Thursday, January 28, 2010

A day in the life...

The monkey returned from his vet visit today with an almost entirely clean bill of health. He’s been stitched up, had a little portion of his tail amputated, and looks like a real live animal! Thanks to everyone for their concern for Trino’s well-being! He still looks a bit like Gollum, but he’s doing really well. I’ve had a rough couple of days physically. Yesterday I was closing our radio telemeter and got my pinky stuck in it and managed to pierce my fingernail with the corner… so that hurts. This morning I got stung by a wasp before we even saw the monkeys, I fell into a whole, and I got a minimum of 8 fire ant stings. I still haven’t been eaten by a jaguar, stampeded by peccaries, knocked off of an embankment, or caught in a tree fall, though – so there’s something to look forward to.

So I’m all settled in at CICRA. As of tomorrow, I will have been here for three whole weeks. Time enough for me to have established a basic daily routine, which, since it’s in the Amazon, is perhaps exciting enough to merit a blog post.

My day begins at 4:00, when my first (of three) alarm goes off. Depending on my mood, I either spring out of bed to get dressed, or I doze until my second alarm at 4:15 and my third at 4:30. I’ve been getting up between 4 and 4:15 so I have enough time to get dressed and eat something sort of substantial before heading out. By 4:30, I’ve walked down to the Commodore (the dining room) and am getting myself a nice helping of an oatmeal concoction affectionately known as monkey poo – raw oats, powdered milk, sugar, cocoa powder, and some hot water. Our lunches are in Tupperware waiting for us in the giant refrigerator, so we grab those, a spoon, and a few packs of cookies and saltines. For the first two weeks, the cookies were these orange squares that said, “Galletas con sabor de naranja” (orange flavored cookies). I don’t think I’ll ever be able to taste anything artificially orange flavored again without thinking of the Amazon. More recently, we’ve had chocolate flavored galletas, and also vanilla and strawberry wafers.

Generally, I’m back in the lab getting ready to head out between 4:45 and 5. I need to collect things like the GPS, the data book, a compass, flagging tape, the radio telemeter, and the dry bag. Plus apply DEET. We usually leave for the field between 5 and 5:15 so we can get to the tree the monkeys fell asleep in the night before. If we don’t know exactly where they went to sleep, we can use the radio telemeter to trace them because one member of the group has been radio collared. Generally, though, they wake up sometime between 5:30 and 6, and as soon as we see them pop out of their sleeping tree, we begin recording data. We take scans of behavior of all members of the group every 10 minutes, and there is a constant focal being recorded about the twins – what they’re doing, who they’re interacting with, who’s carrying them, things like that. Plus we record some additional data on specific things like mating, fights, and scent marking.

Following the monkeys generally consists of short bursts of stressful running after them or pushing through bamboo, followed by longer periods of sitting in the same place while they forage or rest. Recently, they’ve been spending ridiculously long amounts of time in brambles where they are entirely out of sight. Then they take 20 minutes or so to travel to a different bramble, eat a little on the way, and then spend another hour or two out of sight. Between 8 or 9, I usually am hungry and need a little more energy, so eat a pack of crackers. Lunchtime comes around 11 between scans, or sometimes we take 15 minutes apart from the monkeys to eat with all our attention. We usually get rice and either the previous night’s dinner, or lentils. The time between about 11 and 1 is when I personally have the hardest time keeping on top of things. It gets really warm and sunny, and I’ve just eaten a big meal, and kind of just want to take a nap. Plus we’ve been awake and working for 6 or 7 hours, and have another 5 or 6 to go … that’s a long period. I usually end up eating another pack of cookies around 12:30 in a vain attempt to become energetic again. The afternoon continues much the same way until about 3:30, when they make a mad rush to a feeding tree, and then an even madder rush to their sleeping site. They’re generally asleep between 4:30 and 5 – the latest I’ve seen so far was 5:30, the earliest just before 3.

After they go to sleep, we hang out a little while longer to make sure they’re actually going to bed and not just foraging some more, and then head back to camp. The first order of business is to shower – get rid of the day’s dirt, fire ant stings, and sweat. I generally do data entry and some internet things between when I get back and dinner (at 6:30). After dinner, it’s more internet and transcribing focals. I try to get back to my cabin between 8 and 9, and then read a chapter or two on my Kindle. I just finished Little Women and Things Fall Apart – my current books are Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Anne of Green Gables. And then … I go to sleep, to the sounds of night monkeys and insects and birds and bats and wind and the rainforest!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Of Owl Monkeys, Lobos, Washouts, and Pumas (or Jaguars?)

The baby owl monkey has lived long enough that he's been dubbed "Trino," Spanish for trill. Conveniently, if he turns out to be female, he (or she, I guess), can convert to Trina. I did have Trino for the night last night. My roommate took care of him from 8-12, I took care of him from 12-4. Consequently, we both got about 4 hours of sleep last night, because it's hard to sleep deeply with a wiggly, delicate, hungry baby in your bed. He's physically doing a lot better - he's mobile, his big cut on his side is looking less like his intestines are about to pop through and more like it's skin without fur on it. His knee isn't skinned anymore, and he's pretty perky. He does still bear an unmistakable resemblance to Gollum, though... He's also eating a lot - I fed him a lot of food (still going with powdered milk, warm water, and something honey-like) every hour to hour and a half last night. He's also excreting everything the way he should. Owl monkey pee in my bed ... oh boy! Fortunately, I bought two sets of sheets. He slept in a pouch on my stomach for a little while, but after about an hour, climbed up to my head and nestled in my hair where he spent the rest of the night with interruptions for feedings when he woke me up nursing on my earrings.

The owl monkey wasn't my only excitement yesterday! Karina and I went out on a scouting mission yesterday morning in search of new groups of saddleback tamarins while everyone else was out working on perfecting the trapping techniques. Our loop took us down past Cocha Lobo, a big oxbow lake in the conservation concession. Like most rivers, the Los Amigos River is a meandering river that changes course pretty frequently due to erosion and deposition of sediments. Sometimes it shifts its course to the extent that a whole section of the river is cut off from the river's flow and becomes an oxbow lake. It turns out that Cocha Lobo has a family of river otters (perhaps now more properly called lake otters) living in it, but you usually have to take a boat out to the middle of the lake to see them. Karina and I started walking down the bank towards the dock with the boat in it (the boat was full of water due to the recent rain, and the dock was almost entirely under water!) when we heard a splash! We ran down the rest of the way and there were four otters swimming around right in front of us! We watched them cavorting and displaying for almost a half hour before heading on out.

Now, it turns out that there are a number of oxbow lakes in the vicinity of Cocha Lobo, including Cocha Seca - the dry lake. Apparently this is a misnomer and not only is Cocha Seca wet, it filled to literally overflowing with the recent rain and tore back its old path into the Los Amigos River. So we were walking along this gorgeous trail (they maintain a really fantastic network of trails here that we get to use sometimes when we're not crashing around off trail following small, speedy monkeys) right along the river bank, and all of a sudden it stopped being there. Instead there was a big tree fall and a river between us and the next step on the trail, a good 10 meters away. So after evaluating the situation and deciding we needed to keep going, we scrambled down the bank and got to river level. Of course, the actual river level was essentially quicksand, and I almost lost my boots to the mud several times. Fortunately, the deposition of sand from when Cocha Seca became a river again also involved the deposition of a number of trees and branches, and the bank that had suddenly been torn apart had a number of roots hanging out of it. The two of us, now weighed down by our mud-encrusted boots, balanced precariously on these logs and clutched the roots as we made our way to where Cocha Seca now joined the Los Amigos River. The only way to cross from one bank to the other was a mostly submerged log spanning the distance - suddenly the years of gymnastics all seemed worthwhile! I made it across and helped Karina get across, and then we scaled the other side of equally muddy, sheer bank. I mean, to be fair it was maybe only 10 feet from top to bottom, but it was HARD! Once I have access to a connection quick enough to load pictures, I'll post them. It was a well-documented trek.

Our journey continued, and though we didn't see any other particularly exciting wildlife, we did cross a bunch of other logs across creeks. The most exciting bit was that for a while, we were following big cat prints! I took a picture of them (again, wait for May or so for pictures) and they are awaiting analysis to tell whether they were pumas or jaguars. We think that there's a jaguar who's been through the area close to our cabin a few times - based on my small litterbox cleaning experiences, I'm pretty sure I saw big cat poop on the trail, and camera traps in the vicinity have seen both jaguars and pumas walking around at night. We don't walk alone when it's dark, though, and we're pretty shockingly loud for a cat used to sneaking up on what he's eating, so no one is particularly seriously scared... just a little jumpy!

OK, well, I've got an hour or so before dinner. I'm very sleepy and can't decide if that time would be best used napping, playing volley ball, or transcribing some focal follows of the twins. We've seen some really interesting stuff in the past couple of days in our group. When I got here, they had three resident males, two resident females, and two infants of unknown sex. Before I even got out to see the group, one of the males disappeared - he probably died in a rainstorm as he'd been seen injured the day before. We had our last sighting of the second male four days ago - he's presumed to have transferred to another group as he seems to be about the right age to transfer. The two females were holding strong, but when I was following the other day, the only male left was really agitated, scent marking and chasing and biting and snapping at the youngest female. It seems like he's bound and determined to have it be him, the older female, and the twins. We don't know if the two of them can take care of the twins well enough for them to survive - all of our fingers are very crossed. There's also been an unmarked group wandering around their territory and causing a ruckus. It's been a dramatic couple of days, that's for sure!

Monday, January 18, 2010

I *did* see a tapir!

Well, I had an exciting and fun filled blog entry planned – news like “I saw a tapir,” “we’ve almost trapped another group,” and “On my day off, I watched capuchins mating and a lounging spider monkey and slept until 5:30” and so on and so forth, but it disappeared last night in a fit of absolute craziness.

Today was our first day of following independently – Karina, Kat, and I went off on our own to follow FC. In preparation for this, Mini called a lab meeting and we all sat down to discuss her expectations for us. Suddenly Emeterio and Marcos walked in with some small squeaky thing on Emeterio’s hand. “Está un mono!” Emeterio said – it’s a monkey! Our initial thought was that it was one of the twins, but then Mini realized it was an owl monkey infant. Owl monkeys are really cool – they’re the only nocturnal South American monkey. They’re really lovely, and we hear them foraging outside of our cabin all night.

This guy, however – not so lovely. Apparently Emeterio had found it squeaking on the trail that runs past our cabin, and brought him up for Mini to do something with. He had a big chunk of skin missing from his stomach, a broken and scraped up knee, a tail broken in three places, and perhaps a ruptured trachea. He also had a bad cut on the top of his thigh, right under his tail. We originally thought he was bleeding from the rectum, so this was certainly an improvement – but then it turned out the cut had maggots in it. Mini, Gideon, and Kat were performing most of the medical things – I was holding my headlamp for them as the power was about to go out. Then we discovered that the maggots were attracted to the light. They pulled 8 or 9 maggots out of the poor little guy. They splinted up his tail, put some steri-strip on his stomach with antibiotics, injected some local anesthetic into his side, and got him wrapped up in warm blankets. It turns out he needs to have his tail amputated, and he’ll probably never end up with a fully functioning knee. However, there’s an animal rescue/rehab facility in Puerto Maldonado, or he may stay at CICRA. Of course, this is in the event that he survives. We’ve been feeding him warm milk with sugar syrup every two hours and he’s drinking it. I took care of him for a portion of this afternoon and he burrowed into my hair until I got him back in his towel where he was burrowed. I hope he makes it!

OK. I’ve had a long and exhausting day of following monkeys through bamboo and vines and such, and tomorrow we’re being observed by Mini and Gideon as we follow monkeys through bamboo and vines. Should be interesting …

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Rainy Days

January 13, 2010

Caught in the rain twice in one day! I mean, it is a rainforest in the rainy season, so I shouldn’t be too taken aback, but it was, well, very rainy. Rainstorms here are really cool. Normally, it’s rather dark in the canopy, but the sun shines through frequently, silhouetting monkeys in such a way that it’s difficult to tell who’s who. This morning when we left, the sky was pretty grey, and we started hearing rumblings of thunder shortly after we left. But we went out and about and did our thing. Around 11:30, we heard what sounded like a distant breeze, then a big wind, and then it started to rain all around us. But I wasn’t getting wet! There were so many layers of trees and leaves catching the water that it took nearly half an hour for the rain to soak through the canopy we huddled under and get us wet. At that point in time … we got really wet. We walked back to CICRA and ended up very bedraggled. After lunch, Emeterio warned us that it was going to pour, but we headed out all the same. The clouds were still threatening, and it was sprinkling a little, but we did our two hours of walking around and suddenly … CRASH! More rain.

Rain aside, today was wicked awesome! Mini and I were headed out to the traps that I set up yesterday with Gideon to check them out and see if the bait had been eaten – additionally, we wanted to check in the vicinity to find a new group we’d seen briefly yesterday before it disappeared. We tramped through the jungle for a good bit when we heard suspiciously monkey-like rustling in the canopy. Looking up, we saw the juvenile spider monkey from a few days ago swinging above us, so that was really cool. He seems to be all alone, which is really sad. I wonder what happened to the rest of his family. It turns out that spider monkeys are among the first primates to go when there are humans in the area. Big, conspicuous monkeys don’t do well – there are also very few howler monkeys here. But the second exciting thing that happened was that while I was sitting outside one of the traps waiting for a monkey to show up, I heard howlers calling from across the river. I also saw titi monkeys hanging out on the trap.

We were disappointed in our early morning activities (I’ll have to make a post detailing a typical day soon) because we had no tamarins. Mini and I met up with Rhea and Karina and decided to head back to a different trail to check out a few other traps, but along the way we heard suspicious tamarin-baby-like calls. So we crashed out off the trail and … there they were! We ended up seeing 5 adults (at least three females) and one infant. Weird, because tamarins twin about 85% of the time, but really cool. It was a teeny tiny little monkey baby – its eyes were still closed, and we’re pretty sure we saw it nursing. We also saw several fights over the baby. Exciting stuff! I’m also getting more confident about following the monkeys while they’re heading out, though I lose them considerably more often than I’d like and I get flustered. And I haven’t yet got my jungle legs – I’m noisy and not particularly graceful tramping around off the trail. Hopefully, that will come with time. The monkeys had all holed up in a big tree above us and had mostly settled their squabbles when the first rainstorm arrived, so we headed back to CICRA for lunch (really good quinoa salad, and then vegetables, soy meat, homemade bread, and a sweet potato. I’m certainly not going to lose any weight here with the amount of food we get fed every day!!).

After lunch, Mini and I went back out to check the circuit we did in the morning for changes in traps and, ideally to find the monkeys again. There’s a journalist or something here doing a series of short documentaries (or something), and she came along with us. While we didn’t see our monkeys, we did go slower and more carefully than usual in order to see other things to show the journalist, Lucy. Normally, we’re so focused on the tamarins that other monkeys are just irritating distractions (god, the Emperor tamarins are so nosy! And noisy! And obtrusive!), never mind admiring pretty trees or looking at funky insects. So this was fun. We ran into a really cool tortoise in the middle of one of our transects, but absolutely the coolest thing (probably second coolest of the day, after the baby from the new group), was a pair of saki monkeys displaying at us. I studied the sakis at the St. Louis Zoo last spring as part of a project on space use and niche partitioning, so it was really exciting to see them for real (though it was a different species of saki that we saw here). I’m only missing three monkey species of the ones known to be here: howlers, owl monkeys and Callimico. I’ve heard howlers, and other folks have seen the Callimico, so I’m hopeful. Owl monkeys are nocturnal, so I’m not sure whether or not I’ll run into them. So far, I have seen Saddleback tamarins, emperor tamarins, titi monkeys, capuchins, squirrel monkeys, spider monkeys, and saki monkeys. Plus my wild Kenya monkeys – vervet monkeys, baboons, black and white colobus, and Sykes monkeys. It’s like I’m a real primatologist!

This evening, we had an exciting snake in the lab. He’s yet to be identified, but he was all curled up on the gear table. He’s currently living in an aquarium in the raptor studying lab. That’s the fourth snake that’s been seen by people on the project – two snakes in the forest seen by other groups, and I saw one walking back to my cabin. Cool stuff! Unfortunately, the most abundant wildlife in this jungle seems to be ants. And they all do nasty things. I got my first fire ant inundation yesterday – that hurt. I had a close call with a bullet ant this morning – he was crawling on my neck, apparently, and Mini got him off of me. The fire ants aren’t too bad after the initial sting, but I hear bad things about bullet ants. Other than the fire ant bites, I’ve got a number of chigger bites and more mosquito bites than I care to think about. It’s a damn good thing malaria isn’t endemic to this site!

Tomorrow’s my first day off. I think I’m going to sleep in (5:15 instead of 4, whoo), wash some laundry, eat breakfast, hike out to check on a trap, re-bait it, and tie on new strings. Then a bit after that, we’re going to hike out to the pond where there are river otters. Apparently a few days ago, folks witnessed a fight between a black caiman and some river otters. My fingers are crossed for something exciting! After lunch, I’m probably going to go out with Rhea and get some more practice following our identified group of monkeys, FC. We only have one more day of working with an experienced person after tomorrow (Mini, Gideon, or Rhea) before we go out in inexperienced groups of three. Aah! Alternately, I may go climb tall trees with a girl who’s studying ant/tree interactions. We shall see!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Yesterday's blog ... today!

The internet crapped out last night by the time I got around to trying to post this, so here it is!

On the tenth, we were officially oriented to the forest with a "solo hike" along a number of trails that we'll be crashing off of. I heard a lot of titi monkeys (look them up on Youtube or something - they have crazy calls that wake me up every morning. Also, they pairbond and frequently sit with their tails intertwined. Very cute), though I didn't see any monkeys while hiking solo. I did find some pretty cool insects, avoid vicious wasps, see a ground squirrel, and watch a pair of preening parrots in a tree above me for about 10 minutes before they flew away. I also feel much more at home here and walking around the forest. Once you spend three hours tramping around on your own, it's much less intimidating. It's certainly still a little intimidating, but you know that somewhere in there, there's a big group of saddleback tamarins waiting for you to come follow them.

My turn to do that was this morning. They wake up sometime between 5 and 5:30 every morning, and if we're lucky someone followed them to their sleeping tree the previous night so that you know where you're headed early in the morning. This morning Rhea, Karina and I headed out for Aerodromo Trail at 4:45 with some radio telemetry equipment, a data book, and the infamous Rite-in-the-Rain Pens which cost $6 and are almost as valuable as the monkeys! We finally found them at about 5:20, but they scampered off before we could make visual contact after leading us about 300 meters into a terrible bamboo thicket (full of exciting things like fire ants). Bushwhacking in the Amazon has its own exciting challenges, like avoiding bullet ants, snakes, and wasps. In the 10 years of this research station, there have only been three snake bites (and everyone was fine), so I'm not hugely worried, but I do carry my Venom Extractor with me while tramping.

We finally actually found them at about 6:15 this morning - 6 animals in our group, including two males, two females, and two twins of indeterminate sex (it turns out that until they reach puberty, tamarin genetalia look pretty similar). I was learning how to do scan samples this morning, which basically means you run through the forest - quietly - while keeping track of all 6 monkeys at once so that every 10 minutes you can write down what they're doing. We followed them all around this river bank - up, down, and through the creek - several times until they ended up settling in the trees right around the cabin I'm staying in! They're frequently found next to Emperor tamarins (look those guys up too - they're really cute. They've got fantastic curly moustaches and look like a marvelous combination of a Dr. Seuss character, a walrus, and President Taft), who have much whinier calls than our guys, but are also way more interested in who these giant weirdos following them are. It's very distracting to be trying to focus on who's carrying which twin when there's a tiny walrus monkey cheeping at you from about 6 feet above you. We did some focal follows this afternoon, where we use a voice recorder to say everything that one particular monkey is doing. This means that you must stick with your monkey at all costs, and can lead to awesome tangles of Erin, vines, and bamboo while whispering frantically into a voice recorder "Now he's jumping, the twins are still asleep," and shockingly bad language when I lose the beasties.

This evening after data entry but before a shower and dinner, I played a rousing game of volleyball with some of the staff and other researchers. I'm definitely a handicap to my team, but everyone laughs when I say "Soy una gringa fuerte!" and people generally are pretty forgiving. My Spanish is improving by leaps and bounds, but I still get pretty tangled up and say things that just make no sense. I tried to explain to the cook that I was splitting dinner with Kat (portions are ENORMOUS) and I think I basically said a bunch of verbs that were sort of conjugated and vaguely appropriate for the situation. But everyone is really nice about helping me. "Como se dice" is a fun game for meal time, and even making attempts makes everyone happy. One of the staff here is Quechua, and he's been trying to teach me Quechua at the same time. I do miss Swahili, though. I've been keeping up with the news on BBC Swahili, and singing Swahili versions of songs in the shower. This evening's rendition of Wimbo wa Bohemia (Bohemian Rhapsody) was awesome.

Tomorrow, I get to sleep late! I don't have to do anything until breakfast at 6:00! That being said, it's quarter of 9 and I am exhausted. Plus my neck and shoulders hurt from holding up binoculars and looking straight up all day! I will be like a rock when I get home! Good night!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Leaving ... on a motor boat!

OK, so I sort of lied about the next time I wrote being from the Amazon. I mean, technically Puerto Maldonado is in the middle of the amazon, surrounded on all sides for a number of miles. But it feels like we're in a city (mostly because we are). Yesterday, we ate at this really bizarre Thai restaurant owned by a Dutch Peruvian who has been raising a number of neotropical monkeys. Someday, I'll upload two fantastic pictures - me with a saddleback tamarin on my back, and me with a howler monkey baby hanging from my neck onto my back with his fantastically prehensile tail.

I can't really write very much - we're about to eat breakfast and then head to the market for some last minute supplies (candles, lighters, incense, and tupperware) and a snack for our ... BOAT RIDE!!!! Next time I write will REALLY be from the Amazon. No city. Just rainforest.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Puerto Maldonado!

Hola! Soy en Puerto Maldonado! Well, I was super excited about not being in 10 degree weather. I probably should have been careful what I was wishing for! It's probably around 100 degrees now, very sunny, very humid. But ... there's no snow!

Despite the exciting events at Newark the night before I flew out of the country (the man walking back through security and then just ... disappearing), my time at Newark was sadly uneventful. My flight left Manchester at 6:30, I got to Newark at about 7:45, and then hung out until my plane left for Lima 6 hours later. I read a lot - thanks to my awesome and fantastic new Kindle! I met the first of the other research assistants, Karina, in Newark. We recognized eachother by the ridiculous rubber boots we were both wearing (as they were too big to

The flight from Newark to Lima wasn't bad. It was long, and a smaller plane than we anticipated (3 seats, an aisle, and 3 seats), but they had a pretty sweet movie selection. I watched X-Men, Wizard of Oz, and a half hour movie about golden lion tamarins at the National Zoo. I almost watched Bringing Up Baby, but dozed instead. The biggest issue was that apparently both of their dining choices were meat filled - my other international flights have had a not-meat option just as a matter of course. So I ate the little side salad and roll, hah.

We got into Lima at about 11:15, got our visas stamped, and gathered our luggage. I was carrying a lot of equipment for the project - things like syringes, wire mesh, DNA paper, etc, and had been having increasingly more nightmarish dreams about going through customs. Fortunately, it was not a problem!! Even better, when we got out, our hostel had indeed sent out a taxi to pick us up, complete with our names on a little board. Unfortunately, we were waiting for two other groups to come, so we hung out at the airport for a Very Long Time. When we finally got out and headed on our way, it was close to 1:30. I talked to the driver of our taxi, Jose Carlos, for the ride to the hostel - he's 23, an architecture student, etc. etc. Anyone who heard my Kenya stories can probably see where this is going ...

The hostel we stayed in, Hostel Malka, was very nice. As I suspected, it is Jewish in some way, but I wasn't able to figure out the connection. We met up with another research assistant at the Hostel, and pretty much passed out. Emma's luggage had gotten left behind in Spain (she's British and flew through Madrid), so our plan was to go to the airport to pick up her luggage and try to extend our visas from 90 days to 180. Jose Carlos's father, Carlos, drove us up there. We got Emma's luggage, and while she was working on getting through customs, Jose Carlos called his father and said hello to me. His father told me to tell him "Te quiero mucho," but I declined. No actual proposal there, but Carlos called me "Mi hija" for the rest of the day.

It turned out we couldn't extend our visas at the airport, so we'd have to go to Imigracion. Carlos said he'd drive us over there, but first wanted to stop somewhere and get breakfast. He took us to this tiny little hole in the wall and ordered us mountains of food (tamales, huevos, y huevos especial). It made me think of the restaurant in Lokichar, though tamales are way preferable to ugali. Then we drove off to immigration. In the car, he was playing music very loudly, one song over and over again (La Camisa Negra, which I made the mistake of recognizing). Driving through Lima was a lot like driving through a combination of Nairobi and Boston. Huge cars on very small roads, lots of matatu-esque minibuses, and only moderate attention to traffic lights. However, we made it to Imigracion in one piece, only to find a huge line around the building. Carlos, who apparently knows everyone in Lima, took us to talk to a friend who holds some high immigration position, who told us we couldn't exchange our visas but it wouldn't be a problem, and have fun. We then returned to the hostel after taking an extended drive around Lima to see exciting sites - in particular a giant Incan ruin! Craziness... they just have ruins lying around. The US has such a shallow archaeological history.

Erm, after that we napped and read around the hostel all day. I told a number of people I didn't speak Spanish well, and read a lot. We repacked, and prepared to head out to the Amazon!

I need to give Kat (our fourth!) back her computer, but hopefully next time I write, I'll be writing from CICRA! Adios!