Once we arrived to Pucallpa early in the morning, we took a motor bike taxi (similar to a Tuk Tuk in Thailand) to Bryan’s place. Bryan is the son of Ryan’s Godfather, George and is the reason we decided to experience the Peruvian Amazon. Bryan married Luz, a Shipibo woman who he has a 3 year old son with, named Noli George. The wife has another 6 year old son, Christian who also lives with them and Bryan treats him as his own. Noli speaks 3 languages (Spanish, English, and the native Amazonian language, Shapibo) without really distinguishing between the three. He knows he speaks English with his father, Spanish with his mother, and Shipibo with his grandmother, but he also spoke all three to us, and refered to his Spanish speaking amigos as “friends”. Christian was a playful, patient older brother to Noli, and left on his own each afternoon for soccer practice.
This visit was more about spending time with this resplendent family then it was about exploring Pucallpa and the Amazon, but since Bryan runs a non-profit organization in the city which provides (among a myrid of other services) sanitary solutions for nearby native Amazonian communities, we became very familiar with both. One day we went with Bryan and Christian to the San Francisco community where we got the chance to see one of his projects first hand. Bryan was helping build a wooden latrine that utilized wood chips to neutralize human waste while also composting it (the community used to dump the waste into the standing ground water) for a tiny elevated two room schoolhouse. They also reuse old plastic bottles to create buoyancy for the outhouse when the ground water levels rise.
It was an extremely profound experience to see the conditions in which this community was living. We were humbled to find that various grades of children were packed into a room the size of a closet. Further, their land is on a flood plain so they build the houses on stilts, but without running water or bathrooms, the community shares outhouses. In order to get to these toilets, people must often walk through a soggy field of runoff, drainage, groundwater, and waste from other outhouses. Additionally, the waste from the outhouses also contaminates the water they use to grow crops. Obviously, the work Bryan and his foundation does makes a profound and immediate impact.
We went to downtown Pucallpa for one reason or another most days of the week we spent with Bryan and his family, and every trip served as an excuse to get more ice cream. As if the buy 2 get 1 free promotion wasn’t enough, the heladería (ice cream shop) offered a plethora of options, both savory such as cappuccino, manjar (dulce de leche), and tentación (cream with oreos), as well as sweet from natural fruits such as maracuya (passion fruit), cherimoya, and lucuma. One afternoon, after indulging in our fill of ice cream, we went with Bryan, Christian, and Noli to Mundo Feliz (Happy World) to let loose in the brightly colored fair environment chalked full of rides. Christian and Noli were beyond adorable as they played with an abundance of vigor.
One afternoon, while Bryan was working, we went with Luz, Christian, and Noli to the local zoo. It was a very different experience than the animal amusement parks we are used to in the States. Besides having a drastically different selection of animals to view, the zoo itself was built into the natural landscape, so the limited spaces the animals were afforded in their cages wasn’t as painful to see.