Life is a bit different now since I wrote the last post about what it was like living in Sucusari. I have had my house completed for about two weeks, and in a few days I will have been here in Peru for two months. I still wake up every day with the sun, but now instead of the chickens waking me up it’s the Orapendula birds that live in a huge tree next to my house. Orapendula are mimics, like a mockingbird or a parrot, and the males sing all day long with the songs of hundreds of other birds (while the females work). Usually, while I am drinking my morning coffee or prepping breakfast, I start to have visitors. Felipe (Tio) visits me almost every morning on his walk by my house to rest and chat. Visitors build off of each other, with people rolling in just to see what everyone else is doing and chatting about. I prepare food myself now using a propane stove that I bought in Mazan a few weeks ago, although Marina still brings me food because she thinks I am going to starve.
Now that I have one location and everyone comes over all the time to chat, I have made much better relationships with everyone in the community. People stop by to bring gifts or tell me that they have items that they’re selling if I am interested. Yesterday I was gifted three large fish for my breakfast, and I bought two super sweet pineapples and a half a kilogram of majaz (paca meat) for my breakfast. Usually when people have something like yummy meat to sell, they offer it to their neighbors and family first and it’s long gone by the time anyone else hears that someone had meat. It makes me feel good that I have joined the neighbor list for this side of the community and people stop by my house just like the rest. When it first started I thought it may be because they knew I had money to buy things – but meat especially is always in demand, and they offer me more than fair prices. My ½ kilo of majaz was 4 soles. In Mazan majaz is sold for 12 soles per kg or more. My pineapples were 2 soles each, which go for 8 soles in Iquitos.
My diet has also changed a little bit now that I am on my own. Meat can be hard to come by at times because people aren’t hunting or fishing. I may go three or four days without finding any meat to buy, then suddenly have loads for 3 or 4 days. I am definitely loaded up right now, but when my bag of smoked tapir meat runs out I’ll be on a dry spell yet again. That can make cooking a bit difficult, and sometimes it’s even difficult to get enough calories and energy without any meat at all. That’s usually when I start eating a lot of eggs. Jairo told me he’s going to go fishing in a few days though, so I’m excited for that. I get clean drinking water from a water filter in the center of the village that I also use for cooking. I still do my dishes with water from the river, but I have yet to get sick from that so I think I am doing pretty well.
My mid-mornings are usually spent cleaning or doing chores or just hanging out playing my mandolin in my hammock. Not much work can be done (besides data) because most of the community members are busy working in their chacras or whatever their business is for the day. After lunch I am usually starting to prepare for some afternoon interviews and chatting with people, asking who’s around that I need to interview. Everyone seems to know where everyone else is at any given time, it’s crazy. Then the interviews begin for several hours, followed by data. By 4:30pm or so my work is wrapping up and it’s time for either more hanging out or the evening soccer game on the big field. Yesterday was a hangout day, and Ellie and I went to Ulderico’s house because we heard he had made masato that aged for 8 DAYS. If you read my previous post, masato normally ferments for three days. We figured 8 days would be nuts, so we kind of invited ourselves over. The masato didn’t disappoint, and after three bowls, two hours of chatting, and a lot of laughs, I was pretty tipsy heading back home.
When there isn’t any evening masato, it’s time for soccer. The soccer games are always played for cash – to play you have to put in at least 2 soles. If you win you double your money; if you lose, you’re out of luck. But we always play two games, or more if there’s enough time before it gets too dark. I know gambling is unhealthy, but I am proud to say that at this moment I am 16 soles ahead.
After the soccer games, my visitors return in force. On average there’s at least 5 kids in my house running around and at least 5 adults sitting around in hammocks chatting and laughing, watching the sun go down over the river. Sometimes, I am trying to make dinner and there’s so many people here I can barely walk from my kitchen to my food closet. I have come to embrace this every day because not only does my Spanish keep improving dramatically when I am forced to chat, but I make more and more relationships. Relationships are the key to my work (and I enjoy having friends obviously). I almost always end up unable to cook food until it is well and dark outside and I retire to my hammock feeling like I spent all day in Spanish school, but being busy helps keep away the FOMO I get from thinking about friends back home.
On other notes, Pato is alive and well and he is the rage of the community. Everyone walking by or visiting asks about him every day, and he loves the attention. He’s a chatterbox and he refuses to be put down by himself, he’s back climbing on your toes in two seconds. He’s grown a lot more feathers now so he actually looks like a bird instead of a plucked chicken. I also mysteriously gained more “pets” the other day. I was cooking breakfast and turned around, and there was a large tree trunk tied to one of my porch posts. This particular trunk is filled with a hive of black stingless bees. Jairo (with support from Ellie and the bee people apparently) has decided to gift me one of his large hives to take care of and take honey from. He was pretty excited and came over later to teach me more about them and ask me if I liked it. I never really thought I would be a beekeeper, but here I am with a thousand bees sitting in my house. I also went into the forest and harvested some vines and bromeliads that I have planted around my house on the porch posts, hoping they will grow. One vine is dying after ten days, but the bromeliads are doing super well – I am going to go get some more. It’s going to look like a jungle house soon, and I hope they flower! I think my next nature hobby will be collecting cool insects and mounting them, if I can find some Styrofoam. There is a student here from Spain studying the bees and she said she would leave me her insect nets and mounting needles if I wanted. I want to make a butterfly and dragonfly collection at the least, and have always needed an easy way to grab the AWESOME giant stick insects. I need to bring back an insect ID guide as well.
At this point, I am still going to lodge around twice per week – once to take care of any business I need to with Explorama and once to work through bit data sets that I could use external power for. Send me a message, I miss my pals! The 6th of September was Mama G’s 60th birthday if you didn’t know, so I headed back to wifi to chat. I have a feeling I missed a sweet party or something so I am bummed about that, but shoutout to Mama G for crushing it for 60 years. I’m going to bring her a sweet gift from Sucusari when I head back home to visit towards the end of November. The 7th of September was actually Marina’s birthday, and Ellie and I went in 50/50 for a new propane stove for her that Explorama brought from Mazan for us. I made her favorite dinner – smoked chicken guizo with plantains and rice, and we presented her gift. She cried and told us she never expected to make such good friends from students that Mike (my advisor) sent down here to work. Marina has gringo pals, I gotta make fun of her now. Here's some photos of my friends Felipe, Jairo, and Marina.