Monday, July 24, 2017

My Last Days Around the Amazon

A motot axi, it reminds me of the rickshaws of China.
After coming back from my tour, I spent a few days at my hotel in Nauta, not doing much. In the mornings, I'd make coffee with a coconut I chopped down and turned into coconut milk. The coffee was instant; so, it needed some better flavoring. I'd surf the internet, read my book, and eat dinner. And the day would start the same again the next day. But this is how I liked it.

I brought that duck carcass and flesh with me and had a local restaurant cook it. It tasted delicious.

I saved the bones too and let it sit in water with vinegar overnight, that way, without using fire, I extracted nutrients from the bones. The next day, I cooked the broth for 6 hours. When I had it, it was rich and tasty and hearty and delicious.

Fried duck the local restaurant made for me
with the duck I brought them.
On the weekend, a Brazilian guy in his 40's with his Peruvian wife and Colombian friend came rolling into town with their fancy rented motorbikes. The Brazilian's name was Manuel, and he was fluent in Spanish. It looked like he took steroids because he had a big chest, but it had a roundish women-look rather than how pecs are naturally toned and squarer.

He also wore a lot of bling - and I mean it was all bling, bling, bling. Bling on both hands. He had a bling Mason ring on. Bling on his neck. Bling in his ears.

They invited me to drink with them. I kind of didn't want to, only because it meant I had to be social and that cost me energy. Also, I had to do it all in Spanish.

But they poured me several shots of rum they bought locally. I found out they were architects, taking a break and enjoying the weekend. The Brazilian lived in Iquitos for 12 years, and he said he liked it but found that the people were dumb and simple - at least that's what he said.

I was happy that my Spanish was improving. I could follow almost everything, but once in awhile, I had to ask what a specific word meant. (You could always tell people who have a formal education versus those that don't in Latin America. Those with a formal education know how to explain what a word means.)

I told them I graduated in biology and was traveling to figure out what to do with my life. In telling them such, they thought I was younger and naive and inexperienced - and they all knew more than me.
The hotel cat. She's not Jeh Pan, though.
All they kept wanting to do was go clubbing - clubbing in this tiny village. But clubbing they went. Perhaps, they liked lording their wealth (perhaps paid for, perhaps on loan). And they came back hung over, still drunk, and looked worn and burnt. I said good morning to them all though, spritely and fresh.

After resting up in Nauta, (remember, I had that slight injury from my fall), I took a collectivo, a shared taxi, back to the Amazonian Capital of Iquitos. I checked in to the same hostel.

While sitting in the corner by myself, an Israeli guy talked to me. I cut the conversation short, though. I didn't feel like being that social.

I was re-reading the introduction to Hemingway's The Dangerous Summer, which turned out from a publisher's view to be an epic failure. The audience no longer wanted to read about bull fighting and Hemingway didn't have the life in him to write another great piece. (Even to me, he seemed bitter and angry in this novella.) A year later after publishing the manuscript, he shot himself in the head. (Sadly and coincidentally so did his second wife, Martha Gellhorn.)

Well, I finished the book, and then left it at the hostel's book shelf. Another book down. Five left to go.

Still sitting by myself, an Irish guy sat next to me. We chatted. I put the book down and listened to him.

"How are you, Bryan?" I ask.

We met once before. He was 35 too. He was tall and thin and looked like he was in shape, even though he claimed he never exercised. He said he was that way, because he smoked 10 cigarettes a day.

"Good and you."

"Good. I just came back from the rainforest. Have some injuries. What have you been up to?"

"I did Ayahuasca."

Ayahuasca is a mix of psychedelic plants that originate from the Amazon and is used in a traditional Shaman ceremony to open up your mind and spirit to connect to the universe. In America, it was made famous by William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, founders of the Beat Generation. Burroughs writes about it in the Yage Letters, where he's looking for the ultimate trip, which is also supposed to cure his drug addictions.

"Oh you did. Tell me about it."

"I went with Gabby for ten days. You drink this filthy, nasty crap drink. Then you go into a trip. And the shamans start chanting an Icaro."

(I met Gabby in my room. She tried to sell me on it. I told her I was a Christian and wouldn't participate, and to me she was a horrible marketer as she was always complaining about everything, from the lack of security in the hostel to the noisy street to the cook putting too much salt in her fried eggs.)

"So, you feel anything? Did the world open up for you?"

"Well, why don't we get some food and drink and talk about it? I've been eating all this crap at the Shaman's hut."

"Really? I ate really well in my little village. It was fantastic. Let me show you this picture of the duck I ate. It was sooooo good."

"I don't want eat that crap anymore. I'm tired of this Amazon crap. Let's go to a real place."

"I know a Belgium place on the malecon. I could use a glass of wine. There was no wine where I was at."

We walk down the malecon to the bistro and sit outside. Bryan is one of those guys can't help but glance at all the people that pass him.

We order some salmon on crackers and cheese and bread and olives and two glasses of beautiful wine.

Bryan tells me, "Well, you're in this hut in the middle of the jungle. After drinking the nastiness, I went into this trance and saw all these images. I think it would've worked better if I had not resisted and just been more open to it."

"So, it's like a hall of pictures?"

"Exactly. But you get to pick which picture you want. And I picked a picture of my parents that were aging. Then the Shaman came up to me and prayed for me. And I started crying and breaking down. I just knew how much they loved me. Before that I was angry at my father."


He tells me about the other guests and how an Australian guy had a vision of himself working at a restaurant and that was now his new calling.

"Are you going to do it?" He asks me.

"No. Probably not. I don't need to spend that kind of money to know that my family and friends and pets miss me."

"I never miss anyone."

"No? I don't get that. I miss people all the time."

"I mean, I enjoy spending time with people. But I don't ever miss them, after they leave.

It was then, I felt sorry for him. I couldn't imagine a world where you don't miss people. Missing people is such a beautiful feeling. Perhaps, it's one reason why I travel so much. It reminds me of how much I have and all the people and pets to be grateful for. I'll never forget Jeh Pan putting his head down and laying on the floor before I left to the airport. I still am amazed how he knew I was leaving for awhile.

I wondered who was poorer, this guy sitting across from me with his tenured job at the local community college as a web design instructor, or the villagers of Nauta, some of whom made only $5 USD for the whole day. Even my hotel owner ate breakfast with her staff once a day.

I glanced into his heart and did not like what I saw. He knew I was doing this. And he called me out on it later.

I told him, "I've been kind of anti-social on this trip. Feels like I've been there, done that. I'm a bit jaded."

He said, "Well you can't judge people too quickly."

"Aye, you're right on that one."

We chit chatted about this and that, none of which was all that important. He found out I still lived with my mother.

I told him, "At first, I had to. It's how I got out of debt. I'm debt free now. And actually ended up loving living with her.

"She makes me my favorite coffee every morning, called Blue Mountain. I have some, but I'm saving it to share with someone on a special occasion. Nothing romantic. Just someone who would appreciate it." I could tell he wanted to try some, but he wasn't the right person and it wasn't the right occasion. I could also tell he could get free stuff from other travelers; but not me.

"Being debt free is good." I could tell him from his body language that he was mired in debt - probably credit card debt.

I needed out of the conversation, though. Otherwise, I was going to end up talking to this guy all night.

We struck up a conversation with the girl at the table next to us.

I told him, "I reckon you could sit at her table, if you really wanted to. She's not going to sit next to you, because she won't take the effort to move her purse on that seat. You see it?"

"I do."

"Here, I'll start it off." I turn to her and say, "Hey, excuse me, where you from?"

"I'm from Berkley." She had a new age look about her. Mid 30's, maybe earlier 40's. Probably still living off her wealthy parents' money and not having a real job. (Perhaps, like some people... =/)

"Oh, that's what I thought. You kind of give off that vibe."

"And what about you?"

"I'm from Los Angeles."

Bryan says, "I'm from Ireland."

We all chat for awhile, small talk, something I learned from New Zealand, because the Kiwis love it so much.

Then I take out my phone and say, "Oh, I'm sorry, I have to go. I have to take this call. Excuse me for the rude interruption. I don't mean to be so unmannered. Enjoy your evening."

There was no phone call.

I paid my bill. I got up. I walked back to the hostel. Eventually, Bryan did end up sitting at her table.

Back at the hostel, I start planning where to go next. I think I fancy the beach. 

No comments:

Post a Comment