Sunday, January 01, 2012

Delivering Books to Amazon School

Delivering Books to Amazon Schools
At the port in Yurimaguas we made arrangements for one of the big riverboats to transport us down the Amazon. These boats are mainly for cargo and they are notorious for being delayed and not departing on time. That is why it is best to visit the docks and then choose a boat that is getting ready to leave. We were able to find a boat that was leaving tomorrow morning. We reserved cabin space on the upper deck to store our gear. We would spend most of our time in chairs or hammocks on the deck during the day and then retire to small sheet metal cabins when the nighttime temperatures cooled down. The views of the jungle and trees are fascinating as the sun reflected off rain clouds in the distance. We would spend hours watching the world pass before us as we glided down the river.

Our main project on the riverboat was to deliver schoolbooks to six rural jungle schools as part of the Anne Marie McSweeney Book Delivery Project. We had bundled our assortment of books and school supplies we bought in Lima into neat tight packages. Our mission was to take a small shuttle boat to villages along the shore. Our delivery time was limited because the big boat was continuing down the river. We would have about 15 minutes to locate the school in the village and make the delivery and then hurry back to catch the big boat. Our deliveries would need to be quick and efficient.

We have organized this book delivery project four times in past years. Our delivery schedule would need to be during school hours if possible. Since we started this voyage almost eight hours previous to past years we calculated we would be stopping at new villages during this tour. With the recommendations from the captain, he suggested which villages hidden along the riverbank would have schools that needed books. A crewman from the cargo ship drove our small motorboat to shore. He would take six members from our group to the riverbank. Usually we were met by some local villagers wondering why non-native people were stopping at their village. This is why it was important to be traveling with our young friends Aracely, Yeni, Alessandra and Samantha who acted as the ambassadors for our group. After a few minutes we were led to the school where a class was in session. The teachers were happy with the surprise visit and books and the class was happy for the distraction. We repeated this delivery routine to six schools in eight hours.

The chance to get real books and classroom supplies was a real necessity for these rural schools. Some of the schools wanted us to stay and visit longer. They had never been visited by non-native people (gringos) before. Some of the villages insisted on giving us handmade gifts of carvings, beadwork and other elaborate souvenirs. This was an exciting and worthwhile project that is always a highlight of our travels across Peru. That night we continued down the Amazon River on the boat. When we were 100 kilometers from Iquitos in the town of Nauta the paved road began again. From there we rode our bikes the final 65 miles into the city. We had completed the book delivery project and now we had four days of other projects planned in Iquitos.



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