I Heart You Pucallpa, Peru

Blue eyeshadow, I love the way you match the shirt and the shoes just so.  And I love how you pay no mind to that tired faux pas rule cuz you look damn good and you know it, too!

Gorgeous sunsets, you’re the best. How do you do it? Is that what the afternoon rainstorms are for? To set the stage  – everyday without fail – with clouds to hang a gorgeous golden, purple, and rose sunset – a Michaelangelo sky.

“People of the Jungle” – is that what you call yourselves?  Well, that I love – it reminds me of Tarzan.  And you do love that platano, I’ve noticed.  But above all I love your iambs and your dactyls – yes y’all, i had to look up my metric feet (poetry not centimeters) to find those words, but you don’t have to.  Just imagine a linguistic lovechild of Italian, Shakespearean iambic pentameter, and maybe also a dramatic telenovela actress.  That’s what you sound like: sing-songy delicious.  “VA-moose haa-CER una CO-zaa” Le *sigh*, I swoon when you talk to me.

Two hour lunches, you are perfect.  You are the exact amount of time needed for a little stroll, a lolly-gagging lunch, and then that sweet, sweet heat-induced nap with the fan set just so it lulls me to sleep.  And still – you’re so good to me – you fit in that extra fifteen minutes at the end to get up, shake it off and squeeze in an ice cream cone during the brisk walk back to the office.

And, oooooh Socias of Manuela Ramos- you’re so generous and so affectionate.  You make me feel at home and I knew from the first day that I’m the most lucky and most rapidly fattening girl in the world.  You guys bestow more honors and food on me than I deserve.  The chocolate demonstrations complete with tastings! The juanes – leafy packets stuffed with rice and chicken and olives – that stuff me in turn!  When I visit your fruit stand you ask me if I’ve ever tried the juice of the “fill in the blank” (camu camu? cocoma? aguaje? guayabana? maracuya?) and when I say no you’ve produced a brimming glass for me to gulp down.  You even help me up and sponge off my backside with a washcloth when I fell today in the mud in front of your house!  You even give me a ring with your initials for me to remember you by! I feel sheepish when you applaud my introduction in meetings and when you serve me the first slice of birthday cake before the birthday socia.  But I hope you know how much I appreciate and am flattered to meet you.  That it’s nothing of consequence to be from America, which you say it is, but I think it’s far more impressive to have three businesses, five kids, and still enough time and courtesy to accompany me to my next stop in the road. Plus you got that blue eyeshadow thing going on, so you know I have a thing for you!

And my darling, scalding hot sun.  You want to beat it out of me, but I refuse to keep loving you!  I’ve been waiting for you through three constant years of San Francisco “fall”.  If I’m going to give up seasons it’s going to be here with you, Sun!  You start the sweats right out the shower and you remind me of swampy summers in DC and North Carolina.  You’ve browned me out, and thank God because I thought I was fading to a forever yellow beneath the San Francisco fog!  I don’t care if the weather channel says it’s “88, but it feels like 97″ for as long as I’m here I’m stepping out in the sunshine!  Just don’t judge me when I walk in the shade.

And last but not least, Pucallpa… What is it about you?  I swear you remind me of my hometown of Greensboro, North Carolina.  Is it the red mud and the green grass and the quiet streets?  And then sometimes I think I’m in West Africa or Thailand, though well, I don’t know what either is like – but it’s the swirling dust and then the sudden crazy storms and then even crazier swarms of mototaxis (which are basically motorized rickshaws) that infest the streets. I want to take a walk next week through your night markets with your random mix of animals: guinea pigs from the sierras, thousands of chickens, and the poor turtle-soup-doomed turtle that they don’t bother to chase when he lumbers away at his useless pace.  You’re filled with evangelical missions and Catholic churches.  And lunch and dinner are served outside under the sky.  There’s just enough of you to have some nice music and bars and you’re just small enough to still retain a star-ful sky…. Just quit with the moths/cockroaches/mosquitos, eh?


Hi, my name is Jenny Ballen and I am currently completing my ninth week as a Kiva fellow for Manuela Ramos in Peru.  Check out my personal blog and experiences from the fellowship and Peru here.


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