It’s hard to believe it’s been almost two full weeks since I last updated… but I guess it has. Happy July, Happy Independence Day, and Happy Last Week of Data Collection (that last one is only recognized by the three of us and those directly involved with our project here, in case you were curious). July has been pretty action-packed so far, let’s see if I can re-cap…
Junín - Work:
The project has continued to go well, for the most part. It’s been sort of hit or miss with organizing focus groups and interviews, but we’ve got a lot of really good information. We made it to all of the communities around the lake except for one, because the president of that community gave us a phone number that was short one digit. After guessing a few times unsuccessfully, we decided to just let it go. Most places have just been interviews with the president of the community and frequently another member of the community as well, either the VP or someone who is said to know a good deal about the lake. Much of the information is the same from each place, but it’s still really good to get.
This is not to say that the past two weeks have been a walk in the park (even if they had, it would be a huffing and puffing walk in the park, thanks to the fact that there is something like 2/3 the oxygen here as there is at sea level – how nice!). On the 4th of July, we had an interview set up for one of the communities on the other side of the lake for 9am, meaning we would leave Junín at 8am to make it in time. Now, I’m not much of a morning person, especially if I can’t run, shower and have coffee. I managed to run (though it was super early) and we were on the road in plenty of time. We arrived shortly after 9am to find the president of the community had not even read the letter we’d hand-delivered probably a month prior. He asked us what we were doing and what we were hoping to accomplish, why we wanted to talk with him, etc. Never mind the fact that we had anticipated a group of 8ish people waiting for us to hold the focus group, this was a bit of a disappointment. Finally, after we managed to convince him that we were not working for the municipal government, he agreed to let us talk to someone else. And this someone else wasn’t going to be in town until 12, supposedly. So we waited around (doing surveys and drinking lots of coffee at a cute little café) for 2.5 hours until 12, when this man, who, we were told, knew much more about the lake, was to arrive. At 12:30, the president emerged from a meeting and told us that the guy wasn’t there yet, but he would probably be there around 1:30… so we got his number and called him to verify, and to make sure he knew we were waiting for him. The weather was awful – raining/hailing off and on, fairly windy and just unpleasantly cold – so we sat in the car for another hour. At just about 2pm, we were tired of waiting (at that point, it had been almost 5 hours of waiting), so we started to pull away, and finally the lake-smart man appeared. Needless to say, we were all slightly upset. Not only had the president of the community not read the letter we dropped off weeks earlier, he told us 9am, knowing full well we were coming from an hour away, and then he wouldn’t even talk to us, he pawned it off on someone else (who did know a fair amount, and I’m glad we got to interview him, but still). Thankfully that has only happened once. The guy we did talk with was very helpful and agreed to arrange a focus group for us, so we’re returning to that community tomorrow morning to finish up. Hopefully we’ll leave there on a more positive note…
After that meeting tomorrow morning, we’ll be heading to another community whose president has also been very helpful. He took us out to lunch a couple weeks ago to get more information on what exactly we’re doing, and see how he could help. I’m fairly confident that tomorrow will be productive, but I guess time will tell!
Sunday will be an easy day, a non-work day (I hope), though probably a planning day. We’ll have 10 days to finish transcribing and translating and then compile our report and get our presentation ready… Like I’ve said, I think we have a good amount of information for a very rich report; it will just be a matter of making sense out of it all and forming it into a report. Next week we have an interview (as interviewees, not interviewers!) that will be broadcast on the radio and probably also the local TV station to promote our report and invite people to the presentation, which will be on the 25th in the morning… I’m slightly nervous about presenting in Spanish to a full room of (hopefully) very interested parties. It’ll build character, I’m sure.
Junín – Non-Work:
I’m almost finished knitting my first scarf, and I must say, it’s quite pretty. It’s been a learning experience for sure, a couple screw-ups plus my stubborn perfectionistic tendencies have been a bit of heartache and lots of backtracking on several occasions, but I have no regrets. I wish other things (like hats or mittens or leg-warmers or anything with a non-rectangular shape) were easier to make… Not sure how much I have left, maybe a foot, maybe less. Next up: another scarf! (And I’ll have to be very careful since Janelle, my saving grace when it comes to knitting, probably won’t be with me to help me fix my mess-ups…)
Food continues to be very starch-heavy, but every Tuesday, I load up on the good stuff at the market. I have a dozen tangerines, a kilo of apples, half a dozen bananas, several kiwis and grenadillas, a handful of limes, and a bunch of avocados to tide me over when I can’t stomach the starch. I also finally got around to toasting the peanuts I bought several weeks back, not realizing they were raw. I also discovered that there are a couple women who sell almonds at the market. They’re expensive treats, but they’re totally worth it. I’ve also tried a couple new fruits – one of the perks of being near the selva I guess! One is a lucuma, which is just… heavenly. I don’t know how else to describe it, but sometimes we have it blended with bananas for breakfast, and it is seriously, dangerously delicious. We’ve also had it in pies and cakes and it is absolutely delicious.
Another is the chirimoya (sp?), which I only tried yesterday. It’s a strangely lumpy green fruit that you break open, and there are lots of white sort of stalagmite-looking things that form the flesh of the fruit. There are a few black seeds, and you don’t eat those or the skin, but the white flesh is really very sweet. Another is the grenadilla. I’ve had grenadilla-flavored things before (Lesotho loved it), but never the actual fruit. It’s sort of like a pomegranate in that you eat the seed-things, but it’s a lot easier to open – you just smack it hard on the table so the shell cracks, and then scoop the insides out. I got scolded when I chewed them, so I’m still not exactly sure the proper method of consumption, but nothing bad has happened to me as a result of chewing the seeds, so oh well.
There are also lots of herbs they make tea with (including celery leaves – bleh!). Each has its own purported purpose, but I drink them because I just like drinking warm things when it’s this cold outside and inside (so long as they taste like herbs and not celery water!).
Running has continued to improve, even though the mornings are considerably colder now, and it’s still hard to get out of bed. I have to catch my breath less frequently, and my lungs don’t hate me quite as much as they did several weeks ago. I’ve been seeing some cool animals on my excursions, too – lots of birds! The latest (and most exciting since that of the flamingos) sighting was the famed (and endangered, unfortunately) zambullidor de Junín (grebe), a small fluffy duck thing with red eyes, almost loon-esque in shape and diving abilities. I saw two in the canal along the road where I run, both yesterday and the day before, and when the close one saw/heard me, it dove and came up maybe 20 feet away. They make a cute little noise as they swim. When I got back to the Parroquia, I was excited for having just spotted them, and one of the hermanos here told me that if you see a zambullidor, it means you’ll have good luck, especially in love. Ha, I guess we’ll see about that…
I’ve started making travel plans for after we finish here, and I am getting really excited. After our presentation, overnight on the evening of the 25th, I’ll take a bus down to Lima to meet up with a friend from home, who will have arrived the evening of the 25th. From Lima, we’re bussing to Cusco, which will be a solid 20+ hours in a bus – but we have second floor, front row seats, so hopefully we’ll at least have some good views! We’ll spend a week in the south of Peru: Cusco, Puerto Maldonado, Ollantaytambo, and (of course) Machu Picchu (with an added excursion up Huayna Picchu, which also looks stunning). I’m counting down the days. It’ll be nice to only have to wear one pair of pants at a time, and not worry about layering up quite as much. It’ll be nice to be able to breathe more normally, to be able to run a more normal pace and maybe even get my legs tired after a run (instead of just my lungs), and to be able to (hopefully!) run with people. It’ll be nice to be able to be active during the day and not be completely exhausted as a result. I’m hoping for good running, plenty of hiking, maybe some biking, possibly some canoeing or kayaking and lots of photography.
There’s still a good amount to plan, and I love seeing everything come together. With that said, we’ll still have a good deal of flexibility with what we do each day… I’m stoked to see another region of Peru. At the end of our week, the plan is to fly back to Lima (90 minutes in a plane sounds better than 20 hours in a bus, no?) and then home!
Time is such a funny thing – right now, two weeks sounds like a long time to wait until traveling and adventures, but if the past two weeks are any indication, the time will surely fly, which is a good thing since the temperatures have dropped even more. There were several mornings we heard the overnight temps dropped to -10 C, around 15 F, no big deal (BRR!)
I think that’s really all I have to report; the countdown to the end has begun, but we definitely have plenty to keep us busy until then! Fingers crossed for no more sickness (food-related or otherwise) and lots of sunshine (cloudy days are rough).
Love from Peru!