Saturday, August 15, 2009

New York, New York!

I'm eating moldy sawdust, or what the airline-issued cardboard box claims is coffee cake. "For those of you sitting on the left-hand side of the aircraft, you can see the lights of Havana, Cuba as we pass above it," the pilot announces. I glance outside, mid-bite.

I guess this is where I should be sentimental. I should reflect on my last six weeks in Peru and list the ways in which it has changed me. I should dedicate this blog to all that I will miss.

But that's not what I'm thinking right now as I look at Cuba.
CUBA. I'm out of Peru. I'm heading HOME.
I try to summon sentimentality, but it doesn't come.

Don't get me wrong - You would have to offer me a handsome sum to snatch these last six weeks away from me. I got to share an ecologist's enthusiasm for sticky liquids, to listen to an Amazon artisan sing native tales as she weaves her chambira, to play in a soup of tadpoles. I liked this adventure.

But all along, I knew I was going home. I came as a traveler, passing through moments of people's lives. I made friends, but I knew I would soon leave them. We would probably never see each other again. But knowing this made our limited time together better. We sang, we danced, we talked, and we didn't do it for a future friendship. All we had was this one song.

In Chino, Angel and I sang Te Amo by Makano until I could spit out all the lyrics with only minor slurring. On the airplane, I plug in my earphones and listen to Makano. "He's just not that into you" is playing on the TV above my seat, but I choose Makano. In this way, I wave good-bye to Peru. This is the extent of my sentimentality.

I feel heavy. I did not sleep last night. I went out to a karaoke bar and discoteca with Yully and Angel. And then it was 5 a.m. and I was taking a motorkar to the Iquitos airport.
Now I fall asleep to Cuba and Makano. "Espera, por favor no te vayas..."

This adventure was everything it should have been. I had fun. I was challenged. And now I have a new adventure waiting for me at home. I have a new apartment, five new classes, a new writing gig, several new bellydances to learn, a brother that's getting married in October, a mom with a new brick house, and Argentinian tango lessons with my Malibu.

"Ladies and gentlemen, the seatbelt sign is now on." New York's hodgepodge of lights stretches out below me. I'm HOME. My stomach lurches. Maybe it's excitement, or maybe it's the coffee cake.

Monday, August 10, 2009


Monday morning at sunrise our boat from Jenaro Herrera arrives in Iquitos. We hang around the city for four days. Campbell, Angel and Yully run a few distillations with the copal resin that we brought back from Jenaro Herrera. Copal smell saturates Campbell's hotel room (and hallway, and lobby).

Between experiments, Campbell runs around Iquitos in a hurried attempt to get an export permit. If he doesn't get all the paperwork signed and stamped before he leaves for Lima, he won't be able to take the hundreds of oil, resin and bug samples out of Peru. I intentionally distance myself from this process. The mind-numbing boredom of official-looking stacks of papers utterly terrifies me.

I eat a cone of coconut ice cream, every day.
I discuss roots and ocelot furs with the vendors of Belen and buy nine packs of mapacho (nicotiana rustica) cigars.

I spend an afternoon watching a street artist, Tomas, paint a Borra woman on a t-shirt. He sells each t-shirt for $15. He also creates bed-sized paintings, but he only works on those after taking ayahuaska. "When I have ayahuaska, I see the gods and godesses, " Tomas saya. "And that is what I put down on my canvas." In his paintings, frogs, raindroplets and nipples swirl out of rivers. Tomas tells me about his dead grandfather, who used to be a shaman. According to Tomas, his grandfather's bones continue to cure cancer patients. "My grandfather was like a god."

I watch a Hallmark movie dubbed in Spanish. The speakers' voices are all high-pitched and scratchy.
I spend $10 on Internet at a cafe that costs $0.70 per hour. I obviously miss my Internets, not to mention my Skype contacts.

Friday morning we leave for Chino, still fretting about signatures and still copying paperwork on our way to port.