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:)