I am still here.
I’m still here in Peru. I recently got back from my first Peace Corps vacation. I learned there was some bad storms in my hometown. I feel sometimes like I’m in a little eddy in the river of time.. things are happening elsewhere in the world and here we’re trapped in a sort of Groundhog Day where everyday is like the one before..
I’ve lived in my site, Leymebamba, for about five months now. Sometimes it feels like a lot.. I think of all the experiences I’ve had.. like going up to milk cows with my neighbors, offering summer school classes for the kids here with my site mate, throwing my Peruvian birthday party, getting stuck with a flat tire when me and the priest went out to a distant town, embarrassing myself in the volleyball court, going out to do interviews and talk with communities about potential projects. But sometimes it feels like it hasn’t been any time at all. There’s so many people here who are still strangers to me, and I feel so far away from actually starting any projects.
The other night an American teenager showed up to the front door, speaking the hesitant kind of Spanglish that people speak when they’re pretty sure you speak English but can’t get out of the custom of speaking Spanish. He was traveling through Latin America and had heard of me and my site through another PC volunteer. The next day, we went together to the museum (Leymebamba has a really nice museum about the Chachapoyan culture, with artifacts and mummies) and hiking up there, he looked out on the valley and told me I’d struck gold, that I live in one of the coolest places he’s been in all his travels. And I realized he was right, and I felt a little bit ashamed, that this kid had to come out of nowhere and tell me this, for me to finally really appreciate what I have. I guess that’s just how it is sometimes.
For Semana Santa, we went to Iquitos, a city in the middle of the Peruvian rainforest, so isolated that you can only arrive there by boat or plane, as there’s no highway connecting it to a major city. We took a cargo boat for about two days, sleeping in hammocks and looking out upon the trees along the river in the humid heat and I was reminded of the Black Warrior River in my hometown. But then we got to Iquitos, with all its motos and mopeds and dirty puddles and I was reminded of India. Too much remembering! We ate so much rico non-Peruvian food and ice cream as volunteers tend to do. We searched for the part in the market that had monkeys and worms, didn’t find that, but did find a guy to take us out on his boat and look at the floating part of Iquitos where there’s a road in the dry season and lake in the wet season. It was kind of awesome. We also went out to the deep rainforest and cruised around looking for animals for a few days. I didn’t get to see them, but there are these howler monkeys that sound like a wind storm and can be heard from miles away. We saw a little frog that’s as big as my thumbnail full grown. Saw a lot of pink river dolphins, and tons of birds. We found a pet tarantula hanging out in our sleeping hut – a bit startling. The whole reserve looked like the set of a movie, like dinosaurs were going to come out any minute, or blue Avatar people were gonna swing down from the vines. It was a really cool experience I never would’ve thought to do by myself.
Anyway, I’ve survived the jungle and now I’m trying to transition into a better groove here at site. I miss everyone back home, and wish they could be here to see my little slice of Peru. Take care, and until next time.