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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

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

Running the streets of Trujillo

C-c-c-c-cumbiaaaa! If the tremendous sound of music or traffic hasn’t kept you up all night, there still might be a chance that you couldn’t sleep because of the cold wind blowing everywhere in your house and room. Luckily, the second problem could be solved by fixing various holes with cleaning wipes. I can confirm it’s an improvement from 4 to only 2 required sheets every night!

Apart from the two days I entirely spent in my newly decorated room (yes, getting sick because your body firstly needs to adjust to the admittedly delicious Peruvian food sucks), I hardly come back home during the day. This is mostly because school ends late and there are various activities after. Getting to know other teachers and coordinators, visiting the beach of Huanchaco, signing up for local Taekwondo training and of course getting used to the public transport system take lots of time off the day. The streets are intensely crowded but the taxis, micros (small busses) and colectivos (something in between) are a surprisingly efficient and cheap way to get around in Trujillo. There are no official stops – just wave, get in, shout „Baja!“ and get off wherever you want. Micros and colectivos have their routes and every ride is only 1,50 Soles which is about 40 cents.

But lets talk a bit about school too. I only work at the Colegio Max Planck which is one of the most popular private schools in Trujillo. The grades are divided into Primaria (1-6) and Secundaria (7-11) and they already start teaching German in grade 4 (cuarto de primaria). There is only one German teacher (Miss Lizbeth) who just graduated from university and came to Max Planck recently. She doesn’t have much experience yet but is very motivated to make the best of it.
You need to know that school here is very different. In my case, the children will be running around and talking or even shouting the whole time during class which makes classical teaching as we know it impossible. Calming the students, no matter what age, takes up to 70% of the time. But you also need to consider that these children aren’t all little devils – they will try to talk to you about anything because they’re immensely curious and they will always hug you as a greeting or just casually too.

At the end of November, the German language exams take place (A1-B1) and on Saturdays preparation classes are held for that occasion. I’m genuinely interested how these are going to be and how the results will turn out!

~ Jenny

Pollo o carne?

The love park in Miraflores, Lima

Lifehack to feel 100% comfortable in your new country: take a taxi from the airport to your hostel and you will be surprised that you’re still alive. Suddenly, you know how to appreciate the silence of your friends that are already sleeping and you try to forget the traffic outside. Taxi drivers seem to have unlimited access to an army of guardian angels and the constant use of their horn makes it all seem like an aggressive battle of who is the sneakiest. I’m convinced we were.

Welcome to Peru, hi Lima! A 10 Million city with contrasts I hadn’t expected to be quite so prominent. Not only can the different quarters be easily divided into richer and poorer regions or into more or less delinquency. Also houses next to each other can show a variety of standards ranging from recently modernised flats to vast ruins.

Apart from being welcomed in the Goethe Institut by our PASCH-coordinators, we also visited Barrancos (an alternative quarter with amazing Peruvian food) and Miraflores (a very safe and nice quarter). Traditional cuisine such as ceviches (raw fish), anticuchos (pork’s hearts) or chicha morada (a juice made of corn) had to be tried and I personally became a huge fan. I also learned that being vegetarian is no problem here because you still can eat chicken. Obviously, chicken is not meat, so why bother?

Heading to Trujillo was a bit relieving for me because 1 Million people is a lot easier to handle. You won’t believe me but it feels very calm and familiar living here and people don’t necessarily treat you as the stranger from Europe you objectively are.
The first day was intensely chaotic because of my house being an entire mess but luckily I got help from the three other volunteers that have already been living here for some weeks. My bathroom is still under water and I haven’t yet dared to start cleaning the kitchen but I’m working on it.

The next days I’ll post an update about my work here and some first encounters and impressions so stay tuned!

~ Jenny


Open doors

„Everything is just a phase.“ Anna Veigl, head of kulturweit, tried to eliminate all our fears and doubts about our volunteering right away. This quote seems so negative, when it really isn’t. Temporary phases not only include bad times, but also great and unforgettable memories and I’m curious to experience a lot of them, especially the latter, soon!

The seminar is over now and the past two days thankfully gave me the chance to wipe away the worries and make room for excitement – 6 months in Trujillo! Whee!
Being on the plane makes looking back easy, it seems so natural that there’s only happiness when thinking about my voluntary stay. But that would be hypocritical. The last days, I realised that I have many open questions concerning basic human properties, society’s norms and values and also myself. I felt overwhelmed by the number and also the intense complexity of these questions that seemed so trivial. Why do humans discriminate others? Which stereotypes are acceptable as jokes or simplifications and which aren’t? How do I want to stay in contact with my friends all over the world? How might this interfere with my wish to live in the present and make the best of Peru?

I often asked myself whether I’m adequately prepared for my volunteering and discussed this with close friends. How am I supposed to teach children and organize projects if I haven’t made up my mind yet and don’t entirely understand most of the issues surrounding me?
After several hours of overthinking and discontent, I decided that it isn’t necessary to have the perfect answer to everything in life and also that this probably is even impossible. I prefer to keep seeking and like this constantly reflecting, even if it’s hard to accept that there might be neither right or wrong nor any final destination.

To end this philosophical excursion positively, I’d like to refer to the entry’s title. Travelling and volunteering is an open door that might close one day. I learned about this metaphor through a German science academy that included a ritual where the participants enter at the beginning and leave in the end through a wooden door to symbolise the academy’s frame. Volunteering is a similar door but with the tiny difference that it might never close entirely.

~ Jenny

Ism, Ism, Ism

In order to organize my thoughts during the seminar, I prepared a summary of the most common forms of discrimination as a project:

If you spot any mistakes, disagree with any content or want to add something (there are missing references…), I’m very happy about comments!

~ Jenny

Racism, Colonialism and Soljanka

„This is our war! Every help you offer only reinforces your white superiority which we’re about to fight!“ This sentence, quoted freely from the short documentary „Fuck white tears“ became a central topic during our preparation seminar here at the Werbellinsee near Berlin. All of us volunteers are brought together on this immense area to participate in various lectures and interactive workshops in order to be confronted with everything that probably will cross our way during our stay abroad. From teaching methods to the right handling of ethical issues we come together daily to gather new perspectives on topics that at the same time are omnipresent in today’s media but rarely are profoundly analyzed without a specific reason.

The seminar offers all kind of support and sensibilizes us for anything unfamiliar we will most definitely encounter in our new working spaces. A special focus is kept on our role as German volunteers in a country which usually is defined as politically and economically inferior. Instead of serving the prejudices of colonial continuity, our function as an ambassador in cultural exchange rather involves strengthening the international relationships by bilateral communication.

World peace – something unachievable if you believe South African students protesting against discriminating laws: „You always say there are other ways to solve conflicts, for example by talking. But we’ve experienced centuries of cruelty and oppression. Our only response that expresses our anger in an adequate way is violence.“ I personally don’t believe in that! Although I neither believe in utopian concepts, I’m strongly convinced that organizations such as kulturweit and their partners such as the Goethe Institute, PASCH and many more contribute significantly to get closer to our common vision of a world in harmony.

Although I still have 4 days left, I already had the chance to talk to an amazing amount of diverse people that allowed me insights into their personal ways of thinking. Visiting the city of Berlin led by a refugee,  spending 24h a day in the middle of 330 dedicated people and speeches by the organisation team, trainers and politicians make me appreciate the program here a lot. I’m very thankful for this kind of preparation and I’m looking forward to the upcoming days!

~ Jenny

Time to party!

They say I’m an adult now. In fact, I just turned 18 and there’s not much of a difference yet which I imagine to change soon. At least I already got dozens of letters reminding me that I’m now responsible for anything myself, including insurances, bank accounts and a lot more official matters. Even facebook messaged me: Some security settings have been removed so I had to adjust them again. Feels good to be 18.

But having celebrated my birthday also means that there’s not much time left for me at home! It sounds odd, but I subconsciously started counting the breakfasts I still have with my parents – not enough! I’ve never had issues leaving home, even for a longer period, but 6 months are a long time and I’ll spend them in a totally different world! Exciting and intimidating at the same time.

I’m glad to be able to share these thoughts soon in Berlin though. I’m sure I’ll find other people there with similar worries and expectations and I can’t wait to get to know them and eventually keep in touch with some to travel during my stay!

~ Jenny

~ First Peru vibes ~

Heya my fellow people!

I’m Jenny and welcome to my blog! I’m glad you volunteered to read it. I decided to start this although I’m not totally sure yet whether I’ll be able to keep it up to date…I apologize in advance for any missing content!

A few words about myself first: I will turn 18 soon and just graduated high school last month. After having spent a month in Israel, I’m now looking forward to my upcoming 6 months in Trujillo/Peru where I’ll volunteer at the Instituto Max Planck. What exactly am I gonna do there? That’s something I still need to find out…

However, I’m very excited for my departure on 13 September, which is sooner than it seems due to the preparation seminar in Berlin right before it. Although we were told not to bring too much stuff for our stay (especially clothes), I feel like I should be well equipped, just in case. Apart from that, I just got my visa but other things want to be organized too.

So hopefully see you soon when I can talk a bit more about the seminar and the 300 people that I really look forward to get to know there!

~ Jenny