BRING a HAMMOCK!! Its a necessity in a place like this.
I should start this section by telling you WHY we took this trip. Our group is called Engineers Without Borders (EWB). We are the University of Alabama chapter of this international organization. We use engineering projects to promote sustainable solutions to problems in less developed countries. EWB projects range from providing computers for schools, helping to make drinking water safe, and helping to improve sanitation. One of our biggest requirements of any project we do is Community involvement. This trip was an assessment trip. We wanted to meet the villagers, talk with them about their concerns, and assess the water and sanitation situation.
Getting them involved is crucial to the success of any project.
Is this where the expression "Piggy back" came from?
Now that I’ve given you the canned speech I can talk about my personal take on these amazing villages.
Nothing could have prepared me for the kind of welcome we received. Everywhere we went, we were followed by children. They had no concerns that we looked different, did strange things, and couldn’t even talk to them. We played soccer and volleyball with them, blew bubbles, painted their fingernails, and let them braid our hair (the girls of course.
The Amazon is surrounded by lagoons. These canoes (dug-out of tree trunks) are the best way to get around.
I got the opportunity to ride in one of the dug-out canoes through the lagoons and take it all in. I was in a small canoe with three grown men and myself. We were sitting so deep in the water that the slightest movement cause water to spill into the canoe. Imagine this for a moment: the three men are all avid bird-watchers. One of them is a biologist who has even discovered several new species. Since Peru is home to the most endemic bird species (can't be found anywhere else in the world), these men were in paradise. Every few minutes something tips them off (I'm not a bird-watcher so I don't know what) they all scramble for their binoculars and sound recording equipment (I kid you not). Everytime this happens water is spilling into the canoe at an alarming rate.
As I seem to be the only one who cares about this, I'm trying desperately to re-balance us. Lost in the world of bird-watching, they are unaware of our precarious situation. After a while though, I loosen up a bit, stop worrying, and start enjoying the beauty around me. The lagoons are an endless labyrinth (luckily we are with a native Peruvian, who only gets lost a few times). They are a secret sort of place though, I felt almost like an intruder for some reason.
The best bananas ive EVER eaten.
Another memorable part of the villages was swimming in the river. We were a litte nervous at first. I mean, aren't they're piranah's and stuff? Won't the water make us sick? About 10 minutes in the sweltering heat was enough to change our minds to "well we'll just keep our mouths closed when we jump in" and we were told that since piranahs are scavengers, they wouldn't bother us.
Between swimming, canoe riding, and getting our butts kicked in soccer, we did a little work as well. We found that the villagers in Chino are drinking dirty water, and have serious sanitation problems. We've been working to come up with sustainable solutions, that are appropriate to the area. They are very smart people, and are capable of doing so much with so few resources. Helping these people develop a way to have clean drinking water, and manage their waste, is the reason I became an Environmental Engineer!