Thursday, February 23, 2017

Lima, Peru: A Quick Tour

A humming bird in the garden.
The beginning of our trip to Peru was a brief tour in Lima, where we had lunch in the beautiful garden of the Museo Larco. We enjoyed three courses: a vegetable appetizer, a dish of ravioli, and a mousse of an exotic fruit for dessert. It was our introduction to Peruvian flavors, which continued during our cruise on the Amazon during the following week.

Museo Larco, a private museum, owns a magnificent collection of pre-Columbian art, representing a number of early Peruvian native groups from several regions of the country, spanning 4000 years of history.

While the formal displays in the museum are impressive and well-presented, I especially liked the area where hundreds
of ceramic vessels are stored on shelves -- the vastness of the collection illustrates the richness of pre-Columbian art.
I believe these vases are in the shape of cocoa pods, from which chocolate is extracted.

Ceramic pots decorated with corn motifs. Other ceramics represented
foods, animals, and other themes. Somehow I'm more impressed by these
than even by the overwhelming gold jewelry in the more formal rooms.
A necklace from one of the coastal peoples of Peru before 800 AD.
A textile fragment, one of many on display in the fascinating museum.
In the gift shop: Paddington Bear, who came from "darkest Peru."

From the web page of the museum.

Before visiting the exhibits and having lunch at the museum, our tour spent a bit of time in downtown Lima. The Candelaria holiday had attracted hundreds of groups from towns and villages in the high Andes. Wearing elaborate and colorful costumes and headdresses, they participate in parades and dancing in the streets in the main square of the city.

In the main square.

We also visited an impressive colonial mansion that's been owned by
the same family for hundreds of years. After the tour our bus took us to
the airport for our departure for the Amazon on the other side of the Andes.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

River Village Lives along the Amazon

On our recent trip to the upper Amazon in Peru, we passed a variety of villages, and visited a few of them briefly or once for several hours. These are not tribal people, but modern, Spanish-speaking river villagers. The native dress (shown above) that they wore for our visit dates back around 100 years (thus several centuries after the Spaniards claimed the Amazon territory and began to rule it). The woman in the photo above, wearing native dress and checking her cell phone, is a member of a group that advocates for women's rights and more participation in the public sphere.

During our visit, the villagers showed us how they extract cane juice with a hand-press to make into sugar-cane rum. They demonstrated how they dye locally-grown fibers with vegetable dyes. From the fibers they create traditional weavings and baskets to sell to tourists. They also showed us a number of ways they are completely modern and have the same need and desire for modern goods, modern communications, and modern medicines that we do.

The village is wired for electricity, but doesn't have enough money to fuel their generators all the time. They mainly live by farming and fishing, but many of the former residents now live in the larger cities nearby and work in the oil extraction industry in the region. Their homes appear to mostly have thatched roofs and dirt floors, though I noticed several items of modern furniture and cookware. The children, who all wear modern kids' clothing, attend a modern cinder-block construction school equipped by the government, with a teacher who commutes from the nearby city, Nauta, population around 25,000.

I do not sense any contradictions in all this.

A larger village with a satellite tower.
Village with a water tower.
A child's feet, dangling above her flip-flops.

At the village school -- not in session, but the children came to look over the
visitors from the cruise ship.

A kitchen at a camp farther back in the forest.
Much more primitive tribal villages exist in other parts of the Amazon, in locations that are many more days of river travel from where we visited. I read a couple of books about travel to these areas, which are much more inaccessible than the area where we enjoyed our cruise. These books tell the very painful history of the exploitation and near-genocide of many of the tribal natives, especially during the rubber boom at the beginning of the twentieth century. It's notable, I think, that the acts of the rubber barons against the natives inspired the coining of the phrase "a crime against humanity."

"Shotguns were rapidly replacing the bow and arrow as the weapon of choice among tribal hunters," wrote Scott Wallace in The Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon's Last Uncontacted Tribes. "Entire villages were relocating from the highlands to riparian mission posts in order to gain access to trade goods and remedies for deadly malaria outbreaks their own shaporis could not cure. The younger men knew some Spanish, and they’d acquired a taste for Nike shoes, Ray-Ban sunglasses, and the red-and-black caps of the Chicago Bulls." (p. 252)

Wallace's book is the story of his trip on the Brazilian Amazon in search of a fleeting glance at the members of a tribe that had had little if any direct contact with Europeans and modernized tribal groups. This was a very complex story of Brazilian politics and philosophies of how these deeply buried groups might be fairly treated. He and the expedition leaders had no doubt that modern metal tools and weapons and many other goods would be immediately useful to them, and many questions about how to give or trade these goods. There's much controversy about what would help them and what would harm them.

The Delfin 2 on which we traveled in luxury, quite isolated from actual river-village life.

Our fellow passengers on the small skiffs that took us
on short trips into the small streams and lagoons where we looked for wildlife.
A skiff in the farthest-back lagoon that we visited.

Monday, February 20, 2017

In the Keys

Lots of fresh shellfish like these local stone-crab claws at The Fish House
in Key Largo. We're spending the last few days of our trip in the Keys.
And good bony fish. The Fish House "Matacumbe" preparation
with tomatoes and onions is very delicious!
Anne's Beach, around half-way down the keys.
Fort Zachary Taylor Historical Park is in a simply beautiful location next to Key West.

Alligators in the water hole at the Key Deer wildlife preserve.
Key Deer are a very small subspecies of the white-tailed deer,
once common throughout the keys, now limited to a few of the less-built-up areas.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Boynton Beach

At the Morikami Japanese Gardens near Boynton Beach, Florida. We met our relatives for lunch and a walk in the gardens.
The landscaping is very beautiful. We walked with Katie, who was visiting
Jean and Jack. Katie lives in Toronto.
Katie, Jean, Jack, and Lenny at the gardens.
On our second day visiting Boynton Beach we did some birdwatching at Green Key Wetlands and Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, two beautiful places we've been before. It was new to Katie!

A grebe.
Baby alligators in the swampy water.
An American bittern. These are usually shy, but this individual was out in the open.

We will be spending a few more days in Florida, then home. I have more material about our trip to Peru last week, and I'll work on it when we get back. I've now read two interesting books about the Amazon River, and I'll combine some ideas from the books with the photos that I still want to post.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Dining on the Delfin 2

Our Amazon river boat, the Delfin 2, offered beautiful and delicious meals. Breakfast was a buffet, and lunch and dinner were served at magnificently decorated tables. The kitchen was open, and we watched as they plated each of our three courses at every meal. I was always aware of the extreme contrast between our situation and the lives of the villages whose homes we were passing, but there wasn't anything I could do about this condition of modern global life.

After dinner on a few evenings, the staff played wonderful Peruvian music to our great amusement.
Paddington Bear accompanied me back to darkest Peru for one of these evenings.
The chef gave a demo of how to make Peruvian ceviche.
On another afternoon we heard a lecture on wild fruits that grow in the
jungle. Above: a selection of palm fruits.
A beautiful tablescape. At each meal we enjoyed a different setting, with a variety of shapes of plates and colorful
placemats and table napkins. Some settings included colorful raffia creatures made by local villagers.