Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays

December has been another busy month!  At the beginning of the month I was finishing up my 2nd week with the Conapac end of the year evaluation team.  This was my 2nd year helping out.  Conapac visits all of the 57 communities that we work in, plus some communities who are interested in working with us next year.  I went to a few communities that I had been to before, and a few that were new to me.  The community evaluations are always interesting; it’s so rewarding to visit a community that really takes full advantage of all the support Conapac has to offer.  At the same time, evaluations can be very frustrating, some communities are struggling, maybe because of lack of organization among the community’s authorities, or lack of initiative from the community’s teachers.  Either way, these communities always serve as a reminder that there is a lot of work to be done next year.  

2011 Evaluation Team
We wrapped up our year at the libraries with a traditional Peruvian Christmas party called a Chocolatada.  As you may have guessed from the name, a Chocolatada involves chocolate!  The highlight of the party is drinking hot chocolate, made on an open fire in a huge pot, mixed with cinnamon and cloves.  It is a mystery to me why anyone would want to boil a giant pot of chocolate in the middle of the day in the steamy Amazon, but I have to admit it was tasty, even while sweating! 

Lara Preparing the Hot Chocolate
The other tradition at a Chocolatada is eating panetones.  A paneton is a large round bread filled with raisins and dried papaya that is dyed red and green.  Personally, I am not a huge paneton fan, I don’t really like the dried papaya, but it is a treat here. 

Cutting Up and Buttering the Panetones

We held our first Chocolatada at the Sapo Playa branch where they recently completed a new mural for the outside of the library.  The mural was started with students from a school in Lima during a service project in November.  There were about 60 people at the Chocolatada in Sapo Playa.

New Mural- "Navigating the River of Reading"

The next day we had our Chocolatada in the main branch.  There were about 120 people there, it was a lot of fun.  Pirata and Tello got in the holiday spirit too!

Pirata and I
Tello was not a fan of getting dressed up.

Kids in Sapo Playa

Ronald and Robinho

In December, James from Conapac finished up 2 mini water treatment plants, one in each branch!  We received funding from one from the Fremont Michigan Rotary club, we are still looking to fund the 2nd one. Thanks Fremont Rotary!  In January we will have water workshops to teach the students how to use the water plants and to teach them about the importance of drinking clean water. 

The New Mini Water Plant in the Palmeras Branch

Last weekend was our first Christmas concert. The choir and guitar students from the library had been working since March to prepare for this concert.  The students arrived in Iquitos Saturday, for many it was their first time in the city.  The kids stayed at a church retreat center with bunk beds, flushing toilets, and showers- very different from home!  The kids are used to sleeping on the floor, bathing in the river, and using latrines or nature for their bathroom necessities.  Saturday we had some downtime before rehearsal, so we watched “How to Train Your Dragon” (THANKS MOM!) and drew pictures.  The concert was put on by a youth cultural center in Iquitos called Irapay.  Their choir and our choir joined together for the show.  The kids went to the Irapay center for rehearsal in the afternoon, and back to the retreat center for dinner and bed. 


The same weekend, Conapac organized an art exhibition at Irapay with student art from the communities of Yanamono I and Sapo Playa.  It was great.  Yanamono had a lot of recycled art- picture frames made from recycled newspaper, Christmas trees from recycled plastic bottles, and imaginative sculptures made from roots.  

At the Art Exhibit with Teachers and Students

Sunday morning the students rehearsed at the cathedral where the concert would be held that night.  It was my first time in the cathedral, it was very beautiful.  It was neat to see the kids reactions, most of them had never been in a building even remotely like it.  

Inside the Cathedral

 We had a lot of free time in the afternoon, so we watched more movies, and I painted all of the girls’ fingernails!  They all reassured me their parents would be ok with it!  

Showing Off Their Pink Nails!

The concert went very well, our kids were wonderful!  There were also presentations from flute and violin students from Irapay.  A few of the kids were super nervous before and during the show, one little girl sang with her eyes closed the entire time!  Another little girl kept grabbing her brother’s hand while they sang, it was very sweet.  


After the concert we all went out to dinner.  The next morning everyone was exhausted, but we kept going, visiting the Quistococha Zoo. It was a quick visit, with kids puking on the bus on the 40 minute ride there, and the 40 minute ride home!! They’re not used to traveling on busses either.  Even though we all had fun at the zoo, I think we were all ready to go home!  They headed back to the jungle and I stayed in Iquitos for a few days.

Now we won’t have students at the library until mid January.  We’ll be working on a complete inventory of both branches, and enjoying the holidays a little too.  I am spending Christmas in Iquitos with Cynthia and Pam and her family again.  Cynthia is an amazing cook, and my mouth is already watering thinking about the turkey, stuffing, pies, and everything else she is making tomorrow!!  We will be spending New Year’s Eve in the jungle, celebrating with families in the community of Palmeras.  

Merry Christmas!