I awoke at around 8:30 A.M. (I hear already hear that the city has come to life, the tuks tuks are loud in the streets below, those walking to work are the market are laughing and shouting with friends and family) and I light a mapacho as I look out my bedroom window. It’s my last day in the city before I leave for my Ayahausca retreat, and although I’m very excited for the retreat to finally take place, I’ve also enjoyed my past three nights here very much. I finish my mapacho and go and get some water from the kitchen and return to my room. I lay down on my bed, smoke and read a bit before I shower. Once I am prepared, I grab all my necessities, my camera and my book and go for some breakfast. I go to Karma Cafe. Once there I order an egg sandwich and a green tea. I go out and smoke while my meal is prepared and am approached by an excited vendor with mischievous eyes. He immediately starts to barter with me over all his goods. I have no cash, and have been paying on my Visa card (however my father had transferred me some money for the trip a few days earlier, so I could get some if I truly needed it), and I explain that to him. However, he brings out a simple sea lion tooth necklace and it immediately catches my attention (he had tried to claim it was a Jaguar tooth, however jaguar teeth are never this large and more curved). I tell him we’ll discuss a price after I ear. He anxiously sits with me at my table as I eat my meal. He tells me he has a motorcar, and he’ll take me anywhere I need to go. I tell him I’ll trade him a T-shirt, some socks and some cash for the necklace. He agrees if he can look at them. We go to my hostel, I get my T-shirt and socks and we drive to the Scotiabank, yeah they’re in Iquitos as well baby. We agree on the price of 100 soles as well as the clothing. I hand over the cash, he gives me the necklace (which is beautiful and weighty) and he drives me back to my hostel after we thank one another. Right outside my door a few friends I met on my first day were waiting outside my hostel for me. Bought a few necklaces and a bracelet off them, for my mother, father and my sister. Then I went back up to my room. It’s around 1 P.M. so I walk down by the river to read. One of my close friends down there, Rider (a hilarious little Peruvian man), approaches me and we begin to chat. He tells me there isn’t enough tourists, I agreed. He reminds me that I had promised to buy one of his bracelets off him and he hasn’t made any sales in the past three days. I buy a bracelet off him (with my ever dwindling supply of cash..), we decide to walk to Belen and enjoy our new found friendship. We talk about life in general, it’s pros and cons in different regions of the Earth, poverty and corruption within many of the South American countries, and of course, Ayahausca. We get to Belen and he tells me he has to buy dinner for the family, and then invites me. I gladly accept, he tells me his jungle parrot “Rudi” would like to meet me. We get chicken, rice, bananas (which they always fry in South America) and some salad. We make our way back to his “rental home”, a collection of single room homes that are run by a kind older women near Belen. Rider has a wife, a son and daughter and a stepson. All the children are younger than 12. They all live in a tattered (almost horrid by North American standards) single bed room with a sink in it. They’re all very happy, funny and thankful to be alive. It’s beautiful. Rider’s wife prepares our dinner. Me and him take our shirts off, drink fruit juice and continue talking about life. He tells me he needs new work, would like to move to Canada and work there so that he can financially support (and maybe one day move to Canada) his family down here. I tell him it’s a long process, but it’s more than possible if your willing to put in the work to get there. We talk about all the friends we’ve made, his village in the jungle, my village in the concrete jungle, and the path that we’ve been through so far in life. The parrot Rudi won’t leave my shoulder, he seems to like me. Rider tells me about his leaking wooden roof in the Jungle, I tell him I’ll send him money for a tin roof once I get a job back home (it’s only 200 soles for a tin roof down there, as supplies are numerous in the jungle, this is roughly 75 Canadian dollars). The food is ready, we eat and laugh. Rider tells me he needs to make an email account, I tell him I’ll help him. I say my goodbyes to his children, wife and of course, Rudi and we take a tuk tuk back to the center of the city to his friends internet cafe. It takes us about an hour to get it all sorted our. It’s a lengthy process. I swear to the lord the companies make it ten times as difficult to make an email account down in Peru, than it is in Canada. I can make an account in five minutes down here. There were more steps involved and Rider just could never get his information correct, nor could he access the code they sent to his cell phone. At around 8 P.M. I told Rider I’d see him in the morning and that I was going back to my room.
Once I got back to my room at La Casa Chacruna I took a shower and got changed. I really just wanted to smoke a joint and relax for the evening before the retreat, however Peru had different ideas. The elections were taking place as I said in an earlier post. Tonight the streets were filled with various protesters, scary cops on blacked out motorcycles and organized alliances (people supporting a candidate). I lit a smoke, pulled on my boots, grabbed my camera and left the hostel. About five minutes after leaving my room I found myself in the middle of the Plaza square, with lights of all kinds and noises dancing around me. All of the sudden I was approached by an rough un-groomed man who was carrying a baby. At first I really couldn’t make out what he was saying, just “Please you’ve got to help me and my baby”, it sounded almost as if he was on drugs he was so exhausted. I had my water bottle in my pocket and I hand it to him, where he drinks it down in two larges gulps. He points to a Russian identification card he has around his neck, and I can see that it is legitimate. He tells me him and his baby have been stranded in Iquitos for the past five days with nothing, and that if I won’t give them money then to please buy them food and medicine for the baby. I’m a human being, and strongly believe in the law of Karma, I also would hope that if I ever found myself in a similar situation such as this man and with a child at that, that someone would at least find it in their heart to aid me as well. We start walking to the grocery store, I tell him to let me carry the baby because it looks like he’s about to pass out. He reluctantly hands me his baby and loudly cracks his back. The baby looks terrified, and nestles his head into my shoulder. Once we get to the grocery store and start filling the basket with whatever food and health supplies they may need, his story comes out to me, as every human being has many stories. Him, his Colombian wife (I was wondering why the baby was South American at first) and their beautiful child had arrived in the Iquitos airport from Russia five days earlier late at night. You have to understand that Iquitos is a very poor city, and that there are many desperate and dangerous characters around. You have to know who you can, and most certainly, cannot, trust. Anyways him and his family got into an “unmarked” taxi at the airport (these are simply people who do not have a license and are looking to make a quick buck, they’re cheaper than actual taxis). The taxi drove them into the city, then into a back alley way where he ordered everyone out. Five other men came armed with knives and guns. They beat the husband (Russian man), and stabbed his wife three times when she tried to defend their luggage, all while the baby looked on in horror.Then the men stole everything; cash, passports, clothing.. All they left the man was his Russian I.D card which they had no use for. The wife was at the hospital (expensive treatment which they couldn’t pay, however hospitals can’t refuse critical injuries) recovering. The man and his child had spent the last five days wandering Iquitos. No food, little water. Sleeping inside banks on cardboard boxes, and sleeping under park benches when they got chased out by the homeless locals. The extremely corrupt cops had told them “to fuck off, it’s your own problem” (Cops don’t seek justice down there, they seek bribes. In turn they’ll bring vengeance onto the assailants..) I was blown away by his story. This could of happened to me, easily. You always have to be aware of your surroundings in foreign countries.
After we got all everything they needed, I gave them some cash to stay at the hospital (they charge you 10 soles a night to stay with your injured family, and kick you out if you cannot pay) and he tells me that he had already contacted the Russian embassy four days ago (night after the incident) but they wouldn’t be there for another two days. He tell me it’s OK now, but it’s been incredibly hard, he didn’t know if they’d survive. I hand him a smoke and light one myself, we walk without words towards a taxi (THIS ONE’S MARKED) and I give him some money to get to the hospital (my last ten soles, they sure as hell needed it more than me). The taxi pulls up and we embrace one another with the child for what felt like for over a minute, pure love and good vibes is all I could feel. He asks me to come and visit his family at the hospital at the 12 P.M. visiting time, as his wife would love to meet me, and him and his child would really like to see me again. I tell them I can’t, as I’m leaving for the jungle the next morning at 11 A.M. I put his child in the taxi, We embrace quickly once more and bless one another. The taxi containing the exhausted man and child were safely on their way to reunite with their lover and mother. I lit a mapacho and starting crying. Out of anger and sadness. I couldn’t really understand how much had just happened. It was an incredibly significant event in my life, that I will never forget. I made way back to my room and rolled a joint. As I inhaled deeply, I finally understood that it was not the man and the child whom I had just saved (or assisted), but really, it was MySelf. I couldn’t sleep that night. There was way too much on my mind.
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Hope your all having a wonderful Sunday!