Saturday, July 27
Today in Iquitos everyone was preparing for the Independence Day celebration. The town square was active with stages and booths being built, and craftsmen and artisans setting up displays on the sidewalk.
We had a few hours of free time in the afternoon to visit the Belen Market, a place of unbelievable sights and smells. We'd been warned not to venture too near the meat section, but it is difficult to avoid the booths filled with chickens (and sometimes just chicken feet) and fish of all kinds. The produce section was beautiful with fresh fruits and vegetables, some familiar and others I had never seen before. There was also the "natural pharmacia" section filled with the sellers of herbs and potionsall of whom had the perfect cure for my bug bites!
Now that we are back in Iquitos we see a stark contrast between this city and the village of San Antonio. While the people in San Antonio didn't have a lot of money, I didn't think of them as poor. They had plenty to eat, the children went to school, and there was a new medical station. On the other hand, Iquitos seems like a city that is truly poverty-stricken. We were told that as the starting point for Amazon excursions, Iquitos has become more dependent on tourism. And like many travel destinations, Iquitos sees fewer vacationers and tourists.
We had dinner at The Yellow Rose of Texas, a restaurant owned by Gerald Mayeaux, a Texan and the current director of tourism for Iquitos, and then wandered through the square listening to the music emanating from competing stages as the festival got underway.
Monday, July 29
The past few days have been spent recovering from minor illnesses and traveling back toward home. We arrived in Lima yesterday and will be leaving for Miami in just a couple of hours. It has been an adjustment coming from Iquitos where the weather is sweltering to Lima where it is winter and rather cold. The Pacific Ocean has cut into the coastline here in an impressive manner, and the beaches are mostly black rock. The fog is very thick and I'm wondering if our flight will leave on time.
We will be back in Austin tomorrow, and though this has been an experience of a lifetime, I'll be glad to be home.
Note (Aug. 23, 2002): Robin Gerrow returned safely to Austin, Texas, bug bites and all, on Tuesday, July 30. She will provide a wrap-up journal entry and updates on the four graduate studentsLev Michael, Chris Beier, Lynda De Jong and Mark Brownand their work with the village of San Antonio on the Iquito Language Documentation Project. Please visit Saving a Dying Language for Robin's wrap-up journal entry with updates on the project.
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