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.


If you have not seen the SNL skit Roomies with Taylor Swift you must… essentially this is what me and Heather are like now. We first experienced this wonder the day I had last written in my blog.  I spent all day in Puerto while Heather was at Taricaya and on the boat ride back I got this happy feeling knowing I was going to get to see Heather. Later I found out that she had missed me, too.  Then one day she went into Puerto and I was at Taricaya. I told a fellow volunteer, Duncan,  that when she got off the boat I was going to run and attack her with a hug.  Then I was in the middle of a game of chess when Duncan yelled “Vicki she´s here!” and I lept out of my seat and left my very confused opponent, Nicolas, as I sprinted out of the dining room.  We both screamed when we saw each other and hugged and jumped up and down.  Just watch Roomies and you will understandJ

The day after I had written my last blog I started getting sick.  It was NOT fun.  Heather took good care of me though haha. Volunteers usually get sick at least once in the first two weeks.  I´m over it now but I missed my sick spot on our oh so comfy couch at home.

I was finally assigned to do an assignment on our canopy!  The canopy at Taricaya is the highest in South America.  Some other company tried to beat our canopy and got a loan for half a million dollars and failed.  Ours only took $2000 to build (that fact is a little disconcerting sometimes as you are on the canopy).  I do not really have a fear of heights but my heart rate increases everytime I walk up there.  You have to wear a harness and attach yourself to this rope in case the canopy collapses.  Yesterday, Ben and I decided to be dare devils and shake the whole canopy as we walked down it.  One of the other volunteers got so scared he started yelling at us hahahah.  The canopy is 42 meters high and is made of this rickety metal that looks like it is ready to break in some places. I got the task of painting the platform at the top yesterday.  It was fun but terrifying carrying supplies on the canopy and not having both hands to steady myself.

Saying goodbye to other volunteers is a common but unhappy event.  Today we are saying goodbye to Tina and Tine from Denmark.  It truly hurts.  We get so close here and it´s strange when people leave.  We call ourselves the Taricaya family.  On the other side of the spectrum it is great to get new volunteers. It brings a new life to Taricaya.  We just got 7 new volunteers from France, Belgium, Australia, and England.  Charles is from France and is teaching me some French words.  For example, the word for snap is claquement de doigt.  I say it wrong everytime but I tryJ

I have never made as good a cake as I did here in my life.  It was the most delicious thing I have ever made and guess what... it wasn´t burnt! Haha.  Duncan, Rachel, and I were making a cake for John and Anne because they were leaving.  It was a chocolate, banana, and raisin cake.  We guestimated on a lot of the  measurements and Rachel, who is absolutely hilarious, would just throw random stuff in and say “some for good measure.”  To squish the bananas i would just squeeze them until they oozed out of my hands.  I pretended I was angry while I was doing it so we called it anger cake. When the cake was done we covered it with this delicious chocolate, rum sauce.  It was moist and perfect.  I don´t think I can ever recreate it haha.