My first week in Peru has now come and gone. It’s been a whirlwind since landing in Tarapoto, with the happy smile of Mercy in her Proyecto Mono Tocon shirt, waiting to greet me with a hug and kiss. I instantly knew although I had many anxieties about coming down here, I wouldn’t have to worry about the people I would be working with. They have all very kindly welcomed me into the folds of their busy lives and have shown amazing patience when I attempt to have a conversation with them.
While not in the field, I live in a “house” with 9 other PMT staff and volunteers. I share a room with three girls that all work within the research branch of the project. Often they roll out of bed at 5am to begin their day out in the nearby protected area called el Morro de Calzada tracking the monkeys and taking observations. I typically start my day around 7, get ready, and walk the few blocks down to our office. Along the way I pass brightly colored houses, roaring mototaxis, stray dogs and cats, and, lately, a lot of puddles from the incessant rain. Our office is on the second floor and contains 4 small rooms, a bathroom, and a common hallway area with water and coffee. The internet is surprisingly fast and the power has only gone out a few times since I arrived (knock on wood).
Overall, I have been incredibly impressed with the infrastructure in Moyobamba – running water, electricity, a plethora of food options (that’s right my fellow RPCVs I’m talking cheese),and various other amenities I had not expected (like garbage trucks, playgrounds, and ice cream). This is not to say that Moyobamba is a beacon of development, but it strikes me how very different the cities must be from the rural areas. This is, of course, an observation biased completely on my own experiences in Ghana where cities, while more developed, were less than reliable, organized, or maintained in any way (as many of you know I spent 2 years in the Peace Corps there). I can’t wait to get out on the road so I can better compare and understand the levels of poverty and development in this region of Peru.
But I digress, back to my typical day – the morning is spent doing work, playing with the puppy and kitten newly acquired to the office, and taking a mid-morning break at the bakery around the corner. Lunch usually breaks around 1 o’clock where we all gather at Julio’s house (another member of staff) where his mother prepares us all a hearty lunch. Usually this consists of rice, pasta, potatoes, or plantains, and usually a combination of that along with some sauce/stew and chicken. Lunch is always served with a delicious juice that tastes similar to a sour and sweet iced tea. Then it’s back to the office, where we are finally joined by those who spent the morning out in the field. There are no set work hours, but the staff uses this flexibility to their advantage and generally put in much more than a typical 8-hr work day. Their passion and work ethic is really inspiring to me. For such a small, young NGO they work tirelessly to make the project a sustainable success. And that’s even with the World Cup going on – that’s commitment!
Early evenings are my favorite time of day. I usually leave the office earlier than the rest for precisely this reason. The air is cool, but there’s still light out. I get home and drop off my laptop and things and take a walk along the streets. Often I will go into a shop and buy something to eat or to just look around to see what kinds of things you can and can’t get in Peru. As the light begins to fade more I drag myself back to the house where I will take a freezing cold shower (I still maintain: warm bucket bath over a cold shower any day of the week) and make myself something to eat (back to the days of pasta, tuna, and bread). The rest of the night I usually spend reading, chatting with the English speaking volunteers, and even attended my first discoteca (never fear, I maintained the stereotype that white people can’t dance). All in all, a pretty enjoyable way to spend a day.
Peru has been both what I did and didn’t expect. As I’ve spent the week assimilating there have been times I have gotten down on myself for not picking up the language faster or understanding cultural norms better and then I figuratively slap myself out of it and remember – hey! It’s only been a week! It’s hard to believe that it has, in fact, only been just over a week since my feet were planted on American soil. But as with any travel, the beginning seems to take forever and then you blink and it’s all over. I hope that I get to savor this time and drink in all that this adventure has to offer. Since I will be in the field for the next couple weeks and probably will not have access to the internet I’ll end here saying “Til next time!” Much love and abrazos.