Hello from Iquitos! We have really enjoyed our time in Iquitos working at Pilpintuwasi which is the animal orphanage and butterfuly garden. To get there, you have to take a 20 minute boat ride to a town called Padre Cocha (from Iquitos), and that is where we are living. We are staying with a family, and the husband works at Pilpintuwasi, so it is fun exchanging stories at the end of the day. His wife cooks us a delicious breakfast every morning before we head to work (we usually leave a little bit before 8:30), and usually has dinner ready for us within the hour of being home (work day ends at 4). We have had incredible dinners ranging from stingray, to pasta with many tasty ingredients in it, to other sorts of fish and sometimes ending the meal with the worlds juciest watermelon. The fruit here is always a treat - we have recently been on the hunt for Mango and Pineapple since it is hands down better than what we have in the US. They couple has a daughter, Lesy who is 10 years old and now that she is more comfortable around us, we have been playing many games with her and her friends after dinner. They are hilarious, incredibly energetic, and just love having new friends to play with.
Our work day has many different activites. We both love being on a schedule again, and working on tasks that excite us. When we arrive to Pilpintuwasi, we go to the main house where the owner lives and collect various items we need for the day - worms for some of the animals breakfast, things for making monkey toys (old water bottles, small boxes, shampoo bottles...), and food for the monkey cookies. Throughout the morning, we are feeding monkeys their worms, making monkey toys for the capuchin monkeys (which are the smartest monkeys in the new world, so our toy making ability needs to outsmart them!), and feeding the capybara which is basically a very large guinea pig. We do all these things before Pilpintuwasi opens at 9am, sometimes we get them done by then, but most of the time not, which is fine. We often get distracted playing with all the monkeys as we feed them. They LOVE human attention and will gladly sit on your shoulder as you are feeding them their breakfast. Very sweet animals.
I was sick with a fever the first 2 days we were here, so unfortunately I had to stay at home. However, our host mom was incredibly nice and made sure I had water, was dabbing my head with a cold cloth, and just made me feel at home. While I was getting better, Nate was learning about all the animals and following tours throughout the day. Then he would come home and fill me in on what he learned. By the time I was feeling better to come back, the owner said it was ok it I didn´t give tours, since Nate and the other American volunteer here seem to enjoy it, and there are rarely more than 3 english tours going on - if ever. So while Nate and Sophia (she is from California) give tours, I will do random work that needs to be done. Observations on the Red Face Ukari Monkeys that roam free all day (we need to do 3 20 minute observations on them because the owner is putting together a research study on them), or I will collect butterfly eggs in the butterfly garden, or sometimes I just go play with the male English monkeys who only prefer females in their cage. If a male goes in, the monkeys will bite the male if a female is present. He can go in by himself, but they wont play with him. So myself and Sophia will often go in and play with them - usually the best part of my day. They want to swing on our arms, or swing on the rope swing and just love the attention.
Nate is awesome at giving tours. He loves hearing where people are from, and is excellent at explaining all of the animals stories. We have a jaguar, Pedro, that he feeds during tour and the tourists love it. He feeds it through the cage, doesn´t go in or Nate might BE the snack. Pedro is always a highligh of Nate´s day.
We have about 20 different species of butterflies in the butterfly garden and they are all gorgeous. Every day twice a day we collect butterfuly eggs and put them in our hatchery. We do this to avoid a parasite that is in the garden. In the hatchery, we place the eggs on their host plant, and watch them form into a caterpillar, and then a butterfly. It is pretty neat watching them go through each stage!
We have a ton of pictures to share, but the internet is incredible slow here so we will do our best to upload a few. The Red Face Ukari monkeys that are free to walk around love grooming us when we sit down. The babies and female monkeys walk around, but the males stay in their cage. Babies are way more interested in us, and the older females do their own thing. The babies will crawl into our lap (sometimes even take a little rest), and just want all your attention. Crawling up to our head and going through our hair, and sometimes even jumping from a tree onto our back. When we walk around, if we see one eating on the ground and motion for it to come to us, they will jump into our arms and want to basically snuggle. They are awesome.
Monday is our day off, so this morning we went and fed Paiche which is one of the largest fish in the Amazon! They look like a small shar, and have enormous mouths.
Crazy as it sounds, but we are trying to figure out the next leg of our journey. Since we only come into Iquitos twice a week for internet, we need to look ahead and keep emailing volunteer opportunities. Which is what I need to do now! We will blog again soon!
Maddy and Nate