Wednesday, September 21, 2011

New Blog!

So, I've been a terrible blog caretaker, but on the plus side I do have a new adventure, and a new blog, to check out. The title says it all:

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Hey all,

If there are any more readers out there, I apologize. I am still devoting a (very cursory) effort to figuring out where this blog will go since I've come home, kind of invalidating the title. There is still blogging to be done concerning readjusting to the United States and how culture shock has affected me, but I think I need to be further along in the process to do this. Bear with me please. Meanwhile, I'm putting a lot of my writing efforts into a new project-, coming January 1st. Check it out for some irreverent movie reviews if you're into that, and if not I'll get around to the writing about the 'coming back' process sooner rather than later.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Jungle and Such

Well, time has been flying and i only have three months left. Suddenly my focus is on wrapping everything up instead of constantly starting new projects. My work has boioled down to three primary projects, although I´m still helping out in the schools and health post and doing ancillary activities with the rest of the volunteers in the canyon such as a travelling business workshop and a handwashing play.
The two big projects are the library and an agriculture project with the high school. I´m starting to wonder if the library will every come to pass. I have a government organization ready to donate the books, but I¨m having trouble getting my municipality to meet their requirements, the principal hangup being a special shelf they don´t feel like building. I¨m on the verge of an ultimatum... build the shelf now or I¨ll stop bringing up the library and let hte next person worry about it.
The other project is going much better. The high school has received a grant to set up a plant nursery for tara, a small tree that fights erosion and has medicinal benefits. I¨m trying to get a good start on the project before I leave, and hope to see everything up and running by June. I¨ve always had good relations with my high school, and have high hopes of this being the one tangible benefit I leave behind.
Other than work, I have not much to report besides my last big vacation, which was last month. This one was to the jungle in the north of Peru, and was quite a mixed bag. To start off with, we had planned three nights in bus, over 45 hours, to get to where our boat was leaving. Hoever, the last 15 hour leg turned into a 28 hour ordeal due to landslides, including waiting in the rain for an hour around midnight for our bus to do... nothing. This was only a foretaste of what was to come.
After that, our first destination, Tarapoto, seemed like a paradise. It was hot and sweltering, but we fought the heat by goign to a nearby waterfall and jumping through it to the pool below. Outside of that we lazed about, cut me a mullet- which was spectacularly ugly, and ate jungle cuisine, which involved a lot of plantains and bananas fried in different ways and a type of jerked beef that was a chore to chew, but delicious.
After two nights in Tarapoto we had a day-long boatride up an Amazon tributary to the town of Lagunas, where we would head into the jungle. It was strange how quickly the boatride turned mundane, and I mostly hung out in my hammock and watched the river rush by. After a night in Lagunas we climbed into canoes and headed into the jungle with our guides.
The jungle wasn´t as thick as I had expected, but there was plenty of wildlife to be seen. Over the next three days we saw tons of monkeys, parrots, and macaws, as well as a sloth and her baby, a tortoise, a large lizard kind of like a monitor, river dolphins, a baby crocodile, a river otter (I think- our guides said sea lion, but I found that hard to believe), a baby anaconda, and the nastiest tarantula I had ever seen. We also caught plenty of river fish, which we sampled, and even some pirana, although we didn´t get the chance to eat those. My highlight of the trip was swimming with the piranas, which would snap at the fish guts thrown in the water, but which usually left larger creatures alone. Something took an exploratory nibble of my nipple when I was in there, but didn´t draw blood, so I came out with all limbs intact.
Problems resurfaced when we got back to town. The boat to Iquitos that was supposed to leave that night couldn´t because of high river levels, but we were assured that it would the next day. Of course, the next morning we were told that it wouldn´t be, so we made an interesting decision instead of waiting the river out, which could have taken a week for all we knew. The group, which had swelled to fourteen, rented out a boat to take us upriver on a trip that was supposed to last eight hours.
When we got to port, we saw a fairly dilapidated, although spacious enough boat. The girls asked if it had a bathroom, and a small enclosed area hanging over the stern was pointed out. It appeared that you grabbed the sides of the enclosure and hung out over the river to do your business. This was a topic of much discussion until a canoe pulled up next to the boat and our transporters proceeded to remove the outboard motor form the much bigger boat to the canoe. It turned out we would be going up a pretty sizeable river in a dugout canoe barely big enough to hold us and our backpacks, and sorry girls- no bathroom.
I sat up front to avoid huddling in the middle with the majority and having to cross my too long for that legs for eight hours. This was shown to be a questionable decision pretty quickly when water began to come over the sides into my lap, although not to the same degree as my poor compañera up front. As long as the wind didn´t change and we arrived soon after dark like planned, I¨d be fine.
Unfortunately, as night fell it became obvious that we wouldn´t be arriving in eight hours. And then it began to rain. We had come prepared with a dirty tarp that barely stretched to we denizens of the front, and which would become my only projection against the cold as the night wore on. Travelling at night turned out to be even shadier than originally thought, due to the floating logs we continually ran into. I was pretty convinced that we´d have to swim for it, fight off crocodiles, and start our own Lord of the Flies-like community on the shore, but our canoe proved up to continually running into a few pesky logs.
After it became apparent that our boathandlers had gotten themselves lost in the dark, I resolved to get as much sleep as I could. This proved to be difficult bent over double with both hands clutching the tarp to pull it taught over my head and keep as much wind and spray off me as possible. However, somehow I was able to nod off for a bit.
It turned out that the wind changed in the morning, and I was cheerily woken up by a splash of water ovre the side, which was to continue relentlessly until we thankfully got into port. Eight hours had turned into eighteen, and even the two hour busride into Iquitos with a little girl Exorcist-vomiting periodically a few seats behind me felt like heaven. In the big city of Iquitos I got my mullet cut off, ate at an inexplicably located Texas BBQ joint, and slept in a bed. The next day I was never so happy to be heading back to site.

Friday, February 26, 2010

What´s New...

Hello again all,

Well, it’s rainy season again finally. Technically it started in December, but due to El Niño this year we’ve been pretty dry- up until now, that is. In the last couple of weeks all of that rain we should have been getting has finally shown, up, making things interesting, to say the least.
When I was returning to site from my Cahamarca trip, which I’ll talk about below, an unfortunate mudslide occurred about ten minutes from my friend Ryan’s site and twenty-five minutes from mine. That is dry driving conditions, however. What it translated to in reality was a thirty minute slog in mud and rain at 10:30 p.m., an extremely cold night wrapped in one blanket on my friend’s floor, and an hour hike through mud the next morning to get home, all with more books than I should have liberated from the Cahamarca Peace Corps book exchange. Ah, Peru…
So, for that Cahamarca trip. Those of you who have seen the Facebook pictures have some idea of how crazy it was, but I’ll recap anyway. Cahamarca has the biggest Carnaval party this side of Rio, and I took full advantage. The biggest day involved roving groups of scantily dressed folk marching to drums and soaking everyone they find with super-soakers and handfuls of paint. At the end of it all I looked like an extremely sunburned Jackson Pollock, but it was a handful of the craziest hours I’ve ever spent and well worth the 30 hour bus ride.
After Cahamarca I popped down to Chiclayo for a day to see one of the most significant archaeological discoveries ever- the Sipan tombs. Several generations of northern Peruvian lords’ tombs were unearthed and continue to be unearthed revealing some of the most stunning concentrations of riches ever discovered. The most famous Lord of Sipan was almost completely covered in gold, silver, and intricately detailed conch shell accoutrements, and he was only one of several dignitaries discovered. I also popped over to see the Peruvian valley of the pyramids at Tucume, which was the product of the most prolific pyramid building culture in the world, and that includes the Mayans and the Egyptians. Not a lot of money has been thrown at excavation yet so the sites are not nearly as impressive as the aforementioned locales, but even the hint of what they have there is worth the visit.
Well, I’ve got to get back to trudging through the mud and making a final stab at getting a few projects off the ground, but I’ll try and write a little more regularly from here on out… for someone who may aspire to be a writer someday, I realize this is a pretty poor effort. Until next time…

Monday, February 1, 2010


Hey all,

Here are the pictures from my trip to Brazil, Argentina, and Chile-

Saturday, January 30, 2010


Hey all,

It has been quite a bit of time since I´ve written here. To be honest, not a whole lot has been happening with me since my return. It is the rainy season again in the valley so much of my town has gone seeking sunnier and drier climes. At the moment I am revamping my English curriculum and writing a play for kids about simple hygiene that we will present in our respective towns. Outside of that I am waiting for the money to come in for a plant nursery for the high school and looking forward to going to the biggest party in the country- Carnaval in Cajamarca City in the North. I´ll write on that later this month as well as finally post my pictures from my big trip to Brazil, Argentina, and Chile later this weekend.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Trip Wrap-Up

Hey all,

Well, I´m back safe and sound in the Colca Canyon and just got done partying down for Chivay´s town fiesta. I may write on that a bit later, but there isn´t anything particularly different from last year´s post on the same party. What I haven´t written about up to now, though, is the end of my trip in Chile.
I was on a bus for nearly two days before I got to Santiago de Chile, so I probably would have loved anywhere, but I seriously appreciated that city. It doesn´t have a whole lot going for it as far as vistas or beautiful architecture goes, but it is a really chill city with, thanks to Pablo Neruda, a poetic soul. They do have a cable car to the top of a hill with a nice view of the city that was worth checking out, but the highlight had to have been Neruda´s house, La Chascana. Neruda was a bit of an architect in addition to a poet, and built or redesigned each of his three houses. He also was an avid collector of a lot of randomness, which gives his houses a kind of House on the Rock feel, the most interesting collection of which was the various awards he won over his lifetime, including an Order of Lenin and the ultimate accomplishment of the Nobel Prize. Oh, and another thing for Chile... fantastic empanadas (though not sure if they beat Argentina´s or not, but certainly Peru´s) and a novel approach to hotdogs that covers them in more sauce than hotdog, the most recognizable of which is avocado.
After Santiago I wandered over to the Chilean coast to Valparaiso, which is the polar opposite to Santiago as far as views go. The city is built on a series of hills descending to a wide bay of the Pacific, and, although quite steep, the climbs are worth it to see the city and the vast blue ocean spread out before you. Neruda also had a house here, which is probably more interesting than La Chascana. He used a ship motif for the building, reflecting his obsession with all things maritime. Climbing up the five stories is like ascending through the decks of the ship, with a spectacular view of the city on the captain´s quarters-like fourth floor and a small masthead lookout-type room that he used to write on the fifth and final floor. Outside of Neruda´s house I just spent my time wandering through the city appreciating the hundreds of views popping out around every turn.
My last stop in Chile was Arica, where I spent a few hours before crossing back into Peru and heading for home. Arica was actually a Peruvian city up until the Peru-Bolivia vs. Chile war (War of the Pacific) that ended up shortening Peru´s coastline and completely eliminating Bolivia´s to the gain of Chile. It still has a Peruvian colonial feel a bit like Arequipa, with similar gorgeous weather. The other attraction would be the iron church prefabricated in France by Gustav Eiffel and assembled in the plaza. It is a very unique little church that doesn´t have a likeness to anything I´ve seen in Europe or South America, with internal arches and naves reminding me of a decorative iron garden chair.
Well, that´s it for traveling for awhile. The next couple of months will be spent with various town parties and an effort to finally finish up the town library I´ve been working on. Oh, and the rain is a-comin´...