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My own hut in the Amazon
So there I was.  In the jungle.  My bags found their way to the room I would be staying in for the first week, in one of the cabins that I would share with the group of American's that were there for the week.  There was a hammock on the front porch, which was wonderful, if frequently occupied. 

My room had a bed and mosquito netting, along with a rustic table.  On my bed there was no pillow, sheet, or blanket.  I ended up having to wad my jacket up for a pillow (though after the Americans left, I grabbed on of theirs) and cover myself with some of my shirts. Being that it was quite warm, I wasn't in desperate need of a blanket, but it did get a bit chilly once it got around to 1 am.

I was quite surprised with the jungle, I don't know, I guess I expected something a little more Tarzan.  Of course, I wasn't deep deep into the jungle, it was only a little way from the main road, and not to far from the largest city in the Amazon. 

One thing that struck me was that walking through the jungle was kind of like walking through the forest in Oregon, it had that same damp earth smell.  As a result, I felt much more at home here than I did up in
Cusco.  Of course, the forest wasn't exactly the same, there were different types of plants, and much more wildlife.  And vicious mosquitoes. 

At the main building where we got the food, I always was encountering some little creatures.  There was a cat and a dog (I was amazed the cat was still alive and hadn't become someone's food).  There were also
several macaws, who would shout out "Hola" and laugh.  But the best part is watching them climb up the chairs with their beaks, and they would sit there and visit with you as you ate your meal.  Sometimes they would even walk down the middle of the table, dipping in to whatever food or water they found.

They also had some pet monkeys there, they kept in a little cage, which was kind of sad to me.  One time, Juanita, the cook, was walking by, and there on her shoulder was hanging this little monkey that was
probably about four or five inches big, the smallest monkey in the jungle.  It stared at me with its little round eyes as I tried to pet it (unsuccessfully).

I did see a snake one day as I was walking down one of the paths, probably about 3 to 4 feet long, but it slithered away from me pretty quickly, and I was happy it was the only one I saw there.

The butterflies were beautiful.  My favorite had red on the lower part of the wing, and then the upper part of the wing was transparent, and made me think of fairies.  The dragonflies were incredible too, and I
saw one that was a good 6 inches!  I also enjoyed the fireflies, winking on and off.

My favorite was one day when I was sitting in my hut (because in the second half of my time there I moved into a hut deeper in the jungle, alone, only with nature), I heard a noise, and turned around and looked
out my door.  There, on the tree right at the edge of my porch, hung a little creature, who quickly scampered away at my gaze.  I quickly went outside, and looked up into the trees, and there was a huge family of them, and they made little chirping noises.  I thought they looked like a cross between a squirrel and a monkey, and, as it turned out, they were
monkeys.  A little family that roamed around the place.

I never did see a sloth though :(

Most of my time was spent swinging in the hammock, staring off into the forest, or reading, or thinking.  Lots of reading and thinking.  It was quite humid, though not as hot as I expected, though who knows, maybe I just adapted to it.  The humidity was the worst, my clothes were always slightly damp, my backpack became covered with mildew, and all my clothes stank.  Anything cardboard I had became floppy, and my books got wavy from the dampness.

And, thanks to the humidity, and the frequent rain, the mosquitoes were everywhere.  I had brought lots of long sleeved clothing, to protect myself.  Uh huh, like the mosquitoes really cared about that.  I was
bit everywhere, EVERYWHERE, except my head.  I had bites on my feet, on my belly, back, and even my butt. I constantly itched.  Several people said, oh, the mosquitoes here aren't that bad.  I haven't been
bitten at all.  Well, I guess I'm just extraspecial.  I was taking B vitamins, and wasn't eating any sugar, not even fruit.  I was even drinking garlic plant water!  I think that I was their favorite person of
all there. 

I tell you, the two things I am the happiest about getting away from Peru are the men and the mosquitoes. And, I put them in the same category, cause there isn't too much difference between the two.

-Jillian
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Fellow visitors. On the left, the shaman's apprentice from San Francisco, on the right, a guest from Switzerland
 
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Don Francisco, the Shaman
As the ground fell further and further from underneath my seat as I sat on the ancient Boeing 747 (realizing where American planes end up when they "die" in America), after waiting for 3 hours for the  departure, I prepared myself for whatever it was that I would face in the next segment of my trip. 

For now I was about to embark on the aspect that I was the most excited about- spending two weeks with a Peruvian Shaman.  I didn't know what to expect, except that I would be in the Amazon, and that there would be Ayahuasca ceremonies, which is a shamanic medicine
made from a root, that gives you spiritual hallucinations, and makes you vomit and crap your pants.  Lovely.  But, I wanted to experience this type of earth centered ancient spirituality, and see what it had to offer.

I arrived in Iquitos, a noisy, bustling town crouched on the Amazon, at about 10 o'clock at night.  The heat and humidity washed over me, as I walked across the tarmac to meet whoever it was that was going to pick me up.  Being the only white person in the crowd, it was very easy for the man to figure out that I was the Gringa he was supposed to meet for Sachamama (the name of the place I was going). 

I smiled, and tried to be quite friendly with this guy, who seemed rather off-putting and he left me to wait for my bags while he visited with some of the other guys working at the airport.  I began to get
concerned, if this guy was from Sachamama, I had hoped he would be open and helpful. 

We collected my bags, and him and another guy pushed my bags over to a phone, where he told me to give him money to make a call, and that I was supposed to tip the guy who had pushed my bags 20 feet.  I hadn't asked for the help, and certainly was capable of maneuvering my luggage across the room.  I figured the culture was different on this side of the Andes, and felt like I had to trust this guy from Sachamama to help me adapt to it.  So, not knowing how much to tip, I pulled out 3 soles, which is about $1, and is the price of a cab ride, so I figured it was enough.  The guy looked at the money disgusted, and then looked at my guide.  I looked at my guide as well, and asked him how much I was supposed to tip?  10 soles, he told me.

10 soles, whoah, that seemed like a lot of money to me, and began to grow wary.  I handed it over, as the guide continued to try call Sachamama to let them know I had arrived.  Not getting an answer, they finally gave up, and ushered me outside to a cab.

I sat in the taxi, crowded full now with three men, as they discussed where they were going to go, since they hadn't been able to get a hold of Sachamama, and we zipped off into the night, passing motorcycles and beat up buses.  I felt a little odd, being the only woman in this car with 3 men that I didn't even know, and how safe was this, but had no choice but to trust that I would be all right.  At least, I was happy to
be in the Amazon.

The guide quickly told me that he needed a tip, as we pulled up to a gas station.  20 soles he told me.  WHAT??!  20 soles!  In Peru, that is like 20 dollars!  I thought that was a bit crazy, and had certainly figured out that this guy was NOT looking out for my best interests.  They began to hustle me out of the taxi, pointing that I was supposed to get on this bus/van that was waiting, and had other people in it.

Now I was a bit freaked out.  Why do I need to go on a bus?  Now your dumping me on a bus??!  I didn't know what to do, and had to just trust in fate that I would be okay.  I got on the bus, that had two women in it, who smiled at me warmly.  I prepared to get my 20 soles out for the guy, and one of the women quickly told me that I didn't need to pay, that they would take care of it.  When he said 20 soles, I noticed she
did not agree, and handed him 10, which I believe was to pay for him and the taxi.

The men got back in the taxi, and now here I was on the bus with these women, and I didn't know what the hell was going on, but at least realized they seemed to be more trustworthy than the last.  The younger one introduced herself as Don Francisco's daughter, and then things began to fall into place, as they apologized for being late.  It seems that they had someone from the airport meet me, as my plane was late, and the guy who met me had nothing to do with Sachamama.  That was a relief.  I still was a bit pissed off though, that he was trying to take advantage of me.  If I had been more aware of the situation, I would have been able to figure out that 10 soles was the "stupid gringo" price.

Ah well.  In any case, I was brought to my rather rustic hotel room (where I would spend the night before heading out to the jungle the next morning), with mildew on the walls, a ceiling fan over head, and
a bathroom where the shower was just a shower head in the wall of the tiny bathroom- no curtains or marked off area in the floor-, where I could essentially sit on the toilet while taking a shower and brushing my teeth in the sink.

The next morning I left my room to continue on my journey to Sachamama, and was met by Don Francisco, the Shaman.  I was surprised, as I was expecting an 80 year old man, but he was about 45, thin, wearing shorts and a t-shirt.  Before we left, he said wait,
you have to pay for the room.  Oh no, hear we go again, ripping off the gringa, I thought.  I told him I thought the hotel was included in the price.  After all, I said, I didn't pay for the hotel in Lima.  He looked a bit confused, and then said, oh, okay, and paid the 30 soles himself.

We jumped in the van, and he told me we had to take a stop in the belen market, to buy somethings for me.  We ended up purchasing some hand rolled cigarettes and some Florida water, both of which I was to offer as a gift on the altar during the ceremony.  That was fine
with me, and only about 10 soles, but when he told me that I needed to buy a hammock too, I was a bit disturbed.  My defenses were already up from the night before, and why did I need to buy a hammock, weren't there beds?  So he said, no, I didn't have to buy a hammock if I didn't want to.  So we made our way out of the crazy market, and continued back to the van.

After an hour ride away from Iquitos, we pulled over next to a sign that said "Sachamama".  Out they pulled the bags, and begain to make their way down this wide trail that lead off into the jungle.  I followed,
realizing that I guess the van didn't go to the buildings.

And we walked, and we walked.  Up hills, down hills.  I'm not sure exactly how far, but I'd say about 20 minutes, which was far enough for me, with the heat of the day beating down, and the humidity trying to choke me.  Eventually we came to some boards which formed steps up the dirt hill, and ended up in a few steps into a very Amazon looking building.  I saw a few other white guys standing around, drinking tea, and realized I had finally reached Sachamama.

-Jillian
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Sachamama
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Me in the Amazon!
 
Finally, I made my way to Lima.  After being picked up and transported to a lovely hotel, I rested in my room, watched TV, and tried to recover myself from the whole Gerald experience.  Eventually, I made my way downstairs to have a bite to eat at the hotel restaurant.  I asked the bartender/waiter for a menu, and noticed how very attractive he was.  I then reminded myself that I had had enough  problems with men, and didn't need anymore.  Nevertheless, I couldn't help but smile at him as he passed.  By the end of my dinner, we had quite a conversation, and agreed to meet up when he was finished with his shift.

I was a bit wary, but Eduardo turned out to be more respectful than Gerald.  However, I doubt it took an hour before he was asking me to be his girlfriend.

What is this, don't Peruvians believe in getting to know a person??  He's a nice guy, but I don't need a boyfriend in another country, though he said he would wait for me as long as it took.

Ai ai ai.  I gave him a hug and kiss goodnight, and told him I would e-mail him from Iquitos.

Well, hey, if anyone needs a husband or boyfriend, they are ripe for the picking here!

Jillian
 
Well, I found out "loverboy's" name, and it´s Gerald.  He is not on my list of favorite people, however.

After my e-mail, I had given it some thought, and knew that I needed to calm things down with him, as I was getting a bit uncomfortable and overwhelmed.  So, at 2 o´clock, when I met up with him, I told him that we needed to talk.  I told him this was all too overwhelming, and that we needed to be just friends.

I don't think he got the message, however, because the rest of the day, every two minutes, he wanted to hold me and kiss me.  I pulled away quite a bit, though was greatful to have his help during the shopping
expedition, as he bargained much better than I could've done.

Later, he wanted to go back to my room, but I insisted we go for a walk and get something to eat.  Once at the resteraunt, when I didn't want to sit and cuddle with him, he pouted, and we sat in silence until the food came.  Fabulous.

After dinner, we walked around a bit, and then went to a local dance club.  I had a great time dancing with him, he really is a great dancer.  We salsa'd, turning and twisting, and thought that this was probably the
best time I'd spent with him.  I did notice that he was trying to get me drunk, though it was only on weak beer, and I wasn't too worried about it.

Afterwards, we returned to my room to talk, but rather ended up arguing.  He kept trying to pus things with me, and I made it clear that I just wanted to talk and hang out.  He proceeded to storm out, stopped at the door to tell me to have a good flight.  I told him I thought it was quite interesting, how he professed his love for me, yet didn't want to be with me if it just meant talking.

And on the argument went, about how much I had changed, and how I was much different than he had thought, and how he was going to forget me.  I told him I was the same person, but how could he expect to know someone so quick, and to rememer that next time before he gave his heart away the first day! He told me he would always stay away from American girls because we are crazy.

Like I care if he is with an American or not?  He kept repeating it, and I finally told him he was obviously just saying it to try to hurt me, and I really didn't care.

Anyway, many words were exchanged, and finally he calmed down and wanted to spend some time with me.  I was a bit wary, because he had reacted so strongly, and then all of a sudden, was peachy?  I knew I was ready to leave the next day.

He then became very interested in exploring through my books and tapes  He listened to my music, and, as I was quite tired, finally left.  I walked him to the door of my hotel, but he then realized he forgot
something, and went back to my room.  I let him go, then the thought flashed that maybe he would steal something, and I should go with him (duh).

He came out of my room before I got there, and was in and out quickly.  I walked him to the door, kissed him goodbye, and promised him I would wait for him the next morning, so he could go to the airport with me.

I returned to my room, and immediately checked where I had put my money.  Sure enough, it was gone.  I looked around for it, but knew in my gut that he had taken it, and sure enough, I never found it, and he never showed up the next morning.

I slept poorly, and was so nervous that I threw up, though it might have also been because of the first dose of my malarial medicine.  I should have blown the guy off as sson as I realized he was nutso.  I guess I
was just too bored and lonely, because normally I am not so stupid.  I comforted myself with the thought that $50 wasn't so bad to lose, and at least I still had all my credit cards.

Still, I just felt so used by the whole thing.

And so, happily, I left Cusco behind.

-Jillian
 
Oh goodness.  I certainly have myself in a pickle now. That whole date thing has gotten a little out of hand.

I met this guy (who I still can't remember his name, and am now too embarrassed to ask, oops), the first time I went out in Cusco, the first week, when I was hanging out with Cassandre (the girl from Canada) and a bunch of people from Germany.  He came up and asked one of the girls to dance, and she pointed him my way. I danced one dance with him, and then excused myself.


Well, apparently I made quite an impression, because he told me ever since, he had been looking for me in the Plaza de Armas.  He works for one of the clubs, passing out the little fliers.  I ran into him again
earlier this week, when I went out with Jessica and the other girl from Switzerland, and then ran into him the next day, when he asked me out on an afternoon date, to the museum and the zoo.  That was on Friday.

Since that date, he has wanted to spend almost every moment with me, and constantly tells me how beautiful I am, and calls me his love, and constantly wants to be holding my hand or kissing me, or whatnot.  Now, that is all very flattering.  I thought at first that he was just being a little over-exagerating, you never know with these foreign men.  But I realized yesterday, that he quite believes that he is in love with me.

But not only that!  He wants to marry me, and has already planned out how many children we are going to have, and how much time I am going to spend here before we get married, and then move to the US, where he will be a Civil Engineer.

Oh boy.  When I told him that 2 days was a little to early for me to decide whether or not I was going to marry someone, he seemed a bit upset.  And later, when I called an early end to the evening, he told me he loved me, and asked me if I loved him.  Um, its been 2 days??  When I told him that that was a little bit too early for me, that it takes time to grow into something, he seemed really quite hurt.

Oh goodness.  He even wanted to meet up with me at 9 this morning, and I pushed it back to 2.  And I am really appreciating my time alone.  He's a nice guy, and attractive, but...  This is just a bit too much for me.  He doesn't even know me!  I think he has some image that he has created in his head, some story, and is bent on pushing me into that role.

So, today I think I'm going to have to draw the line with this guy.  Thank goodness I'm leaving Cusco tomorrow! 

ai ai ai!

Jillian
 
So, I have been off the radar screen for awhile, and many of you hope that it is because I have been living it up, and haven't had time to write.  Sorry to say, this is not the case.  I've gotten sick twice this week, from the food/water, and have been spending the majority of the time in my room, watching english movies on HBO, and Cinemax, and the like.  Right now, I'm really trying to get better, but am a bit weak, since I haven't eaten for 2 days.

But!  I did get one chance to go out, with Jessica, the girl from Germany, and another girl from Switzerland.  Each time we searched around for a bar to visit, we were surrounded by people trying to give
us their little advertisement cards for their bars, which also come with a free drink (usually).  It was a bit overwhelming, at one point, I think we had about 10 to 15 people around us, trying to get us to come to
their bar. Finally, we just ducked into the nearest one, to have some peace.  We did enjoy the fact that we didn't have to pay for anything that night, as we had plenty of free drink cards.  We danced quite a
bit, but discovered that all the bars seem to have the same soundtrack.

Anyhow, in about a half an hour, I have a date with a guy I ran into this night, which I had met the first week I had gone out, and happened to run into him again on the street.  We'll see.  I just figured it would be good for me to get out and do something.

Oh, and other news!  I will be coming home a week early, thought about it a lot, and I don't really want to be in Lima, and am not looking forward to another week alone, so thought I'd save the money that I would spend on hotel and food and the like, and use it for a short trip to San Francisco later on in the month!

Hope you all are well!

Jillian