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Birthdays, Funerals and Water Balloons

There are two social events here in Iquitos that occur on a regular basis, birthdays and funerals, both start late and go long. Even small children’s birthdays can start at 9 or 10pm and go to the wee hours of the morning; funerals are an all night event. If it is an adult party, the participants may partake in some adult beverages but they will open one cerveza pour a glass full then pass the glass around the party with each person taking their sip. When the glass is empty they fill it again and the glass continues. Two observations here, I guess this is a way to make sure no one over indulges and everybody gets their fair share but it’s got to be a really good way to pass any infectious disease that is in the neighborhood.  Can you imagine if we had a party in the US and opened one beer, poured it in a glass and started to pass it around. Hmmm might get a really interesting reaction.

Funerals are a similar social extravaganza but not quite as festive. People will go to a funeral when they don’t know the person who died or any of the family members; just another social event. Partially because they know the family will be serving food and partially for a morbid curiosity to see the family mourning and a body in a casket. The wake will start at 10pm and go all night long with hundreds of people showing up to partake in the show.

There seems to be a morbid curiosity about most tragic events, it doesn’t matter if it is a motorcycle accident or a house fire you can expect the spectators to show up in mass. Paul told me he was enjoying an afternoon at the river one day when everyone realized an young man had gone under and not come up. After about 20 minutes they found and dragged his limp lifeless body out of the river. Time for emergency action? CPR? Lifesaving measures? No.

No, it’s time to pull out the cell phone camera and take a picture. Minutes later the widow comes running down with their small child as she learns that her husband has just passed away. She kneels down beside the body wailing; out come the cameras once again to capture the spectacle. Suddenly a reporter shows up and tries to interview the grief stricken widow, who has had just a few short minutes to absorb the gravity of the situation, sticking a microphone in her face and asking stupid questions.

Then there is one event that is celebrated annually, Carnival. Most South American cultures start celebrating the pre-Lent activities beginning or after the Epiphany and ending the day before Ash Wednesday,  Carnival and Mardi Gras the most famous examples, not Iquitos. Carnival started today but not in the normal way, nothing is normal in Iquitos. The beginning of the celebration is a city wide water balloon fight.

As you ride through the city the kids pelt you with water balloons. Today we went to see Adrianna and they got us. I guess a little water won’t hurt anybody unless you are going 40 miles an hour on a motorcycle. Fortunately we were going slow when we go doused. I understand later in the festivities not all balloons are filled with water. Great!

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