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I am…ALIVE!!!

I have done it.

I have rowed 200 miles from Iquitos to Pevas on the Amazonian river in a leaky canoe named Gilligan (which we dutifully bailed every 40 minutes or so), a wooden paddle, and a team of 4 other insane people. How many other people can say they did that? In fact our boat was so crappy they donated it to one of the tribes after they arrived.

Additionally I stayed in Fransisco Grippa´s (world reknowned artist) HOUSE. I got drunk with Senor Grippa, and I had fun little conversations with him, and his daughter played in my room.

Amidst all this awesomeness there is some crap – on the 18 hour boat ride BACK to Iquitos I managed to accidentally erase all my pictures. I don´t want to talk about it, and yes they are gone for certain. I´m over it. 11 other people have cameras here – and I can ¨moochi moochi¨as we all have been calling it. So this post shall be short as I am going to try to take some pictures here in Iquitos today to make up for my idiocy. I am so bummed about it. Sigh, at least there is Cuzco.

During our trip we also adopted a little squirrel monkey. Dr. B and Cachi (whom we have all decided is an Amazonian Chuck Norris) found him tied up in a market and rescued him. His name is Kiwi, he likes to climb on you, pee on you, and poop on you and your bedding. He´s cute as a button, and taken back to the reserve so he can be release back into the wild after a little TLC.

Wish me luck in getting pictures, and thank you for the good vibes while I was rowing! It helped. I have never been more proud of any accomplishment in my life, ever. My team sprinted the last half mile, up stream, against one of the other boats. It was super fun! 18 hours of rowing complete, 2 stops on the way – serious sunburn despite sunscreen and long sleeves and long pants and hats. Swam in the motha-effing Amazon off the side of a boat! I saw river dolphins, the Bora tribe, the Llagua (sp?) tribe, some incredible art, and incredible HOUSE, ate delicious food, and provided free wonder to the kids who all screamed, ¨Gringa!¨as we walked by. They are tickled to have their pictures taken with us.

I have 2 more days in Iquitos. We´re going to the zoo tomorrow, and on Saturday we fly to Lima. We stay in Lima over night and then it´s a quick flight over to Cuzco for Inti Raymi! Their Winter Solstice celebration, and 100 years after the discovery of Macchu Picchu. Should be INSANE! But I will have a hotel, I will cease sweating as it is cold there, and after rowing the Amazon bitches better be careful if they try to mess with me! Don´t worry mom, I´ll be careful. I have so much to say, but need to keep experiencing this place before I am unable to anymore!

I will write more later, but needless to say I feel like a champ.

The bar is closed

It is too hot to write.

I am alive.

That is all.

Ok, so it appears this particular computer doesn´t jive with my USB cord. So no pictures today. There will be many when I get home though (yay for you!)

Rowing went a lot better today, but I´m still feeling pretty nauseous. I´m fairly positive it´s my malaria pills (malarone) that´s doing it. So I´m caught in a tough spot. Take my malaria pills to negate the 1 in about 1000 chance I´ll get malaria. Or be so nauseous I am almost sick and am not eating while doing vigorous physical activity, making me undernourished an more likely to get sick.

Goodbye, malarone. You were a waste of money. I will soak myself in DEET (I´ve only gotten 2 bites so far) and will be wearing (as I have been) long sleeves and long pants at night. I am SO looking forward to not wanting to eat breakfast every morning.

It is HOT here. The first day was overcast so it was warm but comfy, but now we have full sun and it´s gorgeous but really, really warm. I am super glad I have dryfit clothes because I am sweating through them.

We´ve been going to our medicinal plants lectures in town, and every day we eat at Yellow Rose of Texas, which is a ¨gringo¨restaurant. It means they wash all their food, etc. for our wimpy stomachs. It´s good food, but everything is fried Southern style – even the Italian Chicken.

The poverty is pretty striking, but some aspects have lead to really interesting innovations – like the motor-taxis. We take them everywhere. They are motorcycles with little rick-shaw like carts on the back. We cram 3 people in the back, and the breeze is amazing. Our group is still getting to know each other, but we´re getting comfortable and having a great time.

Last night I slept GREAT – if you were wondering, and am fully prepared to search for the unicorn next week. Sorry my post isn´t silly at all, the heat has sucked the personality out of me.

Ok, so I have about 20 minutes at an internet café to write as much as I can in as a non-look-at-my-vacation-photos-aren´t they awesome way.

Today was our first day of classes…but let me talk about last night first.

Last night was our first night on the reserve. We ate, we talk, and we danks (well most of us)…quite a bit. We played King´s Cup and I tried to limit myself to two beers. Let me put then in perspective. One beer here is about 640 mL. So two beers = a 40 oz. Ieeeeeee! I paced myself over several hours and I wasn´t even TIPSY when I went to be. However, the food and drink fairy caught up with me and a gave my breakfast back to nature this morning. But I think it was more the dietary change, hard work, and CRAPPY night of sleep.

Last night was a veritable symphony of sounds. In the course of the night I heard 3 dog bark-offs (our camp has a super cute dog named Milo that just hangs around and begs for love…pictures to be posted soon), howler monkeys, a coocabara (however you spell that), and any other assortment of hoots, screeches, with snoring mixed in. Additionally roosters crowed incessantly at 5 am to wake us all up bright and early…just in case. I fell asleep around 1 am and woke up around 6:30. Thus my day started. I am feeling much better now, and have managed to keep all my food down. Including the ones that I tried for my class such as camu-camu which has about 25 times as much vitamin C in one large cherry sized berry as an orange does.

I think tonight will be much better. Chachi (one of the leaders of this expedition and our indespensable guide) found an extra giant airmattress for me to sleep on. Not that I´m complaining about my travel mat, but it will be so nice to roll over and not be on the floor.

Oh! The floor! Our house is a two story building made of insect resistant woord. It is completely open – there is an upstairs and a downstairs, and wooden panels half way up the outside. The rest of the outside is mosquito screens. All twelve of us have our sleeping gear and stuff sprawled out over the top floor, while the dining room / Dr. Barbara´s and Chachi´s sleeping area is downstairs. The cans are outside and we have cold showers using water that pumped up from the Itaya river (it´s one of two rivers that join together to form the Amazon).

Rowing – we rowed for the first time last night. We rowed until I thought I was going to die. My arms were going to fall off and I was going to have a heart attack. I huffed and puffed with my team of 5 up the river, going in odd zig zags because we couldn´t go straight, and we were all on the verge of a stroke when Chachi called the boats to a stop and sweetly told us we had only been rowing for 10 minutes.

Shoot. Me. In. The. Face.

We rowed DOWNSTREAM this morning for about 30 minutes or so. Our group did much better.- we stayed in a straightline mostly, except for when we bee-lined it into a creekside shrub and poor Alex and Hilary got knocked back into the boat. They were soaked. Also, my cheap white board shorts now have a green ass from the canoe paint. I like to think the people are staring at me because I´m soooo pretty, but they are probably thinking, ¨¿Does she know her ass is green?¨in Spanish of course, which probably goes, ¨¿¨Something something something verde?¨

I´m pretty sure this will all be worth it when I get my unicorn. And, actually (besides the vomiting), I´m having a pretty awesome time! Tonight I will be taking my sleeping pill, my malarone, my vitamin and I will be sleeping welllllll. Howler monkies can´t break through ear plugs, Ambien, and a sleeping mask can they?

I love you all, and will do my best to write more soon!

In Iquitos!

Hi everyone! I have arrived, I am safe, and we leave for the reserve today. Its beautiful here, and my punctuation is going to be crappy because I can´t figure out this keyboard for the life of me.

Got into Lima two nights ago and met with the gals from my group. Everyone seems ready to party (including our professor), but I am so stoked to see the jungle. Today was the last day for hot showers, etc. But the food is AMAZING! Soooo delicious. Doing my best to stay safe though about the noms.

Everything is closed today because of the elections and we aren´t allowed to buy alcohol. Thank goodness they have beer at the reserve! =)

I have to keep this post short because this is the only computer available for now as the internet cafes are closed. But I¨m excited to post picures and tell you all more later (hopefully tomorrow)!

We are being haunted, my husband and I, by a ghost. This ghost lives in our toilet bowl – much akin to Moaning Myrtle out of Harry Potter (I’m pretty sure I would relate everything in life to Harry Potter if I could / I would pack my bags and leave for Hogwarts if I ever got a letter by owl – crossing my fingers for ticket on the Hogwarts Express [ie a plane ticket to Universal Studios] for my graduation present. Yes this entire post is going to be inside this set of parentheses)…(just kidding) – meanwhile, back to the toilet ghost. However, unlike Moaning Myrtle our toilet ghost just likes to make our toilet start running randomly on its own.

I fear there are many toilet ghosts in the world. Which is why I went to shoot guns today.

Also in preparation for the zombie apocalypse.

After today I am convinced if it were me vs. a zombie, and I had a handgun – even a large caliber one, the zombie would have a brain salad for dinner that night. Yes, I am that bad of a shot.

(My husband just declared I am not that bad of a shot – but he is a liar. Much like the cake below.)

Courtesy of Woot Shirt - check 'em out here: http://shirt.woot.com/friends.aspx?k=4113

However, I did quite well with the rifle. Granted it’s a 0.22 and probably would just make the zombie annoyed, but I was pretty proud of my aim with it. Eventually I will work up to a shotgun, and I need no longer fear the wrath of the zombie!

Having said all that – I’m pretty sure that guns won’t solve my toilet ghost problem. Geoff insists that we should just tell the property managers, but I feel l like this may just upset the toilet ghost who then may take to running the shower all day while we’re gone to rack up our water bill and make it so there’s no hot water. Ever.

Curse you toilet ghost!

I’m pretty relieved I’m leaving for Peru in three days to escape this weird haunting situation. I just sprayed all my clothes with permethrin and that stuff does pretty awful things to lice and scabies, so I’m pretty sure the Amazonian mosquitoes will just curl up and die within 10 feet of me.

Or maybe they’ll turn into skeeter zombies. Man, I’d have to have good aim, but a 0.22 would OBLITERATE a mosquito. Mabes I’ll coat the bullets with DEET (20 – 50% as appropriate) for extra oomph.

That statement concludes this nonsensical post, but not without an awesome picture of me at the shooting range.

Actually I'm pretty nervous because that gun is HUGE

Additionally, we were all very safe, and would totally NOT accidentally shoot each other in a zombie apocalypse situation.

Ocho más días

Ok, a panic is slowly starting to fill me. Not because I only have 8 days left before I leave for Peru. That’s not too big of a deal. It’s the fact that I have so much shopping and packing left to do before I leave. Normally I’m pretty good at prioritizing and making lists to calm myself, but shopping for this trip AND for my move to Bend, in addition to packing for this trip AND my move to Bend is almost too big of a task to tackle in the remaining week.

I am convinced I will forget something important – like underwear, or you know, a TENT – and screw myself entirely on both fronts.

Whenever I am feeling completely overwhelmed though I force my three-legged dog into compulsory snuggles. For instance, this morning I pulled him up on the bed with me and we took an antihistamine induced nap for a half hour. I am worried I might love his other appendages off and turn him into a fur-sack. But then he can’t run (or hop rather) away from me, and I can have all the snuggles my heart desires. Please see the pictures below and note how his missing front left leg makes for an amazing snuggle spot (also he cannot paw your hand away on that side of his body).

I am so ready to be out of Portland and this allergy season. It’s hard enough trying to remember everything without having to fight to keep your brain from escaping out of your nose, or falling asleep from the drugs designed to turn the snot-faucet off.

On the positive side I have finished almost all of my reading for the trip and my papers are nearing completion. Keep your fingers crossed I am able to keep it all together and fly through the next week without losing my head.