Saturday, June 28, 2014

Iquitos/Amazons recap

We were in Iquitos from 6/13/14 through 6/18/14. This is a city that is just a 10 minute boat ride away from the Amazon river. It is very hot and humid, and very much reminded me of coastal Central America.

There were some amazing nonprofits and government agencies in Iquitos. I was very impressed with the efforts that the people involved in human rights here made. There is a particularly poor shanty town community here called Belen where much of the human trafficking happens (which is primarily in logging and the sex industry). This community is on the shore of the main river that separates Iquitos from the Amazon. When that river floods every year, these people are displaced from their homes. The government subsidizes their building material costs and the costs of construction, but does not subsidize a location that would allow the community to not have to rebuild and repair yearly. 

We arrived just before the weekend, and took the weekend to do some sight-seeing. Saturday we took a day-long boat tour of the Amazon. We got to go to a wildlife refuge for animals that had been domesticated and then were no longer wanted by their owners. I had a little capuchin monkey friend that decided to be my scarf for the time we were there. I also got to hold a baby sloth, who - looking back on it - was very distressed about a leaf stuck on its left claw. There was also a toucan - those things make very loud clacking noises with their beaks, it was kind of terrifying to have it on my arm. 

We also got to meet some Amazonian tribe members, shoot a blowgun, do a traditional dance, and get our faces painted with red achiote stripes. We saw a humongous tree, ate jungle cuisine (aka this fish -and later this fish), and fished for piranhas (not really fished, more like watched them attack the chicken bits we put on a string).

Here are pictures of the Amazon trip:

Shooting a blowgun.

Dancing in a traditional hut.

 Our canoe in the Amazons, on a small tributary river.

Boats at the port.

 Me and my monkey friend

I wish this leaf was not on my claw.

Oh, hello.

Will you take this leaf off my claw?


Toucan - I was terrified of the sounds it was making. 

Huts on the river. 

 Here are some videos too! One of the monkeys attacking the birdies I was holding, and one of me and the sloth:



The next day we saw the Amazon Animal Rescue Center (CRA). They were breeding endangered turtles and taking care of sick or previously captured animals as a transition to freeing them into the wild. Here are some pictures:

 This hawk did not live there, but had entered the otter tank to steal its food.

 The otter was really upset that the hawk stole its food, it kept approaching the eagle then running away.

 One of the resident monkeys. 

 Baby Amazonian manatee! Look at its tiny eyes. According to our guide, this is the only manatee species that resides in fresh water.

 Look how weird their mouth is, they eat with a pincer motion with the stiff hairs on their lips. I also discovered that they liked to be petted! I should have become a marine biologist and worked with baby manatees. 

 Wild monkey in the jungle where the rescue center was located.

Baby snake one of the center employees found in the grass.

That was it for our tourist activities in Iquitos. Otherwise, the food was really interesting and I enjoyed trying all the different weird and wonderful tropical things that they had to offer. My favorite was a fruit called "aguaje" (picture here) that by itself had a funky tart, savory taste, but in drink form was beautiful, bright orange, and refreshing. We also ate quite a few plantains and some camu camu and acaí juice (camu camu is a berry that Iquitos is known for, here's a picture). I even got to try alligator and turtle eggs (which we later found that some varieties of these are from endangered species - if you go travelling, do not eat the turtle eggs! They were sold all over, apparently it's a huge problem). There was lots of cold cane juice and coconut water sold on the street too, I was pretty impressed with the food at Iquitos. There were some roasted grubs at street food stalls though, unfortunately we couldn't work up the ability to stomach those - one of the French men who came back from the Amazons with us ate a live one though, that was an image that will stick with me.

Wish I could have spent more than four days here!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Cusco recap

From 6/6/14 to 6/13/14 we were in Cusco, in Southern Peru.

Much of Cusco was the same as Lima - a lot of time spent tracking down people to interview about human trafficking and conducting interviews. I can't give any names of organizations though because of the confidentiality of the project, sorry to be so general! We did find that the most common form of trafficking in Cusco is domestic servitude - often people in the city will tell a distant relative or acquaintance in the surrounding villages that they will take in a child in order to feed and educate them in the city. When the child arrives at that house they often do domestic work and nannying in the most basic living conditions, while none of the promises of care or schooling are fulfilled.

In between meetings I was able to explore the Cusco market (my favorite - filled with cocoa beans, delicious Andean cheese, and potatoes galore), go on a horseback ride to some ruins with Chris, and spend time weaving through the side streets. It was Cusco's anniversary as well, so there were plays, music, and dancing in the main plaza all week.

I also got quite ill from one of my meals (not sure what did me in). It was the night before I was supposed to go to Puerto Maldonado in the Madre de Dios region with Chris, and unfortunately it took several days for me to recover and I was unable to accompany him. I find it quite ironic that when I lived in Peru for 6 months I did not get sick once, but one week after coming back I get food poisoning! Like Chris says, eating the food here is like playing Russian Roulette, there was no avoiding it.

Other than my one food fiasco, I did get to enjoy some of my favorite Peruvian foods like anticuchos de corazón (grilled beef heart), chicha de quinua (a fermented quinoa drink) and aged queso Andino (Andean cheese) with eggs on fresh french bread.

Here are some Cusco photos:

 Children doing traditional dances in the Plaza de Armas (main square) for Cusco's anniversary.

 Incan flags outside one of the main cathedrals. Many of these cathedrals were built by the Spanish using the stones taken from the Incan temples as a method of subjugating the religion.

 Nighttime in one of the alleyways.

Performing traditional music for Cusco's anniversary outside La Catedral de Cuzco.

 Cusco street.

 Traditional pottery.

 One of the many beautifully colored doors.

 Majeño masks - worn in satirical plays. The black one is the "negrillo", the long-nosed one is the Spaniard. Not sure what the orange one is...

 A dog sleeps on the cobblestone sidewalk. 

Our horseback guide's adorable little girl.

Children have a never-ending fascination with Christopher's arm hair. I pointed that out to our guide; she felt his hair and said "it's like alpaca!"

 Fields of wheat, oats, and barley being grown in the mountains just outside Cusco. Our guide called the oats "Quaker" - which he pronounced "Quacker"

 A view of the tiered fields outside Cusco.

 Chris and me on our horses.

 Not sure what we were looking at...

 View from the top of the city

 Udon noodle shop in Cusco called Bujo-san, and excellent find. It is run by a Cusqueñan man who met a Japanese woman in Italy where he was studying culinary arts. She returned to Cusco with him and taught him how to make hand-made udon and broths. This was just as good or better than many restaurants I'd been too in Japan, I thought it was amazing that he had never been to Japan himself.

Cusco streets at night.

 Inside the Mariott hotel (no, we didn't stay there, we just snuck in because it was pretty).

 Shops near the Incan wall where the 12-sided stone resides.

A man walking on a street with a water canal for drainage.

Lima recap

After we started our project in Peru, I ran out of time to blog!
These posts are written after I returned to the US just to summarize what I did in Peru and give some pictures :)

We were in Lima from 5/31/14 through 6/6/14, and then we returned at the end of the trip from 6/18/14 through 6/21/14. There, we spent our time in the Miraflores, San Isidro, Magdalena del Mar and San Miguel districts meeting with the individuals and organizations working against human trafficking. There are many forms of trafficking in Lima, mostly domestic and commercial labor, factories, begging, and prostitution.

At  the end of our trip, we were fortunate enough to be invited to the National Conference regarding human trafficking, where the biggest governmental & NGO human rights groups conducted workshops and presentations about human trafficking law and statistics in Peru and other Latin American countries like Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, and El Salvador. 

Otherwise, we spent our free time enjoying Lima's food scene, exploring downtown Lima where we explored government buildings and the catacombs of the Church of San Francisco,  and wandering around Miraflores where there are beautiful parks and an excellent view of the sea.

Here are some of my favorite Lima photos:

 Fries at our favorite creole sandwich restaurant, La Lucha

 One of the native birds in the sanctuary and park Bosque El Olivar in San Isidro

 The inside of the Municipal Palace of Lima

 Iglesia de Santo Domingo in downtown Lima

La Casa de la Literatura Peruana, downtown Lima

The sign for Astrid y Gastón, one of the most famous restaurants by Gastón Acurio, the food celebrity of Peru

A view of the kitchen at Astrid y Gastón, as well as one of our favorite dishes, tiradito. It's a "nikkei" food, a combination of Peruvian and Japanese cuisines that came about with Japanese immigrants to Peru that combines thin slices of sashimi with Peruvian pepper and cream sauces. We also ate Peking-duck style guinea pig in purple corn crepes here, which was surprisingly very tasty.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


Hola a todos,

As you may or may not know, I came to Lima about two days ago. The journey took just over 24 hours because apparently Denver is not a major hub for flights to Peru. But I made it!

Our reason for coming was in order to do quantitative research through surveys for Chris' anti-human trafficking research project that we are doing in conjunction with a professor and grad student of the University of Denver. Our travel companions don't arrive in Lima until 12am tonight, so we have not started on the project just yet.

We have spent our first two days in Lima basking in its culinary genius. Our favorite thing about Peru is the food, so we were extremely excited to eat all of our favorite things and re-visit our favorite places (and maybe find some new things) before beginning our research.

First, we went to La Lucha Sanguchería Criolla, which is among our favorite places in the world. I have no pictures of La Lucha because we were pretty concentrated on our food at the time. We may or may not have gone there three times already since arriving.

We also went for a run on a park that runs along the cliffs overlooking the ocean where you see all the new surfers falling off their surfboards and the Limeños walking their dogs dressed in sweaters and skirts.

Later, we went to Mercado Surquillo, where we ate some amazing, fresh ceviche with canchita (puffed corn) and caldo de pescado (fish broth with lime and cilantro) while listening to a couple play huayno (traditional Andean music).

 We also got a recording of the music our lovely huayno players were making. Here's the recording with all the sounds of the market (hopefully this works, let me know if it doesn't):

We then went to the Peace Corps office and caught up with a few of the employees we knew. One of the doctors had us make an impromptu video about maintaining a long distance relationship during Peace Corps, so we will now be famous for future Peace Corps trainees. You may ask for my autograph when I get back.

Us with the Peace Corps doctors

Tomorrow, we're going to start the research phase of the trip and hopefully collect lots of data!