Dreams are powerful tools that can help guide anyone to success and happiness. They represent some cherished aspiration, an ultimate ideal of achievement.

The word sylvan refers most directly to a setting associated with the woods. Reflecting on the vigorous life that abounds in sylvan settings is a very powerful force in my life. For me, this word evokes feelings of transcendence, clarity, and unity.

A Sylvan Dream is a dynamic compilation of my life dream. It is an attempt to seek out and document the truth, beauty, and clarity that exists in this world.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Puerto Maldonado

Today has been quit the day. It started rather early, much earlier than I would have preferred, but the night had other plans. Before going to bed last night I walked around town to experience the nightlife of Puerto Maldonado a little bit. I can’t explain every too well, because I still can’t write in Spanish that much, but here is a basic, and potentially very ethnocentric view of Puerto Maldonado.
I saw three cars the whole time we were in Puerto, but perhaps a few thousand motorbikes, and many, many took-took’s, which are the equivalent of taxi’s here. They are motor bikes with a two wheel axle and seat attached to the back with a canopy overhead to shield you from dust, rain, flying rocks, etc. Maybe 25% of the roads here are paved, and I use that term very loosely. There are a few traffic lights, and I was surprised to see they are respected. The driving down here is very, very crazy, and it makes a lot more sense. It seems like while Peruvians are on their feet, they are the most laid back people I have met, but when they are driving, for some reason getting to the destination as quickly as possible seems to be a goal that one’s life depends on. Stop signs are more like precautionary signs letting you know there are going to be people ahead. Everybody just works through an intersection as they can, no matter how close you come to each other. Babies sleep, open mouthed and arms swinging as they bounce along the dirt roads, sandwiched between the driver and their mother on the back of the bike. Most of the buildings are composed of wood, but there are also plenty in the market area that are more secure with cinder block, and rolling, locking doors. There is a grand market in the center of the town where you can buy almost anything you need from food, to clothing, to hardware. There are wooden structures with corrugated roofing or tarps. There are gutters in the center of each walking aisle where run has gouged away at the dirt. There are tons of fruits, breads, and grains, veggies, etc. I think it is encouraged to barter for your goods here, but the difference someone is willing to go down on something is so miniscule that it isn’t work it unless you are buying something large and expensive. The people are like in any town, except I can’t understand most of them. Some are nice and don’t care if you can’t understand them. They talk fast no matter how nicely you ask them to speak slowly and repeat themselves. Then there are others who naturally appreciate someone who is courteous and calm, and willing to learn their language. They speak slowly and simply, repeating themselves ad nauseum for my sake. I love these people. I walk away after talking to these people feeling encouraged and benevolent towards humans again.
So, after taking one last stroll around the market, I heard some loud music, and followed it to the center of the market, where there was a large opening, and people gathered all around. There were keyboards being played, people singing and clapping, dancing, etc. Then I heard the word Jesus in Spanish, along with some other words commonly accompanied when Catholicism is involved, and I realized I had stumbled into a circle of people holding mass right in the middle of market, singing gospels about the great lord Jesus Christ…I hung around and bobbed to the music, observed the crowd for a few minutes, then walked away. There were some who were completely enthralled by the music with a huge smile on their face, hands in the air, while others stood in the back alone, void of facial expression or movements except clapping their hands idly to the beat. It was pleasant.
On the way back to the hotel, I stopped to get a Gelato, and spoke to another very kind woman who was interested in why I was walking around Puerto by myself late at night. I explained for the third time that night that I was going to the jungle for work tomorrow, and that I was a researching, researching the birds in the jungle with a University. Most people here in Puerto smile and nod with a pensive look on their face, and I feel some pleasure in this, hoping there is some great rift between someone coming to their land for tourism, and for work. Their pensive smiles and nods tell me they appreciate this more, but who knows…
I enjoyed another very large Peruvian beer in the restaurant attached to our hotel, wrote for a while before going to bed. I fell asleep very quickly, but found myself lying wide-awake around 3am. I knew I shouldn’t have gone to bed at 1030pm. I dozed in and out of sleep, but it was useless. There were many noises outside to keep me from regaining slumber. First, a noisy group of people in the lobby, then an obnoxiously loud TV in someone’s room accompanied by a phone ringing in the open air office 20 feet away with people on the other end most likely irate over the amount of noise. Once this stopped then there were people walking past my door, some of them with lights that were flashing in through my window. In my delirium I began to worry they were people looking for rooms to attempt to enter and rob. I had a knife next to my head. I laid there, analyzing the minutia of sounds outside, growing more paranoid by the minute. It was now 430am. I was ready to get up, and figured I could better use my time writing, but I didn’t.
As the footsteps faded, a new sound emerged from the night, which I will refer to as Peruvian Water Torture. This is the sound made when the heavy mist that descends in the early morning hours condenses on the corrugated roofs and walls of buildings, eventually creating a constant but completely irregular drip. The drops fall on the tiled walkways, wire-mesh ceilings, other corrugated plastic roofs, tympanic leaves of all sizes, and who knows what else. I enjoyed this sound for about two minutes, extolling the vast amount of different tones a myriad of rain drops could make before realizing there was no rhythm of consistency to it, which left no way to fall asleep to it. Just as I would feel I was drifting off, a large dead bug would fall, dropping a staccato, “OH NO YOU DON’T,” and I was awake again. This continued menacingly until eventually the mist subdued, and I fell asleep until there was light outside around 6am.
Once it was light, that meant breakfast was on, finally giving me a good enough reason to just let go of the failed night’s rest. There was fruit and little fried roll things filled with cheese and guacamole, fresh bread with rich yellow butter, and delicious juice. I ate until I realized I ate too much again, snagged two bananas for the boat, and went back to my room to pack.
An hour later Claire and I were on the road, leaving Puerto in a small car, whose shocks we bottomed out with our luggage. As we left the town of Puerto, I realized why all the taxi drivers had windshields that made even the worst winter windshield in the States look wonderful. The roads connecting towns down here are mainly dirt with cobble, which bounces very well as cars run over it. After realizing this I noticed rocks flying through the air as every car passed us, and became rather paranoid of getting hit in the face, deciding to cover my face as every other car passed after this. Speed bumps down here are serious too. There is no way any vehicle at all can pass one without coming to an almost complete stop. They are about as tall as they can get without bottoming out most normal size sedans as they pass over. Weighed down by all the gringos’ shit, we bottomed out every time.
An hour later, we arrived to the town of Labrinta, which reminded me perfectly of Nueva Vida, in Nicaragua. I don’t recall any paved roads in this very small town, but there may have been some. We were dropped off at the port, and as we unloaded our stuff, there were some guys sitting in a pavilion next to us, obviously gawking at the spectacle of these clean gringos covered almost completely from the sun, with all this luggage pouring out of the car.
We stood there awkwardly for a few minutes until other people began arriving. We promptly began loading the boats, which was a challenging task in itself. The bank of the river had mud steps pounded into it, but they were just that, soft mud. We managed to load the boat with no one falling, and all was well. The bank was composed of old burlap rice sacks that has been filled with dirt and stacked to make a levee of sorts to minimize erosion along the heaviest used parts of the river. They worked, but the river still bit into the town where there were no trees to hold the fine, alluvial soil together. Houses hung over the edges of the banks, and were apparently abandoned with the time had come to let the river claim them.
We pushed off an hour or so after boarding, with one open seat in the front next to me. A minute later Labrinta disappeared around the river bend, and I smiled as the wind washed clean, fresh smelling river air into my nostrils, a blessing after four days in Lima.

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