Thank You, Phoebe Kay

It’s 4 AM.  I can’t sleep.  My mind keeps going back to how things started for me in Peru.

So, my friends, allow me to ramble.  Those of you who know me well, know this story.  But, for the causal reader let me tell you how this all started.

My seventh or eighth grade social studies teacher, Phoebe Kay Rodgers gets all the credit.  She brought every place she taught about so alive I made a list in my early teens of places I wanted to see.  That was way before the term bucket list came along so I had my List of 50 Places to Go Before I Die.

Visit the ruins of Machu Picchu was near the top.  So when I found a trip that knocked two spots off (Machu Picchu and The Galapagos) I jumped at it even though it began with three days in the Amazon.  The Amazon was not on my list.  Poverty.  Bugs.  Snakes.  Mud. No thank you.

In 2002 I made my first trip.  My heart and my life was changed from the moment I stepped off the boat to visit a tiny village called Jorge Chavez.  I had run across a program called Adopt A School which had been started by an American teacher who had gone to Peru to work in a rather primitive lodge, met a man, fell in love and married.  She was so moved by the children of this region who had very little chance at an education that she and a few of her close friends stepped up to put their money where there mouths were, so to speak, and started Adopt A School.

This program helps by providing students and teachers with some basic educational materials.  Things we Americans take so for granted, like paper, and pencils and markers and glue.

Peru became my passion, some say my obsession.  I am now preparing for my 22nd trip.  I have a far reaching support network of friends who donate money, supplies for trading  bibles and prayer.

They travel with me.  Thank you Wanda, Darlene, Bev, Jonie, Bob, Charlie, Tabitha and so many more people whom I have cajoled, prodded, bribed or threatened into making the trip.  Peru Crew 13 is making preparations as we speak.

Jean and her sorority sisters have supported a school since the beginning.  Darlene bargain shops for me.  Mike and Vicki are even looking at property there!

I can’t begin to thank every one who has helped.  There are virtually hundreds of you.  If I have spoken at your church or club.  Thank you.

If you purchased something from me at the fair or Old Home Days.  Thank you.

If you are a prayer warrior.  Thank you.

If you have shopped for me.  Thank you.

If you have sacrificed to make the trip with me.  Thank you.

If you just let me tell you stories and don’t roll your eyes when I ask you to come with me to Peru.  Thank you.

Lives are being changed on both continents.  Friendships have been made that will last a lifetime.

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Thoughts of the MIscelleneous Variety

Thought of the Miscellaneous Variety
I have such mixed feelings on the last day.
I will miss the people here so much. I have hugged every worker who couldn’t run away fast enough. And promised to return in June because I am committed for that trip. I have taken requests for hats, backpacks and bibles.

I have loved and been loved on by the village women and children. I have had my hand held and my cheek kissed. I have had my hair smoothed and my heart broken.

I have taken Immodium.

I have given away my backpack but am coming home with some exquisite art work.

I have met and talked to tourists from all over the world. I passed out Adopt A School brochures.

I have marveled at the resiliency of the group. They have been nearly drowned by torrential downpours, bit by nearly every insect known to exist in this part of the world, treated bug bites in private places, slept under mosquito nets, used an outhouse, taken cold showers, shared their rooms with geckos, spiders and bats, sloshed through mud and sludge with not one single word of complaint. (Well maybe the bugs brought one or two negative comments but no complaints!)

We have laughed and cried and prayed together and formed a special bond. We have spent the last two nights in positive luxury; electricity at the flip of a switch, HOT showers and for most air conditioning. When I hit these icy cold rooms the first thing I do is turn off the air and open the windows!

But, we are all getting tired. We miss our families. The girls are going to eat burgers on their return. Meghann will pet her rabbit and hug her sister. Libby will hug her goats. Vicki is going to eat bacon and cheese. (But, she is looking for property here.) Darlene misses her husband and I expect they won’t be apart again for a while. (But she is already shopping for her next trip.) Dr. Sue left part of her heart here, but she misses her family as well. Laurie and her husband have used Facetime when ever the connection has been good enough, but it’s not the same as being home. She is going to kiss her husband and bake everything she can, beginning with chocolate chip cookies.

I miss my husband…and pizza…and ice cream…and my bathtub.

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New San Juan

New San Juan
Nuevo San Juan del Amazonas to be more precise. This was my first visit to this village. I asked Sintia for a suggestion for a smallish village that would like a visit since we had one day that was not taken. She suggested this one. They have a particularly resilient spirit.

Two years ago their school was not just damage it was washed away. But, the village saw the water rising and stripped the school of the tin roof, everything on the walls, and everything else they could salvage. They found an abandoned concrete slab far back in the jungle and left things there.

Weeks later when a team from Conapac was able to visit they found the school gone, but the teacher, Bernado, had set his home up as the school and was teaching all the kids from his living room. They have since constructed a wooden school, but the government has not yet replaced the one of cement.

It was about a twenty minute walk from the river’s edge to the new school. It had poured buckets all day the day before and the beautiful path they had made for us had sections of quagmire. The man who had chosen to be my guide took my hand and helped me along. The only problem was that he just walked at his normal pace, which for me is a dead out run!

I did my utmost to keep up and finally arrived at the school out of breath and red faced. My heart was thumping like a jackhammer! I managed to climb the steps which had no handrail, and tended to be very steep and fell into one of the chairs.

It was several minutes later that I finally was able to take in my surroundings. I was very pleased with what I saw. The teacher had placed drawings and signs all around the room. And the books!! The walls were lined with books! AND the children were reading them during the speeches! I saw Good Night Gorilla, The Very Busy Spider and Make Way for Ducklings that I recognized. I took the Very Busy Spider and soon had the kids reading it to me lickety split. I could hardly keep up with them.

We gave out the few gifts we had brought since the bread they were expecting never arrived and poured the pop. This village does not have a church, but the spiritual leader talked to the people before he passed out the bibles and told them not to just put it on the shelf and read it once a month or once a week, but read it every day and put the words in their hearts.

One man, who had been imbibing rather freely before we got there came to Vicki and enveloped her in a hug. He told Armando that since we had given him a bible he believed that he could stop drinking. Whether or not he can follow through with his new resolution is neither here nor there. He now has a bible to use during his dark times.

The same man who helped me in, helped me out. We made the trek in record time. Just sayin’.

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Jorge Chavez

Jorge Chavez
The teacher was not there today. It’s Sunday, after all. But, the children were waiting for us with all their signs. My favorite said, “Their Your Sons too, PACHITA.” Then each boy signed it. It was held by two boys about six years old. They were so doggone cute!

Instead of sitting in the sweltering heat of the schoolroom we had the program in the gazebo. We were able to catch a stray breeze now and then. The youngest children came out and sang a song in English! “Hello. Hello. How are you?”
More cuteness.

The river is so low now we had to walk across a very large sand bar through a rice field that is almost ready to harvest.

Unfortunately, there had. Even an error in communication and they thought they were getting a Chocolatada. It just so happened that there is a man who nasa tiny portable stand and sells packets so Candy and cookies and what not. For four soles (about $1.25) we could buy eight packs of cookies! We bought out his entire stock! He certainly had a good day. Everybody got something, even the guys in the band who had already been hitting the bottle, as it were.

Before we realized it the morning had flown and it was time for us to leave. However, I am to understand that any time I care to come back there will be a house waiting for me!

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Saturday Night in the Jungle

Saturday Night in the Jungle
Oh, how I love the jungle noises at night. I crawl in under my mosquito netting and lean back and breathe deeply of the cool night air. I listen to the night sounds as my eyes adjust to the darkness. You hear crickets and monkeys and night birds. There is even the occasional flutter of bat wings whirring by. But, Saturday night here at the Lodge is a little different.

Palmaras, the village across the stream, has a generator. Saturday night is apparently party night. They have gigantic speakers hooked up to the sound system. It sounded like the band had settled at the foot of my bed. Sound really carries in the jungle.

I’m a little groggy this morning, but I suppose those who know me would say that is nothing strange.

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Palmaras II

Palmaras II
This village is just across the river from the Lodge. I haven’t been there in five or six years. It is absolutely amazing to see the difference that time has brought. They have at least two blocks of concrete sidewalk, three or four stores and TWO churches!

A majority of the people are members of the Yagua group. They had a wonderful program, music and dancing and speeches, of course. Other tourist groups who were visiting the village heard the party and joined us.

When the festivities were over we went into the school building and gave out the bibles and teaching materials we had brought to the pastors. Soon, all the children, who were afraid they were going to miss something, raced inside. We hadn’t planned on giving individual gifts to the children since this is such a large village. But, everyone dived into their backpacks and came out with an assortment of dolls, toys, necklaces, crosses balloons and what not.

In 2003 when I first visited Palmaras, if a child got two items, they always returned the second because they knew a mistake had been made. This year they crowded around the girls, I had to intervene to keep the girls from being trampled. That is one change I do NOT like. I wish I knew how I could change it.

I stopped going to this village for a long time when I asked a man if I could take his picture and he asked for a tee shirt!! I have only Been back a couple of times since. I do love these people, though. Most of them are wonderful. It’s like everywhere else, a few spoil things for the rest.

We did some shopping in a couple of the little bodegas on our way home and picked up a few things. That’s our way of keeping the local economy afloat!

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Juancho Playa

Juancho Playa
We took two open boats in a light sprinkle to Juancho Playa. What a wonderful 20 minutes! The wind blowing your hair and clothes, whiz zing by family canoes loaded w ith people and produce on the way to market, children bathing in the river, fishermen with their nets ready for the first catch of the morning, and, of course, the ever changing river-wide here-narrow there, beaches and birds,
Before long we turned into a tiny canal, my favorite part. There was a family on the shore starting their daily chores. Their two dogs raced up and down along the bank barking, doing a Peruvian rendition of chasing cars.
We got to the village to discover that many of the residents had gone off to participate in some government program. That was a disappointment. But, we played a couple of games with the kids and went on a walking tour of the village.

We stopped at a house where a woman was hanging out laundry and talked with her a bit. She invited us in. The eight of us traipsed up her stairs and into the empty living room of her house. Only four people live there and it was quite large with a separate kitchen and bed rooms.

We walked to the school where the missing families had suddenly appeared! There was the usual round of speeches from the officials and a few numbers from the kids. Then the hot chocolate and Panetone and bread arrived. (All of the ingredients had been sent the day before so the cocoa could be made. It takes hours for the huge cauldron of water to boil and the ingredients mixed.)Trays of cups were brought in and the bread was sliced and buttered. School desks were all handed over the wall in the room where they had been stored and laid out in two rows. The kids all came with their chairs and sat.

Then five mothers dipped and poured and sliced and passed out gallons of hot chocolate and mounds of bread. The children all waited until everyone was served, a prayer of thanks was said and they dug in.

After the kids ate the adults were served. They had to wait because all the cups in the village were being used by the kids.

An invitation to return was issued, hugs exchanged and we maneuvered our way down the slope and fell into the waiting boats for the return trip camp. To quote a line from Shakespeare, parting is such sweet sorrow.

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