Wren ’14 Experiences Locals in Rainforest

Luke Wren ’14 - We are in Tarapoto now, our last place we stay until we go back to the States. It is a city in the selva (jungle/rain forest). Today was a long but eventful day. We traveled to Cerich Sacha which was a very nice village with very welcoming people. When we arrived we had to walk across a stream via stones, and then up to a building with big open doors and cement walls. From the outside it looked very plain and like all the other places we have worked, but the sound coming from inside was all but plain. There was music and talking, it sounded like a party was going on, and when I walked inside there were at least 100 Peruvians of all ages and sizes (mostly small). There was an old man playing a flute and drum and people welcome us with big smiles.

At that point I knew this was unlike any place we have been before. The people were excited to meet us and were thankful for us being there to help them. They all stared (which we are used to as ‘Greengos’) but it was in a different way, there were smiles, waves, and thanks expressed on the locals faces. Shortly after we arrived and the supplies were carried over there was a ceremony for us. They had dancers and music and after, the male leaders of the village spoke one after another expressing their thanks. Dr. Wetzel spoke as well saying how we are very thankful for the opportunity to help and learn from one another.

Dr. Wetzel concluded his speech by pulling out a red and white hand woven belt, that was given to him from the same tribe two years ago. He said that the belt represented the bond that we have shared and continued to share to this day. This was a very fitting statement because it did feel as if we had a connection with this group. The kids and parents brought us freshly chopped coconuts so a drinkable size hole was exposed. They were delicious. After the coconuts we were offered some “homemade” adult beverages. These were served in half a coconut shell. One is called “masato” and you don’t want to know how they make it, but I’ll tell you anyways. Most of the time women will chew yucca (or something similar) into a pulp and then spit it out. The enzymes in the spit aid in the fermentation producing the alcoholic properties. I will never complain about any drink again. The other was a sugar cane drink. I don’t know how they made it and I didn’t ask.

Today I worked with Weston Kitley and checked people for lice. Surprisingly there were far fewer people with lice then I expected. After the campaign closed for the day me and some other Wabash men played futbol with the kids. They were very good and made us look silly at times.

Although I am very tired and want to go to bed I still can’t help but talk about the way we were perceived in this village. I have never experienced anything like it. The music, the atmosphere, the kisses from old ladies all were great, but there was a sense of unity that crossed the language, social, and cultural barriers. I will always remember the look on the old ladies face who walked up to Dr. Wetzel thanked him, gave him a gift and told him to pray for her because the next time he comes back to the village she won’t be there. The gift was a different colored belt. To me it was as if she was handing over the reins, allowing the younger generations to step up and lead as she placed it over his head.  It was a site I will never forget, but I hope it isn’t the last either.

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