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Field Trip: Patria Nueva

PERU | Sunday, 9 May 2010 | Views [530]

Water soccer anyone, Patria Nueva

Water soccer anyone, Patria Nueva

Can you imagine 100 mothers gathering to compete in a soccer tournament on Mothers Day?  My mother certainly wouldn’t have considered it.  Would yours?  But in the Shipibo community of Patria Nueva in Amazonia that is how Mothers Day is celebrated.  Most of the women live in Patria Nueva but others made the journey through the rain in overloaded canoes.

We were invited by Alfredo Salinas of The Nature Conservancy and his friend Pepe, one of the organizers of the event.  We, too, traveled by boat, a two-hour journey from Pucallpa across Laguna Yarinacocha, down the Ucayali River and finally upstream on another obscure – to us – river.  There were seven of us on our boat, which seated four, and was powered by a “Johnson,” the generic name for all outboard motors. The Ucayali River is the main highway from Pucallpa north and is used by huge barges loaded with giant logs and dozens of smaller boats packed with people and cargo. 

Patria Nueva was wet and muddy when we arrived and the sun made everything steamy and hot.  As expected Connie and I were the only gringos present and our group were the only non-Shipibos.  While the village women prepared a late lunch of chicken, rice and potatoes for us we set up our mosquito nets supported by chairs stacked on top of desks in one of the school’s classrooms  It was something less than ideal but for one night only we could manage.  The lunch was the only meal we were to have.  Good thing we brought some fruit and snacks for emergencies.

While Pepe was arranging the events Connie and I slipped away for some birding.  Soon we were joined by the usual suspects, a group of 10-year old boys.  They speak Spanish but are more comfortable in their native language.  The only word I learned is “ee-sa” which means bird. The mosquitoes drove us inside around dusk and we had some of our snacks. 

Pepe began his slide show at 7:30 out on the football field with power from the community generator.  It was a juxtaposition of the beauty of Amazonia and the devastation caused by irresponsible mining and logging with a video showing some of the scientific research going on in the area.  Pepe gave the Spanish commentary while one of the villagers translated into the local language.  There was a good turnout and I hope they understood the message, especially the kids.

Despite the mosquito repellant and the bed net the critters had a busy night.  I didn’t spray my socks so my ankles are a mess.  Several dozen attacked my bum when I squatted over the latrine and it only takes a few inside the netting to find your tender spots while you sleep.  Also I am too old to sleep on a hardwood floor!  Morning finally arrived and with it lots of rain.  When it slowed we went to the river to look for birds and were treated to the sight of an Amazon River dolphin.  Neat! 

When started to rain again we took shelter in the old school whose rear wall is missing so we could look for birds.  As boatloads of people began to arrive from other villages their kids were all sent to the old school, the only dry place around.  We ended up entertaining them.  We let them look through the binoculars, took their photos, did numbers, colors and body parts in Spanish and English and tried a game of “Simon Says” (Simon Dice??)

The football began around ten after sonorous speeches, patriotic songs, a pledge of allegiance and the national anthem. Seven teams of women competed in a wet and muddy single elimination tournament on a field that looked more like a lake.  They were surprisingly good and very aggressive.  There was a lot of splashing and sliding in the pouring rain and everyone seemed to have a good time except the babies whose moms were playing.  They couldn’t wait for the game to end and the nursing to begin.

We left for Pucallpa at two.  It rained most of the way and we drifted for a bit while the driver refilled the gas tank.  There were no taxis at the port so we had to walk a quarter of a mile into town before we found one.  Back at the hotel even our lukewarm shower felt good.  We hope a few doses of Caladryl will take the sting out of the bites and stop the itching.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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