5 Things I Learned in Peru

June 7, 2013

As some of you may know, I recently embarked on a three-week trip to the Peruvian Amazon as a camera operator. I was contracted to aid in documenting one of Project Amazonas’ many expeditions to rural villages along the River, providing people with medical treatment they would otherwise not have access to. Currently, I am editing the documentary but rather than this post being a tech-centric behind the scenes look at making the doc itself, I’ve opted to share with you some things I observed/experienced/learned in my time there.

Best Friends

Without further ado:

-Things Hussain Learned in Peru-

1) Your Best Friend Can Have Feathers

In the village of Ancon Colonia, we met a man experiencing intense pain in his abdomen – could have been ulcers but I’m not a doctor. He was lying in a hammock and next to him, a parrot stood watch. This macaw (the kind that can mimic speech) LOVES her master. The man, sometimes too weak to cry out from help in his bed, relies on his feathery friend to replicate his yell of urgency and bring others to him. Blew my mind. And then there are the boys wearing marmosets as toupées… Interspecies friendship (in general) is going strong in South America.

Also this:



2) The River is Not That Scary.

It’s vast, the current is strong, and it’s home to hundreds of creatures that you’ll never see sneak up on you because there’s zero visibility in murky black water. I dove into the Amazon River fully processing all of this, and once in it, I wasn’t the paranoid soul I thought I would be.  In reality, there is no gator (the half-submerged one you see in all the stock footage) waiting for you to let your guard down. And the piranha couldn’t care less whether or not you’re feeling extra chunky this particular day. When all’s said and done, it’s still just water – and looking around, you realize all the functions that the River serves for the people there. Acknowledging it’s partly a highway, part Spa, and part playground for children, there’s just no way you can carry on fearing such an integral part of life there. Clearing that hurdle, there was no stopping me. I swam in the river, kayaked on it, washed laundry in it, and showered with it.

But did I pee in it? Absolutely not — and neither should you.

Sunset on the river

sunset on the river

3) Grooming is Important

In Iquitos, dogs receive complimentary haircuts by professional barbers. Cats, apparently, can go **** themselves.

[new and improved] beard trimmer

[new and improved] beard trimmer

 4) You Don’t Need Internet to be Happy

There’s a reality these people are living that is unlike anything I’ve seen or experienced before – they are not the hostile cannibals that may come to mind (hopefully nobody thinks that; it’s 2013) when you picture tribes in the jungle. These are people who live for their community so that they as a culture can continue to grow and advance – but at their own pace. These are people that want to learn from us as much as they want to be able to teach what they know. An environment in which they can share ideas and exchange knowledge is absolute happiness – it’s what they yearn for.  Believe it or not, there are still children that have no concept of what a camera is – but they know what a reflection is… From that they can build their own concepts and understandings of photography, and by extension, video. I found myself perpetually amazed by the spirit of these guys, and there were so many iconic moments that truly did feel like they were pages from movie scripts. Our boat would dock in the early morning and we would hear drums (!). Drums to welcome us and also signal our arrival to the rest of the village.  Couple that with a parrot that acts as a nurse and you have effectively shaken my world view in the best possible way.

Learning what cameras are

learning what cameras are

5) Snakes Love Me


heaviest necklace ever

heaviest necklace ever

-The End-

Sometimes I use twitter (@courierbynight)

The documentary is currently in post production and scheduled to be done in July

All photos copyright Spencer Selvidge [SS] and Hussain Pirani [HP]



3 Comments. Leave new

I enjoy reading about your adventurers, the people (and assorted animals), and seeing the sights almost first hand through your camera’s eye. Keep them coming.


Thanks! We’ve got a few more posts in the works 🙂


Wow, this is amazing work! I look forward to seeing the documentary when it’s finished. Congrats and thanks for sharing. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *