My last week in Australia, I spent on the beach with my family. It was wonderful but the weather not so great. We had three sunny days but the rest of them went from pretty wet to very, very wet. However one of the blessings of that was that Gem and I went running on the beach in the rain. It was one of the most amazing experiences, I remember feeling so present, so alive and free. And I got to share the experience with Gem which always makes something special.
I was reminded of that experience the other day when I was walking in the hills in the rain. I remembered how much I wanted to blog about it so I wouldn’t forget it. I also don’t want to forget my experience in the hills. I set off with Martin but when it started to rain a little he and Nina turned back. I kept going. I thought I’ll turn back when it gets really heavy. It didn’t get heavy until I was right up the top. I got really wet but the view over Chulu and the Andes with the rain pelting down was incredible. I again had that feeling of being so present, alive and free.
Walking back home I encountered a few families also out in the rain with their soap, all having a shower. I guess if you don’t have running water you have to take advantage of any water and they were having lots of fun. We smiled at each other. I do feel for them though their whole houses get pretty wet in the rain and with dirt floors I don’t imagine they are very comfortable. I felt very grateful to have a dry house to go home to, well mostly, this place does leak a little but after seeing their places I tried not to let that worry me that night.
As part of the research for his compost project Martin has been going around to different farmers and talking to them about buying the product. One of the farmers is an organic farmer and lives in a place called “Palo Blanco” which is in the mountains almost an hour from Chulucanas. Here he is outside his home with Nina.
Last weekend he invited Martin to have a look at his farm as he was keen for Martin to give him some advice on a few things. Nina and I went with him. We had a lovely meal with his family and few other farmers. It was so beautiful there as you can see.
This man has a number of crops on his farm, including mangos, limes and cocoa. Conventional farming tends to only have one crop but Martin tells me it is more sustainable to be growing a number of different crops together. Cocoa is originally from this region although now most of it is produced in Africa. I found all this pretty fascinating as I am pretty ignorant about all this stuff especially cocoa. I had no idea how it looked and tasted as a fruit. If you are like I was here are some pictures.
This is the cocoa pod.
When you open it up there are the cocoa beans. A typical pod has about 40 to 50 beans (but you need about 600 beans to make 1kg of chocolate). They are covered in a mucous type substance that is rather sweet. You can suck on the bean and it tastes lovely. Don’t do what I did though when the farmer gave it to me and bite in it. For one it is disgusting, very bitter and dry and for two people will laugh at you. You can see it here.
Once you have sucked it you are left with the bean. The beans go through a rather long drying process (in the sun is best so as not to ruin the flavour with smoke) and then are shuffled and trodden on (usually by human feet) before they are sent overseas to be roasted and then ground into cocoa butter which makes the chocolate we all enjoy.
Maybe you find that little lesson on cocoa boring or you already knew it but I thought it was interesting.
Anyone read anything good lately they would recommend to me. Both fiction and non fiction. Really feel like something good.
Last time I wrote a bit of an update about where we were at I said that Martin was trying to get a social enterprise project started. He has worked really hard on it for the few weeks but we have decided that we are not able to start it ourselves. Martin spent hours and hours working out costs and how much we could make and it turns out it will cost three times more than we first thought and would take 2 years before we would get our investment back. I guess this is fairly normal but we don’t have the money it would take to start or the money to live here for that amount of time without a wage. However, one of the local councils in the regions we have been talking to farmers in is really interested in the project and have said they would like to put up the money and pay Martin a wage to get it going. He has another meeting with them next week to go through the details with them and they’ll tell him if they’ll be able to or not. I am trying not to get my hopes up too much as we have been promised things before that have fallen through but it would be so fantastic if this were to happen and I do have a quiet faith. The project is such a good idea and would really assist the community economically, environmentally as well as socially. Not to mention Martin has worked really hard on it. I am praying heaps if others would join me we would really appreciate it.
If it falls through Martin is still hoping to be able to work with the farmers who were interested in the product. They have invited him to speak to their associations about various things including teaching them how they could make some of their own compost using their own waste. Obviously it would be a smaller scale but at least the time wouldn’t be fully wasted.
In regards to me I have my first doula client who I have been meeting with. She’s a cousin of Martins and we have had some exciting chats. The hospital still hasn’t got back to me though despite numerous phone calls so I am also praying that they will soon. Again I would value your prayers about that too.
As always we just keeping trying in hope with as much patience as possible but it it is getting frustrating……
I have some very exciting news. It’s been literally 11 years coming…..
I can roll my r’s. Yes that’s right I can roll a single r, a double r, I can even roll an r when it is the first letter in a word. I know that might not mean much to some people but for me it’s very exciting. I remember back in 2001 sitting in a cafe with Ryan with him trying to teach me how to do it. We had just started Spanish classes together and I discovered that I needed to roll r’s to speak Spanish and I couldn’t. Since then I have had various teachers and practiced and practiced and practiced and I can finally do it.
Yay for me!!! Now I really can speak Spanish.
I am a bit sad that I am not participating in the Scavenger Hunt but I just knew I wasn’t going to be able to make it happen. Not only the time factor but I don’t think I would have been able to get a lot of the photos here in Chulucanas especially not any that are worth high points. However here are a few little shots of our life in the last few weeks.
Martin’s dad came to visit. It was quite a special time.
Walking in the mountains, still not over how beautiful it is.
Nina likes it too. She’s definitely an outdoors girl.
Always a cross to be found in the hills in Peru.
It is still really, really hot here. I am getting a bit over it really but Nina quite likes playing with cold water and she is very gorgeous.
Our niece turned five. Here she is. She is very similar to Nina in both looks and personality.
Today* is International Woman’s Day. It is actually quite a big deal here in Peru. Everyone says “Feliz Dia de la Mujer” (Happy Women’s Day) and people have lunches etc. In one way this warms my heart. In another I find infuriating. It feels so false, words without action in a culture that is so macho. It is one of the things that I find most difficult about living here. Here is why.
Almost all the men have very little involvement in raising the children and even less in housework. Whenever people see Martin caring for Nina or cooking they say to me, “Martin helps you a lot doesn’t he?” While I am grateful for Martin and express that I also keep trying to say to people, “it’s not that Martin helps me, it’s his house and his daughter as well”. Why is it that any man who does stuff around the house or looks after his child is seen as “helping his wife” not just his duty like it is hers.
Infidelity is unbelievably common place among men. In general people wouldn’t say this is “right” but they consider that it’s normal for men who mostly cannot help themselves. People tend to just laugh about it and men who have various partners do get a certai amount of respect. On the other hand if a woman is unfaithful there is no respect for her and there are hundreds of derogatory terms for her. Women even share this view. One of my very educated female friends told me that her father cheating on her mother is not good but normal, whereas if her mother ever did she “could never look at her again”
As a doula one of the issues most close to my heart is that women have almost no rights to choose the way they birth. They give birth with their legs up in stirrups and episiotomies (cuts to the perinium) are routine. My nurse friend even told me that for men from certain communities, if a daughter is born they do not even acknowledge her as their own.
I have on occasion met with some female friends in the home of one the women. It’s nice but I mentioned that maybe we could have a drink somewhere in one of the “cantinas” (closest equivalent is bar). However, I was informed that a group of women having a drink there would be seen as provacative. What???
I run to the pool in the mornings and the comments and carry on that are directed at me are certainly not what you would call respectful.
I could keep going on but it’s bed time and you get the point. But I guess I will have a “Feliz Dia de la mujer” when women are actually given equal respect and rights here in Peru and in the rest of the world.
*It was actually yesterday but I wrote most of this then but didn’t finish it as some family came over for dinner to celebrate International Womens Day. The conversation eventually landed on driving and how women can’t drive. Happy Day Women Drivers???
Nina is 18 months today. What an incredible 18 months it has been. I continue to be astounded at how fast it seems to go. If I am honest I feel a certain relief as she grows. I do not find this mother gig particularly easy. There are certainly days when I just don’t know if I have the patience and energy for a young a child not to mention I can be really over anxious too. However, at this stage I don’t imagine that we will be doing this again so there is some sadness as well. When I look at her first photos and how small she was I do feel a certain longing for that time. She is also just so gorgeous and I can’t imagine her getting any more so but then again I have had that though many times and she has done it.
We’ve been in Peru 3 months now. It’s been a challenging, peaceful… 3 months.
We still haven’t found paid work but have decided to stop looking, excpet maybe for some English tutoring with local uni students. There just isn’t a lot of work in Peru and as you read in “job hunting in Peru” the work there is tends to go to “people who have godfathers” as a good friend put it. There have also been some complications with my residency which means it will be two more moths and a lot more money before I can get it so I cannot work. We were putting a lot of time and energy into looking for work, getting residency etc that we would rather put into unpaid work. Most importantly continuing to spend time together as a family with Nina and cherish this time together. The first few years are so crucial to a child’s development and that we have both been able to be around full time for the last 3 months is such a gift.
However, things are also looking good for our own little projects. I have had some meetings at the hospital and they are willing to give me access if I wish to support birthing women as well as be involved in some antenatal classes. I am just waiting to get that cleared which I am sure will take time as things tend to here, but I am hoping to start looking for some clients as soon as that is done. At this stage the women will still have to give birth on a bed with legs up in stirrups according to the doctor but I have had started some conversations about what they refer to here as “vertical birth” with some obstetricians and there is a bit of interest. I have done a fair bit of research and vertical birth seems to be having success in other areas of Peru so there is some openess here in Chulucanas to the idea.
Martin is hoping to get started on a project making compost. He is hoping to collect organic waste from the market as well as a number of families around Chulucanas to create compost to sell to local famers. He is working with an association of “recyclers” who currently collect plastic bottles from the streets to sell. They would earn only a couple of soles per day if they were lucky so the income they generate from this will be invaluable for them. It will also mean less waste in Chulu and less cost to farmers who are currently paying a lot for compost that is not necessarily ethically produced. He has met with all the parties involved, the recyclers, the market, the farmers etc so is hoping to get going once we work out some financial issues.
Without paid work it will mean that we will no longer be able to stay as long as we had first hoped. While we are still open to other possibilities, current projections have us home late this year (I am been a bit vague as we really don’t yet). In some ways I am really sad about the possibility of coming home a bit earlier and in others I am really excited. Although, again nothing is definite yet we continue to try to wait patiently on God.