GETTING STUFF DONE IN IQUITOS
While it can be very hard to get certain kinds of things done in Peru in an efficient way (like standing in line for hours to pay a bill at a bank), it’s a fun adventure to get other stuff done in a fun, timely and affordable way. I went out on Sunday to get some basic supplies for our house and got most of them at a modern store called Quispe, but right around the corner I found a fellow named Elmo who is the owner of one of the typical mobile micro-stalls (about 3 x 2 x 5 feet) that is his shop for his business to make copies of keys and help people with other kinds of locks. He first used one of those simple machine to make a rough cut of the key copy from the original. He then used a narrow grinder to fine-tune the copy.
I was really impressed that he used a hand caliper to measure the depth of each notch in the original key and the copy he was making. He eyeballed any minute differences because the calipers had no graduated lines on them. Elmo had been doing this work for 30 years so I felt pretty confident that his keys that cost me $1.25 each to make would work. He gave me his phone number to reach him just in case. His copies got me in my house just fine, but I’d like to see him again just to learn more about his life.
While the lease that we signed to rent our new house for CACE in Iquitos said everything was in good working order, we’ve discovered a few things that needed fixing to make the place more comfortable, safe and functional for our needs. As soon Tulio moved into the house, he met our neighbor Jorge who quickly became our go-to motorcar driver. When we mentioned to Jorge yesterday that we had a few plumbing issues that needed tending to, he said he had a friend who could handle them.
Julio showed up ten minutes later. They quickly determined that the threads in the faucet in the kitchen sink were stripped, the sink in my bathroom was leaking because the pipe under it was totally rusted through, and the sink in Tulio’s bathroom was clogged and just needed cleaning. After several trips to the hardware store to get various new pipes, glue, and tape, Julio donned my headlamp and used his and Jorge’s collection of old saws and wrenches to replace or clean all of the degraded items.
Julio returned this morning and spent the better part of the day doing four more tasks: 1) installing new pipes connecting our elevated water tank in the back patio to faucets in the work sinks so we could distill our rosewood material with an abundant supply of cooling water, 2) installed a new section of mosquito netting in my bedroom, 3) installed a new section of mosquito netting in the space above my bathroom, and 4) fixed up a wire in the back patio that was loosely connected by duct tape that was hanging out of a busted piece of PVC pipe.
We paid a total of about $25 in materials and $50 in labor for all seven jobs and everyone felt good about the tasks that were done. Julio looked around the house as he was leaving and said “please call me if you need anything done. I can fix your roof, put up a wall…….” Tulio told me tonight that Julio is someone who is referred to here as a “mil oficios” – someone who can do a thousand things. I know we have handymen in the US, too, but I’m awfully glad that I met Julio here.
DAILY LIFE IN CHINO It's generally really nice to wander around Chino and similar villages in the Amazon in late afternoon-early evening. People have finished working in the fields or wherever and like to hang out watching or playing volleyball while kids play, and the sunsets are usually gorgeous. As it starts to get dark, though, the mosquitoes start to get very active. While local folks just slap their bare legs and keep doing whatever they are doing, I usually seek refuge at that point for my dinner so I'm not providing a meal for as many mosquitoes.
I'm probably going to need to sign off for a week now since I'm leaving with our team for a couple of workshops and meetings in the Ampiyacu. Best wishes to all friends.
HILBERTO - SUNGARO FISHERMAN EXTRAORDINAIRE FROM CHINO We held an artisan workshop last week in the village of El Chino on the Tahuayo River. Just as I was waking up in the morning, someone came to the house where we were staying and called out that Hilberto had caught a big sungaro - did we want to see it? As usual, I grabbed my camera and went down to the river. I love both the striped patterns on this "don cella" catfish as well as its taste.
I have pretty much given up trying to fish during this time of the year because most fish are hard to catch in the flooded forest. I asked Hilberto how he got this big one. I suppose I should have expected his taciturn response - "with bait."
My host Walter told me that Hilberto and his brother Gardel have become specialists in catching this type of catfish by going out at night when these predatory fish are most active. They understand its habits, haunts, and feeding preferences very well so they can try a variety of both cut and live bait to catch their preferred quarry. Walter is a good fisherman himself (he has been my guide several times), he readily admitted that he had no where near the knowledge or skill to do what these fellows did.
Yully bought the whole fish for us which allowed us to provide fish soup for our entire group for one dinner and fried fish for breakfast the next day.
STINGLESS BEES AT CHINO One of the houses I also visit first at Chino belongs to the veteran artisan Romelia and her husband Jorge. Jorge is one of the folks in the village who has maintained several wooden box nests with stingless bees as part of a honey producing project developed under the guidance of German Perilla from George Mason University in Virginia. While these bees don't produce as much honey as their stinging honeybee counterparts, their honey is highly valued for its strong flavor and medicinal properties.
During my last visit, Jorge's nest boxes were in his back yard. This time, he had placed both at opposite ends of his kitchen to keep a closer eye on them. I took several shots of bees coming and going out of the entrance tube as well as the guard which is always on duty to prevent the entrance of unwelcome visitors (other bees, flying ants, etc.) who might wish to invade to prey on their young.
Check out the video Beekeeping in the Amazon (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ca2kYBJN4tI) focused on a stingless bee project developed with Maijuna native communities by OnePlanet.Org and its director (and CACE board member) Michael Gilmore.