Archiv für den Monat: Oktober 2018

Tarapoto – the Peruvian jungle pt. 2

Day 3 – Wednesday

Today we finally got to taste the hostel’s breakfast and just as everything here it consisted majorly of the admittedly delicious cooked bananas. Our tour to a near waterfall started with some delay because of ongoing street reparations, caused by rocks falling off the stone walls. But the way was absolutely worth it. After a short walk downhill, we crossed a small river and arrived at the waterfall and its laguna around. The nature was still very calm and we had a relaxing time swimming around. Later, we climbed up a bit and swam to the spot directly under the waterfall – standing next to it was intensely spectacular and it was a real shame we couldn’t take pictures of that! But luckily we got a whole lot of other pictures, of us swimming, laughing and of course jumping off the cliff into the waterfall! The first time I really needed some time until I dared letting go but the second time was already easier and a lot of fun!
That much action made us hungry and the lunchbox was again filled with the amazing local food. Before hiking back up, we relaxed a little in the hot water of the natural springs and enjoyed the beautiful scenery around us.

On our way back (including 1h waiting again), we stopped at a viewpoint and at a small bakery where we were able to try artisan bread. It was freshly prepared and still warm and very different from our bread. I liked it a lot and bought some more for our drive back to Trujillo.
Our last night we spent tasting some more local food (today: Juanes, a rice dish with egg and chicken) and ended the day drinking cocktails in the streets of Tarapoto.

Day 4 – Thursday

Our last day started with a papa rellena (stuffed potato) and Peruvian punctuality. Relieved that they hadn’t forgotten us, we drove to the waterfall of Talliquihui to do Rappel, an activity where you walk down the waterfall. The safety instructions were easy and the guides super cool and international so we could talk in various languages. First we walked down the dry part to practise the technique and then finally the wet part that consisted of walking directly into the waterfall. Completely wet but happy we watched the others doing the trail and swam a bit. Butterflies in the brightest colours flew around making the experience to an amazing end of our trip.
Heading back to the hostel became pretty stressful but we luckily got our bus and now are heading back to rather cold Trujillo. Another exhausting drive but now with a bunch of cool photos on our phones and a lot to tell friends and family.

Although the trip was very short and I would have loved to spend more time here, I’m endlessly glad we decided to take this stuffed tour so we made the most of our time. It was all very intense and the few impressions of the people living on the „countryside“ in the selva were very similar from what I know from my grandparents in Romania: easily constructed houses with corrugated iron as a roof, carpets covering the holes that work as doors and windows and generally living a rather hard and poor life. I would have liked to talk more to the people here to get more authentic impressions so I might return one day!

~ Jenny


Tarapoto – the Peruvian jungle

Aguaje, lucuma, cocona! Ice cream, juice or raw: the fruits of the selva show a variety of tastes, unknown to me and I can say that apart from their health benefits I really love them. Here, they form such a natural part of the daily diet that I’m really jealous of it! But fruits weren’t the only thing I experienced during my trip to Tarapoto and therefore this introduction is followed by a report separated by days to better structure the plentiness of activities we experienced!

Day 1 – Monday

After the supposedly comfortable but rather exhausting 19h bus drive to Tarapoto (you can’t sleep while the bus is constantly braking and accelerating due to serpentines that lead you uphill for hours), we finally arrived in our hostel and were surprised by the hardly bearable heat already at 10am. As we still had some free time, we walked around a bit and explored the city centre but soon returned to our air conditioned room. I decided to take another walk to the famous chocolate factory that reminded me of the hikes in the Israeli desert. But now I proudly possess lots of jungle-chocolate! On my way back, I took a mototaxi which basically looks like a motorised Riksha and is the main mean of transport here. The streets here aren’t made for bigger vehicles so you rather stick to these mototaxis and normal motorcycles.

In the afternoon, our first tour started close to Tarapoto and consisted of canoeing on the Mayo river. About 8 people on a small boat trying not to fall over seemed impossible, considering some wilder parts of the river. But apart from getting all wet, we made our way without any accidents and even swam (rather relaxed while the stream pulled us further) and jumped into the water with ropes. The other participants were pretty cool too and after getting over our fears, we all really enjoyed the activity!

Day 2 – Tuesday

Yes, getting up at 3am definitely is fun! Hearing about the following 3h bus ride made us hope to catch up on some sleep but the streets and the driver’s style made this completely impossible. Anyhow, we had a very packed day ahead and started with a boat tour on the Negro River where we observed the (secondary) jungle with all its flora and fauna. Our guides urged us to stay silent in order not to miss the shy animals and luckily we spotted various monkeys, birds, of course lots of insects and even a snake and a sloth sleeping in a tree. But also the plants, rich in water, are very different from what we know and some trees reach horizontal sizes of several hundred metres. There was always something to look at or to listen to which made us really feel the nature.

In the small village next to the river, we were served traditional breakfast consisting of cooked banana and some specialities made of corn that were super tasty.
After that, we visited the caves of Palestina that were formed by the Jordan river. I’m not kidding about the names and I really felt  some melancholy thinking of Israel. But the caves easily took my whole attention because of their beautiful formations. Our guides explained the different processes to us and we even saw bats flying around and giant spiders crawling on the floor. In one hall, we all turned off our lights and remained silent for a while which was an impressive experience. There’s nothing around you, just occasionally the sound of a drop of water hitting a stone. Leaving the caves through a tiny hole turned out to be pretty difficult but we got rewarded by some bathing in the river next to it.

The last official part was visiting the butterfly house and its laboratory where we learned about the life cycle of the butterfly. We would even let the caterpillars crawl on our hands, touch the butterfly pupae and release the butterflies into liberty. As the butterflies were used to human contact, they sometimes even landed on us and we were able to take some nice photos.

To end the day, we had traditional lunch in Moyobamba, near to Tarapoto. I personally ate cecina (dried meat) and tacacho (a dish of mixed rice and bananas) with chorizo and I loved it!

~ Jenny

\ Reflection /

Hola guala, sabes que eres bonita eh? Phrases like this, meaning something like „Hey beauty, you know you’re gorgeous?“, unfortunately are also part of our everyday life as European young and female volunteers. It’s not too easy to talk about this objectively, but as it’s part of our reality here I feel like it shouldn’t be left uncommented. I personally only get stared at and as soon as the people realise that I know Spanish, they mostly will start a nice conversation with me. Like this, I already got to know lots of people here, taxi drivers, waiters or just random Trujillanos on the streets. But as soon as I’m with other friends, rather pale and blonde, talking German and therefore obviously being a stranger, men will start whistling, taxis will slow down and even catcalling is common. This honestly makes me feel very uncomfortable walking the streets here in Peru and I now know what it must feel like to live like this for a longer period. I got an impression what discrimination feels like and I probably have to make up my mind yet again about this issue.

There’s also the forbidden political topic of corruption I want to discuss briefly to not create the illusion that I haven’t experienced it so far. October 7th took place the communal elections and the campaigns beforehands were huge. Every evening, there were small parties in the streets, fireworks and painted walls everywhere in the city. As there is a obligation to vote in Peru, the night before drinking is illegal. Every Peruvian citizen travelled to his city of origin to participate in the elections. Sounds democratic and professional, but talking to the people uncovers deep frustration – what to do when you have to vote but all the candidates are politicians because of money or relations instead of their capabilities? It’s a sensible topic and the consequences of corruption also reach the educational system which made me personally very sad. How is the situation in this country ever supposed to improve when the future politicians are educated in the wrong way?
As I don’t want to offend anyone by posting tendentious content, you may contact me personally for further discussions.

But I want to stress that there aren’t only bad things and inconveniences. Although I haven’t been here for too long yet, I appreciate my daily encounters with several people that became part of my routine. There’s the woman selling sandwiches for 1 Sol that already knows my preferences and there’s the man wishing me a good morning at the entrance of the Sanna clinic, a hospital next to my school. My coordinators Juanjo and Señora Elsa are the sweetest organising everything for me and also the other volunteers in my house always have an open ear and will happily spend time together with me, sharing their music taste or just cooking and playing cards together. Thanks a lot guys!

~ Jenny

Trujillo, ciudad de la primavera II

Uno dos tres – cinco seis siete! Básico! After one hour of our salsa teacher shouting this rhythm at us, we finally somehow managed to dance one of the most famous Latin American dances – Salsa! Although we probably will never be able to move our hips as smoothly as the other students, it was really fun learning how to feel the music and finally be part of the great salsa community. I don’t know yet if I will take more classes soon but I’m definitely very tempted to do so!

Which physicist and Nobel price winner helped with the construction of one of the Oktoberfest’s tents? Two hours filled with random questions, also called Trivia night (something I bet Canadians would fall for…) added lots of unnecessary facts to my shortterm memory. Hosted by SKIP, also an international organisation supporting multicultural conversation, various teams competed against each other in order to win cool prizes such as free yoga lessons or smoothies. Sangria and other local drinks relaxed the competitive atmosphere and we all had a really good time! By the way, the answer is Albert Einstein.

One of my highlights so far was definitely visiting the historical site of Chan Chan, consisting of the ruins of the Chimú tribe that lived in the coastal region of Peru (~22km^2) between around 900 and 1500 AD. There are four different places to see among which the ancient palace is the most important part. A guide gave us a tour explaining the architecture of the palace but also the whole culture that was so different from what we know and often is described as a perfect society. There rarely were conflicts or even wars within a community because everything was based on religion and prestige – two very powerful and therefore effective ways to keep a huge amount of people under control. I personally was amazed by the very traditional and hierarchical structures that allowed an entire culture to grow and prosper for centuries. It’s a shame that we only know about very few cultures such as the inca although they only reigned for several decades in Peru. The reason why we only know them is that we falsely assumed their heritage because they were there when the Spanish conquered Latin America. So whenever you are asked about Peruvian indigenous tribes, you now can name the Chimú too and impress your friends!

While writing this, I’m on my way to Tarapoto, a small city in the middle of the selva (jungle). I hope the 19h drive will be worth it and stay tuned for posts about this trip!

~ Jenny

Trujillo, ciudad de primavera I

Baile, baile! The public is shouting while dancers in traditional colthes walk by, school’s orchestras play well-known melodies and of course the elected queens of Latin America greet Trujillo. The „corso de la primavera“, the annual spring parade, is one of the most important and most popular events in Trujillo. For one day, the streets are all blocked in order to celebrate the beginning of the spring season with its warmth, bright colours, flowers and buzzy atmosphere. Although people have told me the last years were better, I enjoyed the parade a lot. Amazing costumes and stunning acrobats made me totally forget the strong sun that mercilessly burned my skin. In the evening, after spending some time at a local fun park with some students from the national university, my face hurt but it was definitely worth it!

Some days later, I finally came to visit the two famous markets Mayorista and Hermelinda in the city centre of Trujillo. While the Hermelinda is constructed like a classical market hall, the Mayorista is rather a whole quarter where you can buy anything, no matter if you need it or not. The streets are always crowded and from clothes to toiletries or food, the sellers are doing a great job convincing potential costumers. For me, the most important part was the fruits and vegetables area where you find the best and also cheapest ingredients for your cooking at home. Mangos for 30ct each and sweet as sugar, avocados twice the size of the ones in Europe and much more. They might not look as perfect as in the supermarkets, but the taste is so much better!

Talking about food, I really need to recommend the supposedly Chinese Chifa restaurants here, that serve you immense portions that consist of a mix of Peruvian and Asian food which is less bizarre than it sounds. You’ll find them at almost every corner so if you’re not too sure where to eat, Chifa is always a good option!

The last week has been surprisingly busy so I’ll split my experiences into two blog posts so stay tuned for the next part where I’ll elaborate more on salsa classes, a trivia night and of course Chan Chan, an archaeological site on the history of the Chimú culture!

~ Jenny