CHOICE Expedition Journal Rangrayo, Peru

October 16, 2016 - The Road to Rangrayo

We had a wonderful experience coming from Piura to Rangrayo. The old saying, “It’s the journey, not the destination” totally applied for today. The first 2 hours on the bus were full of twists and turns, but manageable. The stop in Frias where we had lunch and met some of the locals was memorable. But the icing on the cake was the 3-hour ride from Frias to Rangrayo. It was full of surprised with the steep climb up, the Biblical animals, and the virtual “Garden of Eden.” Stunning views (including the 3 bathers we saw as we were coming into our finalWe had a wonderful experience coming from Piura to Rangrayo. The old saying, “It’s the journey, not the destination” totally applied for today. The first 2 hours on the bus were full of twists and turns, but manageable. The stop in Frias where we had lunch and met some of the locals was memorable. But the icing on the cake was the 3-hour ride from Frias to Rangrayo. It was full of surprised with the steep climb up, the Biblical animals, and the virtual “Garden of Eden.” Stunning views (including the 3 bathers we saw as we were coming into our finaldestination!) Finally, our warm reception into the village and getting to dance with the local people culminated our experience. - Joanne Tsaga

Good breakfast. Bus ride to Frias and had good views of the countryside. Then had a delicious lunch. Everything seemed on par. Took a walk to an awesome square with an Inca fertility god in it. Hopped in trucks and were excited for an open drive. Then…the truck stalled and the driver started backing up! Lots of yelling from Leah and the driver backed up into the mountain. We all hopped out, more yelling at the driver and Carlos happened upon us. Unloaded all supplied and squeezed into Carlos’ truck. It was very cozy. Sights along the way, including a horny horse, black sheep, beautiful countryside, pigs, and cows. Made it into the village, greeted with colorful lights***? Heard some nice speeches by the community and then a dance party. We enjoyed a sunset together. -Emily Wood

Best lesson in being and remaining flexible. Looking at positives, humr, and trying new things. The journey from Frias to Rangrayo had its share of horses, cows, llamas, pigs, and chickens. The landscape included dead brush, trees with cotton bulbs, and blackberry bushes. The higher we climbed, the greener it got. Mango trees with giant cactus alongside the “palm”-looking trees. Then finally ferns and evergreens with Aloe vera. Gorgeous green fields with sheep. A horse was attempting and failing to mate alongside a younger horse and then the occasional black sheep among white was unique. We changed trucks for various, previously-mentioned reasons, which was hilarious, terror-filled, and amusing at times. --Ramea Bowler

Today was very interesting. I spent the majority of the day travelling and changing planes. Had very little sleep, but was able to catch up a little bit on the bus. As I flew in to Peru, I noticed the square-shaped buildings and how close and similar they are to one another. As I was driven to the hotel, I noticed the close-knit community. Piura didn’t seem like a big city, but more like a big small town. As we had the opening meet and greet, I noticed how close and very personaleveryone is. Looking at this community is like looking at a large family that lives in close proximity to each other. Excited to see how the week turns out. -Leonard

Today we had an interesting time heading up the road. We were stopped, switched cars, and almost went off a cliff and into the abyss. Today has been eye-opening. Never in my life would I have come here, nor met these amazing people. Within 24 hours our group feels connected, and the people were very welcoming. I danced with the Elder woman and we were declared “Homecoming King and Queen” by Jordan. --Brooks (El Grande Blanco)

As we rolled through the northern Peru countryside, it’s clear why so many consider this land sacred. Arid desert blends to mango trees to rugged dusty foothills spotted with knobby trees draped in Spanish moss. Each corner revealed a vista more beautiful than the last. Climbing toward the fog as if straight to heaven—some of us thought we might actually go there when the truck started rolling toward the cliff. It’s a testament to how drunk I was off the landscape and my blind faith in Leah that I personally barely noticed a spike in my pulse. Others had their wits about them more to register fear, but the group’s dynamic persevered—a bonding experience for sure. Though it seemed we might get lost in the fog, destined to camp on the side of the road, we were greeted with a landscape frozen in a western film. I thought to myself, “My eyeball will never be the same.” After arriving in the village, it’s clear that my heart won’t be either. -Amy

October 17, 2016

We finally made it to the village! The past 48 hours have been a whirlwind of airports, new cities, and running on fumes. Meeting with the villagers in the circle was a very special moment, set in the beautiful sunset of Peru. The meeting of the Americas, North comes to the South. I already feel so welcome after only a few hours and I know the connections I’m making will hae a long lasting effect that I cannot begin to imagine. -Tiffany Nightengale

I feel very fortunate to have been able to spend the day building an adobe stove in a tiny home in the Andes. I am so fascinated to see how others live, how they spend their days, where they find their happiness. Our team certainly felt a sense of accomplishment when the stove was finally finished (barely a few false starts***

The day was topped off playing soccer and ultimate football on a free-range field. The sunset and clouds came in almost on cue. So fortunate to spend this time with my son Ian and make new friends. - Fred

Good day yesterday with bus travel—then truck—to village at 10,174 ft. High pass was 10,400 ft. Building that is home is excellent. Meeting the locals was as always good. Mountain people are the best. Food was perfect for the altitude and it appears internal team cohesiveness is beginning. Truck driver was a little unsafe but was stopped by Choice lady from Guatemala. Kudos to her. Slept well and today will build a stove. Slight sore throat from dry air. -Paul

Today was our first work day. We had perfect weather for working outside. I got put on the “Huertos” group, so I spent the morning constructing a garden for a family with the help of Abraham, Cynthia, Tiffany and Joanne. I really hope they’ll send us a picture of the gardens when they’re growing. My sewing skills came in handy, because I mostly sewed together plastic to use as fencing material.

This evening playing soccer and “ultimate football” with the kids was the most fun. Kids are so fun and easy to be with.

It’s a privilege to be here and see the people and their way of life. Hopefully what we do here will benefit the community for a long time.

--Peggy Peterson

First day of building stoves—completed 1 ¾. Team Matt, Trisha, Emily, Jordan, and Fiorillino—Rocks. On to the after work activities—I started throwing a football around with a couple of boys while the soccer game was being played. They were having a lot of fun. Jordan had the bright idea to play some ultimate football. He went over the rules and we had 6-7 Choice expeditioners and around 10-12 kids. Divided the teams up and just had some fun. All kids were involved in the epic battle and eventually, winners were awarded bragging rights. I happened to be on both winning teams—Flying Chickens and later Cows. Lots of fun and smiles all around. - Emily Wood

October 18, 2016

Today I built adobe stoves for one family and helped finish another. What a humbling experience to see their homes and how they live. Their floors are dirt, no beds to be seen, both animal pelts and nothing tangible in sight. I am so fulfilled that I could help build these stoves—a soon to be used resource for them that will change their lives. I think about all the things in my daily routine, and in comparison, I must be a king. - Brooks

Today we built an awesome wood fired*** stove with pot places. Also helped finish three others. The families were happy and will now live longer. - Paul Dickinson

October 19, 2016

Day 3: I’m in my zone! Dental clinic began and I got to see patients. Though it felt like a labor of love at times, today reinforced why I do what I do—TO HELP OTHERS. It is really gratifying to have a career that I can do anytime, anywhere. It was really cool to see so many other expeditioners with no dental background or experience jump in willing, ready and able. It is such a gift to be able to share this journey with others having a common goal that is based in altruism. All of the patients today were such “super troopers” that it made the aching back and hunched shoulders all worth it. I can’t wait to see the babies tomorrow!! - Tiffany

Got started earlier today. Not very hungry this morning. First time since I’ve been here. Volunteered at the Dental Clinic. Leonard, Tiffany, and Joann were the dentists from Benefis/Kool Smiles.

Took about an hour but we had 4 stations set up. We had a sterilization system. Tool table, hygiene table, education area, waiting room floor with holes, 3 dentists and 43 needy adult patients. Got experience with tools and usage, trays set up and proper handling of gauze, sharps and teeth. Yes, teeth.

We extracted 0-4 teeth from every patient. Mostly adults. These brave patients walked 0-4 hours to see us. They waited 0-3 hours for the unknown, the pain, and excitement of a cleaning or extraction. It’s so rewarding to have a patient with pain walk in, receiving immediate remedies (anti-biotics) and have a better life. The clinic provided toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and a visual reminder card.Little brave boy with one tear had 4 teeth bulled but no longer sleeps with pain. The mom of 3 with a broken tooth will now have relief. - Ramea

Inside the CHOICE Humanitarian Dental Clinic

October 20, 2016

I finally got a decent night of sleep and felt refreshed. I was happy to hear that I was on the “school” team today. Amy, Brooks, Ian, Jordan and I headed over to the school. Ian and Brooks in one classroom, Amy and I in the other with Jordan floating back and forth for “dream career” presentation. We had the kids draw pictures of what they would like to be when they grow up and present in front of the class. Then Amy and I took the class outside and played Twister, Head/Shoulders/Knees and Toes, Hokey Pokey, and Red Light Green Light while teaching English. Kids seemed to have a great time! In the afternoon, we went on a long walk t the forest. We saw horses, cows, sheep, and Alpaca along the way, walked through an amazing forest of pines to a beautiful clearing where we took a quick rest. Then we walked through a Eucalyptus forest, and I chewed part of a leaf. Neat flower. Exited from the forest to a magnificent view of grazing sheep. Picturesque! Walked back and got ready for the market. The villagers have amazing talents and many scarves, blankets, bags, rags, and ponchos were brought out. Many beautiful items were purchases with lots of happy villagers. The evening bonfire was wonderful. We were surrounded by families, many kind words were said, plaques were presented, cuddled with the kids, hugs at the end, tears, and then dance party ensured. What a filling day! - Emily

Wow, I really wasn’t expecting such a big send off! Sitting at the bonfire hearing all of the elders speak was special itself, but when they said they had gifts for us, tears came to my eyes. This whole experience has been so memorable and humbling, having this plaque is a treasure I will always keep. -Tiffany Nightingale

I have to say, I finally slept!!! So I was very refreshed and ready to go! Our day at the dental clinic was amazing. I got to do a couple fillings, but mostly extractions. We had a lot of children, and I had a four-year-old who sat like a trooper for 2 shots and extractions. Amazing!! I truly hope I made even a tiny little difference for the better. The cherry on the top was our final goodbye with the community. We had a large bonfire, several speeches, and a plaque presented to each of us from the mission. It was so emotional, and yes, I cried…a lot. other than that, I will always remember this experience and I feel that, not only have I grown a lot from the mission, but I feel as though I got more from this mission and the villagers than we gave them. -Joanne Tsagas

The wives are in the home with the children. The men are farming in the mountains and fields all day. The older children leave for 2 weeks at a time to go to school. The younger children and older children go to different schools but some are 2-3 hours away vs. 6-7 hours. Only kindergartners are local to Rangrayo.

After lunch we bonded with all the girls in the community center with nail polish and pictures. We then did the education pamphlet for menstruation and the Days for Girls kits. It was a hit and everyone took one. Even the older community leaders. The best part was everyone got a polaroid picture with their mom, sister, or child.

Finished off the night with a movie on a projection screen. “Up” in Spanish. It was cold. Fun surprise was popcorn for the kids.

Leah, the CEO of Choice really talked a lot about educating these girls.

Choice’s approach is wonderful—sustainable resources. Not handouts.

Bedtime was funny—repairing air mattresses and having fun with the snoring members of our group.

Missing my kiddos so much. I want them to have this experience some day. My heart is sad and missing my family and happy in all the difference we are making.

This experience has been so amazing to me; I am sad that it is our last day in the village. It was so neat to come in the first day and see all the different animals and plants and “surf” in the truck while taking pictures. In the village, it was a new experience to dance with locals and greet everyone. The next days were interesting as I meandered around with different groups, helping where I could with gardens and stoves, and fixing ears. The dental clinic was great! I felt in my element, strangely enough, being around patients and gauze and blood. It was great to learn more about the profession and get to help so much. The last day was a bit emotional, and tears completely took me by surprise with the combination of getting a beautiful blanket made by another “Olga,” receiving an amazing personalized plaque from the village, and being given a unique poncho from a man whom we were practicing English with. This is an experience I’ll never forget. -Olga

Last full day in the village. Was able to talk to my mom and dad today. They sounded happy and well. My cute dad wanted to lookup where I was. “FRIAS” was the closest and still 2-3 hours away. Miss them and thought about how much my mom would have enjoyed.

Day 2 of the dental clinic was exciting, new, sad, and hard. The little kids were varied in their needs. Some of their teeth were wonderful. Same of what you would see in America. Crowding, cavities, and their tooth decay. These brave little kids held our hands through the pain. We wiped tears and gently stroked their foreheads. Mid-morning, Olga was busy tending to a boy who passed out. He was fine but that gave me an opportunity to assist one of the dentists, Tiffany Nightengale. Beautiful, gentle, and caring. She talked with each child explaining the tools and asking about them. She called them beautiful, brave, and tough. She was positive and upbeat. I loved helping her. I learned about the tools and usage, more about hygiene and the importance of taking care of your teeth.

After lunch I called Vaughn, texted Suzie for the kids (since they are out of school) and talked to my parents. We then went to the market in town. There were beautiful blankets, jackets (ponchos), purses, saddle bags, and rugs. The villagers noticed our interest and went home to get some of their personal things to sell. This money will go directly to them and make it easy to buy.

We finished the dental clinic. When the evening came, we ran out of gloves, and daylight. Some (few) patients did not get seen but we worked hard. Headlamps lit the way for the last patient. Wrapped up the dental supplies and tools. Finally, I’m going to do my best to wrap up the farewell meeting in the courtyard. The community leaders lit a fire. The villagers all came out to spend time with us.

They thanked us in their own little speeches. They were grateful for the stoves, gardens, and humble and unclear of why they deserved it (this is when I cried.) Toward the end of the comments and speeches, they surprised each of us with a unique hand painted piece of the sapote tree.

A personalized thank you for our work. They called us friends, they invited us back, they mentioned that this would be the beginning of a better life for many of them. We then got into a line and all the villagers hugged each of us. Some faster than others. Some very deep and long. I felt appreciated. I felt loved. I felt like we made a real difference for them and showed them a way to sustain the growth and sustain how to build and maintain the gardens.

When I received my “thank-you” gift, I asked Jordan to translate for me. A lot of things were already said.

I will never forget the people or this experience and I will be grateful for my whole life for the experience. They will be with me my whole life in some way and that is wonderful.

As the bonfire drew to a close, all the stars were out. It was a clear, mountain night. I wish I could have captured it.

Tomorrow we leave Rangrayo and both the expeditioners and the villagers are better because we spent 5 days together.

October 21, 2016

I have a few minutes to write while we finish packing. I taught an English class yesterday to the elementary students with Ian. We had a ton of fun and it sparked an interest I never knew I had. I’ll be applying to the JET Program when I get home to teach English in Japan. More on topic, last night was a beautiful sendoff from the village. We came as strangers and left as family.

I will never forget the people, their kindness, their openness and willingness to let us come and change their lies.

I leave a changed person.

--Brooks Branscomb “El Grande Blanco”

I wanted to thank everyone for making such a memorable experience for Ian and me. Jordan, I really appreciated your leadership, positive attitude, and sense of humor. Leah, thank you for your infectious enthusiasm and passion for global development. Everyone else (too many to name), we have enjoyed working with all of you. I feel I need these experiences to remain grounded and maintain a true perspective of humanity. -Fred and Ian

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