Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hi All

Hi All-

As some of you may or may not have noticed, I took a four month hiatus from writing. It was not intended, but I was not surprised when I found that while all of the emotions, parties, despedidas, and project endings were going on, I did not feel like writing. I did not think I could adequately describe my everyday happenings nor could I ever find time to write something that was not Peace Corps or goodbye letter-related.

And to be honest, even now, I don't know if I'll ever be able to really paint you all a picture of those last two months abroad. Throughout these last two years (and some), I've liked to focus my entries on specific moments and events; it makes it easier for me to organize my thoughts without getting overwhelmed. But what I am struggling with now is trying to decide what to write about- what days I should pick and what memories deserve to be highlighted. My last two months in site (and even the month I spent traveling after) were such an emotional roller coaster that I don't think I can give literary justice to my host family and friends down in Peru.
I have never felt so important and loved in my life by such a huge group. The last day I spent in site was downright awful- I had to take a night bus and therefore had to spend my whole day counting down the minutes until I rolled my suitcases and backpacks to a car to the bus station and said goodbye to the four people that were my family and support for two years.

Even now, I am finding this very hard to write because it dregs up so many emotional memories, but I think it's important that I finish my blog. I want to tell you all about my journey from start to finish- I don't want to stop writing just as the ending became near! You can therefore count on an occasional blog popping up here and there with me detailing about my last hoorahs as a sex ed teacher and town librarian, my goodbye week in site, visiting extended host family in the fish capital of Peru and the month I spent traveling afterwards.

So if any of you still bother to check this page, fear not! There will be updates, I'm just taking my time with them.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Parents-Take 2

It´s happening. Time is slipping away from me. Life is moving too quickly. I am fighting for those moments when I can take a minute to reflect on what is going on around me. The first volunteers from my group are already home. The first one arrived in the U.S. Saturday morning. I however, had opted (not sure if it was the best decision- verdict still out) to finish my service a little bit later. Us Peace Corps volunteers are given a window to basically get the heck out of their hair and be on our merry way; for us it is between Oct. 21st and Dec. 21st. I elected for November 21st, two years later (to the day) of being sworn in as a volunteer after training so very long ago (or at least it feels like it).

So this leaves me with very little time left in site and the scary feeling that every minute counts. Work wise, this is a little stressful. Closing and finishing projects is never easy. The case is no different from me. I still have things to do! I still have charlas to give! The second annual district marathon took place on Saturday and I can say with pride, went off without a glitch. New t-shirts were made for the teen health promoters and I’d say that we looked hot (I got one of course). There were no faintings, just some tired kids who climbed aboard the ambulance halfway through but overall, I don’t think many kids took in the message about fighting alcoholism but had a good time anyways. It was a nice last public event for the community.
However, while not as stress-inducing but scary to think about are all of the goodbyes that are going to have to start taking place soon. Even contemplating the magnitude of emotions that my last week here is going to bring makes me unable to think about it. I guess I’ll deal with that hurdle when it gets here. So instead, I’ll regale you all of the time spent with my parents when they came down for a SECOND (yes, as in #2) visit last month.

I guess the first time had enough of an impression to warrant a second visit from my padres. However, there would be no Machu Picchu this round- it would be solely Tumbes-oriented. Awesome. I will admit, I was nervous as anything thinking about all of the traveling we were going to have to do back and forth from my site and the traveling through Tumbes city that this would require. My mom had ahead of time booked for us to stay a night or two in a beach town nearby in a place that she said according to the internet, got great reviews and we would therefore be staying there. I wasn’t expecting much.

Turns out, Mom was so right and could not have chosen a better place. I’m not kidding, this hotel was a piece of heaven that God had made for a beach in Bali or Hawaii but made a technical error and it was instead sent to Tumbes. There was an infinity pool. With rocks in it. And hammocks everywhere. And comfy ergo-matic lounge chairs. The list could go on. I won’t even get started on the beds. Just know that I am seriously indebted to mom and dad for paying for us to stay in such a place as this.

The first day of their adventure was spent all day in site. They got to visit two schools and meet the kids and teens I work with. I had made a promise earlier in the week to bring my parents by one of the elementary schools I do a project in. So we went. I was expecting you know, a giant ¨GOOD MORNING¨, quick intro and goodbye. Clearly the kids of I.E. Fidel Oyola Romero were thinking otherwise. They had us sit down, participate in a 20-minute Q&A sesh where the kids asked m parents various questions and then something I really wasn´t expecting. The teacher asked one of the students, Byron, if he could recite a little bit of poetry for my parents. After walking to the front of the classroom, he began to do a very enthusiastic poetry recital, complete with lots of enthusiastic moving around (think swooping of the arms, getting down on his knees…). He was talking about the banana trees and how pretty our town is (which I kind of beg to differ- especially when he mentioned how beautiful the river was…all I could think about was the illegal amount of arsenic contamination floating around). Of course Mom and Dad didn´t understand any of it, but I think they were impressed with Byron´s periodic ¨AYYY!¨´s and dancing. Another student, Yosari got called up and began to sing and while I definitely appreciated the beauty of all of this, I was trying so hard not to laugh because a. My parents had no idea what was going on and b. I told them we would just be shaking hands with the students. Whoops.

Em and Kev also got to deliver a large pack of books, coloring books and puzzles that they had bought in the states and in Lima for the library. The kids were ecstatic and I was too when I saw that my Mom had bought (in Spanish) ¨Good Night Moon¨ and ¨The Very Mean Ladybug¨( a sequel to ¨The Very Hungry Caterpillar¨). ¨Good Night Moon¨ has been a favorite ever since and the puzzles never go untouched. They got to meet Jesús and all of the precious children that I get to ¨work¨(play) with everyday. See facebook for photos.

Finally, they got to see the host fam. Oh I can´t even describe how much I love it when my worlds come together and my two families get to meet. There is a lot of signing involved and my mom usually just busts out some French hoping ¨the romance language connection¨ will allow a few words to translate. Fail. Dad had a little bit more luck but of course the man bragged to us throughout all of our childhoods how he wrote a high school paper on his then-dog ¨Clancy¨ in Spanish. We all went to a swanky (note: sarcasm) restaurant in my town where the options were pig, goat, turkey or ceviche. Mom opted for turkey which I think she found a little hard to eat because unlike in the States, the turkey here comes on the bone with all of the fat and skin included. YUM! Dad and I split a ceviche and I must admit, I was very proud of the man for trying raw, lime-soaked fish for lunch. Albeit, he had continuous intestinal problems for the rest of the trip (while I didn´t, a first!) but at least he got the experience under his belt. Once again, I cried when we all departed my town but I was quickly back on guard again after passing through Tumbes on a Sunday afternoon. Picture: a desolate town, everything is closed, men (I say vago, you say, scary men) are patrolling the streets and we need to get to another part of town to catch a car to our hotel. Luckily I called a guy who owned a car to wait for us so he was there when we pulled into Tumbes. Upon entering the car, he told us that a few men down the street were eyeing him and his car so he promptly hid his gold necklace, his ring, his cell phone and his car radio to prevent further ¨problems.¨ Yep. Gotta love Tumbes.

However, we all got back to the hotel safely and dined on delicious dinner before getting ready to meet the rest of the Tumbes volunteers for lunch the next day and then head down to Piura to meet Chris (yay!) and go shopping in an artisan market, Catacaos (double yay!) It was awesome to have them meet the people that have made my existence here possible and I can´t wait for us all to have a DC reunion with them soon.

Alas, all good things have to come to an end so my time with Em and Kev had to meet its close. Fortunately, these next few months are, like I said, flying by and before I know it, I´ll be with them once again. December 18th baby!!!

Thursday, September 29, 2011


As you all know, I have had some issues with Ecuador during my service here. In June 2010, I found myself facing a hotel employee stealing my credit cards and passport in my own hotel room and had the worst diarrhea I’ve managed to date (this all happened less than 12 hours prior to getting on a plane for my first trip hom to the States). I once again traveled to Guayaquil in December 2010 to see my parents off after they visited but found myself stranded without transportation back to Peru as I decided to travel on New Year’s Eve.

So up until August Ecuador has been for me, a smelly, hot, unlucky place. I won’t even mention the border market I shop in because I think that border is two things: 1. Hell itself and 2. A large drug-trafficking route. Thus, I was fairly unenthusiastic when Annie, Barbara and Katie all decided we should travel there for our last “Peace Corps vacation.” (Side note, since Sept. 1st I am no longer allowed to travel until I end my Peace Corps service in late November).

However, I had a few vacation days to kill and well, Annie made the place that we would go to sound kind of cool. I understood that it was going to be 8 hours north of my site on the coast so it would be approx. 7 hours south of the Equator. I also understood we were going to a fun, up-and-coming beach town where I would go whale-watching, hiking, snorkeling, swimming and lounge by the beach. She also told me we would be staying up on top of a mountain in a cute lodge owned by a German couple. This actually sounded pretty enticing so I hopped on board.

The first order of business was getting to Ecuador. I decided to try a new bus line because the one I was used to always arrived four hours late to pick us up. We left on a Thursday or Friday (I don’t remember) and planned to arrive in Guayaquil by 11:00pm. There ended up being six of us- Annie, Barbara, Katie, Jess, Megan and myself (all fellow Peru 14ers). We hopped on and prepared to sleep until we got there (except for the five stops at immigration, customs, etc.)

Two hours into our ride we pulled into Machala. A tall, lanky, 20-something hopped on the bus wearing a bulletproof vest. Hmmm. I wondered what was up with that until I realized he was our bus’ security system. Around the time I realized that he was our bus’ security guy and would be patting down every new passenger hopping on board, a HORRIFYING movie titled “The Tournament” turned on and I realized I would not be sleeping until I was in a bed in Guayaquil.

However, we finally arrived sound and safely into Guayaquil and made it to our hostel. The next morning we got up early and bought tickets for a 6- hour ride to a coastal town called Puerto Lopez. While our bus was slightly sketchy looking, every mile it seemed a new vendor hopped on to sell us something. There was fried fish, pan de yema, coconut juice, chicken, ceviche, bras and underwear (I think between all of us we bought everything except the latter two).

After six hours, we arrive on the coastline and are horrified to find that it’s raining and cold. While seven hours due south I had been broiling in the sun and heat (in my site), Ecuador’s coastline was in its “winter phase.” There was NO sunshine and all of the shorts and dresses I packed would serve little to combat the wind and cold. Woof. Things were looking down.

However I will give credit where credit is due and Annie has made reservations for us at a cool German-owned lodge on the top of a hill, complete with cabins and great views of the fishing town. The lodge itself was very well done and it seemed like we were in our own tropical paradise. The only downside was that the pool was cold and the owners were a kind of creepy German couple.

Our lodge:

While on our trip we ate great food and I bought the best grilled chicken for a dollar (Ecuador uses the American dollar). The next day we embarked on a tour of “La Isla de la Plata”, an island 25 miles of the coast of Ecuador which is part of Ecuador’s National Park, Machalilla. We had to take a boat out there which made for an interesting trip as it was very windy and the ocean was very rough. 50% of our group of twelve got seasick but it was worth it as we came across humpback whales. Apparently during this time of year, humpback whales from Antartica migrate north to the warmer waters of Ecuador and Colombia to mate and raise their young. It is the largest migration of humpback whales in the world and we got to be part of it! It was incredible. While I didn’t see any Free Willy-styled jumps out of the water, I definitely saw some huge tales, backs, water spouts and packs swimming along.

Upon arriving at the island we went on a two hour hike to see blue-footed boobies and other native birds. The blue-footed boobies I was told exist only in the Galapagos and the island we went to (hence the nickname for the island, The Poor Man’s Galapagos). They were EVERYWHERE and we were able to get so close to them. Their blue feet were adorable along with their human-like eyes and it made me want to wrap one up in my jacket and bring it home. The scenery of the island reminded me of my site (dry, desserty and with lots of scraggly trees) but a lot cooler.


After touring the island we hopped back on our boat and went on snorkeling on the large coral reef that lies around the island. Last time I went snorkeling I was sixteen in Hawaii and while this water was A LOT colder, the fish were very similar. It.was.incredible. We explored the reef and the schools of clown fish and swam with angel fish and pufferfish (I think that’s their name). There were pirana-like fish with large teeth that I avoided but also eels, fish with iridescent colors, tube fish with long snouts, and so many others that I wish I knew the names of so you all could look them up on the internet and see how beautiful they are. Two giant sea turtles swam by and I was less than two feet away from one. They moved so slowly and seemed weren’t bothered by the three humans hanging out close by.

By five thirty we arrived back in port, tired, wet, and hungry. The rest of the trip was basically one other day which was well spent (which I would rather not get into now as this blog is already very long) and soon enough we were all headed down south again. We had our COS (Close of Service) conference in Lima to get to within the next 48 hours so I found myself on a bus for a very long time between those two days. 34 hours exactly. But it was worth it. We all made it to Lima, got our awards and pins and I am officially leaving site in a few weeks. However, if someone were to ask me what has been my best day spent in these last two-plus years, I think that day in Puerto Lopez would win the gold.

Color-coordinated fishing boats

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Unexpected Surprises

Rarely is any day in site predictable. There is no "9-5-ness" about it. That´s what makes me like it so much. Last week my community partner Jesus was traveling for the week, leaving me to run the library virtually solo. I say solo because recently my site mate Kerri had decided to have a site change and move twelve hours south to the department of La Libertad. I could probably write a blog in itself about this but I´ll refrain and only say that I was more than sad to see her go. I really had come to appreciate having her as a site mate and loved her positive attitude. But alas, there wasn’t enough water and sanitation work so she jumped the Tumbes ship (for those of you dedicated readers, she was the SECOND site mate I have lost, Steve was the first).

Anyways, so I found myself working in the library alone. At times this can be overwhelming because there are anywhere from 10-25 children that come on any given day but usually it’s pretty fun.

So one day last week I opened the library and let in a few of the kids that were waiting outside. I hadn’t been feeling well so I brought an orange to serve as my lunch. Call me evil but I did not want to share this orange (contrary to Peruvian custom) so I made sure I ate it as discreetly as possible. However, apparently it smelled pretty strongly and at least one kid, Mayte Juliana, noticed.

“Lindsey, gift me a piece”

Now I gift things to these children ALL of the time, but at this minute, I really didn’t want to hand out my entire orange (because that is what would happen, because after giving away one piece, another child would ask for a piece, and then another, until all of my orange was gone and I would be left with an empty tummy.

“No Mayte Juliana, sorry”


“ Because I don’t want to.”

“Well, Lindsey, you really need to learn how to share.”

A five year old told me I needed to learn how to share. I couldn’t keep a straight face and burst out laughing in Mayte’s face and handed a piece over.

Then it started… “Lindsey, gift me a piece, Lindsey I want one!” until I had only one piece left. I hid the piece in my lap until Mariecxi came over and knew what was up when she said my “pants smelled good- kind of like an orange.”

I gave up after that and handed over my last piece while giving Mayte a death stare that said “I told you so.”

That being said, now I always shovel my afternoon snack into my mouth BEFORE heading to the library.

I was faced with another unexpected, yet awesome afternoon when I walked over one day last week and saw six children outside yielding machetes and shovels. They informed me that they were creating a garden because the library needed landscaping. As the afternoon wore on, more and more kids came over, come with plants and others just wanting to play in the dirt. A crew formed that walked around the houses nearby and asked for plant cuttings from their gardens/yards to plant in the library. I finally got to use the compost I had been making in my host family’s backyard for the past two months and by the end of the say, we had planted 17 trees, plants, and flowers. Unfortunately, I don’t have a green thumb and the one kid that knew what he was doing got called home to eat dinner so a few days later, a third of the plants had died (which was to be expected since the majority of cuttings were just branches that had been hacked off a bush and then stuck in a pile of dirt) but as of today, half are still alive and hopefully rooted! It was very refreshing to see kids take an interest in their environment (because generally speaking, my town (and perhaps Peru in general) is not known for that) without any prodding on my part.

On a similar note, before Kerri left, she encouraged the kids to begin collecting used plastic bottles, old tin cans and used paper and bringing it to the library so that we could sell it and make money (while recycling it at the same time). We finally had accumulated a decent amount of each material- 5 kilos of plastic, 1 ½ kilos of tin cans and a bunch of paper. The kids wanted to sell it to make money to buy more books. We managed to sell it all to guy that comes by every morning on his mototaxi to buy used plastic and tin and the like. While we did get jipped a little bit, we made 5 soles. While it may come out to around $ 2.25, it’s still better than nothing and we can buy a new book with it. Yay!

So there you have it, my little successes that make life here interesting and make the days pass by way too quickly.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Power drills and saws

One thing that the library has been lacking recently is a giant table. Thus far I’ve bought two smaller tables that the kids usually end up arguing over who has more elbow room to read or put together a puzzle. I went last month with the president of the library committee to ask the manager of the regional government (of the whole department of Tumbes) if he would like to help donate to our cause with a bookshelf and a pair of tables. He said he would be more than happy to but Lord knows when we’ll start to see results. Finally during our last library committee meeting, Kerri (my district mate) and I volunteered to build a table ourselves. I mean, we would buy the lumber, get it out to our site, and hammer in some nails- how hard could it be?

Very hard if you’ve never built anything before. Coincidentally, the day Kerri and I went into Tumbes to buy wood, we ran into Ian. Ian had built himself a desk last year so would probably have more experience than Kerri and I combined.

The first thing Kerri and I realized is that neither of us owned a saw. Nor a hammer, and we had no idea a power drill was necessary for this kind of work. I was a Zoology major so woodworking classes weren’t really on my priority list during college. Ian, seeing us rather completely lost took it upon himself to offer us his tools that he had at his house and a day’s worth of work to help up put together this table. We agreed that the next day (Tuesday) we would come back into Tumbes, buy wood and get to work.

Note: Ian is using my sunglasses as "protective goggles"

Buy late Tuesday morning we had bought 144 soles worth of lumber and strapped it onto the top of a combi headed to my site. Ian brought his power drill, saw, C-clamps and some other tools that he saw necessary to put together our table. By lunchtime, we had moved all of the materials into the library and I was ready to just hang out, drink beer and eat the popcorn my host mom had made for us as a snack. Luckily, I was not the only one working on this project.

As the hours ticked away, we managed to do a lot of sawing and get all of the wood ready to make the frame and table legs. Little did I know that without a power drill, I would not have been able to even get the first screw in (yes, one needs screws as opposed to nails). By 6 o’clock the frame and four table legs had been drilled into the sheet of plywood on top.

Kerri displaying her expert engineering skills

While all of this was happening, we decided that there was no way that children could be inside the library while we were working. The library was officially closed but that didn’t stop kids from watching our EVERY move for 6 ½ hours. Ian, Kerri and I all thought to ourselves that things at home must be pretty boring if they could sit at the windows and watch us drill holes into a table for an entire afternoon. At 6:30 it was getting dark and Ian still had 45 min worth of traveling ahead of him, so we left the rest of the table to be done the next day.

The next day I went in early to get a head start on things when the kids came again to watch me from the outside.

“Lindsey, let me come in.”


“And why not”?

“Because you’ll cut your hand off if you do.”

This went on and on for an hour until I gave a few of them books to read outside on the sidewalk. Eventually, the majority of the children left for a few minutes and I was left conversing with 6 year old Mayte Juliana (one of my favorites). She had been proposing all of the different ways she could help me in the library, if only I would let her inside. She offered to sweep, to tape things up on the walls, even take pictures of me while I worked with my camera, if only I would let her inside. I guess eventually she noticed that I had left the door partially open and before I knew it was inside the library on her hands and knees, slowly crawling across the floor.

“What are you doing in here Mayte”?

“Lindsey, I promise I’ll be as quite and as slow-moving as a cockroach.”

“What did you say Mayte”?

“I said, I’ll be really quiet and careful like a cockroach and you won’t notice me in here.”

I couldn’t help but laugh and think that a. she was the cutest child to walk the face of the earth and b. why would she compare herself to a cockroach of all creatures?

She eventually won out and I let her sit in a corner and put puzzles together while I kept building.

Kerri came in shortly thereafter and within an hour we had an 8ft by 3ft table finished and sanded with eight children sitting peacefully around it. SUCCESS!!! While I would not like to call myself an expert carpenter, I’m pretty proud of what the three of us were able to accomplish and how it’s being used as a result.

Finished product.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Library Patrons

Two weeks ago I had my final site visit from my program director. That means I have less than three months left here. I am planning on heading out in early Novermber and then traveling around for a bit before heading home for Christmas.

So the end is in sight. Which is awesome and terrifying at the same time. I´m starting to look at everything with a big more nostalgia and realizing that I won´t be here forever (because during the majority of my service, it has felt like I would be here/ have been here forever). I´ve caught myself going to the library earlier and earlier each day so I can hang out with thekidsmore. I´ve gotten sad when I´ve thought about how little I remember my kindergarten and first grade teachers and hope that these kids will remember me when they´re older. Beacuse I will never ever, ever be able to forget them.

Here is a lineup of my most dedicated library patrons (there are a few adults and teenages, but I think that the kids are much more fun to talk about).


Armando (above) is nine and just won the ¨reader of the month¨award for the month of July. He is a genuine bookworm. He lives next door to the library and so whenever I am in there, he is too. Once, I didn´t even realize that he hadcome in because he was so quiet and was in the corner, reading a book al by himself. I WISH there were more children like him. As reader of the month, he won a new pencil case with sparkly, gel-pens (think Milky pens from the 90s) and a new book. I admire him because of his initiative.

DANIEL (at left)

Daniel is Armando´s little brother. They look nothing alike and I genuinely don´t understand anything Daniel says. He has lost both front teeth and has a major lisp so Iusually use anyone else present as a translator whenever he says something to me. He´s six and while he can´t read, he is a master at putting together puzzles. 50 piece puzzles are no problem for this child. Today I had him help a ten year old finish his puzzle. He also screams like a girl.

ALAEJANDRA (at right)

Alejandra is a very studious, bright 10 year old that is at Armando´s same reading level. She is one of the two Peruvian children I know that wears glasses and is Jesus´niece. She is very soft spoken and brings homework to work on at the library.


While Dominica may only be two, she always tags along with her older sisters Maite, Mariexci, Julia and Natalia. She is so pudgy and fat that she resembles a stuffed animal. I love squishing her cheeks together when she talks. She is a hilarious dancer and wore a turquoise-squinned dress to the July 28th party. She always has her sandals on the wrong feet and likes modeling my sunglasses.


Mayte Juliana is five and is one of my favorite patrons. She once promised me she would be as ¨quiet and careful as a coackroach¨while in the library. she LOVES taking poctures with my camera and also lives next dor. When she found out we were going to have a party for Peru´s Independence Day (July 28th), she immediately yelled outside towards her house ¨MOM, YOU NEED TO MAKE TOFFEE FOR THURSDAY´S PARTY¨! I never asked her to do this, I was supplying all of the candy, she just thought it necessary that she show up with toffee treats on her own. She is also very good at sweeping and I have no problem asking her to clean thelibrary while I am busy. I would also like to state that I thought she was seven until last week and was concerned that she had a developmental problem (because she couldn´t read yet) until I found out she was five and then felt badly for thinking that she had a learning disability.

ASTRID (at right)

Astrid is a little monster. She loves doing cartwheels in the libary and stealing pieces of kid´s puzzles while they´re trying to put them together. She is very hard to keep occupied all of the time and Kerri does a very good time at keepingher under control when she comes. I usually just try to send her home.


Maite is four and has attitude. Her voice is super raspy and walked in one day with a black eye because she had fallen off a table that she was dancing on. Talk about a prime candidate for the Coyote ugly sequel. She is Mariexci and Dominica´s sister. She also knows the word to every huayno song I have on my computer (sierra music).


Mariexci is five and can already do two-row (I can´t hink of a better word) addition and subtraction problems (13+10 as opposed to 2+2). she helps her younger sister Maite with the math homework that Jesus and I give out in the afternoons. It took my a few weeks to learn how to say her name (Mari-ek-si). She is really good at telling me whenever anyone else in the library is bothering her/doing somehting that she doesn not like. She really likes ¨The Little Mermaid.¨

Whew that was a lot of typing. There are close to forty other patrons but I wanted to give you all a sample of just a few! Thanks for reading.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Interdepartmental travels

In celebration of our nation’s independence, Peace Corps gives its volunteers four days to spend as vacation wherever they may like in the country. After recently arriving back from the states, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be leaving site again. However, a vacation is a vacation and I ended up weighing that I wouldn’t get another opportunity to travel in Peru during Fourth of July. The destination? Chachapoyas.

Chachapoyas is located in the department of Amazonas, a good 24-hour bus trip from my site and where the jungle meets the mountains. The result? Gorgeousness. The Chachapoyans were a people of Peru that existed both before and during the reign of the Incas. Note how I include “during.” The Incas tried to conquer the people who lived up high in the mountains but without any luck. I’m pretty sure the Chachapoyans were one of the few (or the only ones) that resisted the might of the Incas. And after visiting some of their ruins, I can see why.

The first place we went to visit was called Kuelap. This place is referred to as the second Machu Picchu. After leaving the city, we traveled two hours in car and then hiked to the top of a gigantic mountain/cliff. There we found the remnants of something like 500 houses, tombs with bones still included, guard towers, and the biggest fortress wall I have ever seen. It measured probably forty feet high and was 700 meters long. It was baller. In order to enter the fortress, we had to pass through the wall with resembles a 100 foot tunnel while the guide told us that the Chachapoyans would chuck rocks and arrows down at the Incas that were trying to pass through. Impressive.

Overall the trip was a great escape from the coastal heat and lack of green mountains. It rained a decent amount and made everything covered in a mist. We hiked five hours one day to the third tallest waterfall in the world where we proceeded to go swimming an stand under the waterfall which was so cold we all ended up with serious colds after having to hike back in our wet clothes while it rained. It felt like we were in an Indiana Jones movie. I do close to no exercise here and was dying during the five-hour hike up and down mountains at the altitude. But I made it! And I had a delicious beer afterwards.

The only downfall Chachapoyas has is its location. There’s no airport and is very hard to get to by road; the roads that exist snake around and cling to mountains and can make even the most iron-stomached volunteer feel carsick. I had my head in a plastic bag for a solid hour before my Dramamine kicked in. However, if I had left a day later, things could have been much worse.

Nine volunteers took the night bus that left the day after mine. Unfortunately, the roads are verrrrrry skinny and it’s difficult for two buses to pass each other as is. So it obviously didn’t help when a truck being driven by a drunk driver crossed over the road and skimmed the front part of the volunteer’s bus, sending it into the guardrail that protected it from falling down into a river. I can only imagine the heart attack I would have had if I were woken up to a situation like that. Apparently the bus had to wait 6 hours for a back up bus to come along and take the passengers to their destination. I felt especially badly for Ian’s friend John that had come from the states to visit.

Poor John must have left with not a very great impression of Peru. On his trip down with Ian, they took the usual bus we all take from Tumbes to Piura. Upon passing through customs (which we always do because Tumbes is a border town), the police found quite a large amount of cocaine stored amongst the bus’ cargo. Lucky for the lady that was smuggling it, she was able to pay the police off and continue on her merry way with her goods, no problem. That experience, compounded with the near cliff-dive experience and intestinal issues must have left Ian’s friend wondering what the heck Ian had signed into for two years. Sometimes I question myself the same thing.

A huge group of volunteers decided to do this trip together so it was good getting to see people I hadn’t seen in months. The next time I will see them will be for our Close of Service (COS) conference in early September.