|full disclaimer: this pic of me and the monkeys are from my visit to "isla de los monos". Not from any excursions from Tahuayo lodge|
"I'm sorry but we have to ask you not to use the hairdryer. It takes up alot of electrical current." That was the approximate translation of one of the staffs gentle reminder to me when I had turned on my hairdryer to dry my hair following a cold shower. Yes, you heard me right, a cold shower. In the Amazon jungle if water is heated to 33 degrees it becomes a soup for bacteria, leading to upper respiratory diseases. I was reminded of this fact he first day I landed back in the lodge and found there was only one option for the shower temperature.....COLD.
But back to the story about the hairdryer, I had completely forgotten that here at lodge there are only certain times in the day that devices can be plugged into the wall to conserve energy. The lodge is powered by solar power that converts it into electrical energy. Devices can be plugged in between 1-3 and then 6-8. Of course no one is going to punish you if you plug in your device any other time but it is the principal of respect for the lodge and the limited natural resources. I courteously apologized to the staff member after she reminded me.
Then I proceeded to pack my hairdryer into my suitcase because if I leave it out there is no doubt in my mind that when I get up in the morning my first instinct would be to grab it to dry my hair. That incident opened my eyes again to how scarce our resources can be that even the use of my hairdryer was using up electricity that the staff badly needed to keep for themselves in order to prepare breakfast for the guests early in the morning.
Tahuayo Lodge has a 40 meter high canopy zipline that runs through the jungle. They have such a good standing with the Peruvian government that they are in fact the only lodge in the jungle that is allowed to have one. Visitors always come back from having been on the zipline beaming and gushing endlessly about how thrilling the experience was. Day to day life in jungle lodge and amongst the people of the village made me feel like I was on a canopy zipline of a different sort. Canopy ziplining my way thru culture shock.
As some of you know, I came to Tahuayo Lodge for 4 nights in July 2013. And like many visitors, once they get a taste of this place they fall in love and want to keep coming back. Who wouldn't want to come back to a lodge where you are greeted with love and hospitality the moment you get off the boat? In addition to that being paired up with a guide who takes you on fun excursions like: canopy ziplining, searching for poison dart frogs, looking for caiman, fishing for piranhas etc. My guides were wonderful and caring to me when I actually got bit by a piranha on my first trip. Make a note to oneself.....if your guides catch a piranha and show you its teeth the fish is NOT dead. Please do not reach your finger out to touch its teeth.
For the full recount of that incident you can click on the link below:
Pecked by a Peeved Piranha
I couldn't get Tahuayo out of my mind so I came back as a volunteer english teacher, teaching english at a local village named Chino. Stepping into the classrooms of Chino as a teacher and not as a visitor was an invaluable lesson in itself. The moment me and my guide entered the uniformed children would rise to greet me with a "Buenas Dias." And the funny thing was that no matter what age or classroom I went to, whether it would be primary or secondary school the kids would do it automatically on cue. There was no arguing, bad attitude, moodiness, or whining. These kids knew exactly how to treat visitors or authority figures.
On the theme of culture shock, a vastly unsettling sight that was completely normal to these people was the sight of children of all ages running around with machetes. Here in the jungle a machete is an essential tool for day to day life. Kids learn the proper use of a machete right from young from watching their parents and also being shown by the others in the village. It makes me breathe a deep sigh of a relief that these children are so well schooled; the last thing I would ever want is to come face to face with an army of unruly misbehaving children skilled with machetes.
Trudging down the muddy hill one day, having finished a session in the village, I silently thought.....
"It really does take a village to raise a child."