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04 - January, 2012 - Yet another year beginning.

The latest trip back to Peru was uneventful.  (Imagine a trip of a couple thousand miles, across two oceans, from one continent to another, being nothing more than a routine journey - our great-grandparents could hardly have conceived of such an idea.)  After a snowless but nonetheless pleasant Christmas with my family in Kentucky, I took the New Year’s Eve plane to Lima.  The flight was maybe one-fifth full, so there was plenty of room to stretch out, and not much competition for the attention of the stewards and stewardesses.   

    The next morning, as our plane neared Iquitos, we descended through seemingly endless layers of clouds.  When we finally came out above the treetops, it was clear that the river is quite high.  Many low-lying areas are already flooded, trees rising like large broccolis from what look like brown puddles.  At the Lodge, and my house and the clinic, the water is barely a meter (three feet) below the edge of the banks.  Edemita has lived in this area for her entire life, and says she has never seen the water this high in January.  Now, there have been many years when I fretted in January about the possibility of being flooded early and long, only to see the water go down in February, before starting its real rise in late March.  And last year, the water was unusually low in January, yet we had a very high annual flood.  One never knows how the river will run. 
    But for the moment, the water is very high, and we have four months to go before the river will peak in May. 

    The house is in great condition, the floors swept and the termites banished.  It has been raining quite a lot, and there are a great many mosquitos in the house.  Ari takes care of the house when I am away, and he does a great job of housekeeping.  There are a few shelves that are above his eye level, and these serve as indicators of the amount of dust and debris that would be layered on everything, had he not made his mark.  I wipe these shelves clean, unpack clothes and batteries and the new LED Coleman lantern, put my hairbrush and toothbrush on the bathroom shelves, get out the coffee cup and the clock and the umbrella and all the other small items that make the house a home and that have been stashed in cupboards and boxes. 
    Then I grab my paddle and head off to the clinic.  It too is gleaming.  We are still closed for our annual holidays-and-inventory break, so Edemita and Juvencio spend the afternoon getting the December statistical registers together so I can deliver them to the regional health authorities.  It looks like we are still well stocked on vaccines, and Edemita was able to collect a good supply of DepoProvera and birth control pills in December, so mostly I am just going to hand over the reports.  The only thing I will need to ask for is more chloroquine, for treatment of malaria, since what we have is expired.  These supplies are all free from the government, but it is always time-consuming to get them.  First, a letter of request must be written and delivered to the person in charge of the appropriate program (that is, if they are not occupied with one of their interminable meetings).  Then, that person must get the authorization typed up and signed and stamped with their official seal, and then I take that document to DIREMID, the government pharmaceutical storehouse in another part of the city.  The folks at DIREMID have to pick the pills off their shelves and package them up for me, and this always takes a while and usually necessitates at least one return trip to pick the stuff up later. 
    So, not having to re-stock on those medicines is a good thing. 

29 febrero 2012 

    The very first time I came to Peru, back in February 1990, before the Canopy Walkway was built, before Ceiba Tops existed, the main lodges at Explorama were the Yanamono Lodge (where I have lived ever since) and the more rustic lodge on the Napo River, known as Napo Camp. 
    There would be a night or two spent at the Yanamono Lodge, then two or three nights at Napo, then a couple more nights back at Yanamono before departure.  While at Napo, we fished for piranha, visited blackwater lakes, and for a change of pace, went to the village of Llachapa, near Napo Camp, where Napo's administrator at the time lived.  His name was Antero, and we visited his home among others.  I took lots of photos, and one of my favorites has always been the young boy sitting on a pona slat floor with a huge machete resting across his legs.  Pieces of the sugar cane he has been chopping up lie scattered on the floor around him.   
    It turns out that Antero's now-grown son Jemer has recently come to work at the Yanamono Lodge, so one night I was reminiscing to him about how I had taken photos in his village, possibly even in his house, more than twenty years ago; and I mentioned the one of Charlie and his machete.  Jemer looked startled, then told me that he had a younger brother named Charlie.  Really? - well, maybe the photo is of him.  Jemer grew quite excited.  Charlie was always sickly, he said, and when he was thirteen, he fell ill with meningitis, and died.  This was fifteen years ago.  If my photo really was of him, their mother would be overjoyed. 
    In the rainforest, no one has family photos.  The emulsion on photographic paper does not survive the climate for more than a few years, tops, and even then only if carefully laminated.  If a child has died, there is likely no memento whatsoever left to the grieving mom. 
    So I had the photo printed, and brought it to Jemer one evening.  He held it in front of him, and could not take his eyes off it.  He just stood there, staring at it, remembering his long-gone younger brother.  His eyes filled with tears, and so did mine. 
    And when he next came back from his days off, he told me he had gotten an enlargement, and presented it to his mother, who was beside herself with tears and laughter, and sent her most heartfelt thanks. 
    I guess the moral is, take lots of pictures.  You never know when one will turn out to be significant, even if it is twenty years down the road. 

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