Top ten tips for surviving life in the Amazon
Think you have what it takes to do mission in Peru's Amazon rainforest?
Working in the Amazon is not for the fainthearted. BMS World Mission workers Laura-Lee Lovering and Sarah McArthur have found that living in Nauta, in the Peruvian Amazon, is full of opportunities to enjoy the beauty of creation and to share the love of Jesus. But it’s not without some pretty major challenges.
So before you board the plane to join the BMS team in Peru’s jungle, here are Laura and Sarah’s top ten survival tips:
1. Learn Spanish
The convenient fact we Brits rely on that most holiday destinations are filled with English speakers is not true of the Peruvian Amazon. If you can’t speak Spanish (and you are not exceptionally good at mime) no one will understand you. So get practising, ¿si?
2. Expect to eat the unexpected
Monkey brain, grubs, guinea pig, and fish soup for breakfast are just a few of the delicacies you will be sampling in Peru’s Amazon rainforest.
3. Leave your make-up at home
Be prepared to be hot, sweaty and sticky all the time. Mascara will melt off your eyelids, perfume just attracts bugs… It’s best to accept early on that suntan lotion and mosquito spray are the order of the day. And that leads us to point 4.
4. Loose-fitting clothing and flip flops are your friends
You can’t beat a baggy cotton top and some comfy flip flops when it’s over 30 degrees every day and heavy rain leaves the ground thick with mud. Cool and quick-drying clothing – that’s what it is all about.
5. Perfect your volleyball skills before you arrive
Believe it or not, in the late afternoon a volleyball court appears on the street of La Union (just outside the Nauta Integral Mission Training Centre where Laura and Sarah work) and a selection of very talented players emerge. In a town where there is not much in the way of evening entertainment, being able to keep up with the people on the court could be the best skill you ever learn.
6. Stock up on DVDs
If the volleyball doesn’t work out for you, come armed with a good supply of films and boxsets. Most evenings once the sun has set, Laura and Sarah – who didn’t get the volleyball memo – entertain themselves with DVDs.
7. Cultivate your extrovert qualities
Don’t think you have what it takes to be a solo singer? In Peru it doesn’t matter. People like to hear English songs and will almost definitely ask you to sing one. So rehearse one before you go and be ready to sing your little heart out every time an opportunity arises.
8. Embrace losing your personal space and privacy
6 am house calls, a warm ‘buenos dias’ with a kiss, and hand-holding when having a conversation – just a few of the things you can expect from your friends and from strangers in Peru. Once you embrace it, it’s really rather nice.
9. Be ready for your 5 am wake-up call
And if possible, develop your love of 90s power ballads. They, along with the chickens, will be playing at full blast from dawn.
10. Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve
People say it as they see it in Peru. Saying sorry and skirting around awkward subjects are very much British qualities. If someone calls you a “fattie” don’t be offended – it’s normally meant as a compliment.
Laura and Sarah are part of a team at the Nauta Integral Mission Training Centre in the Loreto region of Peru.
Alongside their Peruvian colleagues, they are working to provide training and hospitality to pastors from rural river communities who have never received any theological training. The centre is a place of hope and encouragement for pastors who are seeking to serve God in their villages and who have no support.
It’s a tough place to work, but God is using Laura, Sarah and the team at the centre to share his love, to spread his word, and to care for his creation.
Please pray for Laura as she manages the centre, for Sarah and the agroforestry project she is involved in, and for the young people and pastors the pair are working with.
This article first appeared on the website of BMS World Mission and is used with permission