So ... yeah, I'm not even going to come close to even writing about all of the important things that have happened while I've been here. And it's hardly been a week - wow. I feel as if I've been away for a month.
In terms of organizing this blog, I'm a little torn. Do I chronicle my travels or high highlights. If I hit highlights, what's a highlight? Do I talk more about the positives or the negatives? Do ya'll even care so long as I post something? I haven't been taking the pictures for a photoblog - I highly prefer to live experiences and borrow the pictures other people take.
So, the traveling was just traveling. I didn't get to explore Lima like I wanted to because Andrew, one of the leaders didn't want to give me the opportunity to get lost and I decided not to push it. The Living Routes (livingroutes.org) program is happening at the Sachamama Center (website coming?) in Lamas, Peru. Near Tampoco, which is easier to find on a map. It's not an ecovillage (I'm a little bummed) and is the project of Frederique, or professor, who is an anthropologist of India who came to Peru and "went native." She's founded this center to work with the native population and has developed a strong spiritual relationship with Ayahuasca, one of the psychedelics used in Amazonian Shamanism. Unfortunately, our other professor had all her bags stolen on the way to the airport while in the states and, for lack of a passport, was unable to come.
We had the chance to meet with a group of University students our age from the local native Kechwa-Lamistas. They danced some for us, but the main show was the elders who came with them to play the music for the dance. Wow! These two men had small drums they hit with a stick which had a string on the other side to vibrate and played flutes with three holes at the end of the flute. It was amazing how well they played! They were very simple instruments, by my standards, but were also amazingly complex in their use and in the music we played. After a bit the USA students got to dance with the indigenous students and we all had a good time. Below is a picture of me engaged in a wrestling style we got taught. The idea was to knock your opponent over. Naturally, I lost, but it was a fun experience and I was amazed at how easily the guy I wrestled and I bonded after our bout. Must be something cross cultural about friendly competition forging personal bonds.
We toured the Takiwasi Center (http://www.takiwasi.com/ - in Spanish), which a French psychotherapist founded to treat drug addiction with a combination of Ayahuasca use, community living, and psychotherapy. It was an interesting tour, and they claim an impressive success rate for addicts who complete their nine month program. Additionally, it seems that they have been recognized by the Peruvian government for successfully treating addicts with traditional medicine.
While we were there we also had the opportunity to meet with the indigenous activist Santiago Manuin. (If you follow the news you might remember that he was shot at the massacre of protesting indigenous people in Bagua, Peru in June.) He gave the students a talk about the history and cosmovision of his peple, the Awajun, who live north of here. Two days later, he came to the Sachamama Center to meet, for the first time, with the leaders of the local indigenous organization, CEPKA (no website). We were fortunate enough to be allowed to be present at the meeting, and Manuin told his version of the story of the events leading up to the unfortunate events of June 5th. He gave the local leaders some advice on their struggle against the government giving, in concessions, most of their land. (On a side note, this land has been given to a biodiesel company which clear cut it and planted palm trees.)
The day between Takiwasi and the meeting at Sachamama we had a free day and most of the group decided to to to a nearby waterfall. It was amazing. What was even more amazing was that, for his own reasons, the guide ended up inviting me and another student, Claire, to to further up the river and see a second fall! It was a grueling hike up the river on rocks following a path that I could only occasionally make out even when looking back and where we'd come from. It was amazing to me how much the jungle changed once we got away from the tourist area. It was so much more lush and alive and vibrant! The second waterfall was even more beautiful than the first, and I loved the hike, partly because I was able to learn a lot about moving through this part of the jungle by watching how the guide navigated. I came back sore and tired and very happy.
My spanish is improving by leaps and bounds. I'm still very limited by my vocabulary, but my grammar and conjugations are strong. I much more often get hung up because I don't know the words that someone is using than hung up because I said some form of gibberish.
Anyhow - I need to pack for the three day trip to Urkupata. We're working on a project to try to recreate the highly fertile anthropogenic soil found in parts of the Amazon. The indigenous technique for it has been lost, but the cultivation of soil microorganisms for enrichment has been done by agriculturists in Japan, and there are some people here working on a similar project. This is very exciting because, if the local community can manage to develop this soil it could mean that they could practice permanent agriculture instead of the roving slash and burn which has been ongoing in the region for hundreds of years.