Depressed at the Zoo – This cheered me up!

After several weeks in Lima, I ran out of excuses why I couldn’t go to the zoo. My friend kept inviting me, insisting that I shouldn’t miss it. Joel really wanted to show off what seemed to be his favorite place.

Truth is, I get depressed at zoos. When I see the animals in the cages, staring at me with those pitifully sad faces, I feel their pain. Even the most advanced enclosures with natural settings are not the same as nature. I try to convince myself that the animals have been rescued and are being rehabilitated and cared for by loving keepers. If they were released into the wild they wouldn’t survive… so best keep them in the zoo.

But… I see little things that make me angry; empty water dishes, soiled cages, spectators rapping on the glass or taunting sleeping creatures. Garbage thrown carelessly into the enclosures, overcrowding or worse yet… solitary animals, and that, that just makes me sad. If you enjoy going to the zoo, don’t invite me along, I’ll probably spoil your day.

On my last weekend in Peru Joel finally convinced me to go with him to Parque de las Leyendas. I reluctantly agreed. It wasn’t a bad zoo… I tried desperately not to over scrutinize the details. I breezed past the first section with animals from the mountains. I lingered in the botanical gardens and leisurely explored the ancient ruins (pre-Spaniard). I hurried away from exhibits with weepy eyed animals or crowds pressing against the glass.

After a snack we rented a pedal boat and floated around a big lagoon for a while… I managed to see the entire 3 sections (coastal, mountain and jungle) without having a total breakdown or being reduced to tears. It wasn’t a bad zoo…

But the big treat came at the end. We were walking toward the gates to exit and I spotted a bus. It drew me in with its cheerful paint-job. Joel said, “That’s for children”, and tried to drag me away but I had to see inside.

Agua Bus

I pushed my way past the girl minding the door. She was trying to shut it but I squeezed through and entered a chamber with a dozen kids, 2 parents and a man in a blue jacket.

COOL!  A bus/classroom to educate kids about water.

I was instantly comforted, forgot all about zoo trauma, and was excited to learn more. I watched a unique demonstration of how water evaporates then rises to the top of the mountains, falls as rain, gets filtered by the land then returns to the ocean. At least, that’s what I think he was saying. (My Spanish is pretty limited.) He had a nifty switch panel that turned on lights and accentuated his model and presentation.

Water cycle demonstation

Next he played a short video that reinforced what he had just taught the kids. It had flashy graphics and lots of animations. The children were engaged. I watched them watching. It inspires me to see young people learning about nature and our precious resources, especially water. The video showed statistics for how many liters per day each Peruvian needed. The numbers were way lower than what North Americans use. I shuffled uncomfortably when the comparison table was showing.

Watching a Water Information Video

When the video was over, Marc (the blue jacketed man) quizzed the kids and answered questions. It was encouraging to see genuine interest from the kids and infectious passion from the host. When the discussion ended he slid open a door and we entered the back half of the bus. Marc circled the room and pointed to the information displayed prominently on the walls. There was a final round of Q&A followed by another video and a few more questions to finish the water lesson. Afterward each child was presented with a T-shirt from the water authority (Authoridad Nacional de la Agua) and they were shuffled out the back door to clear way for the next group. IMG_5583It was a perfect finish to a challenging day for me. I was inspired by the program. After spending 3 months focused on exposing the problems in Peru, it was refreshing to see someone sharing solutions.

I keep saying, education is the answer. We need to reach the children.

Teach them to recycle, reuse, rethink, reduce, and refuse. Show them how to grow food. Provide them with opportunities to engage with nature… Nurture a connection and respect for the environment. Encourage a sense of responsibility for our natural resources.

The adults of the past few decades haven’t been doing such a great job. Here’s hoping this next generation does better.


Missing Posts… Back in Cusco with Internet


Each of these posts was written by different members of the Reach Out Volunteer team. It has been an enriching experience for me capturing their work, travels and experiences for our film and  pleasure to have gotten to know them a bit.

The train ride back from Machu Picchu was bitter sweet. I was happy to be heading back to Cusco and to get caught up on my correspondence… but I knew that I may never again get the opportunity to visit all the amazing places that we had been too. These posts will be a lasting memory of those days. Posts for Day 1 through 3 have already been put to my facebook, but are also available on the wordpress site.

We are on our final 2 days of the 14 day journey… today we visit an animal rescue center, an artisan center that fabricates silver jewelry and a baby alpaca factory for tapestries and textiles.

stay tuned for 3 more soon…



Day 8 – Photo and Footage Review – Tourist in Cusco

Plaza del Armas, Cusco
Plaza de Armas, Cusco

Today was a strange day. I spent the morning sorting through footage then decided I needed some fresh air. I prepared for a free walking tour of the city but when I left the apartment it was pouring rain. The weather at high altitude can change drastically and instantly so you always have to be ready. I had my rainjacket in my pack and pulled it on as I rushed for the bus. When I arrived downtown I had a few blocks to walk before reaching the main square, Plaza de Armas, and with each step it was treacherously slippery. The other day I had taken my boots to a shoe repair to have them resoled but now it was like skating on cobblestones. I could barely walk. They were slick!

I had been searching for suitable shoes for hiking so since I was downtown I decided to check out a few stores. (At least until the rain stopped.) Funny thing is that my feet are size 9 (40-41) and most Peruvians are much smaller so the selection isn´t that great. Luckily I discovered a North Face outlet that catered to tourists and found a perfect pair on special. I stuffed the boots in my backpack and exited the store under a clearing sky.  (I guess refurbishing my boots was a good try but they were getting pretty worn and I needed proper foot gear for the treks ahead) My timing was good on the weather but I had missed the 2.5 hour walking tour of the city. No worries they have it every day!

By the time I got to the square everything was pretty much dry. The snap dragons had grown about a foot since my arrival 2 weeks ago. I was reminded that it was spring and the beginning of the rainy season so everthing was going to start sprouting like crazy.

Gardener in the Plaza

Everything always looks very well maintained but this is the first time I have actually seen a man working in the gardens. Maybe they do it mostly at night? That´s when the garbage pickers and sidewalk sweepers (all done by hand) are working.

Lessons from a proI wanted to take some photos today in the main square and around the touristy areas but I kept getting approached by the peddlers. Hard to take natural shots with mobs of locals selling key chains and hats… I loved the scene above though. A weaver demonstrating her skills with a local girl looking on. The textiles are truly incredible and very time consuming to make by hand.Hidden Market

I left the main square and headed away from the selling zone… Then, I discovered this place. I arrived purely by accident because I was looking for a bathroom and went through a doorway into a huge courtyard that I must have passed a dozen times before. It looked like the type of place tour groups would be brought to. I got mobbed here too and had to pay a woman to take my photo after she handed me a piece of lettuce and forced me to feed her dirty Alpaca or Llama or…? feeding the beast

I noticed that the other wooly creatures didn´t have the same teeth as this guy. Not sure if that´s normal or a really bad overbite. In any event, he wasn´t even that hungry and I had to literally force my $3 (soles) piece of lettuce at him.Wildcat napping

On my way out of the tourist trap zone I was approached by a woman who wanted me to have my photo taken sitting in the sun god´s throne. I refused on the basis that the cat was comfortably occupying it. I don´t know how these people make a living…? One Peruvian Sole equals about 40 cents Canadian… and that´s what they usually get. Doesn´t seem much for all the effort them put out.

No Sunset tonight

I got back home just before the sun dipped behind the mountains. I keep waiting for a good sunset but you rarely get rich colors here since the air is so thin and remarkably clean. I thought the lens flare was kind of interesting in this angle though.

Back to more editing tomorrow! Starting on the rough picks then translation for the second segment.

Be sure to check back on the previous days if you missed them. Also, if you have any questions or comments about the project, we´d love to hear from you.

Day 6 – Translating Day One footage from Quechan to English

Today as we continue to review the footage from Day One and Two, I am reminded of the beauty and innocence of the children of Richard’s village. Here is a picture of a mother escorting her child to school. Few of these children have been exposed to the big city and even fewer have seen foriegners. walking to school Richard has two daughters, the eldest is 5 and attends kindergarten. She she is dressed in her traditional clothing.eldest daughter traditional wearThe younger daughter is only two but speaks Quechan very well and is a bright and sensitive child. She was very shy around me, probably because I looked so different than anyone she was used to.

Shy and wary of strangers
Shy and wary of strangers
learning the traditions at an early age
learning the traditions at an early age

Richard’s eldest daughter was eager to show me how she could weave (braid) as well. She was fascinated with the camera and was much more confident than her little sister.