June 2nd: My Arrival in Puerto Maldonado

Well, the last time I posted on this blog was April 12, and my in-country research has both begun and ended by now, and I have been back in the USA for over a week now. However, possessing an internet connection in the Amazon jungle which could hardly load HTML Gmail, much less upload pictures onto WordPress, I thought it best to simply wait until I returned to the land of DSL to continue my blog posts. However, I will attempt to write as though I was in the moment, and thus will begin this post starting with my arrival in Puerto Maldonado.

The first thing I noticed upon arrival was the heat wave which filled the airplane cabin as soon as the stewardess opended the door. Although I had been smart enough to not wear my jeans and sweater which were the norm for Cusco’s nights which drop into the high 30s, even shorts and a tshirt didn’t prepare me for the mid 90’s temps and high humidity which is the norm in southeastern Peru.

I had luckily easily met up with my three friends, Cate, Katherine, and Caitlin, on the plane as it made its stop in Cusco from Lima, before continuing onto Puerto Maldonado. After navigating through the airport’s single baggage claim carousel and three arrival gates, we checked into our hostel where we would be staying a month, and found an ATM in the Plaza de Armas.

The Amazon Conservation Association’s office opened at 4pm after the siesta, and we headed over to their office, quickly showing ourselves as stereotypical Americans. We arrived at 3:58, beating the security guard by a good 15 minutes, while most of the employees trickled in closer to 4:30 or 5:00. There, however, we were introducted to Pedro, the head of ACCA’s (their Spanish acronym, which I will use) Brazil Nut Program, who sat down with us for almost 2 hours, describing the different parts, goals, and ideas of their Brazil Nut Program, and how our research would assist their work.

Pedro explained the ways our interviews, with both castañeros (brazil nut harvesters) working with ACCA, and those not working with ACCA, would be most easily obtained. For an effective sample to measure the effectiveness of ACCA’s program, we agreed it would be best if we interviewed both types of castañeros in order to maintain a control group for our research. Our interviews would be gained from a variety of means, from driving around 2 hours north to the brazil nut concessions, to waiting for ACCA castañeros to come into the office in Puerto Maldonado, to seeking out non-ACCA castañeros at governmental offices which they would have to visit in order to obtain the necessary paperwork to maintain legality for their concession.

After this first busy day, we were given a clear understanding of how our research would be carried out, with many thanks to ACCA’s organization and help. Now we simply had to obtain our 20 or so interviews. . .