More than a marathon, waterfalls and farewells
The day of the big race finally came on the 5th of July. It was organized by a volunteer in a beach town about 5 hrs from Piura City. Here in Peru running for fun doesn’t really exist as a concept except from small circles of people in Lima. Between the four different races (5k, 10k, 21k and 42k) there were somewhere around 140 participants (a large chunk of which was volunteers). I of course was planning on running the bit 26miler. Something in my gut told me that it wasn’t a good idea mainly because I had missed a huge part of the training program…I actually didn’t follow any program, but I knew approximately how much I needed to run. Due to the ridiculous rainy season, a foot injury and a number of trips I was only able to max out at 13 miles before the race… was supposed to run 20. When I came down to it, though, I didn’t want to settle for the half marathon. I actually am not a fan of running at all, so if I was going to do it, I was going to do it right, otherwise it would have been a lot of wasted weeks of training. To make things just a little worse, I had been invited to play in a soccer and volleyball tournament in tunal the same week. I hadn’t played either in a long time so following few days my whole body ached like crazy. Long story short, I lined up with the 16 other marathoners and decided to give it my best shot. The course was not ideal.. to say the least. There was not a single stretch of paved road but rather we ran in the desert. It was basically the equivalent of running on a loose gravel road…with a couple sections of deep sand…not like I needed the extra challenge. The course consisted of a number of big loops which I guess wasn’t a bit deal since there was not a single tree, house.. or any type of scenery for that matter. I felt really good for the first 15k’s. I hit the wall at 21… yeah, the half way point. I guess the big turning point in my mental psyche was when this van zoomed up beside me to tell me that I was off course. So I guess I can say that I ran more than a marathon.. about a quarter mile extra. Talk about a horrible feeling of hoplessness. Fortunatley/unfortunately, however, I am a very proud person so I would have died of exhaustion before calling it quits. Plus all my friends were waiting at the finish line! I’m honestly not sure I survived it, but I did. I broke no records, but I finished. I even beat some people! I finished in the top ten…. And the bottom 10. Not many people can say that!
Independence day here is july 28th. We get a few days off for the holiday so I went with 5 friends to a place called Chachapoyas which is about 14 hours by bus from Piura. It is the home of some of the largest preincan ruins in Peru as well as the 3rd highest waterfall in the world according to National Geographic (some websites rank it 15th but 3rd sounds a lot better to me J) We enjoyed the beautiful landscape and even camped in a flat section in the middle of the fall. The interesting thing about the waterfall is that I was only “discovered” a few years ago. Apparently because of a funny local belief involving some evil mermaid none of the natives ever explored the area.
The last couple months workwise have been fairly relaxed. I’ve been trying to get the groups ready for the next volunteer who will be arriving later this month. Both the boys’ cake business and the lady weavers have a long way to go. I have, however, been quite pleased by the progress that each group is making.
The weavers have really started to take more initiative. I backed away for a few weeks to see how they would do without anyone urging them to meet weekly and they in fact have met every week. They continue to work on shawls and are now knitting scarves. They are doing a fantastic job and have received a lot of positive feedback. I recently went to them to a fair in one of the nearby caserios. It was the first fair they had been to so they were a bit nervous. I had to walk them through the process of tending to customers after they straight-up ignored the first lady that visited their stand. By the end they did really well, however, explaining their work and having the people try on the pieces. In the coming months they will hopefully continue to work on the group’s organization as well as develop a marketing plan.
The bakers have reached the 300 cake mark and continue to bake more and more every week. They’ve been receive a lot of orders recently and are looking forward to their one year anniversary next month. I had the opportunity to take them down to the city for a couple days so that they could not only see what urban life is all about but also tour the central market, buy ingredients, and most importantly visit the largest supermarket in the city. I had arranged a tour of the bakery and an informal workshop on cake decorating. They workers were extremely kind and patients and were very helpful. They explained their techniques and even let the kids decorate a cake. The boys really enjoyed the visit, especially since they were able to try all the different varieties of pastries! In addition to the supermarket tour I took them to one of my favorite cevicherías and treated them to the best plate of ceviche that they had ever had. We also went out for hamburgers and later to the movie theater. For the 15 yr old who had never been to the city I was a particularly exciting couple of days.
I am writing this entry as I sit on my balcony looking out across the town which has become my home for the past two years. I’ve been trying to enjoy every last moment here because I know that it will be one of those places that I will look back on nostalgically for the rest of my life. It’s a very bittersweet moment really. I’m sad to be leaving the many great friends I have acquired throughout my term here, but at the same time I am extremely excited to see what adventures lay ahead.