July started out as busily as June ended. Fourth of July was spent in site eating makeshift hotdogs and drinking incredibly sweet wine with my mayor. Although we were allotted a long weekend of vacation time for these days, the volunteers in the reserve weren’t able to travel due to the fact that the environment program was being evaluated at the time by somebody from Washington D.C. He came to the reserve on the 5th, at which point we had a really productive meeting with all of the park guards about improving our working relationship and being better at planning for future activities. My mayor came along and formally asked my boss to allow me to stay a third year. Then, they visited our sites and had extensive interviews with us and our counterparts to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the program. It was initially nerve wrecking, but ended up working out really well in the long run. I even got a really good suggestion from this visit: the idea of a culture bank. Basically, you set up an anthropological museum of the town and ask people to donate things they may have in their house for a certain amount of time. The municipality pays the family for the item donated for however much time and then they have a choice of taking the item back or getting paid more by the municipality if they keep it in the museum. I don’t know how feasible this will be considering the municipality doesn’t have a huge amount of money to work with, but it’s a great idea and I’m looking into it.
After spending the fiesta patronal dancing my heart out on cobblestone, my knee started to bother me a little bit. I started wrapping it and putting icy-hot on it, hoping it would just go away like any minor sports injury. Due to the cold, it took a little longer to heal than I had expected and I got a little impatient. I started asking around for remedies. This was a mistake. The nurse at the health post told me to hit it with stinging nettles. It heats up the area and makes the pain go away. This turned out to be the only suggestion anyone would give me. So eventually, I relented. And it hurt. I don’t know if you’ve ever been beaten with stinging nettles, but sweet baby jesus it doesn’t tickle. The pain from the stinging nettles did successfully distract me from the pain in my knee for about a full day, but then nothing changed. Now I know. Another lesson learned in Peru: don’t let people beat you with stinging nettles. By the way, my knee is fine now.
I’ve been feeling pretty appreciated lately. I’ve been getting little random gifts here and there. The mayor gave me a jacket that all of the teachers have in appreciation of the work I do in the school. My neighbor gave me a framed artisan picture of a llama so that I can take it home with me to remember Peru, and someone from SERNANP gave me a cloth bag to use. All in all, it’s very touching and I am very grateful.
Moving on in July… the archaeologists came back to start the process of restoration and conservation. We spent three days delicately removing paint from ceramics and human skulls, getting the salt deposits off of older ceramics, removing the styrofoam from beneath the mummies and learning adequate upkeep of the items in the museum. I have been learning A TON. It’s absolutely incredible – free education. Not just my Spanish, but learning about archaeological restoration and conservation? Get serious. What an unbelievable opportunity. We took before and after photographs and now patiently await a response from the INC. The hard part is following through on the upkeep, training people in town, continuing to fix up the museum without the archaeologists there to help.
In not entirely shocking news from a small town in Peru, recently our municipal public phone was shut down. Apparently the municipality hasn’t paid the bill since 2007 and the phone company is just now figuring out that they should turn off the service. Also, one of the only cars to come to my site on a daily basis no longer shows up. The story goes that there was an accident about a year ago – the combi hit a smaller car, crippling the driver. The driver happened to be from my town. He needs indefinite physical therapy, is unable to work, and has a ton of medical bills. The woman who owns the combi company asked him not to fill out a denuncia with the police, and that they would pay him his medical expenses on a monthly basis if he didn’t make trouble for them. He agreed. They didn’t pay. Fast forward a year later – he comes up to the combi to ask for his money and a verbal altercation takes place. It escalates. The woman in charge of the combi company gets angry and pins him up against a wall and starts hitting him. He comes back 5 minutes later with a container of gasoline, dumps it all over the combi and attempts to set it on fire. Ergo, no more combi in my town. (eta. It’s been a month since the incident and it appears that the municipality has made amends with the company so they started coming back as of a week ago. Still no community phone though.)
So there it is. I continue to be incredibly busy. Moreso now since this project fell out of the sky into my lap. I suggested to my mayor that we should promote adventure tourism more for our town. He tells me he’ll give me 18,000 soles to come up with an event for the long weekend at the end of august. So now I’m on the fly learning about marketing in Peru. We’re planning our first extreme sport exhibition. We’re hiring professionals for the exhibition and then opening it up to the public for the following years. This involved contracting paramedics, training more guides, contracting athletes, doing extensive marketing for the event in Lima, getting in touch with different ministries of the government associated with tourism and promotion, rerouting the river to make sure the water level is adequate for whitewater kayaking, etc. So there it is – I’m busy. That on top of getting ready for fiestas patrias – the single busiest tourist time in my town, plus holding on, if just barely to my various ongoing projects in town, and that in a nutshell is what I’ve been up to. Hope all is well back home. Sending love and joy. Missing everyone.