Last night of vacation like ⛺️:
One-sentence summary: U.S. guest stars S&J and myself returned in-tact (theoretically) from our Manu National Park adventure; we can positively confirm there are birds, frogs, bugs, and various other things that eat people; “bridges are stupid”; and still in awe, processing a headcount my army of guardian angels.
Right Now: Most people return home from vacation tan. My tan looks like a nice Summer-Lite Typhoid.
Expression of the Week: Ve. Or ver. Pronounced with a grunt effect like “beh.” Literally translates to “Look.” It’s a delightful combination of “whatever” or “oh bugger off” or “bah” or “shut it, Jess.” Best applied as a dismissal or friendly shove-off to the subject at hand.
Jess: “OMG Jenny! Are you making banana dumpling pancakes fried in pork butter for breakfast?” SQUEEEE.
Entonces, Week Twenty-Six: Ve.
The master plan *was* to take the Sunday night bus to Oxapampa and spend the next day doing skanky-jungle, intervention-level laundry and finally following up on work (since I’ve been gone for the equivalent of three years in Peruvian time) followed by ample naps, writing of more government reports, computing urgent business emails, and reconnecting with all that I missed at Home and at home.
Here’s the thing about making plans during service: Yeah, nope.
Here’s What You Missed via Frequently Texted Questions:
#1) Loved (or skipped) the hiatus posts for Weeks 22-25 but …why?”
My Port Townsend, Washington, visitors flew from Seattle to Dallas to Lima to Jauja, about 30 hours door-to-door. I eventually retrieved them (after a 13-hour PC program site visit) in La Merced (about two hours south) where we regresar-ed and spent five, too-short days in Oxapampa visiting my site and meeting my family.
One surprise for me was the calving of my heart and brain between my two identities: US friend Jess and PCV Perú Jess. That was a few minutes of log-rolling on a floor of marbles. In a flood.
I was particularly anxious about the confluence and subsequent interoperability of my host-family and home-friends. Turns out everyone is an adult and everyone is lovely and no one needed me to fuss and fret. Shocking.
Highlights included Jenny’s red-carpet four-star daily menu of vegetarian Peruvian dishes and them all chatting away without me interpreting. We introduced Sarah and Justin to rocottos, ahí, cachangas, Quito Quito, trout, SA salads, and Papas Huancaina.
Sarah maybe cried when we left because she felt all the loves. Aww. Hugs. They want to come back!
#2) “Yeah, yeah, yeah. But you guys also went somewhere for a week but did you tell me where?”
No, not likely, because I wouldn’t let S tell me more that “a week in the National Park” until I could switch PCV Brain into PCV Vacation Mode.
Peace Corps Perú currently allocates two vacation days a month. PCVs are not allowed to take leave the first six months for immersion purposes. Unlike the standard application of a US vacation, because we work 24/7, most holidays and weekends count as work days.
Six weeks out, I filled out the incorrect version of a cryptogram spreadsheet and was approved for a ten-day vacation. And then updated it with corrections. And promised to report my “whereabouts” every night I had phone service.
#3) “^^^Did not answer my question.”
Yes! We went to southern Peru, mostly in the departmento of Madre de Dios in a region of Amazon river jungle wilderness. (North of Cusco.)
Short version: From Oxa we shuttled to Jauja (six hours away) and flew to Lima-then-Cusco to be picked up by a guided group to head into Manu National Park mostly via river for seven days.
Entry: Cusco. Exit point: Puerto Maldonado, Madre de Dios.
During Day One we drove for hours. We stopped for cultural things such as bread-making, farmers markets, protests, museums, and roadside scouting of the birds. Walter drove over some fairly impressive and technical washouts. Hay pase. Then we stayed at a lodge in the high cloud forest.
Birds, monkeys, jungle stuff.#4) “And?”
Manu Reserva is extensive and only a few companies are allowed to bring tourists. There are 40 Park rangers covering 1.7 million hectares. The majority of the park is preserved from hardwood logging (the devastation is severe) and “non-contact” native civilizations who live, largely undisturbed, in the jungle.
But mostly we saw birds.
On Day Two, we drove to The Very End of the Road and got handed off to an aluminum boat driven by two men named Jesus and Rambo. As should anyone expect when on a vacation.
It’s early rainy season and the river is fast moving and full of hazards like strainers and windfalls. We saw lots of birds and crocodile creatures called caymans. They can eat you when you’re not in a boat and they’re not sleeping on a beach, noses covered in Amazonian butterflies.
After a nature hike aka “swamp time” just before dinner on Day Two, I fell approximately ten-twelve feet when the lodge’s cement bridge/walkway collapsed.
The impact of my landing was absorbed by my right hand and wrist and I had enough time during my free-fall to think “oh shit I’m really going to ruin our vacation” and then was buried in a pile of rotten wood beams and cement.
Upside? -Not dead.
#6) “YOU FELL OFF A BRIDGE?!?!!!!”
Technically it fell first. I just happened to be on it at the time.
#7) “Shut up are you making this up?”
Yes. It makes the vacation and blog more exciting for the readers who aren’t just here for the romance novel and Typhoid scratching.
Just kidding. Look! A frog!
Luckily I was able to field-clear my spine, do some wilderness first responder stuff, (Hey NOLSIES, I even asked myself if the “scene was safe” and snapped the pretend rubber bands on my wrist, then did ABCDE) plus miracle ice and compress.
With my right arm immobilized, I wasn’t able to release remnants of the bridge from my sports bra for a few days. Bad “Leave No Trace” practice, I know.
#8) “So then you kept going?”
Yes. We were two days out from service or a road to bring me somewhere with a health outpost that would have me ice, compress, elevate and Ibuprofen my arm. We determined my condition, signs and symptoms as non-critical and without cell service to call Peace Corps (sorry PCMO) I phoned-in the near-miss on Saturday when we arrived to our first civilized landing of Puerto Maldonado.
Five days post-incident.
And hence, Week Twenty-Six is largely testing for internal bleeding and waiting for MRIs in Lima.
So far, I’m hoping for a final diagnosis of a “nice sprain” instead of “HOW ARE YOU NOT DEAD.”
#9) “And the next five days?”
A toucan stealing flycatcher eggs
Peruvian national bird, Cock of the Rock
Guans (flying turkeys)
all the Herons
Big old trees
Poison dart frogs
A handsome National Park Ranger named Beto
^*Evidently a Catfish
100 McCaws and parakeets
Five different species of curious monkeys colonies
Five other sweaty tourists
A darling shy introverted sloth
And 300+ rare nerd birds.
#10) “Now what?”
Thank goodness we packed an Ace bandage and enough Ibuprofen for a few horses.
I phoned the PC medical hotline Saturday and informed them of my incident, sheepishly inquiring if I should have an X-Ray or two in PM, Lima, or Oxa.
They informed me to stay in Lima en route home. “No bus for you!”
It’s now Day Four of tests, waiting, and for some karmic feedback, a casual side of food poisoning.
I’m not sure if it’s “coming down” from vacation with close friends who know and forgive and love my core, the heart-blowing love from collective community “Christmas in November,” the adrenaline from falling to not-death and keeping it together for a week–or simply the cumulation of nine months of inside-out, upside-down that is Peace Corps service… but everything kinda hurts a little.
I’m still lucky AF to be here.
Vamos a ver, amigos.
Friday Update: Not broken, no surgery needed. Cast for three weeks and physical therapy in Lima.
A Parting Shot
This is Sarah Hadlock. On a wobbly 36-meter tower. Above a swamp during Swamp Hour.
1) SH accepted I was going to Perú for two years and then booked her Thanksgiving tickets and came 7000 miles. She brought me grapefruit jelly beans and bras.
2) She also coordinated an entire multi-week symphony of logistics, without any helpful input or cheerleading and included me with love and care.
3) She showed up and found and dealt with a frantic turtle-out-of-shell cheese-deprived version of me here. She bravely spoke the Spanish, asked more than the quota of questions, and travelled LEAGUES of any normal human’s way.
4) She tolerated my fatigue and sickness and resentment every day for swamp time and even falling with a bridge.
5) I love you.
Thanks for letting me be fierce and wild and un-reluctantly willing to be touched by your deep, honest, unmeasured kindness.
Also, these socks you brought are badass.
Update: I want notes and pictures of the “dumb” stuff I took for granted back home for my wall please.
Leaderboard: I hear there’s something in Oxa from Ariel, my super house sitter in Wyoming. She sent it in JULY.
Hermana Jessica Rice, Cuerpo de Paz
Apartado NO. 120 SERPOST La Merced
La Merced, Chanchamayo, Junín, PERU
Please note: 1) This mailbox is two hours away 2) It costs a lot of money to send me stuff – (like $23 for $5 of candy) and only send through USPS to SERPOST 3) Keep packages under 1lb (or to not appear worth $100) or they get sent to Customs Jail in Lima. 4) Customs Jail is as arbitrary and random as my blog posts, so don’t send me anything that you’ll be sad goes missing. 5) The last numbers are my Peru cell phone and they will call me if it gets lost. Place them in the spot you would look if you were lost.