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.