November 24, 2010

Iquitos by way of Minnesota

Dr. Judith Bechtum at Cabo Lopez
Iquitos is so overwhelming that it is hard to put into words. It is full of sights and sounds that are uncommon in my Minnesota life. Right now, the rescue dogs are barking because some have been moved to different pens for the night. The kennel is located on the grounds of the Cabo Lopez casa that belongs to Amazon Cares, the charity organization for which we are volunteering. The house has 3 bedrooms and six beds...all filled with Molly, the director, and the five volunteers, all women: Barbara my friend from Great Britain, Lisa a vet nurse from Wales, Catherine a Scot traveling in S America for 6 months volunteering for the Worldwide Veterinary Association, Gabriela a wonderful Spanish woman working in Great Britain, and me. Linda, a web volunteer from Wisconsin, stays here intermittently in this home that Molly opens to vets from all over the world. It is rather like a slumber party in the evenings, and we get along well; the cultural differences and accents are quite enjoyable.

November 15, 2010

Team Awesome…

by Lisa Mackinnon

On truck,
ready to go to mobile clinic site
Sitting at my desk, where I now work as a lawyer, watching the howling wind and rampant pouring rain through the high glassed building…….. I wonder was it a dream that less than 2 weeks age I was in the middle of the jungle in the immense heat with rare electricity and no hot water?? Then I look at my hands and realise the tan on them could not have been acquired in British November and I must have been present in the blazing Iquitos sun.

November 9, 2010

New Beginnings at Mobile Clinic

Last in a 3 Part Series:
For hours, the animals come in wave after wave, with whatever lull in owner drop-offs being neatly filled with Harris' contributions: freshly netted street dogs.

In the early afternoon, the motos stop dropping off owners with animals in tow, and the strays that normally crowd the street have thinned, some because they're already been captured, and many more because they've seen one of their brethren carted away. The air is sultry and close; the mood becomes almost dozy.

November 7, 2010

The Operating Theater: Part 2 of 3

Part 2 in a 3 Part Series: Now is when the fun really starts: motos start arriving with mom, dad, 2-3 kids and a dog or three crammed inside. These dogs are "owned," but not as one typically considers pet ownership: for example, these dogs have never worn a collar or leash. They have never been taken for a walk. They likely don't sleep indoors or have a water dish. Many do not even have names. They live on their own terms, eating what they like, from where they can get it; sleeping where they feel the urge (often in the middle of the street!); walking where they like, and coming "home" when the mood strikes. Canine laws unto themselves, they have never had to do anything other than shoo if someone is tired of their company. While these dogs are not wild, they are also not exactly tame.

November 5, 2010

Life and Hope at Mobile Vet Clinic

Part one in a three part series:  The day starts with a large breakfast provided by the radiant Marlena: eggs, fried potatoes, and lots of fresh fruit, all of which get jostled uncomfortably in the crazy bumpy moto ride to the clinic. At the clinic all is bedlam - rushing about to get all the necessary supplies,

with the usual comedy of errors, loading up the truck to get out the door. By the time we are finally ready to leave, the regional police truck (which transports the larger items, including boxes of supplies, broken down cages and tables) has been waiting
a good 20-30 minutes, with the driver scowling and looking grimly at his watch. However, finally everyone is accounted for and hops in the front seats or the back, holding onto sun hats and tensing their legs to cushion against the bumps of the potholed streets. A 10 minute ride later and we are at the site of the clinic.

Life with a Capital "L"

A final post in this series about the notorious Belen Market of Iquitos, Peru.  Our intrepid reporter Linda Schwefel sees the dirty truth and outwits a would-be mugger.

Here was life with a capitol L: produce ripens and is awash with fruit flies right next to a sleeping baby. A dog digs through the all-pervasive trash, while the clouds of buzzards circle high overhead, with dozens more watching from their perches in the stalls. A smartly dressed young woman barters for a glistening mess of chicken entrails, while holding the hand of her toddler son. He pees onto the stall's table legs while his mother waits for her purchase to be wrapped up;

Illegal Wildlife:The Shame of Belen

Did you know the illegal wildlife trade is second only to drug trafficking in terms of money and profit?  Iquitos, a city claiming to be the "Eco tourism Capitol of the World," is rife with this trade, and not enough government resources are devoted to fighting this shameful business.  Linda Schwefel spent time in Iquitos recently, and his written several articles about the infamous Belen Market. Some pictures may be disturbing.   In her words:

November 4, 2010

Shamans Cure Impotency and More!

A Solution for Whatever Ails You!
The shaman area of the Belen market is fascinating. For a city that is bursting at the seams with children, and where many families are struggling to get by, it is ironic how its denizens appear obsessed with fertility.

Everywhere there were tributes to male anatomy, including one candle that was a giant phallus with crouching male and female figures worshiping on either side - a decent summation of what appeared to be a devotional attitude towards all things macho. 

November 2, 2010

Aromas of the Belen Market

The first day I arrived in Iquitos, I was dazzled by the city, the speeding motos, the cosmetic-melting heat. I met up with two volunteer vets, Barbara and Judith, who graciously invited me to accompany them to the Belen open-air market. It was a a full-immersion introduction to Iquitos!

Belen Market is one of the largest open-air market in the world, covering 20+ square blocks. In the rainy season, many of the stalls are floating; in late October, the very tail end of the dry season, we were able to reach the vendors on foot.