It’s been too long since I’ve written, and life has been moving pretty quickly. I got into this rut where I couldn’t justify writing very much as long as I had a pile of homework that still had to be done. Know the feeling? But I turned in two midterm essays this week, so I feel like I have a few more brain cells available to write now.
Along that line of the thought, the past few days have been sort of sucky, because, you know…life. I hadn’t been journaling for the past week, and not being caught up on paper was weighing on me. So yesterday on my way home I spontaneously decided to stumble out of the crowded micro a stop early, and head to the Malecón to watch the sun set and write a while. It was quite windy, and the grey winter clouds covered the sun before the poor thing even had a chance to set, but I really enjoyed myself. Some much needed personal reflection, questioning, breathing, and bird watching.
The evening went uphill from there! I decided to take a slightly different route home, and on the way came across an itty bitty store that had just opened and sold “superalimentos.” I tried a chocolate truffle with nuts and dates, some coconut milk, and bought something akin to fruit leather made from banana, chia seeds, and cacao. To top it off, after politely turning down an offer of a fresh bread sample and explaining I couldn’t eat gluten, the woman told me that next week they’ll start selling gluten free muffins, cookies, and bread!! I almost cried with happiness; I’ve been craving a frickin’ sandwich for so long.
A block down I found a small outdoor gear store- tents, camping stoves, socks, headlamps… though I didn’t buy anything, it made me happy to just look around. And when I got back to the apartment, Hector (the daytime lobby guard for our building) gave me an envelope that had arrived from my momma in the States. A good day, indeed.
The biggest thing that has happened since I’ve last written was a trip to the Peruvian Amazon! (It was two weeks ago, so I really owe you all this). Five friends and I took an hour and a half flight northeast to Iquitos, the biggest city in the Amazon, and one that’s only accessible by boat or flight. No roads connect Iquitos to the rest of the Perú, and any roads that enter the Amazon only do that much- enter it. Amazonian mode of transportation: boats. Depending on where in the Amazon you live, it can take hours or weeks to make a trip to Iquitos (or other small towns) to buy necessities, or to vote (presidential elections happening this Sunday- Keiko’s in the lead!)
The lodge we stayed at was only a couple hours from Iquitos, and was run by a man named Luis, his family, and his circle of trusted guides. We spent three days exploring and learning about the people, communities, culture, and nature of the Amazon. I learned an incredible amount; it’s truly mind-blowing and humbling how much there is to learn even in a few hours outside your own bubble. (I know I’ve said that before, but it’s the number one lesson I have taken from studying abroad, so it’s important to say it again!)
Some things I saw or learned:
- There are species of fish in the Amazon the length of a long boat, and with a similar “fin-span.” Said fish will clamp onto your feet if you decide to dangle them off the side…and drag you under…but that didn’t happen to me, no worries!
- The sky in the Amazon can rain, be on fire with the sun, be a husky periwinkle grey,
and turn to dusk, all at the same time. It depends where you look!
- Shoes are not always practical. Lots of knee high mud and water.
- It is not hard to find tarantulas and poisonous snakes. They are most likely right next to you.
- Swinging a log against a certain kind of tree root will produce a deafening echo that serves as a homing device if you’re lost.
- Boat motors are taken off their boats and stored under tarps when not in use due to frequent changes in weather.
- Mosquito nets do not always work…
- …so don’t be alarmed if your hand or foot swells up.
- Don’t swim in certain parts of the Amazon if you have a functioning uterus that is doing its monthly job. One word: piranhas.
- “Australians are not creative in naming their country’s geological features”- fellow Aussie traveler Hamish. (Great Sandy Desert? Snowy Mountains?)
The highlight of my experience was getting to visit an animal refuge and hold the monkeys that were running free! That was pure fun 🙂 The refuge housed various protected species, all of whom had been rescued from being sold in markets or transported to Lima (food, pets, circus and street entertainment are all possibilities for where these animals could have ended up).
Here’s a link to some more photos from the trip! (They’re the same ones that are on facebook, for those of you who are linked to me that way).
Some things I’ve done this past week instead of/in between bouts of homework…
…went with my friend Olivia to see Alborada in concert! Alborada is a Peruvian group that has been together for over 30 years, performs completely in Quechua, and serves up a mean combo of Andean wind instruments, regal Incan garb, and beautiful flowing hair (and a bald guy). Click here for the music video of their most popular song; you gotta make it to at least 3:05. That’s when they all dance ! It was a very entertaining concert, to say the least. And I loved seeing thousands of Peruvians- of all ages!- singing along in Quechua.
…went to Barranco to see a classmate sing at a theater bar. Came upon a book fair, a “gastronomía” fair, and some cool murals.
…took a boat ride out to the Islas Palomino off the coast of Lima to see the wild birds, penguins, and sea lions. We got to don wetsuits and jump in with the seal lions as well, which was incredible, freezing, and freaky (they are massive beasts, and very curious).
The second photo below is of a bombed out prison on one of the islands. The basic story is this: during the 80’s, the government kept terrorists in this prison off the coast. The prisoners’ families were eventually allowed to visit and bring their relatives food, but they also used the opportunity to smuggle weapons to the men. The prisoners broke out during a transfer to the mainland prison, and the situation spiraled out of control. The navy was called to end the rebellion once and for all, so they bombed the prison to bits from offshore. This is what’s left. Pretty ruthless, and very interesting to hear about.
…volunteered, and helped a boy named Sebastian with his English homework. Poor kid had so much to do! But he was a champ 🙂
And life goes on! Have a good week everyone.