Postcards from Peru – A Visit with the Yaguas

The Diplomonkeys while exploring the Amazon, albeit from the comfort of their jungle lodge base camp, receive an invitation to spend the afternoon with the Yaguas.  It’s only a quick 30-minute boat ride down the river to the village, but it is a world away in terms of differences.

Yagua Chief armed with Punaka (blowgun).

Yagua chief armed with a punaca (blowgun).

Yaguas 3

Yagua man armed with a punaca (blowgun).

Yaguas2

Yagua girl and boy.

Diplomonkey looks forward to his meeting with one of the thirty or so Yagua communities scattered across Peru’s Amazon basin.  Despite the encounter being a programmed activity, it is nonetheless an opportunity for the Diplomonkeys to interact with a people who for millennia have lived off the river and the forest.

Yaguas4

Yaguas preparing a punaca (blowgun) demonstration.

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Yagua chief.

An indigenous people, the origin of whose name today appears to come from the Spanish deformation of the Quechua yawar ruba or the “blood-red people,” they are sincere in their welcoming.  The blood-red people moniker apparently comes from the Yaguas’ habit of painting their faces with achiote (seeds of the annatto plant).

Yaguas5

Yagua man pulling darts from a punaca (blowgun) target.

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Yaguas.

How different and special is this Amazon jungle. When compared to the concrete jungle in which we live, Diplomonkey thinks that green jungle is the better of the two.

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Yagua girl with pet sloth.

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Yagua woman.

For the little ones, as well as for the parents the Amazon represents spectacular sights, sounds, and even smells.  It is a place of torrential downpours followed by gorgeous sunsets along the river.  It is a place where the air resonates with the squeaks, squeals, and howls of untold insects, birds, and monkeys.  Here the river is stocked with exotic fish and cavorting river dolphins.  It is also a place of fresh, clean air characterized that by the welcoming odor of damp earth.  Here even a tapir makes its way deftly through our camp in the evening.

Sunset

Sunset on the Amazon river.

If you can, go and visit the Amazon.  The dollars you spend are well spent. We discovered that they offer people an alternative to logging.  If not, then try to spend some time in some other jungle of the non-concrete variety.  You might be surprised by what is out there.

logging

Logging  barge running along the Amazon River heading to Iquitos.

Enjoy the pictures.

Cheers!

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Post Cards from Peru: Kitesurfing in Paracas

The sun is unseasonably warm; the sky is bluish.  Life is good four hours south of Lima in Paracas thanks to this year’s fickle El Niño.  Enjoying some ceviche, washed down with some sweet dark beer followed by a Chilcano along with some Afro-Peruvian cajon music in the background; ah life is good in Peru.

Paracas Kitesurfer.

Kitesurfing in Paracas Bay.

The little dudes, known as the dynamic duo of Zos and Bo (the Bozos) ask Diplomonkey to stay another day in Paracas.  Why not?  Gives us another day of ceviche, clean air, and a beautifully stark desert landscape by the South Pacific.  These sort of days make foreign service life all the better.

Gearing up for a sail.

Gearing up for a sail.

Kitesurfing

Kitesurfers in Paracas Bay.

Kitesurfer

Paracas Bay Kitesurfer.

Sunset in Paracas Bay.

Sunset in Paracas Bay.

Hope you enjoy the views from Paracas. Come down for a visit, take your shoes off, and have a Chilcano and some ceviche.

Cheers!

4,208 Kilometers from Lima

As Diplomonkey prepares for his next Ecuador trip, he has a flashback to the fun filled afternoon spent earlier this year with the little dudes (AKA as Zos and Bo, which together make up the dynamic duo of the BoZos) at Florida’s Gold Coast Railroad Museum. Although nearly half a year and 4,208 kilometers separate us from that sunny January afternoon, the memories are as fresh today as though the visit occurred only yesterday.

Florida Gold Coast Railroad Museum 1

Florida Gold Coast Railroad Museum – Ghost Train 1594

Foreign Service life with kids is about getting the most fun with the little guys in new settings, collecting memories along the way that hopefully last a lifetime. Despite the hardships we often confront, and occasional (real) dangers, we are incredibly fortunate to get the chance to live and work in different places around the world in the service of our country.

Sam being Sam

Sam being Sam

Fortunately since most of our assignments are accompanied, we get to experience new places with our kids.  Sometimes these places, as incredibly as it might seem, are back home in faraway and exotic Florida.

Gold Coast Railroad Museum - Ghost Train

Florida Gold Coast Railroad Museum – Ghost Train 4033

Our kids growing up overseas are blessed with being able to experience unique life experiences. Our hopes and desires, as parents, are all to often tied to giving our children every material thing that they might possibly need to succeed. I guess that the Foreign Service life style, with its shipment weight allowances limitations and the ever present possibility of an evacuation, forces many of us to focus on what truly is important for the kids – experiences, memories, and the ability years later to say “I did this” or “saw that when I was a kid in the land of Erehwon (i.e., Nowhere spelled backwards, taken from an old foreign service exam).”

Zos and Bo, The Dynamic  Duo of the BoZos

Zos and Bo, The Dynamic Duo of the BoZos

Nasa Railroad Switch

Nasa Railroad SW 1500 Switcher Locomotive #2 – Because We Are Future Astronauts!

Enjoy the pictures!

Sign Post - Need One for US Embassy Lima 4208 KM

Sign Post – Missing a Sign for U.S. Embassy Lima 4,208 KM

Cheers from Lima, the land 4,208 kilometers away!

The Adventure Has Only Begun

A couple of months ago while contemplating our Florida R&R travel, I came upon the brilliant idea of working with the dudes on a father and son project.  A rocket project nonetheless.

Rocket

Designing a Rocket

The months went by, but true to my word I ordered a scale model V-2 rocket from Estes and had it shipped to my in-laws.  Despite the threat of another government shutdown just prior to our travel date, (the last one for us occurred while we were on evacuation status from Embassy Cairo) we make it home for Christmas, the first time in four years.

Channeling the spirit of Wernher von Braun, one of the “fathers of rocket science,” the Diplomonkey crew dives into the construction of its mighty rocket.  Even Jack Jack Smack Attack helps with the build, accompanying the senior Diplo to the model shop and Home Depot for primer, glue, paints and the ever so sharp Exacto knife.  Boy, that knife sure is sharp.

V2 Rocket

V-2 Rocket Ready to Go

With the build, the black and yellow test pattern paint job, and final detailing complete, the Diplomonkey rocket scientists head to the model shop to purchase a set of powerful “D” engines, a launch pad, and controller.  With all the accouterments demanded of modern American rocketry in tow, and with a narrowing launch window since we have to return to Peru, we schedule the launch for a crisp but spectacular south Florida winter afternoon.

Launch Controller

Launch Controller

Dream Big

Dream Big, Greatness Lies Ahead

Five, four, three, two, one, oops a misfire.  With the problem assessed, yep Captain Jack had inverted the blasted connectors to the engine igniter – let’s try it again with a fresh igniter.  Five, four, three, two, one, blast-off in the best NASA style!

 

Rocket 8a

Thanks to Captain Ivan and aunt Jillian, the Diplomonkeys have great memories to share.  With two successful launches under their belts, the Diplomonkeys are now part of the space age.  Which, I guess makes us Diplonauts.

Always dream big and reach for the unreachable!

The Adventure Has Begun

The Adventure Has Only Begun (Michael Mitchell, Space Shuttle Engineer).

Cheers from Lima!

Home for Christmas

JackJack this year asked Santa for a trip home for Christmas.  With the request in hand, the senior simian drafts his official decision memo, attaching a notional schedule of course, and moves forward the packet of documents in bureaucratically efficient and expeditious manner.

With the R&R travel request approved, Captain Jack and the rest of the intrepid diplomatic simian crew hop onboard LAN Peru’s (Boeing 767) Lima-Miami flight (American Airlines code-share) for a stateside break – U.S. Embassy Lima’s Santa delivered, we are so grateful.

Santa at U.S. Embassy Lima

Waiting for Santa at U.S. Embassy Lima.

Beach outings along with seaside discussions about shadows and the wonders of Portuguese man o’ wars follow spectacular breakfasts not just at Starbucks, but also at Another Broken Egg Cafe – great Bloody Mary’s and crab cake stacks, if I dare to say so myself.

Bare Foot Diplomat

The Barefoot Diplomat and Son.

Portuguese man o'war: looks like an empanada, stings like a million bees.

Portuguese man o’war: looks like an empanada, but stings like a million bees.

Nothing says Florida like a shared sunrise with its true natives, even if in suburban Palm Beach County.

Sunrise in Wakodahatchee

Sunrise in the Wakodahatchee Wetlands

Wally Gator

Wakodahatchee Wetland’s “Wally the Gator”

For the record, for me home is Florida despite the years spent in Virginia and my ties to the Commonwealth.  Life is good in Florida, go Gators.

Cheers!

An Afternoon at the Car Museum

One of Lima’s hidden treasures, one a bit off the beaten track is the Asociación Museo del Automóvil – Colección Nicolini in La Molina.  This classic car collection is just spectacular – Jay Leno would be jealous.

Diplomonkey found it by happens chance driving out to countryside one day, making a mental note to go back there with the little dudes.  Off to the museum head the dynamic trio one grey Lima afternoon.

Car Museum Tickets

Car museum tickets, kid and adult entrance fees.

As soon as we enter the first showroom we see an incredible collection of classic cars spanning automotive history.  Dreams of racing cars and deep desert rallies become tangible to Diplomonkey in an instant.  As evidenced by the cars’ showroom appearance, all are fully restored and drivable.  A whiff of gasoline here, a smudge of oil there, are evidence of recent use.

Car Museum 3c

The shop is itself worthy of a lengthy visit.  Cars drawn from the four corners of Peru – coastal deserts, mountain highlands, jungle lowlands – are lovingly restored here; with parts fabricated on site when originals can no longer be sourced.

Definitively Diplomonkey must return to get higher resolution, more diverse pictures with the Nikon.  Until then, here is another teaser.

Car Museum 2c

Cheers, Diplomonkey!

Thanksgiving in Lima, Gringo-style

Diplomonkey’s first Thanksgiving Day in Lima sees the return of Pandora’s box. No foolish mortals, we are not discussing mythology today but rather talking about grilling Gringo-style.

Old Diplomonkey is giddy as a schoolboy; having received for his birthday, and just in time for Thanksgiving, a brand new, shiny black Weber kettle grill. You can almost see him jumping up and down for joy.

Weber Grill: Bits and Pieces

Weber Black Kettle Grill: The Parts

Inspired by the grill’s arrival, Diplomonkey volunteers to cook a full turkey just like in Virginia. The arrival of the Weber spares Diplomonkey however the need to jury-rig his Hibachi for the festive task. Wifie is, let’s say, so very happy.

The Samster, the helpful little dude that he is, gets into the spirit of the holiday, assisting Diplomonkey assemble the instrument of American culinary might. Weber proudly made in Palatine, Illinois without a doubt produces one of the best charcoal grills out there. Diplomonkey has used one to make whole leg of lamb and lamb kabobs, steak, beef ribs, and even beer-can chicken. Heck, even paella in a cast iron pan was cooked to the wonder and delight of friends and neighbors.

Weber Grill Technitian

Weber Grill Assembly Technician

Turkey 5

The Weber Kettle Grill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But let’s cut to the chase. Into the Weber go two bags of Kingsford’s finest mesquite charcoal. Once fully lit, Diplomonkey arranges coals his coals in a circle of fire. Tomasito (i.e., Tommy), our Peruvian gobbler makes his appearance and on the grill he goes – sorry, no presidential pardon for our 20-pounder Tomasito.

Tomasito, before...

Tomasito, before…

Tomasito, after!

…and Tomasito after!

After three hours of crackling and sizzling, the Weber’s lid comes off followed by the sweet smell of grilled, succulent turkey. Enjoying a turkey drumstick on your behalf,

Cheers from Peru.