Monday, February 25, 2008

January 28th and 29th- Some Final Pictures on the Tahuayo

The boathouse at dusk...
Clouds rolling in over the Tahuayo

Manioc! Also known as yuca...

Bananas and yuca in front of a house
Sugar Cane!
Pedro the Wild Parrot!
Red Tipped Manioc

Ben and I are eager to move on from this adventure onthe Tahuayo! It will be sad to leave the lodge that has functioned as our home for two weeks and to not constantly have Christian with us always patiently explaining, but now we are off to the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. Tomorrow we will wake at 1:30 am (Jan. 30th) and board the boat, travelling down the Tahuayo to the Amazon River again into Iquitos. We need to be at the Airport in Iquitos by 7:00am and from there we will travel onto Lima and then Cusco. It will be a long day of traveling and we hear that flights in Peruvian airports are notorious for delays and cancellations, in addition Dolly mentioned that there may be a strike in Iquitos against the government for making too many land concessions to oil company interests. In this case, everything stops... including flights,so we will see what happens! Ciao! See you in Cusco!

January 28th & 29th- Our time on the Tahuayo grows short

The Oro Pendulum were constant fixtures outside the lodge... I don't know much about these birds excepts that apparently they can mimic other birds calls and their nests and social lives are pretty cool!
Browsing the Chino Market
This is Ben, Chrisitian and I on our last night at the lodge... The lodge band "The Ladykillers" were playing in the background and I wish I had a better photo of them (if anyone has one, than please upload it so we can all take a look!).

This is my bed at the lodge, it was lovely with the mosquito net drape...

This is Ben't temporary tattoo.
At Chino Market...

28/01/08 and 29/01/08

So as our days on the Tahuayo grew to a close we spent time going to the local market and getting tattoos... Just temporary ones of course!

Talking with some of the ladies on the Tahuayo- Isolina and Romelia

Our wonderful guide Chrisitan made it possible for Ben and I to have lots of exposure to the local people during our time on the Tahuayo. Before we left on the trip, I stole Ben's idea of getting a digital voice recorder to use during our travels and once we were in the villages I was extremely happy to have brought it along. I was able to record whole conversations, in Spanish and then with Chrisitian's English translation. In this way we were able to record personal histories, folk tales and general conversation that provided the kind of insight into the lives of the village people that would be very difficult to recreate with pen and ink notes. The following is a a snippet from the conversations Ben and I had with Isolina who (along with her husband) was our host for the farina making process and Romelia who was a local artisan and herbalist. (We had these conversations on two separate occasions during our last week on the Tahuayo.)

I asked Isolina if she could descibe what her life was like this is what she told us, via Christian:
" The main activites that her family engages in are farming and some hunting, not too much fishing. There were approximately 14 people living in the house with Don Caesar and Isolina, including grandchildren, sons, daughters, and their wives and husbands. She told us she had some family in Chino village but that she enjoyed living outside the village with her family. She mentioned tha according to her family, 100 years ago there seem to be many more animals and fish than there are today, and a lot less people!" (This is a common them that Ben and I heard a lot during our talks with villagers.) Isolina continued, "The Tahuayo used to be a very respected river because ther people were superstitious of wild and supernatural creatures found within the river as well as whirpools that would form along the river." Isolina, told us a little about the custom of "Mingas" which we had heard many of the local people refer to during our time with them. "A minga is called by a family to get help with different things around their home. A minga can be called to help process the yuca and make farina, to help construct a thatched roof for a home or for any number of different labor intensive jobs." Ben has likened the minga to an old-fashioned barn raising, because your neighbors come to help you labor with some task and in turn you offer them food and drink, and to help them with a future task. During the course of our conversation, I noticed one of Isolina's daughters who had been out fishing return with a fish. She had taken her baby with her in the canoe during her fishing excursion and so I asked if there was any difference in what girls and boys learn when they are growing up. Do they have different roles? This is what she told us, " Both girls and boys learn some things from their parents and grandparents, things like how to make farina. This is passed down throught he generations. Boys and girls also learn how to use a machete, ride in a canoe, farm and fish, girls learn much earlier how to wash clothes but the boys must learn this as well." I was constantly suprised at how adept some of the very young children were with machetes, caring for farm animals, canoeing and other activities that we usually think of as adult activities.

Here is an excerpt from our conversation with Romelia, Chino village's resident herbalist. "First Romelia wanted make sure we understood the difference between what she does and what the Shaman (or any shaman for that matter) does. She stressed to us that she doesn't commune with the spirits of gods or plant spirits, she simply works with the pharmacoepia of plants available in her garden or on her chakra (or farm). She began to hearn about the helaing powers pf plants when she was about 18 and she became pregnant with her 1st child. She gathered remedies from families and other people that she knew in the villages." Romelia stressed to us, as did the Shamanista, that payment was voluntary. That one helps people because they feel it in their hearts and that they are called to help not just to receive a payment. She did say that sometimes, people will invite you for dinner or share something from their harvest in lieu of payment but that she never asks for anything. "Many of the remedies that she made used the plant extracts and were prepared and used in steam baths or as enemas, and most remedies also involved observing a strict diet, staying away from fatty foods and drinking lots of water. Some fo the common ailments that people present her with are infections. fevers, diarrhea, side effects of stroke, and children's illnesses. " Romelia's garden which she allowed us to walk thru was very similar is plant species to that of the Shamanista's garden. For a detailed medicinal plant list, see the section on our visit to the shaman.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

January 26th- Carnaval cont'd...

The melee begins when the tree falls... Can you see Ben with his grab from the "Gringo" tree!?

When you get too messy or hot you can just jump inthe river...

Ben and I marching around the Carnaval tree

Ben takes his 1st whack at the tree!
The Chino Band gets down!
Ben gets down while sitting in with the Chino Band!

I was really ready to smear some annatto on someone!!

The tourists march around the tree.

I totally got hit in the face with a pail of water when I took my 1st whack at the Carnaval tree.

Ring around the Carnaval tree!!

Ben chops again!!!

Cami takes a whack at the tree!

Look out!
This little boy perfectly shows the excitement that all the village children felt while running to get gifts from the tree!

The little ones were playing in the mud!

This is a serious endeavor!!

The tree is falling!!


Carnaval continued throughout the afternoon...

"After returning to the lodge to have lunch we all went back to Chino for the afternoon Carnaval festivities. When we arrived at the villagers, the celbration was already in full swing. the Chino band was playing, people were dancing and Dolly explained to us that we re fully expected to dance around the trees, throw mud and water on each other and get smeared with as much annatto and mishquipanga as we could take!! The dancing and revelry went on for about 2 hours, before we finally got to take turns chopping down the tree. In this village, the tradtion is that the tree is decorated with gifts and the villagers dance around and take turns trying to fell the tree, if you happen to take the lucky or unlucky chop that brings the tree down it is your responsibility to provide the tree for next year. The lodge had provided this years tree. Jose and Christian explained that in some villages people had to try to climb the tree to knock down the gifts and sometimes the types of gifts were the most exciting aspect- things like chickens and tortoises!! The Chino village tree didn't have any tortoises thank goodness!!"

If your wondering why we are covered in mud, water, and natural plant dyes part of the joy of Carnaval inthis region is to "play" with water and to really get as messy as possible. Plus, it was super hot that day, so getting a pail of water on your head cooled you down for a few minutes at least.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

January 26th- Carnaval!!

The "village" tree and the "Gringo" tree

Ben and I take a break- after being smeared with annatto!

Why is there a husky in the Amazon?

Chino girls enjoying the celebration

Dancing children...
The tree being raised
Sorry about this picture, I goofed!

The decorated "village" tree
Two Trees...

I goofed again with the picture.
This is the humishan tree prior to braiding

The decorated tree...


These were my notes from what turned out to be a fantastic Carnaval celebration a few days early on the Tahuayo. Thanks to Dolly and all the villagers for giving us the opportunity to partake in this event!

"Christian let us sleep in this morning and we have nearly completed all of the goals on our list! Today is an early Carnaval celebration in Chino. The Villagers and Lodge staff have already gone out to get the Carnaval tree for the village from the forest and we will be going to Chino later this morning to partake in the celebration. We are not really sure what to expect, except that everyone has told us that we will be very dirty, wet and sticky by the end of the day… I’m not sure (given the description) that I am looking forward to this event!"

And later in the day...

" This morning the Carnaval celebration in Chino kicked in, with music, dancing by some of the village children and the braiding and decorating of Humishan tree. Carnaval celebrations differ depending on where you are celebrating the event. They usually begin the week or weekend prior to Shrove Tuesday/Ash Wednesday. Christain and Jose told us stories of how different Carnaval traditions throughout Peru. Many seem to involve the Carnaval tree and a raucous celebration, but the tree is displayed and utilized inthe celebration in different ways. In Chino, the villagers made a "Gringo" tree for the tourists with homemade gifts, and as visitors we were able to help decorate the village tree. Connie's group brought all sorts of wonderful gifts for the adults and children of Chino. After the palm fronds of the tree were braided we tied the gifts onto the tree using raffia and raised both trees in the middle of the muddy soccer field."

The pictures up top are from the morning Carnaval celebration.