Week 2 in Peru
I've been in Peru for only 10 days now, but it feels like longer since I've seen so many new places, met new people, and moved into an apartment from the hotel. I've visited all of the communities in which I'll be working, and met all the staff in the office, lab, and clinic where I'll spend the rest of my time.
Already, I've tried many things I've never done before!
- ate alligator (ok, only a bite)
- ate ceviche
- rode on a motorcycle
- rode in a mototaxi (already normal to me haha)
- ate raw sugar cane (can't believe I've never done this)
- saw a pink dolphin!!*
yeaup, that's the amazon.
Iquitos is one of the most interesting cities you could live in. We're quite isolated living in the biggest city in the world without road access. The only way out is by plane, and this can be obvious when looking at the cars, busses, and items in the stores. Every car here was transported via boat (no idea how long that takes), so very very few people have cars, people almost exclusively take a moto or mototaxi everywhere. The other main transportation is via bus, which are made out of imported materials that were then constructed in the city. Everyday items are more expensive because of the whole "this was shipped across the jungle" thing, so the government subsidizes some things to make them more affordable (coughbeer).
My composting bags in the back of a Mototaxi - because this is my only picture of a mototaxi :)
I've been doing this dumb (should we say brave? bold?) thing for a while now, in that I don't look into the history or really anything about a city before I agree to go there, in this case even when agreeing to come live here. So, upon arriving I started learning about the history of the city and am now on an obsessed lil mission to find pictures of iquitos in it's prime. It's prime was in the 20's during the rubber boom, when the city was wealthy and Europeans were building mansions, including one built by the dude who built the Eiffel tower (unlike the eiffel tower, this ones not worth seeing). The beautiful, colorful tiles from these old mansions and some of the architecture remains intact in places, and I keep wishing I could visit the city back in those days ;) --> I'll get you some pics of these original tiles & buildings eventually.
I swear, they didn't know I was taking a picture. They were just this happy to be on this little boat on the way to the next community! Had to capture the excitement for composting toilets :)
Random tangents ^^ aside, I've had a good week despite the fact that my two partners in this project have left the country and won't be returning for more than a few weeks for the rest of the time I'm here. I went into three communities with our NGO partners on Tuesday, not one of which speaks any English. I think one of the best ways to learn a language is by having specific people with which you practice regularly, because you can adapt to how they speak and understand them much quicker than you will the general population (of whom may or may not mumble, have teeth, strange accents, etc). So my weekly time with these partners is a great practicing opportunity for me. Also because we have no other option than to communicate since I'm the only person from the Hopkins side of the table now. I also met some more people who work for the NGO who are closer in age to me. They work with the children in the communities a few days a week and a few of them can speak about as much English as I can Spanish!
I also got to observe a field worker in and around the community where the clinic is. This was quite interesting, though honestly I barely understood any of the Spanish. It was still a very useful learning experience because those field workers are collecting and processing samples I'll be using shortly when I start up this next component of our research for my Master's thesis! (hint: she collects baby poop)
I'm really excited that things are starting to make more sense about what my research and day-to-day life will look like here over the next few months!!
As far as assimilation, I've been hanging out with some other expats and their Peruvian friends on free nights. We went to Monkey Island over the weekend to see Monkeys (duh), celebrated the 4th of July on Monday (Happy 'Merica guys!), and played volleyball on Wednesday. I also finally got around to working out (yay me!!); turns out the gym is super close to my apartment, but its open-air instead of air conditioned which is a real killer in this heat and humidity. I was literally at my maximum sweat level this morning during a little over 2-mile run. so gringo.