Follow by Email

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Our last day



Our last day:

On our last morning, we decided to walk through our old neighborhood in Miraflores, where we’d stayed when adopting both Max and Carolina. For Max’s adoption, we stayed, at Raul’s suggestion, at a small  hotel called Suite Services.  Last month, before we left home, Ichecked and was happy to see it was still there.  When we were here in 1988,  there had been other adopting families staying there who  also had Raul as their lawyer.

We found it, and walking toward it, also found the apartment we’d stayed at three years later. At that point,  as our family was getting larger,  a hotel room, with a toddler and an infant, wasn’t going to work as well. So Raul found us an apartment just down the street. It was in the same building as the U.S. consulate, where everyone, us included, went for their visas. So it was where I spent my very last hours in Peru, getting Carolina’s visa, before being able to head home.  The consulate is no longer located there, but our apartment building still is, recognizable with its heavy metal fence.

We walked down our old street,  and were happy to come upon the hotel. I posed in front of the building for Loring to take a picture. And then, satisfied, we began to walk on. But before we got to the corner, a woman came  out of the hotel and called to us.  I walked back and explained to her that we had stayed there thirty one years ago when we had adopted our son.  She  invited us to come inside,  In the little lobby, she explained to the woman behind the desk what I had told her. They asked if we remembered what room we had stayed in, but we didn’t. I do remember looking out the window, waiting for Raul to come with the baby, and then seeing them. We were parents!  So it was one of the higher floors front facing rooms.

They told us that Tito, the owner, would be right back. And he was.  He offered us coffee, and we had a wonderful conversation, reminiscing and telling him what wonderful memories we had of our stay there.  He seemed pleased and quite touched.  The hotel had been there for thirty four years, so was only three years old when we stayed there. He remembered Raul, of course, and said that they used to refer to the place as the “baby hotel.”  We told him we were still in touch with the Alvas and had just seen them a day or two before.

It was a wonderful way to conclude our sojourn. But there was still one more event.

 Before returning to our apartment to pack, we went to the Amano textile museum. It was somewhat different than what I remembered, and had clearly been renovated. There are still many drawers of textiles, but they are metal  cabinets rather than the wooden ones I remember. I am sure that they now are much more sophisticated in their preservation techniques. Sadly for me,  the drawers are now locked. They do offer guided tours, and so I am guessing that they pull open some of the drawers then. But otherwise, I am not sure one would even notice the drawers, or know that they held many more textiles than those on display. Nevertheless, there were enough textiles on the walls to mesmerize me, so I was not too disappointed.  But imagine being able to pull open drawer after drawer and marvel at the quantity and exquisite quality of the textiles inside. I feel so lucky to have been able to see them in earlier years. 

I had purchased some textile fragments myself when I was originally in Peru. They have sat in a box for many years, until recently,  because I was intimidated by  the advice of our friend, a Met Museum textile conservator, who gave me explicit instructions on how to properly mount and preserve them. But finally, a couple of years ago, I decided they would at least last as long as I did, since they’d lasted a thousand years already, and followed a modified version of Nancy’s instructions. And Loring made box frames for them. Now I can see and appreciate them daily.

In the city, taxis were everywhere. They slowed down as soon as you stepped out the door. We debated whether to take a cab or an Uber to the airport, and decided to try for a cab first. Many cabs drove by, none stopping. We tried to stand in front of our luggage, guessing that they didn’t want to drive to the airport, at least an hour’s drive though not far in mileage, just heavy in traffic. 

Finally a cab did stop, but declined to go to the airport. A second cab, a few minutes later, same thing. So we decided to call an Uber.  Loring activated his phone, for which we were charged $10 any day we used it. We’d only used it once during the trip. Thankfully, we were informed that about eight drivers were nearby.  I went to check the street address, to make sure the driver was coming to exactly where we were.  Loring called me over,  the car had come. We got in after Loring had checked the plate. (or thought he had.)  A few minutes later, he got a message that our Uber driver had arrived. But we were already on the road with what turned out to be a cab driver who was fine with driving to the airport!  Uber asked if we wanted to pay the Uber driver for the inconvenience of our having cancelled. We said yes, of course. It was three soles, a dollar.

Our driver spoke virtually no English but knew the roads intimately. He zigged and zagged in and out of streets and sections of the city, and delivered us with a flourish to the airport. He was so good natured.  He communicated in rudimentary English – Me, one hour, Uber, two hours!”  Even though his fee was a few dollars more than the Uber would have been, we gave him a generous tip. 
For an hour’s drive, the cost was less than $25 including the tip, and the dollar for the phantom Uber driver.

Our trip home was long but uneventful. We spent a couple of hours in Fort Lauderdale between flights,  and arrived home at about 11am after an overnight flight.  Franz and Carolina, having returned home a few days earlier, picked us up at the airport.

Right now I’ve got a ton of handicrafts spread out on the dining room table. Tomorrow I will pack them up, after choosing and letting Max andMichaela choose a couple of items. I will bring them to Partners in Development for them to sell and help even some more folks in addition to the ones I bought them from.

It’s been an emotional and rewarding trip, as all of our trips to Peru have been.  I wonder what will come next in the evolving relationship with Carolina and her birth family. One thing that's clear is that she will remain in contact, and committed to her  birth mother and newly discovered siblings. And maybe even learn some Spanish. 




Monday, July 22, 2019

Up to our last day in LIma


Friday July 19th

It is our last day in Lima, our last day in Peru. Our flight isn’t until close to midnight, so we still have an entire day here.

I’ll start with an incident that doesn’t fit into the narrative, but needs to be related. The night before last,  I awoke in the middle of the night with a cat sitting on my shoulder, in bed.  By the way, we are in a fifth floor apartment in a modern building, and I had not seen any cats before. In fact, have seen virtually no cats at all in Lima, save for the ones that famously run around Kennedy Park in Miraflores.

I had awakened with some strange dreams in my head, and thought for a moment that I was still dreaming.  Loring, whom I’d awakened with my startled “there’s a cat in the bed” thought for certain that I was talking in my sleep, which I am apparently prone to do.

But no, this was a real cat. And despite my love of cats, I didn’t want anything to do with one I had not previously met, in the middle of the night, in the dark, in a not so familiar place.  Loring remembered that we’d left the door to the balcony open, and so I shooed it out of the bedroom, into the living room, and onto the balcony.  It was no longer there in the morning.  

To the best of my befuddled memory, it was well cared for, not a street cat.  The only thing we can guess  is that it crossed over the ledge from the neighboring balcony, and belonged to someone in the building.

So strange. I just wish that it had come to visit during the day, when I would  would have  been happy to play with it, though still puzzled about its provenance.  Instead, I thought it was some kind of feral city creature, prowling the night in search of tourists.

We’ve spent the last three days in Lima, first meeting up with Carolina and Franz, who’d arrived a few days earlier.  It was an intense first Lima day for us, and last for them.  We met the Alvas for lunch, Raul and MariaElena, whe’d been our adoption lawyers some thirty years ago. We have stayed in touch with them all these years, and seem them every few years, in Peru, and also in Massachusetts. Their younger daughter is married to an American, and their older one is married to a German man, and they have two children. We’ve known them since they were little girls and Max was an infant.

They came to our apartment here, where I was waiting downstairs because we hadn’t known an apartment number, and couldn’t reach them that morning. I heard a familiar voice call out my name. Raul said he had recognized me from the back!

We walked around Barranco, where we are staying, and which is the “arty” section of town. There was a wide mix of people, hip young Limeans, many poor people as well, a few tourists. The first restaurant we tried to enter had a waiting line of an hour and a half.  Acording to Raul, from noon to about 2pm is the busiest. We might try them again for our last meal today. The place is called Isolina.

So we walked around Barranco, past MacDonalds and Starbucks, finally landing at a restaurant called Rustica.  Coincidentally , we had eaten at another Rustica our first night in Iquitos, not realizing it was a small chain. And Franz and Carolina had previously eaten at still another one in Lima, one of the nights before we arrived.  It was a fairly nice place, with a pretty authentic Peruvian buffet, including a few things we might have been better off not knowing what they were. We walked back to our apartment with the Alvas.  On our corner is a coffee shop, and since Raul was in search of coffee, which Rustica apparently hadn’t had, we stopped in. The Alvas had coffee and desert, Carolina and Franz both had Peruvian coffees, coffee with Pisco, I had a limeade with some herb, yerba buena if I remember right.  Loring had agua con gaz, our fallback beverage here.

Later that day, we had more visitors, Carolina’s brother Miguel, and sister Erika. They’d all met up a day or two before, along with Erika’s husband and their kids. They’ve been married eleven years, since Erika was fifteen.

From Erika and Miguel, Carolina and Franz had heard a very different version of the family life in Tamashiyacu than the one we’d been presented with a week before.  

The older ones, Miguel, Erika, and Tito, seem to be very decent people.  But Olinda's situation seems pretty bad.  They apparently have plans to  move Olinda to a place in Iquitos. Carolina also has plans to get Tito to the U.S.  They went with him to get a passport. I don’t know how difficult it is to obtain a visa. What will transpire from here remains to be seen. But knowing Carolina, she will continue to support Olinda as best she can. 

Miguel lives not far from our apartment here, in Miraflores. That has always been one of the upper class and popular with tourists part of town. It’s where I spent most of my time in Lima, first in an apartment hotel when we adopted Max, then in another apartment two years later with Carolina.
There are many tales to be told about those times, too, of course, but that will remain for another saga. Or perhaps you have already heard those stories.

Miguel was eager to show Carolina around Lima, as he also had with us in Iquitos. He lives here, but travels frequently to Iquitos for business. He seems to be quite well off, in contrast to the rest of the family. He has a large apartment here, where he took Carolina and Franz to visit, and to serve them several meals.  And apparently he has an even larger apartment in Iquitos.

It is hard to decipher just what his relationship with the rest of the family has been.  But we were told, by Tito as well as Miguel, that he basically “saved” Erika from the situation in Tamishiyacu.

Erika seemed touched that I remembered her from when Raul had brought her to Lima, at age two, for foot surgery.  I had asked about her, even before we knew about all the other siblings.  We met briefly here, with Miguel, partly because she had wanted to meet me. They came to the apartment later than we expected, (Peruvian time, we should have known!) So we only had about fifteen minutes with them, before they drove Carolina and Franz to the airport. But it was well worth it for me to meet her once again, and it seemed meaningful to her too.

Miguel had spent the previous few days driving Franz and Carolina around Lima, great aside from the fact that they never had a chance to walk around or explore on their own, aside from the hours we spent with the Alvas.  But I have a feeling she is already planning to come back.

So it’s been a pretty tumultuous couple of weeks, but then that is what we had expected.

Now, onto handicrafts, one of my favorite subjects. Since I couldn’t really justify buying any more for myself,  I had offered to the director of Partners in Development to shop for the organization for them to resell. They support communities and children in Haiti, Guatemala, Mississippi, and now are starting up in Peru. They do have handicrafts from the other countries, but hadn’t yet acquired any from Peru. So, with a budget of several hundred dollars, I had a great time scouting out and purchasing a variety of items, in the jungle, and now in Lima.

I had heard about a community, near the jungle lodge where we stayed, that made baskets from a local fiber. They’d apparently made them for their personal use for ages, probably generations. But Dolly Beaver, Paul’s Peruvian wife and manager of the lodge, had organized the women to create more marketable items, and thus provide some income to the tiny community of about 250.  When Dolly heard about my interest in meeting the women and purchasing some of their products, she arranged a visit.

When we arrived, on our last day in the jungle, and on our way back to Iquitos and on to Lima, there were eleven women waiting for us, each with her own table of baskets, no two the same. I made the rounds, purchasing at least one item from each of the eleven. Loring followed after me, taking pictures of me and each of the women, and one tiny toddler who was lying on the ground playing with a small basket. It turned out that he was the baby brother of Jackson, our boat man. And the basket maker was their mother.

Dolly thanked me profusely for our purchases.  And I now have a connection and a way to purchase more and get them to the States if that becomes feasible. She and Paul actually live in Florida, but come down a few times a year.

And here in Lima, I have continued on with crafts purchases in the markets. They are so different from the way they were 30 years ago, not really surprising. Then, they were simple stalls, and at least some of the craftspeople lived behind a tarp behind their tables. The merchandise was the things they made themselves, whether rugs or jewelry or pottery. Now the markets are much more elaborate, and the salespeople are mostly merchants rather than the makers. The arpilleras, embroidered and appliqued wall hangings, of which I purchased several dozen years ago, are still available, but are amazingly expensive, over a hundred dollars each.  But I am happy to see that the crafts people (at least I hope) are receiving more money for their incredible work. Some of the other crafts, like the little retablos, boxes that open to reveal small scenes, either religious or domestic, are also prevalent, but the general quality is lower.

In any case, it is hard to understand how any of these folks are able to earn a living there, because there are hundreds of booths, in several adjoining markets, and rather few tourists. Knowing how much the tourist business has expanded in the last couple of decades, I had expected to see many more. But I suppose most tourists spend little time in Lima, heading for Cuzco and Machu Picchu, or the jungle, or the Andes. Peru is such an incredibly diverse country, one of the things that attracted us to it originally all those years ago.

I spent about an hour a couple of days ago, scouting out items, buying a few, with a very patient Loring sitting and reading on a bench. We knew I was going to have to come back. Yesterday I returned, planning to meet Loring several hours later at the art museum.

 I took cabs, first to the market, then on to the museum. Loring walked,  his favorite thing to do in a city. But it was a bit further than google had indicated, about seven miles rather than the four he had expected. So he arrived a bit tired, but remarkably on time, as was I. He after several hours walking, and me after several shopping. (but for handicrafts, not for myself.)  Oh, all right, I  had allowed myself  one purchase, an alpaca cape. And it was a pretty necessary purchase, because it is cold here in Lima, colder than I had remembered.  I have had only one long sleeved layer, a light sweater. Now I can wrap myself luxuriously in my beautiful shawl, inside or outdoors. 

Lima’s weather doesn’t change too much, just a few degrees, from their summer to winter, which it is now. ( South America’s seasons are opposite to ours.) And it is almost always a dull gray here. Sunshine is almost non existent. Lima could be a pretty city if only there was some sun.

The museum yesterday, the Lima art museum, was well worth the visit. We remember the building distinctly, from our first visit here in 1986, because of its beautiful checkerboard marble courtyard floor. We have a picture of a couple of little girls dancing in traditional costumes there.  They still have classes for children, many more now, in various arts and media.

I can’t say I remember anything about the exhibits from all those years ago, so don’t know how much it has changed. They have a wide variety of arts, from ancient to almost contemporary, including painting, pottery, jewelry. I was sad to see that the textile room was under renovation and not open.
But, today, we are heading to the Amano Museum, a private collection of textiles that the collector later opened as a museum. I do distinctly remember that museum, although I think I was there by myself after Loring went back home, so don’t think he’s ever seen it. I remember sliding open drawer after drawer to reveal incredible and amazingly preserved ancient textiles. I may not be quite as bowled over this time, because I have seen many Peruvian textiles since then, but am hoping that I will appreciate  seeing them again at least almost as much as last time.

That may be the last of our tourist type activities, because we have to come back and pack and prepare to leave. I could probably do a second museum, but doubt that Loring could. Unless we walk, a lot, in between.

A couple more things to relate before ending this post.  I had read about a water park here, not the kind with rides and waves and all that. But a park with a number of impressive fountains that were lit at night. I read some comparison to the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

We walked from the art museum to the park, about fifteen or twenty minutes. It opens at about 3pm, and I’d read that the light show began at about 7pm.  We walked around for a while, impressed by the number and variety of fountains. There was a spot where you could pose and have your picture taken. We saw a little girl in a white dress, probably  for a communion. And an older girl, in a dark blue gown, no doubt a quincenera, also posed for photos.

When we’d walked around all the fountains, nearly twenty, we were ready to leave and looking for an exit. Suddenly music came on, and lasers, and there was a show much more elaborate than what we’d already seen. Suddenly we noticed that there were big crowds, many more folks than we’d seen before. The show lasted about fifteen minutes. I’m so glad we didn’t leave before the big event, although we would probably never have known what we’d missed.  It was all quite impressive and more artistic than I’d imagined.

We’ve drunk our share, maybe more, of pisco while here. It's a grape based liquor, and pisco sours are the national drink of the country. (at least the alcoholic version. The non alcoholic national drink is the chartreuse colored Inka Cola, of undeterminable flavor.) Aside from the pisco sours we’ve ordered in restaurants,  we bought a bottle of pisco at the supermarket and made drinks with lime and soda water. And there was the small glass of straight pisco served to me at Miguel’sfriends'  house watching the futbol game. And then yesterday, at a convenience market near the water park (we could not find a single restaurant nearby)  I had a bottle of what looked and tasted like orange soda, but with pisco mixed in.I feel like I ought to have one last pisco, and perhaps will, at the airport.

The other thing we were sure to eat was ceviche, at what was rated by some site as the best cevicheria in Lima, and just a few blocks from our apartment. It was a funky place, with memorabilia all over the walls, mostly sports related. But there was one  wonderful old sign, that translated as something like no galloping allowed in the streets.  On horses, I presume.  I am still lusting after that sign. Oh, and the ceviche was pretty good, too.

Okay, time to hit the streets, at least one last museum, some walking, maybe another ceviche or something else traditional, and in theory a quiet trip home.

I will write one last entry here to sum things up and include anything interesting that I may have neglected to relate, or has yet to occur.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Further Amazon Adventures.

It is now Sunday the 14th, although the only way I can know what day it is is
by looking at my phone. This will be our last night in the jungle, and our
second night at the Tayuanu Research Station. Tomorrow we head back to
Iquitos, about a six hour boat ride down river, then fly tomorrow night to
Lima where we will meet up again with Franz and Carolina.

Carolina and Franz have been hanging out with brother Miguel again, who has returned to Lima. They plan to meet up with Erika, the only sibling that Carolina has not yet met. I did meet her though, when she was about two and Carolina was about four. I was visiting Lima with Max, and our lawyer Raul had brought Olinda and Erika for some foot surgery. That was the
second time I’d met Olinda; the first time was the day we got Carolina, and
the third time was a few days ago in Tamashiyacu.

The research station here is a slightly smaller version of the main lodge, and
about two hours further upriver. It is a little more remote. From Iquitos to
the lodge we saw several settlements, including Tamashiyaco. Between the
big lodge and this one we saw none.
Our room at the first lodge had its own bathroom, although some of the
rooms shared. Here there is only one set of bathrooms and showers, so a bit
more rustic. The main lodge had 17 rooms. This one has 12, or so I was told,
but I have only seen eight. Perhaps they had counted the staff accomodations, or it may be that there are other rooms for visiting
researchers. There is one researcher here now, plus a high school student
from Florida who is doing a three week project.

The first lodge was fairly quiet most of the time we were there, perhaps half
full. Our last night it became more bustling, with the arrival of a group of
adults and kids, all friends from California. They told me the kids were all
friends from school.

Here at the research station there are very few of us. There’s the two of us,
a mother and her 13 year old daughter, the young man doing the monkey
research internship, and the staff. There were two sisters, from perhaps
Australia, who were here last night but left this morning.

Right now Loring is out with guide Melisa on a walk to hopefully see the
anaconda that has been spotted a few kilometres away. The three of us,
plus boatman Jackson, who is training to be a guide, all went out together
for a walk yesterday in the jungle behind the lodge. I had indicated I was up
for a short walk, about a half hour. It was, of course, more than two hours
before we returned to the lodge. I had been a bit leery after teetering on a
narrow log bridge (ie one log) the day before, through muddy pools whose
depth was impossible to judge before stepping in. Yesterday’s walk led us thru many more puddles and streams, and a number of log bridges. Luckily,
most of them were several logs wide and not that difficult to cross. In some
cases, it seemed easier just to wade thru. I never got above the top of my
knee high rubber boots provided to each guest for the duration of the stay.
(we got ours at lodge one and brought them with us to this one. )

I confess I was rather enjoying the tromping thru the mud and woods, until
it seemed that there were larger streams in our path and Melisa had to reroute us several times. It was just rather longer than I had bargained for, as I am not the most avid of hikers, as you may know.

We saw little in the way of wildlife yesterday, although I did spot a small
brown lizard on a branch, as I was in the middle of traversing one of the log
bridges, and stopped to say hello. Melisa said it was a tree climber.

She, and also Jackson, the apprentice guide, have a remarkable ability to
both spot and identify wildlife. We constantly marvel at how they can see
something in the woods while we are walking or in a boat. Even after they
shine a laser near it, I can only sometimes find it amidst the greenery.

There have been lots of birds, and we have spotted sloths twice, a couple of
river otters, monkeys a couple of different times, with the best view of several while out on the boat this morning. We have also seen pink dolphins turn, I did expect there to be more, and it to be more visible . There are surprisingly few butterflies, I have seen almost no insects (was hoping for
some colorful ones, like the iridescent green beetles one sees in museums. )No spiders, just a few webs, and none more impressive than many I’ve seen at home. Not even as many mosquitos as I expected, although I am certainly not complaining about that! Although Melisa tells us that at times there are many more mosquitos.

This morning we found a blue and yellow butterfly in the bottom of theboat. And I’ve seen perhaps another half dozen all told. This morning, though, from the boat, we did finally spot a blue morpho, the beautiful large iridescent butterfly that I thought was common here. I have seen them in
much greater quantity, from a car, on one of our other trips, to Costa Rica, I
believe. We spotted the monkeys, saki by name, at the same time that the
morpho fluttered by, very close to the lodge, on our way home.

Our main intent of this morning’s boat ride was to go fishing. Yesterday, on our way up here, we passed another boat with tourists from the lodge. Melisa gestured to him, with a a rolling of her hands, and then pointing at
him and herself. She explained to us that he had taken her fishing poles from the lodge. She seemed unperturbed, more amused than annoyed. I was initially a little frustrated, since we had planned to go fishing, andd now only had the rudimentary ones made from a branch with a fishing line and hook. But then I decided that it was better to try a more authentic method
than using commercially made equipment.

So we set out upriver this morning. We had ham from breakfast as bait. Loring caught the first fish, and we used it for bait. He eventually caught three, and Jackson caught about six. Three of them were pirhana. He pulled the jaws open so I could see the teeth. I didn’t catch any, but had one good tug that I lost, and we think Jackson caught it a moment later.

He cleaned them on the boat, using his paddle as a table. We could see the
cut marks of many cleanings on the paddle.
Their paddles are a different
shape from the ones we are used to at home, kind of a leaf or pear shape, and made from a single piece of wood.
a couple of times.

The river otters were rather different from my previous impression of otters
as playful and friendly. We had a family of them one year on the pond in
Maine, and they did fit that vision. These creatures were an entirely different breed. They poked their heads out of the water at us, baring their teeth and hissing menacingly . Not at all the endearing creatures we thought  of.

The jungle itself is less foreboding than I had imagined. Even when we paddled by canoe down a small tributary, a great experience, we could stillsee sky above. And the moon!
My impression of the environment in general is rather different than I had
expected. While I did not anticipate a place teeming with wildlife at every turn, I did expect there to be more, and it to be more visible .
There are surprisingly few butterflies, I have seen almost no insects (was hoping for
some colorful ones, like the iridescent green beetles one sees in museums. )
No spiders, just a few webs, and none more impressive than many I’ve seen
at home. Not even as many mosquitos as I expected, although I am certainly
not complaining about that! Although Melisa tells us that at times there are
many more mosquitos.

This morning we found a blue and yellow butterfly in the bottom of the
boat. And I’ve seen perhaps another half dozen all told. This morning, though, from the boat, we did finally spot a blue morpho, the beautiful large
iridescent butterfly that I thought was common here. I have seen them in
much greater quantity, from a car, on one of our other trips, to Costa Rica, I
believe. We spotted the monkeys, saki by name, at the same time that the
morpho fluttered by, very close to the lodge, on our way home.

Our main intent on this morning’s boat ride was to go fishing. Yesterday, on
our way up here, we passed another boat with tourists from the lodge.
Melisa gestured to him, with a a rolling of her hands, and then pointing at
him and herself. She explained to us that he had taken her fishing poles from the lodge. She seemed unperturbed, more amused than annoyed.

I was initially a little frustrated, since we had planned to go fishing, andd now
only had the rudimentary ones made from a branch with a fishing line and
hook. But then I decided that it was better to try a more authentic method than using commercially made equipment. So we set out upriver this morning. We had ham from breakfast as bait.

Loring caught the first fish, and we used it for bait , much more effective than the ham. He eventually caught three, and Jackson caught about six. Three of them were pirhana. He pulled the jaws open so I could see the teeth.

 I didn’t catch any, but had one good tug that I lost, and we think Jackson caught it a moment later. He cleaned them on the boat, using his paddle as a table. We could see the cut marks of many cleanings on the paddle.

Their paddles are a different shape from the ones we are used to at home, kind of a leaf or pear shape, and made from a single piece of wood.

 We had the biggest pirhana fried up for us for lunch. It was quite good.

I have a bird book here, and am now going to leaf through it and try to find
some of the names of species that Melisa has identified for us. There is one bird that seems to reside here at the lodge. When we came back from the woods yesterday, having spotted just the little lizard, it was perched on the railing of the cabin next to us.

Before I could fetch the camera, it had flown, but not far, to one of the boats, and then to several other spots, all within
view from our porch. Melisa said it was a falcon.

Now  let me mention some of the birds we’ve spotted while here. There
have been flycatchers, kingfishers, woodpeckers, herons, hawks, vultures,
swallows, jays, a tanager, antbirds, a cotinga, a kiskadee, macaws, parrots,
and a toucan. The macaws were impressive flying overhead, although to me
they looked black. Loring, thru the binoculars, could see a lot of color.

I also saw about a dozen vultures sitting in a tree. Loring told Melisa that vultures
are looked at negatively in our country. She said that here in Peru they are regarded very positively because they help keep the jungle clean.

 We’ve seen owls twice, once a brown adult with its white juvenile. Loring went on
a long walk with Melisa to see the hoatzin.
 Melisa has made bird and animal calls whenever she spots something.

The sound of the macaw she made sounded just like the name. I suppose
that’s how it got its name. She says a lot of the bird names are onomatopoetic. Her calls and those of all the guides sound very authentic and impressive, although how would I actually know?

Another surprise is that there have been virtually no flowers. It must just not
be the right season. The only ones I have seen are large red blooms called
bromeliads growing atop trees.

Right now there are only three of us here at the lodge. Loring has gone with Melisa in
search of an anaconda. Kim and her daughter Arianna have gone out on a
canoe ride. The other two here beside me  are researcher Malika and intern Andre.Plus the staff, maybe four or five people. I don’t think any others are arriving today.

I will stop writing now and head to the hammock room to relax, and most likely take a nap.


Saturday, July 13, 2019

Iquitos and on to our jungle lodge at Amazonia Expeditions

And yes, the little hole-in-the-wall did prove quite interesting. It was an art school, not exactly a museum, but did  have a small gallery at the front, with about a half dozen objects. The people seemed puzzled but proud that we were interested, and one man proceeded to show us around. He was one of the teachers, and brought us to his studio, where a couple of young students, teenagers, were working.

 One of them showed us his whole portfolio, probably thirty pieces, and as we began to move on, he came over and shyly, gave us one of his pieces as a gift.The same teacher led us to a couple of other studios. In one there were perhaps eight students, all at easels  painting the same object. It was  a sculpted woman’s face, in different angles and facets. That’s what the lesson seemed to be about. They all seemed pleased to see us.

Later in the day, we headed to the Belen district, of great renown. If you read foreign visitors’ comments, you’ll read ones that say beware, stay away, and others that say it’s one of the most interesting places they’ve ever been. I’d side on the second but also with a  precaution to pay attention to your surroundings.Belen was certainly intriguing. It’s a poor neighborhood on the water. Some of the houses are on stilts, the others on light wood that floats them when the river is high. The upper part of Belen is a market, teeming with products and people, and small enterprises. Oddly, there were a number of one room dental clinics, none of which I’d relish using.  We walked around the market, which had many kinds of fish, all fresh, leaving us wondering what the merchants did at the end of the day with what didn’t sell.  We saw, sadly, huge turtle shells, on their backs with the meat exposed. Most intriguing were the buckets of live grubs, with ones skewered and cooked on the table above them.

Several young men approached  us, with the ubiquitous greeting in English followed by a little chat, then the offer to guide us through the neighborhood. We declined the first few offers, but then let the third or fourth guy show us his boat, “ no obligation.”  We had intended to take a boat through the neighborhood, but not until a later day. Of course, his low key attitude got through to us and before long we were in his boat. I have to say it was well worth it. He was a good guide and a friendly person, with enough English skills for us to understand each other well.

Marlon took us up river and back, for about an hour, looking at numerous houses, with many people out washing clothes, and others fishing. There were a few floating churches and a couple of floating gas stations. He also pointed out the numerous “floating toilets,” rudimentary stuctures with a scant piece of tarp or board for a modicum of privacy.  The toilets emptied, of course, right into the river.


Marlon eventually brought us to his own house, where we met his wife, two young children, and his father. There was a small living room, where his father was watching tv, a kitchen, and a bedroom. There was a separate remarkably well equipped,  with at least a dozen shiny pots hanging on the wall, as well as utensils like a spatula and slotted spoon. The parents and children slept on the wooden floor, laying blankets down at night and draping mosquito netting over them.
Although this may have been part of Marlon’s shtick, I was really taken by seeing where he lived and meeting his family. At the end of our tour, he asked if we were on “waasup? Or “tripadvisor?”  We asked “facebook” and he nodded. We promised to give him a good review .  I asked if he got customers every day, and he said no, some days one or more, some days none. We gave him more than the price he’d asked for.

We are now at the Tayhuanu Lodge,  upriver from Iquitos about four hours, three hours past Tamashiyacu where Carolina’s family lives. She and Franz have stayed in Iquitos to visit more with the family. They went out to Tamashiyacu yesterday, and will go once more tomorrow before leaving for Lima. Unfortunately, Carolina has been sick, with a fever, for several days. Yesterday, they had a nurse come to the house and give her some kind of shot. Whatever the medication is, it has made her feel a lot better. Tito, Gina and Renzo came back to Iquitos with them and are staying a couple of days.

Our first night here, after several hours travel by boat, we had dinner and then went, with a few other guests, on a boat ride. Our guides are adept at spotting things, and a couple of times said they saw caimans, or at least their red eyes, lurking in the swampy edge of the river. I believed them, and wanted to believe I saw them, but wasn’t at all sure.

We each have our own guide, assigned when we arrived.  If it’s a family they have one for the group, if it’s a single traveller, she has one for herself. Our guide is Melisa, one of two female guides. She’s been working at the lodge for three years, is originally from a village  eight hours up the river from Iquitos, in the opposite direction.

Every day the guides consult with the travelers about what they want to do. Yesterday, we went for a “short” walk in the jungle behind the lodge.  I had said about a half hour would be good. Two hours later we arrived back at the lodge.  It wasn’t hard going, although Melisa had a machete that she occasionally used, to remove thorn ridden branches from the path, or slice open a fruit to show us what was inside.

The jungle, at least here, is not densely overgrown as I would have expected. Granted, these are fairly well used paths, but even off of them, it’s pretty penetrable. Loring commented that it wasn’t any more overgrown than on our wooded land in Maine.

We heard and saw many birds, and Melisa could identify all of them, even the ones I couldn’t spot. We heard some sounds of monkeys, not verbalizing, but the sounds of them moving from limb to limb. It’s not that common to spot monkeys here, although another group did see a troop of 14 a couple of days ago. It’s more common to see them at the research station, where we are headed tomorrow for a couple of days, so maybe we’ll be lucky and see some there.  One’s guide is assigned to you for the whole trip, so Melisa will accompany us there.

Yesterday afternoon we boated upriver to where pink river dolphins are often spotted. Along the way we saw a multitude of birds, herons, hawks, vultures, a number of other species whose names I can’t remember.
Shortly after our arrival at the dolphin spot we saw one breach, and then several more.  I wasn’t sure if it was the same or multiple dolphins; Loring was sure it was at least two. He went for a swim off the boat, and strangely, the dolphin(s) seemed to be frolicking around him, coming closer than they had to the boat. Melisa had told us a folk legend about a dolphin that turned into a pink skinned man (like us) and joined a woman to live on land. I was pretty   sure the dolphins we saw were looking to mate with Loring.

Last night we had decided to stay at the lodge, while others were planning to go on excursions.But around dinnertime, the sky opened with torrential rains, and the others were glad they hadn’t ventured out.

I spent some of the evening talking to Dolly Beaver, Paul’s wife.She runs the lodge, and has also created a non-profit organization calledAngels of the Amazon. They have supported health clinics and schools in the area. A portion of the cost of our trips goes to supporting the organization.

Dolly has also organized, in the nearby village of El Chino, a small women’s collective that makes and sells baskets woven from a local palm fiber. The women had made baskets before, but just for their own use, not to sell. I had seen some of these baskets on the wall of our apartment in Iquitos, and then again at the museum. By then I knew that the baskets were made at a place near the lodge where we could visit, so decided to wait until we were here to purchase them directly from the weavers.

At the museum I did buy a number of small animals, frogs, birds, etc made from the same fiber. It turns out that they are made by the same group. Each animal is labelled with the name of the person who made it, so I will probably get to meet some of them.

This morning Loring and Melisa went off on a more extended boat ride and hike, to a lake where the  hoatzin  bird can be spotted.  I decided to stay here and read and write. It turns out that most of the guests also went out early, because there were only five of us here, the three women from Washington with whom we arrived on the boat a couple of days ago, a young woman travelling for over a month in South America, and me.

Instead of the usual buffet, we had breakfast served to us at the table, scrambled eggs, cheese, ham, avocado, olives, some kind of fried chips, two kinds of juices, and fruit. The meals here have been impressive, a lavish buffet every lunch and dinner with a couple of kinds of salad, one of two kinds of meet, cooked medlies of veggies, fruit and cookies for dessert.

Everything is fresh, although not really local. It is all boated in from Iquitos. Yesterday we saw them unloading large amounts of food, as well as wood and some other supplies.

 Right now I may be the only guest here, mostly everyone has headed out on some kind of excursion.  They will mostly if not all be back for lunch at 1pmThe young woman college student is headed up to the research station, for just one night. We will head up there tomorrow, for two nights. So we may cross paths with her again, either at the research lodge, or on the river

The other people here now are a couple from California, three women from Washington State, a family with two teenagers from, Ohio .There was also a group of four from the Netherlands, but I think they may have left. According to Dolly, though, there’s a large group arriving later today.

At the moment, there are more staff here than guests, even without counting the guides.  There are cooking staff, cleaning staff, boat operators, and construction workers, although there may be some overlap.This morning, some people are sanding wood brought on the boat yesterday. I assume there is always maintenance work to be done.

So the lodge has given employment to a lot of local people. Dolly told us she met Paul, her husband and founder of the lodges, when he advertised for female guides some years ago.  I suppose there weren’t any women then.

Paul wrote a book a couple of decades ago, Adventures of a JungleGuide, or something to that effect. The literature for the place said it was required reading for the trip, and we both dutifully read it. It details his own earlier trips here, starting in the 80s or possibly the 70’s, when it was truly an adventure, and he went, with tourists, to virtually untouched places,  built their own shelters, uncovered archeological  ruins, gotten bitten by fire ants, snakes, etc.

There are two other books with Amazon themes that we both read while in Iquitos. Neither of them was great literature, but both were entertaining enough and had enough local color to enjoy reading them while here. One was an adventure and romantic story about a young woman from Boston who travels to Bolivia and falls in love with a local man, and travels with him to his family home in the jungle.  Although it is set in Bolivia, the jungle references seem very appropriate to here. At the credits at the end of the book, the author gives credit to Paul Beaver, whose lodge she stayed at ( right where we are now) while doing her research!

The other book is called Death in Iquitos. (I think.)  It’s a murder mystery that takes place mostly in California, but some scenes are in Iquitos. One scene takes place at the restaurant where we had dinner a few night ago. I do love reading books that are set in the area where I am travelling, whether it be Israel or Paris, Berlin or Peru.

I think that almost brings me up to date. It’s almost lunchtime, which is at 1pm.  They signal it with a drum outside the dining room door.

This afternoon we are going fishing, unless Melisa recommends something else and we change the plan. And everything’s always subject to the weather. So far we’ve been incredibly lucky in that the downpours have always occurred when we are at the lodge rather than out in the jungle or in a boat.  But it can change really fast. Even as I write this, the rain has begun again. Who knows if it lasts until after lunch or not.

Loring has returned from his morning excursion. He did see several hoatzin birds, as well as a sloth, more dolphins, and a good glimpse of a monkey, one of a troup that they could hear in the trees.
He agreed, though that I was happier here at the lodge than I would have been trudging through the jungle in deep mud.
1

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Further Iquitos adventures


Tuesday

Today is our last full day in Iquitos. We leave tomorrow at noon for our boat to the jungle lodge. We go right past Tamshiyacu and three hours further. Carolina and Franz will stay here three more days. Tomorrow they will head to Tamshiyacu one more time to visit the family. And then they will bring Tito and Gina, and probably Renzo too, back to Iquitos to stay overnight. We’ve gotten permission from the owner of the apartment here to have the overnight guests. Since we are leaving they can have the second bedroom, and there’s a couch Renzo can sleep on.

Here in Iquitos we’ve spent time with brother Miguel.  He lives in Lima but comes to Iquitos periodically for business. He has a store in Miraflores, not sure what kind of merchandise,

He had planned to take us someplace to watch the big game on Sunday. The first plan didn’t work out, whatever venue it was was closed. We then went to the house of oldtime friends of Miguel’s, which I think was much better.  There were about a dozen people there, all clustered around the TV for the game. In case you are not a soccer/futbol fan, the game was the final one for the South America Cup.  It was Brazil against Peru, and Brazil was favored to win.  If I understand right,  this was the first time Peru had ever advanced this far, to be a finalist.

One of the men came on a motorcycle, which he brought into the living room. He was wearing red and white, Peru’s colors, and a red Viking type hat, and red paint on his cheeks. He had a large loud horn that he blew periodically, similar to the vuvuzelas that were so popular a few years back during some other championship.
Although I am anything but a sports fan, I took this as a cultural event and watched with an eye toward the guests as well as to the game.Of course I made the almost immediate gaffe of cheering for the wrong team’s first goal. I somehow thought that the blue and yellow players were the Peruvian players, quite absurd when you realized that all the celebratory attire, balloons, etc were red and white, including the guest in the costume.

The hosts kindly didn’t seem to hold it against me, or maybe were just being polite. As the game continued, so did the beer drinking. Very interesting the way they passed each bottles around, pouring themselves and then sharing with another. That continued throughout the game. When one case was finished someone went out for another. It was primarily the men drinking, but not exclusively.  Carolina, Franz and Loring did their share, although probably not quite as much as the others.  Miguel wanted to drive us home after the game, but we decided to walk. (it was actually only a couple of blocks to our house. )

While the game was still on, the woman host brought out four large bowls of soup, for the four of us.  It was chicken, with a thick  texture that I guessed was eggs, like Chinese egg drop soup.  But I was wrong. The thickness was due to cornmeal. I will have to try that at home.  The soup was delicious, and would have been enough. But after we’d finished, she brought out large plates of fish with yucca and rice.  She told us the fish was paiche. The only time I’d heard the name before was when looking at some earrings that were made from paiche scales!
After we'd eaten they served a few other guests, and Franz said some of them ate in the kitchen. I suppose they ate themselves after everyone else had eaten, perhaps after everyone else had left.

When we left, we were told repeatedly to come visit again, that their house was our house ( in halting English.) And I think it was sincere, although the numerous repetitions might have been partly due to the amount of beer consumed.
I’m not a beer drinker, so just had a few sips. Our host did ask if I wanted some pisco. He served it to me straight, and it’s strong. I had a couple of sips and passed it to the others to try. I’ve had plenty of pisco sours, but don’t think I’ve ever had it straight before. Well, it got passed around and never came back to me. Which was probably just as well!
Peru lost the game, but folks said philosophically that it was still great that they came in second in the overall games, which was true. I can just imagine, though, what the streets would have been like had they won.

Before the game, Miguel had driven us around town, first to a large open function type place with two huge tv’s, and people starting to gather. Then we saw a procession of people in the street, heading that way.  We drove around the block several times, because Carolina wanted to give people the polaroid pictures she’d taken of them.
Miguel’s car was a large king cab pickup.  We assume it belongs to his father-in-law, a businessman with a store here. There is only one road out of Iquitos that goes about 40 miles to a place called Nauta. It doesn’t connect to anywhere else. To get here one needs to go by boat or plane. So it puzzled us a bit why someone would need such a truck. (Transporting large amounts of merchandise flown in from Lima? ) Or maybe just the same reason that people buy luxurious cars back home.
There are not very many cars at all in Iquitos. The major modes of transportation are motorcycle and mototaxi, and there are a lot of both.  It’s a challenge at times to wait for a gap in traffic to cross the street. Although there are lights at a few intersections.
After the game, Franz and Carolina went out with Miguel and another person or two, to the same place we’d driven through earlier, before the game. It was filled with people drinking and dancing, including them. So I guess the fans weren’t too  devastated by the loss. They came home pretty tipsy, driven by Miguel. We’d been a bit nervous about that, but they made it home okay. Franz didn’t feel too well the next morning, but Carolina seemed fine.

Loring and I had gone, the previous day, in search of museums and handicrafts.  I had offered to pick up crafts for a local organization at home, Partners in Development, which works in Haiti, Guatemala, Mississippi, and now Peru. They provide health and other services to communities. They sell handicrafts as a fundraiser, from Guatemala and Haiti, but hadn’t yet acquired any Peruvian crafts. So I offered, and was given a budget of $400. What fun!  Years ago, I had worked with several different artisans in Lima and brought back a variety of crafts, wall hangings, carved gourds, etc. and sold them.  This time I am just doing the buying, not the selling, for a worthy organization.
 I have not, however, found much in the way of crafts here. There were a few small things in the Belen market. (an amazing place that I will describe a little later)  I found just one handicrafts store, and didn’t find anything appealing. I did find some wood carved items made from the same rosewood as Carolina’s beautiful rabbit. Which gave Carolina the idea that perhaps her uncle  could make some items to ship to us to sell. Don’t know if that would work out, but is certainly worth persuing.

  I got a few small things made of balsa wood, and am going back today to get some colorful animals made of some kind of plant fiber.  I am hoping to get some baskets from a woman’s cooperative in the jungle.
But I probably have to wait for the Lima markets to buy most things.
The items I did find and will go back to purchase today were at the Museum of indigenous Amazonian groups. A place definitely worth going to if you are here. They had a small corner of crafts for sale, not really a store, just a couple of cases and a few things hangin on a wall. But they did have a few baskets made by women in the Chino community, and I will get a few of those in case we don’t get there during our days at the lodge.

I’m going to stop here, but will come back later today to describe our adventures yesterday in the Iquitos community of Belen, a fascinating place. We’re going out now in search of one more museum, the art museum. Never know what to expect here, and in many places we travel to, in terms of museums, but even the little hole-in-the wall places sometimes prove to be fascinating.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Arrival in Iquitos and visit to Carolina's family in Tamshiyacu


We arrived yesterday  in Iquitos, after a long day’s trip from Boston to Miami to Lima, and a short overnight stop at a hostel near the airport.  On the  flight from Lima, magnificent views of the Andes and the Amazon.  It had been cool in Lima, but humid and hot as soon as we disembarked.

Our airbnb here in Iquitos is quite nice – two bedrooms each with its own bathroom, ac in the bedrooms, much appreciated, and a fan that adequately cools the living room. Loring and I will stay here five days, Carolina and Franz an additional three.  We will head off to a lodge in the jungle for an additional five days. C and F will stay here, possibly with overnight visits by Carolina’s extended family.

We went shopping for groceries yesterday afternoon at a supermarket, although the hosts here had left us a good supply of provisions, especially fruit – bananas, apples and a huge papaya, plus lots of other staples.
The building housing the market had mosaic details on the outsider and a large sign saying “Cohen and Company” overhead. So I guess there were some Jews in Iquitos back in its prime, and perhaps still are.

We went out to dinner at a place called Rustica, pizzas, meats, etc. We got a mixed plate for four, including probably every kind of meat they serve, plus fries and a cole slaw- like salad.  But most important, our first pisco sours of the trip!

It poured torrentially as we were about to leave the store, backpacks laden with cereal, yogurt, eggs, cheese, crackers, chips, beer, and rum. So, we stood in the doorway of the store for a bit, waiting for it to abate. Watched as others came and went in the ubiquitous moto taxis, a motorbike with a seat for two or three attached.  We’ve seen them in many places before, but never as prominent as here, definitely the prime means of transportation. The rain continued, and we watched the streets flood over the sidewalks. 

Last night it rained all night long, heavily. Right now we are waiting to take motorbike taxis to the dock where Carolina’s brother Tito will meet us, in order to head out by boat to Tamshiyacu. And then we will head out there, about an hour’s ride, to meet the rest of the family.

We were a little concerned by the heavy rain ( this isn’t, by the way, the rainy season!) but Tito was already on the way.
This promises to be a momentous day, whatever happens. We don’t know exactly how many family members we’ll meet, certainly Olinda, her husband, and the other siblings, four I think. Plus Tito’s partner and daughter.  We also have a list of other relatives, various in-laws, aunts, ,uncles, cousins. 

We don’t know what kind of health Olinda is in, but know it’s not good. She’s been in a wheelchair for years, but there was also some mention of her not recognizing people recently. I hope that she is able to understand who Carolina is.  But there’s no doubt it’s going to be an emotional encounter.

 I asked Carolina last night if she was nervous. I am, a little bit. She said no, well, not yet. I haven’t asked her again this morning. We have two large duffel bags to bring, one filled with clothes, including T shirts saying  Boston that Franz made in his shop. He also made ones saying Peru for us.  The other bag is filled with stationary supplies, games, bags with various sundries, a lot.  She’s got specific bags for Olinda, each of the siblings and the little girl. 


Oh, by the way, did I mention that none of them speaks any English?! Carolina has been communicating with the siblings via google translator, but it will be rather different face to face. 

Well, we are about to embark on our boat trip and adventure.  I will stop here and add more later, to write about today’s experiences.

Later

 We spent today in Tamshiyacu  with Carolina’s extended family.  Tito met us at the dock in Iquitos as planned, after a ride in two mototaxis. We got a little lost, because our driver apparently didn’t know where the dock was, and had to stop to ask someone. (huh?!)

 Carolina and Franz were waiting with Tito when we arrived.  We got on the boat with our two large duffel bags and waited for Miguel, one of Carolina’s other brothers, to arrive. He lives in Lima, but comes to Iquitos from time to time. He is the only one older than Carolina. I knew about him from the adoption papers, but only his name.

We headed up the river for an hour. Along the way we saw several settlements, and a few people in boats and on the shore.  We disembarked and found two mototaxis waiting for us, along with younger brother Renzo, on a motorcycle. We had seen some photos and video of Olinda, her husband Oswaldo, and the siblings when we first heard from Tito, so had an idea what to expect.

 The house is constructed of wood and tin, with a thatched roof and a packed dirt floor. And a satellite dish on the roof. The furniture in the front room, where we spent much of the day,  consists of a long table against the wall, a sofa, a bunch of plastic chairs, a wide screen tv, a refrigerator, and an exercise bike with clothes draped over it.  Everyone seemed very happy to see us, and kept thanking us.  I’m not sure for what, maybe just for coming to see them.  As I may have mentioned earlier, Tito has been searching for Carolina for years, and finally tracked her down via facebook.

There were a few tears at first, but the general mood was very happy.  Franz was our primary translator, and it’s a good thing he was there, we would have been much less able to communicate without him.  I chimed in from time to time, but his Spanish is much better, because Portuguese is his primary language.

Olinda is paralyzed  because of a snake bite about 10 years ago. I couldn’t understand much of what she said, and she was somewhat repetitive, but in much better health mentally than I had feared. She was clearly thrilled to see Carolina,  beaming most of the time.

 All the kids had cell phones, and between all of us we must have taken hundreds of pictures, with multiple configurations of various family members.

Carolina unpacked the two duffel bags and showed them around, cosmetic cases,  art supplies, T shirts, lots of clothing, a couple of games, a pair of binoculars, a few pairs of swimming goggles, some calculators,  several plastic horses from Carolina’s friend Valerie, which were an immediate hit with Tito and Gina’s adorable toddler daughter, Carolina’s niece Kylie.  Carolina took photos of her playing with them and posted them to Val. And then there were the American foods they’d  brought, boxes of macaroni and cheese, and peanut butter and  fluff, which we tried to explain was a special food from Massachusetts, and went along with the peanut butter! I’m not sure if they actually got the concept, or had even had peanut butter before, much less fluff!

Carolina was given a beautiful hand carved rabbit that she had known one of the uncles had been making for her. We didn’t didn’t recognize the name of the wood until Carolina looked up the translation – rosewood.

I had worried that communication would be difficult, but it really wasn’t, with Franz doing most of the translation (although he admitted he sometimes didn’t have a clue what they were saying, but just nodded and smiled.) I have certainly done that many times myself. Also, because Carolina and Tito had been communicating so much online over the last couple of months, she could get the gist of some of the conversations.

They gave us each a painted wooden parrot with the name of the town written on it, and a woven fan. They also introduced us to a baby alligator that they’d caught some weeks before while fishing. It wasn’t very big, maybe eight or ten inches long. Carolina had already seen pictures and named him Herman, and was delighted to see that he was still alive.  They said he’d grow to be six to eight feet long. We asked how long they were going to keep him, and they said they were just keeping him to show Carolina.
There must have been about 15 people there, all relatives. There were several brothers, some Olinda’s, some of her husband Oswaldo. And some sisters and sisters-in-law. And the siblings, Jose, Tito, Renzo, Oswaldo, and Emma. As we understand, all of the younger ones beside Tito are Oswaldo’s, and Tito and Carolina have the same father.  I am not clear on who  Miguel and Erika’s father(s) are. Miguel is two years older than Carolina, and Erika is two years younger.  Erika is Olinda’s only child who was not there. She lives in Lima. There had apparently been a rift between Erika and Olinda some years ago, but it sounds like things may be on the mend. Carolina may possibly meet up with her in Lima. I think she’s been waiting to feel things out a little more, not wanting  cause any more tensions. My own sense is that that wouldn’t be the case, but it’s of course her decision. We wouldn’t meet with her because Franz and Carolina and we only have one day’s overlap in Lima.  They have to  go home a bit earlier, and we were only able to schedule our own trip to the jungle lodge for certain days.

After we’d all had some Inka Cola and chatted,  Oswaldo, Olinda’s husband, stood up and spoke quietly and earnestly about how he had chosen to stay because he felt obligated to take care of the family. He apparently goes off to do some kind of work, for a few days at a time, and thanked the other members of the family for helping to take care of Olinda. Then his brother, the uncle who had carved the rabbit, stood up and spoke. And then another relative. It almost had the feel of speeches at a wedding, but very low key. 

Then it was time for lunch. Tito, Gina, and Kylie, Miguel and we walked a few blocks to a small restaurant. They had about a half dozen choices. All four of us had fried chicken, and the others some other meat platters. They all came with rice, beans, a bit of cucumber and yucca. Pretty good. And they ordered food to bring back to the rest of the family. We offered to pay. The total cost, for about 15 of us, was about $35.

Back at the house, the tv was still on. Earlier, it had been some shopping type program, rather a contrast with the humble trappings of the home. Now on the tv, though, was the World Cup game between Chile and Argentina. I think everyone but me was really into it. In addition to the family, there were three adorable little boys leaning on the window sill (no glass) looking in.

Tomorrow, though, is the big game, between Peru and Brazil. I can imagine what an event that will be, with Franz perhaps the only person around rooting for Brazil. We have been invited to watch the game at the Iquitos home of Miguel’s father-in-law. That should be interesting too.

Carolina and Franz plan to go back to visit on Wednesday, and bring Tito and family back  to Iquitos with them.  We’ve worked it out with the family who owns the apartment where we are staying. Loring and I will be leaving the same day for the Tayahuano Lodge. So we will all be heading the same way upriver in the morning, but Loring and I will continue up the Amazon for several more hours.

By the way, Loring looked up the weather today, here and at home. It’s about fifteen degrees hotter in Massachusetts today, in the low nineties, and in the seventies here in the Amazon.

Pictures to follow soon.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Prelude to Peru 2019


Olinda, Joanna and Carolina, Lima April  1991
 
Loring, Max, and Carolina, Beverly May 1991
We are going to Peru next week, our first trip there in about fifteen years.  I’ve been there six times previously,once on a vacation,  twice to adopt Max and Carolina,  once on a vacation to Machu Picchu when the kids were pretty young, once to do some volunteer work with street kids in Ayacucho (where the family joined me afterwards and we traveled north to Cajamarca and other places) another time to visit, buy handicrafts, etc. All of the trips have been special, but this one promises to be much more significant than the others, with the exceptions of the month I spent each time for the adoptions.


I have never written at length in this blog in anticipation of a trip, only once I have arrived. But this journey has much more significance and needs some more background information. Travelling together, at least for the first part of our trip, will be Carolina, her husband Franz, Loring, and me.

Just over 28 years ago, on Mother's Day in May 1991, I walked the streets of Miraflores, in Lima Peru, my infant daughter strapped to my chest.  Numerous times, someone smiled at me and wished me a happy Mother’s Day. I realized then that the holiday was celebrated in Peru, too.

Max and Loring had been with us the first two weeks,  and I remained in Lima with baby Carolina for the duration of the adoption process. The birth mother, under Peruvian law, has 45 days in case she decides to change her decision to relinquish her child. I wasn’t worried, nor was I anxious to go home. I was thoroughly enjoying my time in Peru, as I had nearly three years before when we’d adopted Max.

We’d met Olinda the day we got Carolina, the morning after we arrived. This was quite a surprise. Three years prior our lawyer, Raul, had hemmed and hawed when we asked merely for a picture of Max’s birth mother.  He eventually said he would get us one, but he never did.  Now, he picked us up at our apartment, brought us to the foster mothers ( a mother and daughter) where Carolina had spent her first month, and then, brought us to Olinda with Carolina in our arms. It was emotional, of course, but Olinda seemed, as much as one could tell, comfortable with her decision. She already had one child, a boy, and in the adoption  papers said she wasn’t able to care for a second one.
Olinda had given the baby her own name, Olinda.  We had already named her Carolina, (Max hadn't been named, we gave him his name and it went on his original birth certificate)We felt terrible not keeping the name, really the only thing Olinda  could give her. So we named the baby Carolina Olinda Liss Merrow, which,  when she was a bit older, she delighted in reciting.

A couple of months ago, Carolina received a startling message on facebook. It was a young man, Tito, who told her he was her younger brother. Tito said he’d been looking for her for a number of years, and finally tracked her down via our lawyer, which led him to me, and then to Carolina.

She was elated, and we were excited too. Carolina found out that there was not only 24 year old Tito, but 18 year old Renzo, and 15 year old Emita.  Plus Tito had a partner and a young daughter. So Carolina suddenly had a whole new family, including a niece! They all lived with Olinda, in a small shack- like house in Tamshiyacu, the same town where Olinda had lived when we adopted Carolina.  We skyped with them and saw them all, including Olinda, who is  in a wheelchair, and not in good health. She is in her fifties now.

I’d met Olinda twice, when we received Carolina at five weeks old, and  a year or two later, when Max and I were visiting Lima.  Raul had brought Olinda back to Lima with her one year old daughter, Erika. Erika had a malformed foot, and Raul had arranged for her to have surgery. He had also hoped to find an adoptive family for Erika, but that never happened.

When we recently learned about Olinda and the siblings in Tamshiyacu, I asked about Erika. There had apparently been a rift between Olinda and Erika at some point. She had left Tamshiyacu and now lives in Lima and has a small daughter.  (another niece!) We contacted her on fb, and it seems as though she has now had some contact with Olinda and the other siblings.  We will hopefully learn more when we are there, and possibly meet her in Lima.

Before the recent contact, when we learned about the younger siblings, we had last heard, through Raul, at least a decade ago, that Olinda had been bitten by a snake and was paralyzed. We sent some money, but never heard back. We knew nothing more, not even if Olinda was still alive.

This trip we will start off in Iquitos, the closet place to fly in, and also the largest city in the world with no road access to other places. We will spend five days there, probably go to Tamshiyacu to visit, and then Loring and I will spend five days in a jungle lodge while Carolina and Franz stay in Iquitos to visit further with her “new” family. Tamshiyacu is only reachable by boat, about an hour from Iquitos in the “fast” boat.

We are staying at two lodges run by Amazonia Expeditions, run by America jungle explorer Paul Beaver.I had researched  two companies, this one and Explorama tours, both of which have been there since the early 1980’s. Now there are many more, ranging from rustic to deluxe. 

Our first trip to Peru was prompted by a question from Loring’s sister Sherry, in 1985.  She had decided to visit the Amazonian jungle and asked if we would like to join her. I said no, thinking of how much mosquitoes like me, and how much I do not like them. Sherry went on her trip, but I remained intrigued by Peru, just not the jungle. And so, I planned a trip for Loring and me, to Lima, Machu Picchu, Arequipa, Paracas, and Nazca (home of the famous ancient lines in the desert.) It was a great trip.

(Coincidentally, when I recently asked Sherry if she remembered which company she went with to the jungle, it was one of the two we had been considering. She immediately contacted Dr. Beaver, only to be told that he had already heard from us. So of course that was the outfit we decided to go with, although the other had sounded equally appealing.)

Two years later, when we had decided to adopt a baby from abroad, we went to an informational meeting at a large adoption agency, Wide Horizons. The director went alphabetically down the list of countries and agencies they worked with, in about 20 countries. Each agency had its own set of prerequisites. Some had an upper age limit, others accepted only couples, others dealt only with folks of a certain religion. I set with bated breath, wondering what would preclude us from Peru. (we’d already decided that was our first choice.)  When she got to Peru, the policies were very liberal, the major requirement was that at least one parent had to spend at least a month, probably two, in Lima for the duration of the adoption process.

I was thrilled, nearly jumping out of my seat in the room of at least a hundred prospective parents. A man raised his hand to question why anyone would choose to adopt from Peru.  I was incredulous, but not as much as when the agency director responded that she wondered that too. 

I understand that not everyone could or would want to spend an amount of time abroad, but for us it was perfect. I was planning to leave my job, and for us the idea of spending time in the country of our child’s birth was a big plus.  The agency director’s response (I don’t remember the rest of what she said, but think it had to do with that being the only choice for some people) still stays with me some 30 years later.

I will stop here, and pick up again once we are in Peru.  There are a lot of unknowns, including how our relationship with Carolina’s birth family will develop, and also what we will find in our jungle excursion. Hopefully not more mosquitoes or biting ants than I can handle. Paul Beaver wrote a book a couple of decades back, describing in great detail the many kinds of creatures he has been bitten by.  (he says, seriously I guess, that it’s required reading for the trip. ) I am almost finished reading it.  I do have my head to toe mosquito netting outfit, which I will hopefully not be teased too much about, and more importantly, hopefully will do some good, along with the strong chemical repellent we will bring.

Stay tuned for more, starting next week. We depart on July 4th.