Service in Marankiari

Clayton with members of his host family:  Henry, Jorge, Frescia, Leydi and his mother Victoria

Petey and Clayton are serving in an indigenous community perched on a hillside far above the Perene River valley.  San Miguel de Marankiari is home to several dozen native Ashaninka families, most of whom are descended from a common great-great-grandfather.  The Ashaninka people are quickly becoming westernized due to forces outside their control.  Ecomundos, a nonprofit organization founded by members of the community, is attempting to preserve key aspects of Ashaninka identity and customs.  Their hope is that cultural tourism, in which foreigners pay to visit and stay overnight in the community in order to experience the unique aspects of native culture, can provide incomes to families who choose to remain in the village.  Many of the residents of Marankiari still dress in their traditional cushmas, cultivate traditional foods such as yuca and platanos during the day and hunt for game at night.

Hanging out with his host brother, Bruno

Petey lives on one side of the village and Clay on the other.  Each day they meet up at the primary school where Petey teaches English to the older children and Clay to the younger group.  The children speak their native Ashaninka as well as the country’s dominant language, Spanish.  But they are also eager to learn English, as in many places in Peru.  In the evenings a small group of older children and young adults learn English words and phrases from Clay and Petey in hope that they can one day serve as guides to the North American and European tourists who visit the village.  In between their language classes, Petey and Clay help manage a small library, play soccer on the newly-leveled grass field and spend countless hours hanging out with their extended host families.  Petey’s smile helps overcome the children’s instinctive awkwardness around outsiders and Clayton’s inquisitive nature have helped them break through the cultural barriers that would otherwise separate them from village life.  Both Clayton and Petey have embraced native customs, foods and lifestyles and their host families have welcomed them into their lives.  And the village children sure think they’re fun…