Meet Our New Family Member

“Cute baby.”

“She sure is,” Senora Luci said, nodding her head at the sleeping eight month old baby in her arms.

It was a rainy Friday the second week in June. I had just walked the fifteen blocks from downtown to our house. Drenched, I went to my room to change into dry clothes. “Whose baby is it?” I called out to Senora Luci.

“A neighbor’s,” she replied. After a long pause, she added, “Her name is Ja Di.” (Jah-dee)

As I changed clothes I thought about the children I’ve taken care of over the years. I have taken in so many children I have lost count. Some have stayed with us for just a few months—just long enough for the parents to improve their economic situation. Others have stayed for years. Now there are only two girls in my house. Fifteen year old Juanita and fourteen year old Iveli.

When I stepped back into the living room Ja Di was awake. She eyed me critically. I thought she was going to cry. But she didn’t. So I opened my arms wide to pick her up. Bad move on my part. She let out a scream. Senora Luci said some soothing words to her.Then she stuck a bottle of baby milk into her mouth.Senora Luci said to me, ” I did something without consulting with you.”

That got my attention. “What?”

“A neighbor brought Ja Di here about an hour ago.” She went on to explain that a twenty-seven year old neighbor’s wife had recently left him. His mother lives in a small fishing village a days travel by boat down the Amazon River. And he left to go fetch her to take care of Ja Di.

“You agreed to take care of the baby until the man returns with his mother, right?”

“Right.”

That scene took place three and a half months ago. The father has yet to come after his baby. It’s possible that he will return tomorrow. Or maybe in a few more weeks. Or he may never come back.

I’ll be traveling to the States in a few days. I’ll stay there through November. Need to visit with my fabulous family and friends. And will need some medical checkups. I should return to Iquitos the first of December. Regrettably, I will miss Ja Dis first birthday party. And probably the first time she walks on her own.

Yesterday a neighbor asked me why I’m still taking care of Ja Di. “After all,” he said.  “She is not your  responsibility.”

Without hesitating, I replied, “Because it’s my job.” He didn’t ask me who gave me this job, but I added, “A job God gave me.”

JERSEY SHORE

I was surfing television channels the other night. I´m usually not much of a television watcher. But I wanted to see a movie on TNT. But all I could get clearly was news from Lima.

Murder.

Rape

Incest.

Corruption.

So I gave the clicker to Juanita. As she searched for a program that would interest a teenager, I went to my room to read .I had just started reading Mitch Alscomb´s For One More Day when I heard the vilest language coming from the television.  I stepped back into the living room. All of the girls were watching Jersey Shore—a strong competitor for the most profane program in the States. I ordered the girls to change channels.

Senora Lluci came into the living room to see what all the fuss was about. When I translated the obscenties coming from the telly, she asked, “Do many people from your country watch shows like this one?”

“Unfortunately,” I  replied. “They do.”

Her mouth flew open. “Why does your government allow this to happen?”

Good question.

One for which I had no answer.

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE

Iquitos is one of the liveliest towns I´ve ever known. During the day the whole town is in motion. In my neighborhood there is constant pedestrian and vehicle traffic. Even before the sun comes up there are people walking or taking the bus to their jobs. In sharp contrast to my sister´s community in Atlanta—there even during the rush hours one can hear the birds chirping—Iquitos is noisy both day and night.

Saturday nights are especially loud.

Mainly because people celebrate the end of the work week. Like the world may end tomorrow. Downtown is packed with families wandering through the Plaza de Armas and the Boulevard. Most Saturday nights there is a free concert by a military band performing in the plaza. Or in one of the side streets blocked off with sawhorses.

I thought New York was a noisy place when I visited the Big Apple twenty years ago. My ears were assualted with honking horns and cab drivers yelling obscenties at each other. The only comment I can write in this post is when an overweight middle-aged cabbie—who looked like one of the cast of The Sorpranos—yelled at me as I was crossing the street, “Hey, mac, get  outta da street!”

Since I moved down here fifteen years ago, I´ve come to realize that—week in and week out—no place I´ve ever been to can touch Iquitos when it comes to noise. But you know something. I wouldn´t live anywhere else.