As you know from my last (and first) post on this site, Pascal was dispatched to the Amazon (or he decided to go, depending on which one of us you ask). On our way to the airport, I made him promise to stay in touch with me every three days to let me know he was alive and well. In the month he was away, he managed to call me a total of three times—when it exists, technology is downright spotty in the jungle! While a sleepless night or two did claim me, instinctively, I felt he was okay. Little did I know that the Indians he ended up staying with had, as recently as in the seventies, been one of the most feared groups by the Peruvian government because of their fierce warrior ways, well-documented raids on nearby tribal communities for women, and for killing a couple of nuns! No matter, he managed to survive, if not thrive in the environment, which introduced him to the now-peaceful clan of Indians who, as of this writing, have successfully shipped jagua fruit extract to us many times over. Yay! In any case, his journal entries made for an enlightening read, excerpts of which I’ll share here with you. (The full version belongs to my soon-to-be-released book titled, JAGUA: A Journey into Body Art from the Amazon. Don’t worry, if I have anything to do with it, there’s no way you won’t know about it when it comes out!)
From Journal Entry #1
Welcome to Los Angeles International Airport!
Before even getting to the “no jokes allowed” security checkpoint area, I was waylaid down in the baggage X-Ray zone. Thirty people waited in line as some enthusiastic nobody with an attitude s-l-o-w-l-y pulled every single item out of every one of my four suitcases, then repacked them just as slowly to verify that my real name was not Pascala Bin Laden. This kind of obvious power trip really gets on my nerves. Anyway, I was able to stretch out during the eight and a half hour flight from Los Angeles to Lima, Peru. All good. Next up, a layover in the Lima airport from 1:00 am to 5:00 am before my next flight to Iquitos.
From Journal Entry #2
Iquitos is known for being the world’s most populated city, which cannot be accessed by road—just plane and boat. It sits on the shores of the Amazon River, and is the Peruvian rainforest’s biggest city; here, swimmers can lounge on one of the sandy beaches of the river, surrounded by a thick, lush and wild tropical rainforest landscape. The city is also considered a launching pad for expeditions into the jungle and other eco-tourist activities, including the study of over one thousand varieties of plants—many of them medicinal—more than 65 kinds of reptiles, and over 400 feathered species, which makes birding aficionados happy. Apparently there are tons of Pale-legged Horneros, Kingfishers and Black Vultures (not the kind that run American banks!).
I was met at the Iquitos airport by (the person we will call) Mr. X. (Mr. X is the one who facilitated the introduction to the Indian group that Pascal visited with.) He looks like a nerd. No problem; nerds, I can deal with. After checking into my hotel and taking a nap, Mr. X and I plunged headlong into hectic traffic that was filled mostly with mopeds and mototaxis (a kind of motorized rickshaw). Destination: several of the pharmacies in the bustling town center to buy much needed drugs and medical supplies for the community, like antibiotics, anti-bronchitis, anti-flu and stomach flu medicines, anti-malaria pills, aspirins and more. Mr. X had given me a long list of things to bring them because, according to him, I am considered an important visitor. I was happy for the list because I wouldn’t want to arrive empty-handed anyway; but I was stunned speechless by the number of items on it! There was no way I could bring all that stuff, so I decided to go for what seemed the most important…
To be continued…