Saturday, March 20, 2010

San Francisco!

Hey, wow, its been about three weeks since my last post. I´ve got lots to put up here for that time but not enough internet time to type it all up. I´m currently living and working with a guy named Benny Loy. His long term goal, soon to begin, is to form an NGO to reforest a large tract of rainforest that he bought three years ago here in San Francisco, Peru. This will fill two vital roles in healing this area. It will help restore the ecosystem to its pre-logging and rubber vitality, and will provide much needed employment for the local natives, whos way of life has been disrupted in tandem with the forests and lakes.

In my spare time, I´m helping out a bit with another project, San Fracisco Saludable. They run a basic but very clever waste management system here. There are trash recepticles on nearly every block which are gathered every week day. The bags are split into organic, recyclable and inservicable, which greatly reduces the work required to properly dispose of them. The organic waste is composted and used in a garden. At the moment there´s no way of recycling anything, because there are no facilities close enough, so the recyclables are stored until further notice, while the rest is burned or burried.

They also helped set up a garden at the local primary school, to help the kids learn about gardening and medicinal plants. Most of my involvement is just helping around both of the gardens, though my ability to use a computer has come in handy as well.

SFS could always use more volunteers, and they have a few rooms complete with loving family that people can stay in. So if you feel like a jungle vacation/learning/loving experience, just hit them up and say you know me. They also love donations, which will mostly go towards buying supplies and paying the salaries of the locals it employs.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


The public transportation system in peru is amazing. Every major city is connected by several bus lines, even the cheapest of which is nicer than anything greyhound has to offer. Any shorter route that gets a lot of traffic, such as between nearby towns or to and from the beac,h has van buses called cumbes, which can hold 20 people or more, running back and forth. In larger cities little taxis are everwhere and form about 60% of the traffic just like almost everywhere in the world. What piques my interest though is that in the smaller towns and cities mototaxis, which resemble motorcycle rickshaws, fill this role. They´ll usually take you anywhere in city limits for 1 to 2 soles - the equivalent of 30 to 60 cents. This is one of the greatest things about public transportation here - not only is it effective, its cheap.

Gasoline is roughly the same price here as in the states, although relative to the cost of lving here its quite a bit more expensive. Peru has one of the worlds largest reserves of natural gas, and in recent years there has been a push to implement that as the fuel of choice for personal and commercial vehicles.

In Guadalupe the motorcycle is by far the most common form of transportation, not only of people but of small amounts of goods as well. It has pretty much exactly replaced donkeys as a basic workhorse. Guadalupe being a fairly rural area, after motorcycles, pickup trucks and flatbeds are some of the most common vehicles, and are frequently used as mass people carriers.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Just ate some Peruvian pizza. It was comparatively expensive, but fairly interesting. It was just barely higher quality than cheap frozen pizza, but it was flavored like barbeque sauce or masala. Generally, the food here is really great. There are a lot of animal parts that are much more commonly used here than in the states, at least from what I´ve been exposed to, which sometimes makes for meals which are a little too interesting. And it would be pretty difficult to be vegetarian here. You´d be pretty much restricted to rice, beans, corn and pototo like foods. In the andes there is a much greater variety of grains and other plants, but on the northern coastal plains where Guadalupe is its predominantly rice and meat. That being said its some of the freshest rice and meat I´ve eaten. The rice is all grown in fields immediately outside of town and I´ve eaten for dinner the chicken that woke me up in the morning.

Peru´s abundance of microclimates means that just about everything is in season somewhere, especially fruits, which they have a huge variety of.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Future Plans

This week has been pretty crazy. Between trying to figure out what I´ll do in the next couple weeks, what the best way to go about completing my project here is and three days of rain this weekend has been pretty hectic.

For the moment, the plan is to go up to Cajamarca this weekend for carnival festivities. After a few days back in Guadalupe, I´ll head over to a little village named San Francisco just down river from Pucallpa. The SF plans are still up in the air, because although I´ll have work, its unknown what sort it will be and who it will be benefitting.

San Francisco is still predominantly native and has never been colonized, but they do have cell phones and internet.

I've now decided that introducing compost toileting to the family and the community would be the best way to fulfill my wish to give a little something back that would make the community a bit more sustainable. Currently the sewage is all going into underground pits which are leaching into the nearby lagoon. Everyone bathes in the lagoon and uses the water for many things in the household. There are also re-occurring vaginal infections in the women who bathe in the lagoon here.

There is a wide spectrum of complexity and scale for compost toilets. The ones that I think would be most appropriate at first are the most simple - two 5 gallon buckets and a toilet seat. The transition should be pretty easy, the toilet they have now is a little smelly, they already carry water into it to flush it, and it just goes into a big hole in the ground anyway.

The main logistical issue I forsee is obtaining enough organic material to use as cover. The local soil has a fair amount of organic material but its mostly clay which I fear may block oxygen too much. The other option is importing rice hulls or other dry organic waste from nearby farms. Another issue may be where to put the compost when the buckets are full. Then theres always the task of convincing people that shitting in a bucket really is a good idea.

Monday, February 1, 2010

This post will be less words and more pictures because the truck back to the beach is leaving earlier today than usual. Friday there was a birthday party for one of the women at the beach, piƱata and all. They played music from someones truck and danced all afternoon. Seeing the old people dance better and longer than I could ever dream of was a really beautiful thing.

With my appetite for dancing whetted, I headed to the discoteca in town saturday night. Amazing music and reasonably priced beer means the dancing goes all night. The disco provides a safe place for people to court each other and be more open physically than they normally would in public. It happens only on saturday night in Guadalupe and the release of a weeks worth of tension lends itself to a very outgoing atmosphere.

Among the many things that I´ve been losing on this trip is the memory card for the first camera, so there are less pictures than there should be. Most of these were taken from the back of a truck between La Barranca and Guadalupe.

Ever wonder where plastic bags come from? They grow on bushes here in Peru.

Garbage print camouflage.

Here you can see some of the ruins, with the verdant rice fields and beach down below.

You can see some of the ancient wall here. Not sure if its Incan or pre. The walls are still made in nearly the same way in La Barranca and much of Guadalupe.

Leaving La Barranca by truck, with a view of the lagoon and the beach.

One by one the houses are being refurbished and cleaned up as more and more families are moving in for February.

The house of the Ramirez family where I'm staying in La Barranca. You can see the cross on the hill in the background to the right.

The cross on the hill above La Barranca, marking some graves. The birds love to hang out on the updraft of the ocean breeze coming up the hillside.

Seahorse up on the hill. It was probably put there by someone but it still adds to the feeling that the coastal desert was once the sea floor.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

La Barranca is located just north of a river that comes down from the Cajamarca area. On the other side of the river mouth, about a 5 minute walk along the beach, is another little town called La Boca del Rio. It's smaller, more serene and a little nicer than La Barranca and is in the process of having a hotel-club-restaurant complex built in it. The buildings are up and functioning and the road is under construction. Next they will bring power lines to the town.

I went to La Boca del Rio with Roger, a peruvian who has been living in New Jersey working in real estate. He's planning on building a similar club-hotel-restaurant complex in one of the towns in the area. He was very impressed with what was happening at La Boca, and even more impressed with how cheap the land was; only 3 soles/sq. meter which is something like 30 cents/sq. foot. It's not surprising that people are developing land that is so beautiful and so inexpensive to buy. So far it doesn't seem to be hurting the small but successful fishing economy in the area.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Here are some pictures of Guadalupe. I just got a new camera so none of La Barranca till next week.

The view from the roof. You can see the roofs of the market stalls.

and the other way...

The internet cafe I'm in right now.

This week the community at La Barranca continued to grow and develop little by little. More families are showing up and another little tienda opened. People have begun painting their houses and putting up shades and there are even some trash cans on the beach.

The beauty of this little town and what sets it apart from just another beach party is that it is a tight-knit and very open community. There is nothing but friendliness here.

There's a distinct difference between the way people drink here and in the states. When a group of people drink together they open one extra big bottle of people for the group at a time. The first person pours some into a little glass, then passes the bottle to the next person. They drink their portion, fast or slow as they want, then when they're done, the pour out the foam and last un-drunk drops of beer and pass to the next person, who then repeats the same process. Depending on the group, it is sometimes necessary to toast when taking a drink, or for men to pour a drink for women.

Besides any intentional or symbolic meanings that this has, it serves the function of ensuring that everyone in the group has more or less consumed the same amount. On a more subjective level, drinking from the same cup and from the same bottle also serves to reinforce unity and a sense family within the group. This may be a small cultural detail, but for me it encapsulates a lot of the spirit of the culture here.