“The only thing guaranteed is that things will change” – Dave Mahon 2019. We are slowly discovering how true this is in both Iquitos and Nauta. A city and a town in the middle of the jungle, cut off from the rest of the world. So cut off in fact, that even the language is slightly different to the towns and cities the other side of the Andes. The transition from Arequipa to Iquitos was not quite what we imagined.
The journey was thankfully quite uneventful besides a short 40-minute delay, which is nothing in comparison to the delays some other teams have experienced. Flights are in abundance for us as we have already had 4 (for Erin 5) so far, however we still have at least 7 to go. Not all of us enjoy flying but delays are going to be inevitable when it comes to that many flights.
Nevertheless, we made it to Iquitos a little late but safe and sound. The change in humidity was the first thing to hit us, literally. Then, driving through the city to the Mahon’s house gave us a flavour of the exciting place we were going to be living for the next few months.
Iquitos is the largest city in the world to not have road access, so when I say it’s ‘cut off from the rest of the world’, I mean that in the most literal sense possible. Though there is no road in, the city does have a grid system of streets, constantly filled with noisy ‘motokar’s’ (Tuk tuk’s). The combination of colonial and DIY architecture makes for fascinating buildings. Most of the colonial style buildings are lined up along the edge of the river. The river itself is vast, you can barely make out the trees on the other side, and yet the rainy season has just begun so it will only get higher. Stretching out towards the widening river, are small communities of buildings on stilts, this is also where a few of the churches we’ll be working with are. As you can imagine these communities are not the ‘well off’ ones, there is usually lots of poverty and it’s not a particularly safe place to live.
However, though the city is fascinating and heart-breaking, it is also where we will be living and working for the next 4 and a half months. We spent the first week getting to know the area and organising some of our projects. We are also having weekly Spanish lessons, which have been rescheduled already but that are very helpful in helping us to develop or understanding of the language. On Sunday we went to our first church, one of many we’ll be visiting whilst here, which turned out to have a congregation of only children which was not what we were expecting. That morning we helped run an activity for the kids (unaware beforehand that we would be doing this). The first week gave us confidence in where we were and getting around by ourselves, but that was just the beginning.
There is one road that leaves Iquitos and that road has one destination, Nauta. It’s about two hours in a combi (bus), not the most pleasant journey in the heat but at least not too long. Nauta is much smaller than Iquitos and poverty is more extreme in some places, but it’s much greener. The jungle invades the town much more than in the city. This means we see a bit more of the wildlife the jungle has to offer, mostly bugs but some others including frogs, geckos, parrots and weirdly, chickens.
While there we ran a kid’s club (club de niňos) alongside the pastor training that the BMS centre provides for pastors who work in the river communities. The idea was that we would entertain the pastor’s children whilst they were in training, and invite some of the local children to join in. As it turned out, the pastors did not bring their children and the first day was totally rained off with the most dramatic thunderstorm any of us had ever seen (it wasn’t very impressive for the locals). So, we decided to run the club for the locals anyway and had 20-30 kids each time. Some of the games we had planned didn’t work, so there was a bit of making it up on the spot (which is difficult to do in Spanish). However, we had tons of fun and the kids had tons of sweets (dulces) so all in all, we’ve done well.
Jacob Got Lost
After doing an incredible job of writing this blog, Jacob took a motokar to a college to watch an English lesson, by himself and in the dark (just so you know). He, Ok, I managed to get the motokar and tell the driver where I wanted to go. But, having never been there before I did not know what to look out for. The driver dropped me off around the corner from the college but for me it could have been Timbuktu and I wouldn’t have known the difference. So, I phoned Laura (The BMS missionary based in Nauta) who was inside waiting for me and she gave directions for me to walk towards her, so we could meet in the middle. After a couple of minutes, Laura phoned back and asked where I was. “Outside a fire station”, Laura replied “What fire station?”. This did not boost my confidence. Anyway, after retracing my steps and finding Laura, we managed to get to the college. On the way in I turned to Laura and said, “The driver took us past this on the way”.
Well if you hadn’t guessed by now, we aren’t actually too sure. We have plans to be in Nauta weekly for English Lessons and then for the whole of February. We plan to be working in a school and helping at a project reaching out to drug addicts in Iquitos. But things change, new plans emerge, we get on with what we can do and try to go with the flow. This is obviously easier said than done, but it won’t stop us from trying. We are trusting that God has the plan, and that at some point He might let us in on it (even if it’s five minutes before it starts).
The Quest for Yeast
One rainy day in Peru, Lady Sophie gave in to her craving of crumpets and decided to make some. To do so she would have to come up with a plan to gain the help of Sir Jacob and Lady Erin. Lady Sophie came up with a cunning plan, she asked the others if they wanted to go out for pizza. (side note, the pizza was lovely). It was whilst eating pizza that Lady Sophie chose to ask for help to acquire some yeast. Lady Erin and Sir Jacob, willingly agreed, unaware of the trials that lay ahead.
There is only one place to acquire such a scarce commodity, in the whole of the land of Iquitos. Our trusty team set off to find this enchanted place, Restinga. They hired and a man upon a motokar to take them as far as he dared. As it turned out, he was happy to drop them at the entrance. Though, the land of Restinga was closed, blocked by iron gates. But not all was lost as the man upon the motokar (who did not speak a word of English), informed our adventurers that Restinga would open again at 3. (This took a few moments for our team to realise what the man was saying but they got there in the end).
So, with just over an hour to wait our team of brave explores decided to pop into the land of Quispe. A magical land of many resources. Our team emerged an hour later, bearing many spoils from there quest within a quest. The team then returned to Restinga to finally get the yeast they so sorely needed. Join us next time to find out if our heroes found the yeast and if it was enough to make the crumpets Lady Sophie so desperately needed…
- For the language, mostly in understanding what people are saying as we’re not too bad at replying (when we work out the question).
- For our plans, that we spend the most time on the important ones and not waste too much time on the ones that don’t pan out.
- For our family and friends at home, as we assume, they are missing us as much as we are missing them.
- For the Mahon’s, they’ve all been so welcoming, and we’d love for you to keep them in your prayers.
- A warm welcome from everyone in Iquitos and Nauta. Not just the BMS missionaries but also many more working locally, as well as the Peruvians themselves.
- The rain. We’d all been missing the rain a lot, and on one of the hottest days we’ve had, it decided to rain.
- The children in Nauta. They entertained us as much as we entertained them, and they were great to practice our Spanish on.
- Ice cream. We are very thankful to have many places to visit locally, where we can process or plan. Our favourite so far was the ice cream place.
Keep in Touch
- Yes, Jacob brought 7 pairs of with him, the other two have 5 and 6.
- Of course, Sophie brought 240 tea bags, and if she’d had her way, we all would have.
- Yes, I don’t know why either, but Erin has started to collect some too so I’m not that weird.
- Obviously, we all attended our classes like the perfect students we are, but Paddington occasionally missed one to facetime Richard (Bestie).
- I know, there are as many bananas here as you think, probably more. Though, we have managed to get Sophie to eat them with out noticing but don’t tell her that.
- Erin has excelled at Spanish and has managed to haggle down the price of a taxi ride on several occasions.