. Anyway, I bought a calling card for 6 soles or $2.50 and was able to talk for 5 minutes…much cheaper than using my cell phone—when I could get service. I figured she would be worried sick but surprisingly she wasn't! After my 5 minutes ran out, I went back to watch the futbol match and there were a bunch of little boys playing their own makeshift game in the dirt. Most were playing barefoot but a few did have on really nice, fancy soccer cleats. This surprised me because up until now most people weren’t wearing shoes and if they did they were wearing flip flops…so to think some parents spend the money to buy fancy soccer cleats but not regular shoes is quite fascinating. I had the same observation of the adults. Most were wearing simple clothing and everything about their lives was simple, yet they owned personalized uniforms beautifully embroidered with their names and the village name. Clearly, futbol is an extremely integral part of Amazon life.
During this time, I of course took many photos of the kids because I thought it was great to see kids just being kids and playing outside in the dirt. I feel like we don't see that too much anymore. Here in the Amazon Basin, kids are forced to use their imaginations. They don't have video games, TV or even toys. All they have is nature and their village. I've been wondering if maybe we've ruined the ability to imagine and be creative because we can simply pay for or buy it instead
. Anyway, this group of little boys was actually more giddy and silly than a group of little girls. And come to think of it, there weren't too many little girls wandering around. It seems as if they stay close to home with their moms and help out. But about the little boys...whenever I said "hola" to them they would giggle and then speak really fast Spanish to each other, while peaking back at me. They asked me about 1,000 times to take photos of them and sometimes even asked for a solo portrait of themselves just so they could look at it. I wondered if most families owned mirrors but I don't recall ever seeing any. They posed in every combination possible—2 kids, 3 kids, 4 kids etc. Finally, I had to just put the camera away because I had taken such a ridiculous amount of photos that I knew I would likely delete when I got back to the boat!
One family let us come up and watch the game from their house. It was an unusual living arrangement but I didn’t ask too many questions. A man lived there with his daughter and her 4 children. I’m not sure where her husband was or where his wife was. At first, I thought that maybe they were husband and wife with a huge age difference but the man said no, she was his daughter. They showed us their “kitchen," which was just a small platform off the back of the house. I saw large bowls filled with dirty dishes and even a few pots filled with cooked spaghetti sitting in them
. It had some type of red sauce on it but I’m not certain it was tomato sauce. They also had a clay oven out there where they cooked their food. I didn’t see a bathroom but the man said it was in the “back.” I did actually see some kind of fabric apron-like thing hanging on the front wall with toothbrushes in it. It’s weird because some people, even some of the beautiful young women are missing some or all of their teeth but then others have perfect teeth. In the room sectioned off with a tarp which I assumed is the “bedroom” in the house, I peaked in and could see the wall decorated with colorful pages of a magazine. At a closer look, I realized the pages were all in English and most included a beautiful Caucasian woman scantily clad or even nude. I wondered whose room this was and who would’ve put them up, considering the family members who were living there. Either way, I thought it was interesting how people always fantasize about “other” women who seem exotic to them. Surely, they are idolizing white women but many white men would truly enjoy an exotic Amazon woman, just as some American women might secretly idolize Amazon women. I guess the grass is always greener on the other side.
I sat on the edge of their “living room” and watched the game. There were children, adults and teenagers gathered around to watch. Everyone in the village was there watching. The girl next to me was the man’s daughter. She was now breastfeeding. Earlier that day she was feeding her baby with a bottle. This was the first baby bottle I had seen all week. This village was particulary large with a lot of people and a lot of modern features. I wonder if this baby bottle was a small sign that these people were already starting to move away from tradition. They did have a satellite dish, a pay phone, more than one store and even soccer cleats and uniforms
And then something happened. One little boy said in half English, half Spanish, “Hey senorita, estas gordita!” That means, “Hey lady, you’re a fat little thing.” Well my heart broke. I was just told I was fat by an 8-year old boy! They all giggled and laughed in a circle and kept looking back at me. I was just devastated! Our tour guide told me not to be offended but to be honored because Peruvian men like women who are shaped like Brazilian women. I know what he was getting at but isn’t there a better word than “gordita”? I wondered if he was just trying to make me feel better but still it kind of bothered me. Damn kids.
The game ended and again I think the tourists lost. We walked back to our boat and the guides told us we were going swimming in the Amazon next. WHAT? No way. What about anacondas? What about piranhas? We had just fished for piranhas in this same water yesterday. I didn’t pack a bathing suit because I honestly don’t own a bathing suit that was Amazon appropriate so I hoped I could just sit out any swimming activities. But then I figured if it wasn’t safe they wouldn’t let us do it, so I put on shorts and a black tank top. Turns out, most of the other girls also wore their clothes too so I didn’t feel so bad
. We took the skiffs to the Tiger River, which is a tributary of the Amazon and it happens to have “black” water. One by one, everyone dove in and I knew I had to suck it up and jump in because otherwise I would regret it. So I closed my mouth as tight as can be and jumped in. The water was freezing cold but still felt pretty good considering it was super hot out. I felt plants touching me and after the 200th time, I finally accepted that what I was feeling were just plants and not anacondas tickling my feet in preparation to strangle me to death. The guides gave us life jackets to float on so we didn’t have to touch the bottom and I immediately took them up on that. Ugh. Who knows what was sitting at the bottom! As we floated back out to the main river, you could immediately see the difference in color. The Tiger River was black, the Amazon was cloudy brown. You could also feel a drastic difference in temperature. The Tiger River was cold, the Amazon was very warm…and the current was much stronger. It was frightening because in an instant you could not even paddle yourself to stay with the group. You were just floating downstream. I managed to get back into the black water ok but was definitely exhausted from paddling so hard. One lady had to be “rescued” by the skiffs. She had drifted so far away. Then suddenly we heard that familiar blowing sound and we turned around and a bunch of pink river dolphins were swimming right there amongst us! How cool! They were swimming within a few feet of us and definitely knew we were there because they started to do a few fancy dives and jumps. Awesome. Swimming with pink river dolphins—in the Amazon! I almost forgot about the anacondas and the monster parasites in the water and SWOOSH a big wave came and hit me in the face. Ugh. I swallowed some water! The worst thing that could ever happen to me…OMG. I am thoroughly panicked now that I’ve got the plague. We got back to the boat and showered immediately. I rinsed my mouth with mouth wash about 30 times.
After lunch our guides just told us were going camping tonight in the rainforest so I’m going to pack a few things now…should be interesting.
Today we went up to another village. This one was HUGE—nearly 700 people! When the boat pulled up I saw a line of stores and houses along the shore line. Unlike the other villages, this one actually had some form of commerce and not just houses. There was a really big satellite dish too. The children there reacted the same as all the others! They were so excited to have tourists visit and they just loved getting their photo taken. Of course, the day could not pass without a futbol match. These villagers also challenged our guys to a game, except this time the villagers were so diehard about futbol that they were even wearing uniforms! Also similar to the other village was the enormous futbol field strategically placed in the center for everyone to watch from their homes. While the game was going on I wandered around and came across a store/pub/pay phone. I was surprised to see this because all the other villages had no electricity or phones at all. Finally, I was able to call home! I was feeling very unsettled because I had told my mom I would call when I got to Iquitos but surprisingly did not get service