Cecile sing.  Sally also got her harmonica out and a few volunteers tried it out.  I think I might buy one when I get home:)

I got to do butterflies again one morning only instead of setting up the traps I was on a mission to catch them.  Armed with a net, I set out on the trails with Yessi and Jane.  We caught 4 butterflies in the traps.  I got to get one out of a trap.  I was so scared I was going to hurt the butterfly because it´s wings are so delicate.  I captured it safely though.  We chased down two butterflies with our nets but barely missed them.  Those mariposas are cunning little dodgers.

I had my first encounter with a snake!  I was part of a group of people that was making a 3 foot perimeter clearing around the future turtle enclosure sight.  I was raking leaves to clear them and flung a bunch behind me when suddenly a snake appeared.  I think I might have raked it haha.  It was red and grey and Yessi said it was probably poisonious. 

I love you all!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Fun in the Peruvian Sun

I had the opportunity to walk around the perimeter of Taricaya the other day.  It took us 3 hours to walk around 457 hectares.  It was full of adventure hehe.  We started at 7:30 in the morning so it wasn`t wanting to die hot.  It was cool seeing different parts of the jungle.  We got to see some Primary Forest at the back of Taricaya.  Secondary forest is the usual Taricaya scenary in which you can hardly see of the trail.  In primary forest you can see 60ft or more across the ground.  Some interesting things happened on the hike.  First, a wasp got caught in my hair and stung my head twice and then I tried to swipe it out, but got stung on my hand.  At the same time a wasp was stinging another volunteer through her shirt and so she just took it off and we all started booking it down the trail to get away from the wasps.  Second, a volunteer got a really bad sting and wanted to go back and so Rachel took her back and said she`d meet us at the spider monkey camp.  We (Heather, Sally, Lucy, and I) reach the camp and are just sitting and talking when we see Dixon (a spider monkey) five trees away.  Spider monkeys can be very dangerous.  It was either Dixon, or the alpha male Wollie, who attacked one of the cooks face and sent another volunteer to the hospital.  Dixon started getting closer and closer until me, Sally, and Heath were standing around the table with him on it.  We had our machettes grasped tight.  Mine was backwards so I would just club him if he attached.  Lucy was smart and had started unzipping a tent and diving in it.  The rest of us decided that was probably a good idea and so clumped together by it.  First, Heather went and then Sally dove in.  Then it was me witha  backwards machette and a spider monkey 4 ft from me that started ¨ooo¨ing at me.  It was terrifying.  I couldn´t lift up the tent flap without turning my eyes from Dixon so I was yelling in the tent that they should lift it and then I dove in with the machette and accidently hit Lucy with the machette.  It was burning hot in the tent so we tried to push the over back a little from the inside.  Dixon was chilling right outside the tent.  We sat there and waited for Rachel.  When we heard her, we yelled and warned her of the situation.  Luckily she had grabbed 3 nets from by the cage.  We figured that maybe Dixon was just hungry so we threw some of the food we were to put by the cage to distract him.  It worked somewhat and we clumped together with me and Sally walking backwards with nets.  Sally was saying ¨We should probably stick together¨when we turned around and saw Lucy and Rachel booking it hahaha.  We continued to keep our eyes on him and walk backwards until we got to the log to cross the creek.  Just my luck, I slipped and fell and my leg went half way into the water.  After that little adventure the rest of the walk was pretty mild.  We did see a bunch of wild squirrel monkeys though. 

I have learned a game down here that is called musical bumps.  It certainly does give you some bumps in the form of bruises haha.  It`s like musical chairs only when the music stops you have to get on the floor as quickly as possible.  It`s very fun:)

The river is always a fun place to swim, but the water level is slowly rising because its the rainy season.  One day Laura, Yannik, and I walked to a sandbar in the middle of the river and then floated down.  Laura and I also invented an anti-caiman dance to protect ourselves from the caiman.  It works because we haven´t been bitten yet;)

On what appeared to be a regular afternoon, I had another strange encounter with the spider monkeys.  Zack, Hersha, and I went to the spider monkeys to put food in their feeding bucket.  I was armed with a net to catch any rowdy monkeys.  They started coming from the tops of the trees and when we backed off they followed.  Zack had to tie the rope attached to the food bucket and while Zack was in the cage to do it Wollie, the alpha male, came and sat on the door.  Me and Hersha backed off as to not upset him.  When Wollie moved, Zack came out and started walkng towards us, but Wollie started going toward him so Zack stopped.  Zack told us to remain calm as Wollie climbed up Zack and sat on him for 2 minutes.  When Wollie got off him he came toward me and I stuck the net in front of my body in case he wanted to attack.  Zack got around him though and we started slowly walkng away... keeping our eyes on him.  He followed us half way back to Taricaya (about 1.5km)!  The whole time I was a little nervous because only Zack had a net because we had to leavce the other 2.  I grabbed a good sized stick to protect myself if needed.  It was really eerie when Wollie would gt a little behind and the sprint at us.  Also, how he would walk like a human sometimes.  Zack and I made a video of it on his camera.  He commentated and I was the camera woman.  I felt like the person that always dies in scary movies hahah.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Half way through with Taricaya... boooooooooooo (ghost saying that btw)

Heather and I had the great opportunity to go on an eco walk with Stuart.  Stuart, I think I have mentioned, owns half of Taricaya.  The eco walk was fascinating.  I hope in the future I know as much about a subject as Stuart does about the rain forest.  There is so much I learned that it would be impossible to write it all down.  I´ll list a few things I learned : 1. the soil is not very good in the rain forest.  There is rock underneath that does not give stability to roots and such.  This causes trees to fall over which is key to why the rain forest is so diverse.  If trees fall over, no species of plant can dominate.  2. There are parasitic plants that take over trees and surround them until the inner tree dies.  We saw a strangler vine that was taking over a palm tree.  The palm tree was barely alive. 3.  There is a tree called a walking tree that moves a cm per year until it reaches a spot where it receives enough sunlight.  4. some trees have hallow roots (butris roots) to spread their weight over the ground so they don`t have to penetrate the ground and hit the rock. 

Do you know the song that goes ¨I want to know have you ever seen the rain, coming down on a sunny day¨?  It´s a great song and now I have seen the rain come down on a sunny day:)  We were bird watching when suddenly it started raining... which was confusing because the sun was shining bright.  It was a beautiful sight. 

I can now say I have had food poisoning in Peru haha.  It was not the best experience, but you learn from everything.  I tried ceviche, raw fish cooked by acid, for the first time and it was quite delicious.  However, I will not have it again as that night I clearly had food poisoning.  Heather was my savior though and she took care of me.

The conservationist in me is getting stronger and stronger with her wanting to help the world.  Even when I cut down plants to clear forest to build a new animal enclosure I get this feeling of guilt for cutting down plants that take CO2 out of the atmosphere.  I hope this conservationist side of me becomes more knowledgeable about the earth and helping it. 

Btw beetroot is an absolutely amazing color of dark purple.  It amazes me that these natural things have such powerful colors. 

Last weekend only 7 girls stayed at Taricaya while the other volunteers went into town.  It was SO fun.  We wanted to go fishing and so Gigo gave us all reels and took us on the Titanic (the smallest boat we have) to a creek across the river.  Gigo is the best boat driver here.  There was so many trees and debris in the creek and he avoided everything.  Going down the creek reminded everyone of a ride out of a theme prak.  We expected fake dinosaurs or fake sharks to pop out at any moment.  When Gigo couldn´t go up the creek anymore, we stopped and got our spots to go fishing.  There were quite a lot of us to fish in the same spot so we tried to spread ourselves out on the bank.  I tried fishing on the boat with a few people, but my line kept getting sucked under the boat.  So I decided to venture upstream where no one else was.  It looked like an easy take... that was until the mud.  Suddenly, I was knee deep in mud that sucked my legs in its grasp.  When I decided enough was enough and I needed to turn around... It was an impossible task hehe.  My chocos were getting stuck in the mud and I wasn´t about to leave my 100 dollar pair of sandals in the greedy mud.  At one point Heath looked over and started laughing because all she could see was my torso.  I saw a stick by me and knew all that needed to happen was for some air to reach my foot so I tried using it and got my foot out, but my beloved choco was still trapped in the mud.  I then tried to use the stick to hook my choco and lift it out of the mud.  The stick broke.  So not only were my legs covered with mud, but also my arms because  of digging for my sandals.  Heath kept looking over and laughing hehe.  And then Rachel decided to come and help me.  When we got my shoes out we both covered ourselves in mud hehe.  Rachel floated down the creek a little ways and pretended to be a mud monster.  No one was catching fish so we all got a little preoccupied by the mud.  Then we decided to have a mud fight.  IT WAS TERRIFIC!  WE chucked mud at each other until everyone was covered.  We did it for such a long time that the Titanic was covered with mud, too.  As we went back to Taricaya, the only clean part of our bodies was our teeth.  Then Gigo let us out of the boat a little ways up the river so we could float down to Taricaya and rinse off in the river.  I had so much mud in my hair I looked like a statue.  It took the river and 2 shampoo rinses in the shower to get all the mud out of my hair hehe.  Totally worth it though:)

Rain is wonderful, but makes my clothes stink

First off, thank you everyone who is reading and commenting on my blog.  It makes me happy to hear that people have read it and discussed it with others:) 

Second, my title has nothing to do with what I´m about to talk about, it is just a random fact.

Third, Heather Dappen is absolutely wonderful and creatively fantastic!  She wrote me a little story that I would like to share with everyone.  I sadly cannot show you the amazing pictures that accompany the words. 

If You Give Americans Peanut Butter by H. W. Dappen. 

Dedicated to Victoria Walnut.

Sometimes it can be a very dangerous thing to offer American girls food.  If you give Americans Peanut Butter...
Then they´re not going to be satisfied with just Peanut Butter.  They will need some bread to go with the peanut butter.  And if they have bread they´re going to want any number of things.  Jelly, honey, banana, marmalade...
And if you give Americans sandwiches, then they´re going to want to have a balanced meal and they will want apples, celery, carrots or pretzels to put their peanut butter on. 
And if you give Americans a balanced peanut butter meal, then they´re going to want a peanute butter dessert... (this page had pictures of reeses, a peanut butter cake with a peanut butter cherry on top, and cookies with peanut butter on them:)
And if you give Americans a peanut butter desert, then they´re going to start craving other foods to wash all the peanut butter down... (picture of us with milk mustaches)
If you give Americans more food, they´ll start eating everything in sight.  (beautiful picture of me and heather eating a car and rubbish and we even took a bite out of the page!)
And if you let the Americans eat everything, then they will have nothing left to eat but... YOU!!! And that is why it is very dangerous to give Americans peanut butter, but in all reality PLEASE GIVE US PEANUT BUTTER!

I think this book will be a number one best seller!  I laughed so hard when I read it.  I can´t help but smile when I think about it. 

One of my favorite things to do on the boat to town is listen to music with Heather.  She brought a splitter so we can both listen with our headphones.  We dance (the best we can while sitting on a boat) and lip sink the whole time.  People used to look at us like we were crazy... now I think they are used to it hehe.  One volunteer said everytime she hears me and Heath laugh on the boat she laughs too, even if she´s far away.  I´m glad laughing is contagious:)

Heather and I have tried various little cafes and restaurants around town and have found a delicious chinese place that we are about to go have lunch at.  You can get a large bowl of soup, a full plate of food, and a small drink for 8 soles!!!! That is less than 3 american dollars. You gotta love this place:)

We also found this delightful little place across from the post office.  It is a hole in the wall kind of place and only has 3 stools to sit on on the sidewalk.  I got an empanada, a large glass of juice, and a sandwich for 3 soles (1 american dollar)!  I am almost drooling just thinking about it.

In case you haven´t noticed... food is on my mind a lot hehe.  I would like to inform everyone it is not just Americans that think about food!  I´ve hade 30 minute conversations (yes more than one convo) with people from around the world about the food they miss.  I tell them about Taco Bell ( I am a little disgusted with myself for missing it) and Red Robin.  Not even the east coast Americans have been to Red Robin!  That will be one of the first restaurants I go to when I get home:) If you have not tried it, order a whiskey bbq chicken burger with a side of onion ring sauce... it is to die for!  I know I´m a tad bit pathetic for planning my first meal 7 months away... oh well. The simple things in life hehe.

A recent activity I had was painting the Hob platform.  It is a bird watching platform located right by a swamp.  The old platform was too old to use and so a carpenter built a brand new one.  It was a very fun activity.  A couple of the other girls and I got goofy and painted smiley faces on the back of our shirts.  I think the painting fumes might have gotten to my head a little... I wasn´t thinking right and Yessi, a staff member, told me to ¨throw away¨the bad paint that was turning yellow.  So I turn and literally threw the paint out of the bucket onto the ground... not what she meant and not very conservationist of me!  I ended up cleaning it up with a sponge though so hopefully did not to a lot of damage to the environment.

I have also helped cook a few more meals here.  The cooks, Reyna and Sheyla, are very nice and fun.  It´s hard to understand each other sometimes, but we always manage.  It amazes me how far body language and motioning can get a point across haha.  We made a stew and I made 2 vegetarian plates.  Reyna had to help me make the plates look good though haha.  I was going for ¨its on the inside that counts¨.... not the picture perfect plate :)

Sadly, I must go!  We are trying to buy flights to Lima today.  I love you all and hope your lives are wonderful!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fun Fun Fun in the Amazonnnnnn

Hellloooooo Worlddd!!!!  Once again... I am going to run out of time and not be able to type the massive amount of stories I have! For example, today Heather, Laura (another crazy American girl from Ohio who is absolutely awesome), and I ran away from a police officer.  It was very innocent... you see, about 15 of us were in the back of a loading truck to load and unload sawdust.  Apparently you are not supposed to have people in the back of these trucks... especially suspicious looking gringos and gringas!  We didn`t even get caught on the road. We got caught at a gas station while filling our containers full of gas for Taricaya.  I didn´t even know that Gigo, a staff member, was talking to a police officer with Zack until one of the other volunteers said something.  I was busy playing Big Booty and Um pa pa with Laura and Heather hehe.  It wasn´t until we were directed to get out of the truck by the police officer that I really started thinking we might be in trouble.  Then he started asking for passports.  As a safety measure, so it doesn´t get stolen, a lot of people didn´t bring their passports. Therefore, Yannik, a German volunteer, turned to us and said ¨lets go quickly, he is asking for ID¨.  And that was the cue for us to book it!  So we start walking away quickly and I started to get into a Tuk Tuk with Zack when Heather and Laura reminded me we needed to get peanut bubber (peabnub bubber for those who have seen baman and piderman) and the store was really close.  We then ran across the busy street and a little out of sight.  Heather was wearing two shirts and took the outer one off to disguise herself haha.  I mentioned we should all change clothes as a joke.  There is a tower where you can overlook Puerto in the middle of a roundabout that me and Heath have always wanted to go up and that happened to be right by us, and the perfect hiding spot. We then crossed the busy roundabout to get into the tower.  As we walked up the stairs (calorie burner let me tell you) we observed the police officer still talking to Gigo and the other volunteers leaving to get out of sight.  Everyone was safe and fine, but it was truly an interesting experience to run away from a police officer.  I of course would never to such a thing in the states;)

One of the hardest activities I´ve experienced here is carrying wood.  Okay, yes that sounds simple, but the wood was extraordinarily heavy and we had to carry it 2 km out into the forest.  Me and Heather would carry 2 to 3 wood planks between us at a time on our shoulders.  My spine still feels a little crunched from it.  I might be a tad bit shorter hehe.  My big bro will enjoy that;)

I have done lots of different tasks, but have done some tasks over and over.  I am not sick of a single one of them yet.  I still love trail clearing ( machette power!) and gathering fruits.  We go to different farms that we are on good terms with around the Madre de Dios and get different fruits that we need for different animals.  I like getting the papaya.  You have to have a huge stick about 2 or 3 times my height to knock the papaya off the tree and then your partner catches the fruit before it smashes to smitherins (sp?) on the ground.  It is like a game :)  I also cut down some more leaves for the tapirs and I didn´t have an allergic reaction like I did the first time! woohoo!

One of my new nicknames around Taricaya is Tortuga.  It means turtle.  It started when I fell asleep on the boat and I woke up and looked up all weirdly and tired and then laid back down.  Gigo made fun of me for it and so I started calling him Tortuga and then he started calling me Tortuga.  Everytime we see each other we yell Tortuga.  Even some of the other volunteers started doing it hehe.  I still haven´t found anything to get back at Gigo for turning us blue... I tried to stick him with a pineapple top (they are extrememly spikey down here, they hurt a lot when you get stuck by one) last night and he saw it coming so it ended in me chasing him and throwing it at him (bad idea) and him coming after me and getting me back haha.  If anyone has any good ideas please let me know:)

Another activity I had the pleasure of doing was setting up butterfly traps.  Gigo studies butterflys and has an enclosure full of them at Taricaya.  Butterflys only fly up so we set food at the bottom of this tubular netting.  When the butterfly comes and eats food, it flys up into the trap for us to get.  We set up 15 of these traps one morning.  In order to get the rope around a branch (some are very high you can imagine) we had to tie the rope around a stick and try to throw it over the branch.  While we were setting up a trap, Sally (an awesome volunteer from Australia) and I heard what sounded like a growl behing us.  My heart instantly beat faster and I turned around to see nothing but forest.  That was until I saw the humming bird about three feet from us that was making the loud noise haha.  I was definitely in fight or flight mode, but was still able to admire the hummingbird´s beauty. 

Another fun activity is going and analyzing mushrooms with Zack.  Zack is a volunteer, but is leading a mushroom study here.  We tend to have a lot of extra time when we do mushrooms though so also do things that are important... like building a basketball hoop (heckkkkkk ya!!!!!)

An adventure I have not mentioned yet is floating down the river.  It has come to be one of my favorite things to do.  Rachel and Lucy (British girls that are fantastic) had the brilliant idea to get Dan (a staff member who has since left Taricaya and we all miss dearly) to drive the boat up to New Farm and let us float down the river with life jackets (bouyancy aids as Lucy calls them) back to Taricaya.  We were quite the site:) There was about 20 floating orange bodies.  Ben stayed on the boat and took a whole bunch of pictures of us.  There was a lot of Titanic references.  ¨I will never let go Jack¨ was said by, I swear, every single person haha.  It was over far too quickly. 

Whenever there is a celebration at Taricaya (birthdays or someone important leaving) it usually involves a cake.  Many different cakes have been made that are interesting and delicious haha.  Me, Heather, David, and the cooks Reyna and Sheyla made a coffee and lime cake that was decorated with chocolate, lime, and corn flakes.  It was good even though it was a surprising combination hehe.  The most recent ones were vanilla and apple (awesome) and vanilla and oreo (awesome, awesome!).  Of course all of them are covered in, as Rachel put it, ¨copius amounts of chocolate sauce¨.  It´s sinfully delicious because the chocolate sauce is warm and delightful. 

What I have not mentioned yet, and that is a necessity to mention, are the Taricaya Olympics!!!!! On Gigo´s birthday it was extraordinarily hot so all activities in the afternoon were canceled for the Taricaya Olympics.  They included runnign with an egg, 3 legged race, egg toss, wheel barrel race, and perhaps the most fun... TUG OF WAR!!!  Everyone was split up into teams and, of course, getting super competitive hehe.  My team name was named Team South America!!! in a weird tough sounding voice ;)  In the running with the egg race my team dropped the egg (oops).  In the 3 legged race my team did fairly well but it hurt really bad (tough string in the jungle).  The sack race was hilarious because people were falling everywhere, I barely managed to stay up.  Me and Lucy got really far apart on the egg toss, until it broke on me and got all over my shorts.  In the wheel barrel race, Yves was supposed to hold my feet but my legs were too sweaty and slippery so I landed on my face a couple of times haha.  The tug of war was EPIC.  My team lost to Yessi´s team, but Dan needed a sub for a girl so recruited me to his team, Dan´s team ended up getting second.  I was slightly honored:) We watched the next match with Yessi´s team and it was absolutely hilarious.  Yessi is 5ft. with about 100 pounds or less on her.  She was at the front of her team yelling ¨they are nothing!! C´mon guys pull, they are nothing!¨and then would get dragged either way by the rope because she weighs so little.  She also bit the rope as she was pulling it sometimes.  It was hard for anyone not to yell while in the tug of war.  I yelled a lot lol.  I also got this massive rope burn across my arm.  It still hasn´t healed and I am afraid it´s going to leave a nasty scar.  We also had a staff vs. volunteers tug of war.  The volunteers won but we didn´t know that we had one extra person.  I´d rather have just won fair and square. 

Sadly, once again, I have to go catch my boat.  I love you all and hope you enjoy reading this.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Before the Blue

Now that I got my explanation of being blue out of the way... I can continue with more adventures! 

  Our baby monkeys Nicol and Muneca, who are everyone`s favorite, gave me an experience of a lifetime. 
Nicol and Muneca get transported twice a day to two different areas.  I have taken Nicol from the Animal Hospital to her cage and it`s quite cute.  You giver her her blanket (a tiny baby blanket) and she curls around it.  I held her like a baby as we walked to her cage.  Another time I took Muneca from her cage to the Animal Hospital. She wraps her tail around your neck and kind of chokes you, but I lifted up my left arm up and she laid on it so it didn´t choke me as much.  I just pet her like I would have Sadie (miss you puppy).  It was so cute and a wonderful experience.  Although, I love those monkeys...the past few days have not been my best experiences with monkeys.  I was helping feed Muneca and Nicol in the animal hospital and everything was great.  They jumped and climbed and cuddled with me and Heather.  Then I decided to lay down and have them crawl on me.  Maybe that was a mistake... Nicol climbed on my chest and then I felt something wet as she dragged her bottom across my chest.  Yes, I got peed on by a monkey hehe.  Then Raul (our mono man super hero... meaning monkey man) grabbed Nicol`s tail and started pulling her away from my face and exclaimed She`s about to poop!  I had no idea what to do so just laid there making random noises out of disgust.  I thought my weird monkey experiences would be over after that experience... but I was wrong.  The next day I was outside the cage of the capuchin monkeys (small little devils) and put my face close to the cage.  One white capuchin monkey looked at me with these sweet, innocent eyes that drew me in closer to look into them... then the monkey punched me in the bridge of my nose hahaha.  Oh, the surprises in life:)

We had a lecture on bats this past week and now Batman is even cooler than he was! ;)  70% of the mammal species in the rainforest are Bats.  Bats evolved from small mammals, not rats or mice which is the common misconception.  The bats have five ¨fingers¨ in their wing and the skin in their wing is very much alive; not dead skin as most people believe.  The bones of the fingers are hollow because hollow structures are lighter and much stronger.  Most people know that bats use echolocation to locate insects and such.  However, bats are not blind and actually have very good eye sight; they see in ultra violet light.  They also have a good sense of smell.  Bats sleep up side down to get blood to their head to save energy.  They also give birth up side down (ow! gravity helps with birth with most other mammals). 

As many people know, I love to dance.  I can dance all night!  The Macarena and YMCA have been very popular dances lately at Taricaya.  Most people get really into it... I´m always doing it haha.  My Peruvian dancing is getting better!  I´m still learning a lot and can´t teach anyone, but we have some very good dancers here to learn from. 

The feeling of being content is a strange one to me.  At home I am like Yosemite Sam as my mom says.  I walk into a room and go POW, POW, POW, POW!! everywhere.  Here I am surprisingly relaxed.  Me and Heather have had quite a few recluse days in which we relax in our bungalow and are completely content with ourselves.  I hope I can have this feeling back at home when I get back. 

In my opinion, any experience that has given you blood, sweat, and tears is a fulfilling experience.  I have definitely experienced all of these at Taricaya and me realizing this has brought it even closer to my heart.  We are one third of our way done here, which seems crazy.  Time is a tricky little fellow that seems to move so slowly and so quickly. 

I´m Blue Da Ba De Da Ba Dye

I´m blue; not in the sad way.  I´m not singing the blues.  I´m not an avatar (sadly... hopefully one day).  I am just plain old blue.  You see... the staff members of Taricaya convinced everyone that there was this amazing fruit that when spread all over your body made the bugs (even the annoying sand flies that leave circles of blood when they bite you) leave you alone for a week!  Why didn´t they tell us about this fruit earlier? we asked.  Why don´t we use it all the time? we asked. Why? why? why!? Every volunteer waited in anticipation for the moment that our beloved trickster Gigo gathered the fruit.  Last night was that night.  The staff set it up perfectly.  When Heather and I first got here Gigo even mentioned the fruit to us.  When Heather was on a walk with Yessi, Yessi showed them the magical fruit that bugs didn´t like.  How could we not trust them?  O Pas! (not sure if at all spelled right but O Pa means fool in spanish hehe).  Heather and I were talking in our room as the others headed to the lounge to hang out and chill at Dan¨s goodbye party.  We were both tired and just resting before we headed to the lounge.  We were content when our fellow American Zackarias (actually Zack, I just like calling him Zackarias) beckoned us to join them because they had the fruit!  We must get there and put it on!  Of course we had to try it.  We yearned for freedom of the tormenting bites we receive.  FREEEEDDDDOOOOOMMMMM!!!!!! (braveheart yell)  We got to the lounge and the staff were preparing the fruits nicely and without complaint.  That should have been our first sign or warning.... usually it´s every man for himself when it comes to things.  Trevor and Zack (both new about the prank because they have been volunteers here before) played along convincingly.  Trevor was mentioning how last time they waited until he was about to leave until they gave the magically fruit out and they were doing it again! Dang them he said with a laugh.  Heather and I were each given half a fruit with rubbing alcohol poured in it and a qtip.  Apply everywhere, we shall it rid of the bugs!  Everyone applied with glee.  Reyna, one of our cooks, applied it to my face.  She stroked my eyelids as if she was putting eye shadow on, put a v shape on my forehead, and a dot on each ear.  She left putting it on the rest of my body to me.  We had fun as we danced and chatted the night away when I noticed something peculiar... because were starting to look blue.  Apparently, we will be blue for about a week hehe. I´m not covered completely... that would be too hard with a qtip.  I just have awkwardly marked blue stripes all over my body and some smears where I smeared it with my hand.  My face also looks like I put really bad eyeshadow on and I´ve been beaten haha.  Heather and I have been getting strange looks wherever we walk in town.  Thank goodness for my buff to cover the giant V on my forehead and sunglasses to cover my beaten eyes.  As for the rest of my body... there was no concealing my blue zebra stripes.  Revenge is on my mind.   Trust me... THERE WILL BE REVENGE!!!;)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

En La Jungla

For the first time since I have been here, I felt the pain of being homesick.  It is not severe and I expect that it will end soon with a goodnight´s rest and a warm Taricaya meal.  Just know that if you miss me, I´m missing you, too! 

Anyways, enough of that talk:)  I had the cool experience of feeding our jaguar.  I was amazed at all the precautions we had to take to feed the powerful (but still cute) animal.  First, you have to slide this metal door down so she can´t attack you.... always a happy thought haha.  Then you have to slide 4 metal bars out of the door to get in and set the pile of raw meat covered with unwanted wasps in the cage.  Quite the experience!

I also was able to do turtle census.  We ride on a boat for 2 hours looking for turtles on logs.  We only saw three but it was delightful.  I stuck my ipod in my ears and admired the amazon around me while searching hard for ¨Charlies¨... what I was calling the turtles thanks to Forest Gump hahaha  

Some of the cutest animals we have here are the most vicious in my opinion.  We have a margay which looks like a small jaguar house cat with huge eyes and we have 3 jaguarandi.  They look so fluffy (so fluffy I could die!!!) and cuddly, but as soon as you get close they glare at you and hiss.  I stuck my face next to the enclosure the jaguarandi were in in their cage and they lunged at me and hissed something fierce! Luckily, I was on the outside of their cage, but that didn´t keep be from yelping and jerking back haha.

Sadly I must cut this entry short because the boat leaves in 30 minutes.  I love and miss everyone!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Roomies continued...

Ok so this is my second post today because I had to scurry off to lunch before to say goodbye to some volunteers. First off, for those who do not know, Heather has a blog too and you should also read her point of view on our adventures because she tells them in a much more creative way.  Also, my blog is kind of like my journal... not organized in any particular order and definitely random.  I don´t believe in transitions on my blog hehe.

Throughout our stay here, we are given different presentations regarding different animals or projects we are doing.  We have been given one about spider monkeys, the history of Taricaya, and ants.  Now, it might sound strange but the ant talk was my favorite. Ants are fascinating!  There are these ants here called bullet ants that you can actually stitch up a cut with if you do not have medical supplies.  They have large pinchers so you put their head on the wound and they clamp down, then you break their body off so just their head is left.  You do this all along the cut for stitches.  When you do not need the stitches anymore then you take a hot stick from a fire and touch it to the back of their necks, it makes the ligaments in their head release the pinchers and pow! you are healed haha. Also, did you know that ants are 25% of the animal mass in the jungle.  25 PERCENT!!!! That is so many millions of ants I can´t even imagine.  There is also this type of ant that I currently can´t recall the name of but if you get stung then it feels like you were shot by a bullet.  If you get stung five times by this type of ant then you die.  No worries though:) haha.  Oh and army ants are terrifying.  They do not have a nest; they are always moving.  They move in a sort of octopus form.  They have the main colony in this ball in the middle and then legs (or tentacles) of ants swarming around the ball to get food.  These ants have moved through Taricaya before and I hope I don´t meet them.  Every insect is afraid of them so you get warned that they are coming by cockroaches, spiders, and every other insect crawling up your walls or flying off the ground.  About 20 minutes later, here comes the swarm of army ants.  They will eat anything and everything, even their own dead.   If army ants come, you move out, wait for them to be done with your place, and then enjoy your clean room because they eat all the dirty junk that was in it.

I believe I have forgotten to mention the fireflies! I have never seen fireflies before here and they are so cool to watch!

One of my new favorite activities here is swinging in a hammock.  We have about six bunched together and it is a nice place to chill with friends or to spend some alone time.  The other day I even swung in a hammock in the rain.  It was peaceful and perfect.

Another one of my favorite things to do is play in the rain.  We had our first rain and it was a siren call for Heather and I to go play in it.  We ran outside and twirled and jumped and went into the river.  It is strange because when it rains the river feels like a hottub... hottest water we will ever get here haha.  There are many sandbars in the river so we walked to the middle of it and kicked a ball around.  Since then we have played soccer in the rain and played in the big puddles that form in a hard rain.  Our roofs are made of tin so when it rains it is one of the loudest things I have ever heard.  Thank goodness for ear plugs at night.

Card games are rather common here.  One night we decided to play spoons.  Of course we decided that the loser got a letter written on their face with permanent marker.  For two days I had SP on my forehead.

For those that do not know... Moulin Rouge is one of my favorite movies.  One of the coolest things happened on one lazy Sunday.  I was laying in bed and reading and someone was watching TV when I hear "The French are glad to die for love..." It was the magestic voice of Nicole Kidman.  I got my chocos on and ran across the yard to find Dan and Ben watching futbol (soccer).  I asked about Moulin Rouge and they said it was on a different channel.  So I reluctantly went to the kitchen and told Heather about the incident, in which case she told me she has never seen all of Moulin Rouge.  Of course I was distraught by this statement.  Therefore, we went to the hangout room with our friend Yves and convinced Ben to change it to Moulin Rouge.  It made my heart sing to watch my movie down here!

Heather (or as the French people here say it Heazer) and I finally accomplished the mammoth task of cleaning our bungalow.  You see, the person before us did not exactly leave it in perfect condition.  When Daniel first showed us our room we thought someone was living there...nope.  She just left it a giant mess.  Now we can finally see our sink (its white! not brown now), not be completely grossed out in the shower, and sit on a clean toilet.  Oh, the little things in life.  Heather and I also scavenged the other empty room for any goods we could find.  We now have a bench and I switched my pillow and mattress for one that didn´t smell awful.  It is a good way to live:)

Heather and I have started a tradition of lighting candles to see by night rather then using our lights.  It is very peaceful and brightens my night (pun haha). 

One of the staff members I have not mentioned yet is Raul.  We did not get off on the best start... we were playing futbol the first day he was back and I nailed him in the quad with my knee and hurt him pretty bad.  Like I said, not the greatest first impression on my part.  However, now we are cool and he is hilarious.  He calls me mommy and i call him poppy.  I have no idea how that started but the nicknames have stuck.

One of my favorite activities is machetting.  I thought I was an amazon woman before, but now I really feel like one now.  This past week one of my first tasks in the morning was RCM (Rescue Center Maintenance).  The first thing Alejandro (Alej for short) did was take me to sharpen my machette.  Ok sooo cool.  I couldn´t believe I was sharpening this huge blade.  Sparks flew as I sharpened my new favorite tool.  Then Alej took me to a rather thick tree and told me to chop it down.  I asked if he was serious and he said he was so I went to work chopping down this tree with a machette.  Once I finished with that tree I thought I was done... I was wrong.  I spent 2 hours chopping down trees for the new parrot enclosure.  It was a great anger release haha. After this amazingly fun but tedious task I had 2 puncture wounds, 6 stratches, 2 blood blisters, and 6 regular blisters.  Now, I am an official amazon woman.

One thing I absolutely miss about the U.S. is CHEESE.  No one knows what pepperjack cheese is here.  I also bought a bunch of different packs of little chips in the search of the closest thing to Cheetoes.  It has gotten so bad that the other day I had a dream I opened one up and they were just like Cheezits.  In that same dream I ate a bacon cheeseburger and nachos.  Oh, how I miss thee!

This past weekend Heather and I were Hermits.  We did absolutely nothing and reclused on our bungalow to read, sleep, and write.  It was terrific!  I have really never needed alone time before...thanks for rubbing off on me Hanna;)

A couple nights ago I had the great honor to learn how to dance!  I am still awful but if you have a good leader then it is rather easy to dance.  I think the best dancer at Taricaya is the director, Stuart.  He is actually English but I still think he is the best dancer.  I could have danced all night and still have begged for more:)

There are so many things I haven´t mentioned and that are so hard to describe.  I wish everyone could see what I see and feel the love I have for this place.  It is beautiful in every way.  The experiences I have everyday are different and I´m learning so much about myself, others, and the jungle.

I forgot to mention it before but I wanted to say happy belated birthday to Hanna and Robby.  I thought of you on your day but did not have the means to say it.  If I am not in town much this month... then Happy Birthday to Ria (October 22nd) and Weston (October 30th).  I love you all.