I finished my last days in Iquitos soaking up the life and culture one more time. I made my last visit to Belen to purchase the rest of Nebes floor. Total cost of a roof and a floor in Belen, $150.
The water had come in even further forcing makeshift bridges all over town made out of scrap planks of wood, many just wading through the dirty water.
We took a boat to the local saw mill to buy the necessary wood, working our way through the labyrinth of makeshift homes, watching life play out in a city of water.
On the way back the driver asked if we would like to try some cane juice. Of course I was in, so a quick turn underneath the local school and out towards the swamp. We weaved our way through a trail laid out between reeds and lily pads. Eventually we arrived at the town called the 8th of December where we headed towards the local eating establishment. They served up some freshly squeezed sugar cane juice.
I wondered, is this was a good idea, out in the middle of a swamp, drinking juice from a recycled coke bottle where the sanitary conditions were less than stellar? Then I thought what the heck I only have one more day in Peru and who cares if the flight back is plagued with diarrhea and vomiting? It all turned out alright and the juice was as expected, hot and sweet, not much ice in the jungle.
Yesterday afternoon I got a special treat, I was sitting at the Dawn On The Amazon (the number one eating establishment on Tripadvisor in Iquitos) and heard someone call my name. I looked over and there was Ruth and Maria in their school uniforms. They looked so cute I had to jump up and take a picture.
Ruth asked if I would buy them some food, neither child had eaten all day. So I decided to take them to a local restaurant. It wasn’t until we sat down that I realized neither girl had ever sat in a restaurant and been served. I asked the waitress to read and describe the daily specials to the girls since neither of them know how to read and my Spanish is still muy poco.
They seemed shocked at the amount of food but had no problem scarfing it down. Ruth was trying to eat her chicken with a fork and her fingers when I passed her a knife. It was obvious that it was the first time she had ever used a knife. Aftervlunch I handed her a napkin, another first. We finished lunch with a little helada (ice cream) for my two little ladies.
This morning I was driving to the airport, my last ride on my motorcycle and reflection time began. My trip started with dust and dirt blowing in my face then turned to rain and I realized how much I have grown to love this city.
A town full of people who scrape and scrap everyday to survive but still have the time to enjoy the simple things life provides. Every time I ventured down into Belen I found kids playing in the water, laughing and being kids. I found neighbors helping each other cope with the burdens of life, pitching in to where needed, sharing food and living life to its fullest; even though they were dealt a bad hand, moving forward with no knowledge of any other way to live life.
I came to Peru to help others, I leave Peru a changed person; so many new lessons on culture and life that they are hard to digest. I will miss the sound of motorkars racing down the street, driving in the drenching rain, people hawking their wares in the street, kids looking for a sole for a pack of gum, grabbing a full meal for three dollars or a quick ice cream cone for thirty cents.
I will miss getting a haircut for a dollar seventy five where the barber regards his work as a professional and works to get every hair perfect, where I go to sleep to the sounds of the boulevard and wake up to the sun coming up over the river.
I will miss the conversations on the corner at the Dawn, sitting by the pool at the Casa Fitzcarraldo, watching the men unloading the boats at the Masusa Port and walking through the market marveling at the circus of vendors, sights, sounds and smells. I will miss the incredible people and friends I have made here in Iquitos.
I have learned so much about people, life and myself. I now know why life is so much better when served simple. How much you can impact people’s life with so little, what it is like to be happy and poor at the same time and that language is not a barrier to lasting friendships. Thank you Iquitos! Until we meet again…