As the morning sun peaked through my blinds I wiped the sleep from my eyes and started to plan my day. I realized there was one tourist site I had not seen in all my visits to Iquitos, the Butterfly Farm. Sunday is a slow easy day on the boulevard so this seemed like a great day to strike out and see the Mariposa’s (Butterflies). I figured this would also be a great day to introduce Ruth and Maria to something new.
I stopped down by their room and told them to get dressed and we would head out for a fun day. Next step, call Camila the nurse for People of Peru, to have her join us; a single man traveling with two small girls in Iquitos immediately raises eyebrows in a city with rampant pedophilia.
A quick ride in a peki-peki across the Amazon and we landed in the small city of Padre Cocha, a short ride in a motorcar and were at the entrance to the Butterfly Farm. It was obvious early this was going to be a special day. Each glimpse of the girls faces told me this was all new and exciting for them. The first monkey they saw brought a squeal of excitement. A guide gave us a tour of the farm, and it became apparent the farm houses a number of beautiful butterflies along with a number of jungle orphans, including monkeys, parrots, macaws, ocelots, tapirs, turtles, boa constrictors and one really large jaguar.
The girls looked in awe as the tour progressed. As we stepped up to the largest cage it was hard to see the occupant until the guide pulled out a big piece of meat and Pedro Bello, a huge jaguar came bounding forward. After a quick retreat the girls were fascinated, their eyes were transfixed as we moved from cage to cage; the only thing better than going to a zoo is taking two little girls who have never seen exotic animals. Que rica!
After spending a good part of the afternoon at the Butterfly Farm we headed for another surprise location for a refresco, Frio al Fuego (check out my past blog article on this restaurant). This is a great place to go on a hot afternoon. As we stepped off the peki-peki this time, Ruth and Maria stepped into a world that was totally foreign to them, a four star floating restaurant complete with a swimming pool. A swimming pool? Yep, and another first for these two young ladies.
We ordered up a pitcher of frozen lemonade and a couple of appetizers and cooled off as I watched the fascination of wonderland set into their little minds. Once they got settled and a little food on their bellies I walked over and jumped into the pool. At first they were scared to take the plunge.
Maria tugged on Ruth trying to get her into the water and after a few minutes both girls, stuck their toes into a refreshing adventure. The first couple of minutes they grasped the side of the pool with a death grip but it wasn’t long before they were splashing and jumping like pros.
I sat in amazement watching a metamorphosis from two petrified little caterpillars, street beggers, to two little butterflies. I have watched this family for almost two years as the metamorphosis has taken place. A family of seven living in one room, (Rita, the mother, Anali 17 and her baby Ruth 16 months, Ruth 12, Maria 10, Jeremiahs 5 and Celeste 2), kids begging on the streets, Rita parking motorcars for a few cents, none of the kids in school and each night everyone wondering where and when their next meal would come. Now the kids are making A’s in school, Rita is selling food on the boulevard, regular meals, no more begging and the kids can just be kids. Sill working to bring these amazing little girls from caterpillars, through the chrysalis stage to become beautiful butterflies, but you see butterflies come in all colors, shapes and sizes…
Unfortunately as we arrived back home Ruth was so excited she went running down the stairs and crashed and burned. I was terrified that she had cracked her skull or knocked out all her teeth. When I reached her she was crying and we checked her wounds, just a skinned knee and elbow. Most kids would have cried for hours but within minutes Ruth had composed herself and brushed it off, tears don’t get much sympathy in the slums of Belen. I knew this was a result of living a caterpillar life in a world not made for butterflies. Thank you girls for an incredible day.