Thursday, May 10, 2007

There Are Some Magic Moments

Whenever I leave Texas for Peru I've got both an excitement and sadness running through my heart. I'm excited because I love Peru, I love my team down there, I love the jungle and I know there will be new things for me, even if I havn't been able to do any real exploring in some years now. I'm sad because I've got to leave my kids and hate doing that.
One of the new things for me this trip occurred just before I left for Iquitos. Maybe a week prior to my flight I got a call from a friend--the man who does my paperwork down there, from marriage licences to owning boats (both past events)--who said that a mutual friend was in jail and about to be sentenced to 25 years for something he hadn't done and could I help out. Helping out turned out to be buying some land he had so that he could pay for a lawyer to get a genuine hearing in front of the sentencing judge to explain the situation.
The situation was that he'd begun a relationship with a 14-year-old girl five years ago. She wasn't visually 14: She already had two children and had been married once, so it might not be my cup of tea but it wasn't anything bizarre either. He'd lived with the girl and her children--along with her mom and other family members--supporting them all, for four years. Then he and the by-then-18-year-old woman broke up. So her mom, angry at losing the household support, denounced him to the police as a child molester for having had sex with her daughter when she wasn't yet 15, the age of consent in Peru.
By the time I found out he was in jail he'd been there a full year. So of course I bought the land and he got his hearing and the judge sentenced him to finishing a second year in jail rather than to the standard 25 years.
But I had no idea what I'd bought. It was just something to help out a friend. And of course, since I bought it I thought I should put something on it so I had some of my work team build a standard, raised-platform, wall-less hut and a kitchen and hoped for the best.
And then on this last trip, when we'd finished with a week in the deep jungle about 212 kilometers upriver from Iquitos, I headed out to see the new property. And oh what a treat! It turns out I bought 24 hectares (about 50 acres) of mostly primary first-growth rainforest about 30 minutes outside of Iquitos. Towering moena, catawa and lupuna trees, 60 foot aguaje and i-san palms, fern flooring. A 20 foot wide river filled with caiman and fish, two! And the houses were tucked way in the back between one of the streams and the small river. My guys had dug out the stream so that it will hold water even in dry season and turned a section of it into a 20 by 40 foot swimming hole that neck high when full. Three bands of monkeys passed during the first two hours there; nutria, never having seen men, played in the river next to two sunning caiman. Parrots and blue morpho butterflies darted among the treetops overhead.
I sat there overwhelmed. What a gift! I talked silently to my Madeleina telling her I'd finally gotten her a real swimming pool and wishing my boys were there with me.
We did ceremony there a couple of days later and it was magic.
I don't know what I will do with the place as I don't live in Iquitos and have no plans to open a retreat. I'm hoping my team will use it to bring an occasional tourist or as a wonderful place to make a barbeque on weekends with their families, just so that it gets used a bit rather than just quickly falling into rot.
In any event, that was one of the new and surprising things that happened this time and it was swell.
Of course the sadness builds in me and when a trip is done I hurry to get my equipment cleaned and stored and head home.
And at home things are never quite what you expect: there's always been a car breakdown or a fence section fell or my kids forgot to cut the yard or something on that order.
This time it was a tree that fell in a bad storm, killing a new riding lawnmower. But that was really nothing.
And then last night, my second home, things got about as perfect as they can get in my book. My boy Italo and his live-in girlfriend Sarah, were off from work and we decided to make a barbeque. We were babysitting my wife Chepa's new baby Sierra, a dream of a 15-month old. Italo was cutting the tree into pieces, I was push-mowing the lawn, Sarah and Madeleina and Sierra were playing with the goats, hand feeding them leaves from tree branches they can't reach. Coals were getting hot. Chepa came and decided to do the cooking. The grass was green. The air was cool. The smell of the chicken and veggies on the grill began to fill the air. My son Marco came home. Everybody was having a good time. It was almost as if we weren't a sort of broken up family at all. And I loved it. And it lasted hours. There are some magic moments in this crazy life, aren't there?

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