Time Capsule Letter – October 2016
Hola! I can’t believe our time in the Amazon has come to an end. These past two weeks have been truly an adventure. When I was informed I was going to be a mentor in the program I was excited but also a bit nervous. I was not sure what to expect and going to the Amazon jungle seemed daunting but I love challenges so I packed my bags and was eager to meet my staff and students. One of my favorite things about GLA is picking up students at the airport and seeing their excited faces ready to explore a new country. It was also super cool seeing you guys start forming bonds from the very beginning.
A lot happened during these two weeks that have made this experience unforgettable. To me experiences are everything so here are some memories to recall. Do you guys remember when Abi fell into the river trying to help me get into my canoe and everyone laughed? Or the hike to service that seemed like an eternity? It was pretty amusing to arrive to Home Base covered in mud. Was it Jonah that started talking with a French accent? One thing we all had in common were the endless mosquito bites and realizing that repellent was worthless. Can we talk about how DELICIOUS the food at Home Base was? It was so good! I think my favorite was the paiche covered in tomato sauce. To my mentor group, you guys were awesome! Ethan, Abi, Mary, Emily, Alysa, Louis and Lauren, thank you for the laughs and our great discussions. It was pretty cool to be in Peru during their independence day and you guys rocked at the Cotton Eyed Joe song and dance. The entire community of Santa Cruz loved watching you guys perform. Plus it was really fun having our own Independence Day party at home base and Bianca teaching us some moves.
I hope everyone is doing well and staying in touch. Remember to keep sharing your stories and experiences with other students, your family and your community. There would be no point in travel all the way south to Peru if you never talk about it. I hope to see you guys soon! Un abrazo fuerte!
P.S. Bianca here! Just wanted to share a few words of gratitude — it was an absolute pleasure to have met so many motivated, inquisitive, bright and inspiring individuals all at once. You will be sorely missed and we wish you the best of luck & positive vibes for your adventures yet to come. Should any of you find your ways back to Peru don’t hesitate to be in touch — I would be more than happy to take you to the best cevicherias Lima has to offer and talk about life at large 🙂
Also, here’s a few other memories I wanted to throw your way:
- Jonah getting bit by a bullet ant much to my dismay :/
- Not getting bit by the loro machaco!!!!
- Spotting a two-toed sloth on the night hike as well as spotting red titi monkeys at Home Base!
- Our resident medics, Alysa & Jonah, treating everyone’s ailments. Thank you!
- Lauren ‘playing tag’ with that little girl (it was a great learning lesson!)
- Marching in the Independence Day parade & having Louis take the lead carrying the Peruvian flag
- Playing soccer with the professors of Santa Cruz (and not letting the director have that goal — whoops, jeje)
Summer Blog Posts
Greetings from Iquitos, Peru! All students arrived safely and were greeted by staff at the airport. The entire staff (Bianca, Rudy and Hannah) have worked strenuously to give students the experience of a lifetime. After checking into our hotel, El Colibri, all students settled into their rooms and refreshed because it is super humid here! The first thing in our agenda was heading out for an authentic lunch. Along the way students were able to take a first glance of bustling Iquitos and take in new sights such as the Plaza de Armas and the countless motor taxis. After lunch we took our first group photo and students exchanged currency. We ended the day with a few icebreakers and some time to explore the malecon and see how locals spend their Sunday evening. We had a delicious welcome dinner that consisted of chicken, fish and pasta by the river and we wrapped up the day so we can have full energy for the busy days ahead. Bienvenidos!
July 18, 2016
Hello to everyone, from the Southern Hemisphere! Today in the vibrant Iquitos, Peru we had a wonderful fun-filled day! After a delicious breakfast at a local restaurant, we hit the streets with curious eyes and wandering feet. Our senses were soon struck with a wide array of sights and smells. Rumbling motorbikes, pouring rain and dodging tarps, fruits and vegetables of every color of the rainbow, and the hum of a large crowd speaking in rapid-fire Spanish, were just a few of the things that contributed to our sensory stimulation overload (not to mention the roasted grubs some of us tried). After everyone was outfitted with a new pair of rain boots and we had had an eye-opening conversation about some of the locals’ living conditions, we had a quick stop at the hotel and then piled into a bus. Next on our to do list was a manatee sanctuary. In the animal preserve, tucked neatly into a small section of leafy forest, we found not just manatees but turtles, monkeys, and sea otters as well! Here, we had the wonderful opportunity to touch and feed rehabilitated baby manatees. As I heard someone say amid the feeding and photo frenzy, “they’re so ugly they’re cute.” After the bowls of water lettuce were emptied by excited, wet teenage hands, we made our way back to the hotel and had lunch in a cozy little restaurant. After lunch, we took another trip through the busy streets under an ever-darkening sky to a Peruvian supermarket. By some random coincidence, we all seemed to find each other in the sweets section. Weird. Once everyone had sated their curiosity and stocked up on snacks for the jungle, it was back to the hotel again. A few of us made an extra excursion to get bags and headlamps after, while the rest of the group chilled. It began to pour again like someone had suddenly switched a faucet to high, just as the excursion group started making our way back to the hotel. Then it was well-deserved chill time for everyone.
In the midst of our siesta, the air was suddenly filled with the sound of a marching band. We all flocked to the windows to see what was happening, and were surprised to see line after line of students marching in the street. A small group made our way outside to get a closer look, and we learned they were practicing for their independence day parade on the 28th. Soon our mentor Bianca talked to someone who worked at the school, and we had the unique chance to take a look. The building turned out to be a historical landmark of the rubber boom that built Iquitos, and the man told us all about it. We exited through the side door, and hung out by the breath-taking river a bit. Those are the best moments when traveling abroad. These totally unexpected, unplanned, and impromtu experiences are the ones that shape all of our take aways the most, and make every trip special and unique. After our rest was over, we walked through the dark streets, already transforming into the locals’ bright center for nightlife (music, street performers, etc.), and enjoyed a lovely dinner of cow heart and chicken. With our glasses empty and bellies bulging, it was back to the hotel and time for bed. Everyone is busy prepping for our trek into the Amazon jungle tomorrow!
I do not think I can speak for everyone, but Peru has a strong culture that maybe gave us all a little shock, it sure did to me! As we start to acclimatize and get more comfortable with each other, we are settling into Peru. I do know I can speak for everyone, though, when I say it already feels like we have all known each other for months. I´m sure this was evidently clear by the peals of laughter flowing from our tongues all dinner long, also. This is going to be a great trip. We still have much to do and much to learn, but I do think I have one thing we have all realized and can agree upon: this ain´t Kansas anymore.
July 19, 2016
Today we traveled from the bustling city of Iquitos to our Home Base tucked away in the heart of the jungle. After breakfast, we all jumped into boats and sped down the mighty Amazon River to the port of Mazan where we packed into a caravan of mototaxis and then headed along a scenic road to the Mazan River. Here we boarded a larger boat and headed upstream towards the community of Santa Cruz, where we’ll be working in the days to come. Finally, we hiked along a muddy, mile long trail to our Home Base in the jungle. After a filling lunch we broke off into mentor groups to get to know each other better and talk about leadership and the roles and responsibilities of the Leader of the Day. Tomorrow’s LODs will be Jonah, Georgia & Alysa — they’ll be sure to write a more detailed update on the day’s events 🙂 Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with a few of today’s highlights:
– Getting to feed pirahnas and paiche en route to Mazan
– Spotting pink dolphins on the Mazan River
– Coming across an enormous and beautiful snake as we hiked to Home Base
– Listening to Jordan play his ukelele
– Scarfing down granadillas at lunch
July 20, 2016
Today we went to the community of Santa Cruz. We met the local children and played a number of games with them. Many of us experienced a cultural exchange or a new sense of fulfillment. We took the daily hike twice in a day. After lunch we met in our mentor groups and talked about a variety of topics. Some groups were lucky enough to see monkeys or a toucan. After our mentor groups we split up into two groups. One group went for a short hike and a swim in the lake by our tambos. The other group went on a longer hike but no swim. After our hikes we all showered and had a hearty dinner.
– Jonah & Alysa
July 21, 2016
Today we went into Santa Cruz for our second time and first time working. We split up into two groups, one to design and paint the bins with the children, and the other to continue construction on the new kitchen. Then we split into our mentor groups and moved into a whole group activity where we saw where each of us stood on a range of topics, allowing us to see the diversity of our opinions. Later we dealt with a conflict of interests in Model UN Peru where negotiators had to reach a solution between a company drilling for oil and the local native tribe it would endanger. Lastly we went on an incredible night hike where we saw a sloth, a green pit viper (loro machaco in Spanish), a tree frog and a monkey frog. However, of all this, it was amazing just to turn out our headtorches and listen to the sounds of the rainforest.
We woke up this morning and had a wonderful breakfast before we headed out for the hike to service work. We split into two groups today for service. One group began brainstorming ways we can teach the kids about the benefits of trash removal. They planned a presentation and different activites to show the kids on Tuesday. The other group continued with construction. They helped dig, move, and stomp mud. They moved and stacked a huge pile of bricks. Finally they filled and hauled 72 buckets of sand to make more cement. However, it was pouring all day so we had fun and interesting experiences with the excessive amounts of mud. We had fun playing and taking pictures with the kids during their recess. We finished our service and took the boat ride back and started the long, wet, and muddy trek back to home base. We met with our mentor groups after lunch. Then we split into girls and boys and had some fem talk and bro time. After that we used huito (a fruit whose insides are dyes) to make temporary tattoos. We had dinner & chill time talking at the dinner table. We are covered in bug bites but we’re having an awesome time!
– Nina, Jordan, and Ethan
Today was a little different because half of us woke up excited for the day, while the other half woke up nervous. As for the excited half, we went to the city of Mazán (about a 30 minute boat ride from home base) expecting to access wifi and relax. Instead, we found ourselves involved in a riveting scavenger hunt. They sent us around town with a list of activities to do and items to find. For example, we walked through the local market to find some exotic fruits and toothpaste. We were split into two teams and forced to communicate with others in Spanish and find our way around town. It was a great experience for all of us. The nervous half, set out on an overnight survival challenge which you will hear more about tomorrow!
– Evan & Sahil
Today Group 2 planted trees with Don and Devon and learned a little bit about using a machete. Afterwards they headed back to base camp for lunch and survival 101 to get ready for survival night. In the afternoon Group 2 went off into the forest for survival night and had to find things like food and tents while Group 1 stayed at base camp to play games with Rudy.
July 26th, Day 10
We started our day by having a lovely breakfast of omelete, french toast, and an arrange of exotic foods. We headed out to the beautiful Santa Cruz. We were greeted by Peruvian music, and the sun beaming on our faces as we looked upon the kids practicing their march. As the director summoned Bianca, we began to sort ourselves into marching position, where we mirrored the other students. As we began to march, laughter and smiles began to fill the air along with the Peruvian music. We separated into our groups of construction, and the trash presentation. Both groups exceled and faced their own challenges. As the afternoon drew to a close our happy faces were filled with sweat and bug bites. By lunch the raunchy smell of sweat, body odor, and 98.8% deet bug spray consumed the air, but this was quickly canceled out by the freshly prepared lunch made our executive chefs (Isaac, Pepe, and their sous chefs). We divided into our mentor groups for an hour and half of exhilarating fun, and challenges. We were then presented with the fantastic opportunity to take part in a Peruvian dance by the one and only Bianca. After, we were sat down for an enticing game of GLA jeopardy. The heat was raised as teams battled for the answer. The squeak and the clank of a spoon hitting a cup made students grow in excitement. We then had a lovely dinner.
Ping, Zoe, and Louis
July 27, 2016
Today for breakfast we had eggs, bread, bacon, fruit and a smoothie. Then we left for Santa Cruz to celebrate Peru’s independence day. We watched each grade perform dances and songs. We also put together two dances for the celebration. One was the cotton eye joe with cartwheels, front hand springs and a finale of flips from Jordan! The other was a Peruvian dance taught by Bianca which really impressed the locals. After we marched with the children and were asked to go twice, the second time holding the Peruvian flag. This concluded the formal presentation. Then the locals challenged us to a game of futbol. It was really fun but the sun was unbelievably hot. We said our last goodbyes to the community, and then got on our boats to go to Don and Devon’s. At Don and Devon’s, we had a delicious lunch of chicken, rice, potatoes, avocados, and other vegetables. After lunch it started to rain so we stayed inside and listened to people play piano. Afterwards, we split up to plant trees and look for trail markers left from the survival Challenges . Then we had fish, bananas, oranges, yuca, vegetables and rice for dinner. We then took a night boat ride and listened to Emerson tell us local ghost stories and legends. It was dark and a little scary while we heard them. When we got back to Don and Devon’s we hiked back up to home base in the dark and went to bed.
Emma, Ashley and Mary
July 28, 2016
IT’S PERUVIAN INDEPENDENCE DAY!!!!!!!
We started our day as ususal, early breakfast and a hike to the river. We were split into three teams and each team began constructing a raft of logs and rope. Once finished, we began a relay race across the river on our make shift rafts!!! After the race, we tied all of the rafts together and made a big raft which we were all able to float down the river in. We hiked back to a nice lunch and started the sad packing for the trip back to Iquitos. After packing we watched a couple Ted talks and then had our last mentor group 🙁 The day ended with a party to celebrate our last night in the jungle and Peru’s independence!!!!!
– Georgia, Kayla & Abi
July 29th & 30th
Today was our last day as a whole group together. After breakfast we all did our last hike out of the jungle to reach the riverside. Before we reached Iquitos by boat we stopped at la Isla de los Monos and experienced the monkeys, sloths, and more in their natural habitat. Once we made it to Iquitos we dropped our bags off in our rooms at the hostal and went straight to lunch. After lunch we visited a little souvenir market with cool authentic creations. After everyone had a chance to look around we headed back the the hostal to pack our bags. At 7pm we all went to dinner and shared closing thoughts of the trip as a whole. After dinner we walked around the city, got some ice cream, and closed with an appreciation game.
Today the majority of us got up late and had a late breakfast. A select few had earlier flights leaving the hostel at 3 am and 6am.
– Jordan Schultz 🙂
The rest of the group enjoyed a walk around Iquitos and to the hectic and boisterous Belen market where we bought some huito and other odds and ends. Some last minute souvenir shopping ensued before sitting down to our last meal. While sipping on camu camu juice and munching on plantains we shared some laughs and final observations of our time in Peru. The afternoon then entailed completing program evaluations, scarfing down Casinos and smothering huito on our bodies in the hopes that we would arrive back to our homes covered with reminders of our Amazonian adventure. In the late afternoon, as we headed out to the airport, Iquitos bid us farewell with a stunning rainbow.
As a side note (to the students), it was an absolute pleasure to have met so many motivated, inquisitive, bright and inspiring individuals all at once. You will be sorely missed and we wish you the best of luck & positive vibes for your adventures yet to come. Should any of you find your ways back to Peru don’t hesitate to be in touch — I would be more than happy to take you to the best cevicherias Lima has to offer and talk about life at large 🙂
Saludos & abrazos,