---Hey theatre people if you´re just skimming there´s very cool theatre story at the very end! (Although don´t miss the following story)
A story...a parable if you will. The whole time leading up to South America Emily talked about how she was going to bring SO much less stuff with her than I brought to Tanzania. Blah Blah Blah Charles Blah Blah Blah less stuff than you Blah blah Blah. WELL we took a plane the other day and before our luggage was put underneath it was weighed and Emily´´s bag weighed...drum roll please...da da da da da da da (that was a drum roll)...Emily´s bag weighs 21 Kilograms and Charles´ bag weighs...16 Kilograms. Seriously 21 friggin Kilograms! So there you have it. Why is it a parable...I don´t know.
Anyway onward and upward...
I have been to the Amazon Jungle! Hot sweaty and many mosquitoes- although not as bad as Manitoba in Summer- but I have been. The jungle is dense and gnarled with incredible insect and plant life, as well as amazing birds and other creatures such as monkeys, sloths (didn´t see any), large tarantulas and caimans (small alligators with red eyes). The Amazon long renowned for it´s plant life rumoured to heal many different ailments is indeed truly wondrous; in fact I discovered the cure for cancer. Unfourtuantely I left it and my towel and the cure for acne in my room at our jungle lodge. However I am confident it will be alright as I left a note with it saying Cure for Cancer- Please use for Humanitarian Needs and not for Profit I think clearly through history humans have shown that their compassion for humans of all races and economic situations clearly outweighs their need for personal benefit or greed. And so I have no doubt that the cure for Cancer I have found will be used responsibly and humanely. Look for it cheaply on a pharmacy shelf near you soon!
We spent 3 days in the jungle at our jungle lodge which is really some simple rustic (every agency in Iquitos used the word rustic...seriously) rooms with mosquito netting. The first day we got out there and did a hike in which we saw lots and lots of insects and plants, and lots of mosquitos (though not as many as Manitoba in the summer). We saw huge ants trucking large loads. In fact one of them start hauling Emily away and I had to step in and save her.
Our guide showed us all the plants and insects and told us what the various plants were used for. He showed us termites and then preceded to tell us that people eat termites and then showed us by letting a few crawl on his hand and then ate them. He encouraged us to do the same and not to miss out on the jungle experience I tried a few. Emily did not. That´s right the vegetarian ate a few termites, and the carnivore would not. It´s always scary when you can see where your food is coming from hey folks! Actually you couldn´t really notice them, they were really small and I only had a few- they were a sort of crunchy but as I said so small they were barely noticeable.
At night we got to go out onto the Canoe to experience the Amazon at night! Sounds good doesn´t it? What it means is a lot of Mosquitoes-although not as bad as Manitoba in Summer. Actually the Tarantulas come out at night and we got to see these huge tarantulas sitting on the trees, and we got ot see one eating! We also went looking for Caiman´s and although we didn´t get too close up to one we did see the red eyes of one lurking in the bushes.
The next day we spent more time on the boat as we went bird watching and then fishing for Pirhannas. I caught a small fish that wasn´t a pirhanna and Emily caught a couple small Pirhannas which she tried for dinner. We also saw pink dolphins although only from a distance. We also got to have lunch with and visit a family that lives on the Amazon. That was nice because often times what you get is that you can visit tribes and they reenact their old traditions, dances and ceremonies that they actually have totally abandoned nowadays. (Like the Masai Village we visited on Safari). This was nice because we got to see the way they actually live now.
They live on houses on stilts because at the height of the rainy season the river rises considerably. Actually it´s more like roofs on stilts there´s no walls. They have a great deal of livestock just running around everywhere and they plant quite a bit of fruit. They have a casette deck radio player run off a generator they use sparingly, they don´t have running water but they do live next to a big river.
That night we did a hiawasca ceremony with a shaman. Hiawasca is a hallucinogenic plant used by Shaman as part of ceremonies. So we paid an overinflated price (especailly by Peruvian prices) for a Shaman to come in and perform the ceremony with us. We did it at night in another rustic room, the Shaman mixes the hiawasca with something foul...I think it was tobacco juice or at least something containing tobacco juice, he smokes a pipe and exhales into the thermos holding the hiawasca then he poured a cup for each of us and we drank the foul substance down. Then we smoked a cigar with some kind of leaf...not really sure what it was. It´s pretty standard with Hiawasca to throw up, and we were no different. After about ten minutes of lying in the dark with the Shaman chanting Emily said Charles I may need that bucket she soon starting throwing up and I followed soonafter into a nearby sink. Now you may or may not have already realzied but we both consumed the same amount of everything but I am rather larger than Emily and so she got hit a lot harder. For example I threw up only twice whereas Emily threw up about 4 times or so...they kind of blended into one another. In between we lay immoblized on a mattress. The Hiawasca is quite strong but luckily with the lights out it´s totally manageable. In fact I just felt quite heavy and sleepy and kept thinking in triangles. See my breath was in out, in 2´s, and my heart beat was in 2s so I kept wanting a third to break the pattern, I wanted triangles variation. I think it was something musical. I think Emily got hit harder so you may want to ask her about her experience. Still it was very cool and I´d probably do it again.
The last day we went for another boat ride down a different part of the river (we were on a tributary of the Amazon, the Amazon is actually huge and a big highway for ships and people). And then we returned to where we started our Jungle adventure Iquitos, an isolated city in the Northwest of Peru that is the jumping off point for Jungle treks. It can actually only be reached by boat or plane (we took the plane from Lima). Before we left we had made a reservation with the swankiest hotel in Iquitos and by the time us city kids had returned we thoroughly needed the pampering. It was wonderful! Airconditioning, no mosquitos, a pool, big comfy beds ahhhh!!! Sometimes it´s a wonderful thing to spoil yourself, especially after the jungle.
Couple cool things in Iquitos. There was an art display by a local artist at the swanky hotel we were at. So Emily and I went down and visited him at his place to see more of his stuff (and possibly get a non-hotel price for the work). Anyway his stuff is amazing unique and beautiful, clearly inspired by the Amazon. In fact he paints on this kind of canvass made from a tree or plant in the Amazon. I bought one of his paintings which is just fabulous. All his stuff is incredibly unique. We also went to what we thought was the Francis Grippe museum. Grippe is a famous Peruvian artist who has studied all over the world but has based himself out of Iquitos before. Anyway we were told it was only open 8-9 pm which seemed strange but we went anyway and when we got there it seemed to be just house and some women waiting outside. The lady took us inside and took out a few Grippe prints. They were actually quite fabulous and I was considering buying one. Originally she said 50 US but she could see we weren´t high rollers and we´re sure if we could afford it. So she dropped the price to 30. I decided to buy one and then we asked her if she knew Grippe, and at the point she explained that she was his wife! Apparently it used to be a whole museum but most of the art had been bought and shipped out of the country. She was an incredibly nice woman and preced to throw in for both Emily and I (who had then decided to buy one too) two more paintings EACH! There all prints, some done by Grippe himself, and a couple are posters of his work. His work is quite excellent and he has gone through a lot of phases, for example I got a cubist print of his and also a poster of a painting of his of caricutres. The caricutures are famous U.S. presidents all set up like the 12 apostles painting but on the table instead of wine there´s mcdonald´sand coke and the caricature´s are exquisite. So anyone we thought we were going to a gallery and kind of got a garage sale of awesome art.
So we´re now here in Lima, grounded for a few days, possibly a week, by a bus strike. So it leaves me with some time to write. Overall what preceded the Jungle is that we came from Southern Ecuador (Vilcabamba) into Peru. We went to Huancamba in the mountains where we were going to vist the Maestros (Shaman) at these lakes where they perform all night ceremonies. However we weren´t warned how high the town was and I got hit with Altitude sickness. It turns out the town was about 3700 Metres high, that´s almost the height at which I summited Meru. To put in perspecitve, we travelled from Piura to Huancabamba. On a map Huancabamba is about 150 km´s away from Piura, but it took us nine hours to get there! So anyway it was high, I got sick BUT at the end I also had the best Lemon Meringue Pie I´ve EVER HAD IN MY LIFE. Seriously. I mean Peruvians are big on their Postres (Desserts) anyway. You see them everywhere. But this Lemon Meringue Pie was glorious melt in your mouth goodness. Truly great, and we found it in a small town in the mountains in northern Peru. (Stefan did the French invent Lemon Meringue Pie?)
From there we headed down the coast and spent some time in a gorgeous beach town called Huanchaco. I didn´t do much in Huanchaco but Emily acquired some boyfriends, went surfing and got sunburned badly. We also saw some very cool ruins near to Huanchaco.
As mentioned previously we are now in Lima and I have to say Lima is not what we expected. Beforehand all we read was how Lima was big and crowded, polluted and dangerous. Actually Lima is awesome, it´s a big city and I´m a big city kind of person. It´s totally modern, the area were staying had a quite a bit of money and so is very nice. While there is of course incredibly poor areas, like many major cities, Lima is still a great city to spend time. We wandered Lima Centro, saw a church with catacombs underneath with piles of old bones from people who used to be buried there. We wandered China town and have been to a few museums. Beforehand to hear it be told Lima was so dangerous that it´s best you walk around naked so no one takes your clothes. Well we´ve had no problems whatsoever, nor has anyone we know. Lima is definitely WAY better than somewhere like Nairobi- which sucks more than...I don´t know a vacuum.
The highlight of Lima and my last thing to write about was the play we went to. We saw a play in Spanish in this gorgeous little theatre that seats a couple hundred or so. It is in connection with the university although I don´t think the actors or at least all the actors were students. The show was called Metamorphasis, but no not the Kafka. This was based on myths- some greek, some like King Midas. What was really cool though was that there was a pool sunken into the stage. Like 75 percent of the stage was a pool. What was also really ingenious was that it had different levels. So the Up stage part of the pool was actually only ankle deep so they could walk in it or lie in it. Then they walked down stairs which provided different levels, and then there was the deep end which was deep enough they could swim (and they did sometimes). It was really cool and used as a few different things depending on the tale being told. It was quite a feat as lighting had to adapt and costumes were quite gorgeous but had to contend with being wet to different degrees, some more than others. Overall it was very professional and quite impressive, even if I didn´t understand a lot of what was being said.
That´s everything, when the buses are running we´re heading south down the coast and then to Arequipa and Cusco. I miss my veggie tacos. Oh and I caught a cold in Iquitos. Seriously I caught a cold in the jungle...
p.s. I just finished "A People´s History of the United States of America" by Howard Zinn which is mind blowingly good. Possibly the best book I´ve ever read. Emily has just finished Stephen King.
p.p.s Where my brother Nigel works in Toronoto (an upscale Home stereo dealer and installer) they also put art on the walls and sell it. Well when I was there the artist whos work they were selling was Billy Dee Williams. Seriously the Billy Dee Williams, and his stuff wasn´t too bad either.
Nations are not communities and never have been.
My point is not to grieve for the victims and denounce the executioners. Those tears, that anger, cast into the psat, deplete our moral energy for the present.
I am supposing, or perhaps only hoping, that our future may be found in the past´s fugitive moments of compassion rather than its solid centuries of warfare.