Wednesday, December 15, 2010
First day in Peru
I awake at 6AM to the sound of a dog barking loudly in the car park below my apartment. It is Comillo (Fang, Elena’s dog). This is a morning lullaby because I miss my own dog Herkette. I am able to go back to sleep since I am still exhausted from two days of trying to sleep on airplanes. I finally rise at 11:15AM; Dr. Llanos told me the night before that the group would return to the apartemente at noon to take me on a tour of Lima City. Shower, brush teeth, dress, and wait. There is a washing machine in the apartemente, it is in a connecting room with no ceiling, open to the sky and consists of a deep basin, a faucette, me, and the bottle of Dr. Bronner’s castile soap that I brought along.
After washing my traveling clothes I have five minutes to explore the immediate neighborhood. San Bartolo is located on a desert plateau that meets the South Pacific ocean, and is flanked by the desert foothills of the Andes mountain range. The climate is mostly cloudy, but it never rains. The neighborhood buildings are constructed of brick and concrete, and one building will house several spacious apartementes. A handful of residents operate cantinas from their homes where you can buy gas for cooking, 7 liter bottles of water, fresh baked pan (bread), and other necessities. 100 feet from Elena’s apartemente is a plaza with a shrine to the Virgin Mary, I see a handful of city workers and two elderly gentlewomen sitting on a bench talking. Many dogs roam the streets but they are healthy and friendly. There are date palms and saguaros planted throughout the neighborhood, and there is also a variety of songbirds that compete with the intermittent sounds of reconstruction that is taking place in several of the apartementes. I try to be careful not to wander too far, there is a small cantina a few blocks away and I am hungry! I pass by two men who look at me and laugh, I hear the word “chica” which means girl, how flattering.
As I return to the apartemente I see Dr. Llanos standing at the gate, I wave and he begins walking toward me. As he approaches I realize that this is not Dr. Llanos, but Phillipe, Elena’s son. Phillipe is about 12-13 anos (years), he know some English and we begin a conversation, but he tells me that has to go somewhere so I return to the apartemente to take a nap. It is now 1PM. There is something about flying and spending time in airports sucks the life out of you.
I arise at 2PM and still no Dr. Llanos! The sound of several children giggling downstairs is the music of life to my ears so I head down to see if I can use the phone to contact Dr. Llanos. Phillipe is soooo gracious for a secondario (middle to high school age youth), he calls Dr. Llanos while his brother Sebastian and his sister Andrea wave their trabajars, or art work that they made in school, at my face. I nod and repeat “Poquito, poquita!” so cute! It is summer and December in Peru, and Papa Noelle (Santa Claus) will be visiting soon, so these children are very excited. Sebasitan is shooting tiny plastic clay pigeons at the Christmas decorations, and Phillipe tells me that he cannot get ahold of Dr. Llanos but there is a stranded penguin on one of the neighboring beaches. Such a gracious host, he invites me to a bowl of sopa (soup), he has everyone sit at the table while he fetches the bowls and the agua pera or pear laced water. The meal is mucho delicioso!
Sebastian and Andrea giggle and speak to me in the most rapido Spanish, then smile and wait for me to respond, then giggle when I look at them with a baffled expression. I say habla nada rapido, and thus begins my Spanish lesson for today. Sebastian says a phrase, then repeats it nada rapido, then I repeat the phrase, and Andrea corrects me sternly when I mispronunciate the words en espanol. We are about to play a game of Ludo when I hear voices outside. It is Dr. Llanos and Fiorella and Elena has returned briefly from work.
We decide on lunch at an outdoor cantina, where I select arrozo, huevos, and plantain for lunch. Rice, eggs, and fried banana, a Peruvian delicacy and mucho gusto. I choose café for my bebes (beverage) but Fria, Dr. Llanos, and Elena choose Inca kola or Peruvian cola. Peruvian cola is a soda pop that has a golden color and comes in a liter sized plastic jug, but it is produced by Coca Cola. I ask Dr. Llanos, “what is Peruvian Cola”, and he tells me that it is a beverage that was originally brewed with local herbs by a Peruvian company, and is extremely popular. When the Coca Cola company tried to market its own soda pop product in Peru, it couldn’t outsell Peruvian cola and so they bought out the Peruvian company. However, the founders of the Peruvian cola company would not give up the secret of the original ingredients, instead, they started their own small company and you can now find the original beverage for sale in the rural communities. The Cocal Cola version has many artificial ingredients; Dr. Llanos tells me that it is much sweeter than the natural version, and my guess is that this is from the addition of corn syrup. For those of you in Ms. McAdams class who participated in the research on the ingredients of popular food and beverages in the U.S., you might be interested to know that companies, including Coca Cola, do not have to list their ingredients on food labels in Peru.
I now have my schedule of activities while I am with ORCA Peru. I had originally signed on as a volunteer, but apparently now I will be participating in activities as if I am an intern, which is good because I will be able to share my experiences with students in Sitka who wish to pursue a college education in marine biology. Dr. Llanos has students come from all over the world to study under his program, and they live and work for a summer in San Bartolo. There is also an international surfing community in the summer, and the students live in beachside apartementes where the surfing is good! Students’ research work includes traveling out on survey vessels and to remote beaches to conduct their studies. I will be traveling on two beach survey expeditions; one expedition is to a national marine sanctuary. I will be conducting shipboard surveys of dolphins and porpoises, and I will be organizing a beach cleanup for Lima City estudientes (students). There is a year-end beach party for the voluntaries on the weekend of Navidad, and we will have a celebration all of the mamiferos marinos rescates (marine mammal rescues) of 2010, and we will receive donations of rescate materials from the community.
Instead of the tour of Lima City that was originally planned, we meet up with Elena at the school where she teaches and catch the autobus to the nearby town of Lurin to visit the market where I will purchase arrozo, frijoles, tomatoes, café, sucra, saltado, te limas, (rice, beans, tomatoes, coffe, sugar, salt, tea, limes), also cebolla, patatas, ajo, zanahoria, pimienta negra, lentja, y brecol (onions, potatoes, garlic, carrots, pepper, lentils and broccoli. I plan on making a stew that will last. There is so much for sale, at the market you can buy clothes, handbags, toys, and the smells of the picantes and salsas from the food vendors is refreshing.
We travel back to San Bartolos by autobus and Elena and Phillipe ask me earnestly about my Juneau friends that traveled here two years ago. Elena and her family are very warm and caring, and I can tell that they are very passionate about their work with ORCA Peru.
I return to my apartemente and watch a program about volcanicos, there is an Arnold Schwarzenneger action movie that is dubbed en espanol, but I choose to listen to the news for awhile. I am able to ascertain much of what is going on the television, sadly, Peru has its share of crimes and tragedies.
Sleep for now-tomorrow night I enter my first day of training in the rescate of mamiferos marinos.