Diary Excerpt


Tuesday, August 16th 1977

Hostel Acosta, Iquitos, Peru, S.A.

I have been here for four days.  I am in another world.  I feel like no one else lives in the world.  We are so far away, so isolated.  I’ve never felt like this before when visiting a foreign country.  The jungle is immense, colossal, and stretches away forever.  The rivers wind muddily through the never ending, even, dark carpet of tree tops.  The glitter and gaudiness of America are gone; also the efficient, the slick and shiny perfectness of quick effort-saving devices.  My world is now among the safe, secluded cement mazes of an ancient Peruvian city, sprouted upon a cliff in a bend of one of the most mighty rivers in the world, the Amazon.  I am closed in on patch-worked cement streets, on holey, broken, pitted-out excuses for sidewalks, by the checkered bright pink, green and blue, and brick coloured fronts of continued house-fronts…one after the other; interspersed with tiny shops with windows and doors wide open, children and dogs on the steps, iron grill fencing off door stoops and car ports, and patches of green.  People hang out their window sills and sit on chairs tending their stores with their eyes on the street, watching their world go by them. Their faces are carmel-coloured, smooth skinned, wide, open, sparkle-eyed and friendly…curious, of my white skin and “American” features, and “fashionable” clothes.

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It must have been our second evening here in Iquitos that Dad took us for the first time to the Plaza at 6 o’clock to see the birds.  It happens every evening on the hour, just as the church clock strikes. At about ten minutes to the hour the sky above the Plaza begins to fill with thousands of whirling birds.  They fly in from the jungle in huge swarms, hundreds in number.  As they gather, they fly in formations as fluid as fusing gasses, or oil paint on water.  It is one of the most beautiful sights in Iquitos.  Then as if on silent cue, they all swoop in descent to rest in the trees of the Plaza – jostling each other, ruffling their wings, bedding down for the night as darkness swiftly engulfs them.

Sketch of Aunt Leonora’s Sitio near Juiz de Fora , Brazil

Found this sketch that I did while staying at my great aunt’s farm. I got to sleep in the original old farmhouse with the open spaces between the floor boards providing a view of the dirt hillside that sloped down towards the river and waterfall, through a grove of rose bushes.  Spent the days exploring the books, old magazines and other wonders in the newer farmhouse that my Aunt and Uncle used to visit regularly in the 1960’s and 70’s. One morning found a Saturday Evening Post magazine from 1929!

Aunt Leonora's Sitio

Pen & ink sketch done of Aunt Leonora’s sitio, Minas Gerais, Brazil, March 1978.