Thanksgiving is here and I have so much to be thankful for that I would be a complete imbecile to take them for granted.
1. LIFE!! Ok ok ok... I know this answer is going to make you want to gag, but I have a story that will make you appreciate my answer as well. So as you know, the jungle can be a treacherous place, but I hadn´t experienced that feeling first hand until a couple of weeks ago when a few friends and I were walking in the jungle. It was dark out so we all had our torches and we were sticking strictly to the path. As we´re walking, Vicki jolts back and her scream pierces the tranquility of the forest. We freeze, and in the light of her headlamp, is a coiled up Fer-de-lance snake, poised to strike. The Fer-de-lance is a venomous pitviper that is extremely dangerous and causes more human fatalities than any other reptile (according to Wikipedia hahah). In our region of the jungle, it is the third most poisonous snake after the Coral snake and the Bushmaster. Our friend Simon had already unknowingly passed over the snake and was on the other side. Stuck on the otherside. In a frantic panic, me and another girl sprinted back to camp to call for help. We were able to get Fernando and he quickly came and killed the snake in one blow to save Simon (No problem for jungle masters like Fernando).
Though the snake didn´t bite anyone that night, we had a close call. That was one aggravated snake and one small bite could have done anything from causing memory loss, or paralysis, to a fatality. We are incredibly lucky that Vicki was vigilent that night! It´s a scaryyyy world out there! I must remain on my toes!
2. Bug repellant and AfterBite: Without these two vital chemicals, I would be one sorry scarred up girl. The other night, I went on a walk wearing leggings with shorts overtop. Two layers of protection is apparently tissue thin to the mosquito´s penetrating probiscous! I woke up the next morning and my bum was SOLID mosquito bites. Rocky mountain range status on my BEHIND!! I´ve been slathering on the AfterBite every chance I get and sneaking in little scratches when I think no one is looking ;)
3. Mosquito Net: While the bugs feast on me all they want while I´m on their turf, there is NO way they are penetrating my sacred bed bubble. I am so thankful for this marvelous piece of fabric that allows me to sleep in peace!
4. Siestas: I have definitely adopted this genious bit of South American culture. Almost every day I take a short nap after lunch to give me that extra energy boost to get me through the rest of the day. While some say this practice is only for lazy fools, I believe it is quite advanced to recognize the needs of the human body. We naturally get sleepy during this part of the afternoon and to structure your life around this energy-dip allows you to be more productive when you are awake.
5. Simple Pleasures: Being down here has made me much more appreciative of the little things. A letter from a friend, spotting wildlife, swimming in the river, tea or hot chocolate, having ice cream and other delicious foods when I come into town, identifying a bird by its call, making chocolate cakes, making a new friend, clean laundry, watching monkeys swing from branches, smuggling snacks back to Taricaya, wellies and raincoats, toast, my opaque waterbottle that allows me not to see all the dirt particles swimming in my water, candlelight, learning a word in another language, crazy dancing, and even just laughing!
6. NOT having mirrors: While Vicki and I have a small mirror in our bedroom, it is easy to avoid and I am thankful that there are few reflective surfaces down here. I´m sure glad I don´t have to look at my grimy, dirt smeared face! Haha! But it is just not important to look a certain way in the jungle and it is very refreshing to not be judged on appearance.
7. Victoria Monreal: Vicki is an amazing girl and I am SOO incredibly thankful that she was crazy enough to agree to come on this trip with me. She makes me laugh and can always amplify the awesomeness of an experience. She is up for anything and we have so much fun together! Sometimes we just start laughing for no apparent reason and can´t stop until our cheeks literally hurt! She is also one of the most caring people I know and I feel blessed to have someone who always has my back. Whether keeping me safe against eager Peruvians, pickpocketers, spiders, jaguars, or myself, she is always there :) We make a good team and I am sooo thankful to have a travel partner who is like my other half. I love you Victoria!
8. Friends/Family: Whether I have just met you or you are keeping up with me long-distance, I love you all! I am very affected by the people around me and I feel so gracious to be surrounded by such outstanding citizens!! I could never be a hermit or Chris McCandless (from Into the Wild) because the warmth and happiness people bring to my life is unmeasurable! Thank you for putting up with my craziness!! Bahaha!
9. Andy, Jan, and Allison: I love you!! I am a lucky girl to have been raised in such a loving family. Especially being down here, I feel so grateful to have had a family that has been stable enough to give me everything I need and more. I have been granted with opportunities that I know most of the world does not get to enjoy. I admire my Dad for working so hard and never letting it show. He is one of the happiest, goofiest people I know and I am astounded that he has shaped his life around what he loves. I hope I can be like that. My Mom is so kind and I thank her for all the knowledge, advice, home cooked meals, care packages, and everything else she has provided/sacrificed for me over the years. I only hope that I can give her as much recognition as she deserves! And Allison. My beautiful older sister who is always so wise and composed. She is so warm-hearted and I love that as well as the sarcastic, witty, devil side she has to her (don´t deny it Allison ;))! I hope you know how much I love you all and how much I miss you!
10. Thanksgiving Feasts: No matter where you are in the world, a thanksgiving dinner IS possible!! A few days before Thanksgiving, the three Americans (me, Vicki, and Zack) got together and discussed our options. It was simply not possible to let Thanksgiving fly by unappreciated- that would be totally against EVERYTHING the holiday stands for!! But we were a little apprehensive. We would be using foreign cooking appliances, substitue ingredients, we would have about 35 anxious mouths to feed (most of which was there first thanksgiving so they were expecting something grand!), and none of us had ever done it before, let alone cooked for that many people. It was a big endeavour but we decided to take it on. In the spirit of THANKSGIVING!
So, the day before, we went into the market and rounded up the goods. The ingredients we purchased were somewhat sketchy but we hoped that they would get the job done. And then, contrary to popular belief, we found the impossible: A GRAND TURKEY!! Whoohoo! It would be a real Thanksgiving feast.
We started that night on the pies so we would have enough oven space for the turkey the next day. And low and behold, with about half of the normal ingredients from the recipie, and some weird sort of gourd, we made PUMPKIN PIE!! Starting early the next day, we did the rest. And we did it with gusto! The whole ordeal! We made an apple crisp, apple cider, mashed potatoes, stuffing, salad, jello, popcorn (which apparently the Indians invented), bread rolls (well we bought the rolls), and of course turkey and gravy! We were nervous the whole day, but when it came time to eat, everyone was blown by how amazing it all tasted and quickly went for seconds! Even the turkey turned out perfectly tender! Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I must say three inexperienced Americans did pretty frickin awesome!! I haven´t been that full since last Thanksgiving I believe :)
It was a dinner of a lifetime. We had everyone say something they were thankful for and it was so touching that I literally had to holdback tears (my mother cursed me with weak tear ducts I think haha). Everyone was so appreciative as well (especially the cooks who got the night off) and told us we made their first Thanksgiving unforgettable!
In the end, I´m grateful I was able to bring a little piece of home to Peru and I must thank my lucky stars for helping me pull it off!