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Epílogo

30 Oct


I’ve been back in the U.S. for a few months now, time enough to re-acclimatize to the pleasures of being home yet not so long that nostalgia hasn’t already set in for many parts of my time abroad.  I recall realizing upon arrival that the jungle was a terrible place to be bug-phobic — those first nights I stared at things crawling on the walls and started every time something buzzed by me.  Yet only a month or so later, a huge spider dropped onto my head as I sleepily brushed my teeth one morning, and I simply brushed it away and carried on — realizing then that I had “made it”.  Similarly, I remember not being able to sleep in the stifling, humid nights without a fan on blast, and being unable to go jogging without being chased by street dogs — but I overcame those problems too.  By the time I left, Tarapoto was a real home to me, and I knew I would miss it and the people there.

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Festival de San Juan

25 Jun

Estaba lloviendo cerveza en un concierto en Moyobamba para celebrar el festival San Juan

“Va a ser full juerga,” me prometió mi amiga Pilar cuando me invitó a asistir el festival de San Juan en Moyobamba.  Es un feriado para celebrar San Juan el Bautista, y acá en la selva la gente come “juanes” — el plato típico que es un símbolo de la cabeza decapitada de San Juan. Estuve el fin de semana pasado con Pilé y mi amiga americana Rachelle.  Disfrutamos tres días divertidos lleno de comida, cervezas, y música.

Con el hacha para tumbar la umsha

Llegamos viernes en la noche y fuimos directamente a una fiesta de cumpleaños en la casa del hermano de Pilar.  Después fuimos a la discoteca Boulevard 110 (que hace poco se llamaba “Kovashi”) donde nos quedamos hasta las 3 en la mañana.

Casi al final, la música cambió de cumbia y reggaetón a algo nuevo, y me vi bailando algo como la conga alrededor de un poste y tenia un hacha en mi mano.  En ese momento no supe el significado pero lo descubrí el siguiente día.  Esa noche no dormimos más de 3 horas porque nos levantamos tempranito en sábado para ir al centro y armar nuestra umsha.

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Selva Soundtrack

3 Jun

Rock stars: us with the lead singer and guitarist of Tarapoto’s Sonido 2000

Wedding Crashers

A few weeks ago, on a weekend trip to the nearby lakeside town of Sauce with fellow Technoserve consultants Sarah, Rachelle, and Gaby, we had what passes for here as a major celebrity encounter. Waiting for the same ferry as us to cross the Rio Huallaga was the tour mini-bus of Sonido 2000, Tarapoto’s homegrown most popular band, whose modern style of cumbia is played throughout the region.  Their lead singer, Cheryl Trigozo, happens to be my roommate Dan’s fantasy woman, and it was to his great chagrin later that he wasn’t with us.

Cheryl (wearing a hat in the photo above) was intrigued to meet Americans, especially ones like me who knew a number of the group’s songs and had seen them in concert before.  I tried to facilitate a storybook romance by asking Cheryl to speak to “her biggest American fan”, Dan, via my phone — but was thwarted by the lack of cell signal in the area.  Oh well…  During our brief chat the group let us know that they were playing a private concert for a wedding that afternoon at Laguna Azul.

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Robbed in Lima

4 Apr

I arrived in Lima two days ago for a week-long vacation scheduled to really get under way tomorrow with the arrival of my family in Peru.  Unfortunately, I hit a bit of a speed bump this evening.

While sitting at an outdoor cafe right off Parque Kennedy in Miraflores around 8:30pm, catching up with my friend Maike, my little drawstring backpack was stolen.  In the space of just a few minutes between us ordering and receiving our drinks, a man managed to use a knife or something to slit the straps of the backpack, which was slung securely over the chair I was sitting in, and carry it off without me feeling it.  Maike–who was sitting right next to me and looking at me the entire time–didn´t notice a thing.  Neither did the couple who was sitting right behind me, nor the security guard standing just feet away.  Inside my backpack was my trusty Canon S90 digital camera, and more consequentially, my laptop.

While in the States I make use of an external hard drive to backup my files, that is a luxury I have not had in Tarapoto.  I just lost all of my photos from 6+ months in Peru, the entirety of my Technoserve work files, all of my music, personal documents, Photoshop, etc.  While many things are replaceable or replaceable at a cost (guess I know what my just-received 2011 tax refund is going toward), the first two items are mostly not, and that is truly a crushing blow.

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Wet, Wild

12 Mar

Maike and I during a whitewater rafting trip of the Rio Mayo

It’s now March, still in the rainy season here (the last 7 days have each featured heavy downpours), and I have now passed the half-way mark of my scheduled time here in Tarapoto. I’d be hard-pressed to think of another equivalent period of 5+ months which flew by and simultaneously seemed much, much longer due to the sheer number of new and interesting experiences and challenges packed into what is really a short amount of time.

Carnavale mayhem during a massive water balloon fight in the streets

While I haven’t written here as frequently in the new year, and will save the latest of many work-related advances for another post, 2012 has seen a lot of new events and people. Most notable has been the arrival of two McKinsey consultants, Sarah from San Francisco and Gaby from Mexico City, who have been welcome additions to our crew. While work has kept us all quite busy and I haven’t done much sexy travel of late, we have had our share of excitement, including a whitewater rafting trip on the Rio Mayo and engaging in a massive town-wide water balloon fight as part of a Carnavale celebration in the town of Rioja.

Additionally, there has been my unfortunate involvement playing on the office fulbito (a rough-and-tumble version of soccer played on a miniature field). Given how absolutely terrible I am at soccer, it’s a wonder I’m still allowed and encouraged to play in our weekly matches; I suspect I may be there just for humor value, like when a shot at close range hit me square in the nuts, and as I staggered about gasping for air the players on both teams and all the spectators in the stands spent a full minute chuckling heartily at the brown gringo…

While on the subject of activities which I ineptly embarrass myself at, I recently began taking weekly salsa lessons. After months here of envying the fluid and sexy dancing of the locals at bars and nightclubs, I finally signed up for classes with Tarapoto’s self-appointed “profesor de baile“, Fernando, who fits every stereotype of a Latino dancer with slick moves. I have now had my first two classes, which I am taking with a partner–a young single mother named Reina–and have confirmed that the intricacies and rhythm of dance do not come naturally to me. Still, I’m gamely trying, and remain amused that each time Fernando chastises Reina for not dancing sexily enough, he berates her for moving like an Americana instead of a Latina. (He then proceeds to very convincingly demonstrate the coquettish manner a Latina should dance in… oy!)

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