Peru, Day Two (July 13, 2009)

Utterly exhausted. Finally made it to my hotel room in Miami about 3am but was too wound up to sleep. Checkout time was 11:00, but the thought of spending 12 hours at the airport made me want to cut my head off, so I forked out the $50 penalty to stay in the room until 5:00. To offset the added expense, I ate meals out of the vending machine. Today´s menu: hotel-room coffee, cinnamon roll with 8000g of fat, pretzels, fried plantain chips, and a Snickers. Pretty sure I have scurvy now.

Once at the airport, I splurged on a slice of pizza for dinner at the food court. The place was extremely crowded and before long, a finely-dressed gentleman asked if he could join me. I was surprised to find he was Hilson Baptiste, Minister of Agriculture, Lands, Housing and Environment for Antigua.

We spent half an hour having a wonderful, intense discussion about his job, crops, soil, poverty, and the general state of the environment. He was on his way to a conference of agricultural ministers of the Americas, to be held in Costa Rica. The most striking thing he said was a response to my question, ¨What do you find most satisfying about your job?¨ He replied ¨Watching poor people become successful¨, and he told me about a co-op of 240 women who started with nothing but, with a little government assistance, have developed a multi-million dollar poultry operation.

We spoke of the importance of developing profitable agricultural models that benefit local economies while preserving environmental integrity. It was a relief to hear a government official use the word ¨stewardship¨. He mentioned that there was a group of university students on Antigua studying turtle populations, so I asked if he saw a need for other university research projects. He said that there are several historically important archaeological sites on the island that he would like to see preserved and carefully opened to the public. He gave me his card and invited me to do the work, saying that anyone I brought from the university would be his personal guests and that he would introduce us to the appropriate officials, including the prime minister. I thanked him and said that I would email him once I returned to the States and had a chance to talk to my professors. What an amazing opportunity that would be for CSU.

El Profesor´s flight arrived without any trouble, and we hopped on the 11:35 flight to Lima. Practically fell asleep on my dinner tray (the poor flight attendant had to yank it out from underneath me) and slept like a baby until we landed. Now we're at our lovely guesthouse, Hostal Killari, about to have breakfast and map out the week's itinerary.

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