Time Capsule Letter – October 2016
Hannah here! Bianca and I can’t believe that our incredible trip to the Amazon has already come to an end. In just two weeks, our small group of students and staff managed to pack in memories and friendships that most people form only in a lifetime.
It’s almost unbelievable to consider that a little over two weeks ago, we set out for our first dinner as a group at El Mesón. It was that night that we all chatted fluidly for the first time, enjoying the heavy rainfall in the distance. Some of you tried ceviche for the first time, while others gulped down as much camu camu (pink juice) as possible!
With our trip having come and go so quickly, I wanted to reflect on some highlighted moments from my perspective. I hope that when you read this today, your experiences from the Amazon still ring fondly in your mind, and that you continue to live with that same thirst for adventure (and camu camu) that I saw in you at our Welcome Dinner.
- Rafting down the river with Pink River Dolphins
- Using a machete to plant crucial Amazonian trees in a deforested area
- Dancing to Shakira in front of the students and staff at Santa Cruz
- A chicken taking a ride with Zander
- Using huito to temporarily tattoo our bodies and thinking that it wasn’t working until the following morning — Bam!
- The girls team making their own bridge to cross a river on the overnight survival challenge
- The joy you felt when your students in English class grasped a lesson for the first time
- Zach falling in front of all of Santa Cruz community, with a smile on his face that spread throughout the crowd
Summer Blog Posts
July 1: Day one in the Peruvian Amazon!
Hannah here, one of the Mentors on staff for the Amazon Service Adventure! We are so excited to have the entire group safely in Iquitos with us! Everyone settled into their hotel rooms, getting to know the rest of the group. The highlight of the day was our Welcome Dinner at the river front! Typical Amazonian food, new friends, and the sound of rain in the background. It was a priceless beginning to our adventure! Now, it’s time for everyone to get a good night’s sleep, we have a big day of exploring Iquitos tomorrow – the city at the mouth of the Amazon!
July 2, 2016
We woke to the sounds of pounding and banging on the door, thanks to our alarm clock and new friend, Madison. Once dressed with bellies full and ready for the adventures that Iquitos holds, we embark on our journey to the Belén market. However on our way there we made a quick detour to see the river houses and the bridge to nowhere. The bridge to nowhere was an old government project that, sadly, ran out of money and the job was left unfinished. Now small wooden homes with tin roofs built on stilts align the bridge. Belén market is not your typical market. Rain or shine this market is fully functioning with items from local fruits to t-shirts to cow heart to natural medicines. The list of goods sold in this bustling, smelly place could possibly never end. After our sweaty, yet exciting, experience in the market, we made a quick stop to drop off the rubber boots and other things we purchased and made the quick bus ride to the CREA manatee rescue center. Here we were able to see not only manatees, but hundreds of turtles and different species of monkeys. The reserve’s sole purpose is to help heal wounded endangered species that are local to this region of Peru. A six month year old spider monkey had come into their care with a broken arm, but now three months later he is fully functioning and living playfully once again. The last thing we got to do at the reserve was feed and pet baby manatees. Now manatees are not small creatures of the waters. The babies need to eat every two hours in order for them to live and function properly. Our lunch was enjoyed peacefully at a restaurant /zoo place. When we finished our meals we were showed around the property getting the chance to see many capybaras, turtles, alligators and wild pigs. They had a fairly large tapir name Dortia and we were able to feed her slices of oranges. Once our tour of the zoo was completed we were able to make a stop at a local grocery and department store to get any last minute items before embarking on our adventure of the Amazon!
– Eloise McCarthy
Day 3, July 3rd
This morning was kicked off with the banging of soldiers feet on the pavement. We were able to watch a patriotic march of the Iquitos military to change the flag. Each group of the military was represented, including a group for veterans and the female officers. After breakfast and watching a part of the march, a good portion of the day was spent packing in and out of varied vehicles, including boats, mototaxis, and vans. We took a boat ride to Fundo Pedrito, a small zoo. There we were able to feed piranhas, caimans and an incredibly massive, local fish, paiche. After the visit to the zoo we made a stop at the small town of Mazan in order to switch boats. In Mazan we got to have our first experiences in mototaxis. Mototaxis look like a rickshaw that you could find in a big city, but instead of a bike there is a motorcycle. After our journey in the mototaxis we got into another boat and traveled to Proyecto Amazonas, or the Santa Cruz Research Center, which was the starting point of the mile trek to our own home base in the Amazon jungle. Now some of us had convenient packs and others did not. Those who did not regreted that decision, but still made it to base safely, but pretty sweaty. The afternoon here was spent getting settled in and playing cards. At 5:00 pm we began different team work exercises. We also did a “test” to see what kind of leaders we are. The different types of leaders are, architects and analysts, who like to think things through and know the facts, drivers, who make quick, smart decisions, relationship masters, who care for others and work well with others, and finally spontaneous motivators who are passionate and voice their opinions. Through this trip we will be able to learn to work together despite our different personalities. One way we already are doing that is by having a daily leader who will help keep us all in check. As we head back to our tambos our bodies fill with excitement for the days to come.
Photos: before & after the trek to home base.
Day 4, July 4th
Our first full day at our home base was amazing. We began our day with a wonderful breakfast, my personal favorite was the french toast. After breakfast, several of us participated in a heated game of cards; Following that, we began our 1 mile hike to the Project Amazonas riverfront house (from now on, Don’s House). Upon our arrival, Don, a school teacher that works with Project Amazonas teaching and doing research led us on a tour of his property that is essentially an arboretum. We got the opportunity to see tons of species of trees and other plants. After the tour, we boarded our boat and made our way to the community of Santa Cruz to meet the students and see the community. At the school, after some slight awkwardness, we played a game of keep away with the kids. We had lots of fun and the kids really warmed up to us when Zach fell as he attempted to kick the ball. They thought that was pretty funny. When their recess ended we were officially introduced by the principal of the school. After introductions were made, we headed back to the boat for a short ride to Don’s House. At Don’s we had the opportunity to check out books to use for reference and grab a drink of water before our trek back to base. After our hike, we ate a much needed lunch. After lunch, we played some Uno and prepared for our next hike. This hike was more focused on moving slowly, trying to spot animals, and appreciating nature. We got to see the largest type of tree in the Amazon which is chopped down specifically for it’s wood. When we arrived back at base, Alvin found a pink and black snake! It was small, but it was really cool! We made the mutual decision to take a swim in the lagoon on our property. The water was cold in spots and the ground was really muddy but, it was a great way to cool off after a hot hike. (Big thanks to Bianca for watching/ letting us swim!) After our swim, we all cleaned off and joined in the main area to plan our classes for the next day. While there aren’t any classes tomorrow for teacher appreciation day, there is a field day. So, we brainstormed games to play. After our brainstorming session, we had a delicious “4th of July” themed dinner (barbequed chicken and vegetable skewers, potato, and a 4th of July cake!) We ended our day with a game of high, low and more cards. All in all this day was amazing, even though we were a little homesick thinking about the Independence Day festivities at home. I absolutely cannot wait to see what is in store for the rest of this trip and I am so grateful for this opportunity.
Day 5, July 5th
So today was well spent, and I imagine it will be one of my favorites. This morning we hopped in the boat and went to the school to celebrate teacher appreciation day. The students performed for the school and we also danced to Shakira for the children. We played games with the children and left after a couple hours, when we headed Don’s house to start some plant work, sorting different plants. Then we came back for lunch and had a conversation about our lives. Afterwards we planned for lessons the next day at the school. We ate dinner. Then went on an amazing night hike where we took a beautiful moment to enjoy nature when we turned off all lights and stopped talking. Great day overall.
– Madison Wimmer
July 6, 2016
Today we began our morning with a delicious breakfast and a walk down to Don’s house. Once there we helped Don replant trees, and transplant smaller plants. After we were done helping Don we head out to the school in Santa Cruz to start our first day of teaching. After that we headed back to home base to have lunch and do some bonding activities. We ended the day with some planing and a nice dinner.
– Gabriel Crew
Day 7, July 7th
Today we woke up at 6am because we had to teach a class early in the morning. The class went great because the kids collaborated with us and I think they learned a lot. After the class we went to Don’s to plant and replant trees. We hiked back to base for lunch once we finished planting. Later in the afternoon the group split up for a bit. Some played volleyball and attempted to have a soccer game. Others went for a three hour hike. Around 6pm we began to have a discussion on waste management and recycling. We tried to come up with plans to teach the locals how to properly dispose trash. Then it was dinnertime and bedtime.
Day 8, July 8th
Our morning was started off with our daily hike down to the river front in order to catch our boat. We had a 45 minute boat ride to the small river town of Mazan. In Mazan we were able to see civilization again!! Some of us had decided to take advantage of the small internet cafe to check emails and surf the web. While some were in the cafe others explored the markets and had interesting public bathroom experiences. After our morning in Mazan we hiked back to base for lunch. Our afternoon was fairly relax, spent discussing and forming our plan to start a recycling/waste management program. The basis of it is to get the people of Santa Cruz to actually put trash in one place. We pitched our plan to Don for expense reasons and he was completely on board. Our dinner was spent with good food and happy conversations.
July 9, 2016
Today we hiked to the research station and from there we took a boat to Santa Cruz. When we arrived in Santa Cruz, we began working on the kitchen where we worked on laying down cement. After helping with the kitchen we returned to camp where we broke into group discussions and relaxed. In the evening we also did jungle tattoos using the dye from the huito plant.
July 10, 2016
Today, we went to Casa de Dondin for our final tree planting and transplanting session. As a group, we planted over 45 trees in total. After our hike back to home base we had a Survival 101 presentation and a group discussion. We learned the basics of LNT. LNT or Leave No Trace, is a technique used to prevent wildlife from being harmed or disturbed when camping and hiking. At 3:20pm the girls set off on their over night survival challenge and the guys set off at 3:40pm. After many trials and errors we found the correct trail and settled down for the night. We were surprised with some heavy rainfall, thunder & lightning late in the night, but we all had fun and survived the survival challenge.
July 11, 2016
Today, we woke up at 6:00 in the morning in tents. The past evening was eventful. For dinner we had a typical Peruvian dish called Juane which is chicken, olives, hard boiled egg, and rice wrapped up in a native bijao tree leave. We experienced our first thunderstorm in the amazon while on our survivor challenge evening. You will be happy to hear that all ten of us survived! Once we woke up, everyone packed their belongings which included a sheet, change of clothes, bug spray, water bottles, and the remains of last nights dinner. Then we deconstructed the campsite by taking down the tent and ground tarp and folding them up to carry back to home base. We began hiking to homebase at 6:45 A.M. expecting a hard hour long hike back to camp. To our surprise we camped about 10 minutes from camp and arrived at homebase right before breakfast at 7:00 A.M. After breakfast, we had a lazy morning to recover from last nights adventure. Most people either decided to catch up on sleep or play cards with friends. We met for a early lunch at 12:00 and shortly after headed down the daily 1 mile hike to Don’s house. At Don’s we split into 3 teams to build and race rafts across a portion of the Amazon River and back. Don taught us a few knots to use while contructing the rafts. The race began and everyone easily traveled across to the other side of Amazon. Then, each group attempted to go back, but this part of the race was challenging because we were battling the current. The group consisting of Zach, Alvin, and Sophia won the race. After the race, everyone climbed on their rafts and floated downstream. The boat picked us up and we rode back to Don’s. Two men who help with Project Amazonas named Emerson and Riquelmer constructed a massive raft for everyone and we floated down the river. Lots of people dived and jumped off the rafts and floated down the Amazon. We drifted downstream for a couple of hours and saw the Amazonian dolphins. It was incredible because the dolphins were about 20 feet away. We headed back to Don’s and had dinner there for the first time. After dinner, we went on a night boat ride upstream. This was an unique experience to hear all the animals and music of the night. We were able to see the beautiful Milky Way and the luminescent moon. This was our first time exploring upstream. Finally, we headed back to Don’s and prepared for the 1 mile hike back in the dark to homebase. Once at camp, everyone headed straight to our tambos to sleep because we were exhausted after a fun day.
Your children of the Amazon (Sophia)
Imagine a small community, lacking the infrastructure necessary to further build upon their goals toward increased education. This was the circumstance in Santa Cruz, a place where education took place, where families lived in their huts made from planks, and where we tried to help improve the lives of those families. Perhaps trying to change deep-rooted ideas about waste seemed impossible, but at least we could share with them a common vision for the future.
During the beginning of the trip, we saw that the people in the community burned their trash in the back of the school. Of course burning trash is harmful to the environment and also dangerous to the kids going to school. After our group felt melancholy for the kids, we wanted to help improve their condition. This allowed us to develop a garbage plan which we addressed today. We were separated into groups which were assigned to different tasks. One group made a video for the next group after us, the other wrote our plan down, and the last group had to address the problem to the director of the school. I was in the last group were we had a presentation to the director, and also to the teachers. Seeing the teachers at the meeting made me abashed, nonetheless the speech I made was decent. Maybe the community will never implement this concept, but at least we tried to help.
To sum up, the end of our trip is approaching quickly and our group has four big accomplishments. The first was teaching the kids English, second was helping the workers build the new kitchen, third was trying to implement a garbage plan, and fourth was planting new trees for a deforested area in the Amazon.
July 13th & 14th
Dear parents and friends,
Zach here. Just kidding, it’s Hannah the mentor. Zach accidentally left Iquitos without fulfilling his promise of bloggery. But, our team couldn’t let our faithful readers down. So, buckle up as we wrap up our Amazonian adventure.
These last two days have been bittersweet. Early yesterday morning, the group was woken up by the heavy tears of Amazonian skies. As the students said, “the jungle is crying because we’re leaving!” By 8 am, we were taking our last hike to the boat toward Iquitos. On the way back to this City at the Mouth of the Amazon, we made an adorable stop at Isla de los Monos, or “Monkey Island”. Monkey Island is a sanctuary for several species of primate rescued from the illegal pet trade, which is rampant throughout the developed Amazon. This sanctuary allows the monkeys to be free on the island, however also creates an unnatural dependancy on humans for food. As with all global issues, we continued to discover throughout the program that animal rights are not black and white.
After Monkey Island, we returned to Iquitos, checked into the hotel, ate A LOT, and shopped for colorful souveniers. We wrapped up the night with a buffet-style goodbye dinner of typical foods.
Today was a relaxed day of scattered flights and heartfelt goodbyes. The time went quickly, but the memories were built to last forever.
We hope the students feel the same!