Disclaimer – Only the best blogs begin with a disclaimer. Who needs an introduction, a disclaimer is basically the same thing, right? Anyway, this blog is just a series of funny or weird stories (Bedtime stories if you will) from the past month and a bit. Though, it does paint some people and places in a less colourful light than reality. I can assure you that no matter what these stories say, we have not been anywhere in the past month that made us feel uncomfortable or unsafe. All the people we have spent time with have been lovely, caring people and not the crazy weirdos that these stories might imply. So, are you’re sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…
Dropped off at Campamento
Every weekday Laura runs an English lesson in the afternoon at one of the local colleges. We take it in turns to help out at these lessons, to assist Laura when the class are working on an activity. As you will probably be able to tell from this blog, I have learn much good English from these lessons, but the focus is obviously the students. I (Jacob) attend these lessons on Tuesdays and Thursdays, as these are the days that Erin and Sophie are teaching a totally separate set of English lessons to children at Campamento (the church we attend). As we have learnt here, the days are so busy they often merge into one and losing track of what day it is can be common. On one of Laura’s lessons we were all attending, we were travelling in two Motokars. Sophie and Erin in one and Laura and I in the other. Our Motokar was in front and as we drove past Campamento Laura turned round and shouted to the driver of the girls Motokar to stop. Laura and I then continued, but when we got to the college, Sophie phoned and asked why they had been dropped in the wrong place. It was certainly one of the funnier occasions that someone ended up in the wrong place.
Back to the Drawing Board
I have been doing some landscaping with the occasional assistance of Erin and very occasional overseeing from Sophie. I have been tasked with making concrete steps down to a Medicinal garden that Laura will be creating. I’ve been doing this by making slabs in a mould and pinning them into a step shape with wood. It has made me feel a little like an archaeologist. I won’t bore you with the details, but I had no idea landscaping would be so hard in the jungle. Ignoring the erosion, lack of resources, lack of tools, biting ants that can cripple you, steep sloping conditions, heat and humidity or torrential rain as the working conditions. But without all that I’d still find it difficult to make the slabs. There are no instructions and although I’ve done this before, I do not remember the mixture ratios. So, a bit of trial and error was needed. The first slab we put in seemed perfect. It was heavy but fitted in its place wonderfully and looked great. Though, one foot on it without my full weight and it snapped right in half. Back for another go, I think.
We rely on the rainwater collected in our tanks for washing us, our clothes (sometimes), the dishes, for flushing the loo and even for drinking (after going through a filter). So, no rain equals no washing, but during the rainy season this would, nay, could not be a problem, right? Wrong, the lack of rain and recent heat wave left us without water for a few weeks, oh alright, just over a week. This meant we had to collect water from the training centre every other day. We ended up washing from buckets and taking washing up over to the centre. Little did we know that the training centre had fully functioning showers, sourcing its water from a well, therefore not relying on rainwater (well, not directly. Obviously, the well is where the rainwater goes when it is absorbed by the ground. But you know what I mean). Anyway, when Laura finally suggested using those showers, rather than a bucket, it wasn’t long after that the rains started again. It was quite a funny experience but the river that should be bursting it’s banks at this time of year is not, and I can’t help but think, something must be quite wrong with the climate for it to be this far off the usual seasonal weather.
The Bat Cave
Since moving to Nauta we have had a sneaky suspicion that there may be bats living in the house. They had been leaving evidence on the mattress above Sophie’s bed each might. However, when turning a water tank on again, I noticed that there were in fact bats living on the outer wall of the house. But this was not the last time we saw them. During one of our weekly movie nights, one of the bats decided to join us. The film was made much more entertaining by having the occasional flapping of a bat overhead.
The lack of rainwater played into Laura’s hands somewhat, when it came to her Pee Pot idea. Laura wanted to spread urine on the vegetable garden and what better time to do it than when you have three extra sources of the stuff freely available and willing to follow every instruction their supervisor gives them. We have since been collecting urine in old juice bottles, and then diluting it to spread on the garden. I won’t go into any details but know that it is one of the stranger experiences we’ve had whilst here in Nauta.
At the start of February, a new employee moved into the house in the training centre. When the family moved in, they brought with them some very cute puppies. Unfortunately, though cute they can also be quite annoying. After setting some slabs to set in the frames, two of the puppies entered the eating area where I was making the slabs and peed on one. At the stage of the setting process it was in, nothing could be done, and the damage was clear. The slab is now identifiable by its trademark droplet effect on its surface.
Perfect Painting (wrong pots)
We have been asked to paint a great deal since coming to Nauta. The house, before the family moved in in February and the office that several new employees now use regularly. Due to a communication error, on two separate occasions, the wrong tub of paint was opened making it very difficult to keep up with the many different shades and colours being put on walls. The office now has two colours of paint on the walls both with two different shades. Luckily, it is only noticeable if you look at the walls.
No Serious Injuries
Part of the step building process involves hammering stakes into the ground to hold the plank, and the soil behind it in place. In the UK I’d be doing this kind of work in steel toe capped boots, but I forgot to bring a pair. I was wearing walking boots whilst working, to give some level of protection, but they have become increasingly less of a boot and more decorative footwear in the climate here. I have now resorted to wearing the worst footwear possible, the lightest, flimsiest and cheapest pair of trainers I have ever owned. Being so accident prone, it was hardly surprising that I eventually hit my toe instead of the stake. I did not seriously injure myself though, in fact this team hasn’t had any serious injuries. We’re leaving that to the other teams *Cough Kolkata Cough Cough*. (To confirm, this team hasn’t had any serious injuries ‘in country’, at training is another matter).
A Quick Getaway
Before the English lessons started, we had to stir up some interest. We did this by spending each morning in the plaza with a banner, flyers and a signup sheet. Unfortunately, we weren’t exactly flooded with people signing up, but we did have a fair amount if interest. But on one of the later weeks Erin and Sophie were caught a little by surprise. In the previous week some of the locals invaded a piece of land owned by the government. They had been asked to move on several occasions but were resisting. On this morning though, the invading community had been teargassed causing them to leave the site. Back in the plaza and unaware of the mornings events Erin and Sophie were wondering why it was starting to get busy in the plaza. A man then came up to them and (in Spanish) explained that they were in danger (a good word to learn in Spanish) as there was about to be a protest in the plaza. So, with seconds to spare the girls managed to get a Motokar out of the plaza. The next few days involved hearing about the various things that the protests had caused.
Your Morning Wake-up Call
One thing they do here that is very different to the UK, is to spray people’s houses to kill mosquitoes. This isn’t a voluntary process that you ask the local council to do, but in fact, men in masks and with big sprayers, bang on the door until you let them in. We had experienced this a week before, forcing us to have to sit outside for 30 minutes. But one morning at the delightful time of 5 AM, yes AM, we were woken up by a megaphone playing a siren sound and people with clipboards asking us to vacate the buildings. We were up and out quickly, even remembering to grab stools to sit on. Unfortunately, the sprayers came and went, without touching the house. Meaning we got up for no reason but then we could go straight back to bed without having to wait 30 minutes. I guess your perspective on this would be dependant on whether you think a glass is half full or half empty.
The Open Plan House
Here in Nauta we are staying in a lovely house. Chris’ house is amazing, and we love it to bits, it really feels like home. I say this because the description I’m about to give you may cause you to think we feel differently, I assure you that is not the case. The house is two floors, the ground floor is concrete and brick, the first floor is all wood, the roof is metal. The inner walls don’t tend to reach the ceiling and upstairs, the roof is fully visible from everywhere. This is obviously because it gets very hot, but it does have one major downfall. Wherever you are in the house you can hear anyone else, wherever they are in the house. So, no singing in the shower. One great example of this is if someone is particularly heavy footed, it sounds like a hippopotamus is making its way up the stairs.
We’ve all been going a little bit mad recently. Toilet humour has become common and miss pronouncing English words or just generally not making sense has become regular. This has made for some excellent moments, for example the time Sophie referred to ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ as ‘Gardeners of the Garlic Sea’ (I’d like to see that film). Or more recently when I questioned the wetness of Sophie’s flip flops, she quietly responded “I just like wetting them”. (It does sound like it’s mostly Sophie, but in fact she is the most coherent one of the lot). We’ve narrowed down the potential causes and would like to hear what you think is most likely. It is down to either the lack of sleep, our supervisors’ influence, the sun’s radiation, Peru in general or the island mentality of Nauta. We’d love to hear your thoughts.
We’re now coming to the end of our time here. With only a month to go we are wanting to embrace and enjoy our last time doing things. We have also been given a grace period of a week to slow down before heading home. Please pray for these last weeks.
Speaking of, our last kids club is coming up fast and there is still planning to be done. Erin and Sophie will be taking this on as a two as my work in the garden is continuing. Please pray that they will get everything planned in time and will enjoy running the sessions. (This will be taking place the week start the 9th March).
Sophie’s dad has been taken ill and is in hospital, please pray that he will make good progress in his recovery over the coming weeks. That Sophie and her family continue to have strength and a positive attitude at this time, being assured of Gods plan.