At the library we started the year with a complete inventory at both branches, closing the libraries for the first couple of weeks. Once we finished we opened for full days until the school year started in March. (Normally we are only open in the afternoons since the kids have school in the morning). It was a lot of fun, mostly we played games and had special activities in the mornings and our usual reading activities in the afternoons. I think my favorite activity was cooking with the kids. We read the book “Stone Soup” together and then made our own soup. All of the kids brought something to add, and I brought carrots, celery, and chicken. Most of the kids had never tried celery before, and some didn’t believe me that you could eat carrots without cooking them! (Neither of them grow locally). We even had stones for the soup, which were brought by friends from the Seattle area since we do not have rocks in this part of the Amazon! It was so much fun cooking with the kids, I think they really enjoyed it too. I found alphabet pasta in Iquitos so the kids all spelled their names in the soup! I’ll post my latest library newsletter for other library updates.
|Sopa de Piedra|
School started in mid March but in many communities the schools had to close by April because of seasonal flooding. This is very unusual for this time of year. Typically the river rises in April, peaks in May, and starts to go back down again, with schools closing for a week or two in May. This year the river was way above average in January, and approaching record highs by March. By the end of March the river passed all recorded levels. It has been amazing to watch the river rise. At first it was exciting to see how far it would go, but once it broke the records it started to get scary. The people here know it is going to flood every year, so they have built their houses up high, using the last record as a guide as to how high. But this year the flooding was more than anyone prepared for. In the villages people have been continuously raising their floors or moving to higher ground. Many people have lost all of their crops and all of their farm animals. It is not uncommon to see a house with a floor raised so high there is no room to stand, with a balsa raft tied to the house full of chickens! I still pick up the kids to go to the library in the afternoon, one boy we pick up from his 2nd story window! We had to close our smaller branch for the time being because it is underwater.
|On our way to the library!|
In the city families have had to relocate, some moving in with other relatives, but many with no place to go. The government declared a state of emergency and closed public schools so that people could seek refuge there, and they have set up tents for temporary housing. They estimate that over 80,000 people have been displaced because of the flooding. Some houses aren’t flooded but they are still in trouble because the sewer systems are maxed out, you can’t put anything down the drain, no showering, no toilet, nothing. Fortunately the house where I stay in Iquitos has not been affected. The bar at the Lodge is underwater, and the dining room was too for about a week, however the staff hasn’t missed a beat and has been adjusting and adapting each day to keep the Lodge fully functioning and to keep the guests comfortable and happy! It appears that the river has started to drop a little, but with the early start and the record breaking levels, it is hard to predict when things will go back to normal.
|The library with 22 cm from the floor to the water.|
ADOPT A SCHOOL
I just finished a little over week of Adopt A School deliveries. Conapac’s main program is Adopt A School, we provide school supplies for interested communities near Explorama’s lodges, and in return the communities make a commitment to their children’s education and quality of life by making sure their kids go to school everyday (no staying home to harvest rice!) and by participating in community projects like fish farms and community gardens that benefit everyone. Once a year we have a group of volunteers come for a week to deliver the supplies to all of the schools. This year was my first year participating, and a new challenge due to the high water. Many communities that are totally flooded had to travel to other communities on high ground to receive their supplies. Some had to meet us in the water to pick up their supplies on the Amazon Queen, Explorama’s big river boat. It was a great experience, I got to visit some communities I had never been to as well as get to know some great volunteers (many from Michigan!). Despite the flooding and the very difficult circumstances in most communities, we had a great turn out which really demonstrated how much the people value this program. This week is the second week of the program, more volunteers have arrived to build a water plant in one of our communities, and we will also have a service project at the library this weekend.
Like I said, things are going extremely well here, I am very happy. I have been working at the library for a year now and enjoying every minute of it. Cliver and I have been together for over eight months, we are having a great time together. I recently had the chance to meet his family, they are very warm and friendly and extremely welcoming. Cliver is coming to Michigan with me for a couple of weeks in October, he has been to the States many times, but never to MI. I will be there the entire month. I am getting anxious to go since it has almost been a year since I last visited. When ever I Skype with Faye, Owen, and Ryann, they never fail to make me feel like a terrible aunt for living so far away! (They also make me feel very loved and missed). My mom will be here in just over a month with her students, unfortunately only for about a week. I will be working with her group with Global Explorers and one or two other Global Explorers groups this summer. I will try to be a better blogger but it doesn’t look like things are going to slow down any time soon!
|Cliver and I|
|Tree climbing (before the flood)|