Back Settled in Iquitos
I haven't posted since I returned from Arequipa and Puno. I'm pretty settled here now so there's not that much crazy exciting stuff to discuss it seems. But, I'm working on a post on the communities I'm working in, so that will be fun!
I was honestly pretty sad to come back from my trip in the South of Peru, because I really loved it and couldn't stop imagining how nice it would be to live there, and all the benefits they had there that we lack. But, Iquitos does have its benefits. First of all, I'm sure those people would love to get to the tropics at night when its 14 degrees (F) there and 85 here. Secondly, the fact that no one speaks English here is very important for learning Spanish and provides a great learning opportunity. I'm not sure as I didn't see their field sites, but it seems the poverty in this area is more severe than down there. (Yes, I'm putting that as an advantage for me as a student, because I'm all about impact. Biggest need = highest potential for impact)
I've been working full days setting up more experimental conditions and doing initial timepoint samplings. Nothing has changed on the project front; I'm setting up experimental conditions for a couple more weeks before I transition to timepoint sampling and add in the qualitative component.
My first Saturday back, I was excited to head over to one of the communities I'm working in with a community educator. We gathered all the kids, ages maybe 2-12, from the two neighboring communities and brought everyone to one community center. For me, working with the kids is fun and a good opportunity to practice Spanish. It also allows me to get to know the people in community, the culture, and better understand the challenges they face. For the kids, my presence is pretty special as they're fairly isolated from the rest of the city and spend most of their time within the few "blocks" of their house (there are no blocks or roads just stilt houses constructed of wood panels going down a row). The age range on Saturdays is pretty difficult, since there are curious non-speaking babies all the way up to 14 year olds who want to talk about life.
The community educator who allowed me to tag along is really inspiring to me. I think he alone has a huge impact on the community, touching each life of those who he's able to develop a relationship with (not everyone chooses to participate in the NGO programs and not all the kids come to the center). If I can help him with what he's doing, than I feel like in at least this small way I can have a positive impact on the community (read: I often question how much impact my study is really going to have on these communities). He really focuses on creating a safe space for the kids to be kids, instilling confidence and self-esteem in them, and establishes a safe trusting relationship that allows conversations about violence, abuse, neglect, and for the older kids, relationships and sexual health. I plan to keep going on Saturdays whenever possible. If anyone has advice for activities and games let me know :)
One of the floating community centers; this is not the one we use on Saturdays but the only one I have a picture of :) p.s. yes in a few months this entire area will be river and this structure will float
That Sunday I spent the day alone in my apartment for the first time in weeks! I love my introvert alone time and it had been several weeks of social interaction and exploring the country, between traveling with Mitra, working 6 days a week, and exploring the jungle with friends here. I picked up food from the market, cooked, studied Spanish, and went to online lecture. A few weeks ago, I signed up for an online class through Hopkins because 1) I'm paying tuition whether or not I take classes, 2) I had a lot of free time a few weeks ago and was looking for productive ways to fill it. The class started this week and I wasn't sure if I would drop it, but the topics we're going to discuss are all really interesting to me and crucial issues to be able to discuss intelligently, so I'm definitely taking it :) The first topic is Baltimore Apartheid (historical to present) and I'm really enjoying it but also it frustrates me because I want EVERYONE to watch these lectures and understand how complex and f-ed up our society has been set up to structurally disadvantage black families while advantaging white families.
I joined Julia on Tuesday after work for a new tradition she's starting. Tuesday nights, movies are only 5.5 soles, so we're gunna start going regularly as a fun Spanish lesson. We saw a really horrible Peruvian movie, Hasta la Suegra nos Separe ( = until the mother in law separates us). Before the movie we ate at El Sitio which is a restaurant where you pick from 15 different kinds of kebabs (meats, cheese, potatoes, vegetables, eggs) and they cook it up for you (props to Grace for showing me this dope place). I ate some kind of mini-eggs? I made very certain they were not turtle (whole 'nother conversation) and the lady told me they come from a small bird... but I'm not sure what bird that is and honestly I'm not sure I want to know..
This past weekend Julia and I met up with Linda for a lil girls friday night at Musmuqui, a bar that serves big jugs of different fruit-flavored Pisco sours and plays music videos on several TVs. We didn't make it very late since we all have to work on Saturday mornings, Linda at 7:30, me at 8:30, and Julia at 9:15 :)
Saturday I went into community again with the educator, this time for a double dose! I'm so glad I started doing this, because I look forward to it all week! We went in to one community at 8:30 for a couple hours and did cooperation and partner activities with the kids. We also ended up playing a little game of Soccer "monkey in the middle" (not what they call it in spanish I don't remember what its called).
During the lunch break, the community educator took me out to show me this really cool lake that's fairly far outside the city. I've become quite comfortable on motorcycles now and really enjoyed riding on the back through a part of the city I didn't know and out into the jungle. It was the nicest place to swim and chill I've seen so far, so I think we'll be back. On the way back to the city, we grabbed a coconut water from a roadside vendor and I struggled to hold onto this entire coconut in one hand while on the back of a moto :) it was ideal jungle life and I loved it!! After the rest of the afternoon in the second community, where I taught them the "raft" game from elementary school gym class (where you have 2-3 'rafts'/mats and have to get your entire team across the gym floor without anyone touching the 'water'), I was EXHAUSTED and passed out at 8:30 pm.
Coconut vector for my coconut water
Sunday morning I therefore woke up bright and early in the 5 o'clock hour. Will and Cristina invited Julia, Veronica, and I out for a walk in the flood plain so we all went out for a mini bird-watching session. There was a HUGE storm on Friday night, and looking at the city from the river we could see how much damage had been done around the perimeter of the city. Many many houses lost their roofs, even the soccer stadium.
After our walk, Julia suggested we try to make dumplings and I hesitantly agreed (you all know I don't like cooking and I don't think I'm very good at it). We were pretty successful!
In the evening, we had another volleyball game! I'm definitely improving my skills, but I'm still pretty bad. Peruvians ALL are amazing at volleyball, so when our Peruvian friends show up they put us all to shame (though Will is pretty good now) but also make the games so much better. My main problems are
1) hand-eye coordination of understanding where the ball is in relation to myself, 2) hitting the ball in the appropriate direction and not into a wall.
Sorry I haven't been taking many pictures now :/