Stories from the Amazon

  • Young girls with pet monkey and parrot
    A young girl proudly shows her pet monkey perched on top her head in the village of San Cristobal, which sits on the bank of the Amazon River in Peru (left).
    Another young girl shows her pet parrot perched on top her head in the village of San Cristobal (right).

    Crew, Shipmates Keep Jacobs on His Toes During Voyage

    “Mr. Dean, Mr. Dean. Photo, photo!”

    It soon spread around the boat that I was a photographer. Any time others thought there was something worth photographing, they came chasing after me.

    I didn’t want to flash my gear around the boat, but at the same time I was committed to capturing images of my adventure. I felt having members of the crew, and even the passengers, engaged in my adventure was a good way to help protect my gear from sticky fingers.

    Many times the villages along the edge of the river had signs posted with names like Alfa Y Omega and Nueva York.

    At the port of San Cristobal, I jumped off to explore as the ship was loaded with large wooden blue crates of fish covered with a layer of ice.

    The docking of a ship is probably a social highlight for the week, as it is the only access the small river communities have to the outside world. So it is no surprise that most of the village residents were at the bank to greet the ship.

    As I disembarked from the ship, I dodged women scrambling onto the boat carrying baskets of fruit or baked goods to sell to passengers. Once on shore, within a few minutes I found myself surrounded by a group of children. I showed them my mini-photo show of Nebraska and other images from around the world.

    Often they shyly giggled, or their eyes opened with wide amazement, when I showed them photos of gorillas, zebras or a rainbow in Nebraska.

    Some of the braver children asked, “Where are you from?”

    “The United States,” I replied.

    After a short pause, “Where in the United States?”

    “Nebraska. It’s in the center, and we have many acres of corn and many cows.”

    This was followed with giggles or blank stares, probably because of my poor Spanish. It was clear the promotional video of Peru, Neb., had not reached the isolated river villages in the Amazon of Peru.

    “What is your name and how old are you?” This is one of the few Spanish sentences I can rattle off and generally understand the response.

    The extended time needed to load the ship offered me an opportunity to teach the children a song.

    “Repeat after me please,” I said to the group.

    After a few false starts, one young man began to get the idea and repeated after my pauses.

    “Na, na, na, na ... na, na, na, na ... Hey, hey ... goodbye!”

    Soon the entire group of children repeated the words with large grins and lots of laughter.

    With a little encouragement from their friends, some of the children came forward to show me their pets. One had a small green parrot sitting on the top of her head. Another young girl had the tiniest black and brown monkey I had ever seen perched on top of her head.

    “Hola amigo, vamonos” (Hey friend, time to go), said one of the crew members.

    I walked back to the ship and up the wooden gangplank. In the distance, I could still hear the children laughing. Ken, one of my traveling companions, turned to me and said, “The kids are still singing your song.”

    “Yeah, isn’t that cool?”

    “It’s almost like Nebraska is a country and you are one of its ambassadors,” Ken said.

    “Almost. I’m just making the most out of the time I’ve been given.”

    The Linares III continued down the Amazon and made a long stop at a larger town.

    There was lots of cargo to unload. The ship captain, who spoke no English, waved to me to come with him. We jumped into a small boat, leaving the ship behind, and headed to the city market that was located next to the river. Clued in that I was looking for photos, the captain allowed me to tag along during an errand into town.

    After 45 minutes, we returned to the ship and found the crew still unloading a huge stack of toilet paper, two bundles at a time.

    Seeing a chance to pitch in, I joined the crew members who were below catching the packages on the dock from the second level of the ship. Soon a large crowd was watching the funny guy from the United States helping unload the cargo.

    Little boys on the ship hooted in delight and proudly gave me their best strong man pose once we were done.

    As I walked back onto the ship, the captain smiled and gave the order it was time to go.

    Fremont Tribune

Copyright © Dean Jacobs 2019. All Rights Reserved.