September 7th, 2014
August 27th, 2014
|09:04 pm - Tingo Maria|
On the eastern flank of the Andes the cold, bare plains of the altiplano drop suddenly from heights of 5000 mASL down to the flat, steaming heat of the Amazon and the rainforest rises up to meet them.
The little city of Tingo Maria nestles into the slopes at 1000 mASL, an odd combination of jungle and sierra ecology and cultures. There were no original inhabitants here - undisturbed high rainforest is dense and forbidding - so people have come from above and below as the jungle was cleared to make way for plantings of plantain, cacao and coffee.
I went with my co-volunteer Peter for a weekend escape from the Lima winter grey: a much-needed recharge in nature. We spoke to the Director of Tingo Maria National Park when he was in Head Office last week and he organised one of his staff - Eric - to meet us at the airport and take care of us (hooray for perks!).
Eric was a treasure, hooking us up with various volunteers who guide tourists and help to run the facilities in the park. Manuel shuttled us around in his moto-taxi and shared his ready smile and curiosity for the natural world. Andres guided us on a day walk to three waterfalls, including stopping in his tiny village on the edge of the Park. Fredi the Park Ranger made sure we were well-informed about everything and the two Columbian girls made us feel very welcome.
There was swimming in a waterfall pool in the forest; swarms of butterflies; a dozen new bird species; agoutis on the hotel lawns; dramatic caterpillars; blue skies and a very silly night of karaoke with Eric, Andres, Manuel, the Columbianas and Nino, who was the volunteer who got lost on my trip to the sierra above Huancayo (when I suffered from hypothermia) whi is now in Tingo and remembered me.
Tingo Maria: thank you, you were wonderful.
N.B. I've only looked at about 1/4 of the photos so far so there should be more to come. Once I've processed the shots from the trip to Huancaya & Vilca, and the street parades...
Current Location: Lima, Peru
Current Mood: thankful
August 22nd, 2014
|06:48 pm - Falling into place|
Last weekend Housemate and I finally packed up and moved to the Shiny New Apartment she bought a few months ago. The move was delayed while builders came to make some changes and improvements to the place, and as these things tend to go, everything ran late. Last weekend was the latest we could put off the move, so we came anyway despite the builders not being finished and the place being full of plaster dust.
The place is so big and fancy for little old me, more at home in 100 yr old cottages than modern highrises, but it's a good place to be. Far, far quieter than the old neighbourhood and with a much nicer energy to the place Being one block back from the sea also means much cleaner air to breathe, for which my lungs are grateful. I'm sleeping better than I have since I got here, partly due to the quiet and partly due to the new bed Housemate so wonderfully bought for my room. When I finally get settled back in Aus I am chucking out my old mattress and lashing out on a new one like this (but double-bed sized, oh yes!): for years I'd woken up with a stiff back and cricked neck and just put it down to age and joint injuries, but now each day I wake pain free. Yippee!
Now I just need to work out the whole "getting to bed earlier" business and I may actually find out what it's like to be well-rested. This is an old, old habit that's proving very hard to break. I stay up late working on blog entries, editing photos or chatting to friends back home or just generally wasting time online and wind up too tired to focus at work the next day. It's become a serious problem, especially as end-of-project deadlines loom and I find myself making no progress. My horrible internet compulsion doesn't help there either. Two big daemons I want to slay before I head home in December...
Speaking of heading home, my assignment extension has been approved and flights changed (and I have much better flights this time than the original set to boot), so that's all sorted out. I'm glad I've got some extra time up my sleeve to settle in to the new place and do a few more things while I have the opportunities. I'm feeling the most positive I've been about life in Lima and am not yet ready to go home anyway - a big change from the heavy homesickness of a few months ago, but that was strongly influenced by the employment uncertainty and feelings of being out of control. That said, I'm certain being better slept is helping!
Also sorted is my redundancy from Hydro Tas. The payment came through today and all, and added to my already substantial savings means I won't have to worry about earning while I study next year. Still, I'd rather eat through as little of it as possible, and I will still need to buy a car, move furniture, pay bond and all those other lovely things (which means I can't afford to pay the fees upfront, dammit). First of all, though, I need to actually apply for the course I want and sort out enrolments. ASAP!
That's next week's number 1 task. As much as I'd like to get it done this weekend, then spend the rest of my time curled up on the couch with a novel or catching up on my huge backlog of photo editing, I'm going off adventuring again. Just a quick 2-day dash up to Tingo Maria to visit the national park and recharge the batteries in nature. After almost 4 months of grey skies in Lima I am missing greenery, and when fellow-volunteer P had a couple of horrid weeks that were getting him down we hatched this plan to run away to the jungle. We're even staying in a fancy hotel instead of the usual budget hostel, though we're sharing a double room to save money. Here's hoping he doesn't snore...
Now I need to get myself packed for an oh-gods-o'clock start tomorrow (NTS: pack the earplugs) and actually get the early night I so desperately need, especially after blowing off a work-mate's birthday drinks tonight because I'm tired and anti-social. I'll leave you with our little sea view from the upstairs terrace, which will be even nicer once the sliding doors arrive and the temporary plasterboard wall comes down...
Tough life, isn't it?
Current Location: Barranco, Lima, Peru
Current Mood: thankful
August 9th, 2014
|10:52 pm - YES|
Yes to this life, to being me, to doing what I'm doing, to being where I am right now.
To being a connector of people to each other, to nature, to the divine.
To living and loving and laughing and crying and being HERE and NOW.
To this life, and everything I can do with it.
To doing it all with love.
Current Mood: Connected
Current Music: Peter Sculthorpe (RIP) - Irkanda IV
August 5th, 2014
|08:22 pm - Tea cookies – a recipe|
I have so much I should write about that I can’t get out because there’s too much going on to focus down and for long enough. Instead, here’s a recipe that was requested for my tea cookies…
Sunday afternoon, relax with a cup of coffee and catch up on the reading list. Have your attention caught by a blog post quoting Proust about the memory of madeleines dipped in tea and realise you’ve never eaten a madeleine and gods know where you’d find a tin for them in Lima, but sweet, buttery cake and dry, aromatic tea does sound good. Hmm, buttery, earl grey… cookies perhaps? Yes.
Get butter out of fridge to soften and walk down to Very Expensive Tea Shop to buy loose-leaf earl grey. Curse softly because it’s closed & you’ll have to go to the fancy supermarket where the expats shop that will hopefully have earl grey tea bags in stock. Feel a homesick pang for café culture and all that goes with it and realise that you haven’t had a good coffee in nine months and counting. Whimper.
Realise you need cornflour anyway so do the week’s grocery shop while you’re out. Visit the cheap supermarket, then the expensive one to pick up the sole box of earl grey in stock. Phew. Arrive home, put shopping away, realise it’s late and you’re hungry, so make leek & mushroom omelette. Sit down to eat, switch on the computer, hello Internet…
Way past bed time. Clean up kitchen, put butter back in the fridge; bed.
Monday: Get up, coffee,make lunch, eat breakfast, make self presentable: work-lunch-work-traffic-home. Dump bags, collect repairs from the tailors (yes) & backpack from the cleaners (come back tomorrow). Home again, open fridge to contemplate dinner options and spy butter. Remember biscuits. Remove butter from fridge to soften.
Make veggie stir fry. Realise the tomatoes are over-ripe, so chop and throw into baking dish & whack into oven. Reason that since the oven will be warm, cookies should be made. Place butter on stove top to accelerate softening. Eat dinner, talk to housemate. Consider not making cookies as it’s now 9 pm.
Return to kitchen to wash dinner things. Discover butter has softened to the “pooling” stage. Accept that cookies must be made NOW. Scoop up liquefying butter and guestimate the amount scraped into the bowl. Retrieve baking ingredients from over-crowded little cupboard and invent some cookies. Put remaining butter back in fridge.
Wait impatiently for tomatoes to be done so the biscuit tray can fit in the one-shelf oven. Do the dishes.
Toni’s Tea Cookies
- ~7 tbsp unsalted butter
- ½ cup sugar (brown/muscovado/rapidura – you want the caramel notes)
- 3 rounded tsp tea (earl grey for dry&aromatic or chai for sweet&spicy) ground to powder, or 3-4 tea bags
- 1 large free-range egg
- 1½ cups plain flour (if gluten-free, add ¼ tsp xantham gum)
- ¼ cup corn starch
- 1– 1.5 tsp baking powder (Lima humidity = more baking powder)
- Icing sugar (+cinnamon), for dusting
Soften butter then cream together with sugar. Add ground tea (or rip open tea bags and add contents) to mix. Beat in egg until mix is creamy. Sift and fold in flours and powders. Final mix should be a soft paste still shiny from the butter. If the batter sticks to your hands when rolling, add a little more flour and reduce the butter next time. I’m sorry, it’s very hard to measure semi-melted butter accurately.
Roll batter into small balls and flatten onto a lined baking tray, leaving space for spread. Flatter cookies will be crispier, rounder ones will be softer: your choice. Bake at 160oC (crispier) to 180oC (softer) until your nose tells you they’re done (10-15 minutes, just turning golden, tops firm to the touch). Remove from oven, dust with icing sugar (add cinnamon for the chai cookies) and leave to cool.
Current Location: Lima, Peru
Current Mood: drinking the cooking wine
August 2nd, 2014
July 21st, 2014
|12:25 pm - Chrysalis|
If metamorphosis is the physical change from one state of being to another, a change of body form, what word is there for the psychological variant, for a significant change in self-identity? This feeling, this itching on the inside; change in response to environment and circumstance. How many times will I shed my skin?
Darwinian: the organism that best survives is not the fastest or the strongest or the smartest, but the one that adapts best to change (and passes on its genome...). The world is in a great state of flux: an unprecedented era of global stability and prosperity is ending and all the markers are there things will soon look quite different, at least for those of us from countries that have grown fat and recalcitrant.
My world is changing: politics and economics alter my options and opportunities and doors close no matter how much I’d like to keep them open. My industry, my vocation is under ideological attack and the landscape is suddenly very different.
I am changing; consequence of placing myself in a new environment subject to different pressures and stressors. Peru changes me, sometimes in ways I like, sometimes not. I have to be harder here to survive. In the game of ecological response the inputs have changed and thus the organism must adapt within the bounds of its own plasticity.
Adaptation: the realization that I can’t go back anymore, that I need to find a new route home if I’m going to be on the front foot, if I want to ride the wave of change and not be swallowed up by it. Changing self-perceptions, expectations, fiscal realities and displacement: this is the price of choosing to fight, but I believe it will be worth it.
Worth it, yet still difficult, and with so much going on inside I find myself longing for an outer familiarity in which to cocoon myself. In this context Peru feel even more foreign, strange and incomprehensible and I resent the energy I need to expend to live as part of this environment. Meanwhile memory screens evocative scenes in my dreams and I wake with a heart heavy with hiraeth.
Like all things, this too shall pass.
Hiraeth: a homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost places of your past (Welsh).
Sisu: a powerful psychological potential which enables the individual to tap into mental strength beyond their pre-conceived resources, roughly translated as “Strength of will, determination, perseverance and acting rationally in the face of adversity” (Finnish).
Current Mood: thoughtful
July 17th, 2014
|02:29 pm - Nostalgia|
July 16th, 2014
|11:13 am - Another day in the office|
So... I just had to translate a letter sent to the President of Peru by a concerned UK woman, imploring him to "comply with international law" and stop the expansion of a huge gas project into the territory of indigenous communities living in voluntary isolation. Except she called them un-contacted Indians. Oh, and she knows all about the problems Peru faces because she spent 4 weeks volunteering with social and reforestation projects in Manu National Park last year. She even enclosed a photo of the beautiful forests, just in case the President needed a visual call-to-arms to motivate him protect the part of the Amazon she happened to pass through.
Camisea is a huge project, and the Peruvian government is squeezed between environmental and social justice activists, the Inter-American Development Bank, internal political and economic pressures and inadequate resources for enforcing compliance with domestic legislation to protect the environment and indigenous communities (here's a summary of the conflict, and here's a detailed review). The President is also barely hanging onto power and is currently dependent on the backing of the mining and petro-chemical industries, to the extent that Congress has been weakening environmental protections to appease the multinationals, citing "stimulation of investment".
You want to save the Amazon? Hold multinationals to account. Campain to your own government to impose meaningful regulations on the timber, mining and petro-chemical industries. Write to the IADB, the World Bank and other development investment programs to demand socially and environmentally responsible investment, with real penalties for non-conformance once project are funded. Support the NGOs and activist groups that specialise in drawing international attention to socio-environmental conflicts and holding governments to account. Raise awareness in your own communities and increase the number of voices heard.
Perhaps most practical and powerful of all, reduce your consumption of energy and all manufactured goods, because projects like this are only profitable because of the high demand for energy. Because if it's not the Camisea project in the Peruvian Amazon it's large-scale hydro in Brazil or Malaysia, displacing indigenous people and drowning primary forest; it's open-cut coal mining damaging Australia's Great Barrier Reef and contributing to greenhouse gas levels; it's massive oil-sands extraction in Canada; it's another Deepwater Horizon or other such project with all the inherent risks and impacts.
The issues involved in protecting the Peruvian Amazon and places like it are a gordian knot of confliciting pressures and stakeholders in which there are no simple solutions and very few actual bad guys. After 8 months working here in the management of protected areas and a personal visit to the Amazon I'm only just beginning to understand the multiple factors involved and the complicated politics of sustainable development.
Good on this woman for taking the first step towards caring. It's a start, and more people need to start somewhere. Now let's move beyond the huge naïvety and cultural arrogance of her letter and focus on how to actually influence meaningful change, because a hand-written note to the President with a pretty photo, in which you claim that after 4 weeks in one part of this country you know and understand so much, isn't actually doing anyone any favours, and I had to apologise when I handed over the translation.
Both of these are the Peruvian Amazon. Both are providing food, shelter and livelihoods to Peruvians, indigenous to the area and otherwise. Both face serious social and environmental challenges. they do not exist in isolation from each other, or from the wider world and global economy. This shit ain't easy!
Current Mood: cranky
July 15th, 2014
|03:15 pm - Living in the details|