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Have you Heard of Lutefisk? Peru Week 12

January 21st 2024

I don’t really like goodbyes. I’m not sure if anyone does. This week, I had to say goodbye to Maria, who has become my closest friend here in the jungle.

Just after her honeymoon, Maria decided to take off to the rainforest for two months. It has been her dream to visit the Amazon rainforest ever since she was three years old. Realising that she wanted to change her career path and also have a baby soon, she decided it was now or never.

Time to Say Goodbye to my Best Friend

Checking Butterfly Traps in PeruVolunteer in Peru | WorkingAbroadWhen it was time to leave the rainforest, Maria really didn’t want to. She mentioned that if she’d come out here a few years ago, she thinks that she would probably still be living here now. However, she has a husband, a house and a cat (and goats) to get back to in Norway.

I remember on our first night here, Maria announced that she’d lost, or forgotten, her bag of underwear. She wasn’t thrilled at the idea of lasting two months with only the one pair of underwear that she was wearing. Luckily, the bag of underwear showed up the next day inside of her boot.

Clearly, her memory isn’t quite as good as her packing efficiency. I know she’d blame it on the heat. Maria was always yearning for the cold temperatures of Norway. Her best day here was when there was a brief cold spell. It felt so out of place seeing everyone in hoodies and jumpers. Julio was even wearing a woolly hat!

Memories from Volunteering that will Last a Lifetime

Maria is the number one fan of my blog. She’s always asking when the next post will be out and I hear her laughing out loud as she reads my interpretations of the week’s events. She has also been the number one supporter of my butterfly research project. She checked the butterfly traps with me almost every day. When we were setting up the traps, she was usually one step ahead of me, figuring out the solutions to problems that hadn’t even crossed my mind yet.

Other times, Maria isn’t quite so fast. One morning, we were crossing the river to observe macaws at the clay lick. There was only space for two on the kayak, so Vicente and I crossed the river first. When we were about halfway across, I looked back to see Maria wading through the river, almost waist-deep. “Maria, you know we’re coming back for you, right?” I called across to her. Maria stopped in her tracks. “Oh. Oops!” She laughed.

Another funny memory of Maria is when she spat out her drink laughing at something I’d said. That day at dinner, we couldn’t stop laughing. Our laughter was infectious and Flaco, at the other table, couldn’t help laughing along with us.

Lutefisk in the Amazonian Jungle?

Something we often make fun of Maria for is a Norwegian dish known as ‘lutefisk’. We’ve become accustomed to referring to it as ‘bleached fish’. Lutefisk is a traditional Christmas dish, made from white fish soaked in lye. When Maria first told me about it, I recalled a scene from a film I watched many years ago, An Inspector Calls. If I remember correctly, a young woman tries to take her own life by drinking lye. So how people aren’t poisoned after eating lutefisk is a mystery to me. Sometimes when Maria says something controversial, such as that mango is the worst Zuko (a kind of local juice) flavour, the typical response is something along the lines of “you eat bleached fish so your opinion doesn’t count!”

Cooking in the research stationVolunteer in Peru | WorkingAbroadAnother typical Norwegian dish is Norwegian tacos, which are tortilla wraps with an assortment of fillings. Maria and I made them for dinner one night, making the tortillas from scratch. It was, without a doubt, one of the best dinners I’ve had here. The only noise at dinner that night was the sound of people happily chewing their food.

I have discovered that Norway has many curious traditions. One of the most interesting is becoming a Rus, which is when you are in the final semester of high school. It is tradition to buy a party bus with your friends and get drunk every day, the month before your exams. How people manage to pass their exams, I don’t understand. Rus has many challenges, one of which is having breakfast in the middle of a roundabout at rush hour.

Another is that it is mandatory to wear a red or blue suit the entire month of drinking, and it is forbidden to wash it. If you wash it, a leg will be cut off of your suit. Even stranger, every Rus has a stack of cards with their face printed on them, and these are handed out to children, who collect them. Bizarre.

Although her tales of Norwegian traditions are hard to beat, the main reason why I will miss Maria is that she makes the best pancakes – or should I say ‘pannekaker’. We’ve been making plans for her to visit me in Scotland, and me to visit her in Norway. I can’t wait to try the famous lutefisk!

Maria going home makes me think of home and long for a night in my own bed and a proper cup of tea in the morning. Although my time in the rainforest is almost up, it’ll still be a while yet before it’s home time for me.

Hope you enjoyed today’s post, especially you, Maria! – remember you can join this project too!

If you’ve enjoyed reading this you can follow Holly’s blog.

Written by Holly Fortune

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WorkingAbroad Projects

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