Someone was relentlessly pounding on the front door of our little blue house. It was finally our day off after I had been sick nearly all week and I was looking forward to spending a relaxing day in a coffee shop in Tarapoto. We have a rule in our house that we don’t answer the door on our day off. It’s a boundary we set because otherwise we would never have time to rest.
It was still early morning and I was doing a good job of ignoring the knocking until I heard “Hermana? Hermana Raquel?” over the wall of our house from our neighbor.
“Ya?” I answer with about a million annoyed thoughts running through my head about the possibility of working on our one day off. A muffled response blocked by the wall separating our houses said there was someone at our door (obviously) and I was realizing that trying to explain our rule about answering the door while shouting through the wall was ridiculous. Flustered, I threw on a change of clothes to get out of my pajamas and opened the door to two young girls in our town holding one yellow and one black baby chick in their hands.
A week or so earlier, my teammate Rachel and I were sitting with Ludiht, Esperanza, and Chemy– some of the women in our pueblo who help care for the church. We were cutting out letters to make a sign while chatting, making jokes, and laughing until our stomachs hurt. I felt comfortable with the women on that cool night. Esperanza was making popcorn and instant coffee, Ludiht was sharing a story about her life, Chemy was carefully tracing letters while Rachel cut them out of the foam board. It was the first time I had truly felt like this was my town instead of just some town I was passing through. I finally felt like I was beginning to make true friends here.
In passing conversation, Rachel mentioned how our team was thinking about buying a couple chickens to have in our backyard. We go through eggs quickly and raising chickens has been something all of us have wanted to do at some point in our lives.
“Oh! I have a couple chicks that the mama doesn’t want,” Chemy excitedly put down her scissors, “When will you be ready for them?”
Caught off guard a by the suddenness of the offer, we stammered out that a neighbor would be coming over to build a small chicken coop in the next week but didn’t give an exact day as to when we might be ready.
So, there I am, standing in the doorway to our house early one morning on our day off staring at two baby chicks. Luckily, our neighbor had come just a few days prior and the coop was built, but we had yet to buy food, trays, or any other necessities required to care for baby chickens. Plus, I had intended to read up on caring for chickens before they arrived to ensure I was completely and totally prepared. But, such is life.
We put the chicks in the little house and managed to find some finely ground oats and a small tray for water until we could run to the market.
The following day, I’m in the backyard, scared out of my mind that we’ve lost the chickens. We let them out into our backyard that morning to let them roam around a bit and eat some bugs. Then they disappeared. I didn’t check the back fence. What if there’s a hole I didn’t see? We CAN’T be the incompetent white girls that lost the chickens on the second day. A thousand thoughts were running through my head as my teammate Cate and I searched all corners of our overgrown yard.
After what seemed like ages, we finally found them hiding under some old roof tin leaning against the back fence, but not after spotting a large handful of massive wolf spiders crawling all over the tin. After that ordeal, Karina, one of the teens in our neighborhood, spent an hour with me building a small makeshift pen for the chicks.
Since those two days, we’ve had many a neighbor ask about our chickens and give well-intentioned advice on what we’re doing wrong.
One such piece of advice came from a dear friend of ours that we sometimes pay to wash our laundry and often spend time together in conversation. She came over one morning and, seeing the chicken coop in our backyard, exclaimed, “They can’t be in your backyard! If they’re not in your house, they won’t get used to you and won’t love you!” We thanked her for the advice and assured her that the chicks would be fine in the backyard.
So, with the help of our neighbors, and seemingly, our entire town, we have successfully kept the chickens alive for one week, four days, and counting.
We are a community in the jungle of Peru, and although I sometimes get annoyed with the constant check-ins and assumptions about white girls living in a jungle, I can’t help but feel warm and fuzzy inside knowing that they care. It might take a village for gringas to live in the jungle, but it’s a good village.